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AAT KingsAAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand

Travel from Christchurch to Auckland on this 18 day tour of New Zealand and discover the essence of the North and South Island's. Visit iconic destinations like Milford Sound and Franz Josef glacier, while having the opportunity to try a range of outstanding activities. Travel across the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry, learn about local Maori culture with a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village, head deep underground to the magical Te Anau glow worm caves and see the city sights of our vibrant cities!


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 New Zealand escorted tour
 Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Auckland
 18 days/ 17 nights
 Hotel 3 star
  Pre and post tour options? YES Enquire Enquire
 Viewed 23 times in the last 7 days

Included in this tour package

Tour map
Wellington, New Zealand capital
Picton, Marlborough Sounds, South Island

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

Day 1: Welcome to Christchurch. Accommodation: Hotel Ibis, Christchurch

Day 2: Head through the Mackenzie Basin and see turquoise lakes Pukaki and Tekapo before arriving in Omarama. Accommodation: Heritage Gateway Hotel

Day 3: Leaving Omarama you'll stop at the Benmore Dam and Oamaru before crossing into the rugged hills of Dunedin. Accommodation: Kingsgate Hotel Dunedin

Day 4: Leaving the rugged hills of Dunedin travel to Te Anau, then on to Milford Sound for an overnight cruise. Accommodation: Milford Mariner

Day 5: Return along the spectacular Milford Road before crossing grassy plains to Queenstown. Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

Day 6: Experience the delights of this pristine alpine town on your free day. Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

Day 7: Today you'll have another day to relax in beautiful Queenstown. Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

Day 8: You'll see Lakes Hawea, Wanaka and the Haast Pass, ending your drive in Franz Josef Glacier. Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Day 9: Travel up the wild West Coast to reach your destination, Punakaiki. Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort

Day 10: Follow the Heritage Highway today through the Buller Gorge to arrive in Nelson. Accommodation: Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Day 11: Explore the best of this seaside town or venture into the Abel Tasman National Park. Accommodation: Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Day 12: Travel to Picton where you'll catch the ferry across the Cook Strait to Wellington. Accommodation: Travelodge Wellington

Day 13: A day to explore New Zealand's capital city. Accommodation: Travelodge Wellington

Day 14: Head through classic NZ dairy country to arrive in Art Deco Napier. Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Te Pania

Day 15: Travel through to Lake Taupo today - stopping at Huka Falls - before continuing on to geothermal Rotorua. Accommodation: Ibis Rotorua

Day 16: Take a day to experience the thermal and cultural delights of Rotorua. Accommodation: Ibis Rotorua

Day 17: See the Agrodome Sheep Show before traveling though the dairy district of Waikato and on to Auckland. Accommodation: VR Queen Street

Day 18: Depart Auckland.

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AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Detailed Itinerary  

Day 1: Welcome to Christchurch

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 1

On arrival into Christchurch airport you will be transferred to your hotel.

Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand's Garden City. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm and you will be transferred from the airport to your Christchurch hotel. After you check-in, you can head out and explore Christchurch. Step back in time to a grand era of transport and relax as the Christchurch Tram takes you around the 'must-see' central attractions. The tram drivers provide a live commentary throughout the loop, identifying points of interest, historic architecture and the changes the city is under-going since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. (Optional Experience - own expense).

Your Accommodation: Hotel Ibis, Christchurch

Superbly situated in the very heart of the garden city, Hotel Ibis Christchurch is located just off Cathedral Square, and is close to cafes, restaurants, museums and many of Christchurch's most popular attractions.

Meals included: Dinner

Hotel Ibis, Christchurch

Day 2: Head through the Mackenzie Basin and see turquoise lakes Pukaki and Tekapo before arriving in Omarama

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 2

Christchurch to Omarama

This morning you may wish to take a brief walk around the city centre and Cathedral Square before departure. 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! After a Christchurch city sights tour, you will head out over the patchwork countryside of the Canterbury Plains to soak up some spectacular sightseeing. Sweeping views across the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo framed by a backdrop of rugged hills and snow-capped mountains provide stunning alpine photography opportunities. You will visit the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd, and stop for a quick photo with 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 - at own expense). Your day finishes in the heart of the Mackenzie Country at Omarama. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Heritage Gateway Hotel

Positioned at the crossroads linking north, south, east and west, the Gateway Hotel features a full restaurant and cocktail bar with views of the Southern Alps, the Heritage Gateway Hotel has everything you need to rest and refresh.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Heritage Gateway Hotel

Day 3: Leaving Omarama you'll stop at the Benmore Dam and Oamaru before crossing into the rugged hills of Dunedin

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 3

Omarama to Oamaru to Dunedin

Your day starts 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: Kingsgate Hotel Dunedin

The 55 room international standard hotel, of five stories, has panoramic views over the heart of Dunedin city including city icons and nearby countryside.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Kingsgate Hotel Dunedin

Day 4: Leaving the rugged hills of Dunedin travel to Te Anau, then on to Milford Sound for an overnight cruise

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 4

Dunedin to Milford Sound and an overnight cruise

Today is one of those days where you will want to have your camera battery charged, and ready to go. 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, 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. 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 for your magical overnight cruise on Milford Sound. (Overnight cruise does not operate 21 May - 15 September. During this period there will be a day cruise on Milford Sound and accommodation in Queenstown or Te Anau).

Your Accommodation: Milford Mariner

On board the Milford Mariner you will cruise the full length of this spectacular fiord to the Tasman Sea before anchoring for the night in sheltered Harrison Cove. After the days activities you enjoy a delicious evening buffet in the spacious saloon before retiring to your private cabin.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Milford Mariner

Day 5: Return along the spectacular Milford Road before crossing grassy plains to Queenstown

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 5

Milford Sound to Te Anau, visit the Glow worm caves then onto Queenstown

This morning depart for the township of Te Anau, on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. Explore the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves by boat with a local guide, before continuing to the adventure capital, Queenstown.

Your Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

The Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Queenstown Lakefront is conveniently located within walking distance to the centre of Queenstown and just a few minutes stroll from the picturesque Lake Wakatipu.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

Day 6: Experience the delights of this pristine alpine town on your free day

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 6

Explore Queenstown at leisure

Explore exciting Queenstown your way! Take the opportunity to encounter a Queenstown legend and ride the Shotover Jet Boat or venture out on a 4WD Skippers Canyon Scenic Tour. If laid-back and relaxed is more your idea of fun then join a Wine Tour and sample some of Central Otago's award-winning wines, or visit our native birds at Queenstown's Kiwi Birdlife Park. Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences. After a day of activity, why not sit back and enjoy a peaceful evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard New Zealand's oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station (Optional Experience, own expense). Launched in 1912, the TSS Earnslaw is the largest and grandest vessel ever to ply Lake Wakatipu. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is believed to be the only coal-fired passenger carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. Partake in a gourmet BBQ Highlight Dinner at Walter Peaks Colonel's Homestead and then enjoy an entertaining after-dinner farm show providing a glimpse into high-country farm life. On the cruise back to Queenstown, join in a vintage sing-a-long or grab your partner for a dance across the polished wooden floors of the Earnslaw.

Your Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

The Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Queenstown Lakefront is conveniently located within walking distance to the centre of Queenstown and just a few minutes stroll from the picturesque Lake Wakatipu.

Meals included: Breakfast

Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

Day 7: Today you'll have another day to relax in beautiful Queenstown

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 7

Explore Queenstown at leisure

While Queenstown wears its Global Adventure badge proudly, it's also the perfect place to relax and explore. The town boasts great shopping with luxury brands, iconic New Zealand design stores and boutique fashion.

Your Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

The Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Queenstown Lakefront is conveniently located within walking distance to the centre of Queenstown and just a few minutes stroll from the picturesque Lake Wakatipu.

Meals included: Breakfast

Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront

Day 8: You'll see Lakes Hawea, Wanaka and the Haast Pass, ending your drive in Franz Josef Glacier

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 8

Queenstown to Arrowtown, Wanaka and onto 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 on the Arrow River, previously one of the world’s richest rivers. 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 – at 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 9: Travel up the wild West Coast to reach your destination, Punakaiki

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 9

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 you head off to the drift-wood strewn beaches of Hokitika. As well as being one of the few West Coast communities to embrace its coastal landscape, Hokitika struck it rich in the resources stakes. Here you will visit a pounamu factory (native greenstone or jade), for the chance to see master carvers at work creating intricate pieces of jewellery and art. Maori tradition says it is bad luck to buy pounamu for yourself, so if you fancy a trinket of your own, make sure you have someone there to purchase it for you. Then, continue to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Tonight you'll stay in an eco-friendly resort right on the waterfront. Enjoy dinner while watching the thundering surf 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 10: Follow the Heritage Highway today through the Buller Gorge to arrive in Nelson

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 10

Punakaiki to Nelson via the Buller Gorge

Soak up the scenic wilderness of the Heritage Highway through the impressive Buller Gorge and the Kahurangi National Park before arriving in Nelson. This afternoon you’ll visit the World of Wearable Arts and Collectable Cars.

Your Accommodation: Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco is the perfect place to escape everyday life and relax in the old world charm of a village atmosphere. With views stretching across the Waimea Inlet to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Day 11: Explore the best of this seaside town or venture into the Abel Tasman National Park

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 11

Explore Nelson or venture to Abel Tasman National Park

On this day at leisure, you’ll have the opportunity to journey to the top of the South Island and enjoy a relaxing cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park, or perhaps take a short bush walk, relax in sunny Nelson or explore the many arts and craft shops. The choice is yours!

Your Accommodation: Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco is the perfect place to escape everyday life and relax in the old world charm of a village atmosphere. With views stretching across the Waimea Inlet to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park.

Meals included: Breakfast

Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Day 12: Travel to Picton where you'll catch the ferry across the Cook Strait to Wellington

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 12

Nelson to Picton, then cruise the Cook Strait to Wellington City

This morning, you'll travel to the pretty seaside fishing village of Picton. Your AAT Kings crew and coach will join you on board the Interislander for a cruise across the Cook Strait, from the South Island to the North. Surprisingly it takes longer to cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound and up the Tory Channel than it does to cross the open ocean of Cook Strait. You will meander through a maze of arms and inlets out of Picton. Upon arrival, you will head out on a city sights tour of Wellington taking in New Zealand's parliament buildings, and a visit to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Discover New Zealand's nature, history, art and heritage, and then enjoy some time at leisure. Indulge in Wellington's renowned coffee culture, or take a walk along Lambton Quay. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Your Accommodation: Travelodge Wellington

Located right in the city centre the Travelodge Wellington offers great value accommodation and facilities all within easy walking of the city attractions.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Travelodge Wellington

Day 13: A day to explore New Zealand's capital city

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 13

Explore Wellington City at your leisure

You have a day at leisure to see the sights of your choice. Perhaps take a tour of Parliament or one of the Lord of the Rings movie tours, or a cruise to Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. Enjoy the cafe lifestyle in NZ's capital city or simply shop till you drop, there is something in Wellington for everyone!

Your Accommodation: Travelodge Wellington

Located right in the city centre the Travelodge Wellington offers great value accommodation and facilities all within easy walking of the city attractions.

Meals included: Breakfast

Travelodge Wellington

Day 14: Head through classic NZ dairy country to arrive in Art Deco Napier

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 14

Wellington to the art deco city of Napier

Travel through the dairy farming land of Manawatu to Napier. In February 1931, Napier was levelled by earthquake and fire but was rebuilt in the depths of the Great Depression in just two years. Nowhere else in the world can you see such a concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s: Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical. You'll hear the story of the earthquake that devastated Napier in 1931 and be introduced to the Art Deco style and hear stories of the characters involved in rebuilding this city. A Local Guide will accompany you on a walking tour.

Your Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Te Pania

Scenic Hotel Te Pania offers 4-star accommodation of a truly international standard. The hotel's slender curved form echoes the shape of the bay, and guests enjoy sweeping views out over the water from a premium waterfront location on Marine Parade.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Scenic Hotel Te Pania

Day 15: Travel through to Lake Taupo today - stopping at Huka Falls - before continuing on to geothermal Rotorua

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 15

Napier to Taupo to Rotorua and a visit to Maori village this evening

Enjoy a leisurely start to your day before continuing on the journey to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Visit the spectacular Huka Falls, the only outlet of water from Lake Taupo and then it's on to Rotorua. On arrival in Rotorua an orientation tour takes in views of Lake Rotorua. 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: Ibis Rotorua

Hotel Ibis Rotorua is located on the shores of Lake Rotorua and a short walk to city centre shops and restaurants. The government gardens and museum are also close by.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Ibis Rotorua

Day 16: Take a day to experience the thermal and cultural delights of Rotorua

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 16

Explore Rotorua's thermal wonderland

Today is your chance to experience the scenic wonders of the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Visit Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you'll see demonstrations of wood carving and weaving. Then tour the geothermal valley and hear the importance of the geysers and mud pools to the Maori people. Later, you may wish to travel back to Rotorua township and relax lakeside, or you may prefer to choose from one of the varied Optional Experiences on offer. Take a scenic flight out over Lake Rotorua for a bird's eye view of the region. You may even want to stop at the top of Mt Tarawera, the site of the largest eruption in New Zealand's living memory! Explore Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park, and take a "behind the scenes" tour through the working kiwi nursery and hatchery. Later, why not spend a little more time experiencing the thermal wonders, with a soak in the hot mineral waters of the Polynesian Spas? Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences.

Your Accommodation: Ibis Rotorua

Hotel Ibis Rotorua is located on the shores of Lake Rotorua and a short walk to city centre shops and restaurants. The government gardens and museum are also close by.

Meals included: Breakfast

Ibis Rotorua

Day 17: See the Agrodome Sheep Show before traveling though the dairy district of Waikato and on to Auckland

AAT Kings 18 Day Essence of New Zealand - Day 17

Rotorua to Auckland

This morning you will head to the Agrodome Sheep Show, the multi-award winning and highly entertaining stage show, to gain and insight into agricultural life in New Zealand. You'll see the art of sheep shearing, sheepdog demostrations, cow milking, bottle feeding of lambs and an exciting sheep auction. Later, travel through the dairy farming district of Waikato then continue to Auckland, where your city sightseeing tour takes in Bastion Point, Viaduct Harbour and the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Tonight, speak with your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Auckland's inner city.

Your Accommodation: VR Queen Street

VR on Queen Street offers modern self catering accommodation at the top of Queen Street. You're just a short walk from the restaurants and bars of K Road and have all the facilities you need for a comfortable stay.

Meals included: Breakfast

VR Queen Street

Day 18: Depart Auckland

Auckland final day and transfer to Airport

Your holiday concludes this morning after breakfast. You will be transferred to Auckland Airport for your onward flight.

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