12 day New Zealand Highlights
Auckland to Christchurch
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Thrifty Tours

12 day New Zealand Highlights

This 12 day tour allows you to experience some of the highlights of New Zealand in a short time.  Some superb inclusions ensure a varied and exciting tour.

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Quick Itinerary Details

Independent tour (bus & coach)

This suggested tour costs from NZD$6,600 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch

12 days/11 nights

Hotel 4 star

 Customisable? YES

 Viewed 313 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Auckland City
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Day 2: Auckland to Hobbiton to Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 3: Explore Rotorua from above, then this evening discover the unique Maori culture at Tamaki
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 4: Fly Rotorua to Christchurch today
Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

Day 5: Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Wakefield Wing Superior Room

Day 6: Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 7: Free day to explore Queenstown
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 8: Milford Sound day tour with Real Journeys
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 9: Dart River Safari tour this morning, TSS Earnslaw cruise and dinner this evening
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 10: Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Day 11: Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

Day 12: Depart Christchurch today

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 12 day tour starting in Auckland

Day 1 - Welcome to Auckland City
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 1
Private Transfer Auckland Airport to Auckland Accommodation

You will be met at the Auckland airport by the driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand's self-proclaimed "City of Sails" is the country's largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests, and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or get out onto the water to experience the best views of the city.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore

This unique on-water dining experience is not to be missed while you're in Auckland. Enjoy smooth sailing on the Waitemata Harbour - then watch this p...

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This unique on-water dining experience is not to be missed while you're in Auckland. Enjoy smooth sailing on the Waitemata Harbour - then watch this photogenic city come alive with twinkling lights. Enjoy your meal as you sail around the beautiful Auckland Harbour taking in the view as the sun slowly sets. You'll be treated to canapes and a drink as you set off towards Westhaven Marina. Choose between dining in the downstairs cabin or on deck to take in the iconic sights of the Auckland Harbour. To finish the evening off, savour your dessert course as you leisurely sail back to Auckland's vibrant Viaduct Harbour.

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Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!
Day 2 - Auckland to Hobbiton to Rotorua
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 2
Auckland to Rotorua Small Group Tour via Hobbiton Movie Set

Departing from Auckland city, this is a wonderful way to get to Rotorua and include a magical journey through Middle-earth to the Hobbiton Movie Set from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" films. Travel south from Auckland over the Bombay Hills to the rich farmland of the Waikato region. Journey through the heritage town of Cambridge where tree-lined streets add to the English-style atmosphere. On arrival at Shire's Rest you embark on your Hobbiton movie set tour where you will see 44 hobbit holes, the Mill and double arch bridge, the party tree and visit the Green Dragon Inn (where a complimentary beer, cider or ginger ale is included). At this stunning location you can take a photo at the door of Bilbo's house, Bag End, looking out over the whole of Hobbiton to the hills in the distance. At the end of your Hobbiton movie set tour you will travel on to Rotorua.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Polynesian Spa Deluxe Lake Spa

Rotorua's Polynesian Spa offers a unique thermal spa experience on the shore of Lake Rotorua. You'll enjoy tranquil bathing and lake views in four sha...

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Rotorua's Polynesian Spa offers a unique thermal spa experience on the shore of Lake Rotorua. You'll enjoy tranquil bathing and lake views in four shallow alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures (36˚C to 42˚C). Here you are surrounded by revitalising native New Zealand flora, natural rocks, the sound of two waterfalls and a grotto. The pools are filled with soothing alkaline mineral water leaving your skin soft and supple. Relax in the outdoor relaxation area overlooking the four hot mineral pools and Lake Rotorua, here you can further unwind on the five geothermally heated recliners set in the stunning backdrop of New Zealand's lush and natural greenery. A large indoor relaxation lounge also overlooks Lake Rotorua, whereas a Lake Spa guest, you are welcome to move from the pools to the lounge once dried off and return to bathe in the Lake Spa pools as you wish. The Lake Spa is a unique thermal pool environment, where the atmosphere changes from day to night, and from winter steam to summer sparkle.

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Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3 - Explore Rotorua from above, then this evening discover the unique Maori culture at Tamaki
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 3
Orakei Korako Hidden Valley with Volcanic Air Safaris by floatplane

From above Mount Tarawera impressive views include vast volcanic rifts, distant national parks and our treasured lakes. Flying south on a floatplane, you will gain an appreciation of what local Maori refer to as the ‘Sisters of Fire’. Here, volcanic activity has pierced the earth surface across the fault-line forming the reserves of Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu which, when viewed from above, dismay a spectacular palette of natures most vibrant colours. Landing at Orakei Korako, ‘the Hidden Valley’, is an amazing opportunity to experience hot springs, gushing geysers and the natural beauty of this geothermal wonderland.

Te Pā Tū Evening Maori Cultural Experience

New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, Tamaki Māori Village presents TE PĀ TŪ. Feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pā (village) blanketed by towering Tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheatre. Te Pā Tū shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across 4-hours of celebration and feasting. These events change with each season of the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar. 

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Day 4 - Fly Rotorua to Christchurch today
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 4
Rotorua Accommodation to Rotorua Airport

You will be collected from your accommodation and transferred to Rotorua Airport.

Air New Zealand flight Rotorua to Christchurch
Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

Your accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This luxury hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Christchurch Convention Centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5 - Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 5
Christchurch to Aoraki/Mount Cook Small Group Tour

This small group, fully-guided day trip combines all of the key highlights in the area with the famous Lake Tekapo, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and Tasman Glacier. The ultimate way to get from Christchurch to Aoraki/Mount Cook. Led by famously passionate tour guides, notorious for bringing your journey to life by sharing their stories and rich background knowledge and run in modern, comfortable minibuses packed with extras ensuring your comfort and safety.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and one ...

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Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier The Tasman.

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Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Wakefield Wing Superior Room

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884. Room type - Wakefield Wing Superior room facing Aoraki/Mt. Cook.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 6 - Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 6
Aoraki/Mount Cook to Queenstown Small Group Tour

Leaving the spectacular Aoraki/Mount Cook you will head through Omarama, the Lindis Pass, and Cromwell on your journey to Queenstown.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, the Millennium Hotel is just minutes from Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment district. Outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating are just some of the easily accessible activities nearby in New Zealand's adventure capital.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7 - Free day to explore Queenstown
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 7
Free day in Queenstown

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic, and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw -  to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour.
Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata' or simply take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Jet Canyon Jet Boat Ride

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride! Skim past rocky outcrops at close range in...

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Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride! Skim past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breathtaking speeds. And a major highlight - hold tight for the world-famous Shotover Jet full 360-degree spins!

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Queenstown Skyline Gondola Ride

Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere! From which you can take in the awe-inspiring views of this sp...

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Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere! From which you can take in the awe-inspiring views of this spectacular landscape. Sit back and relax as you enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak and the magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

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Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, the Millennium Hotel is just minutes from Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment district. Outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating are just some of the easily accessible activities nearby in New Zealand's adventure capital.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8 - Milford Sound day tour with Real Journeys
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 8
Milford Sound Cruise and coach tour from Queenstown

Return luxury coach transport from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with a 1 hour 40 minute Cruise along the full length of the fiord. On boarding a Real Journeys luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown or Te Anau, you will enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Te Anau. The coach driver provides an informative commentary. After a morning tea break in Te Anau, where you have the option of purchasing refreshments, the coach continues along the spectacular Milford Road. There is time for photo stops and short walks along the way. On reaching Milford Sound, you board the modern, spacious vessel for a leisurely cruise in the fiord. The cruise provides excellent viewing opportunities and plenty of time is available to enjoy waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and the wildlife. During the cruise your friendly crew provide commentaries in several languages and point out the sights such as Mitre Peak and the Pembroke Glacier.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, the Millennium Hotel is just minutes from Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment district. Outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating are just some of the easily accessible activities nearby in New Zealand's adventure capital.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9 - Dart River Safari tour this morning, TSS Earnslaw cruise and dinner this evening
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 9
Dart River Wilderness Jet

Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage and fantasy come to life. As one of Queenstown’s most exhilarating activities, the Wilderness Jet adventures on a spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park.

TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Enjoy a quintessential Kiwi experience – a delicious gourmet BBQ buffet meal and a farm demonstration in a stunning lakeside setting.
Take in the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and its surroundings as you cruise across the lake to the historic Walter Peak high country farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship.
Enjoy the ambiance of the heart of the stately homestead while your Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant chef prepares a gourmet BBQ dinner. Your seasonal menu includes an extensive selection of local New Zealand produce, including succulent meats and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Complete your meal with your choice of delicious desserts, New Zealand cheeses, tea and coffee.
After dinner, watch the farm dogs in action with a sheep-herding demonstration and say hello to the other farm animals. Finally, cruise home under the southern stars and enjoy the fresh night air as the lights of Queenstown draw ever closer.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, the Millennium Hotel is just minutes from Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment district. Outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating are just some of the easily accessible activities nearby in New Zealand's adventure capital.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10 - Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 10
Queenstown to Franz Josef with Glacier Shuttles

Leaving Queenstown, travel past picturesque scenery of massive mountain peaks and crystal-clear blue lakes. Travel across the Haast Pass to the other side of the Southern Alps, the landscape changes dramatically. Welcome to the wild and wonderful West Coast, a remote and unspoiled region. Wind your way past native rainforest, rocky coastlines and powerful waterfalls. Your journey concludes in the village of Franz Josef, your base for exploration of the area.

Glacier Valley Shuttle

You will be met at your accommodation by a representative from Glacier Shuttles and taken on a short tour to view the glacier. Your shuttle vehicle will transfer you up the Franz Josef valley to the road end. Here you will have the opportunity to walk to view the glacier from a viewing platform. Or enjoy one of the short walks available in this area. You will be returned to your accommodation by the Glacier Valley Shuttles.

Your accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Only a breath away from the Franz Josef Glacier, Scenic Hotel is located in the heart of Franz Josef Village. Here you will find all of the amenities you would expect, as well as being close to the shops, restaurants and activities on offer in the beautiful Westland region.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 11 - Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 11
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station with Hokitika Scenic Tours

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey - the TranzAlpine Scenic Train.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur's Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This luxury hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Christchurch Convention Centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 12 - Depart Christchurch today
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 12
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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12 day New Zealand Highlights

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