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New Zealand is a country of outstanding natural beauty, and full of friendly people.

Here's a great chance to see New Zealand, with a New Zealander (yes, I'm originally from NZ myself) and to visit the best parts of this lovely country.

A great time of year, and a wonderful varied itinerary make this a 'must do'.

 
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New Zealand Grand Spectacular
18 Day Tour, Oct/Nov 2008

Day by Day Itinerary
 

Click the map to have a larger version open in a new window

You'll see most of New Zealand's major tourist spots, plus some of its less well known, but equally charming attractions, on this tour of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

You'll travel by deluxe motor coach, by plane, by train, and by ship as part of your varied range of experiences.

This is the itinerary for the 2008 New Zealand Grand Spectacular Tour.

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.

Itinerary
 

Day 1 (Monday 27 October) :  Leave the US


'Wunala Dreaming' - Qantas applied a ton of extra paint to cover this plane in traditional Australian aboriginal images.
Qantas offers the most flights to NZ and Australia of any airline.

You should make your own arrangements to fly from the US to Auckland, departing on Monday 24 October.

Most flights leave from Los Angeles in the evening, making it easy to connect from other places in the US.

Leave earlier if you wish to spend extra time in New Zealand before the start of the main tour

 

Day 2 (Tuesday 28 October)  :  Skip this day
as you cross the dateline


Crossing the dateline means you skip a day

As you fly down to New Zealand, your flight crosses the international dateline, and suddenly you skip ahead a day.

Don't worry, though - the day you 'lose' on your flight to NZ will be regained on your return to the US, when you'll find yourself arriving back into Los Angeles earlier than when you left Auckland!

 

Day 3 (Wednesday 29 October) :  Auckland city sightseeing


Auckland calls itself the 'City of Sails'.  Until recently the home of the Americas Cup, the city is very water-centric with lots of beautiful bays and beaches all around the city.
A clean modern downtown is encircled by inactive volcanoes making for a distinctive skyline.

Your flight will arrive into Auckland early this morning.

The group will meet at our central Auckland hotel at mid day and we'll then spend the afternoon on a guided sightseeing tour of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.

The sightseeing will end in the lovely town of Devonport on the other side of Auckland's harbor, giving you the opportunity to then take a beautiful short ferry ride back to the city side of the harbor after strolling through Devonport's boutique shops.

We'll have a 'getting to know you' welcome dinner this evening on Auckland's waterfront.

Included Meals: Dinner

 

Day 4 (Thursday 30 October) :  Touring to Rotorua via Waitomo


Glow-worms light up the roofs of the Waitomo Caves

Today we'll travel by luxury coach from Auckland down to Waitomo, home of the amazing glow-worm caves, and then on over to Rotorua, in the center of the geo-thermal region.

As we travel, you'll be amazed at the beauty of NZ's gentle rolling countryside, the abundant greenery everywhere, and, of course, lots of sheep, too.

In Waitomo we'll be taken on an underground boat tour of the lakes and river, above which the glowing glow-worms hang suspended, creating an overhead carpet of lights.

As we approach Rotorua you'll notice a most distinctive side effect of the geothermal area.  A somewhat malodorous sulphur smell!

Don't worry - you'll quickly forget about this, and the novelty of this extraordinary area more than compensates.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 5 (Friday 31 October) :  Rotorua


Vents of sulphurous steam alternate with native bush at Whakarewarewa
 

The Agrodome, complete with performing sheep and farm dogs gives you a fun perspective on NZ farm life
 
 
An artist's impression of the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera that engulfed the now Buried Village.
 

Our day ends with an evening visit to a Maori marae for traditional entertainment and hangi feast (roasted/steamed food)

Rotorua is an amazing area, and you'll get four very different experiences in a very full day of sightseeing.

We start with a visit to the Whakarewarewa Thermal area.  Geysers, boiling mudpools, mineral waters and hot streams are everywhere, and in some places it looks more like the surface of the moon than the earth, although look around a bit and you'll find beautiful native bush close by.

Next is a visit to the Agrodome for a show that introduces you to much of NZ's farming way of life.  NZ still has a largely agrarian based economy, and in an entertaining show featuring performing sheep and sheep dogs, you'll get an understanding of this essential part of New Zealand.

The Buried Village, our next stop, is exactly what its name implies.  A massive eruption of a nearby volcano buried this village, and you'll walk around the partially excavated ruins.  After seeing this downside to the geothermal activity, take the marvelous bush-walk down to where a waterfall cascades through rocks down to its pool at the bottom, in an almost subterranean setting.  It is a bit of a walk up the loop back to the Buried Village, but well worth the effort, and is one of the most beautiful bush walks in the entire country.

Lastly today we travel to a Maori marae (meeting place) where NZ's native people treat us to a traditional welcome, entertainment, and delicious hangi meal (food cooked by hot rocks in a hole in the ground).

Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day 6 (Saturday 1 November) :  Fly to Queenstown


The lovely resort village of Queenstown, nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu

Free time in Rotorua this morning - perhaps go to a thermal spa, or perhaps visit another thermal area (they all are truly different to each other).

This afternoon we'll fly from Rotorua down to Queenstown in NZ's South Island.  You should make your own arrangements to fly, and we suggest the Qantas flight at 1.40pm is the best choice, but an Air NZ flight would also be satisfactory if needed to fit within your international ticket rules.

Be sure to ask for a window seat and enjoy the beautiful views from the air.  You'll be able to see from NZ's west coast to NZ's east coast - it truly is a narrow and small country!

Upon arrival in Queenstown we're given a short tour around the Queenstown area and taken to our hotel for the next three nights.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 7 (Sunday 2 November) :  Queenstown on your own


Magical Milford Sound - for most visitors, this is a 'must see'

There is such a lot to see and do in the Queenstown area that we decided to leave you free to make your own selection of activities.

One of our suggested highlights would be a tour to Te Anau and Milford Sound.  This is a full day tour, although it can be shortened by traveling one way by light plane rather than by coach (weather permitting).  The drive through Fiordland to Milford Sound is stunningly beautiful so we'd recommend coaching at least one way, even if you choose to fly the other.

At Milford Sound you should take one of the cruises of this beautiful wilderness area before returning back to Queenstown.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 8 (Monday 3 November) :  Queenstown on your own


The gondola ride up Bob's Peak in Queenstown gives majestic views over Lake Wakatipu and to the Remarkable Moutain Range in the background
 

A cruise across the lake on the vintage steamer Earnslaw, and a visit to the sheep farm on the other side, is a relaxing way to spend some of your day.
 

You'll have already noticed some of Queenstown's obvious attractions, and if you went to Milford Sound yesterday, today would be your chance to experience such things yourself.

The TSS Earnslaw is a vintage steam boat that travels across Lake Wakatipu.  A cruise on the Earnslaw is a lovely experience to enjoy.

Up above Queenstown is a gondola ride to the top of Bob's Peak, giving you lovely views across the town and lake to the mountain range not far north, aptly named the Remarkables.

And if you'd like to do more than just look at the (probably) snow covered mountains, you can take a helicopter flight up to the mountains.

Lower down, you might wish to experience a jet-boat ride on one of the rivers.  Jet-boats were invented in NZ, and enable boats to travel very quickly in very shallow rivers.  This is a most exhilarating experience.

If this isn't enough excitement, then you could try bungy jumping (also a NZ invention), or if you'd prefer not to be taken along the river by a power driven craft, maybe go river rafting.

Other experiences available include panning for gold, and riding a vintage steam loco powered train.

Truly, there's a huge variety of experiences to enjoy in the Queenstown area.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 9 (Tuesday 4 November) :  Touring to Christchurch
via Mt Cook


A typical view as we travel up to Mt Cook and then on to Christchurch today.
 

The Church of the Good Shepherd, on the shores of Lake Tekapo, and adjacent to the Sheep Dog statue.
 

Today we travel by luxury coach to Christchurch, following along the base of the majestic Southern Alps, and then driving a short way up into the mountains to the Hermitage Resort in Mt Cook National Park.  Mt Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain (12,316 ft) and you'll have views to its summit and the other peaks in the Southern Alps from the Mt Cook village.

We travel through MacKenzie Country, named after a sheep rustler in the 19th century, and stop at Lake Tekapo where we visit the Sheep Dog statue, commemorating the amazing help given shepherds by their dogs, and have a quick stop at the picturesque Church of the Good Shepherd, with beautiful views through its special altar picture windows.

As we continue on to Christchurch the high hill country becomes replaced by the fertile Canterbury Plains, and then we reach our destination of Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 10 (Wednesday 5 November) :  Christchurch (Guy Fawkes Night this evening)


Central Christchurch has a historical tram, and presents as a very English type town.
 

The Avon River flows gently through the center of the city.

Christchurch is described as the most English city outside of England, and with a cathedral in its town square, and punting on the river running through the city (named the Avon) you'll quickly see why this is.

We'll be given a guided sightseeing tour of the Christchurch area, and then can enjoy a ride on their central city sightseeing tram, and enjoy the rest of the day as we wish.

The more active of us might choose to climb to the top of the Cathedral to look out over the city, and if we're lucky, Christchurch's wizard may be holding forth in The Square at lunchtime.

This evening notes the celebration of Guy Fawkes.  Mr Fawkes was an English revolutionary who tried to blow up their Houses of Parliament, an event which was unsuccessful, and which is celebrated in English descended countries by the letting off of fireworks and ceremonial bonfires, often with a stuffed dummy representing Guy Fawkes himself this evening.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 11 (Thursday 6 November) :  Train to Picton and ferry
to Wellington
END OF Introduction to New Zealand tour in Christchurch
START OF Advanced New Zealand tour in Wellington


Our train is dwarfed by the majesty of its surroundings
 

Our ferry cruise to the North Island takes us through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds

If you chose the Introduction to NZ tour, today you'll say goodbye to the other tour members and make your way to Christchurch airport to fly back home.

If you chose the Advanced NZ tour, you'll fly into Wellington today (you should leave the US on or before Tuesday 1 November) and join up with the rest of the tour when it arrives into Wellington this evening.

For those of us on the complete tour, today promises to be a varied day of wonderful travel experiences.  We first travel by wonderful train from Christchurch up the east coast of the South Island and to Picton, at the base of the Marlborough Sounds.

In Picton we'll transfer to a passenger ferry for the three hour journey over to Wellington.  This is a beautiful journey, first through the Marlborough Sounds, and then through Cook Strait before entering Wellington's harbor, described as one of the finest natural harbors in the world.

We'll be spending two nights in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 12 (Friday 7 November) :  Wellington


A spectacularly beautiful setting for NZ's capital city of Wellington

Called 'windy Wellington' by the locals, but hopefully the weather will be smiling on us today as we enjoy touring around the lovely city that was my home for many years.  With only a little encouragement, I might point out the sites of some of my youthful indiscretions!

We'll travel by cable car up one of the many hills that encircle Wellington, and by coach up another of the hills to a wonderful scenic lookout.

We'll also visit New Zealand's Parliament Building, where the country's government meets.

A highlight of the day will be a guided tour of New Zealand's National Museum, 'Te Papa'.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 13 (Saturday 8 November) :  Touring to Havelock North
via Martinborough


The only remaining Fell Engine of its type in the world will be seen at the Fell Engine Museum in Featherston this morning.
 

The classic verandah style architecture of the old Martinborough Hotel

Today we'll travel by luxury coach to Havelock North.

We'll take the scenic rather than the more common route, going up through the Wairarapa, and detouring to visit the lovely little town of Martinborough.

On the way, we'll visit a fascinating museum detailing some of New Zealand's rail history, and after a stop for lunch in Martinborough, we'll go to one of New Zealand's major breweries for a quick tour, and - yes - some sampling of their product.

We arrive into Havelock North late afternoon, where you'll have a chance to spend the next several days enjoying the Hawkes Bay lifestyle.

We'll be staying in high quality motel units with kitchenettes, and in the past, group members have often chosen to have 'pot luck' type dinners in the evening, with various people bringing different items and holding outdoor parties.  A nearby supermarket provides plenty of ready-to-eat food items for such pot luck meets.

And in the mornings, you're free to stroll the short distance in to the village of Havelock North and use your cash breakfast allowance to eat at whichever of the streetside cafes most takes your interest each morning.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 14 (Sunday 9 November) :  Hawkes Bay - the Countryside


A view looking north across the Heretaunga Plains from Te Mata Peak, one of the defining landmarks of the Hawkes Bay region.
 

The beautiful Tuki Tuki River

Hawkes Bay enjoys beautiful scenery and countryside.  With the sea on one side, and mountains ringing the Heretaunga Plains on the other side, and some lovely rivers flowing through the region, the geography is always changing.

Sometimes referred to as 'the fruitbowl of New Zealand' Hawkes Bay has an abundance of orchards and market gardens - many people buy all their fruit and vegetables direct from the growers, who have small road-side stalls.

Whether you're looking for fruit and vegetables, seafood and fish, or meat and dairy products, the region produces high quality fresh food of all types.

Today we'll travel around the countryside in Hawkes Bay, getting a feeling for its natural beauty and resources.

We'll also include a stop at my favorite ice cream store towards the end of the afternoon.

Included Meals: Breakfast, snack

 

Day 15 (Monday 10 November) :  Hawkes Bay - the Twin Cities


Napier, famous for its 1930s art deco architecture, is set alongside a grand sweep of the bay.
 

A visit to a sheepskin tannery and factory is an interesting addition to today's touring.
 

Hastings has a very different feel to it than Napier, and is located inland.

Yesterday we enjoyed the countryside.  Today you'll find that the area's two cities are also characterful and distinctive.

My personal favorite is Napier.  Extensively rebuilt after a massive earthquake leveled almost the entire city in 1931, the city now stands as a monument to the Art Deco style.

A rejuvenated port is now becoming up-market accommodation, and the gorgeous views from the hill overlooking the city remains another prime residential location.

One of the most popular stops on our last NZ tour was a visit to a sheepskin factory.  Not only do we go through the actual factory that converts raw skins, through a tanning process, to the pure lamb and sheepskins we know, but we also then can buy product in their factory outlet store.  They have a huge range of lamb and sheep skin items, ranging from footwear to rugs to seat and bedcovers.

Hastings is more a large farming town, bisected by the infrequently used rail line.  It has an attractive layout and many amenities for the visitor and resident.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 16 (Tuesday 11 November) :  Hawkes Bay
 - at your own pace


Perhaps get your day off to a flying start with a balloon ride?  Other airborne activities could include a glider flight, or hang-gliding off the back of Te Mata Peak.
Or maybe you'd rather enjoy a round of golf at a local golf course?

Today you're free to do as much - or as little - as you wish.  Maybe stroll around 'the village' as the local people call Havelock North.  Maybe visit some possible property purchases with us.

If you're an early riser, why not start your day off with a balloon ride?

Perhaps hire a rental car for the day and experience driving on the other side of the road (it is easier than you think!).  Or perhaps go on a Gannet Safari, or enjoy some other form of sightseeing.

Another possibility could be a day tour up to Gisborne, the first city in the world to see the sun each morning and the place where NZ's English discoverer (Captain Cook) first made landfall.

The day is yours to enjoy as you wish.

Included Meals: Breakfast

 

Day 17 (Wednesday 12 November) :  Hawkes Bay - the Wineries


A profusion of vineyards and wineries
 

There'll be plenty of opportunity to taste some of NZ's best wines - wines that are only produced in limited quantities so they're never seen up here in the US.  Take some home with you!

Hawkes Bay has long been at the forefront of New Zealand's winemaking regions, and these day it has a vast abundance of boutique wineries making some extremely good wines.

We'll visit several of these wineries this afternoon on a leisurely drive through the beautiful countryside, and then we'll have a farewell dinner at the Peak House restaurant, located up Te Mata Peak and with gorgeous views over Hawkes Bay (to say nothing of wonderful food and plenty of wine, too!).

Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day 18 (Thursday 13 November) :  Touring to Auckland
via Lake Taupo and Huka Falls


If enough of us want to, we can go jetboating at Huka Falls on our way up to Auckland.

Our time in New Zealand comes to a close today and we'll travel by luxury coach back up to Auckland Airport.

Our route north from Hawkes Bay takes us to Lake Taupo, NZ's largest lake and a very popular summer holiday spot.

A short distance north of Taupo we'll visit the spectacular Huka Falls near the start of the Waikato River, NZ's largest river.

We'll be back at Auckland Airport no later than 5pm, enabling you to take flights back to the US from 7pm onwards.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.

 

Originally published 25 Jan 2008, last update 08 Jul 2017

 
 
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