Travel to the airport for your direct overnight flight to Singapore.
On arrival, transfer to the four-star Swissotel Merchant Court, with breakfast, located on the Singapore River and next to the many restaurants of Clarke Quay. This exciting stop-over allows time to relax and adjust to the time difference between flights. It also offers the opportunity to explore Singapore’s unique mix of Indian, Chinese and Malay influences. Enjoy a tour of the riverfront area and time in the beautiful botanic gardens, of which the Orchid enclosure is an outstanding feature.
Today is at leisure to further explore all the attractions of Singapore. In the evening we take the Singapore Airlines overnight flight to Auckland.
Arrive in Auckland around midday, transferring to the four-star Rydges Hotel, well located to all the city’s attractions. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Your sightseeing tour of the ‘City of Sails’ includes the panoramic city and harbour views from Bastion Point, trendy Parnell Village, the lovely bays of the waterfront drive and the vibrant Viaduct Harbour area. We also visit the Auckland Museum which gives an excellent introduction to the artistic legacy and cultures of the peoples of the Pacific including the monumental carvings, buildings, canoes and taonga (treasures) of the Maori as well as the diversity of cultures which now combine to form the rich tapestry of race, nationality and creed which is modern New Zealand. Your afternoon is free to explore the city further.
Departing Auckland we head north over the Auckland Harbour Bridge along the Hibiscus Coast to view giant Kauri trees at the Parry Kauri Park. Continuing our journey we reach Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands, where you’ll take a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty House, where in 1840 Maori chiefs and the original European settlers signed the Treaty of Waitangi, the basis of the future governance of New Zealand. Our hotel for the next two nights is the four-star Scenic, with breakfast.
This morning we see the Bay of Islands in the best way possible via a fascinating boat cruise meandering around the idyllic beaches of the islands that make this area so popular. There’s an excellent chance of seeing wild dolphins which are common in the Bay of Islands. Continue on to Cape Brett and the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’, through which the boat will sail, conditions permitting, before we disembark at the historic small town of Russell. The first European settlement in New Zealand and just a 10-minute ferry trip from Paihia (ticket included), Russell is an ideal place for a spot of lunch or a relaxing walk along the waterfront. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy many of the activities the Bay of Islands offers.
This morning leave the Bay of Islands and travel south through rolling forested hills and lush farmland to the Cambridge region south of Auckland. Here you will have the unique experience of staying the night at a number of local homesteads (maximum six guests per stay), including a home-cooked dinner and lively conversation! New Zealand is primarily an agrarian economy, so this is the perfect opportunity to understand this way of life.
Saying goodbye to our hospitable farming hosts, we take the short drive to the thermal wonderland of Rotorua. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, beautifully coloured hot springs and terrace formations created by the hot, mineral-rich waters. Rotorua is also renowned for its Maori cultural activities. We visit Te Puia – where our local Maori guide will explain traditional Maori arts and crafts and we’ll view the famous Pohutu Geyser in the Whakarewarewa geothermal Valley. This evening you’ll enjoy a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village, a recreation of a typical Maori forest community, where we’ll be treated to an evening of ceremonial rituals, storytelling and intriguing insights into Maori life, ending with a powerful cultural performance, before dining on the traditional Hangi buffet dinner (Maori feast) cooked the traditional Maori way in an earth oven. Our hotel is the four-star Distinction Hotel, with breakfast.
Departing Rotorua we travel to the charming lakeside town of Taupo, stopping en-route at Huka Falls to marvel as the mighty Waikato River thunders through its narrow canyon. Then it’s on to Napier, known as the Art Deco capital of the world. On arrival we meet our local guides and take a fascinating walking tour of these beautiful Art Deco buildings. Our hotel is the excellent four-star superior Scenic Hotel Te Pania, with breakfast, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Continue south to Wellington where we enjoy a night in New Zealand’s capital city, staying at the four-star James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, with breakfast. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Wellington with free time to explore the vibrant waterfront and beautiful gardens. We also visit Te Papa, New Zealand’s outstanding National Museum, to learn about the shaping of its land, the spirit of its diverse peoples, its unique wildlife, landscapes and its distinctive popular culture.
Today we cruise to South Island, across the Cook Strait by Interislander ferry, through the Marlborough Sounds, including the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound and into Picton. We continue to Blenheim and the famous wine-producing region of Marlborough where we stop for some wine tasting. Our final destination today is Nelson, New Zealand’s sunshine town, with its many art and craft galleries, and relaxed atmosphere. Our hotel for the next two nights is the excellent four-star Trailways, with breakfast.
This morning we join a catamaran cruise along the stunning shoreline of Abel Tasman National Park. En route learn about the park’s history also viewing the famous Split Apple Rock, a fur seal colony and the park’s famed golden beaches and crystal clear waters. For the more adventurous, there is the option of landing ashore at Apple Tree Bay and walking the short 7km-section of the Abel Tasman Coast Track to Anchorage (approx. 2 hours walk). This walk has stunning views of the Tasman Bay through native bush. The track is well defined and requires a reasonable level of fitness. Our boat will collect the walkers at Anchorage on its return down the coast. A packed lunch is included today. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure in Nelson.
Travelling south through the Golden Downs Forest and over the Lewis Pass we arrive at the lovely alpine village of Hanmer Springs for a lunch stop (not included) before joining the upper reaches of the Canterbury Plains to the ‘garden city’ of Christchurch. Since the earthquake of 2011, the city’s rebuilding programme is in full swing and there will be an opportunity to visit to the Re-Start Mall, the controversial ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ and the Botanic Gardens. Our hotel is the three-star superior Quality Hotel Elms, with breakfast.
Today we traverse the Southern Alps aboard the world-famous TranzAlpine train to ‘Arthurs Pass’. From your modern panoramic carriage you’ll see the farmland of the Canterbury Plains give way to the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, crossing numerous bridges and viaducts en route. At ‘Arthurs Pass’, we are met by our coach for the journey to the West Coast, stopping in Hokitika where we visit a Greenstone workshop where a local jade-like stone highly prized by pre-European Maori is crafted into exquisite jewellery. Continue south through forests and farmland, with views of the Alps to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west, to the village of Franz Josef. This afternoon prepare yourself for what will be one of your trip’s highlights! On arrival you will experience this magnificent glacial alpine environment with a 20-minute scenic helicopter flight. Follow steep, scarred ridges, through a mountain pass revealing superb views of the surrounding peaks, finishing with an alpine landing. Our hotel tonight is the four-star Scenic, with breakfast
Continuing south, we travel past deserted beaches, through vibrant rainforests and tiny settlements. This wilderness forms part of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, so designated because South Westland and Fjordland have some of the world’s most dramatic forest, mountain scenery and natural resources. We travel over the Haast Pass to the popular Lake Wanaka, and then to the beautiful year-round resort of Queenstown staying for two nights in the four-star Copthorne Lakefront Resort, with breakfast.
Nestled below the rugged Remarkable Mountains, Queenstown enjoys an exceptionally scenic setting and is known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’. Today is at leisure to enjoy all that this resort has to offer. Experience the thrill of a jet-boat ride along the Shotover River, a 4x4 safari, helicopter trips, guided walks, a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the 100-year-old vintage steamboat TSS Earnslaw, or ride the Skyline Gondola high above Queenstown for superb views of the area – the choices are almost endless!
Leaving Queenstown we skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu, and travel via Te Anau through the Homer Tunnel into the spectacular Cleddau valley and famous Milford Sound. A boat trip on the deep fjord waters between sheer granite cliffs rising thousands of feet, affords wonderful views of mile-high Mitre Peak and the 500-foot Stirling Falls. There is a good chance of seeing dolphins, fur seals or penguins during our trip before we return to Te Anau. A packed lunch is included today. Our hotel in Te Anau is the four-star Distinction Luxmore, with breakfast. Late afternoon there will be time for an optional visit the nearby Glowworm caves, unique to New Zealand.
Today we travel back north and visit Arrowtown, a township with a colourful history - in its heyday this was a rough and ready frontier gold-mining boomtown. Nowadays, its main street is lined with some excellent art galleries, cafés and boutiques. We continue through the rugged Kawarau Gorge, pass pretty Lake Dunstan, cross the distinctive Central Otago countryside (where many scenes from the Lord of the Rings were filmed) and over the dramatic Lindis Pass to the Mackenzie Basin. Your overnight accommodation is the simple three-star Heritage Gateway Hotel, with breakfast, in the small rural community of Omarama.
A day with some spectacular sights. We head north alongside the azure glacier-fed Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook, at 12,316ft New Zealand’s highest mountain and surrounded by jagged snow-covered peaks. There’s time for short walks in the spectacular Hooker Valley and a visit to the Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre (entrance fee), or for the excursion option of a helicopter flight (extra charge pay locally, subject to availability) over the spectacular West Coast glaciers. We continue towards the magnificent blue waters of Lake Tekapo and visit the Church of the Good Shepherd, before crossing Burkes Pass and the Canterbury Plains back into Christchurch and the Quality Hotel Elms.
A fond farewell to New Zealand and transfer to the airport for your flight home via Singapore.
Arrive home after an incredible once-in-a-lifetime tour.