Eighteen Day Small Group Tour Covering Both Islands
This is a typical example of a 18 day small group coach tour of New Zealand. Cost for a tour of this length would be approx $NZ 3000 - $NZ 7000 depending on the quality of the accommodation. Accommodation is always the biggest cost factor in a tour, so you really do get what you pay for. There are many New Zealand small group tour operators throughout NZ and an amazing variety of itineraries available. This itinerary starts in Auckland in the North Island and finishes in Christchurch in the South Island.
Small Group Coach tours are generally easy going and cater for all age groups. Limiting the size of the group contributes to a more intimate traveling experience, and a closer bond between travelers. You need to decide if this is what you want before you book! If you are looking for anonymity then perhaps an independent or larger coach tour would suit you better. When touring New Zeland its best to bring the appropriate clothing for the time of year you are traveling. Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The far north of the country has an average temperature of about 15°C, while the deep south has a cooler 9°C average. January and February are the warmest months of the year, and July is the coldest.
Many travelers choose to spend an extra day or two in New Zealand immediately before or after their tour to fully explore the gateway cities. Without exception this proves to be a most positive addition to any itinerary. Each city offers its own unique attractions such as museums, galleries, markets, tours and shopping precincts. Another reason to consider pre accommodation is that it's a long way down to New Zealand from most countries, so a day or two to acclimatize is a good idea.
Day 1: Arrive Auckland On arrival at Auckland airport, you will be met by a representative and transferred to your city hotel. The 'City of Sails' is New Zealand's largest and most vibrant place, offering an exciting array of cosmopolitan experiences.
Day 2: Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula (B) Today, travel south to the Coromandel Peninsula, a beautiful rugged area fringed with dozens of excellent beaches that separate the Pacific Ocean from the Hauraki Gulf. It is place where many Kiwis choose to escape the hustle & hype of city life and is home to many arts & crafts people who seek an alternative lifestyle. At the quaint township of Coromandel, ride the Driving Creek narrow gauge railway to a fascinating artist colony before crossing the divide to the eastern side of the peninsula for an overnight stay in Tairua.
Day 3: Coromandel, Rotorua (B) Journey along the Bay of Plenty coastline before heading inland across the volcanic plateau to the geothermal city of Rotorua, passing many of the region's crystal clear lakes en-route. Rotorua's raw beauty has enchanted visitors from around the world for more than 160 years. At Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, you will stand upon volcanoes, peer into massive craters, see boiling mud and exploding geysers and marvel at the unspoiled native forests that cloak the land. You'll also enjoy a leisurely and fascinating visit to the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute.
Day 4: Lake Tarawera Cruise & the Buried Village (B,L) The days highlight is an exclusive cruise across the pristine, clear waters of Lake Tarawera at the base of a gigantic dormant volcano. You'll have the opportunity to soak in the thermal waters of Hot Water Beach and experience some of the country's best trout fishing before enjoying a gourmet picnic lunch. This afternoon, visit the Blue & Green Lakes and then wander around the famous Buried Village of Te Wairoa.
Day 5: Lake Taupo, Art Deco Napier (B) This morning, depart Rotorua and travel south via the Wairakei geothermal region to arrive at New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo, created by the world’s largest volcanic eruption. Your journey then continues as you travel to the Hawke’s Bay town of Napier. The major entertainment on the road from Taupo to Napier is the fantastic scenery. There’s a bit of everything - rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. The town of Eskdale heralds your arrival in Napier. This afternoon enjoy a guided walk of this Art Deco town.
Day 6: Wairarapa to Wellington (B) Drive south today to the Wairarapa, a rural retreat in the very heart of New Zealand. Stop in at Martinborough, a unique wine village with over 20 boutique vineyards before continuing onto Wellington. On arrival in Wellington, the nation's capital, enjoy a brief sightseeing & orientation tour before checking into our accommodation.
Day 7: Picton & the Marlborough Sounds (B) Free time this morning to explore Wellington at leisure and a visit to Te Papa National Museum is highly recommended. This afternoon, board the Interislander ferry for the leisurely and scenic crossing of Cook Strait to Picton, via the Marlborough Sounds. On arrival, join a water taxi for the short cruise to Kenepuru Sound where a warm welcome at a resort awaits you in this remote, picture-perfect bay.
Day 8: Stunning Kenepuru Sound (B) This is a day to relax and marvel at the magic that is the Marlborough. Resort staff will share their love of the Sounds with you through the range of water and nature-based experiences they put at your fingertips. The wide beach access is great for fishing, boating, sailing, swimming and sea-kayaking and there is a wealth of walks and meanderings in the immediate vicinity. There is also the opportunity to visit the vineyards & wineries that are located in the famous Marlborough wine region.
Day 9: Kaikoura Coast, Christchurch (B) After breakfast, return to the picturesque fishing village of Picton and reboard a coach and travel through Blenheim to Kaikoura, world renowned as the whale watching center of New Zealand. Optional excursions include the opportunity to view giant sperm whales by boat or air and see dolphins, fur seals and the Royal Albatross at close range in their natural habitats. You may also swim with pools of Dusky Dolphins; wetsuits recommended! Later, continue south to the "Garden City" of Christchurch, thought of as the most English of New Zealand cities.
Day 10: Spectacular TranzAlpine Train, Franz Josef Glacier (B) Regarded as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the famous TranzAlpine Train will take you deep into the heartland of the South Island-- a coast to coast journey through some of the world's most extreme and beautiful scenery. This afternoon, travel along the dramatic West Coast, steeped in history dating back to the gold rush era of the 1800's, to the glacier township of Franz Josef.
Day 11: Haast, Wanaka, Queenstown (B) There is the opportunity to experience a scenic flight over this remarkable region (subject to weather conditions) before our departure this morning. Today, view incredible scenery as you travel past the untouched native forests and pristine lakes of the World Heritage Westland National Park and Haast Pass. We then travel over the magnificent Southern Alps to the Southern Lakes District. Time to wander around the popular lakeside townships of Hawea and Wanaka before travelling over the spectacular Crown Range to the historic gold mining village of Arrowtown. On to Queenstown, a beautiful alpine resort regarded as New Zealand's premier holiday destination.
Day 12-13: Explore Queenstown & its surroundings (B) Enjoy two full days to experience this magnificent resort. Surrounded by majestic mountains, Queenstown boasts adventure and leisure activities in all forms, from extreme to relaxed exploration. Here you can take a thrilling jet boat ride, pan for gold, raft the white water rapids, take a wine trail, fish for trout, play golf or 4WD sheer canyons. It is also a great base from which to explore the Fiordland National Park, gateway to the awesome Milford & Doubtful Sounds. There are numerous activities from which to choose and your Tour Guide will be pleased to offer advice and help you in your selection.
Day 14: Central Otago, Dunedin (B) Journey through the historic gold rush routes of Central Otago, passing through the townships of Cromwell, Clyde & Alexandra en-route to Dunedin, the 'Edinburgh of the South'. It is a city of rare charm set amidst a magical landscape edged by the sea.
Day 15: Discover Dunedin & its surrounds (B) Take the opportunity to enjoy the city's cultural riches and its abundant nature & wildlife. If you wish, visit New Zealand's oldest brewery for an entertaining and enlightening heritage tour, enjoy guided tours of Lanarch Castle and the stately home of Olveston House and play a round of golf at Balmacewan, which is the oldest course in New Zealand and enjoyed by many of the sports greats, both past & present. You could also make the short journey to Portobello Peninsula to enjoy seals, the Albatross Colony and the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve.
Day 16: Oamaru, Mt Cook National Park (B,D) This morning, travel the Ocean Highway north to Moeraki Beach with its 60 million year old, perfectly spherical boulders. On to Oamaru with its stunning marble architecture before continuing on to the world-heritage listed Mt Cook National Park. The park covers over 70,000 hectares of breathtaking alpine scenery and boasts Australasia's highest mountain, Aoraki or Mt. Cook, at 3,764 metres. There are a further 140 peaks over 2000 metres high and the Tasman Glacier, the longest in the southern hemisphere. Optional ski-plane and helicopter flights are available subject to weather conditions.
Day 17: Mt Cook, Lake Tekapo, Christchurch (B) Travel to beautiful Lake Tekapo and view the tiny Church of the Good Shepherd, built of local stone and oak in 1935. Leaving the High Country, cross the vast Canterbury Plains to the 'Garden City' of Christchurch.
Day 18: Depart Christchurch (B) Sadly, your vacation is at an end and you will arrive at Christchurch airport for your onward flight. Here you will leave with many happy memories of your stay in Aotearoa, New Zealand.