Christmas & New Years
From $3890.00 per person
Come celebrate the festive season with us. Starting in Hamilton we visit Taupo to enjoy the Huka Falls River Cruise, before travelling to Tongariro, where we will stay at the Chateau Tongariro, where we will spend Christmas. We’ll also enjoy four nights in Napier with some sightseeing including a ride aboard the Hawke’s Bay Express as well as a visit to the Gannets at Cape Kidnappers. Our Journey then continues to the western side of the North Island, where we will stay in Whanganui for four nights exploring the area. Our trip will conclude by traversing the country aboard the Northern Explorer.
Day 1 Tuesday 24 December 2019 – HOME CITIES TO WHAKAPAPA (D)
This morning we commence our tour by driving to Taupo and on arrival, we’ll have an early lunch (own cost) at Wairakei. After lunch, we enjoy the Huka Falls River Cruise. The cruise is the only way you can get close to the turbulent white water below Huka Falls and experience its awesome power. The purpose-built riverboat has comfortable inside seating, a large rear deck and front viewing platform. This is the best way to photograph and video Huka Falls and lots of fantastic New Zealand scenery including birdlife, native bush, natural hot springs, Taupo’s famous trout and much more. After our cruise, we’ll stop in Taupo for some time out, before continuing to our accommodation at Chateau Tongariro. The elegant Chateau Tongariro is located within Whakapapa Village – in the heart of Tongariro National Park and was constructed during the ‘roaring twenties’. Before entering the hotel we will visit The Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre where you can see displays of the area.
Accommodation: Chateau Tongariro – 2 nights
Day 2 Wednesday 25 December 2019 – TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK (BL)
Merry Christmas! Waking up today I guess you’ll check to see if Father Christmas visited during the night. This morning you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast and the remainder of the morning is at leisure for you to enjoy the hotel facilities. Christmas Lunch will be the feature of the day where you will be treated to a scrumptious Christmas Menu in The Ruapehu Room which is the Chateau Tongariro Hotel’s signature restaurant and is located off the opulent Chateau Tongariro main lounge. The Ruapehu Room delivers the finest ambience and all the sophistication expected of the Chateau’s elegant traditions. After lunch, we will have a drive to the top of the Bruce. Tongariro National Park is dominated by the three volcanoes of Mount Ruapehu (2797m), Mount Ngauruhoe (2291m) and Mount Tongariro (1968m). The region has been formed by many volcanic eruptions over the last 300,000 years; as well as glaciers from the last ice age. This has created surreal colours, landscapes and textures. Dinner tonight is at your leisure in either the Ruapehu room or the Pihanga Café if you are after a lighter meal.
Day 3 Thursday 26 December 2019 – WHAKAPAPA TO NAPIER (BD)
After breakfast this morning, we depart Whakapapa and travel across the Rangitaiki Plains to Hawke’s Bay and the seaside city of Napier. Napier was devastated by an earthquake in 1931 and was rebuilt during the period when Art Deco Architecture was fashionable. The area is also one of New Zealand’s top grape growing regions with some of the country’s best-known wines coming from the Hawke’s Bay. On arrival in Napier, we’ll stop in the central city for you to purchase your lunch. After lunch, we climb onboard the Hawkes Bay Express, for a unique tour of Napier. The Express is a custom-built luxurious road train, appearing as a steam train on the outside and a 1930’s time warp inside. It has been fashioned after the gorgeous Orient Express, recreating the opulence and romantic atmosphere of the Art Deco era. The ride includes seascape views of Cape Kidnappers and you can marvel at some of the world’s most stunning examples of Art Deco architecture. From the town centre the train heads over Bluff Hill with a short photo stop on top where the landmarks of the region are pointed out to us, then on into Ahuriri, once the old port village, now a haven for summer tourists. After our tour, we check into our centrally located accommodation. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Te Pania, Napier – 4 nights
Day 4 Friday 27 December 2019 NAPIER (BD)
Today is at leisure. You may wish to visit one of the many wineries located around the region. The MTG Hawkes Bay museum is a short walk from the hotel and has an excellent exhibit on the 1931 earthquake, where objects, archives and a documentary tell the stories about how this disaster impacted the people, townships and the local landscape. For those of you looking for a day of pampering, Ocean Spa is located across the road from the hotel. Relax, re-energize and enjoy panoramic ocean views from the open air, heated and chlorinated pools or outdoor spas. Tonight we travel out to Mission Estate Winery for a delicious 3 course dinner. The restaurant is in a historic building overlooking Napier and Hawkes Bay. This building was built in 1880. It was known as La Grande Maison or the “big house” and became the home for the early French Marists for three decades.
Day 5 Saturday 28 December 2019 NAPIER (BD)
Today we visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Nowhere else in New Zealand can you experience such a large and diverse range of aquatic animals and wildlife, both native species and from around the world. The 1.5 million litre Oceanarium showcases the many and varied aquatic species that exist in the adjacent Hawke Bay, including five types of shark and many other reef fish. Journey through the Oceanarium inside their amazing underwater viewing tunnel as hundreds of local fish species swim and feed, above and around you. Elsewhere in the aquarium, you can view more native saltwater and freshwater species, as well as exotic reef and deep-sea fish from around the world. The kiwi, tuatara and penguin enclosures provide an insight into New Zealand’s most precious species. Also on exhibition are species from the Americas, Asia and Australia, including alligator and piranhas. After lunch, we travel to Silky Oak Chocolates where we will enjoy a selection of our delicious chocolates and learn all about the chocolate making process from one of their experts. View the chocolate factory in action through the viewing window. In addition to enjoying a selection of their delicious chocolates and hearing all about how chocolate is made, we’ll also enjoy a self-guided admission into the “Chocolate Thru’ the Ages” museum. the only comprehensive chocolate museum in the Asia Pacific region. Covering 3,000 years of chocolate history, the museum tells the story of food whose past is as rich as its flavour. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.
Day 6 Sunday 29 December 2019 NAPIER (B)
Today we drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga and join Gannet Safaris Overland to visit the world’s largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand. Gannet Safaris has been guiding visitors over Cape Kidnappers for over 35 years. Our safaris are the only way to be driven right to within a few feet of these remarkable birds. There is absolutely no walking required. You will travel in comfort in our air-conditioned 4 x 4 Mini Coach, through Cape Kidnappers Station – traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, through stands of native bush, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke Bay right across to the Mahia Peninsula. The amazing geology of the area can also be taken in. The 36km, three-hour trip includes a commentary by your tour guide/driver on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. On arrival at the gannets, you can stretch your legs and take in the mouthwatering scenery from your position at the brink of the cliff’s edge – 100 metres above the ocean. Here your driver/guide will serve you light refreshments whilst you enjoy watching the gannets perform around you. On the completion of our Gannet Safari, we will drive through Havelock North and Hastings before returning to our accommodation in Napier. Dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Day 7 Monday 30 December 2019 NAPIER TO WHANGANUI (BLD)
Departing Napier this morning we travel south through Hastings and the Hawkes Bay sheep and cattle farming country to the small town of Mangatainoka, home to the New Zealand famous Tui Brewery, the largest brewery in the North Island. The brewery is set amongst farmland alongside the Mangatainoka river. Our time at Tui includes a guided tour of the brewery, kiwi lunch, beer tastings and a visit to the museum. Departing Mangatainoka we travel to the River City of Whanganui, where we will base ourselves for the next four nights. On arrival in Whanganui, we will do an orientation tour of the town before checking into our accommodation. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.
Accommodation: Kingsgate Hotel The Avenues, Whanganui – 4 nights
Day 8 Tuesday 31 December 2019 WHANGANUI (BD)
Today we discover what Wanganui has to offer. Located opposite the city bridge at the bottom of Victoria Avenue, the Durie Hill pedestrian tunnel leads to the historic Durie Hill Elevator. Built-in 1919 it is the only earthbound elevator in New Zealand and one of only two left in the world Two viewpoints are located at the top, one above the elevator’s machinery room and the other on the Memorial Tower. The 33.5 metre Memorial Tower is built from fossilized shell rock and offers excellent views of the city, Mount’s Taranaki and Ruapehu and the Tasman Sea. A walkway beside the tower offers an alternative route descending 191 steps to the city bridge. We then board the PS Waimarie and experience river travel as it used to be on Whanganui’s iconic paddle steamer! Salvaged from the bottom of the Whanganui River where she sat for around 50 years, the Waimarie Paddle Steamer was restored to her former glory and re-launched in 2000 to make her New Zealand’s last steam-powered and coal-fired passenger paddle steamer operating from the golden riverboat era of the late 19thand early 20th centuries. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Day 9 Wednesday 1 January 2020 WHANGANUI (B)
Happy New Year!
After a leisurely breakfast this morning, we’ll visit the Whanganui Regional Museum. Set in the heart of the Whanganui cultural centre on Queens Park, the Whanganui Regional Museum offers a rare experience – a journey into the hearts and minds of the people of Whanganui, and a look at their treasures, their loves, their everyday lives and their dramas, their history and their future. After lunch (own cost), we’ll visit the Virginia Lake Aviary. It is one of many gifts that have been presented to the city by local philanthropists and volunteers. The present aviary was officially opened on August 12, 1979, along with the dovecote which stands nearby. The concept of a free-flight design, which allows visitors up-close walk-through access to the birds, was a novel idea in the late 1970s and led the development of other such aviaries in New Zealand. It now has 400 birds of 32 species from a variety of countries including Australia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, India, Burma, China and Japan. You’ll see pheasants, guinea fowl, yellow and red-crowned kākāriki (parakeets), numerous different parrots and sulphur-crested cockatoos. The remainder of the day, including dinner, is at your leisure.
Day 10 Thursday 2 January 2020 WHANGANUI (BLD)
Today we travel north to Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary. The 100-hectare native forest sanctuary is predator-free for native birds and is ranked as one of Australasia’s “Top 25” Restoration Projects. There are 3.4km of easy all-weather walking tracks throughout the forest and wetlands area and a huge variety of bird life and species of trees. Bellbirds (kōmako), NZ bush pigeon (kereru), saddlebacks (tīeke), stitchbirds (hihi), morepork or owl (ruru), purple swamp hen (pūkeko), kingfishers (kotare)and white-faced heron (matuku moana) are just some we may see. Don’t miss “Ratanui”, believed to be the biggest northern rata tree, 43 metres high with a girth of more than 11 metres with an age of between 500 and 1000 years. While here we’ll enjoy a delicious lunch at the Homestead. Departing Bushy Park we travel to Bason Botanic Gardens. Set in 25 hectares of landscaped countryside and includes one of the most extensive public garden orchid collections in NZ and unique conservatory architecture. The history of Bason Botanic Gardens is that of a magnanimous gift from Stanley and Blanche Bason to the Wanganui City in 1966. Initially living off the land, this couple had a good vegetable garden, orchard, plenty of ducks, pheasants and pūkeko and watercress from the creek. As their farm become more profitable following World War II, they were able to develop the Homestead and English Garden into almost an acre of camellia, roses, delphiniums, a scented garden and more. We then retrace our steps back to Whanganui. Tonight we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel.
Day 11 Friday 3 January 2020WHANGANUI TO HOME CITIES (B)
After breakfast this morning we depart Whanganui and commence our journey home travelling via State Highway 4. At National Park, we disembark the coach and board the Northern Explorer train for the remaining part of the tour. Our train journey begins traversing the world famous Raurimu Spiral, before seeing fantastic views of rugged bush landscapes and rolling farmland of the King Country. Arriving back in Hamilton in the late afternoon, we disembark the train and say farewell to the friends you have made. Auckland passengers will remain on the train and travel through to Auckland.