AAT Kings Essence of New Zealand Itinerary


Welcome to Christchurch

‘Haere Mai’ … welcome to New Zealand. Now you can relax - you are officially on holiday. 

Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm. After you check-in, you can head out and explore Christchurch. This evening meet your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a welcome reception.

Some suggested activities around Christchurch

Easygoing Cycling Tour   Punting the Avon River   Lyttelton Harbour Wildlife Cruise
Māori Cultural Evening French Akaroa Tour Southern Alps Ballooning
Christchurch Gondola Clearwater Golf Arthur's Pass TranzAlpine Hike


Meals: Welcome Reception

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 night

This inviting and modern brand new hotel features contemporary rooms, Restaurant & Bar. Nearby to the Cashel Street Re:START mall - this "pop up" shopping precinct is the new vibrant heart of the city, featuring many new designer shops and modern cafes. The Hotel is very close to the famous Cathedral Square, the historic heart of the city providing easy access to local activities, outer lying attractions and the airport.
Ibis Hotel Christchurch.


High Country Lake Tekapo - Mt Cook National Park

Leave the city today westwards through the Canterbury plains, you will find a superb location for some great photos at Lake Tekapo. Tekapo is one of three significant, neighboring lakes that border the Mackenzie Valley in New Zealand's South Island. Golden tussock grass carpets the surrounding hillside and roll away into the distance where the Southern Alps frame the horizon. The charming 'Church of the Good Shepherd' sits alone on its shores and the views to our highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook are remarkable. and a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre before travelling around Lake Pukaki to Twizel and Omarama.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Omarama - 1 night

Set amongst landscaped gardens with views of the surrounding mountains, the Heritage Gateway Hotel is a peaceful place to stay. Featuring 98 comfortably furnished guest rooms, restaurant & bar.The Heritage Gateway is located 4 hours south of Christchurch and is truly the gateway to the South Island. This hotel has a full restaurant and cocktail bar both offering panoramic views of the Southern Alps.
Set amongst landscaped gardens with views of the surrounding mountains, the Heritage Gateway Hotel


Victorian Oamaru & Neo-Gothic Dunedin

Your day starts down the beautiful Waitaki Valley to visit Oamaru. While its façade is strictly of the Victorian era with ornately decorated grand white stone buildings that once housed upstanding banks, hotels and restaurants - the localsare bohemians artisans, creative’s and antiquarians who run ‘out-there’ galleries, museums, shops and venues – it has to be seen to be believed and you'll love it.

Dunedin - Scottish City of Grace and Grandeur
It is for good reason that New Zealand's oldest city is known as the 'Edenborough of the South' - Dunedin comes from Dun Eideann the Scots-Gaelic name for Edinburgh, founded largely by Scottish immigrants, who raised the impressive buildings which now add much to the city's charm. Here you’ll take a tour of the city. Later, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Larnach Castle and its stunning gardens.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Dunedin - 1 night


On a leafy hillside overlooking central Dunedin city, this classic old-school hotel has a modern exterior is only a 12-minute walk from the famous Dunedin Railway Station and 2 km (1.2 mi) from the historic Otago Harbour. The hotel features subdued rooms with warm wood furnishings and vibrant accents.


Milford Sound Overnight Cruise

Today's drive is a feast for the senses. Travel along the the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau. You’ll be awestruck by the World Heritage Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest. See rainforest, ancient glaciers, sheer mountain ranges. Moody & dramatic are the hallmarks of Milford Sound via the famous Milford Road. Upon arrival at Milford, board the Milford Mariner for a leisurely cruise the full length of Milford Sound. The Milford Sound is home to three species of dolphin, along with fur seals and penguins. Return under sail and anchor overnight in Harrison Cove. An opportunity to sea-kayak or explore the shoreline from the tender vessels. Enjoy a sumptuous buffet dinner and a hearty cooked breakfast. 

Please Note: (Cruise may not operate on 10 Sep 2020 departure. On this date, you can enjoy a day cruise on Milford Sound and accommodation in Te Anau or Queenstown) 

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodation Overnight Milford Sound - 1 night

For the ultimate Milford Sound experience, spend the night aboard the Mariner and wake up to the dawn of a new day in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Milford Mariner then anchors in a sheltered cove, where you can join the nature guide and explore in the vessel’s tender craft (small boat) and kayaks. Or, if you prefer, you can simply relax on deck and soak in the beauty of this amazing place or go for a swim (if you’re brave enough). As evening falls, enjoy a delicious carvery buffet in the dining saloon, prepared freshly by our onboard chef. Then relax in the company of fellow travellers or indulge in some star-gazing before retiring to your private cabin 
Milford Sound Overnight Cruise


Glow-Worms & Queenstown

The excursion begins with a cruise across spectacular Lake Te Anau to a remote section of the lake with the entrance to the caves hidden by a large and beautiful native forest.By geological standards the caves are young (12,000 years) and are still being carved by the river that flows through them. The system is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with beautifully sculpted rock, underground waterfalls complete with whirlpools. The quite top section of the system houses a series of small lakes, here you will be taken by small boat pulled along by rope into a silent hidden grotto’s inhabited by thousands of small glow-worms. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a magical display almost like you are staring up at the Milky Way that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Travel to the adventure-capital Queenstown.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Queenstown - 3 nights

Experience tranquillity all year round. The Copthorne Resort Lakefront in Queenstown sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is within walking distance of Queenstown’s central shopping and entertainment area. Exploring panoramic views of the lake and nearby mountains, the Copthorne is the perfect venue to relax! The Copthorne Lakefront blends superior facilities and comfort with friendly service. The hotel Balconies and garden views are a feature of many rooms.
Copthorne Resort Queenstown


Queenstown at Leisure

The surrounding area is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards and the natural landscape with wild rivers, high peaks and deep canyons has allowed Queenstown to developed an exciting array of outdoor adventure activities - and there's plenty to choose from. But if you are just want to chill out then Queenstown's compact downtown area is relaxed during the day and huge fun at night. In any season, you can count on stylish designer shops and many trendy restaurants offering a kaleidoscope of dining experiences.

Recommended excursions around Queenstown:

Routeburn Day Walk Highest Bungey Jump Explore Arrowtown

Wine Tasting Central Otago      

Biking Skippers Canyon       Round at Millbrook Golf Resort
Earnslaw Steamboat Cruise   Dart River Jetboat Safari      

Gibbston Valley Wine Trail

Meals: Breakfasts


Glacier Country

The adventure continues, and this morning Central Otago's rich pioneer gold rush history comes alive in the picturesque village of Arrowtown. Set beside a beautiful clear flowing river, this charming town has some great historical sites, boutique shops and delightful cafés. Following the road to Cromwell, the fabulous scenery keeps on coming and during the stone fruit season, you can pick up bags of delicious cherries, apricots and nectarines at any of the roadside stalls.

For a slice of paradise we drive past a trio of fantastic lakes including Lake Dunstan, Hawea and Wanaka before traversing the Haast Pass where the Thunder Creek Falls make for some more great photos. A short stroll amongst emerald rainforest refreshes us prior to our arrival at Franz Josef - the world's most accessible glacier.

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner 

Accommodation: Franz Josef - 1 night

Situated on the very edge of the Westland World Heritage Park, the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier will welcome you in true New Zealand style. The Hotel makes the most of its alpine location and is only moments from spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. The highly regarded Hot Pools are within walking distance. Featuring patios or balconies, the simple, warmly decorated rooms and suites include free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges, plus tea and coffee making facilities. Suites add living areas. (formerly known as the Scenic Circle Franz Josef Glacier Hotel) has quality rooms with balcony views and special access.
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier


Jade and Pancake Rocks

Take the opportunity this morning to experience an optional scenic flight over this remarkable region - see the twin glaciers Franz Josef and Fox (subject to weather conditions). 

Heading up the coast we visit the small town of Hokitika, famous for Pounamu (also known as Greenstone or Jade) and is considered a treasure in Maori culture - a sign of status and power. In ancient times Maori travelled from all over New Zealand to the West Coast to find this precious stone and many of the roads we travel today are following these old trails.

Nowhere has the effects of Tasman Seas heaving swells had such a dramatic effect on the West Coast landscape than at the beautiful seaside village of Punakaiki. These rocks are a truly remarkable piece of natural sculpture that have been created when a series of stratified limestone stacks have been eroded over thousands of years to give the effect of large piles of Stacked Pancakes. Another prominent feature are the blowholes that at high tide force columns of spray high out of these holes with a bone shaking roar.

Punakaiki is small community that is scattered over a 3 kilometers (2 mile) stretch of coastal flats with many local dwellings hidden in the dense bush or down on the waters edge, many house colourful local crafts people like potters, carvers, painters and jewelers selling their wares from their homes. For an insight into the locals (coasters) pop into the friendly Punakaiki Pub.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Accommodation: Punakaiki - 1 night

Surrounded by the Paparoa National Park and with stunning views of the Tasman Sea, The Ocean View Retreat – Punakaiki is in a great location. The resort is situated only 300m from the famous Punakaiki Blowholes and has been designed in harmony with the local environment.  Evenings are spent relaxing in a standard resort room with views of the sea or an Eco Suite with rainforest and distant seaviews.

The Ocean View Retreat – Punakaiki


Lake District to Nelson

Following the beautiful Buller River heading inland to the quaint quintessentially kiwi town Murchison - its like travelling back in time 50 years. We then pass through the beautiful Nelson Lakes and forest, home of the 'Blue Lake' with the clearest recorded fresh water in the World. 

Nelson has a large creative community of working artists that gives the town a laid-back, bohemian feel. Passionate wine makers and craft beer brewers in the area mean that sitting in the sun with the tipple of your choice is a lovely way to enjoy the town centre.

Meals: Breakfast 

Accommodation Nelson - 2 nights



The Rutherford Hotel  is an icon of the region standing next to the Cathedral steps and an easy stroll into the city of Nelson.  Nelson is a haven for art enthusiasts, and has a reputation for excellent produce, craft beer and fine wines. The Rutherford Hotel features restaurants and bars and caters for all room categories from studios, interconnecting rooms and suites.

Rutherford Hotel Nelson


A Free Day in Nelson

Receiving some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand, the Nelson district it the perfect destination to visit year round. Located in the North-West corner of New Zealand, the Nelson region is surrounded by sheltered mountain ranges, golden beaches, national parks and boutique wineries and breweries. From Nelson, it’s easy to access any of three distinctly different National Parks.

On this day at leisure, you’ll have the option to journey to the top of the South Island and enjoy a relaxing cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park. Or perhaps take a short bush walk, relax in sunny Nelson or explore the many arts and craft galleries.

Meals: Breakfast


interIsland Cruise to Wellington

Board the Interisland Ferry, sit back and enjoy New Zealand hospitality on the three hour journey across Cook Strait which connects New Zealand’s North and South Islands - This is one of the most scenic in the world. The journey offers a dramatic view of both the North and South Islands. As you enter the picturesque Marlborough Sounds keep an eye out for wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, seals, whales and orca that make the sounds home.

Enter the North Island through Wellington Harbour. Enjoy a city tour taking in all the major sights and there is free time for exploring on your own. Situated on the Wellington waterfront, a visit to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, is highly recommended.

Meals: Breakfast 

Accommodation: Wellington - 2 nights


Located in a modern tower 300m from the waterfront, the Travelodge is just a few minutes walk from the harbour and the centre of Wellington. Main attractions such as the famous Cable Car, Botanic Garden and Te Papa (the national museum) all are situated within walking distance so transportation in the city centre is unnecessary. From here it is easy to enjoy a city trip that includes everything you don't want to miss when visiting New Zealand's (culture) capital! 

Travelodge Wellington


Wellington at Leisure

The day is yours, so take time to stroll along the fabulous waterfront and through the busy streets of this buzzing wee city or simply get lost admiring the heritage houses along one of the many improbably steep streets. You are spoilt for choice for places to dine this evening, so take your pick (own expense).

Suggested outings in and around Wellington.

National Museum - Te Papa     Visit Cuba Street Weta Workshop Tour
Zealandia Wildlife Reserve 

Wellington Cable Car   

Carter Observatory 

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Art Deco City - Napier

Your special packed lunch today won’t only be wholesome, it will also feed a Kiwi child who may otherwise go without, through the charity ‘Eat My Lunch’. Leaving the capital we are soon travelling through rolling farm land as we travel into the rural heartland of the Waiarapa region. Stop at historic Greytown to view excellent examples of Victorian colonial architecture. The village has a mix of art galleries, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants making it one of New Zealand’s premier shopping destinations.

Nowhere else can you see such a variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930s - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission, and above all Art Deco- the style of the 20th Century - in such a concentrated area.  Napier is the world’s finest example of the Art Deco age and your guide will bring Napier's fascinating architecture to life for you as you take an easy stroll through the compact Art Deco Quarter in the vibrant city centre. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: Napier - 1 night

Styled to complement its remarkable location on the edge of the beautiful Hawke's Bay, Scenic Hotel Te Pania boasts design awards for its style and offers an unmatched level of service to leisure travellers with a high four star accommodation rating. Enjoy the central waterfront location and the extensive sea views that all rooms share. Te Pania is just a short stroll from Napier’s main art deco style street with many shops, cafes and restaurants.

Scenic Hotel Te Pania - Napier


Great Lake Taupo & Rotorua

Enjoy a hearty breakfast before heading to Great Lake Taupo. Taupo is the southern hemisphere's largest crater lake (in fact, it is the size of Singapore!) and the Taupo Eruption (also known as the Hatepe eruption) that occurred about 1,800 years ago, represents the most violent eruption in the world in the last 5,000 years. View the mighty Huka Falls before arriving at the thermal resort of Rotorua.

On arrival a sightseeing tour takes in views of Lake Rotorua. This evening enjoy a Maori Hangi feast at the Tamaki Maori Village. You will be treated to a traditional Maori hangi (feast) and cultural performance featuring Maori songs, chants and dance including the stirring haka.

Meals: Breakfast, Highlight dinner

Accommodation: Rotorua - 2 nights


Situated on the picturesque shores of Lake Rotorua, this hotel offers tranquil surroundings with sensational views, near to many bars, restaurants and main attractions. The Ibis Rotorua offers great accommodation to travellers that want to make most out of their stay in New Zealand's geothermal area. 

Ibis Rotorua


Exploring Rotorua

Today is free time - you may choose to explore some of the more interesting attractions Rotorua is famous. Visit Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you can see demonstrations of wood carving and weaving, or tour the Geothermal Valley and hear about the importance of the geysers and mud pools to the Maori people. Your tour director will help you with suggestions

Meals: Breakfast 


Farm Visit - City of Sails

Continuing north we travel through the dairy farming district of Waikato and on to the vibrant city of Auckland, also known as the ‘City of Sails’. Here we explore this harbour side city taking in Bastion Point, Viaduct Harbour and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Auckland - 1 night

Right on the main street of Auckland City's CBD, this brand new VR Hotel has proudly opened its doors to accommodate travellers who are exploring Auckland and surroundings. The location is on walking distance from the harbour, SkyCity, many shops and restaurants and the city's most popular attractions. Furthermore, public transport is easily accessible from this location. Many bars and restaurants are also available in nearby suburbs Mount Eden and Ponsonby.

VR Queenstreet


Homeward Bound - Bon Voyage!

Haere rā and Bon Voyage!
Today we say farewell to newfound friends, leaving you with the magical memories of a truly exceptional New Zealand holiday.

Some Activities and sightseeing options if you have time:

Explore Waiheke Island     Island Kayaking Adventure     America’s Cup Sailing
Auckland's Sky Tower Relax on the Beach Rangitoto Island Cruise & Walk
West Coast Wine Tour Whale and Dolphin Safari Muriwai Surf Beach

Meals: Breakfast


Included Highlights

  • Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo
  • Spend the night cruising on magical Milford Sound
  • Let loose in the adventure capital, Queenstown
  • Explore the Glowworm caves at Te Anau by boat
  • See awe-inspiring Franz Josef Glacier
  • Punakaiki, home to Pancake Rocks & Blowholes
  • Visit Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand
  • Immerse yourself in Maori culture at a Hangi & Concert
  • Experienced Travel Director and Driver Guide


  • Comfortable accommodation
  • Travel by luxury coach
  • Experienced Travel Director and Driver Guide


  •  17 Full buffet breakfasts
  •  1 Lunch
  •  6 Dinners

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Profile picture for user Tracy
What Tracy says about this tour: I recommend this trip to those wanting to spend more time in the South Island, enjoying the stunning scenery of the Queenstown, Fiordland and the West Coast. There is still and excellent variety on display in the North Island with highlights being the insight in to the culture of New Zealand with Te Papa in Wellington and a cultural evening experience at Tamaki in Rotorua.
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