Christmas and New YEar
New Zealand is a gorgeous country that can be visited anytime throughout the year, so why not visit during Christmas? Visiting New Zealand over Christmas you won’t find a “White Christmas”, what you will find is white sand beaches, stunning landscapes, a wealth of wildlife, enchanting forests and spectacular views. All the popular visitor destinations are operating, however unlike the other months during peak touring season, mid-December to mid-January is not as busy.
18 Day New Zealand Christmas Tour
TOUR START DATE: 19 DECEMBER
Day 1 ARRIVE AUCKLAND
Welcome to New Zealand! You are met on arrival at the Auckland International Airport before being transferred to your hotel.
Day 2 AUCKLAND SIGHTSEEING
Today enjoy a sightseeing tour of Auckland City. Highlights includes a visit to Auckland Sky Tower – at 328m tall it is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, offering you outstanding views of the Auckland CBD and the surrounding region. Next we drive through the Domain Gardens, the boutique shopping area of Parnell Village and the Waterfront Drive, before a visit to the Auckland Museum which gives an excellent introduction to the people of the Pacific and New Zealand and the remarkable flora, fauna and geography of the area. This afternoon and evening is at your leisure.
Day 3 AUCKLAND – BAY OF ISLANDS
Departing Auckland, we travel north over the Auckland Harbour Bridge to first of all visit the Parry Kauri Park. Here we will view some fine examples of Giant Kauri Trees. Continuing on we then visit the Matakohe Kauri Museum, at Otamatea. Here we will gain an insight to the early New Zealand Pioneer History, which helped form the New Zealand that we see today. Continuing our journey we reach Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands, where you’ll take a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty House where New Zealand’s history began.
Day 4 BAY OF ISLANDS
This morning board a luxury catamaran to cruise the Bay of Islands to Cape Brett, before making a passage through the Hole in the Rock. This afternoon and evening is at your leisure. The Bay of Islands has so many options for you to discover or just take time out to relax within Paihia or Russell – New Zealand’s first Capital. Please refer to your Optional Touring Booklet (which you will receive with your final documents) for plenty of ideas on how to spend your day.
Day 5 BAY OF ISLANDS – ROTORUA
This morning we travel south via Whangarei and onto the Hibiscus Coast to arrive in Auckland, before crossing the Bombay Hills through the Dairy Rich Waikato Countryside through to the thermal wonderland of Rotorua, the Sulphur City. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, beautiful coloured hot springs and terrace formations created by mineral water. Rotorua also has a large Maori population whose cultural activities are interesting and accessible as will be witnessed tomorrow evening. This afternoon we enjoy a relaxing guided walk through Rainbow Springs, a specialist garden featuring spring fed pools full of Rainbow & Brown Trout and New Zealand native flora and fauna, including the iconic New Zealand Native Kiwi Bird
Day 6 ROTORUA SIGHTSEEING
This morning we visit Te Puia – The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley featuring the famous Pohutu Geyser. The rest of your day is at your leisure. Your Optional Touring Booklet will give you plenty of options on how to spend your time. This evening you will be treated to a traditional Hangi (feast) and Maori Concert. We are transferred from our hotel to visit Tamaki Maori Village for a Cultural Experience and Hangi Dinner. Experience the warmth of the Maori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling and hangi feasting. Enter the pre-European Maori village, witness the earth being scraped carefully away from the hangi pit. Enter their ancestral Meeting House to relax as their family entertain you with a powerful cultural performance, before dining on the traditional hangi buffet dinner (Maori feast) cooked the traditional Maori way in an earth oven.
Day 7 ROTORUA – NATIONAL PARK
Merry Christmas to you!! Following breakfast we leave Rotorua and drive through the Kaingaroa State Forest, one of the largest planted forests in the world, to Wairakei. Here steam ensuing after contact with hot rocks beneath the earth's crust is harnessed to generate electricity at two power stations. Stop at Huka Falls and marvel as the mighty Waikato River thunders through the narrow canyon. Continue the short distance to the resort town of Taupo on the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Here we stop for a ‘hearty roadside morning tea stop’ consisting of Christmas Cake and Christmas Mince Pies. From Taupo we travel around Lake Taupo to the Tongariro Volcanic Plateau in the Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO cultural and natural World Heritage Site. The volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro dominate the landscape of the Central North Island. Upon our early afternoon arrival we retire to the restaurant to enjoy our Christmas Lunch. The afternoon is free to wander the grounds of this exquisite hotel and its surroundings before enjoying a light supper before bed.
Day 8 NATIONAL PARK – NAPIER
After a later start this morning, you may choose to take a stroll on one of the many surrounding walking tracks before we retrace our steps to Turangi and back along the shoreline of Lake Taupo to the town of Taupo. There will be time today to explore Taupo before we continue to the ‘Fruit Bowl’ of New Zealand, Hawkes Bay – Napier.
Day 9 NAPIER SIGHTSEEING
Following breakfast we take a guided two-hour Art Deco Walk of central Napier. Napier was devastated by an earthquake in 1931 and was rebuilt during the period when Art Deco Architecture was fashionable. Napier is now renowned as the Art Deco City. Take an entertaining look at the unique 1930s architecture as you wander through the streets. The tour is 2-hours long and includes some interior visits and a 30-minute introductory slide presentation. We then visit the Mission Estate Winery for a 30-minute tour and wine tasting followed by lunch. Established in 1851 by the French Marist religious order, Mission Estate is New Zealand’s oldest wine-maker. Housed in an elegantly restored historic seminary building with sweeping views of Napier, the award-winning Mission Estate Restaurant serves exquisite cuisine influenced by seasonal produce. After a relaxing lunch we head back to our hotel for the afternoon and evening at your leisure.
Day 10 NAPIER – WELLINGTON
Today travel through the rolling farmlands of Central Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa – at Woodville you may wish to take the route through the towns of Pahiatua, Masterton, Greytown and Featherston. En route we stop at the Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre where they have a breeding programme in place for endangered native birds including a rare white kiwi before driving over the Rimutaka Hill and descend into Wellington. On our arrival we take in a short sightseeing tour, including a visit to Te Papa, (Our Place) New Zealand’s national museum.
Day 11 WELLINGTON – CHRISTCHURCH
Today we cruise the Cook Strait heading through the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sounds into the South Island. On arrival in Picton you board The Coastal Pacific train journey to travel from the delightful port of Picton through to Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city. This journey is a scenic feast of New Zealand, with the Kaikoura mountain ranges on one side of your train and the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline on the other. One of the world's most scenic train journeys, the Coastal Pacific travels through 22 tunnels and crosses 175 bridges. The Coastal Pacific includes an open air viewing carriage where all your senses are awakened with the clean, fresh sea air. On arrival you are transferred to your accommodation. Lunch today is included from your train dining car.
Day 12 CHRISTCHURCH – QUEENSTOWN
Travel south across the fertile Canterbury Plains. The area is New Zealand’s major crop producer as well as sheep and cattle farming. Turning inland the road travels through numerous small country towns before climbing over Burkes Pass into the MacKenzie Country, named after a 19th century sheep stealer. The climatic change is dramatic with vast tussock covered plains framed by the Southern Alps as a backdrop. Pass the turquoise coloured glacier fed waters of Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki with views of the Alps to the west. At the southern end of the MacKenzie Country the road climbs through bleak rugged hills to the summit of the Lindis Pass before descending into Central Otago. The road follows the mighty Clutha River into recently created Lake Dunstan, then through the spectacular Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown.
Day 13 QUEENSTOWN SIGHTSEEING
Depart on a tour of Queenstown which takes you out to the Kawarau Bridge where you can see the daring bungy jump off the bridge towards the river below then enjoy wine tasting at Gibbston Valley, one of the most southern wineries in the world and lastly visit quaint Arrowtown, which was a bustling town in the 1860’s gold-rush era. This evening we ride the aerial gondola to Bob’s Peak and enjoy a delicious six-course buffet dinner while admiring the panoramic views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges including The Remarkables, amongst a few fireworks no doubt as you count the New Year in!
Day 14 QUEENSTOWN
Happy New Year!! Today is at your leisure. Visit the Remarkables or Coronet Peak. Experience the thrill of a jet-boat ride along the Shotover or Kawerau Rivers. Perhaps a scenic 4-wheel-drive excursion through Skippers Canyon, it’s up to you, or just stroll through the town or around the lake edge. This evening we take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonel’s Homestead.
Day 15 QUEENSTOWN – MILFORD SOUND – TE ANAU
Leaving Queenstown we skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake. Travelling via Te Anau we reach the beautiful Eglinton Valley, climbing to Homer Tunnel before descending through the spectacular Cleddau Canyon to reach Milford Sound, where we enjoy a cruise of the Sound. The Sound is dominated by the grandeur of Mitre Peak and the Bowen Falls. Returning to Te Anau we reach our overnight accommodation.
Day 16 TE ANAU – DUNEDIN
Departing Te Anau we travel through some of New Zealand’s most populated sheep country through to Lumsden and onto Gore before arriving in Dunedin – “the Edinburgh of the South”. Upon our arrival into Dunedin, you have the opportunity to board an optional train ride - the Taieri Gorge Train Excursion from the historic Dunedin Railway Station for a scenic train ride into the spectacular Taieri Gorge to Pukerangi and return. Tonight dinner is at the hotel.
Day 17 DUNEDIN – CHRISTCHURCH
This morning we visit Olveston House – an impressive turn-of-the-century house that is still home to all the lavish furnishings and art collections that have been collected from all corners of the world. We then depart Dunedin, travelling north across the Otago Hills for Christchurch. At Moeraki see the fascinating giant marble-like boulders on the beach. Next we arrive in Oamaru where we have time to look at the ‘White Stone City’. The old buildings have been constructed with local limestone. In 1882 New Zealand’s first shipment of frozen mutton was sourced from Totara Estate, Oamaru and sent to the other side of the world on the SS Dunedin from Port Chalmers, Otago. Oamaru is the birthplace of New Zealand's billion dollar frozen meat industry. We pass through and on to Timaru and cross the sheep and cropping areas of the fertile Canterbury Plains. The snow-capped Southern Alps can be seen to the West for much of the journey. Our final dinner tonight is available at our hotel.
Day 18 CHRISTCHURCH – HOME PORT
Farewell from New Zealand, today you will be transferred from the hotel to Christchurch International Airport for your flight home.