This is a 12 day scenic guided tour that travels both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, starting in Auckland and finishing in Christchurch.
Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand’s City of Sails! Auckland is known for its multicultural hub of food, music, arts, and culture.
After checking into your hotel and reading your welcome letter from your Tour Director, head out and explore all that Auckland has to offer. This is the perfect opportunity to visit the Sky Tower or shop along bustling Queen Street. You may even fancy a drink in one of the charming bars or eateries of Vulcan Lane.
Your tour officially begins this evening, as you join your fellow travellers and Tour Director this evening for a welcome reception.
Your journey awaits as you join the Northern Explorer scenic train. Marvel at rural New Zealand’s lush landscapes from the comfort of your scenic carriage. From the sparkling waters of the Waitemata Harbour to the green pastures of the Waikato – you won’t want to miss a moment.
Arriving in Hamilton, your coach awaits you to bring you to the famous Hamilton Gardens. Engross yourself in the garden’s collection of themed rooms as you are led by an experienced guide. Learn about the history, context and meaning of each garden before finishing this delightful morning with a picnic on the lush lawns. Surrounded by beauty, you will be in utter bliss.
In the early afternoon, enjoy some free time in the heart of Hamilton before departing for an evening visit to Raglan – a seaside surfer town. It’s here that you’ll enjoy a Sunset Dinner Cruise on the pristine harbour.
This morning you will depart for your next exciting excursion – Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain.
Let your guide transport you into an ancient world of ecological wonders as you explore New Zealand’s very own pest-free environment, within native forest. On this excursion, you will walk through the home of some of New Zealand’s most endangered species. Discover North Island’s robins, tomtits, kākā, pōpokotea, bellbirds, hihi, tīeke, fantails, kereru and wētā. This pre-human paradise has one of the world’s longest pest-proof fences.
Your expedition continues after a lunch stop in New Zealand’s “Kiwiana Capital”, Otorohanga. Make sure you capture a photo of the giant Kiwi birds! Next, discover the famous Waitomo Glow worm Caves and be dazzled by the seemingly star-filled sky as you glide by boat through this impressive cave formation.
Tonight, explore Hamilton’s riverside walks and shops on this free evening. Enjoy one of the many nearby restaurants as the sun sets over the Waikato River.
Joining the Northern Explorer train once again, today you’ll soar over icy mountain streams as you travel to Tongariro National Park, the home of three volcanic mountains.
Tongariro National Park has a diverse range of ecosystems and spectacular landscapes. In 1993, it was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and was the first property to be inscribed with the criteria describing the cultural values it holds for Māori.
Enjoy a mini excursion up to Tūroa ski field. Here you’ll want to capture a panoramic photo of Middle Earth before descending into Ohakune.
Tonight, enjoy a special dinner with your fellow travellers.
Today is free for you to discover one of the region’s many exciting excursions. Choose from the optional activities on offer and personalise your perfect holiday. Perhaps you will hop aboard a rail cart journey or join a horse trekking experience that takes you along expansive hills, mountains, rivers and into native bush.
If you’re after an active day, why not explore Ohakune’s historical cycle trail? Rent e-bikes and discover old viaducts, tunnels, old settlers’ camps and reclaimed native forests along the Old Coach Road.
Your day begins with an elevated experience up the northern face of Mt Ruapehu for panoramic views of the volcanic landscape. Drink in the views of Mt Ngāuruhoe, Mt Tongariro, and beyond across the central North Island.
Joining the Northern Explorer train once again, waving goodbye to Tongariro National Park, as you settle into your uber-comfortable seat. Don’t get too comfortable though; dramatic rivers, gorges, and ravines are just around the bend! Stretch your legs and explore the open-air carriage to get the best view from the train.
A little later, why not indulge in a treat from our onboard licensed café? As you glide through rich green farmland and past dramatic coastlines, enjoy the picturesque Porirua Harbour as you arrive into Wellington.
Welcome to Wellington – New Zealand’s windy capital! You’ve arrived at Wellington Railway Station, which is just a stone’s throw from downtown, the Beehive, and Parliament Buildings. You won’t want to waste a moment of time after checking into the hotel – your evening is free to explore this culinary capital from Queen’s Wharf to Cuba street and beyond.
Today is free for you to experience vibrant Wellington as you please. Start by joining our Wellington City introduction tour and then head off to explore Cuba Street’s cafés, bookstores, and eccentric shops. Get cultured at Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum, or visit Zealandia Eco-Sanctuary to surround yourself by native birdlife and regenerating forest. You won’t get bored with the plethora of activities on offer. From coffee, culture, historic buildings to botanic gardens and much more… the list goes on! If you need any suggestions or recommendations, just reach out to your helpful Tour Director or our Travel Centre to pre-book an experience.
Enjoy dinner tonight with your fellow travellers.
This morning you will say poroporoaki ki te motu raki (good-bye to the North Island) as you sail to the South Island, crossing the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry. As the shores of the North Island slowly disappear, settle down in the comfy seats in the Premium Lounge. Treat yourself to a mimosa and enjoy a hearty seafaring breakfast, but save some room for morning tea!
On your journey across Cook Strait you may spot pods of dolphins playing in the wake or, if you are very lucky, whales. Don’t spend all your time inside – as you enter the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound, enjoy the views as you cruise past the remnants of whaling stations, remote working sheep farms, pristine native bush and mussel farms. Admire the beauty of this coastal paradise as you arrive into the gateway of the South Island, Picton. Step off the Interislander Ferry and join your next world-class experience aboard a Marlborough Wine Tour.
The morning is yours to explore Picton. Meander through the impressive Edwin Fox (one of the world’s oldest surviving merchant sailing ships), local craft stores, art galleries and coastal walks. Enjoy the waterfront cafés before boarding the Coastal Pacific train for another highlight rail journey through the Marlborough Wine Region.
Today you will be travelling into Kaikōura. Relax as the train glides across remote beaches, between mountains and sea, on a timeless journey of breath-taking beauty. Keep an eye out for the fur seals lazing on the rocks!
Once in Kaikōura, the evening will be yours to enjoy some iconic kai moana (seafood) at one of the quaint restaurants before enjoying your luxurious ocean-front hotel.
Today will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience of whale, dolphin, or albatross watching! Enjoy today’s thrill of an up-close encounter with the world’s largest-toothed predator, the Giant Sperm Whale, who reside in Kaikōura’s waters year-round. If you preferred to gain an aerial experience of the wildlife, why not request a plane ride to capture the true grandeur of it all?
After this outstanding experience, we’re sure you will be feeling peckish. Head to the beach to sample some iconic New Zealand food – you can’t go wrong with the humble Kiwiana fish and chips. Work off the deep-fried delights by wandering through the wonderful array of local artisan stores and souvenir shops.
In the late afternoon, your highlight day will continue as you rejoin the Coastal Pacific Train en route to Christchurch. The spectacular scenery doesn’t cease to amaze as you journey south through the rolling hills and extensive plains. Enjoy the relaxing journey with a glass of wine in hand as you indulge in a gourmet meal from the onboard scenic café.
Sit back and relax for the remainder of the evening before hitting the town the following day.
Christchurch, the hub for South Island exploration, is also a wonderful city that blends modern architecture and technology with the 19th-century Anglican ‘gothic revival’ architectural influence. Often remembered for its earthquake in 2011, the city is rebuilding itself into a multicultural haven.
Today you are free to explore the museums, Riverside Markets, Punting on the Avon, Gondola and botanical gardens. There is also a multitude of delicious cafés tucked into quaint side streets we’re sure you will love.
This evening, you will re-join your fellow travellers for a special dinner and a ‘final hurrah’ on Christchurch’s historic dinner tram. Enjoy a wonderful circuit of the city while indulging in fantastic conversation and seasonal cuisine.
Your journey will end after enjoying a final breakfast at your hotel.