If you have some time and want to experience the highlights of both islands, the Grand Tour is the trip for you. Experience the buzz of New Zealand’s ‘big’ cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch where you will find top-class dining and culture aplenty, and get back to nature in some of New Zealand’s best-loved national parks; Tongariro, Abel Tasman and Fiordland. Accommodation is a mixture of boutique B&Bs and small, friendly hotels. Please note that all of our tours are completely flexible so we can alter this in any way you see fit.
Day 1 - Welcome to New Zealand!
On arrival into Auckland you will be greeted at the airport and transferred by private vehicle to the accommodation of your choice. After a long flight it is recommended to get outside and stretch the legs; thankfully there is an abundance of wonderful locations around the city for such an activity.
Day 3 & 4 - Rotorua
Today you will pick up your hire car and start making your way south towards Rotorua. You will pass over the Bombay Hills, through rolling farmland, and on into Hobbit country. This is the perfect opportunity to visit Hobbiton, peek into Bilbo’s world and take refreshments at the Green Dragon before continuing onwards to the lakeside town of Rotorua. You will arrive in to Rotorua, one of New Zealand’s top destinations in the early-to-mid afternoon. There is plenty on offer in Rotorua and something for everyone. From the towering trees of the Redwood Forest, to the mud pools and geysers of the Te Puia Cultural and Geothermal Centre, to the Polynesian Spa, to the excitement of luging at Skyline Rotorua. Not to mention the exhilarating floatplane flight over Mount Tarawera to Blue Lake and the Buried Village, or Rainbow Springs; home to Kiwi and many other birds and reptiles native to New Zealand.
Day 5 & 6 - Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park is the oldest in New Zealand and second oldest in the world, and it is no wonder this special place was recognised as such so long ago. Perched on the Central Plateau you will find the North Island’s largest mountains and taking a stroll in the lower reaches of the park is a great way to get a feel for what is on offer. This said, of all the activities to be had in the park, the one that takes the headlines and entices people from all corners of the world is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which many experts believe to be “the best one day walk in the world”.
Day 7 & 8 - Wellington
Leaving the Tongariro National Park you will descend off the Central Plateau down past the Rangitikei River and into rural New Zealand. Pass through towns such as Taihape (home of the Gumboot Day) and Bulls, getting a feel for rural New Zealand before weaving your way down the Kapiti coast, past the Tararua Ranges, and into Wellington. With 2 nights in New Zealand’s capital there is plenty to see and do. Wellington has always been a foodies dream with exceptional eateries at every turn; however, nowadays it is much, much more. From the world-class national museum Te Papa; to the Weta Workshop, where you can see how Lord of the Rings was brought to life; and the biosphere Zealandia, host to some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. And if you want to see how New Zealand is governed then a free tour through the Beehive provides a great insight.
Day 9 & 10 - Picton
A morning spent watching the world go by in one of the many coffee shops whilst the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life hums around is a great way to get a feel for how Wellington works, before setting off on the Inter-islander ferry. The car ferry leaves from downtown Wellington and is a fantastic way to get to the South Island via the Cook Straight and the undeniably stunning Marlborough Sounds. Arriving in Picton you will think you have stepped into another world. There is plenty to do in this little coastal town, and it’s yours to explore in any way you want. Jump on one of the many departing boats that ply the Sounds to remote locations only accessible by boat and walk part of the Queen Charlotte track or visit a Paua farm. If it is the vineyards of Marlborough that are calling you, not a problem, you can pick up a wine tour for the day and be chauffeured from world-class vineyard to world-class vineyard. The options are endless and one thing is for sure, you will leave wanting more.
Day 11 & 12 - Nelson
Via the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive, the drive to Nelson is a memorable one and you should find yourself there early enough to spend the best part of the day soaking up this wonderful small city and it’s surrounds. Visit the geographic centre of New Zealand, head out to Mapua for exceptional fish and chips by the wharf and a spot of craft beer tasting, visit one of the many galleries that dot the city or enjoy an afternoon of gentle cycling along the coastal cycle trail. Nelson is on the doorstep to the Abel Tasman National Park; which should not be missed if the opportunity arises. There are numerous ways to explore this natural wonder, from self-guided day walks, to boat trips, to the more adventurous kayaking tours; all of which are highly recommended. If this does not sound like you then don’t fret because a day trip driving over the Takaka Hill to Pohara is also a great way to see a bit of New Zealand most people, Kiwis included, only ever dream of!
Day 13 & 14 - West Coast
The West Coast of New Zealand is one of the last frontiers in a modern world and as such is a truly unique place. Windswept, rugged, and down to earth there is a myriad of adventures to be had. The tourist draw card is undoubtedly the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki; however, there is much, much more to see and do. The “Coast” road is unforgettable, the Buller River, which, over millennia, has carved the Buller Gorge out of bedrock is a sight to behold and the walking and cycling tracks that criss-cross the area provide a great way of truly exploring New Zealand. There is also a history lesson or two to be had at Shanty Town, which is an exceptional living museum showing how the Coast came to be populated and how New Zealand’s forefathers carved out the country as we know it today.
Day 15 & 16 - Franz Josef
The town of Franz Josef has grown organically with the help of the natural wonder that is the glacier; which can be explored on foot, by plane, or by helicopter (weather permitting). The glacier is not the only attraction in town and the ruggedly beautiful setting provides the perfect backdrop for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking & canoeing, 4WD off-road tours; not to mention an abundance of self-guided walking trails, lakes to explore and a great wildlife centre.
Day 17 - Wanaka
Arriving over the Southern Alps you will immediately notice the drier, warmer climate of Central Otago. In Wanaka prepare to be greeted by a majestic lake, framed by steep mountains culminating in the sentinel Mount Aspiring standing tall far in the distance. There is plenty to see and do in Wanaka, and whether it be walking or cycling along the lake edge, sampling great local wine in a lively restaurant whilst watching the sunset over Mount Aspiring, or planning to scale the heights of Roy’s Peak it is a truly memorable location.
Day 18 - 20 - Queenstown
There is not a lot that can be written and said about Queenstown that hasn’t already occurred. The superlatives do not do it justice and it is a place that has to be experienced to be believed. The home of Bungy, the Shotover Jet, the Remarkables mountain range, and the base for innumerable activities including trips to Milford or Doubtful Sound, and let’s not forget the sensational Central Otago vineyards that are close at hand. Your time here will be spent creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Day 21 & 22 - Twizel
The drive north toward Twizel will take you over the Lindis Pass and down into Mackenzie Country, a place of incredible natural beauty. Spend your time here marvelling at Mother Nature and what she has created. The view of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak out over the emerald lakes is truly spectacular. This however is not to be outdone by the Church of the Good Shepherd, cycling along quiet trails, or gazing with astonishment after dark at the only dark sky reserve in the Southern Hemisphere, Mackenzie Region International Dark Sky Reserve. Light pollution is strictly controlled here making it one of the best star gazing locations on the planet.
Day 23 - Christchurch
Having been left spellbound by your experience in Mackenzie Country, it is time to make your way north to the garden city of Christchurch. You make your way along the edge of the Southern Alps, through small rural towns, and down onto the fertile Canterbury Plains. Arriving in Christchurch in the early afternoon you should make time to get out and take a walk around this beautiful city; either in the vastness of Hagley Park, or into the centre of the city which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake; the rebuilding is well under way and it is a sobering experience to watch the locals go about their daily business. Excellent examples of their resourcefulness are the Re:Start Container Mall and the Cardboard Cathedral, both of which should not be missed.
Day 24 - Hanmer Springs
Heading north and joining the road towards the Lewis Path you will cross over the Waiau Bridge and enter another magical world. Hanmer Springs is often overlooked by travellers to New Zealand; however, it is a favourite among locals in the know and well worth a stop over. The highlight of any excursion to Hanmer is bathing in the natural hot springs and enjoying the pampering of a world-class Spa. The naturally stunning location also allows for extensive mountain biking and walking; and to round out the day you can settle into one of the many great restaurants or gastro-pubs that dot the town centre.
Day 25 - Kaikoura
The destination today is Kaikoura, a remarkable location hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the towering Kaikoura Ranges to the west. Ordinarily this stunning setting would be enough of a draw card; however, the real stars of this small town are the giant sperm whales that call Kaikoura home year-round. Whether it is out on the water or up in the air, seeing these majestic creatures of the deep in their natural environment is something that you will treasure forever.
Day 26 - Christchurch
The morning is free and can be taken at your leisure; however, a lot of people are so taken by what they witnessed on the previous day that they are inspired to head out to get up close with the giant sperm whales once again. The choice is yours. Arriving in Christchurch in the early afternoon you will have time to take in anything that you felt you missed when passing through the city on the way north or perhaps revisit a favourite location.
Day 27 - International return flight
Make your way to Christchurch airport where you will board a flight to Auckland and then onward to your destination.
- Prices start from £3,300 per person
- Accommodation based on 19 nights B&B and 7 nights room only
- Airport transfers on arrival to New Zealand
- Car hire (air-conditioned vehicle)
- Ferry from Wellington to Picton
- Local taxes
- All trips are ATOL protected or ABTA bonded to ensure you are fully covered