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    Northern Explorer

New Zealand by Rail

New Zealand

  • A car with a tick VIP door to door
  • A group of people Small group 29 or less
  • A plate with a knife and fork All breakfasts and more

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride

Embark on an epic adventure across New Zealand, and discover rugged mountain scenery, dramatic seascapes and fertile farmlands as you journey across the country by rail. Travel aboard the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and Tranzalpine trains and experience the extremes of scenery as you ride the rails from Auckland in the North Island to Dunedin in the South. Along the way, you’ll get the chance to experience incredible nature reserves, including the Marlborough and Milford sounds, discover Maori culture, and explore charming town and cities.


Hands shaking Included travel insurance

Bed15 nights in hotels and 3 in flight

Dinner plate29 meals: 15 breakfasts (B), 3 lunches (L) and 11 dinners (D)

PersonSaga tour manager


  • Return flights and transfers
  • Welcome drink reception
  • Porterage at all hotels
  • Tourist visa for full British citizens resident in the UK

MapIncluded excursions and visits

  • City tour of Auckland
  • Visit to Auckland Museum
  • Visit Te Puia Thermal Reserve
  • Maori cultural performance
  • Maori Arts and Crafts Institute
  • Wellington sightseeing tour
  • Inter-island cruise via Marlborough Sounds
  • Sightseeing tour of Christchurch
  • Punting on the Avon
  • A ride on Queenstown's Skyline Gondola and dinner at the top
  • Visit the gold-mining town of Arrowtown
  • Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown
  • Cruise across Milford Sound
  • Taieri Gorge Railway journey

HeadphonesUse of audio headsets on guided tours

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK-Auckland

New Zealand, Auckland

After taking your included VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, depart in the evening and fly to Auckland, arriving on the morning of day three.

Day 3 Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand

Transfer to the 4-star Rydges Auckland Hotel (4Q) for a two-night stay. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure in New Zealand’s largest city, situated in the topmost portion of the North Island. This cosmopolitan city, home to world renowned chefs and fashion designers, is a hot spot for shopping and dining. Among its highlights are the Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium and the famous Sky Tower.

The Rydges Auckland Hotel is situated in the city centre close to Queen Street and Viaduct Harbour and has a restaurant serving local dishes, a coffee bar, a bar and lounge, and fitness facilities. All 267 air-conditioned rooms have a television, telephone, hairdryer, minibar (extra charge) refrigerator, iron and ironing board, safety deposit box and complimentary Wi-Fi. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, relaxing in your new surroundings.

This evening enjoy a welcome dinner and drinks, and the opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers. D

Day 4 Auckland

Auckland War Memorial museum, New Zealand

This morning embark on an included half-day city sightseeing tour of Auckland. Some of the highlights you may see include Auckland harbour Bridge and the Viaduct Harbour, which has been host to such events as the America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Regattas. Explore the Auckland Domain – extending to some three-quarters of a square kilometre with its tropical gardens, art, and War Memorial Museum.

Pause to visit the museum for an opportunity to learn about the country’s history, its indigenous people, natural history and gallery dedicated to those who served in various conflicts. You’ll also head along the waterfront Takamki Drive via the suburb of Parnell Village – known for its chic galleries and restaurants – and on to Joseph Savage Memorial Park where you can enjoy views of the Eastern Bays, city and harbour.

Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Your tour manager is always on hand to help you explore the surrounding area further, and make the most of each destination. B

Day 5 Auckland-Rotorua

The geothermal city of Rotorua, New Zealand

Travel by coach to Rotorua (141 miles, three hours), the Maori homelands, a thermal region lying on a volcanic rift stretching from White Island to Lake Taupo. A place of lush forests, green pastures and lakes, Rotorua is also known as Sulfur City, which you’ll discover for yourself on an included guided tour of the Te Puia Thermal Reserve. The reserve – which is also a Maori culture centre – covers some 70 acres and is set within the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. Here you’ll find thermal pools, bubbling mud and geysers including the Pohutu geyser which can sometimes erupt to a height of 100 feet!

This evening look forward to memorable visit to the Tamaki Maori Village which lies within an ancient Tawa forest. Upon arrival take part in the Powhiri ceremony of welcome and take in the sights and sounds of the living history pre-European Maori village. You’ll enter the Marae – an ancestral Maori meeting house, to witness a cultural performance where customs, traditional dance and other aspects of the Maori culture will unfold.

Stay overnight at the 4-star Distinction Rotorua Hotel (4Q). The hotel has two restaurants, a cafe, a bar, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa pool and a gym. All 133 air-conditioned rooms have a television, telephone, mini-fridge, tea and coffee-making facilities and complimentary Wi-Fi. B, D

Day 6 Rotorua-Hamilton-Wellington

Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand

Today you’ll embark on your first rail journey, travelling aboard the Northern Explorer from Hamilton to Wellington (eight hours).

After departing Hamilton, travel across the southern tip of the Central Plateau, where the often snow-capped volcano Ruapehu dominates the skyline. After passing over the viaducts of Tongariro National Park, you’ll continue through the stark and inhospitable Rangipo Desert arriving in the Rangitikei District. Here the Northern Explorer weaves its way across several deep gorges, horseshoe bends and viaducts, following the Rangitikei River. The final stretch of your rail journey sees you climbing high above the rocky shoreline of the Kapiti Coast on your way into Wellington. A picnic lunch will be provided for you during your journey.

On arrival in Wellington, transfer to the 4-star Grand Mercure Wellington (3Q) for a two-night stay. The hotel is situated within walking distance of Wellington’s waterfront and a good selection of cafes and entertainment. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, gym, and hotel offers complimentary Wi-Fi throughout. Each of the 108 rooms feature a satellite television, fridge, hairdryer, telephone, and tea and coffee-making facilities. B, L, D

Day 7 Wellington

Wellington, New Zealand

This morning, join an included sightseeing tour of Wellington. See the beautiful waterfront with its picturesque views, look down on the city from Mount Victoria, and take in the city’s architecture including the parliament building and the Gothic-revival Old St Paul’s Cathedral. You’ll see Wellington Botanic Gardens with their section of native forest, and global plant collections, and enjoy a coastal drive where beaches and hidden bays lie awaiting discovery.

As you head to the Miramar Peninsula you’ll also see some of the city’s suburbs and enjoy views of the harbour plus – on a clear day – the Kaikoura mountains of the South Island. Spend the afternoon at leisure. B

Day 8 Wellington-Picton-Christchurch

Picton, New Zealand

After breakfast, transfer to the port and board the Inter-Island ferry to the South Island (three hours). The ship sails across the Cook Strait and through the sheltered waterways of the Malborough Sounds to Picton.

Take a short walk from the ferry terminal to the station, where you’ll board the Coastal Pacific Train to Christchurch (six hours). This rail journey south takes you along New Zealand’s wild coastlines, past rugged sea cliffs and isolated beaches, on one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys.

Journey from New Zealand’s premier wine region, Marlborough, past the unusually pink salt plains of Lake Grassmere, around the popular surfers beach of Mangamaunu Bay offering close up views of the Kaikoura mountain range. You’ll pass through 20 tunnels in total, with the difficulty of building these tunnels through the cliffs resulting in the railway taking more than 80 years to complete. Pass over the impressive Okarahia Viaduct, standing 21-metres high and 115-metres long and offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Continue through the vast Canterbury Plains, New Zealand’s largest expanse of continuous flat land to reach the garden city of Christchurch.

Check in to the 3-star Heartland Hotel Cotswold (3Q) for a two-night stay. The centrally-located hotel has striking tudor-style architecture and is set in charming English gardens. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, outdoor swimming pool, sauna, and a fitness room. All 76 rooms feature a television, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, telephone, Wi-Fi, and tea and coffee-making facilities. B

Day 9 Christchurch

New Brighton beach and pier, New Zealand

Enjoy an included sightseeing tour that visits the innovative Re:START shopping area and New Brighton Pier. Many parts of the city were damaged during an earthquake in 2011, and it's still slowly recovering – but its fresh outlook and forward-thinking attitude to rebuilding have resulted in a number of intriguing and ingenious constructions. You’ll take a punting trip on the River Avon, before spending the afternoon at leisure.

Perhaps continue to explore Christchurch independently. Dinner is included at your hotel this evening. B, D

Day 10 Christchurch-Hokitika

Tranz alpine train trip from Christchurch to Greymouth

Step aboard the TranzAlpine train this morning and journey to Greymouth on the west coast of the South Island (six hours). Travel through the Canterbury Plains, endless native beech forest, the majestic Southern Alps, the lush Otira Valley, and along the edge of the ice-fed Waimakariri River. Enjoy a picnic lunch on board as you take in epic vistas through the panoramic windows.

On arrival in Greymouth, travel by coach to the nearby town of Hokitika where you’ll stay overnight at the 3-star Beachfront Hotel (3Q). The hotel, which has a restaurant and bar and free W-Fi, is on the beachfront and within easy walking distance of shops, bars and restaurants. All 53 rooms have a television, free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee-making facilities. B, L, D

Day 11 Hokitika-Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier

After breakfast, travel by coach to Franz Josef  at the foot of New Zealand’s most famous glacier (83 miles, two hours). The afternoon is at leisure to explore your surroundings.

Stay overnight at the 3-star Scenic Franz Josef Glacier Hotel (3Q). Facilities at the hotel include spa pools, bars and laundry service. All 130 bedrooms are equipped with a television, tea and coffee-making facilities, and a hairdryer.

Enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening. B, D

Day 12 Franz Josef-Queenstown

Beautiful tree in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Embark on a scenic drive south, past Fox Glacier and over the Haast Pass, into the heart of the beautiful South Westland Region, one of the least populated parts of New Zealand. Skirt Mount Aspiring National Park on a long stretch of road with no settlements, then enter the Central Otago region, pausing at beautiful Lake Wanaka for lunch and free time.

Continue past Lake Hawea, heading south to Queenstown, one of New Zealand’s most popular resorts (218 miles, five hours). Your hotel for the next three nights is the 4-star Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront (4Q).

This is a year-round resort on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and within walking distance of the central shopping and entertainment area. All 240 guest rooms have a television, direct-dial telephone, tea and coffee-making facilities, fridge or minibar and iron. Hairdryers and safety deposit facilities are available. B, D

Day 13 Queenstown

Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola

A short drive from Queenstown this morning takes you to the old gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown. This delightful old town has been faithfully restored, with timber houses, shops and a picturesque weather-boarded post office sporting an octagonal Victorian pillar-box. In the small museum you can see genuine gold nuggets – prospectors still pan for gold in the nearby river.

This evening look forward to a ride on the Skyline Gondola cable car which will take you nearly 1500 feet above the city to Bob’s Peak for wonderful views of Queenstown below. You can also look forward to enjoying dinner at the Skyline Stratosfare Restaurant this evening. B, D

Day 14 Queenstown

Queenstown, New Zealand

Enjoy today at leisure to relax. B

Day 15 Queenstown-Te Anau

Milford Sound, New Zealand

After breakfast, depart for Milford Sound for a cruise on the fjord-like inlet of stunning beauty with forest-clad peaks, tumbling waterfalls and wildlife that includes dolphins and seals. Enjoy lunch on board during your cruise. 

This afternoon travel south to Te Anau (106 miles, two hours). This small township is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and it lies at the southern end of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake in the South Island.

Stay overnight at the 4-star Distinction Luxmore (3Q), in the centre of town. The restaurant, which overlooks Lake Te Anau, features an extensive carvery buffet. Each of the hotel’s 180 rooms is equipped with a television, tea and coffee-making facilities, a fridge and hairdryer. B, L, D

Day 16 Te Anau-Dunedin

The Octagon, centre of Dunedin, New Zealand

Today’s journey takes you across the farmlands of Southland and Otago to the Scottish-influenced city of Dunedin, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh (176 miles, three hours and 30 minutes). This cultural university city stands at the head of a harbour, and consists of Victorian and Edwardian buildings, slate and tin-roofed houses and churches. The city centre is hilly with some very steep streets. At its heart lies the eight-sided plaza area of the Octagon where you’ll also find a statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Spend two nights at the 4-star Heritage Dunedin Leisure Lodge (3Q). Located on the site of McGavin’s Brewery adjacent to the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, the hotel is within walking distance of the local shopping centre and attractions. Each of the 76 rooms has either a balcony or patio, a satellite television, telephone, tea and coffee-making facilities and a minibar. B, D

Day 17 Dunedin

Dunedin railway station, New Zealand

This morning, enjoy an included scenic train ride along the Taieri Gorge Railway. Your journey begins at Dunedin’s magnificent Edwardian railway station, with its Royal Doulton tiled floors and stained glass windows. As the train starts its 58-kilometre journey to Pukerangi, pass over wonderful viaducts and through cuttings and tunnels, enjoying the spectacular changes of scenery along the way.

Spend your final afternoon at leisure before a farewell dinner tonight. B, D

Day 18 Dunedin-Christchurch-UK

Christchurch, New Zealand

After breakfast, transfer to Christchurch (228 miles, five hours), for your return overnight flight to the UK. B

Day 19 UK

Arrive in the UK for your included door-to-door travel service home.

Your holiday includes three train journeys across New Zealand’s North and South Islands. On board the trains you’ll be able to drink in the incredible scenery in comfort with reclining seats, a generous amount of leg room, an audio commentary system, air conditioning, and panoramic windows and skylights. You’ll also find power sockets at each seat, so you can stay switched on for the whole journey. All trains feature a cafe carriage, serving a range of food and drinks from sweet snacks to hot meals.

Be sure to visit the open-air carriage for uninterrupted views of the passing landscapes – the perfect opportunity for photos!

New Zealand by Rail

New Zealand