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$6,956 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch

12 days/11 nights

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Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Auckland City
Accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Day 2: Auckland to Hobbiton to Rotorua
Accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Day 3: Explore Mt Tarawera and this evening discover the unique Maori culture at Tamaki
Accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Day 4: Fly Rotorua to Christchurch today
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 5: Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park
Accommodation: Mt Cook Motel

Day 6: Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 7: Free day to explore Queenstown
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 8: Milford Sound day tour with Real Journeys
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 9: Dart River Safari tour this morning, TSS Earnslaw cruise and dinner this evening
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 10: Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 11: Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 12: Depart Christchurch today

Tour full itinerary
Detailed Itinerary
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 - Auckland Sky Tower Admission

Standing at 328 metres (just over 1000 feet) - the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers panoramic views of the Auckla...

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Standing at 328 metres (just over 1000 feet) - the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers panoramic views of the Auckland landscape. Travel in the glass-fronted lift to one of three spectacular viewing platforms, or for a little more excitement do a SkyWalk - an outside loop around the pergola 192 metres (just over 600 feet) above ground. If you're really bold, Take the quick way down and SkyJump off the tower - a controlled free fall to the base.
Inside, the Sky Lounge offers coffee and light meals while the iconic Orbit Restaurant is Auckland's only 360 degree revolving dining experience.

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Your accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of Auckland’s bustling shopping, arts, dining and entertainment precincts and opposite the New Zealand International Convention Centre.
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.

Your accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Silver Fern Suites & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and is close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 3
Mt Tarawera Crater Walk with Kaitiaki Adventures

Experience the unique landscape and history of Mt Tarawera. Infamous for its eruption on June 10th, 1886, Mt Tarawera created the world’s youngest geothermal valley of Waimangu, at the same destroying the legendary Pink and White Terraces.
This fully guided hiking experience encompasses the unique landscape and history of the area and requires a moderate level of fitness. Each journey begins with an off road 4x4 experience through native New Zealand bush, transporting you to the craters edge. With spectacular scenic vistas and 360 panoramic views this experience is ideal for all ages and includes an optional run into the heart of the volcanic crater.

Te Pā Tū Evening Maori Cultural Experience

New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, presenting 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: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Silver Fern Suites & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and is close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.
Meals included: Speciality Dinner
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 International Airport to your accommodation

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

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 5
Christchurch to Mt Cook via Lake Tekapo Small Group Tour with Cheeky Kiwi - Lunch Included

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: Mt Cook Motel

Mt Cook Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views.
12 day New Zealand Highlights - Day 6
Aoraki/Mount Cook to Queenstown Small Group Tour with Cheeky Kiwi

Departing spectacular Aoraki/Mt Cook, this scenic tour winds its way through some of the best the Southern Alps area has to offer; stunningly blue Lake Pukaki, High Country Salmon experiences, the panoramic Lindis Pass, the grand Kawarau Gorge before finally coming to an end in breathtaking Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
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. Whether you are looking for a scenic short walk or a longer one, you will find the perfect hike or bike trail in Queenstown. Explore Queenstown Gardens, or try out more challenging trails up to Ben Lomond Walkaway or Queenstown Hill Walking Track. Enjoy iconic views and take Queenstown Gondola up 450 metres to Bob's Peak, or 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 al fresco restaurants, try out the famous Fergburger, or grab a dessert at Patagonia Chocolates.

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: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
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: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
Meals included: Lunch
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 ambience 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: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
Meals included: Dinner
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: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.
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.

Shared Transfer from the Railway Station to a City Hotel with Christchurch Touring

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

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.
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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