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AAT KingsAAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand

This 18 day tour visits and explores New Zealand's major attractions and locations. Explore Auckland city, the Bay of Islands, Waitomo, Rotorua and the capital city of Wellington before crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island. Enjoy the high country near Mt. Cook, visit Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the south, and then on to Milford Sound, Queenstown, and the West Coast glacier region, before heading to Christchurch on board the TranzAlpine scenic train to finish up your tour.


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 New Zealand escorted tour
 Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch
 18 days/ 17 nights
 Hotel 4 star
  Pre and post tour options? YES Enquire Enquire
 Viewed 76 times in the last 7 days

Included in this tour package

Tour map
Roys Peak, Wanaka New Zealand
Yellow eyed penguin on rocks

At a glance - AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand

Day 1: Arrive Auckland City. Accommodation: Cordis Auckland Hotel

Day 2: Pass though lush Northland farm country to reach the tropical Bay of Islands. Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands

Day 3: Enjoy the beauty of this idyllic tropical area with a dolphin cruise, a sailing trip or relaxing on the beach. Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands

Day 4: Return to Auckland via Whangarei and its quirky galleries. Accommodation: Cordis Auckland Hotel

Day 5: Travel south through lush king country - stopping at Waitomo Caves - before continuing on to geothermal Rotorua. Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 6: Take a day to experience the thermal delights of Rotorua. Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 7: Stop at Huka Falls before crossing the 'volcanic plateau,' then traverse the Kapiti Coast to Wellington. Accommodation: James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor

Day 8: Cross the Cook Strait to Picton then continue on to Blenheim. Accommodation: Chateau Marlborough

Day 9: Today traverse the Pacific Ocean Road through Kaikoura and the Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch. Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

Day 10: Cross the Canterbury Plains and enjoy lunch in Morelea before continuing on to Twizel for the night. Accommodation: MacKenzie Country Hotel, Twizel

Day 11: Stop in at the Benmore Dam and the coastal town of Oamaru before continuing on to Dunedin. Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

Day 12: Leaving the rugged hills of Dunedin travel through rolling green farmland to reach Te Anau. Accommodation: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

Day 13: Travel the magical Milford road into the heart of the sound. Then cruise this spectacular fiord before traveling to Queenstown. Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 14: Experience the delights of this pristine alpine town on your free day. Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 15: You'll see Lakes Hawea and Wanaka before taking the Haast Pass road to end your drive in Franz Josef Glacier. Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Day 16: Travel up the wild West Coast to reach your destination, Punakaiki. Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort

Day 17: Travel up the wild West Coast then over the spectacular Arthur's Pass by train to Christchurch. Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

Day 18: Depart Christchurch today.

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AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Detailed Itinerary  

Day 1: Arrive Auckland City

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 1

On arrival into Auckland airport you will be transferred to your hotel

Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand’s City of Sails. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm and you will be transferred from the airport to your Auckland hotel in a private car. After you check-in, you can head out and explore Auckland. Take a walk down Queen Street, to the main shopping precinct by the Viaduct Harbour and the Auckland Waterfront region. This recently developed area of central Auckland has cafes and restaurants galore. Take a seat in the sunshine, enjoy a glass of one of New Zealand's famous Sauvignon Blancs and watch the maritime activity on Waitemata Harbour.

Your Accommodation: Cordis Auckland Hotel

This luxury Auckland city hotel's popularity is based largely on its elegant and luxurious environment combined with its central location in the heart of the vibrant city.

Cordis Auckland Hotel

Day 2: Pass though lush Northland farm country to reach the tropical Bay of Islands

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 2

Auckland to the Bay of Islands

This morning depart Auckland City and travel north over the Harbour Bridge past the sprawling suburbs of the North Shore of Auckland. Your travels then take you through Nothland's lush farmland scenery before arriving into the beautiful Bay of Islands. Experience spectacular scenery as you cruise through game fishing waters to Cape Brett and, weather permitting, through the famous Hole in the Rock formation. The return cruise to Paihia meanders through picturesque islands - see deserted sandy beaches and secluded bays and keep your eyes peeled for the marine life. This evening enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands

Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands is located within the Waitangi Treaty grounds, surrounded by native bush and the beautiful Bay of Islands Harbour.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands

Day 3: Enjoy the beauty of this idyllic tropical area with a dolphin cruise, a sailing trip or relaxing on the beach

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 3

Bay of Islands

Today is a completely free day for you to experience the beauty of the Bay of Islands. Perhaps head back out on to the water and go on a dolphin watching cruise, and maybe even jump in the water for a swim with these magnificent creatures. Experience a day of sailing aboard a historic tall ship, enjoy wine tasting in Kerikeri, or join a Russell Mini Tour and learn a little more about the settling of the Bay of Islands. Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen Included Choice and optional experiences. Tonight, you are free to dine as you wish.

Your Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands

Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands is located within the Waitangi Treaty grounds, surrounded by native bush and the beautiful Bay of Islands Harbour.

Meals included: Breakfast

Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands

Day 4: Return to Auckland via Whangarei and its quirky galleries

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 4

Bay of Islands to Auckland

Enjoy a leisurely morning in the Bay of Islands before you travel back to Auckland. Your journey south takes you to Whangarei, the northern-most city in New Zealand, where you can wander around the art galleries and through the marina in the Town Basin. Later, enjoy a stop at Parry Kauri Park and take a walk among New Zealand's native forest giants, the Kauri trees before arriving into Auckland late afternoon. Tonight's highlight dinner is at The Cordis. Your personal degustation menu is made from the freshest, quality ingredients, including mouth-watering seafood and desserts.

Your Accommodation: Cordis Auckland Hotel

This luxury Auckland city hotel's popularity is based largely on its elegant and luxurious environment combined with its central location in the heart of the vibrant city.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Cordis Auckland Hotel

Day 5: Travel south through lush king country - stopping at Waitomo Caves - before continuing on to geothermal Rotorua

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 5

Auckland to Waitomo Caves onto Rotorua

A city sights tour will start your morning in Auckland. Travel around the waterfront from central city out to Mission Bay. Prepare your camera for the stop at Bastion Point and the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial, as you will get stunning shots of Auckland, the North Shore and the Waitemata Harbour. After leaving Auckland you will follow the meandering trail of the Waikato River to Waitomo Caves. Tour the amazing limestone caverns and sail through the still waters of the sparkling Glow Worm Grotto. From Waitomo to Rotorua you will venture through the King Country region which was at the centre of the New Zealand Wars in the 1860s. On arrival in Rotorua an orientation tour takes in views of Lake Rotorua.

Your Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Rotorua's largest 4 star deluxe hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 6: Take a day to experience the thermal delights of Rotorua

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 6

Rotorua

Today choose from a range of Included Choice sightseeing experiences. Perhaps unwind at the Polynesian Spa. Visit Te Puia and tour through the Whakawerawera Thermal Reserve. Or you could take a fascinating tour of the Hobbiton movie set. Or explore Rotorua and its three lakes in an amphibious WWII era Duck. Your Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen Included Choice experiences. Tonight an evening of culture, history and scrumptious food awaits you at the Tamaki Family Marae. 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.

Your Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Rotorua's largest 4 star deluxe hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 7: Stop at Huka Falls before crossing the 'volcanic plateau,' then traverse the Kapiti Coast to Wellington

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 7

Rotorua to Wellington

Say Haere Ra (goodbye) to Rotorua this morning and journey out through pine forests and farmland to a little hidden spot, the turquoise torrent of rapids known as Huka Falls. The road ahead unfolds in a broad panorama of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. The stunningly blue fresh water of Lake Taupo is home to some of the best Trout fishing in the world. You will then journey south over the Central Plateau, New Zealand's main volcanic area, and along the Kapiti Coast to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Enjoy an exclusive after-hours guided tour of Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. Before leaving there, top off the night with a Highlight Dinner.

Your Accommodation: James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor

At the heart of Wellingtons commercial and retail districts the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor has 260 well appointed rooms and suites.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor

Day 8: Cross the Cook Strait to Picton then continue on to Blenheim

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 8

Wellington to Blenheim

Why not discover more of Wellington this morning. There's time to visit the Parliament buildings and the Beehive, home to New Zealand's politicians. This afternoon, you'll cruise the Cook Strait into tranquil Queen Charlotte Sound. The village of Picton is next, then it's on to Blenheim for a city sightseeing tour. Tonight enjoy a 3-course "highlight dinner" prepared from local produce and matched with wines of the Marlborough region, including selections from Villa Maria and Saint Clair wineries.

Your Accommodation: Chateau Marlborough

Chateau Marlborough, Marlborough's premier boutique hotel overlooking Seymour Square Gardens, prides itself on offering guests luxury accommodation with an enviable attention to detail. All just a short walk from Blenheim's town centre.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Chateau Marlborough

Day 9: Today traverse the Pacific Ocean Road through Kaikoura and the Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 9

Blenheim to Christchurch

Travel to Kaikoura, where Sperm Whales can often be seen not far from shore (an optional whale-watching flight is available). Travel along the Pacific Ocean coast and across the colourful Canterbury Plains to Chirstchurch. Tonight, speak with your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Christchurch's inner city.

Your Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This 4.5 star hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square. Ideally positioned, only a few minutes walk from the brand new Christchurch Convention Centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Distinction Hotel Christchurch

Day 10: Cross the Canterbury Plains and enjoy lunch in Morelea before continuing on to Twizel for the night

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 10

Christchurch to Twizel

This morning enjoy a Christchurch city sights tour, see how Christchurch is rebuilding after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and pop into the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, the temporary home of the Christchurch Cathedral. It is the world's only cathedral made substantially of cardboard! Next, you'll travel over the patchwork countryside of the Canterbury Plains to soak up some spectacular sightseeing. Visit Morelea, the home of Angie and Stan Taylor, for a "be my guest" barbecue lunch and hear about a lifetime spent farming in New Zealand. This afternoon view the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd, and 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 - own expense). Your day finishes in the heart of the Mackenzie Country in Twizel. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: MacKenzie Country Hotel, Twizel

Located in the heart of the Mackenzie region the hotel's natural stone architecture compliments the mountains and rivers of New Zealand's Southern Alps. With 108 well equipped rooms the hotel can offer every facility needed for a comfortable stay.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

MacKenzie Country Hotel, Twizel

Day 11: Stop in at the Benmore Dam and the coastal town of Oamaru before continuing on to Dunedin

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 11

Twizel to Dunedin

Your day starts with a journey along the Waitaki River, and a photo stop at the Waitaki Hydro Power Scheme and Benmore Dam. 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. 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 excursion 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, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

The Scenic Hotel Southern Cross provides stylish inner city accommodation and is the perfect location from which to explore Dunedin. Just a short walk to the Octagon, Railway Station, theatres, shops, and close to Otago University.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

Day 12: Leaving the rugged hills of Dunedin travel through rolling green farmland to reach Te Anau

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 12

Dunedin to Te Anau

This morning you have some free time in Dunedin. You may want to journey out to the gorgeous Larnach Castle - New Zealand's only castle. Or you may just wish to roam around the beautiful grounds of New Zealand's first university, Otago University. Dunedin, also known as the Edinburgh of the South, has strong connections to its northern hemisphere sister city, even down to sharing many of the same street names - so take a wander down George Street, noting Dunedin's Scottish ancestry. This afternoon travel through lush green pastures, crossing sheep-filled farming land. New Zealand is internationally known for its sheep farming, and these are sights many visitors to this country recognise as typically New Zealand. You are sure to find the perfect sheep photo here! As your journey continues, the rolling, grassy hills once again turn back into heavily forested, rugged mountains, and you meander your way up into the Fiordland National Park to the South Island's biggest lake and the town of Te Anau. This evening you have the opportunity to head out across the lake to the Glow Worm Caves for a tour (Optional Experience, own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

The Te Anau Hotel and Villas offers a range of accommodation from hotel rooms and suites to villas. Ideally located on the lake front the hotel is just a few minutes stroll for the shops. cafes and activities on offer.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

Day 13: Travel the magical Milford road into the heart of the sound. Then cruise this spectacular fiord before traveling to Queenstown

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 13

Milford Sound cruise then to Queenstown

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 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 these plummet from glacial hanging valleys sharply into the sea, and the sheer pinnacle of Mitre Peak, rising from the deep waters of the fiord. From the spectacular scenes of Milford Sound, you will travel on to the beautiful sights of Queenstown. An orientation tour skirting around the shores of Lake Wakatipu, takes you into the city centre before arriving at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

The 4 star deluxe Millennium Hotel Queenstown is located in the heart of Queenstown within minutes of the central shopping and entertainment area.

Meals included: Breakfast

Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 14: Experience the delights of this pristine alpine town on your free day

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 14

Queenstown free day

Today choose one from a range of Included Choice sightseeing experiences. You have the option to ride the Shotover Jet, take the gondola and luge. Perhaps take a 4WD minibus through Skippers Canyon, or visit the 5 acre Kiwi Birdlife Park. This evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard the TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet barbecue ‘highlight dinner’ at the Colonel’s Homestead. An entertaining farm show provides a glimpse into high-country farm life. Why not join in a sing-a-long on your way back to Queenstown?

Your Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

The 4 star deluxe Millennium Hotel Queenstown is located in the heart of Queenstown within minutes of the central shopping and entertainment area.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 15: You'll see Lakes Hawea and Wanaka before taking the Haast Pass road to end your drive in Franz Josef Glacier

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 15

Queenstown to Franz Josef

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. Your 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, own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Located in the heart of Franz Josef Village the hotel offers all the amenities you would expect and is close to the shops, restaurants and activities on offer.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Day 16: Travel up the wild West Coast to reach your destination, Punakaiki

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 16

Franz Josef to Punakaiki

If weather conditions are unfavourable the previous day, 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 it's time for an exhilarating adventure among temperate rainforest giants on the West Coast Treetop Walkway, followed by a visit to Hokitika, home of the native greenstone (jade) for a factory visit and jewellery demonstration. Later, travel to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. You'll spend the night in an eco-friendly resort, right on the waterfront. This evening enjoy dinner with wine at your hotel, while watching the surf thundering at your doorstep!

Your Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort

The Punakaiki Resort is a modern, award-winning hotel complex, architecturally designed to harmonise with the local environment. Nestled in the foothills of Papaproa National Park the resort has spectacular views of the Wild West Coast beaches while all rooms have rainforest and/or ocean views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Punakaiki Resort

Day 17: Travel up the wild West Coast then over the spectacular Arthur's Pass by train to Christchurch

AAT Kings 18 Day Best of New Zealand - Day 17

Tranz Alpine Scenic Train to Christchurch

Enjoy a leisurely start this morning before you will travel inland to the small settlement of Arthur's Pass. Here you will board the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch city. This spectacular train journey dates back to 1914, and is rated as one of the world's most scenic train trips. The train forges through tunnels and over viaducts with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, icy rivers, beech forests, gorges and river valleys. This evening join your AAT Kings Travel Director and Driver, and your new-found friends for a farewell dinner with wine.

Your Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This 4.5 star hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square. Ideally positioned, only a few minutes walk from the brand new Christchurch Convention Centre.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Distinction Hotel Christchurch

Day 18: Depart Christchurch today

Christchurch final day and transfer to airport

Your tour arrangements conclude after breakfast today. A transfer will deliver you to Christchurch airport for your onward journey.

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