Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm and you will be transferred from the airport to your Christchurch hotel. Take some time to relax or explore independently. You may like to step back in time to a grand era of transport and relax on the Christchurch Tram as it takes you around the 'must-see' central attractions. The tram drivers provide a live commentary throughout the loop, identifying points of interest, historic architecture and the changes the city is under-going since the 2011 earthquake. This evening, meet your fellow travelling companions and your AAT Kings Travel Director for a welcome reception at your hotel.
After a Christchurch city sights tour, you will head out over the patchwork countryside of the Canterbury Plains to soak up some spectacular sightseeing. Sweeping views across the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo framed by a backdrop of rugged hills and snow-capped mountains provide stunning alpine photography opportunities. You will visit the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd and stop for a quick photo with the bronze statue of a collie dog, the touching tribute to the sheepdogs which helped develop the Mackenzie Country. You may want to take in Mount Cook National Park from the air this afternoon, on a scenic flight out over New Zealand’s highest peak, the Southern Alps and on to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers (Optional Experience - at own expense). Your day finishes in the heart of the Mackenzie Country at Omarama. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Your day starts with a journey along the Waitaki River, which marks the boundary between the regions of Canterbury and Otago, and with its large catchment it is an ideal source of hydro-electric power. From the Waitaki Valley you will then travel through to the township of Oamaru, with its stately tree-lined streets and its famous white limestone buildings. As well as shipping limestone to the bigger cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin for construction of their Town Halls and various churches, Oamaru locals made sure that their own town represented the best in limestone building the mid-late 1800’s had to offer. This afternoon you will make your way down to the Southernmost New Zealand city, Dunedin. With the rest of your free afternoon you may wish to take part in an Optional Experience to see more of the region. Take a Wildlife Cruise out to Otago Peninsula, visit the Speights Brewery – a New Zealand institution or ride the historic Taieri Gorge Railway. Tonight, speak with your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Dunedin’s inner city.
Today is one of those days where you will want to have your camera battery charged, and ready to go! After leaving Te Anau, you will journey 119km through the Fiordland National Park and out to Milford Sound on one of the most scenic roads you could hope for. Travel through native rainforests, beech forests, alluvial flats and meadows. You will stop at Mirror Lakes where, as the name suggests, you can see the stunning mountain scenery perfectly reflected in the waters of the lakes. Then on to the Homer Tunnel, man’s attempt to master the sheer rocky ranges, still left rough-hewn around the edges. As you emerge out the other side of the tunnel, you are presented with one of the world’s most dramatic alpine drives, down through the Cleddau Valley. You will have a stop at the Chasm, where the roaring Cleddau River has carved its way through solid rock, and then it’s on to Milford Sound, where you will cruise the waters of this natural wonder. Your cruise meanders down the sound, taking in the Bowen and Stirling Falls as they plummet from glacial hanging valleys sharply into the sea, and the sheer pinnacle of Mitre Peak, rising from the deep waters of the fiord for your magical overnight cruise on Milford Sound. (Overnight cruise does not operate 21 May – 15 September. During this period there will be a day cruise on Milford Sound and accommodation in Queenstown or Te Anau)
This morning, depart for the township of Te Anau, on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. Here you’ll explore the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves by boat with a Local Guide, before continuing to New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown.
Explore exciting Queenstown your way! Take the opportunity to encounter a Queenstown legend and ride the Shotover Jet Boat or venture out on a Skippers Canyon Scenic Tour. If laid-back and relaxed is more your idea of fun, then join a Wine Tour and sample some of Central Otago’s award-winning wines or visit our native birds at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park. Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences. After a day of activity, why not sit back and enjoy a peaceful evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard New Zealand’s oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station (Optional Experience, own expense). Launched in 1912, the TSS Earnslaw is the largest and grandest vessel ever to ply Lake Wakatipu. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is believed to be the only coal-fired passenger carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. Partake in a gourmet BBQ Highlight Dinner at Walter Peaks’ Colonel’s Homestead and then enjoy an entertaining after-dinner farm show providing a glimpse into high-country farm life. On the cruise back to Queenstown, join in a vintage sing-along or grab your partner for a dance across the polished wooden floors of the Earnslaw.
While Queenstown wears its Global Adventure badge proudly, it’s also the perfect place to relax and explore. The town boasts great shopping with luxury brands, iconic New Zealand design stores and boutique fashion.
This morning you will leave the alpine wonderland of Queenstown behind, and begin the passage through Central Otago and out to Westland. On the way out of the Queenstown region, you will stop and visit the faithfully restored gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. As you amble down the beautiful tree-lined avenues, past the 19th century wooden buildings, you will feel like you have stepped into a movie set. From here you will travel over to Cromwell, situated next to the sparkling pristine waters of Lake Dunstan, where you will stop in at a local orchard for a taste of some of the town’s delicious stone fruit. It is a day of gorgeous lakes, as after Dunstan, you will travel further into Central Otago and view the vivid blue waters of Lake Hawea, followed by Lake Wanaka, where the shoreline is charmingly lined by poplars and willows. Following an ancient greenstone trail, you will travel over Haast Pass, marking a change from the alpine scenery of the Southern Lakes, to the rainforest marvel of the wild West Coast. View the sheer drop of Thunder Creek Falls and the grand sight of Mt Hooker, flanked on three sides by extensive glaciers. Our final destination for today is the extraordinary rivers of ice that make up Franz Josef Glacier. You may want to get up close and personal with the glaciers on a helicopter flight. Your flight will hover over the snow face and may land high up in the valley so that you can walk across the ice fall – subject to weather conditions (Optional Experience – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
If weather conditions are unfavourable on Day 8, you will get another chance to fly up to the glaciers this morning or you might want to take a stroll through the small but lively Franz Josef village. Then you head off to the drift-wood strewn beaches of Hokitika. As well as being one of the few West Coast communities to embrace its coastal landscape, Hokitika struck it rich in the resource's stakes. Here you will visit a pounamu factory (native greenstone or jade), for the chance to see master carvers at work creating intricate pieces of jewellery and art. Maori tradition says it is bad luck to buy pounamu for yourself, so if you fancy a trinket of your own, make sure you have someone there to purchase it for you. Then, continue to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Tonight, we stay in an eco-friendly resort right on the waterfront. Enjoy dinner while watching the thundering surf at your doorstep.
Soak up the scenic wilderness of the Heritage Highway through the impressive Buller Gorge and the Kahurangi National Park before arriving in Nelson.
On this day at leisure, you’ll have the opportunity to journey to the top of the South Island and enjoy a relaxing cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park, or perhaps take a short bush walk, relax in sunny Nelson or explore the many arts and craft shops. The choice is yours!
This morning, we travel to the pretty seaside fishing village of Picton where you will board the Interislander for a cruise across the Cook Strait, from the South Island to the North. Surprisingly it takes longer to cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound and up the Tory Channel than it does to cross the open ocean of Cook Strait. You will meander through a maze of arms and inlets out of Picton. Once in Wellington enjoy a City tour including viewing New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings. Tonight is an evening at leisure, speak with your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Wellington’s inner city.
You have a day at leisure to see the sights of your choice. Perhaps take a tour of Parliament or one of the Lord of the Rings movie tours, or venture to Weta Workshop, the home of the special effects' wizards whose work features in many blockbuster movies. Enjoy the café lifestyle in our capital city or simply shop till you drop, there is something in Wellington for everyone! This evening enjoy dinner at your hotel.
You’ll have lunch included today provided by ‘Eat My Lunch’. ‘Eat My Lunch’ is a charity organisation that provides lunch for New Zealand school children who otherwise would be going to school without. By having lunch today, you are giving a lunch to a child in need. Travel through the dairy farming land of Manawatu to Napier. In February 1931, Napier was levelled by earthquake and fire but was rebuilt in the depths of the Great Depression in just two years. Nowhere else in the world can you see such a concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s: Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical. You’ll hear the story of the earthquake that devastated Napier in 1931 and be introduced to the Art Deco style and hear stories of the characters involved in rebuilding this city. A Local Guide will accompany you on a walking tour.
Enjoy a leisurely start to our day before continuing our journey to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Visit the spectacular Huka Falls, the only outlet of water from Lake Taupo and then it’s on to Rotorua. On arrival in Rotorua an orientation tour takes in views of Lake Rotorua. Tonight, an evening of culture, history and scrumptious food awaits you at the Tamaki Maori Village. Wander through the ancient forest village and learn about Maori art forms and traditions, followed by a concert featuring local performers. Experience an authentic Maori Hangi meal, steamed underground in the traditional way.
Today is your chance to experience the scenic wonders of the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Visit Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you’ll see demonstrations of wood carving and weaving. Then tour the geothermal valley and hear the importance of the geysers and mud pools to the Maori people. Later, you may wish to travel back to Rotorua township and relax lakeside, or you may prefer to choose from one of the varied Optional Experiences on offer. Take a scenic flight out over Lake Rotorua for a bird’s eye view of the region. You may even want to stop at the top of Mt Tarawera, the site of the largest eruption in New 165 Zealand’s living memory! Explore Rainbow Springs Nature Park & The National Kiwi Hatchery, take a ‘behind the scenes’ tour through the working kiwi nursery and hatchery. Later, why not spend a little more time experiencing the thermal wonders, with a soak in the hot mineral waters of the Polynesian Spas? Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences.
Today you will follow the meandering trail of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, past the lush farmlands of the Waikato Region. As you journey over the Bombay Hills, the landscape changes from green, grassy meadowlands to the edges of suburbia. As you make your way into the heart of New Zealand’s largest city, you will stop at the Auckland War Memorial Museum for views across Auckland City and the Waitemata Harbour.
Your holiday concludes this morning after breakfast. You will be transferred to Auckland Airport for your onward flight.