New Zealand

February 10 – 26 2024 (17 Days)  

On this tour we travel by our own coach through much of New Zealand’s most breath-taking and diverse countryside from the subtropical beaches of the Bay of Islands down to the untamed Southern Alps in Fjordland. We visit charming towns and historic sites important in both the Maori culture and the European settlement.

LAND ONLY: $10,250 Canadian person (includes 16 breakfasts + 15 dinners/lunches)
Single Supplement:  $3,100  Canadian
Limited to 16 travelers + Norman & Julie Bruce

Begins Saturday Feb 10th in Auckland and finishes Monday Feb 26th in Queenstown.

You can choose to arrive in Auckland a day or more before the tour starts if you wish to explore more of by far New Zealand’s largest city and get over jet lag after the long flights. You can also choose to stay on in Queenstown for a day or more after the tour finishes. If you want to extend your time Down Under or on your way there and/or on your way back, our flights expert can give you some suggestions for cities/islands you can fly via and spend a few days in.

BC reg: 3379

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Overview

About New Zealand

Special Note: After consultation with our clients, we have moved the dates of this tour to February 2024.  This will give us the opportunity to be able to combine our tour to New Zealand with our 2024 tour to Australia.

New Zealand is one of the southernmost countries in the world, about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) east of Australia. The country has two main islands, the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu), + about 600 smaller islands.

We explore this island nation’s most spectacular scenery of craggy coastlines, golden (and black volcanic) beaches, verdant forests, snow-capped mountains, fish-filled rivers, volcanic pools and glacier-fed lakes – all beneath a brilliant blue sky. New Zealand’s natural beauty is often compared with British Columbia’s.

Due to New Zealand’s geographical isolation, diverse climate and British heritage, we see unique animals and plants and enjoy a great variety of flowers and gardens.
February is the perfect time of year to visit the “Land of the Long White Cloud” (“Aotearoa” in the Maori language), since it is the middle of the southern Summer and a great time to get away from the darkness of mid-Winter in Canada. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic New Zealand was the safest country in the World, with almost ZERO cases. New Zealand was on the UK’s initial “Green List” of only 12 countries and territories in the whole World that didn’t require ANY quarantine when British travelers returned home.
(updated Dec 4 2022)

DAY 1 - Saturday February 10th 2024: Arrive Auckland

After flying from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and crossing the International Date Line, we arrive in Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand. Depending on the time of arrival of the majority of our travellers, we may do some of our city sightseeing today while we wait for our hotel rooms to become available. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and/or explore this lovely city.

First of 2 nights in Auckland. Grand Millennium Hotel or similar. No meals.

DAY 2 - Sunday February 11th: Auckland City Sightseeing

Of the 5 million people who live in the whole of New Zealand, over 1.6 million live in Greater Auckland, making it by FAR New Zealand’s most populous and cosmopolitan city. By contrast, the second largest city, Wellington, has only 400,000 people! In terms of geographical area, Auckland is the second largest city in the world – after Los Angeles – because Aucklanders like to have both a front garden and a back garden, making population density very low for a major world city. Auckland is consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world. With 2 natural harbours and the major international airport, Auckland acts as the gateway for trade to New Zealand. Like all New Zealanders, Aucklanders love the outdoors. Auckland is known as “The City of Sails” because it has the highest number of sailboats per capita of any city in the world! We start our city tour with panoramic views from the top of the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. From the Central Business District our guided walking and driving tour takes us to Auckland Domain – the city’s oldest park. The 75-hectare green space includes the crater of the Pukekawa Volcano. As we cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge we enjoy wonderful views over the city and ocean on our way to One Tree Hill, where the city’s founder is buried. Auckland is built on a series of extinct volcanoes – the symmetrical form of the largest of which, Rangitoto Island, is emblematic of the city. Nearby, we will see the grounds of Auckland University and enjoy a guided tour of the impressive Auckland Museum as an introduction to New Zealand’s  Polynesian and European history, culture and art.

Second of 2 nights in Auckland. Grand Millennium Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 3 - Monday February 12th: Auckland – Bay of Islands

Auckland extends over 48 dormant and extinct volcanoes. Before leaving the city, we drive up the highest volcanic cone in the area, Mount Eden, for a marvelous 360 degree vista over Auckland.

In just 30 minutes, we leave behind the bustle of the city and step into the tranquility of the rainforest. We drive to the Arataki Center perched high on the ridge of the Waitakere Ranges and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean. We learn about and admire the magnificent traditional Maori carvings. We continue on to the lush rainforest where you can walk the easy bush tracks among giant tree ferns

From the big city we drive up the rural west coast to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. This award-winning museum tells the story of the first European settlers who came here in 1862 to cut kauri timber and extract kauri gum. The kauri is New Zealand’s largest native tree, a type of conifer that only grows in the subtropical northern part of the North Island. We also see the largest living kauri tree. This afternoon we arrive at the Bay of Islands, one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday areas – with its 144 islands scattered across coves and inlets between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula. Uniquely, the Bay of Islands has a subtropical micro-climate – its white shell beaches and turquoise waters look tropical. This afternoon we take a 5-minute ferry ride across one of the bays to the lovely little seaside town of Russell, which was New Zealand’s first capital.  The town of Russell, known in the early 19th century as Kororareka, was the first permanent European seaport and settlement in New Zealand. In its early years it had an infamous reputation as a lawless and rowdy place inhabited by deserting seamen, runaway convicts, and bootleggers –  and was nicknamed the “hellhole of the Pacific.” Today, Russell is a holiday town, attracting visitors to its historic buildings (many dating to the 1840s), including New Zealand’s first pub, the Duke of Marlborough, and its attractive seafront location. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi, establishing the conditions of European settlement in New Zealand, was signed on the island of Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands. The treaty is today regarded as a founding document of New Zealand.

First of 2 nights at the Bay of Islands. Paihia Beach Hotel and Resort, Paihia or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

 

DAY 4 - Tuesday February 13th: Bay of Islands

This area is regarded as the birthplace of New Zealand as a bi-cultural nation, rich in both Maori culture and early European history – with some of New Zealand’s most significant historic sites. Around 700 years ago, Maori tradition holds, the great voyaging canoe Mātaatua reached the Bay of Islands from Hawaiki, the ancestral home of the Polynesian people. The captain of the canoe was Puhi, one of the progenitors of the Ngāpuhi iwi (or tribe), the most populous iwi in contemporary New Zealand. Over 125,000 people identified as Ngāpuhi in the 2013 census. Significant Ngāpuhi and other Maori settlements were established both on the islands and on the peninsulas and inlets of the bay. The first European to visit the area was Captain James Cook, who sailed past in 1769, and gave the area the name “Bay of Islands.” It was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by pakeha (or European New Zealanders). Whalers arrived in the late 18th century, with the first missionaries landing in 1814. The first European child born in New Zealand, Thomas King, was born in the Bay of Islands at Oihi Bay in 1815. In Waitangi we visit the Treaty House where Maori and Europeans joined in signing the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The Treaty House was the first residence for British Government officials in New Zealand, with the Treaty signed at the Flagstaff in its grounds. The Museum of Waitangi uses a variety of interactive technologies to bring the story of the Treaty to life. This established British law in New Zealand, at the same time as guaranteeing Maori authority over their land and culture. The Maori arrived from Polynesia in the 10th Century, when the islands we call today “New Zealand” were uninhabited. The Te Whare Rūnanga (The House of Assembly) is a stunning meeting house dating from the 1940s, carved in the distinct styles of different iwi (tribes) from all over New Zealand. The ceremonial war canoe Ngātokimatawhaorua is the world’s largest, built in 1940 to mark the centenary of the Treaty. The Maori people traditionally used these “wakas” to fish and travel long distances, often in the open ocean. The Carving Studio allows visitors to meet artists working in ancient Maori tradition, and learn more about the intricacies of Maori wood carving.

We make a photo stop at Hurua Falls en route to the fertile orchard town of Kerikeri, where we see the Mission House – the oldest wooden house in New Zealand, a Georgian-style house built in 1822. Nearby is the Stone House, the oldest building in the country. Nearby Okiato, also known as Old Russell, was New Zealand’s first capital, from 1840 to 1841, before the seat of government was moved to Auckland. Te Waimate Mission is New Zealand’s second-oldest house and oldest farm, built in 1831. It hosted Charles Darwin in 1835, as he circumnavigated the world on the HMS Beagle. The Pompallier Mission was the headquarters of the French Catholic Mission to New Zealand, with a print shop used to translate Christian religious texts into Maori. The Bay of Islands is also renowned for its beautiful scenery: crystal clear waters, isolated coves, and the world’s second bluest skies (beaten only by Rio de Janiero).

Today we include lunch together. After lunch we proceed to the famous Rainbow Falls, a stunning single-drop waterfall, easily accessible by walking trail. This evening you might like to enjoy your dinner (at your own expense) in the pretty little town of Paihia. Julie and Norman will suggest restaurants for this evening. Alternatively, you might choose to eat at our hotel (at your own expense) after our full day of sightseeing.

Second of 2 nights at the Bay of Islands. Paihia Beach Hotel and Resort, Paihia or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.

DAY 5 - Wednesday February 14th: Bay of Islands – Rotorua

Today we make a scenic drive through volcanic landscapes dotted with farmlands and native and exotic forests to Rotorua, New Zealand’s 10th most populous city but with a population of only 57,000. This is an area rich in geothermal activity, featuring not just volcanoes, but also geysers, New Zealand’s largest boiling mud pool, and hot springs. Rotorua is also located in the heart of the North Island’s Maori country.

On this journey we visit two heritage parks which showcase a variety of geothermal activity. At Wai-o-Tapu, we set our sights on amazingly-colorful hot springs and a moon-like landscape, as well as the world-famous Lady Knox geyser.

First of 2 nights in Rotorua. Novotel Rotorua Lakeside Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 6 - Thursday February 15th: Boiling Mud + Maori Arts

Today we explore the volcanic wonderland of the Rotorua region, where steam escapes from cracks in the roads and people have natural hot pools in their backyards! The Pohutu (Maori: ‘constant splashing’) geyser is the most active geyser in the Southern hemisphere, erupting twice every hour, with eruptions reaching heights of 30 metres. At Te Puia, a historic village nestled in the expanse of the geothermal Te Whakarewarewa Valley, we visit the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, where we learn about Maori artistic traditions – particularly wood and jade carving – and see the next generation of artists from around the country developing their skills. We learn about the Maori lifestyle and how they’ve come to live in harmony with this unique geothermal environment. The institute is surrounded by geysers, pools of bubbling mud and cascading “rivers” of boiling water. We see some of the flightless kiwi birds, which are kept in a special environment because they are normally only active at night. We also hope to see the tuatara, the world’s only living “dinosaur.” We drive to the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley, with the only hydrothermal system in the world entirely created in historic times – by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera on June 10th 1886.  It encompasses Lake Rotomahana, once the site of the Pink and White Terraces (which were described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” during Victorian times), as well as the location of the Waimangu Geyser which, when it was active from 1900 to 1904, used to spout to the height of the Empire State Building! The area also contains Frying Pan Lake, which is the largest hot spring in the world, and the steaming and usually-pale-blue Inferno Crater Lake, the largest geyser-like feature in the world. Many unusual plants, which have adapted to the geothermal landscape, are found here. We also visit Government Gardens, a public park and site of great historical importance to the local Maori people.

This afternoon we attend the Agrodome Sheep Show, the informative multi-award-winning presentation where we learn about the importance of agriculture to the New Zealand economy. We see a demonstration of sheep shearing, see sheep dogs rounding up their charges and meet 19 breeds of sheep.

This evening we attend a Maori dance performance and feast (hangi) where the meat and vegetables are cooked in a pit with hot rocks and underground steam. We are invited into the dining area by a Karanaga, a traditional call of welcome by the female villagers. You can try kawakawa, a hot herbal tea the Maori people drink for its health benefits. After our dinner, we enjoy watching a kapa haka performance which combines hake (posture dance), waiata-a-ringa (action songs), and waiata koroua (traditional chants.)

Second of 2 nights in Rotorua. Novotel Rotorua Lakeside Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 7 - Friday February 16th: Rotorua – Wellington

We continue South pausing to visit Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand – which was created by one of the world’s most powerful volcanic eruptions. The lake is nearly the size of Singapore and is often called an ‘inland sea’.

Along the way we stop at Huka Falls and at Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO dual World Heritage area – recognised both for its Maori spiritual significance and for the natural beauty of its three volcanoes.

Overnight in Wellington. Novotel Capital Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 8 - Saturday February 17th: North Island – South Island

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and the administrative centre of Wellington region, located on the south part of the North Island between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Even though the country has no written constitution – so its capital status is not defined in legislation – the city replaced Auckland as New Zealand’s capital in 1865 due to its convenient location and proximity to the South Island and the Cook Strait, and the harbour being big enough to fit the Royal Navy. The Interislander ferry has crossed from Wellington to Picton through the Cook Strait and Marlborough Sound since 1962, and the journey takes approximately 3-3.5 hours. The city has the nickname of “Windy Wellington”, because the topography of the area leaves it vulnerable to strong winds all year round. In fact, it is the windiest city in the world with an annual average of around 29.6km/hr.

This morning we enjoy a walking tour of the southernmost capital city of any sovereign state in the world with our local guide. Although greater Wellington is the country’s second most populous city, it only has 460,000 residents. Lonely Planet named Wellington “the coolest little capital in the world.” We take in views of the city from Mount Victoria and walk along the Wellington waterfront, full of Summertime markets and eateries amid a backdrop of the picturesque harbour. We explore Wellington’s Parliament Grounds, comprised of 4 buildings including the Executive Wing – also known as the “Beehive”, so nicknamed for its shape reminiscent of a type of beehive known as a skep. We see the Waka Landing Point, Old Government House, and Wellington Railway Station. We include a guided tour of the magnificent Te Papa Tongnerwa Museum (meaning ‘Container of Treasures’ in Maori), which is New Zealand’s national museum and illustrates its diverse treasures and stories – from the shaping of its land to the spirit of its people, from its unique wildlife to its distinctive arts – with a particular focus on Maori and Pacific cultures. A massive museum opened in1998 and spread over 6 floors, the various collections include roughly 70,000 bird specimens and approximately 13,000 items from historic and contemporary cultures throughout the Pacific Islands.

Lambton Quay is the heart of Wellington’s CBD and this was the place where the first settlers began to construct their homes. The legendary Wellington Cable Car, the only still-operational funicular railway in New Zealand runs between the main shopping street and the Wellington Botanic Garden, taking passengers up the hill in about 5 minutes.

This afternoon we take the 3-hour scenic ferry ride across the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton on the South Island.

 Overnight in Nelson. Grand Mercure Monaco Hotel and Resort or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 9 - Sunday February 18th: West Coast

This morning we explore Nelson, a charming little city of 65,000 people located on Tasman Bay. Nelson is at the geographical centre of New Zealand and is renowned for having the most sunshine in the country. It is the country’s largest fishing port and the gateway to major forestry and horticulture regions. Nelson is also known as the second oldest city in New Zealand.

Later, we drive from the north coast of the South Island through the steep-sided Buller Gorge on a twisting road through the mountains to the wild west coast. We stop at the Cape Foulwind Seal Colony to see the area’s famous residents. At Punakaiki Beach we see the blowholes and thousands of “pancake” rocks piled on top of each other. We continue travelling down the exposed west coast via Greymouth to the black sand beach at Hokitika, a town known for its gold and jade jewellery workshops.

The town lies at the mouth of the Hokitika River, which rises in the Southern Alps and flows north 40 miles to meet the Tasman Sea. The town is situated on Hokitika Beach, which is marked by the iconic driftwood ‘Hokitika’ sign. On a clear day the summit of Mount Cook/Aoraki can be seen looming behind the town. The town was founded with the discovery of gold in 1864. Growing rapidly, it reached a peak population of 50, 000 in 1866, with the ‘Australian invasion’ of prospectors seeking further gold fields. By contrast, the population today is just over three thousand! In subsequent years, Hokitika grew into a service centre for the surrounding area of dairy, beef, and sheep farming. Gold mining on the nearby Taramakau River continues; while a lumbering industry thrives. Before the Gold Rush, Hokitika was a centre of trade around another precious gemstone – Pounamu, also known as “New Zealand jade” or “greenstone.’ The stone Is sourced from the Arahura River, which enters the sea just north of town. Used by the Maori for weapons, tools, and personal ornaments, the stone was recognised for its beauty and durability and connoted great status. Beyond pounamu, Hokitika is a creative hub, with the highest number of galleries and studios per capita in New Zealand, including photographers, painters, sculptors, glass-blowers, jewellers and textile artists.

The town is also home to the National Kiwi Centre, which gives visitors the opportunity to see New Zealand’s most iconic – and, sadly, endangered – native bird, along with other native animals including the tuatara, a lizard-like creature dating back to the age of the dinosaurs.

First of 2 nights in Hokitika. Beachfront Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 10 - Monday February 19th: Advancing Glacier

Ross, 26 kilometres to the south, is known as ‘Gold Town’. It was the centre of one of the richest goldfields in the 19th Century, and is famed for the largest gold nugget ever found (2.8 kg), discovered in 1909.

Today we make an excursion to the awe-inspiring Franz Josef Glacier, one of the few advancing glaciers in the World. If the weather conditions are against us, we may visit the nearby Fox Glacier instead.

Second of 2 nights in Hokitika. Beachfront Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

 

DAY 11 - Tuesday February 20th: Crossing the South Island

Leaving the west coast, we drive through the spectacular Southern Alps this morning and make our way across sheep-dotted plains to the east coast. You can also see some of New Zealand’s unique wildlife, such as the Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot.

Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s major cities, being the largest on the South Island with a population of roughly 390,000, and the second most populous city in the country after Auckland. Christchurch is situated in New Zealand’s Canterbury region, lying on Pegasus Bay. It is well known for its cool oceanic climate, verdant city landscaping, as well as its position as the commercial and cultural hub for New Zealand’s South Island. Christchurch‘s position at the base of the nearby Southern Alps also means it has some of the cleanest municipal water in the world, not to mention the stunning mountain backdrop that characterises much of the south island. Traditionally the city has been known for its agricultural exports, though over the 20th Century it expanded as an industrial centre, due to its efficient transport infrastructure and abundant hydroelectric power.

Originally a Maori settlement from around 1250 AD onwards, the region was used predominantly by the Maori people for hunting the now extinct Moa, a megafauna variety of flightless bird which could grow to a size of 3.6m, and weigh in at roughly 230kg. The first European entry into the region came around the year 1840, with colonists chartered by the Canterbury Association subsequently arriving on 5 ships between the years 1850-1851. The settlers opted to plan the city around a Cathedral and college, and decided to model it after Christ Church college in Oxford, England – from which the city gets its name. Christchurch is planned in a distinctive style, following the layout of a central city square, with four surrounding city squares, and a parkland area surrounding them. Other cities with a similar style include Philadelphia, Savannah, and Adelaide. A series of earthquakes devastated the city between 2010-2012, destroying roughly 1,500 buildings, and even damaging the city‘s historic cathedral. Thankfully, the city has mostly recovered – though scars of the ordeal still remain.

The city itself is characterised by its distinctive design, with its abundance of parks, gardens, and recreational areas earning it the nickname of the ‘Garden City‘. This afternoon we enjoy a guided tour of Christchurch, starting at the Botanic Gardens which cover an area of roughly 21 hectares, with individual sections devoted to different varieties of flora. The Avon River runs through the city centre, where we admire the glass architecture of the Christchurch Art Gallery – home to one of the best examples of Neo-Gothic architecture, showcasing many craft shops and galleries. We pause at the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial, honoring those who perished in the devastating and historic earthquake of 2011. We will also see the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral, also known as the “Cardboard Cathedral” due to its post-earthquake rebuild out of cardboard. The main cathedral, renovated by world-renowned architect Shigeru Ban, now serves as a symbol of the city’s resilience.

Overnight in Christchurch. Latimer Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 12 - Wednesday February 21th: East Coast

Leaving Christchurch, we drive south to the quaint little fishing village of Akaroa, located on the Banks Peninsula which was formed by the eruption of two volcanoes. Sighted by Captain Cook in 1770, the peninsula was then inhabited by Maori. In 1840 French settlers arrived at Akaroa, which had just been claimed under the Treaty of Waitangi by the British. The picturesque harbour is inside the crater of an extinct volcano with many smaller bays indenting the coastline, accentuated by the town’s quaint 150-year-old colonial-style French and British buildings. We have time to explore some of the craft shops, art studios, cafes and wine bars.

At the Banks Peninsula we should be able to spot New Zealand’s endemic white-flippered penguins, and if we’re lucky, we could even spot some of the local Hector’s Dolphins, one of the smallest dolphins in the world.

From Akaroa we return to the main highway and drive down the east coast of the South Island, stopping near Oamaru to wonder at the perfectly-spherical Moeraki Boulders strewn at random across the beach. The town itself is known for its quirky Victorian Precinct, famous for its Steampunk playground and restored buildings.

First of 2 nights in Dunedin. City Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 13 - Thursday February 22nd: Dunedin

This morning we enjoy a guided tour of New Zealand’s oldest city, Dunedin. This is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the whole Southern Hemisphere. Dunedin was once the largest city in New Zealand and on this tour we see and learn about some terrific buildings and monuments from the Victorian Era including the university and railway station. We enjoy the Botanical Gardens and visit the beautiful gardens and historic house of New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle. We also visit the world’s steepest street – laid out by the Scottish surveyors from Edinburgh.

Today we include lunch together. This afternoon you have free time to enjoy this charming little city at your own pace. This evening you might like to enjoy your dinner (at your own expense) in town. Julie and Norman will suggest restaurants for this evening. Alternatively, you might choose to eat at our hotel (at your own expense.)

Second of 2 nights in Dunedin. City Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.

 

DAY 14 - Friday February 23rd: Across the South

Today we will travel from Dunedin to the resort town of Te Anau via Invercargill. We break for lunch in Invercargill and enjoy a short tour of the city, which has the only south-facing harbour in the world. The small settlement of Te Anau is the gateway to the wilderness and amazing scenery of Fiordland National Park, which covers an area of approximately 12,000 square km. This gigantic national park is just one of four in the larger Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage area, which includes Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Westland, and Fiordland. The name ‘Te Wahipounamu’ is derived from the indigenous Māori, meaning ‘the place of greenstone.’ This is due to the area’s access to abundant varieties of jade, important symbolically in Māori culture. The Fiordland region was shaped in its past by the presence of glaciers, which carved the landscape of the fiords from the surrounding cliffs.

Te Anau is the last inhabited town on the border of Fiordland National Park but it’s still a 120-kilometre/2.5-hour drive away from Milford Sound – what many consider as the main attraction of Fiordland. The town is on the shore of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake in the South Island and the second largest in New Zealand (after Lake Taupo.) There are signs that the area was first settled by Maori people as soon as they arrived in New Zealand some 800 years ago. Captain Cook explored the southwest coast of Fjordland and Doubtful Sound (then named Doubtful Harbour) and made contact with the Maori as early as in 1770. Europeans didn’t seem particularly interested in settling inland but sealing soon began, only to become economically unfeasible by the mid-19th Century. Some pioneers persisted, such as Quintin McKinnon, Donald Sutherland and John Mackay who cut the Milford Track, now one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. The 53-kilometre hike opened in 1899 and was the only way to access Milford Sound. The town of Te Anau was first surveyed in 1893, but only started to flourish and develop significantly from 1953, when the Homer Tunnel and the Milford Road finally opened, providing road access to Milford Sound. The current population of the town is around 2,000 but the town is ready to host some 4,000 visitors in peak season.

This afternoon we take a boat ride across Lake Te Anau to visit the Glowworm Caves and stroll in the native forest. The Te Anau Glowworm Caves are one of the youngest in New Zealand, carved some 12,000 years ago. This underground world is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. We walk along subterranean boardwalks inside the caves and take a boat ride to a small hidden grotto to view the glowworms (unique to New Zealand) hanging from the ceiling and emitting an otherwordly light.

Tonight, far from the lights of any city, we hope to be able to see the Milky Way and the Southern Cross.

Overnight in Te Anau. Luxmore Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 15 - Saturday February 24th: Milford Sound

As its name suggests, Fjordland National Park is famous for its breath-taking fjords rising from the surrounding Tasman Sea in enormous sheer cliffs with waterfalls cascading down them, punctuated by lush rainforest. Of these fjords the most famous is Milford Sound (or “Piopiotahi” in Māori), dubbed the “Eighth Natural Wonder of the World.”

This morning we drive via the spectacular Milford Road through the Five Rivers farming region, climb to the Homer Saddle and drive through the 1.2 Km-long Homer Tunnel to emerge into rain-forest-carpeted canyons that descend to magnificent Milford Sound, running 15km inland from the Tasman Sea and home to some of the most memorable scenery in the World. Nowhere else in Fjordland National Park do the mountains stand so tall, rising vertically from the sea. You can easily see the similarity to the Norwegian fjords, which have given Fjordland its name. We enjoy a boat trip on this hauntingly-beautiful fjord in the shadow of Mitre Peak, exploring the narrow passage carved by ancient glaciers among the cliffs of the Southern Alps reaching the Tasman Sea – all while our on-board naturalist guide provides insights into the region. Milford Sound hosts an abundance of aquatic wildlife. The chances are high that we will catch a glimpse of bottlenose dolphins, whales, New Zealand Fur Seals and Fiordland Crested Penguins. On our cruise we admire the famous peaks, The Elephant and The Lion, and the two permanent waterfalls: Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. Milford Sound is one of those few attractions in the world which are enhanced after it’s been raining for a few hours – countless temporary waterfalls appear, which can be seen from our cruise but also on the way to and from Milford Sound around the Homer Tunnel.

This afternoon we drive through the beautiful temperate beech rainforest and stop at the glittering Mirror Lakes on our way to New Zealand’s outdoor adventure capital, Queenstown, located on crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu at the heart of the majestic Southern Alps.

First of 2 nights in Queenstown. Novotel Gardens or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

DAY 16 - Sunday February 25th: Queenstown

This morning, if the weather is clear, we will take the Skyline Gondola 1,500 feet up to Bob’s Peak for magnificent panoramic views over Queenstown, its lake, the Remarkable Mountains and Walter Peak, one of New Zealand’s most famous sheep and cattle stations.

If the weather is not on our side, we will visit nearby Arrowtown – where gold was discovered in 1862, causing the little town to grow explosively to a population of 7,000. Today the restored buildings make this one of the best-preserved gold rush towns in New Zealand.  Arrowtown is a thriving community that is packed with character, nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River, – as well as some of the best dining and shopping in the country. The heart of town is Buckingham Street, a procession of small-town heritage buildings that stretch into a tree-lined avenue of tiny miners’ cottages that date to the 1870s. The buildings in this lovely precinct house shops, galleries, bars and restaurants – many classy, most individual – not one from an international chain. It is a wonderful place to browse and relax, enjoy a meal, and soak up Arrowtown’s lively heritage – including the Lakes District Museum with its memorable display of life in a goldfields town. Many of the early gold miners were adventurous Chinese men, and the restored remains of their very separate village lie by the river.

This afternoon is free for your own exploration of Queenstown. You have so many choices, including wine tours, guided nature walks, gorgeous gardens – and even some last-minute shopping! Queenstown, a historic gold mining town, is the winter sports capital of New Zealand and, in the view of many, the adventure capital of the world. The fast-flowing, narrow-ravined rivers that once powered the gold sluices have become the playground of jet boaters and bungee jumpers. Built on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, the town provides amazing views – having the Remarkables mountain range as its background. With a population of just 16,000, it is the 27th largest urban area in New Zealand. If we’re fortunate, Queenstown is a great place to spot the Aurora Australis in the southern night sky.

Second of 2 nights in Queenstown. Novotel Gardens or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

 

DAY 17 - Monday February 26th: Queenstown – Home

Today we transfer to Queenstown Airport for your flights home, flying back across the International Date Line and arriving in North America the same day. If you wish to stay on in Queenstown after the tour, we can organise this for you.

Breakfast if not leaving too early.

More Information

AIRFARE & TRAVEL;

Our flights specialist estimates the cost of the airfare to be approximately $2,300 Canadian departing Vancouver direct to Auckland (AKL) & returning from Queenstown (ZQN) via Auckland with Air New Zealand. PLEASE NOTE THIS IS AN ESTIMATE FROM VANCOUVER AND IS ONLY VALID AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.  ( Nov 2 2022) You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour. Our flights specialist can quote you from any city.

If you want to extend your time Down Under or on your way there and/or on your way back, our flights expert can give you some suggestions for cities/islands you can fly via and spend a few days in.
Alternatively, you are welcome to book your own flights. Please let us know.

INCLUDED MEALS;

Each full day of the tour we include breakfast and either dinner or lunch. We include 16 breakfasts + 13 dinners + 2 lunches. On most days we include dinner together as a group but on 2 days we include lunch together and give you the freedom to choose your own special restaurant for dinner. On these 2 evenings, Julie and Norman will make suggestions for restaurants close to our hotels. New Zealand is basically an agricultural country with a lot of coastline, so the ingredients they use from land and sea are always very fresh. New Zealand wines are World famous.

TOUR INCLUDES:

Accommodation mainly in 4-star and good 3-Star hotels. All our hotels have en-suite bathrooms and heating.

  • Land transport by our own coach.
  • Sightseeing and entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary. Please note: many of our excursions (particularly in the south and on the west coast of the South Island) are weather dependent. If we have to cancel a particular excursion, we will substitute an indoor activity – where possible.
  • Tipping for driver & guides
  • 16 breakfasts + 13 dinners + 2 lunches.
  • Guiding by Royal Heights tour leaders Julie and Norman Bruce with assistance of our expert local guides in each area.

NOT INCLUDED:

Visa fees. Canadian passport holders do NOT require a visa per se. However, they are required to buy an Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) online prior to leaving Canada. As at Oct 31st 2022, this costs $23NZ.

  • At the time of purchasing your NZeTA, you also have to pay an online International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL. ) As at Oct 31st 2022, this costs $35NZ.
  • Canadian passports must be valid for 3 months beyond the date you leave New Zealand (i.e. until at least May 26nd 2024, if you are returning to Canada straight after finishing our tour.)
  • Lunches (except on February 13th and 22th, when we include LUNCH instead of dinner.)
  • We do NOT include porterage. Porters MAY be available to help you with your suitcase and you should be prepared to tip them if you use their services. Please only bring one piece of luggage per person and make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move your own luggage when necessary.
  • Trip Cancellation /Interruption and Medical Insurance. This insurance is strongly recommended. We can put you in touch with our insurance expert for a quote.
  • Single Supplement charge, if requested ($2,960 Canadian)
  • Personal Expenses such as souvenirs, laundry, and drinks not included at meals
  • Arrival & departure transfers. We can arrange individual or group transfers when you have confirmed the arrival & departure times of your flights. Please contact us for a quote.

SINGLE TRAVELLERS:

Our published price is based on 2 people sharing a room. If you would like to share, we will do our best to find you a roommate. The EARLIER you pay your deposit, the more likely we are to be able to find you a roommate. If you wish to be guaranteed a single room, there is a Single Supplement charge of $3,108 Canadian. Those people traveling alone but wishing to share will be informed 3 months prior to departure if a roommate is not currently available. At that point, you will be invoiced for the Single Supplement. If a roommate subsequently joins the tour, your single supplement will be refunded with the final documentation.

FLEXABILITY:

We travel from near the top of the North Island to near the bottom of the South Island, so there is a lot of driving on this tour. Wherever possible, we stay 2 nights in a town. When we are spending more than one night in a place, if you don’t wish to join our included excursions on the intervening day, you MAY be able to enjoy a free half day or full day exploring the area or just relaxing. Of course, the timing and length of much of our sightseeing depends on the weather! Please discuss your options with Norman and Julie.

PAYMENT:

Land portion of the tour must be booked directly with Royal Heights Tours. You can secure your place on the tour with a $400 per person non-refundable deposit. We take payment by cheque, Visa or Mastercard for the $400 /person deposit. Your invoice for your Land tour will be e-mailed to you in mid-Nov 2023. Payment will be due by Dec 10th 2022. Price quoted is for FINAL PAYMENT by cheque. Should you wish to pay the outstanding amount for the LAND tour by credit card there will be an administration fee of 1.5% on the outstanding amount.

SPECIAL NOTES:

Our office staff are not medically qualified to advise you on which immunizations you require. Please consult your local travel health clinic.

  • As at Oct 31st 2022, New Zealand does NOT have any restrictions for entry related to COVID 19.
  • Please make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move it easily.
  • This tour is not suitable if you need walking assistance in the form of walking sticks or canes. You must be in reasonably good shape to enjoy this tour – there is a lot of walking and exploring of modern cities and old historic towns. Please ensure you wear comfortable walking shoes as some of our walking tours can take up to 3 hours.

TRAVEL INSURANCE:

No one expects to have a medical emergency away from home or to have to cancel or cut short a trip due to an accident. However, these unexpected events happen and they can be disruptive and expensive – so it’s critical to have travel insurance which protects you against being forced to cancel prior to or during travel due to unforeseen circumstances. We strongly recommend comprehensive insurance coverage that includes emergency medical, trip cancellation and interruption, accident, and baggage insurance.
Travel Insurance should be purchased at time of paying your Non- Refundable $400 Tour Deposit/person.
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.

Join Us!

On this tour we travel by our own coach through much of New Zealand’s most breath-taking and diverse countryside from the subtropical beaches of the Bay of Islands down to the untamed Southern Alps in Fjordland. We visit charming towns and historic sites important in both the Maori culture and the European settlement.

$10,250.00

16 Places Available

Deposit : $400.00 Per item

New Zealand

On this tour we travel by our own coach through much of New Zealand’s most breath-taking and diverse countryside from the subtropical beaches of the Bay of Islands down to the untamed Southern Alps in Fjordland. We visit charming towns and historic sites important in both the Maori culture and the European settlement.

LAND ONLY: $10,250 Canadian person (includes 16 breakfasts + 15 dinners/lunches)
Single Supplement:  $3,100  Canadian
Limited to 16 travelers + Norman & Julie Bruce

Begins Saturday Feb 10th in Auckland and finishes Monday Feb 26th in Queenstown.

You can choose to arrive in Auckland a day or more before the tour starts if you wish to explore more of by far New Zealand’s largest city and get over jet lag after the long flights. You can also choose to stay on in Queenstown for a day or more after the tour finishes. If you want to extend your time Down Under or on your way there and/or on your way back, our flights expert can give you some suggestions for cities/islands you can fly via and spend a few days in.

BC reg: 3379

$10,250.00

16 Places Available

Deposit : $400.00 Per item

Description

February 10 – 26 2024 (17 Days)  
Thanks so much Julie for this amazing trip…… You sure did give me an adventure. I will remember it always.

S.S. – Toronto, ON to Kenya, 2015

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