Great Rail Journeys
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Grand Tour of New Zealand

21 days exploring North and South Island

From £4,995 per person

Enthralling scenery and breathtaking views are found at every turn in the 'Youngest Country on Earth'. Discover steaming geysers, mountains, fjords, and forests on this holiday showcasing the beauty of both New Zealand's North and South Islands.

The itinerary for your journey
Tour highlights

What’s included

Days 1-3 - London to Auckland

Departing from London Heathrow, we fly via Singapore to Auckland, arriving mid-morning on Day 3. The rest of your day is at leisure.

Days 4-5 - Waitangi Treaty House and the Bay of Islands
Waitangi Treaty Ground

Today we travel northwards through scenic farmland to Paihia for 2 nights, stopping en route at the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves; a series of underground caverns illuminated by these otherworldly creatures. We continue to the Waitangi Treaty House for a tour, where in 1840 the Maori and the British came to an historic agreement which effectively marked the birth of New Zealand as we know it. On Day 5, we enjoy a cruise around the Bay of Islands to rugged Cape Brett, sailing by the Cape Brett Lighthouse, Motukokako Island, and the famous Hole in the Rock. We drop anchor on Russell Island, known ominously in the 1800s as the 'Hell Hole of the Pacific' when it was a bustling base for whalers and seamen. Here we have free time before making the return journey by local ferry.

Days 6-8 - Auckland and Rotorua
Glenbrook Vintage Railway

This morning we drive back to Auckland, the country's largest city which dates back to around 1350 when it was inhabited by the Maori people. We head out on a sightseeing tour, taking in the views from Bastion Point, before stopping off at Parnell Village, the vibrant Viaduct Harbour area, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. We take a ride on the Glenbrook Vintage Railway on Day 7.

Originally opened in 1922, today the line transports us through the Bombay Hills and the Waikato Valley to Rotorua, the spiritual home of the Maoris and our base for the next 2 nights. We visit the internationally recognised and award-winning Hamilton Gardens in the afternoon, a peaceful oasis on the banks of the Waikato River. Day 8 begins with a guided tour that includes the incredible redwood forest, Lake Tarawera, the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. After some time to relax at our hotel, we head out on an evening excursion to the Tamaki Maori Village where we are welcomed in true Maori style, enjoying the chance to see, and even participate in, a real-life haka performance.

Days 9-10 - The Northern Explorer and Wellington

Transferring to Hamilton across the Mamaku Mountain Ranges, we board the Northern Explorer for a rail journey through King Country. We view spectacular scenery from the panoramic windows, including the peaks of Tongariro National Park, the famous Raurimu Spiral, and the Kapiti Coast. On Day 10 we tour Wellington, which includes visits to the city's chocolate factory for a tasting, as well as the Wellington Botanical Gardens. After time at leisure, use your included cable car ticket to make the return journey back to our hotel.

Days 11-14 - Christchurch, the Taieri Gorge Railway, and Te Anau
Te Anau

Today we take the Interislander ferry across Cook Strait to Picton. Here, we board the Coastal Pacific train for a scenic journey to Christchurch. We transfer by coach to Dunedin on the morning of Day 12 where we take the opportunity of a sightseeing tour, before we visit the Botanical Gardens and Baldwin's Street. On Day 13 we board the Taieri Gorge Railway to follow in the footsteps of 19th-century gold miners. We travel to Te Anau on Day 14, the heart of New Zealand's fiordlands.

Days 15-17 - Milford Sound and Queenstown
Milford Sound

Our full-day excursion today starts with a drive through Fiordland National Park, where we make a scenic stop at the Mirror Lakes, traversing the Hollyford Valley, crossing the Homer Tunnel, before descending via the Cleddau Valley to Milford Sound. From here, we enjoy a peaceful cruise ahead of our journey by road to Queenstown, a popular destination dominated by magnificent scenery.

On Day 16, after a free morning, we embark on a sightseeing tour of the area, which includes historic Arrowtown, the site of a major gold rush in the 1860s and a 'Lord of the Rings' filming location, and the Gibbston Valley Winery. After a look around the cellars and a wine tasting, we cruise nearby Lake Wakatipu aboard the vintage steamship, TSS Earnshaw. We moor up at the Colonel's Homestead for a BBQ dinner and sheep shearing demonstration, ahead of our night-time return sailing. Day 17 is at leisure in Queenstown.

Days 18-19 - The Franz Josef Glacier and the Coastal Pacific
Franz Joseph Glacier

We travel by coach to the Franz Josef Glacier, making a number of scenic stops along the way. An overnight stay and dinner at the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, allows us to view the glacier up close or take a helicopter flight to the snowfield (payable locally). On Day 19, we visit Hokitika, the centre for New Zealand jade, before boarding the TranzAlpine for our scenic rail journey back to Christchurch. The route takes us through New Zealand's Southern Alps and across the Canterbury Plains.

Days 20-21 - The Antarctic Centre and London
Blue Penguin, New Zealand

On our final day in New Zealand, we visit the International Antarctic Centre for a snow and ice experience, learning how explorers have survived in such harsh environs over the centuries. We also get to meet some indigenous, and adorable, blue penguins, as well as seeing for ourselves the vital role husky dogs have played in scientific research here. Later, we transfer to the airport for our flight to London Heathrow, via Singapore, where we touch down on Day 21.

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure Dates
14 February 2021From £5,395
11 April 2021From £4,995
3 October 2021From £5,095
14 November 2021From £5,295
28 November 2021From £5,395

All prices are per person and assume full occupancy of the room.
Please always refer to the website for up-to-date prices and availability.

Glenbrook Vintage Railway
Glenbrook Vintage Railway

A steam railway built by mostly volunteer labour, the Glenbrook Vintage Railway is an ongoing project staffed by members of the Railway Enthusiasts Society. We take a return trip in wood-panelled carriages from Glenbrook Station, nearby Auckland.

Northern Explorer
Northern Explorer

Almost spanning New Zealand's North Island in its entirety from the city of Auckland in the north to Wellington in the south, the scenic Northern Explorer train service travels the 681- kilometre North Island Main Trunk Line which passes through five distinct geographical regions. En route, Great Rail Journeys' guests will be treated to spectacular landscapes ranging from rugged coastline to mist-shrouded volcanoes and from dense bush to open farmland.

In its current incarnation, the Northern Explorer has only been in operation since 2012 when it replaced the slower Overlander train. Fully refurbished for passenger comfort and making fewer intermediate stops than its predecessor, the Northern Explorer completes its inter-city journey from north to south in a time of between eleven and twelve hours.

Taieri Gorge Railway
Taieri Gorge Railway

Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railway follows the trail of 19th century gold miners to the gold fields of Central Otago. We spend a fully commentated journey crossing wrought iron viaducts and passing through hand-carved tunnels in carriages dating back to the 1920s. Refreshments are provided on the train and there are opportunities for photographic stops.


Running once a day, the TranzAlpine is arguably the most scenic railway journey in New Zealand. The route crosses the width of the South Island from Arthur's Pass on the west coast to Christchurch on the east. The journey takes us across the rich grazing farmland of the Canterbury Plain, through the Waimakiriri River Gorge, and over the spectacular mountains of the Southern Alps.

On-board, passengers can take advantage of a buffet car, an open viewing carriage, and single-class carriages with large windows.

Grand Millennium Auckland, Auckland
Grand Millennium Auckland

With an excellent location near the centre of Auckland, minutes away from the harbour and Queen Street, there are few better places for exploring this fine city than the 4-Star Grand Millennium Auckland. This charming hotel offers two restaurants and a modern lounge-bar. The well-designed rooms provide complimentary WiFi, a television and tea & coffee making facilities.

Quality Hotel Elms, Christchurch
Quality Hotel Elms

Our visit the excellent city of Christchurch sees us stay at the 4-Star Quality Hotel Elms. A stone's throw away from the charming attractions of Christchurch, this hotel is perfect for heading out to explore. Sit back and enjoy a superb range of amenities which include an international restaurant and complimentary WiFi. The rooms all boast a television, tea & coffee making facilities, ensuite bathrooms and a hair dryer.

Victoria Hotel, Dunedin
Victoria Hotel, Dunedin

The 4-star Victoria Hotel in Dunedin is our base for 2 nights. Centrally located and traditionally decorated, on site you'll find 2 casual restaurants, a bar and a fitness centre. The en suite rooms offer free Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions, mini fridges, and tea & coffee making facilities. Many also feature a balcony.

Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef

Located on the edge of the Westland World Heritage Park, the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier welcomes us with New Zealand hospitality. Hotel facilities include four spa pools, several restaurants and bars. Guest rooms are equipped with television, minibar, tea/coffee making facilities and hairdryer.

Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge, Paihia
Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge, Paihia

The Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge in Paihia enjoys a wonderful location in the Bay of Islands, with stunning views over the ocean. The hotel benefits from a restaurant, cocktail bar, outdoor swimming pool, indoor hot tub, a fully-equipped gym, games room and complimentary bicycles. All rooms are air conditioned and come with a telephone, satellite television, refrigerator and tea and coffee making facilities.

Copthorne Hotel Queenstown Lakeview, Queenstown
Copthorne Hotel Queenstown Lakeview, Queenstown

Enjoying a location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the 4-Star Copthorne Resort Hotel is also situated within walking distance of Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment area. The hotel's facilities include a popular restaurant, a cocktail bar and a private spa pool. The well-appointed rooms come equipped with a television, telephone, hairdryer, refrigerator, minibar and tea & coffee-making facilities.

Distinction Hotel Rotorua, Rotorua
Distinction Hotel Rotorua, Rotorua

Located close to Lake Rotorua and the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, the 4-Star Distinction Hotel is an ideal base to discover New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. The hotel is well suited to health and fitness enthusiasts, with a gym and heated spa pools on-site. The Distinction has 3 distinct restaurants, offering Japanese food and traditional a la carte dining. Guest rooms are modern and comfortable, and are equipped with free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen television, and tea & coffee making facilities.

Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau
Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau

The Distinction Luxmore Hotel is located in the centre of Te Anau, just a short stroll from the shores of the lake. The hotel has a carver restaurant, a buffet restaurant, café, bar and lounge. The hotel also has a fitness centre and offers free Wi-Fi internet access in the hotel bar.

James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington
James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington

Situated at the heart of Wellington's retail district is the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, spa and gym. Rooms are equipped with minibar, iron, tea/coffee making facilities, air conditioning and television.


We offer a selection of upgrades and 'add-ons' designed to help you make the most of your holiday - and make it even easier!

Combine your tour with the Australia & the Ghan
The Ghan

Before spending time in idyllic New Zealand, why not venture north to the rolling, untamed beauty of Australia? Combine your New Zealand expedition with Great Rail Journeys' spectacular Australia and the Ghan tour for a 40-day Australasian holiday of a lifetime. Uncover Australia's magnificent natural wonders and lively cities, then embark on a dramatic rail journey aboard the iconic Ghan on this timeless adventure. Please call for more details.

Flight upgrades
Flight upgrades

Flight upgrades are available. Please see the information regarding the types of upgrades offered by the various airlines we use in the Add-ons section of 'Things you should know' or call us for details.

London Hotels
London hotels

Spending a night in London before your tour can make such a difference to the first day of your holiday - you can arrive in the capital in good time, relaxed and ready to join your Tour Manager the next morning. You may even want to take in a show on the West End, or dine in one of London's famous restaurants. Perhaps on your return to London, you would like to break your journey with an overnight stay before continuing home.

We are able to book a wide range of hotels in central London or, for our holidays beginning with a flight, at Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester Airport for the night before or after your holiday. The hotels listed below are some of the more popular hotels our customers book in Central London, others are available on request.

Hotel       Room Rate From Price 
The Ambassador Hotel      From £65 per person

Above prices are approximate, subject to availability, and per room per night based on two people sharing. If you require a quote for single occupancy at any of the hotels please contact us on 01904 734 805. 

UK rail connections
UK train tickets

Buying tickets for UK train services can be a tricky business - there are so many fares to choose from, each with different rules and restrictions. As you are connecting with an international departure, we strongly recommend that you book a fully flexible ticket to ensure that should the departure times for your holiday change, your rail ticket can allow for these changes.

We can book fully-flexible UK rail tickets from your local station to join your holiday whether this be a European holiday from St Pancras or a UK holiday. The prices are competitive and tickets are not restricted to a particular train or time of day, and in most cases offer you a free choice of routes.

For an up to date quote from your local station, please ask one of our Tour Advisors.

This page was printed from on 3 July 2020.
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