Understand New Zealand Coach Touring

NZ Coach Tour
New Zealand Coach Tours

Long gone are the days when whirlwind touring in cramped uncomfortable coaches were the only option, herding you like sheep from one tourist trap to another. There has been a much needed shift in the way tours are now designed and operated - ‘Flexibility and Customer Service’ is the new mantra and today more than ever, a New Zealand Coach Touring holiday makes an attractive proposition. But not all tours are created equally, understanding the differences is key to choosing the tour that best suits you.  For an insight into New Zealand Coach Touring - please read on... 

State of Play

Over the last decade or so New Zealand coach tours have improved beyond recognition, they seem to have finally come of age. The industry faced fierce competition from others in the sector and to survive, touring companies have evolved to stay relevant in a very competitive industry. They have listened to customers and now ‘Flexibility and Service’ is the new mantra – the result is a higher standard of service and guest experience, this now seems to be the new norm with many operators moving into the luxury end of the market.

Refined and Balanced Itineraries.

Today coach touring is all about the customer experience and those charged with designing these tours have worked hard to achieve the right balance between guided time and free time, combined with insider experiences and the must-see sights. Itineraries are now carefully designed to minimize traveling time and hotel changes, this has been achieved by increasing stays to two nights at each location meaning less packing and unpacking and more opportunity for serendipitous interaction with locals.

Say goodbye to the whirlwind Tours of Yesterday.

Long gone are the days operators purely focused on ‘Bums on Seats’, peddling tours often low on quality and equally low on price. Sure they still exist today but have been rightly relegated to the realm of the backpacker. Today exploring New Zealand by coach is an appealing option; both relaxing and comfortable they offer a real value option.

Touring Types

There are essentially three main types or styles of coach touring available in New Zealand. These are New Zealand Escorted Tours and New Zealand Small Group Tours with the third being Independent Coach Tours. 

New Zealand Escorted Tours

These kinds of tours are very popular and for many good reasons. You simply jump on board, hand over responsibilities along with your suitcases, settle down and that’s it - relax you are on holiday! You now have the luxury of someone else getting to do all of the organizing, driving and ensuring everything goes to plan. This type of 'turnkey convenience' can be a refreshing way to enjoy a holiday. Escorted tours are usually conducted by a tour director as well as a driver who take care of all services from beginning to the end of your tour. These ‘Tour Packages’ include transportation, hotels, flights, transfers to the airport/hotel, most meals, tour admissions, and sightseeing. With usually larger numbers of guests (up to 45) prices can be significantly reduced representing good value for money.

Take a look at our selection of top New Zealand Escorted Tours

Coach Tours

New Zealand Small Group Tours

This type of touring is fundamentally the same as New Zealand Escorted Tours, but with much smaller vehicles and usually, the maximum number of guests is only between 12 and 20 passengers, hence these tours are generally more expensive. Small group tours also tend to head a little more off the beaten path or may be designed for those with specific interests such as walking or cycling. Because of the smaller numbers quite often the tour can be accommodated at smaller boutique properties. These more intimate tours also have specific departure dates and set itineraries on all New Zealand coach tours. 

Take a look at our selection of top New Zealand Small Group Luxury Tours

Coach Tour Luxury Interior

New Zealand Coach Tours at a Glance

  • An All-inclusive Tour Price: The price generally covers transportation, hotels, flights, transfers to and from your airport/hotel, most meals and sightseeing with admission fees. This makes for easy and accurate budgeting when planning your New Zealand vacation.
  • Choice: There are many tours to choose from. First Light Travel operates its own award winning tours (listed below) and we also offer a selection of hand picked alternatives of a high standard offered by similar companies - please feel free to ask.
  • Great Value: It’s a numbers game, the more folks on a tour the better value you get and therefore it makes sense the New Zealand Escorted Tours price point is more accessible than the New Zealand Small Group Tours, but not necessarily less luxurious – One thing is for sure, you certainly can not put together an identical itinerary for the price of the group trip.
  • Turnkey Convenience: Simply jump on board, hand over responsibilities along with your suitcases, settle down and that’s it - relax you are on holiday!
  • Personal Service: Your driver is also like a personal chauffeur - you won't get lost trying to find your way or loose your luggage.
  • Travel in Comfort: Modern, spacious, air-conditioned coaches.
  • Safety: Statistically (according to the coach association) coaches are seven times safer than traveling by car.
  • Carbon Footprint: Coaches are the cleanest form of transport and six times less pollutant than an airplane and again due to the numbers this form of touring is very efficient.
  • Experienced tour guide: A passionate and knowledgeable tour guide is often what makes the difference between a good tour and a great tour. An invaluable source of information on local culture, history and sights – bringing the places you visit to life.
  • A Higher Standard of Accommodation and Cuisine: It is fair to say that regardless of your tour type (3, 4, or 5 Star), the standard of the accommodation and cuisine will be at the top end of your chosen classification, this is purely due to buying power gained when dealing with a group.
Small Group New Zealand Coach Tours

Independent Coach Tours of New Zealand.

If you want the flexibility of travelling independently throughout New Zealand, but you are not up for a self-drive tour or a pre-determined coach tour - here is the perfect solution. Independent New Zealand coach touring give the flexibly of a self-drive tour, the only difference is you are not behind the wheel. All the stress of driving is taken away and you can still go where you want and when you want. Offering more flexible than a pre-determined coach tour because you decide where you want to go and how long for - move independently, not as part of a group.
Independent tours use a combination of coaches, trains, and ferries. A well-planned itinerary is personally customised for you with pre-booked accommodation, meals, and activities, this way you can be confident you will see everything you want to without the hassle of driving or the inconveniences of moving with a big group.
This is what you can look forward to:

  • A relaxing, personalised, independent holiday where you don’t have to drive.
  • You can start and finish anywhere in New Zealand -  the most popular points are Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch, and Rotorua.
  • Tours depart every single day and are customised to suit your dates and schedule.
  • The length of your tour is up to you. A typical tour of the South Island is about 10-12 days, but you can take as long as you like -  or if you have time constrains it can be as short as you like.
  • Independent tours can also be combined with other types of tours. For example, you can do a self- drive tour of the South Island and an independent tour of the North Island. All your arrangements will be customised just for you.
  • We work to your budget and will include what you want, whether it be meals or activities. All independent tours will clearly specify what is included

This is what a typical independent tour would include:

  • Travel on well-equipped modern coaches. Coaches typically seat 48 people when full. On the more popular routes the coaches will have a toilet and Wi-Fi.
  • For longer journeys, frequent stops will be made along the way for comfort stops and refreshments.
  • The driver will provide commentary and point out places of interest.
  • Accommodation will be pre-booked to suit your budget and taste.
  • All connections and accommodation pick-up are included in your tour, so it’s as good as driving to your hotel door.

First Light Travel's Independent Coach tours are perfect for travellers who value flexibility and independence without the hassle of planning and booking everything. Our Travel Specialists have your back every step of the way so that you can focus on the adventures ahead of you.

Take a look at our selection of top New Zealand Independent Coach Tours 

Leaders/ Directors/ Guides/ Escorts – ‘Knowledge is the Key’

Whatever you call them, these guys are a crucial part of any touring experience and make the difference between what is a good tour and what is a great tour. The good ones (and there are many) never cease to amaze, usually these folks have made a lifestyle choice to follow their passion to become a guide, they always seem overqualified and ooze life experience. For us, a great touring company is the one that puts time, effort and support into their guides – and it shows. Guides are a breed unto themselves, a passionate lot and guests can benefit immensely from their in-depth local knowledge, humorous anecdotes and highlighting lesser known places or areas on tour that might be otherwise missed. They bring a place to life and help gain a real understanding of a place, its people, history and culture - You can leave your

Coach Guide

The Coach – Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride!

Firstly, coach travel remains one of the safest modes of transportation available and modern vehicles are usually pretty comfortable, modern, spacious and air conditioned. The ones we use are of an executive standard, this means that they will often have toilet facilities, drinks available (on our small group tours we make wine available for our picnic stops) and some form of entertainment on-board. Seat comfort is now a science and coachs are often fitted with ‘High Tec’ ergonomically designed seats that offer more leg-room than on a train or plane – let's not forget a dedicated crew looking after you and with a professional driver behind the wheel you will now be able to see the

Coach Independant Tours

Here are some well regarded New Zealand Coach Tours:

The New Zealand Small Group 22 Day Kakapo Tour. With an average of 16 guests, this 22-day leisurely, 4 star journey incorporates a great mix of places to see and things to do in both the North and South Island. This is our signature tour and we also have options for 7, 10, 14 and 18 days - certainly worthwhile taking a look.

11 or 13 Day Small Group South Island World Heritage Hiking Tour. Perfectly designed for those wanting to have an easygoing walking experience in New Zealand’s great outdoors. We developed this 4 star luxury tour 2 years ago with outdoors hiking guru Andrew Wells and have been departing with full trips ever since - Get in Quick!

16 Day New Zealand Escorted Highlights Tour Representing great value for money this 4 Star Escorted Tour takes you throughout New Zealand in Style and comfort - Queenstown, Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Christchurch, Rotorua, Auckland, Bay of Islands, Lakes. Mountains. Ocean. Wildlife. Trains. Boats. Maori culture and history. It’s one with the lot!

Updated on the 12th of March 2019 by Brent


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 15 Aug 2021 (Last updated: 14 Feb 2022)

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