Tour 406 NEW ZEALAND GRAND RAIL TOUR
Depart Auckland every thursday year round. (Minimum 2 passengers)
Unsolicited comment from past passengers.
Thank you for the fantastic trip you planned out for us. Both Paddy and I enjoyed every minute of the trip. We had a memorable trip to New Zealand. You took good care of us like family members. Please feel free to use our reference if anyone seeks it. We will recommend you highly to all our friends and family who might visit New Zealand in the future.
Day 1. Thursday. AUCKLAND - WAITOMO - HOBBITON - ROTORUA 7.45am Depart Auckland Strand Railway Station aboard the "Northern Explorer". (Transfers provided from inner city accommodation).
Sit back and relax and enjoy the scenes of suburban Auckland and rural Waikato dairy farmland on the way to Otorohanga. You will be met on arrival and transferred to the Waitomo Caves for a guided tour of the main limestone cave and cruise in the Glowworm Grotto.
Continue to Hobbiton and the Shires Rest to join your guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie set, made famous by "Lord of the Rings, and "Hobbit" films. Drive through part of the picturesque 500 hectare (1,250 acre) sheep and cattle farm and your guide will escort you through the 10 acre Hobbiton site. See the Hobbit Holes, Bag End (Bilbo and Frodo Baggins home), Party Tree, Lake, The Mill, and the Green Dragon Inn, and learn how this Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle Earth. Enjoy a cold drink from the Green Dragon Inn and continue to Rotorua.
Day 2. Friday ROTORUA - WAIOTAPU - ROTORUA (BD)
Visit the Waiotapu thermal area to explore the coloured terraces and see Lady Knox geyser play. Return to Rotorua this morning for a guided tour of the te Puia thermal area to see bubbling mud pools, famed Pohutu geyser, and the maori darving and weaving school. Ride the Skyline gondola for a panoramic view over the lake and city with lunch and luge options - extra expense. This afternoon enjoy the Agrodome farm show to see sheep being shorn, a cow being milked, and sheep dogs working.
Free time to relax in the thermal waters of the Polynesian Spa if you wish - extra expense.
This evening enjoy an introduction to maori culture with a concert, and a hangi steam cooked dinner.
Day 3. Saturday ROTORUA - WELLINGTON (B)
Transfer to Hamilton or Otorohanga to rejoin the "Northern Explorer" and travel through the central North island including the famed Raurimu Spiral, a major engineering feat, and through the Tongariro National Park with magnificent views of the central North Island volcanoes in fine weather. Arrive Wellington early evening. You will be met and transferred to your accommodation.
Day 4. Sunday. WELLINGTON (BL)
Morning sightseeing includes Wellington's most famous sights including Mt Victoria, Parliament Buildings,part of the Marine Drive, and a ride on the cable car
Optional full day LORD OF THE RINGS tour including city sights and Weta workshop, home of the "Lord of the Rings", "Hobbit" and other great films. Also visit some of the film sites in Wellington including Weathertop, Dunharrow Plateau, Frodo Tree, Race to the Ferry, Shellob's Lair Rock, Helms Deep, Minas Tirith, River Anduin, Gardens of Isengard, Rivendell, Fords of Isen and much more. Picnic lunch included by the river at Rivendell! - extra cost $100
Day 5. Monday. WELLINGTON - PICTON - MARLBOROUGH TOUR - BLENHEIM (B)
Transfer to the Interislander terminal for the 3 hour 40 minute cruise across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton. You will be met on arrival and visit the "Edwin Fox" ship restoration project. The "Edwin Fox" is the oldest merchant ship, and 9th oldest ship overall, still in existence. Continue to Peter Jackson's KNIGHTS OF THE SKY World War 1 and DANGEROUS SKIES World War 2 exhibitions and visit the Marlborough Museum to discover Marlborough's 700 year old Maori and European history. Overnight in Blenheim.
Day 6. Tuesday. BLENHEIM - KAIKOURA - CHRISTCHURCH. (B)
Drive down the scenic coast to the charming seaside town of Kaikoura for a short tour and visit to the seal colony. You have time for an optional Whale Watch cruise or flight before joining the "Coastal Pacific" train or coach for the scenic ride down the Kaikoura Coast to Christchurch arriving early evening. You will be met and transferred to your accommodation. If you do not wish to visit Kaikoura take the "Coastal Pacific" from Blenheim to Christchurch.
Day 7. Wednesday.CHRISTCHURCH-MOUNT COOK (B)
Free time for your own explorations. Depart late morning and drive across the fertile Canterbury Plains and over Burke's Pass to Lake Tekapo. See the sheep dog monument and Church of the Good Shepherd. Travel along the shores of Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. Accommodation at the Hermitage in Mount Cook view rooms.Admission to the Sir Edmund Hillary centre is included.
For Lord of the Rings fans the "Edoras" tour by 4WD is a must. Depart Christchurch 9am and enjoy breathtaking alpine back country scenery, a short walk to stand on the summit of Edoras and see other Lord of the Rings sites. A selection of Movie replicas is available for photo use. Rejoin us late afternoon for the journey to Mt Cook. Extra cost $190.
Day 8. Thursday. MOUNT COOK - OAMARU - DUNEDIN (B)
Free time for alpine walks, visit the National Park headquarters, or take a ski plane or helicopter flight to land on the snows of the glaciers - extra expense and weather permitting.We highly recommend the cruise among the icebergs on the lake at the base of the Tasman Glacier (summer only).
Drive down the Waitaki River Valley with a visit to the Benmore Hydro dam, the historic centre of Oamaru, the Little Blue Penguin colony, and enjoy some beach time to explore the unique Moeraki Boulders. Arrive Dunedin early evening for 2 nights.
Day 9. Friday. DUNEDIN (B)
Visit historic "Olveston House", Dunedin Chinese Garden, Knox Church, The Octagon, and the world's steepest street.
This afternoon tour the Otago Peninsula including Larnachs Castle, Royal Albatross Centre, and see the local wildlife including seals, and Yellow Eyed penguins.
An optional ride on the SEASIDER (normally operated by "Silver Fern" railcar around the spectacular coastal route to waitati and back may be available in summer - depending on your dates.
Day 10. Saturday. DUNEDIN - QUEENSTOWN. (B)
Enjoy a ride on the privately operated "Taieri Gorge" railway through spectacular Central Otago gold rush scenery to Pukerangi and drive through the fruit growing areas of Alexandra, Clyde, and Cromwell to Queenstown.
Day 11. Sunday. QUEENSTOWN (B)
This morning visit Queenstown Hill for a panoramic view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Continue to Lake Hayes, the bungy bridge, Gibbston valley winery, and the historic gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. Explore the town and ruins of the Chinese village.
The afternoon is free to enjoy this beautiful resort with many optional activities (extra expense) available. Ride the gondola to the Skyline restaurant and luge,enjoy an exciting (must do) jet boat ride on the Shotover River, bungy jump, white water raft, take a cruise on the historic steamer "Earnslaw" or whatever you wish.
For Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans we recommend the tour to Glenorchy with stunning natural scenery and places where Isengard, Wizards Vale, Lothlorien Forest, Amon Hen, Misty Mountains, Ithilien, were filmed - extra expense $160
Day 12. Monday. QUEENSTOWN - MILFORD SOUND - QUEENSTOWN. (BL)
A day of magnificent scenery as we drive along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and across Southland farming country to Lake Te Anau for a brief stopover then on into the heart of the Fiordland National Park travelling through the Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys. Visit the Mirror Lakes and Roaring Chasm and drive through the Homer tunnel before we arrive in Milford Sound. Board your cruise to travel the length of Milford Sound under majestic Mitre Peak. See the seal colony and Bowen Falls before retracing our steps to Queenstown. A buffet lunch is included during your cruise.
You may stay in Te Anau and enjoy a day cruise to Doubtful Sound tomorrow rejoining us in Queenstown tuesday night if you wish. Extra cost $290 per person.
Day 13. Tuesday. QUEENSTOWN. (B)
Free day to make as relaxing or exciting as you wish. Enjoy the peace of Queenstown or your own activities.
Day 14. Wednesday. QUEENSTOWN - WANAKA - FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER (B)
Drive through the Kawarau Gorge to Wanaka for a brief stop with admission to amazing Puzzling World included and continue through Makarora and over the Haast Pass into the rainforest and spectacular coastline of the West Coast. Visit Shipwreck beach, beautiful Lake Matheson, Franz Josef Glacier lookout, and arrive Franz Josef Glacier late afternoon. (Some tours may stay at Fox Glacier)
Day 15. Thursday. FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER - HOKITIKA (B)
Time for a helicopter or ski plane flight or heli hike on the glacier (extra expense and weather permitting) or bush walk. Drive north to Hokitika, setting for the Booker award winning novel "The Luminaries". Overnight Hokitika or Greymouth.
Optional fabulous White Heron tour November to early march including a 20 minute jetboat cruise on the Lake Okarito lagoon and a walk through the rainforest to the bird hide. We have 30-40 minutes here to see the White Heron, Royal Spoonbill, Little Shag and other birdlife. Extra cost $135
Day 16. Friday. HOKITIKA - PUNAKAIKI ROCKS - CHRISTCHURCH. (B)
Visit the recreated gold mining village of Shantytown. pan for gold and ride the steam train into the forest. After a short tour of Greymouth continue to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in the Paparoa National Park. Explore the area before joining the "Tranz Alpine express" for one of the most scenic train journeys in the world across the Southern Alps to Christchurch arriving late afternoon. You will be transferred back to your accommodation.
Day 17. Saturday. CHRISTCHURCH DEPART (B)
You will be transferred to the airport for departure.
COROMANDEL ONE DAY TOUR FROM AUCKLAND. Departs daily. Includes Driving Creek Railway (Minimum 2 passengers). Cost $380 per person (L)
Enjoy a day on the Coromandel Peninsula including the historic giold mining towns of Thames and Coromandel. A highlight will be an excursion on the "Driving Creek Railway", the fulfillment of the dream of Barry Brickell, potter, environmentalist, and rail enthusiast.Ride through the regenerating native forest to the "Eyefull Tower" and back. Cross the Coromandel Peninsula and see some of our great kauri trees. Take a 90 minute round trip hike to Cathedral Cove and, subject to tide conditons, dig your own hot bath at Hotwater beach. Return to Auckland late evening.
BAY OF ISLANDS Includes Bay of Islands Vintage Railway
Departs Auckland every wednesday. Minimum 2 passengers
7.30am. depart Auckland and drive north to Kawakawa to join the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway to Taumarere and back then into the Bay of islands for a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty grounds to see the Treaty House, carved Meeting House, and great war canoe as well as enjoy a scintillating Maori Concert and spend time in the excellent museum portraying the events surrounding the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Take the ferry to historic Russell for a tour including the oldest Church in New Zealand and Flagstaff Hill before returning to Auckland about 8pm. Tour cost ;per adult $299