Highlights of New Zealand by Coach and Rail
Highlights: Auckland | Waitomo Glowworm Caves | Hobbiton Movie Set | Te Puia | Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve | Rainbow Springs | Christchurch | Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour | TranzAlpine Rail Journey | Franz Josef Glacier | Queenstown
See New Zealand from the comfort of coach and rail, beginning in the populous city of Auckland and ending in the adventure capital, Queenstown.
Take your choice of excursions from a Waiheke Island wine tour to a Maori cultural performance, then explore the glowing Waitomo Caves and wander around Hobbiton Movie Set.
In Rotorua, witness geothermal activity and see the famous Kiwi bird at Rainbow Springs, then explore Christchurch by tram and ride the TranzAlpine train to Franz Josef Glacier.
Once in Queenstown you'll have even more choice of excursions, from a Milford Sound cruise to a boutique wine, cycle or farm tour..
Itinerary at a Glance
The below itinerary is only a suggestion, we offer tailor-made personal service and solutions to help you plan your perfect vacation. This itinerary is also available in the reverse direction.
Day 1 Auckland Welcome to New Zealand! On arrival in Auckland, collect your luggage and pass through security, keeping an eye out for your driver who will be holding a sign with your name on it. Once you connect you will be transferred by private car to Rydges Hotel, your home for the next two nights.
Day 2 Auckland – Today you have the choice of one of five tours Today you can personalize your Auckland experience by choosing one of these five tours, all sure to leave you with lifelong memories: 1. Waiheke Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour Travel by ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island, Auckland’s food and wine neighbor just 12 miles away. Sample succulent New Zealand oysters, award-winning olive oil and other locally produced foods, all accompanied by wines from some of Waiheke’s top vineyards. Your guide will provide an entertaining and informative commentary as you go, and treats may include wild honey, the famous local green herb spread and artisan cheeses. A lunch platter at one of the area's top vineyard restaurants is included. 2. Explore the dramatic landscapes of the West Coast This small group eco tour to the Waitakere Ranges showcases the stunning beauty of Auckland’s wilder side. Visit dramatic landscapes with surf beaches and black sand, explore some of New Zealand's lush rain forests with ancient trees like the magnificent kauri tree and discover a hidden lake fringed by native bush and sand dunes. The tour includes a visit to a spectacular gannet colony, one of only three on mainland New Zealand (birds in residence approximately August to April). 3. Taste of Kumeu Wine & Food Tour The wineries of Kumeu date back to the 1930s, and some of New Zealand's most renowned wines are still going strong. Enjoy tastings at the award-winning Soljans Vineyard – which skillfully marries traditional with modern techniques to produce stylish, richly flavored wines – and a Mediterranean-style lunch at Soljans Winery restaurant. Take a break from wine tasting to see one of the few mainland gannet nesting sites in the world, then visit Matua Valley Wines and West Brook Winery. 4. Morning Guided Bike Tour of Auckland’s Waterfront / Afternoon America's Cup Sailing Experience This guided bike tour follows flat paths through the Viaduct Basin to the charming seaside community of Mission Bay. Relax, take a swim and enjoy light refreshments on the beach, then pedal back to Auckland for your sailing tour on Waitemata Harbour. Home to two of the America’s Cup races (the world’s oldest sporting trophy and ultimate yachting regatta), you’ll board a grand prix racer to take the helm, trim the grinders or sit back and enjoy the action. 5. Full Day Auckland Maori Culture & Sights Tour Experience Auckland’s fascinating Maori culture on a very personal small group tour to important historic sites. Learn how this unique living culture is an integral part of what Auckland and New Zealand has to offer, from its well-known cityscapes to its numerous volcanoes and the amazing West Coast. Finish with a visit to the Auckland Museum with its Maori and Polynesian Gallery. You can enjoy the Museum's Maori Cultural Performance to see a postural war dance (the haka) first-hand.
Day 3 Auckland to Rotorua Departing Auckland this morning, journey by luxury coach through the lush farmland of the Waikato and King Country regions. Learn about the area’s history from your local driver guide, then arrive to your first stop – the Waitomo Glowworm Caves – for a 45-minute tour. Illuminated by thousands of tiny glowworms, you’ll encounter formations and creatures that are simply out of this world and enjoy a magical boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto. After lunch, continue to Matamata for a chance to explore the movie set of Hobbiton and The Shire. Duck into hobbit holes and grab a drink at the Green Dragon Inn while learning the fascinating process of constructing the set. After your tour, continue to Rotorua and check into the Millennium Rotorua Hotel.
Day 4 Rotorua Sightseeing Gain insight to New Zealand's Māori culture at Te Puia, a geothermal valley known for its bubbling mud pools and geysers that shoot steam high into the air. Take a walk through the grounds and visit the woodcarving and weaving schools on site, then continue to Rainbow Springs for more of New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Discover different birds, fish, lizards and exotic animals from around the world, plus have a chance to see the famous flightless Kiwi bird. Lastly, witness New Zealand’s agricultural history in action at the Agrodome, a working organic farm with a sheep shearing display and sheep dog trials.
Day 5 Rotorua to Christchurch Today begins with a flight (not included) from Rotorua to Christchurch, otherwise known as ‘the garden city.’ Upon arrival, board the historic tram and step back in time to a grand era of transport. The Christchurch Tram is a unique, elegant and environmentally-friendly way to see the city and you can get off and on as you please at any of the 17 stops. A full circuit takes 50 minutes and encompasses sights like New Regent Street, Cathedral Junction, Cathedral Square, the Avon River, Art Gallery Centre, Arts Centre, Canterbury Museum and The Botanic Gardens. After exploring, head to Distinction Christchurch Hotel, your home for the next two nights in this fascinating city.
Day 6 Full Day Kaikoura Tour with Whale Watching This full day tour includes a scenic drive from Christchurch over the Canterbury plains before arriving in the majestic seaside village of Kaikoura. Once in Kaikoura, head to a lookout to enjoy spectacular views of this pretty seaside village, the majestic mountains and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. A visit to a fur seal colony is next on the list before returning to Kaikoura for some free time to explore and enjoy lunch. In the afternoon, board a catamaran with Whale Watch Kaikoura for a chance at an up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale.
Day 7 Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier This morning you’ll board the TranzAlpine, a train journey renowned as one of the greatest in the world. Travel over massive viaducts, river valleys and spectacular gorges as you ascend to Arthur’s Pass, located in the centre of the Southern Alps. At Greymouth, board your coach and travel onwards to Hokitika – a township famous for its Greenstone – before arriving at Franz Josef.
Day 8 Franz Josef Glacier Day at Leisure Uniquely known as one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, the Franz Josef Glacier descends from the Southern Alps to the greenery of a temperate rainforest just 240 meters above sea level. Today you’ll have ample time to explore the area, be it from an optional guided walk or heli-hike through spectacular ice formations. Experience the thrill of leaving your footprints on a high alpine snowfield or feel adrenaline course through your veins on a scenic skydive. Other options include visiting New Zealand’s only White Heron (Kotuku) nesting colony, kayaking the stunning Okarito lagoon or visiting Lake Matheson for its mirror images of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, New Zealand’s highest peaks.
Day 9 Franz Josef to Queenstown Leaving the small village of Franz Josef today, journey through the remote and rugged landscape of the West Coast. This is New Zealand at its purest and most untamed, with moody mountain ranges, thick native rainforest and wild rocky shores making up the view as you travel in comfort to the commentary from your local driver guide. Cross over to the East Coast through Haast Pass, the southernmost pass in the Southern Alps. On the other side, enjoy picture-postcard views of vibrant blue lakes like Lake Hawea, Lake Wanaka and Lake Dunstan as you make your way into scenic Queenstown, arriving by late afternoon.
Day 10 Queenstown – Today you have the choice of one of five Excursions
Today you can personalize your Queenstown experience by choosing one of these five tours, all sure to leave you with lifelong memories:
1. Full Day Milford Sound Coach/Nature Cruise/Coach
Travel by coach from Queenstown to Milford Sound through sheer mountains, towering cliffs, rugged valleys and native rain forest. Once at Milford Sound board a catamaran for a leisurely cruise along the fiord, learning from the onboard Nature Guide, visiting the skipper in the wheelhouse or viewing wildlife like dolphins, seals and penguins. Lunch options are available for purchase (must be preordered) and complimentary tea and coffee is provided. After the cruise, return to Queenstown by coach.
Milford Sound Return Flight Upgrade (Approx $395 PP)
Upgrade your itinerary to include a return scenic flight to Queenstown. See magnificent views of the alps, glaciers, lakes and forests of Fiordland National Park from the air – it’s a quick and convenient way to return to Queenstown.
The flight shaves approximately 4 hours off a return by coach, however it is very weather dependent so it’s possible you will need to return by coach and have the upgraded price refunded to you. 2. Half Day Boutique Wine Tour Spend an afternoon among the boutique vineyards and spectacular scenery of Central Otago. Enjoy tastings at four wineries in the Gibbston Valley, Cromwell and Bannockburn regions plus a delightful platter-style lunch at Carrick Winery Restaurant. Visit historic Old Cromwell Town (time and weather permitting) and take a stunning drive through the Kawarau Gorge to learn about the early pioneering history of the region and see the historic Kawarau Bridge and the original AJ Hackett Bungy jump. 3. Sheep Station to Sheep Station Cycle Tour & Walter Peak BBQ Lunch Experience Queenstown’s surrounds with a cycle tour. Boarding a Spirit of Queenstown cruise to Mt Nicholas High Country Farm, disembark on the other side of Lake Wakatipu to begin your cycling journey. Ride at your own pace along a quiet country road, taking in views of the Southern Alps, Glenorchy and The Remarkables on the way. After cycling 14 kilometers (1.5 hours) to Walter Peak you’ll enjoy a barbecue lunch, then board the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw to return to Queenstown. 4. Walter Peak High Country Farm Excursion / Shotover Jetboat Ride Step aboard the TSS Earnslaw and enjoy a 40-minute cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station. On arrival, wander through gardens or enjoy tea/coffee in the Colonel’s Homestead, then take a tour of the grounds to view sheep, red deer and Scottish Highland cattle. Highlights of the experience are watching the farm demonstrator shear a sheep, sheep dogs working stock and a wool spinning demonstration. Take the TSS Earnslaw back to Queenstown, then transfer by coach to the Shotover River for the jet boat ride of your life. 5. Half Day Wilderness Safari - Jetboat & Forest Walk Combine wilderness jet boating with a guided walk and back-country drive. Surrounded by breathtaking snow-covered peaks, hidden valleys, waterfalls and glacial valleys, you’ll take a thrilling jet boat through the ever-changing shallow channels of the Dart River’s braided system. Enjoy a guided walk through ancient native Beech forest where you’ll be fascinated by the unique flora and fauna, then journey by bus along a back-country route. Your driver will stop to view some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery and will share stories of the land on the way.
Day 11 Queenstown at leisure Your first full day in Queenstown is entirely at your leisure. Take a walk by the waterfront along Lake Wakatipu or ride the Skyline gondola to the top for incredible views over the city. Dinner can be enjoyed buffet-style from the restaurant here (reservations are highly recommended) or we suggest ordering from the famous Fergburger on Shotover Street.
Day 12 Depart Queenstown After a wonderful trip, it’s time to say goodbye to Queenstown, New Zealand. We have included a private transfer to the airport to begin your journey home.
- 2 nights of accommodation at Rydges Hotel, Auckland – Superior Room
- 2 nights of accommodation at the Millenium Rotorua Hotel, Rotorua – Superior Lakeview Room
- 2 nights of accommodation at Distinction Christchurch Hotel – Classic Room
- 2 nights of accommodation at Scenic Hotel, Franz Josef Glacier – Graham Wing Room
- 3 nights of accommodation at Scenic Suites Queenstown – Superior Room with View
- Private transfer from Auckland Airport to your hotel
In Auckland, the freedom to choose 1 of 5 Excursions
- Waiheke Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour
(Includes: Return ferry to Waiheke Island, Waiheke ferry terminal pick up and drop off, platter lunch and tastings)
- Day Tour of Auckland’s West Coast
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, Picnic Lunch)
- Afternoon Taste of Kumeu Wine and Food Tour
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, 3 wine tastings, vineyard lunch with a glass of wine)
- Morning Guided Bike Tour of Auckland’s Waterfront / Afternoon America's Cup Sailing Experience
(Includes: Private guide, bike, helmet, cable lock, souvenir map, light refreshments, life jackets)
- Auckland’s fascinating Maori Cultural Performance & City Sights
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, snacks, refreshments and lunch, Auckland Museum and Maori Cultural Performance)
- Waiheke Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour
- Rotorua sightseeing tour
(Includes: admission to Te Puia, Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, Rainbow Springs and the Agrodome sheep show)
- Private airport transfer in Rotorua
- Private airport transfer in Christchurch
- Full Day Kaikoura Tour with Whale Watching
- Private Railway Station transfer in Christchurch
- TranzAlpine Train – Christchurch to Greymouth
- Greymouth to Franz Josef Coach Transfer
- Franz Josef to Queenstown sightseeing tour
In Queenstown, the freedom to choose 1 of 5 Excursions
- Full Day Milford Sound Coach/Nature Cruise/Coach
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, Milford Sound Nature Cruise)
- Half Day Boutique Wine Tour
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, wine tasting at 4 wineries and platter style lunch)
- Sheep Station to Sheep Station Cycle Tour & Walter Peak BBQ Lunch (Includes: One-way Spirit of Queenstown cruise and one-way TSS Earnslaw cruise, Walter Peak BBQ lunch, bicycle and bicycle helmet and cycle map)
- Shotover Jetboat Ride & Walter Peak High Country Farm Excursion
(Includes: Coach transfer to shotover Jet, Earnslaw cruise, high country life farm tour & tea/coffee and home baking)
- Half Day Wilderness Safari - Jetboat & Forest Walk
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off)
- Full Day Milford Sound Coach/Nature Cruise/Coach
- Private Queenstown Airport transfer
- International or domestic airfares (unless specified above).
- Meals other than specified above.
- Travel insurance.
Highlights of New Zealand by Coach and Rail
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