Suggested Itineraries > Touring Vacations > New Zealand in Depth
New Zealand Touring Vacation
New Zealand in Depth
(12 days/11 nights)
North Island: The Waitomo Caves lie beneath the rugged hills and expansive farmland known as the "King Country". Part of an ancient seabed that was lifted then eroded into a spectacular landscape of limestone formations, caves and underground rivers, the Caves are part of 50 kms of amazing underground passages, many of which are still unexplored.
The lakeside city of Rotorua and its surrounds offer a complete thermal wonderland. Sitting on an active faultline, it's nickname 'Sulphur City' comes from the pungent odour of the natural gas hydrogen sulphide which pervades the city. Bubbling mud, explosive geysers, hot mineral springs and multicoloured silica terraces draw visitors year round.
The city is deeply rooted in Maori tradition with approximately one third of New Zealand's Maori population living there. Visitors can enjoy such traditions as wood, bone and greenstone carving, dance concerts and hangi feasts( food cooked in earth ovens). The surrounding region of beautiful lakes and dense virgin forests offers a range of outdoor activities including bush walks, white water rafting, hot air ballooning and world famous trout fishing. Lake Taupo covers 241 square miles (626 sq km) and is New Zealand's largest lake. Its tranquil waters are perfect for all kinds of water sports and because it is part of the thermal belt, there are also hot pools in the area.
The Capital of New Zealand is Welliington, set on the shores of a spectacular harbour and surrounded by a natural amphitheatre of steep green hills. With a population of around 350,000 it is the political hub of the nation.
South Island: The South Island is where natural wonders never cease! Around every corner a new highlight, a new experience. Spectacular mountain peaks, starring New Zealand's highest Mount Cook. At 12,283 feet and surrounded by dazzling glaciers, it was first scaled in 1894 and ever since has been the ultimate mountaineering challenge of the South Pacific. A fixed wing scenic flight from Tekapo around the soaring peaks of the Mount Cook National Park is a far more comfortable option!
The resort village of Queenstown, nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, is New Zealand's jewel. Famous for its spectacular setting, it is also renowned for its adventuresome outdoor activities. Scenic flights over crystal clear lakes and jagged peaks, thrilling river jetboating, helicopter/jetboat combinations, the gondola cableway to Bob's Peak ... these are on the "must do" list!
The Fiordland National Park is New Zealand's largest and most remote National Park - some areas have never even been explored! The highlight is Milford Sound, dominated by the 5560-foot pinnacle of Mitre Peak rising sheer from the sea.
Virtually a land unto itself is the "wild" West Coast and its glacier villages of Fox and Franz Josef. Dominated by soaring mountains, the massive glaciers descend straight into rain forests by the shores of the Tasman Sea. The spirit of adventure is alive on the West Coast; as well as scenic flights, a guided walk on the Fox Glacier is a safe way to experience the beauty of the ice caves, pinnacles and crevasses.
The TranzAlpine rail journey is world famous. Travelling from Greymouth to Christchurch, the route winds through beech forests and snow-covered mountains, over bridges and through tunnels, including the 5 mile (8 kilometre) Otira Tunnel.
This itinerary is perfect for travel by self drive rental car or seat-in-coach on scheduled motorcoach services.
- 11 nights accommodation as selected
- Waitomo Caves (seat in coach option only)
- The Rotorua Grand Experience Tour with Newmans Coachlines (seat in coach option only)
- Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton
- Christchurch Highlights Sightseeing Tour with Pacific Travel (seat in coach option only)
- Milford Sound Day excursion with Newmans Coach Lines (seat in coach option only)
- Half day Fox Glacier Walk with Alpine Guides
- TranzAlpine train from Greymouth to Christchurch (seat in coach option only)
- 12 days unlimited kilometre self drive rental car hire (self drive option) or Newmans and InterCity coach transport (seat in coach option)
- Option to extend your stay.
Day 1: Auckland/Rotorua via Waitomo Caves (363km)
Self drive: after picking up your rental car, enjoy the drive south to Rotorua (driving time approx 4-5 hours).
Seat in Coach: depart Auckland 9.00am on Newmans Coach Lines, arriving Rotorua 4.30pm. Depart Auckland's southern suburbs, through the horticultural farmland of the Bombay Hills to the dairy district of Waikato. Visit the Rangariri Battle Site Heritage Centre for an audio-visual presentation about Maori warrior's heroic stand in 1863.
Pass through Ngaruawahia, home of the Maori Queen to arrive in Hamilton, Waikato's main industrial and business centre. Through it flows New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato, full of plump trout and perfect for canoeing. Continue past the centre of Te Awamutu with its pretty rose gardens to the world famous Waitomo Caves, renowned for spectacular limestone formations and million year old caverns.
Here a stop is made to enjoy a boat trip along the underground river to the Glowworm Grotto to view thousands of glowworms at close proximity. (Seat in coach: entry fee included; Self Drive: entry fee additional). Travel through the racing horse stud area of Cambridge, over the Mamaku Ranges to arrive in Rotorua.
Seat in Coach option includes:
Day 2: Rotorua
- Accommodation pick up and drop off available on request
- Rangariri Battle Site Heritage Centre
- Waitomo Caves entrance
- Coach transport by Newmans Coachlines
- Optional Barbecue Lunch.
Self drive: a free day to enjoy the many sights and attractions in Rotorua.
Seat in Coach: The Rotorua Grand Experience with Newmans Coachlines.
Departs at 8.00am and returns at 12.30pm.
Enjoy a morning sightseeing excursion of New Zealand's thermal wonderland, rich in Maori culture and heritage and famous for its geothermal reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and fascinating landscape. Highlights include: New Zealand Maori Arts and Craft Institute, Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, Paradise Valley Springs and the Agrodome Show (admission fees included).
Central accommodation pick ups and drop-offs available on request.
Day 3: Rotorua/Wellington via Turangi(472km)
Enjoy a free morning in Rotorua for optional sightseeing before your return journey.
Self drive: depart/arrive at leisure.
Seat in Coach: Your Newmans coach departs Rotorua at 11.25apm and arrives Wellington at 6.40pm. Travel south from Rotorua through the world's largest man-made forests and past geo-thermal power stations to Taupo. Follow the shores of this tranquil lake famous for its trout fishing and perfect for swimming, sailing and all kinds of water sports to the small town of Turangi. The Desert Road, as the next section of State Highway 1 is known, is one of New Zealand's highlights. Pass through a stark landscape of tussock, framed by snow-topped mountains including Tongariro National Park's three famous volcanoes before reaching Waiouru. Continuing south join the Kapiti Coast's rugged seacoast and windswept beaches to arrive in Wellington.
Optional Must Do: Mountain Air 'Volcanic Voyage' Scenic Flight
En route, enjoy a spectacular flight from Turangi over the breathtaking Tongariro National Park World Heritage area and all three volcanoes - Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu. Connects with the coach (purchased locally).
Day 4: Wellington
A free day to explore New Zealand's Capital city. Suggested sightseeing includes:
Day 5: Wellington/Christchurch by Interisland Ferry
- Te Papa
The National museum Te Papa, Maori for 'Our Place', is situated on Wellington's stunning waterfront. A unique experience challengingly different from a traditional museum. Interactive exhibits tell stories of New Zealand's people and the land. Free admission. Open 365 days, 10am - 6pm (9pm Thursdays).
- Parliament Buildings
Visit the hub of New Zealand's politics with a free tour of the Parliament Buildings. The refurbished Parliament is the jewel of Wellington's historic architecture with a complex of three distinct buildings, the General Assembly Library (1897), the Legislative Chambers (1922) and the modern Beehive, famous for it's unique design, and housing the ministerial offices.
- Cable Car
A favourite Wellington attraction the Cable Car's journey begins in Lambton Quay, the heart of the busy commercial centre. On the way up enjoy magnificent views of the city and harbour. At the top take time to walk through the Botanical Gardens before your return journey. Open 7 days.
Self drive: drop off your car before boarding the Interislander ferry this morning and pick up a new car on arrival in Picton.
Seat in Coach: Depart Wellington this morning on the Interislander ferry, connecting with your Intercity coach for your journey to Christchurch. Leave behind Wellington's dramatic harbour as you head South on a 3 hour cruise across Cook Strait. The spectacular scenery of the Marlborough Sounds greets you as you arrive in Picton where you will transfer to your coach (seat in coach option) or pick up your South island rental car (self drive option) to continue your trip to Christchurch. Your journey takes you past the vineyards and wineries of Blenheim, along the beautiful rugged Kaikoura Coast, famous for its seals, whales and dolphins, across the flat plains of Canterbury to arrive in Christchurch early evening.
Day 6: Christchurch
Self drive: a free day to enjoy the many sights and attractions in Christchurch.
Seat in Coach: Christchurch Highlights Sightseeing Tour with Pacific Travel.
Departs at 9.00am and returns at 12.00pm.
Visit the central city, the many parks and gardens for which Christchurch is internationally acclaimed and the Cashmere Hills for panoramic views over the City. Highlights include: Avon River, Cathedral Square, Christ's College, Provincial Government buildings, Arts Centre, Botanical Gardens, Canterbury Museum, Hagley Park and Mona Vale. As a finale visitors are taken up the Port Hills to the Sign of the Takahe, built to commemorate the construction of the Summit Road. Here spectacular views can be seen of the city, the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps in the distance.
Accommodation pick ups on request.
Your afternoon is free for further sightseeing. We provide an Action and Attraction Pass, which allows you to visit:
Day 7: Christchurch/Queenstown via Mount Cook (622km)
- The International Antarctic Centre, Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre at the Antarctic Attraction, located next to Christchurch International Airport allows you to experience Antarctica in a fun, exciting all-weather environment. Included is the first Antarctic Snow and Ice Experience. Enjoy exploring a snow cave, sliding down a snow slope and feel 'genuine' Antarctic wind chill. Learn about the penguins, seals, whales in Antarctica. The café and bar is open for lunch and great souvenirs are available at the Antarctic Shop.
- Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Willowbank is a nature reserve with an emphasis on touching and feeding the animals. It has developed a unique and award winning concept - 'Wildlife by Night' and the 'Kiwi House' which allows you to observe the kiwi and other rare fauna in their natural environment. Dine in the award winning restaurant, partake in the sumptuous New Zealand cuisine and take advantage of the 'Wildlife by Night' tour after dark where you are guaranteed to see kiwi under the stars. Open 7 days 10am - 10pm.
- Christchurch Tramway
Experience the heritage of Christchurch by tram. Ride on one of the beautifully restored trams and you not only experience a bygone era, you are also right on the doorstep of some of the best attractions that Christchurch has to offer.
Option: Evening dining is available on the Tramcar Restaurant.
Self drive: depart at leisure for your drive south (driving time approx 8-9 hours).
Seat in Coach: depart Christchurch 8.20am on Newmans Coach Lines, arriving Queenstown 6.40pm. Traverse the Canterbury Plains, the largest area of flat land in New Zealand; a patchwork of cropping and sheep farms and some of New Zealand's finest pastureland. The higher region of the plains is sheep station country, tamed by hardy settlers more than a century ago. Cross the Southern Alps at Burkes Pass and reach the Mackenzie Country where high country tussock grassland sprawls across high plateau, with the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps as the backdrop.
The extraordinary blue water of Lake Tekapo with the Church of the Good Shepherd cradled on its shores must be one of New Zealand's finest and most spectacular icons. The statue of the collie dog pays tribute to the hardships of both the shepherds and their dogs in past times.
Continue on to Mount Cook Village, surrounded by the Mount Cook National Park. Home to 22 peaks over 10,000 feet, the king of them all is still Mount Cook, in spite of losing a chunk from its summit in the summer of 1991! We suggest lunch at The Hermitage (own cost). The remainder of the journey includes highlights of the manmade hydro lakes, cross the Lindis Pass, through the rugged Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown.
Day 8: Queenstown Sightseeing
You will be spoilt for choice today by the wide range of activities and attractions offered in Queenstown. If you want views, hiking, cruising, 4WD excursions or indulging in wine and food, it's all here!
Optional Must Do - Scenic Flights with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters:
The spectacular lakes and mountains are all within easy reach by helicopter and Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters know all the best places. From 20 - 50 minutes, the choice of flights offers The Remarkables, Skippers Canyon, Queenstown Basin, Shotover Gorge, snow and glacier landings. Charter flights are available for scenic flights, trophy hunting and wilderness fishing. Local transfers included and gourmet picnic lunches can be arranged. (purchased locally).
Self drive: a free day to explore Queenstown. We suggest a day trip to Milford Sound with a cruise on the sound. You have the option of driving or taking a flight (own expense).
Seat in Coach: Milford Sound Day Excursion with Newmans Coach Lines
Departs Queenstown 7.50am, returns approx 7.30pm.
Skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu, through the rural towns of Kingston and Mossburn to Lake Te Anau, the largest lake in the South Island. The Fiordland National Park World Heritage Area, encompassing nearly 1.2 million hectares, is one of the largest national parks in the world. See nature on a very grand scale from glaciated hanging cliffs to forested valley floors, and, of course, New Zealand's most visited fiord, Milford Sound. Take a catamaran cruise for 1½ hours on Milford Sound, with lunch on board (lunch cost additional). Return to Queenstown late afternoon.
Day 10: Queenstown/Fox Glacier (370km)
Self drive: depart/arrive at leisure (driving time approx 6 - 7 hours).
Seat in Coach: Your InterCity coach departs Queenstown at 8.15am and arrives Fox Glacier at 3.10pm. First stop is Wanaka, on the shores of Lake Wanaka and on the doorstep of the Mount Aspiring National Park. The peaks of the Harris Mountains attract skiers in the winter months. Skirt Lake Hawea and cross Haast Pass to the iridescently-blue Tasman Sea which can be seen in its splendour at Knights Point. The village of Fox Glacier is just a few minutes from the compressed ice of the head of Fox Glacier.
Day 11: Fox Glacier Guided Walk with Alpine Guides
Departs Fox at 9.15am, returns 12.45 - 1.00pm.
The local experts in guided walks are Alpine Guides. Suitable for average level of fitness the half day Fox Glacier Walk is the most popular trip. It offers a close-up experience of the spectacular features on the surface of this huge river of ice. Some agility is required and some uphill climbing is involved.
Optional Must Do: Upgrade to Fox Glacier Helihike
Combine the thrill of a helicopter flight with the close up experience of walking on a glacier. See caves and formations on a remote part of the glacier. Ask for details, subject to weather conditions.
Day 12: Fox Glacier/Christchurch (430km)
Self drive: depart Fox Glacier at leisure for your drive back to Christchurch (driving time approx 6-7 hours).
Seat in Coach: Your InterCity Coach departs Fox at 8.45am arrives Greymouth at 1.25pm where you transfer to the TranzAlpine Train, departs Greymouth at 2.25pm arrives Christchurch at 6.35pm. The road to Hokitika is flanked by lush rainforest and passes pretty lakes and streams. Once a wild gold rush town boasting 100 hotels and a population of over 15,000, Hokitika is now renowned for its greenstone and it's here that local carvers create the finest greenstone jewellery and sculptures.
Seat in Coach passengers leave the coach at Greymouth and board the TranzAlpine train bound for Christchurch. Spectacular beech forest hugs the tracks as the train enters the Arthurs Pass National Park. After a stop at Arthurs Pass, the journey continues across high viaducts, across bridges down the alpine valleys to the broad expanse of the vast Canterbury Plains.
If you have selected the self drive option, you continue on your drive through to Christchurch. Your tour arrangements conclude on arrival in Christchurch.
Your Accommodation Options
Choose from: Self Drive Option
The self drive itineraries are based on use of a self-drive rental car.
Other Options -Travel by Motorhome
This itinerary can be comfortably travelled by motorhome, stopping when you like, where you like.
For more information about the operators and services included in these suggested itineraries, please refer to the accommodation, transport and sightseeing pages in this site.