Capital Explorer Tour

Wellington – a capital city of natural beauty, heritage architecture, art and culture.  Wedged between bush-clad hills and a splendid natural harbour, Wellington enjoys an incomparable setting of ever-changing moods.  On a clear day, the harbour sparkles but the arrival of southern storms can bring amazingly dramatic seas and winds.  A vibrant city with a buzzing art, music, theatre and restaurant scene, designer and boutique shopping, Wellington is also home to the New Zealand Parliament and the national museum, Te Papa. On this six day tour, we’ll experience what Wellington has to offer, including visits to the Weta Workshop, and Zealandia, browsing the local produce at the Harbourside Market, a scenic drive through the Wairarapa countryside and concluding with a visit to the sunny Hawke’s Bay.  

Saturday 12 January – Thursday 17 January 2019 (6 Days)

Day 1 – Saturday 12 January 2019 HOME CITIES TO WELLINGTON (D)
This morning we depart Hamilton (or Auckland by prior arrangement) on the Northern Explorer train for a full day scenic rail journey through the heart of the North Island to Wellington.  En route pass through picturesque farming country and forests.  A highlight will be the climb up the famous Raurimu Spiral, which was a masterpiece of 19th century railway engineering. See rural towns and villages, the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and the sea views as you travel down the Kapiti Coast into Wellington. On arrival in Wellington, we’ll be met by our touring coach and driver, and will be transferred to our accommodation for the next few nights. For those not wanting to travel on the train, we’ll fly down to Wellington, arriving in the late afternoon. Tonight we’ll enjoy a group dinner at the hotel.
Accommodation: James Cook Grand Chancellor Hotel, Wellington – 4 nights

Day 2 – Sunday 13 January 2019 WELLINGTON SIGHTSEEING (BD)
After a leisurely breakfast this morning, we’ll travel down to the waterfront for the Harbourside Market. This is the oldest and most popular market in Wellington, and has a variety of fresh produce, homemade preserves, herbs and spice, confectionary and so much more for you to purchase. After the market, there will be the opportunity for you to purchase lunch in the area, before we regroup and travel down to the Wellington Museum. This museum shares the fascinating stories of the Wellington region, all housed within the beautiful 1892 heritage building designed by leading architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. The museum has four floors covering the history of Wellington. Celebrating the city’s maritime history, early Māori and European settlement, and the growth of the region, the museum seeks to tell Wellington’s stories and how the city has evolved over its 150 years as capital of New Zealand. Tonight we’ll enjoy a group dinner at the Dockside Restaurant.

Day 3 – Monday 14 January 2019 WELLINGTON SIGHTSEEING (B)
Today we take a visit to Zealandia and the Karori Sanctuary.  With over 225 hectares of regenerating native forest and 40 species of birds, Zealandia is a unique, world-first eco-attraction, providing an excellent opportunity to experience New Zealand’s natural environment just minutes from the capital city.  While here, we’ll enjoy a 2-hour guided walking tour, which commences with a visit to a state-of-the-art interactive exhibition, providing an introduction to New Zealand’s natural history and world-famous conservation movement.  Afterwards, our guide will lead us into the sanctuary valley to explore the world’s first fenced urban wildlife sanctuary, in search of the rare sights and sounds of New Zealand’s native bush. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.  Tonight is free for you to explore the local restaurants. Wellington has an excellent array of local restaurants and eateries to choose from, many within walking distance, or a short taxi ride away.

Day 4 – Tuesday 15 January 2019 WELLINGTON SIGHTSEEING (BD)
This morning, we’ll experience the magic of Weta Workshop in their dedicated off-premises tour space. Check out the props, costumes and weapons crafted for The Lord of the Rings, District 9, The Chronicles of Narnia and more, and hear first-hand stories of filmmaking creativity!  We’ll also enjoy a guided tour through the Thunderbirds Are Go hangar – the authentic shooting stage of the popular TV show! See the unbelievable miniatures built by Weta Workshop and learn how incredible things can be created with a little elbow grease and a lot of imagination. After the tour, we’ll travel into the Wellington suburb of Miramar for you to purchase some lunch, before we enjoy a scenic drive around the Miramar Peninsula. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure. Tonight we’ll enjoy a group dinner at our hotel.

Day 5 – Wednesday 16 January 2019  WELLINGTON TO NAPIER (BD)
Today we travel north crossing the Rimutaka Ranges to Featherston, the southern gateway to the Wairarapa. Continuing our travels we pass through Greytown, a town which has preserved a somewhat Victorian feel with its two-storey wooden buildings, then on to Masterton – the largest town in the Wairarapa.  Masterton plays a traditional role as the service centre for extended urban and rural communities.  After a break for lunch here we continue our journey through Central Hawkes Bay to Hastings and Napier. Napier truly is a unique city – built up from the ashes after a huge 7.9 earthquake and subsequent fires on the 3rd February 1931. On arrival in Napier, we will have a sightseeing tour including viewing the Art Deco buildings, the Port, and Ahuriri, before checking into our accommodation for the evening. After dinner at the hotel you may like to walk along Marine Parade and view the floral clock and sunken gardens.
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Te Pania, Napier – 1 night

Day 6 – Thursday 17 January 2019 NAPIER TO HOME CITIES  (B)
After breakfast this morning, we depart Napier and travel north through the Esk Valley and over the Titiokura Saddle at about 2,200ft. The road then climbs 1,000ft over the Turangakumu Range, and through the southern end of the huge Kaiangaroa Forest to cross the wide pumice plateau of the Kaiangaroa Plains on our way to Taupo, where we have our lunch stop, before continuing our homeward journey.