Aviation Tours

Australasian airshows rival other international shows for display content, innovation and colour. With exciting aerial displays and ground programmes featuring heritage and vintage aircraft, aviation enthusiasts will be enthralled. New Zealand’s world-class airshows include the famous ‘Warbirds over Wanaka’; ‘Classic Fighters’ held at Blenheim and the ‘Wings over Wairarapa’ at Masterton which features a world-class collection of vintage WWI aircraft in flying condition. The Australian International Airshow held biennially at Avalon regularly features aircraft by the Royal Australian Air Force, the United States Navy and the United States Air Force. To complement airshow attendance, Leisure Time can arrange visits to aviation museums, unique aircraft collections and aircraft restoration experts to ensure a full and exciting aviation focused itinerary.

12 Day South Island Aviation Tour ~ Sample Itinerary

Welcome to New Zealand! Meet and greet on arrival at Christchurch International Airport before being transferred to our hotel. Enjoy an orientation tour of Christchurch City including the River Avon, the Canterbury Museum; Provincial Chambers; the Catholic Basilica; Bridge of Remembrance; and the Art Deco New Regent Street. Learn about the effects of the 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes and how the city is rebuilding.

This morning we visit the former RNZAF Base at Wigram, home of the excellent Air Force World Museum at 45 Harvard Avenue, Wigram. There are 28 fully restored aircraft on display, plus thousands of artefacts, photos and stories about famous aviators. We will also have a ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour of their restoration and storage hangar, and see the progress being made on a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk, Vickers Vildebeest and an Airspeed Oxford. Take the rare opportunity to walk inside the Bristol Freighter and through the Andover as you learn more about these aircraft.  Afterwards we leave Christchurch and drive north across the fertile farmlands of the North Canterbury Plains before passing the coastal town of Kaikoura, popular for whalewatching. Travel along a thin ledge of land pinned between the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Kaikoura Ranges, then arrive in Blenheim in the heart of the grape growing region of Marlborough.

This morning we visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum where their exhibition “Knights of the Sky” includes one of the world’s largest private collections of rare WWI aircraft. The exhibit occupies approximately 3,000 sq metres of purpose-built display area and accommodates both WWI aircraft and rare memorabilia; also a mix of dramatically staged static displays of original and replica aircraft, along with flyable planes from the WWI era. One of the museum’s highlights is the world’s only surviving Caproni CA 22. From Blenheim we then pass Havelock, the Green Lip Mussel capital of New Zealand, before arriving in Nelson. Upon our arrival we visit the World of Wearable Arts & Classic Cars Museums. This iconic ‘must see’ visitor attraction celebrates two distinctly different passions. A world-class collection of classic cars can be viewed alongside incredible wearable works of art from all around the globe. Marvel at the creativity, beauty and surprising features of these stunning garments made from a variety of diverse materials, including plastic milk bottles, safety pins, feathers and even kitchen utensils. The Collectable Car gallery showcases an assortment of lovingly restored Classic Cars displayed with the same imagination and humour used in the Wearable Arts gallery.

Today travel south past the Nelson Lakes National Park and through the scenic Buller Gorge, following the Buller River to the West Coast. Continue down the coastline to Punakaiki, home of the famous ‘Pancake Rocks and Blowhole’ – these stratified limestone stacks are an extraordinary monument of nature. Continuing south we pass through Greymouth, the largest settlement on the West Coast, then Hokitika, where time permitting we stop at one of the greenstone factories where a local jade-like stone, highly prized by pre-European Maori is crafted into exquisite jewellery. Continue south to Franz Josef where the huge rivers of snow and ice of the Franz Josef and nearby Fox Glaciers flow from vast snowfields high in the Southern Alps almost to sea level.

Travel south to Fox and view the Fox Glacier in its spectacular setting amidst the rainforest, then sit back and enjoy a day of ever-changing spectacular coastal, rainforest, and alpine scenery. The journey along the West Coast features native rainforest, wetlands, bush-fringed lakes, sand dunes and surf-pounded shingle beaches. At Haast head inland over the Haast Pass, the lowest of the South Island Mountain passes crossing the Southern Alps. Once over the Pass the scenery changes dramatically as the road descends past the waters of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea and into Central Otago. Travel through Central Otago, a sheep, cattle and fruit growing area, and scene of a major gold rush last century. Continue past stone fruit orchards and drive through the rock hewn Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. Dinner tonight at our hotel.

Today we journey back to Wanaka for the highlight of our tour to attend the Warbirds over Wanaka event, showcasing some of the world’s best examples of WWII flying aircraft in the southern hemisphere in action. See some of the most famous warbirds in the world join forces with the classic aircraft of yesteryear and the modern jets of today, to present a veritable feast of aviation attractions. On the ground, a variety of military vehicles, vintage tractors, vintage machinery and an aviation trade expo will vie for your attention. A General admission pass to the airshow is included over the next two days. At the conclusion of the day’s events, we retrace our journey back to Queenstown. Tonight is at leisure for you to sample some of Queenstown’s excellent restaurants, cafés and bars.

Today we again journey back to Wanaka for the highlight of our tour to attend the Warbirds over Wanaka. The Airshow culminates in a huge mock air battle, complete with the best pyrotechnics at an Airshow in New Zealand – all this set in one of the world’s most stunning Airshow locations in the world. At the conclusion of the day’s events, we retrace our journey back to Queenstown. Tonight is at leisure for you to sample some of Queenstown’s excellent restaurants, cafés and bars.

Today is at your leisure to explore Queenstown. There is a wide choice of optional tours and activities in this marvellous alpine resort such as the aerial gondola to Bob’s Peak, lake cruises, jet boating, river rafting, trout fishing, horse riding or if you dare – bungy jumping (extra cost). Tonight we take a cruise across the Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonels Homestead.

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 10 – TE ANAU – DUNEDIN  
Departing Te Anau we travel across country through some of New Zealand’s most populated sheep country to the Old Mandeville Airfield near Gore.  Here we visit Colin and Maeva Smith and their famous collection of aircraft in the Croydon Aviation Heritage Trust – perhaps better known as the Croydon Aircraft Factory. Here you will see aeroplanes being restored and airworthy, which may include various DH types like the Puss, Tiger, Fox, Leopard and Hornet Moth, and a Domini/Rapide!  Optional pleasure flights (extra cost) may be available in various types – a must for all de Havilland enthusiasts! At the conclusion of our visit we continue to Dunedin. Sitting at the head of the magnificent Otago Harbour, Dunedin was founded in 1848 by Scottish settlers and envisaged as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’. The influence of its Scottish heritage is still strongly evident. Tonight we dine with a decidedly Scottish air enjoying the Haggis presentation and dinner at the hotel.

Depart Dunedin travelling north across the Otago Hills. At Moeraki see the fascinating giant
marble like boulders on the beach. Pass through Oamaru and Timaru, then stop at Ashburton at the small but very interesting Ashburton Aviation Museum at the Ashburton Airport, Seafield Road. The collection includes a Devon, Vampire FB5, Harvard, Porterfield, Airtruk, Benson Gyro Glider, Weihe Glider, Hughes Helicopter, Olympia, Flying Flea, Harrier GR3, Canberra B2 Bomber Cockpit. F8 – Meteor, Zlin, DC3, Vampire T11, Link Trainer, Slingsby T31, Bergfalke, Cropmaster, Tiger Moth. Continue north across the fertile Canterbury Plains before arriving in Christchurch.

Farewell from New Zealand, today you will be transferred from the hotel to Christchurch Airport for your flight home.