Magnificent New Zealand itinerary
Get ready to discover New Zealand on Distant Journeys’ Magnificent New Zealand Tour. This 24-day escorted holiday to New Zealand includes so many highlights and visits all the country’s must-see attractions. We explore the country’s breath-taking scenery, vibrant cities and rich Maori culture – and experience an unforgettable cruise along spectacular Milford Sound.
Our itinerary operates at a leisurely pace and allows plenty of Freedom Days to fully explore each area at your own speed.
The below itinerary is based on departures from October 2020 onwards.
Guests travelling on the Magnificent New Zealand tour on an earlier departure date will have different flight options and a slightly different, 23-day itinerary – click here to see full details.
24-day Magnificent New Zealand, from only £3,995pp
Day 1: Depart UK
Depart from London Heathrow or Manchester with award-winning Singapore Airlines. Alternatively, you may choose to fly via Amsterdam with KLM/Singapore Airlines from Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle, Edinburgh or Glasgow at no additional cost.
In-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Day 2: Singapore, 2 nights
Arrive into the wonderful city of Singapore and transfer to the four-star Copthorne Kings Hotel, situated in an enviable position close to the banks of the Singapore River.
In-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Alternative airline and stopovers
We have based days 2-4 of this itinerary on flights with Singapore Airlines and a stopover in Singapore. If you prefer, you may fly with Qantas / Emirates from London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle or Glasgow, for a supplement of £395 per person. If you are flying with Qantas / Emirates, you have the added stopover options of Bangkok or Dubai. Flight timings and routes will vary. Please speak with one of our personal travel experts for more details.
Day 3: Singapore
Known as ‘the crossroads of Asia’, Singapore is a city where east meets west; a cosmopolitan melting pot with an inspirational identity. This morning, enjoy a tour of this wonderful city. Included is a stop at Merlion Park with impressive views of Marina Bay. See the historic Civic District, Thian Hock Keng Temple and the fabulous orchid gardens set within Singapore’s botanical gardens. Return to the hotel where the rest of our day is free to spend as we please. Perhaps explore the impressive Gardens by the Bay or enjoy high tea at Raffles Hotel.
Day 4: Depart Singapore
A day at leisure in Singapore until it’s time to leave for our evening ﬂight to Auckland. Perhaps explore the impressive Gardens by the Bay or enjoy high tea at Raﬄes.
Breakfast, in-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Day 5: Auckland, 2 nights
On arrival into Auckland, we meet our local Coach Captain, who will be our driver and guide during our time in New Zealand. Transfer to the centrally located Grand Millennium Auckland, where we spend our first two nights in New Zealand.
In-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Day 6: Auckland
This morning, we take an orientation tour of the city. Known as the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland is New Zealand’s most populous city, with a beautiful waterside setting and a landscape dotted with volcanic hills. We drive along the stunning coastline of the famous Waitemata Harbour. In the distance see Rangitoto Island, an extinct volcano, dominating the horizon. We continue to the stylish Viaduct Harbour, host to many America’s Cup celebrations. Your afternoon is free for you to enjoy as you please. Perhaps take a trip to the top of Sky Tower; the panoramic views from the tallest building in the southern hemisphere are truly breathtaking.
Auckland Sightseeing: 4hrs (morning)
Day 7: Bay of Islands, 3 nights
Our travels today commence with a drive over the impressive Waitemata Harbour Bridge. Journey past dairy farms and rolling hills as we make our way north. We continue to the Waipoua Kauri Forest Reserve, where we stop to view the gigantic kauri tree Tane Mahuta, ‘Lord of the Forest.’ We then travel across the country to the beautiful Bay of Islands and our home for the next three nights, the Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands, located in the picturesque seaside town of Paihia.
Auckland to Bay of Islands via Waipoua Forest: 8hrs including stops
Day 8: Bay of Islands
Visiting this stunning area wouldn’t be complete without a cruise around the Bay of Islands, no doubt one of your tour highlights. Cruise via Red Head Passage to Cape Brett and Piercy Island and on to the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’. In these world-famous deep-ﬁshing grounds dolphins and schools of ﬁsh are frequently seen. Our return trip visits historic Russell, once known as the ‘Hell Hole of the Paciﬁc’, but now a peaceful and picturesque township. Our free afternoon provides an excellent opportunity (at an additional cost) to visit the grounds of the Waitangi National Reserve where, in 1840, the British and Maori chiefs signed the Waitangi Treaty.
Day 9: Bay of Islands Freedom Day
Although our day has been left at leisure, we have the opportunity to join a fantastic optional trip to Cape Reinga. This full day excursion visits the northern tip of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the Paciﬁc Ocean. The area holds special spiritual signiﬁcance in Maori tradition, as the place where Maori spirits return to their traditional homeland, Hawaiiki-A-Nui, via the roots of a lone (and still standing) 800-year-old pohutukawa tree. Highlights of today’s tour include magniﬁcent coastal landscapes, the Te Paki sand dunes and a drive along Ninety Mile Beach.
Day 10: Rotorua, 2 nights
We travel south this morning via Auckland as we make our way to the world-famous thermal region of Rotorua. The next two nights are spent at the four star Distinction Hotel. Rotorua is the heart of New Zealand’s rich Maori culture and this evening, at our hotel, we attend a concert featuring traditional song and dance, including the world famous war dance – The Haka. Also included is a buffet dinner.
Breakfast and dinner included
Paihia to Rotorua via Auckland: 9hrs including stops
Day 11: Rotorua
Our sightseeing this morning takes us via Rotorua’s famous Bath House, a Tudor-style building within the Government Gardens. We continue to Te Puia, home to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, with its spurting geysers and boiling mud pools. Your afternoon is at leisure to relax. For those that so wish, optional activities include a floatplane flight over Mount Tarawera, or perhaps an afternoon visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set from The Lord of the Rings may be more appealing?
Rotorua sightseeing: 3hrs inc. stops and visit to Te Puia
Day 12: Christchurch, Overnight
This morning we make our way to Auckland Airport for our Jetstar ﬂight to Christchurch. Enjoy a brief sightseeing tour, prior to our arrival at the centrally located Distinction Hotel, Christchurch.
Rotorua to Auckland: 3hrs 30min incl. stop
Christchurch transfer and sightseeing: 2hrs subject to arrival
Day 13: Franz Josef, 2 nights
After breakfast, we transfer to Christchurch railway station in plenty of time to catch the TranzAlpine Express, arguably one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. Cross the fertile farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, and enjoy thrilling vistas over deep gorges as we travel alongside the ice-fed Waimakariri River. We climb the mighty Southern Alps, where at every turn, spectacular views of the chiselled alpine landscape will take our breath away. At Arthur’s Pass we join our waiting coach to make the spectacular descent down the western side of the Southern Alps through thick native beech forest. Our travels continue southbound taking us alongside striking wild scree-scarred terrain with forests of Crimson Rata and Kahikatea. Just a few miles further south we pass Lakes Ianthe and Mapourika before reaching Franz Josef and entering the Westland National Park. Our next two nights are at the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier.
Christchurch to Franz Josef: 9hrs incl. 2hrs 15min on Tranz Alpine, lunch, and stops.
Day 14: Franz Josef Freedom Day
Today is left completely free to absorb the beauty of Franz Josef. For those that so wish, we shall drive to the Franz Josef Glacier terminal where we will have the opportunity to walk to view the glacier. Weather permitting we may also take an optional scenic ﬂight (at an additional cost) over the glacier and the awe-inspiring Alpine region.
Day 15: Queenstown, 3 nights
Incredible scenery today as we travel across the Haast River Bridge and via Clark Bluff along one of the most exciting scenic roads ever built. Travel along the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea as we enter New Zealand’s Central Otago region. We continue via Lake Dunstan, created by the mighty Clyde hydro dam in 1994. Later in the afternoon we reach beautiful, cosmopolitan Queenstown, and our home for the next three nights, the four star Millennium Hotel, situated only a short walk from the centre of town.
Franz Josef to Queenstown: 9hrs including lunch and stops
Day 16: Queenstown Freedom Day
Queenstown smiles south across Lake Wakatipu into an incomparable alpine scene. Poplars and willows surround the lakefront and the lake seems to glisten every shade of blue. Today has been left free to take advantage of the incredible variety of activities available in and around New Zealand’s most glamorous alpine resort. For a relaxing experience, follow Queenstown’s wine trail, an enjoyable day excursion of wine tasting and sightseeing. There is also an opportunity to take an optional leisurely cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard the vintage steamboat TSS Earnslaw. The cruise includes a visit to Walter Peak Homestead and a sheep shearing show, before returning to Queenstown aboard Earnslaw.
Day 17: Queenstown Freedom Day
A further Freedom Day to enjoy in this wonderful alpine setting. The thrill seekers amongst us may wish to try the Shotover Jet – an exhilarating boat ride amongst the crags and boulders of the Shotover River canyon. For a more serene experience maybe stroll by the lakeside or take a gondola ride to the top of Bob’s Peak for a magnificent panoramic view of Queenstown. Breakfast included
Day 18: Te Anau, 2 nights
This morning we take a tour to visit the nearby historic mining town of Arrowtown. The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a procession of small-town heritage buildings that stretch into a tree-lined avenue of tiny miners’ cottages. Be sure to try a cream tea in one of the quaint tea rooms. Afterwards, depart through high country landscapes and trout fishing rivers and travel onwards to the shores of Lake Te Anau, the biggest of South Island’s many lakes. We stay the next two nights at the Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau.
Queenstown to Te Anau: 6hrs via Arrowtown incl. lunch and stops
Day 19: Milford Sound Cruise
An early start this morning as we embark on a stunning scenic drive into the heart of Fiordland National Park to join our morning cruise on spectacular Milford Sound. By choosing to cruise early in the morning, we will experience a quieter environment in which to enjoy all the wonders this beautiful fiord has to offer. See towering cliffs and peaks, including the iconic and much-photographed Mitre Peak, rising more than a kilometre straight out of the sea. Waterfalls cascade into the fiord and luxuriant rain forest clings to sheer rock faces. Later we return to Te Anau where there is time to enjoy the delights of this quaint township.
Te Anau to Milford: 3hrs incl. stops
Milford to Te Anau: 2hrs
Day 20: Dunedin, 2 nights
This morning after a hearty breakfast we say goodbye to Fiordland. A morning drive takes us via Mossburn and Lumsden to Gore. Fresh, green farm scenery will accompany us to Balclutha, which has a distinctive arched concrete bridge. Known as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’, Dunedin is South Island’s second largest city and is considered New Zealand’s architectural heritage capital, with its lovingly restored Victorian and Edwardian buildings.
On arrival, we enjoy a sightseeing tour taking in the city’s neo-Gothic churches, town hall, opulent theatres, and other 19th century buildings. We have time to admire the beautifully landscaped trees and plants of Dunedin Botanical Gardens and the spectacular views of the Otago Peninsula and Harbour before we return to our hotel. Our next two nights are spent at the Distinction Hotel Dunedin.
Te Anau to Dunedin: 5hrs incl. lunch and stops
Dunedin sightseeing: 2hrs 30min
Day 21: Dunedin Freedom Day
A day at leisure to spend as we please. Perhaps join the Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour – a perfect optional excursion for nature lovers. The tour includes an Otago Harbour cruise to Taiaroa Head, home of the world’s only mainland nesting place of albatross, and a visit to Penguin Place, a private conservation reserve for the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin. Alternatively, you may wish to travel on the Taieri Gorge Train as it travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts, stopping or slowing down at various scenic points along the way for photos.
Day 22: Christchurch, Overnight
This morning, our travels take us north once more. We stop at Hampden Beach to witness the geological curiosities known as the Moeraki Boulders, huge spherical boulders which are scattered along the beach, whilst others can be seen emerging from the sandstone cliffs. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and is up to two metres in diameter. According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand hundreds of years ago. Scientists explain the boulders as calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago. The soft mudstone containing the boulders was raised from the seabed around 15 million years ago and waves, wind and rain are uncovering them one by one. Later in the day, we arrive at the Distinction Hotel in Christchurch for our final night in New Zealand.
Dunedin to Christchurch: 8hrs 30min via Moeraki and Oamaru
Day 23: Depart Christchurch
All good things must come to an end, and this morning we transfer to Christchurch Airport. Our flights to London Heathrow or Manchester travel via Singapore. If flying to Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle, Edinburgh or Glasgow, flights will also travel via Amsterdam.
Breakfast and in-ﬂight meals and drinks included
SPECIAL OFFER: If you would like to break the long journey home to the UK after your New Zealand tour, then why not add on a stopover on Sentosa Island, Singapore? To celebrate the launch of our new 2020/ 2021 season, we are offering any guests travelling in our new season (departing from October 2020) a two night homebound stopover for only £49pp (£98 for single occupancy). The homebound stopover includes return airport transfers, two nights accommodation in a four star hotel and a full daily breakfast. To enjoy this special launch offer, simply book by 29 February 2020.
If you fly with Qantas / Emirates (a supplement of £395pp applies), your stopover choices are Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai and Singapore, each of which is on the same very special offer.
Day 24: Arrive UK
Breakfast is served shortly before our arrival, bringing an end to our Magnificent New Zealand tour.
In-ﬂight drinks and breakfast included
Why not combine with a tour of Australia?
If you wish to make the ultimate journey to Australasia, combining the Magnificent New Zealand tour with either the Wonders of Australia or Very Best of Australia tour makes perfect sense. Please see our Australia & New Zealand combination tours for more details.