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Our New Zealand Splendour tour is ideal for travellers who love the outdoors and want to experience everything this vast country has to offer. Our recommended 23 day itinerary explores both the North and South islands, taking in remote sites of outstanding natural beauty, charming coastal towns and vibrant historical cities.
Your tour begins in Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island. Next, head to the Southern Alps where you'll stay under the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. Then take a scenic drive to Dunedin, New Zealand's 'heritage city' on the Otago coast. From here travel to Te Anau, which is the gateway to New Zealand's famous fiords. Spend the next couple of days exploring this dramatic coastal region before travelling north to Queenstown, the 'adventure capital' on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Return to Christchurch by train before travelling north to Blenheim in the heart of Marlborough, the famous wine-producing region.
Cross the Cook Strait to Wellington on the North Island, where you'll have plenty of time to explore the vibrant capital city. Then head north through the Remutaka Range to Napier, the art deco seaport overlooking Hawke's Bay. Continue north to Rotorua, famous for its natural thermal waters and important Maori sites. Finally, visit the Bay of Islands before arriving in Auckland, New Zealand's largest and most diverse city.
- Franz Josef Glacier tour
- Cruise on the Milford Sound
- Enjoy traditional Māori hospitality
- Explore the temperate rain forests
Start your Journey
Start your tour in the charming city of Christchurch. The city has recently undergone intensive regeneration but still retains its quintessentially English character. Explore the city by vintage bicycle or classic Edwardian punt, or take a leisurely stroll amongst the bars, eateries and boutique shops.
With regular departures and an entertaining and informative commentary, the old fashioned tram ride is another great way to experience the city. Stop at the city’s award winning Botanic Gardens, delightful in the spring, and rewarding at any time of year. Christchurch has a vibrant street food scene, so after a leisurely day spent sightseeing pick up a light bite at one of the many takeaway trucks located throughout the city.
From Christchurch on the Pacific coast, cross the vast Canterbury plains towards the Southern Alps, the imposing mountain range that extends the length of the South Island. Stay at the village of Mount Cook, which lies in the shadow of New Zealand's highest peak. Choose from alpine walking, a boat tour of the Tasman Glacier or a late night stargazing experience under the darkest sky in New Zealand.
From your base at Mount Cook, head south along the shores of Lake Pukaki towards Oamaru on the Pacific Coast with its resident colony of blue penguins. Continue along the coastline to Koekohe Beach where you'll encounter the mysterious Moeraki Boulders.
Arrive in Dunedin late in the afternoon and enjoy some free time before dinner. Although it doesn't attract as many visitors as nearby Queenstown, with its vibrant street art scene and laid back ambience, Dunedin is one of the South Island's hidden gems. The town's disused 'gingerbread' railway station is a popular attraction and the beaches around the town are home to some extraordinary wildlife, including penguins, seals, sea lions and albatross.
From Dunedin on the Pacific coast, head west to the fiord lands of the dramatic Tasman coast. Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Nestled on the banks of Lake Te Anau, the small town is the ideal base for exploring this remarkable region.
The lake itself is a popular destination for boating, fishing, kayaking and swimming. Visit the bird sanctuary or explore the famous glow worm caves. With its imposing cliff faces, mysterious dark waters and snow-capped alpine peaks, the highlight of your stay will undoubtedly be a cruise on the spectacular Milford Sound. Your tour will take you all the way to Mitre Peak, the iconic mountain on the far shore of the sound.
Enjoy your last few hours in the Fiordland before taking the scenic country road to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by alpine peaks, Queenstown is a mecca for extreme sports.
Head to Kawarau Bridge, the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jumping centre. If you prefer something more leisurely, take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu, a tour of a local vineyard or a wilderness walk through the ancient beech forest. With a cosmopolitan dining scene and a wide range of bars, you can enjoy fresh local seafood in a magnificent lakeside setting.
Franz Josef Glacier
From Queenstown return to the Mount Cook National Park. Your destination is the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier, a constantly evolving 12 kilometre long ice flow which extends from the high mountains peaks to the lush temperate rainforest.
Scenic helicopter flights and guided glacier walks with local experts depart from the nearby town of Franz Josef. There are plenty of hiking opportunities in the area and an abundance of caves, gorges and waterfalls to discover. Visit the Glacier Hot Pools; with temperatures ranging from 36-40°C and surrounded by the dense forests, it’s the perfect place to unwind.
Head north to Greymouth where you'll catch the TranzAlpine train all the way back to Christchurch. One of the world's great train lines, the 223 kilometre journey from the Southern Alps across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch takes just under five hours. Spend a relaxing evening in Christchurch as you prepare for the next leg of your tour.
From Christchurch head along the coast road towards Kaikoura, which is famous for its rugged coastline and abundant marine life, including whales, dusky dolphins, seals and albatross.
Continue north towards Blenheim, in the heart of the famous Marlborough wine region. With a full day to explore, choose from a cruise of the Marlborough Sounds or a gastronomic tasting at one of the region’s renowned wineries.
Blenheim’s Seymour Square is an elegant public space boasting a war memorial and historic clock tower. With ornamental flower beds, river walks and local wildlife, Pollard Park is the perfect spot for a picnic. From Blenheim, it's just a short drive to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre where you'll find filmmaker Peter Jackson’s collection of military aircraft.
From Blenheim cross the Cook Strait to Wellington, New Zealand's vibrant capital. Enjoy the rich culture of the city's museums, art galleries and theatre shows. Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, is one of the most interactive museums in the world.
Hike up Mount Victoria for breath taking views of the city. Alternatively, just a few minutes from the city centre, Oriental Bay is a favourite spot for walking, cycling or just relaxing. With plenty of shops, boutiques and galleries to choose from, Wellington is the perfect place to pick up a gift or souvenir. Cuba Street, a bohemian strip with some of the city’s most colourful shops, bars and cafés, is perfect for soaking up warm New Zealand hospitality.
Leaving vibrant Wellington behind, travel north across the Remutaka mountain range to Napier, an elegant seaport overlooking Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. With its mild climate, family owned wineries and white sandy coves, Hawke's Bay is a captivating region.
The town of Napier, with its tall palm trees, art deco architecture and warm pastel shades, is the perfect base for exploring the area. A bike tour taking in the local vineyards, including Mission Estate, the oldest winery in New Zealand, is the ideal way to explore the region. Later, head to West Quay where you can enjoy a waterfront refreshment with the locals.
Travel through the Esk Valley and Te Pohue, stopping at the lakeside town of Taupo. The biggest freshwater lake in Australasia is home to some of the best trout fisheries in the world, while the dramatic volcanic terrain is a haven for every kind of outdoor pursuit.
Continue north to Rotorua, another lakeside town where you can enjoy some authentic Māori hospitality at a traditional Hangi festival. With a full day to explore the region, take a forest walk among the redwoods with a Māori guide or visit the local Lord of the Rings film sets.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands are located in the far northern corner of the North Island and are the penultimate stop for your tour. Incorporating more than 140 subtropical islands, the area is renowned for its unspoiled beaches, big game fishing and Māori heritage site.
With a full day to explore, choose between sailing on a tall ship or dolphin watching on a catamaran. Pay a visit to one of New Zealand's most important historic sites, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where Māori chiefs first signed their accord with the British. Russell, the 19th Century whaling port and New Zealand's first permanent European settlement and seaport, is another fascinating historical site.
The final destination of your tour is Auckland, New Zealand's largest and most diverse city. Surrounded by water, the sounds, sights and smells of the ocean are never far away. The iconic form of the Sky Tower dominates the city's skyline, while Viaduct Harbour is home to some of the finest restaurants, bars and cafes in the city.
For some last minute shopping, head to the pedestrianised area around Vulcan Lane, while Auckland Art Gallery, on the fringes of Albert Park, displays a wide range of classic and modern art. To mark the end of you time in New Zealand, head to the famous Karangahape Road. Known to the locals as K-Road, it's a favourite gathering place for artists, students, musicians and writers.
There’s no question too small. Start planning your dream trip by talking to our Destination Specialists.
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