SAT 11 DECEMBER – ARRIVE DUNEDIN
Arrive mid-morning in Dunedin, the Scottish inspired “Edinburgh of the South”. Enjoy a walking tour of the city and a visit to Toitu Otago Settlers museum which is dedicated to telling the story of the people of Dunedin and the surrounding areas. We will enjoy a historical talk from a museum curator and dinner this evening. (meal in flight, D)
SUN 12 DECEMBER – DUNEDIN
Nestled on the spectacular Otago peninsula, we will visit and explore the only castle in New Zealand, Larnach Castle. Learn the history of the castle and the families that have resided in it, plus you will have time to explore the exquisite gardens which have attained a Garden of International Significance award. For lunch today we will enjoy a high tea inside historic Ballroom.
This afternoon we travel to Taiaroa Head and visit the Royal Albatross Centre, a purpose-built viewing observatory where we can witness the fascinating social and family life of the local breeding colony of Albatross. Enjoy a group dinner this evening. (B,L,D)
MON 13 DECEMBER – DUNEDIN – INVERCARGILL
We drive from Dunedin to Invercargill through the Catlins, a spectacular coastal stretch which boasts a rugged beauty and untouched quality. Here you find a world of native forests fringed by high cliffs, deserted sandy beaches, sparkling bays, cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes, blowholes, caves, picturesque lighthouses and even a petrified forest. These environments are home to an array of fauna, from native birds, to seals, sea lions, dolphins, and penguins. Today you will experience the very best that the Catlins has to offer. (B,D)
TUE 14 DECEMBER – INVERCARGILL – TE ANAU
After breakfast, visit Bill Richardson Transport World. This is the largest privately owned automotive museum of its type in the world where you will see hundreds of historic vehicles including retro Kombi’s, Ford Letter cars Diamond T Trucks, stunning 1930’s V8’s and more.
Drive north to the town of Te Anau, located on the lake shore of the same name. Late this afternoon we will take short cruise across the lake to visit the famous Te Anau Glowworm caves. Deep inside the caves, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by hundreds of glowworms, unique to New Zealand and experience a mesmerizing twinkling display above your head. Dinner tonight at leisure as we are likely to return later into the evening from the caves. (B)
WED 15 DECEMBER – MILFORD SOUND
Milford Sound is the jewel in the crown of New Zealand’s world heritage Fiordland National Park. The 14 nautical mile long sound is lined by sheer rock faces rising 1,200 metres from the water. Being located in the heart of a rainforest, and one of the wettest places in the world, you will be guaranteed waterfalls and will enjoy spotting for the resident colonies of fur seals, bottlenose dolphins and Fiordland crested penguins. The journey to Milford Sound is just as spectacular as the destination itself and we will make several stops on the way to enjoy spectacular scenery and short walks along the way. Following our cruise on the Sound we will return to Te Anau. (B,L)
THU 16 DECEMBER – TE ANAU – QUEENSTOWN
Arrowtown is a charming, tree lined, gold rush era village housing a selection of shops, galleries, bars and restaurants. A pleasant place to browse, relax and enjoy soaking up history. (B,D)
FRI 17 DECEMBER – QUEENSTOWN
Today we will build in a free day for guests to choose a local activity or just to relax in Queenstown.
Lord of the Rings tours
The Queenstown area is home to many of the iconic filming locations for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie series and excellent day tours to visit the locations are available.
Excellent bike riding options, with E-bikes available, including opportunities to stop for wine tasting along the Gibbston Valley trail.
TSS Earnslaw cruise and lunch
A leisurely cruise across Lake Wakatipu on a century old coal-fired steamship is one of the best ways to soak up Queenstown and its stunning landscapes. A special extended option to visit Walter Peak sheep station for a gourmet BBQ lunch and farming demonstration.
Wineries & Whiskey
Queenstown is home to some excellent Pinot Noir producers while nearby, the Cardona whiskey distillery produces outstanding small batch whiskey and spirits.
The 45 minute drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy has been called one of the world’s great drives. Hugging lake Wakatipu you drive through native beech forest and towering mountain ranges, the drive is awe-inspiring. The spectacular landscapes are a prime movie location and feature in many scenes from Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series.
The Dart river offers opportunities for jetboating, kayaking or horse trekking, however even a drive and lunch in Glenorchy will be a memorable excursion.
The area is famous for thrilling and scenic jet boat rides. Whether on the Shotover Canyon river, the Dart river or Lake Wakatipu.
Bungy jumping and adventure sports
Queenstown is the home of AJ Hackett bungy jumping and a plethora of options to find a thrill are possible. If you are more inclined to be a spectator, the bungy centre on the Kawarau river allow the public to watch brave souls launch themselves off the bungy platform towards the river 43 metres below.
SAT 18 DECEMBER – QUEENSTOWN – MOUNT COOK
Today we make our way North to the highest peak in New Zealand, Aoraki Mount Cook. This was the backyard training group for Sir Edmund Hillary prior to his famous ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.
After travelling through spectacular alpine and big sky country we will arrive at the foot of Aoraki Mount Cook and have time to learn of the local stories, history and people at the Department of Conservation visitors centre.
A free afternoon to enjoy some of the excellent walking tracks which cater for all levels of fitness and walking ability. We will stay at the Hermitage hotel nestled at the foot of Mount Cook and enjoy a group dinner together and if the night is clear you will enjoy stargazing in the world’s largest dark sky reserve. (B,D)
SUN 19 DECEMBER – MOUNT COOK – CHRISTCHURCH
This morning we will allow time for an optional (cost not included) glacier explorer boat trip. After a short walk to the terminal lake of the Tasman glacier, you will board a small boat and explore the lake and melting ice face and icebergs of the Tasman glacier.
In the late morning we will set off towards Christchurch stopping for pictures at Lake Tekapo and the picture postcard Church of the Good Shepherd and the monument to all the working sheep dogs of the MacKenzie basin.
Arriving in Christchurch later afternoon you will have the opportunity to stretch your legs before dinner and observe the progress of the rebuild of the centre of Christchurch following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. (B,D)
MON 20 DECEMBER – CHRISTCHURCH – GREYMOUTH
The TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth traverses the mighty Southern Alps and the majestic Canterbury plains as you make a 223 km (one way) from the East coast to the West coast and return in the same day. Epic alpine vistas and miles of native beech forest from the panoramic windows of your seat or from open air carriages. A licensed café on board and an audio commentary system make this a comfortable and unforgettable journey. (B)
TUE 21 DECEMBER – DEPART NEW ZEALAND
Transfer to the airport for your return flights home or to continue your New Zealand journey. (B)