This is a 13 day scenic guided tour that travels both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, starting in Christchurch and finishing in Wellington.
Your journey begins at Christchurch Railway Station on Day 1, where the iconic TranzAlpine awaits. Often regarded to be one of the world’s great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours. You will see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice fed Waimakariri River, traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps, and see miles of native beech forest. Luxury coaches await in Greymouth to transport you to your hotel in the ruggedly beautiful Franz Josef. Finish your day with some well-deserved pampering at the local Glacier Hot Pools.
Wake up to enjoy the option for a helicopter tour of the Franz Josef glacier. Leaving Franz Josef, we travel along the West Coast through the Haast Pass, journeying through native beech forest and over the Southern Alps. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains. Continuing through Makarora on the border of Mount Aspiring World Heritage Park, we pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Dunstan. The adventure playground of Queenstown then awaits! Cap off a special day as we take in The Remarkables Mountain Range and the view of Lake Wakatipu from the hotel
Wake up to join a lake cruise on board the historic TSS Earnslaw, the 1912 Edwardian steamboat, which takes us across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet BBQ lunch. Enjoy an afternoon visit to the historic and picturesque goldmining town, Arrowtown, with a visit to the Lakes District Museum.
Departing Queenstown, we continue to the village of Kingston which is nestled on the southernmost end of Lake Wakatipu. Here, the iconic Kingston Flyer Steam Train awaits to take you on a memorable journey between Kingston & Fairlight. Then, we enter the Fiordland National Park district, continuing to traverse the Southern Scenic Route, our journey calls in to visit the Takahe Bird Sanctuary. Takahe are the stars of the show and meeting these prehistoric-looking characters is a ‘must do’ for Fiordland visitors. The sanctuary is a large part of the success of the Takahe Recovery Programme. We spend a couple of awe-inspiring days experiencing the wonders of Te Anau and Milford Sound.
Traveling along the Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. A day tour to Milford Sound offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery to be viewed anywhere in the world. Board the coach and travel through stunning scenery along the Milford Road and into Fiordland, where your cruise boat awaits you. The tour includes a cruise around the fiord so you can experience its wonders up close and see landmarks like Mitre Peak and amazing wildlife, such as dolphins and seals. Cruise the inner most reaches of Milford Sound to the open Tasman Sea and back. A one-day itinerary is enough to see all the beautiful views along the way, take a scenic cruise around the fiord, and get back to Te Anau in time for dinner.
Departing Te Anau for Dunedin, via Mandeville and the Croydon Aviation Museum and Waimea Plains Railway – where we “fire-up” the Rogers K92 Steam Locomotive (the original Kingston Flyer). During this luxury coach journey, we take in the unmatched pristine beauty and rugged countryside that the Southland region is renowned for.
In the morning, we explore the remote Taieri Gorge by rail and be amazed by the magnificent stone and wrought iron viaducts and bridges, with sheer drops plunging down to the river gorge far below. Various tunnels guide you to the historic Wingatui Viaduct, a marvel of 1880s construction that remains the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand.
Then, there is the option to discover Larnach Castle, which is situation on the picturesque Otago Peninsula – Larnach Castle is one of New Zealand’s premier visitor attractions/ Lovingly restored by the Barker Family, the Castle and surrounding grounds are at the heart of the Dunedin visitor experience. Arrive in time for refreshing high tea in the Ballroom Café followed by a guided garden tour.
Departing from Dunedin by rail, we continue to hug the coast towards Oamaru. We then detour inland by luxury coach via Omarama and Pukaki towards the spectacular Aoraki Mt Cook. Here, we find the home of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, which helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Mt Everest. Recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area, the National Park is a breath-taking environment of glaciers, terminal lakes, turbulent rivers and Australasia’s tallest peak, the mighty Aoraki / Mt Cook soaring above at 3,724 metres. There is the option after dinner to enjoy stargazing at the Planetarium, digitally immersed in what has been voted the world’s largest “International Dark Sky Reserve”.
Enjoy a leisurely morning and then a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which is a tribute to New Zealand’s global icon as well as discovering New Zealand’s colourful transport, climbing and hotel history. Followed by a scenic drive through the National Park surrounded by the silent splendour of the Southern Alps. Afternoon optional activities include a glacier helicopter tour or a scenic flight with expert pilots navigating their way over a glacial lake, passing soaring mountain tops over NZ’s longest glacier – the 600 metre thick, Tasman Glacier. Dinner that evening is with a guest speaker from the Hillary family.
A morning departure from the hotel leaving Aoraki Mt Cook by coach, we journey back to the coast via Tekapo and Fairlie on the way to Christchurch. On arrival in Christchurch, explore modern day Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre and experience a taste of this unique and breath-taking continent – just like the explorers before you.
Departing Christchurch on the Coastal Pacific Scenic Train, our destination is Kaikoura, home of resident whales, where the guardians of the seas – the mountains of the Southern Alps – rise majestically from the deep trenches of the Pacific Ocean. Several different species of whale can be seen off the coast of Kaikoura at different times of the year, and most of the time, the huge resident Sperm Whales can be sighted. The ocean trench just off the coast means sperm whales are often seen close to shore.
This morning we introduce you to a true “rockstar of rail” and a grand finale of epic proportions, as the train is then hauled under a full head of steam by the glorious Marlborough Flyer. It is “all aboard” and we continue to take in the spectacular coastal journey as we depart Kaikoura/ Onwards north via the Dashwood Pass and Awatere GValley to Marlborough, the famous wine region boasting over 100 vineyards. This historic WW1 memorial steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele, named in honour of our fallen soldiers at The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Having hauled royal trains on two previous royal visits in the early 1900’s, this is a journey fit for a king.