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9 Day AAT Kings Southern Spotlight

9 days 8 nights
Christchurch to Christchurch
from NZD$3,756pp
was NZD$3,986pp
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Tour summary and feature with map

The 9-day Southern Spotlight tour explores the wonderful scenery of the South Island. The city of Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, Dunedin, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier and you take the world-famous TranzAlpine train from Arthurs Pass to Christchurch. With lots of opportunities to enjoy the many great optional tours and activities, this is the ideal tour for those wishing to see the best of the South Island at a relaxing pace.

Wildlife & nature

This Tour Also Features

  • Christchurch City Tour
  • Milford Sound Cruise
  • TranzAlpine Train from Arthur's Pass to Christchurch
  • TSS Earnslaw cruise and dinner at Walter Peak high country farm, Queenstown
  • Visit a Local Orchard
  • Visit a Pounamu Factory
  • Meals included: 8 breakfasts, 4 dinners, 1 special dinner
Tour full itinerary
Itinerary
Day One - Welcome to Christchurch
Tour day 1
Christchurch City Tram

Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm. After check-in, you can head out and explore Christchurch. Step back in time to a grand era of transport and relax as the Christchurch Tram takes you around the 'must-see' central attractions. The tram drivers provide a live commentary throughout the loop, identifying points of interest, historic architecture and the changes the city is under-going since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. This evening, meet your fellow travellers and your AAT Kings Travel Director at a welcome reception at your hotel.

Staying in:

  • Ibis Hotel Christchurch (1 night)

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Day Two - Christchurch – Omarama
Tour day 2
View of Lake Tekapo

This morning you may wish to take a brief walk around the city centre and Cathedral Square before departure. See how Christchurch is rebuilding after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and pop into the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, the temporary home of the Christchurch Cathedral. It is the world’s only cathedral made substantially of cardboard! After a Christchurch city sights tour, you will head out over the patchwork countryside of the Canterbury Plains to soak up some spectacular sightseeing. Sweeping views across the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo framed by a backdrop of rugged hills and snow-capped mountains provide stunning alpine photography opportunities. You will view the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd and the bronze statue of a collie dog, the touching tribute to the sheepdogs which helped develop the Mackenzie Country. You may want to take in Mount Cook National Park from the air this afternoon, on a scenic flight out over New Zealand’s highest peak, the Southern Alps and on to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers (Optional Experience – at own expense). Your day finishes in the heart of the Mackenzie Country at Omarama. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Staying in:

  • Heritage Gateway Hotel (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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Day Three - Omarama – Dunedin
Tour day 3
Dunedin Railway Station

Your day starts with a journey along the Waitaki River, which marks the boundary between the regions of Canterbury and Otago, and with its large catchment it is an ideal source of hydro-electric power. From the Waitaki Valley you will then travel through to the township of Oamaru, with its stately tree-lined streets and its famous white limestone buildings. As well as shipping limestone to the bigger cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin for construction of their Town Halls and various churches, Oamaru locals made sure that their own town represented the best in limestone building the mid-late 1800’s had to offer. This afternoon you will make your way down to the Southernmost New Zealand city, Dunedin. With the rest of your free afternoon you may wish to take part in an optional excursion to see more of the region. Take a Wildlife Cruise out to Otago Peninsula, visit the Speights Brewery – a New Zealand institution or explore the city and its museums, cafés and shops.

Staying in:

  • Scenic Hotel Dunedin City (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast

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Day Four - Dunedin – Te Anau
Tour day 4
View of Te Anau Lake

This morning you have some free time in Dunedin. You may want to journey out to the gorgeous Larnach Castle – New Zealand’s only castle. Or you may just wish to roam around the beautiful grounds of New Zealand’s first university, Otago University. Dunedin, also known as the Edinburgh of the South, has strong connections to its northern hemisphere sister city, even down to sharing many of the same street names – so take a wander down George Street, noting Dunedin’s Scottish ancestry. This afternoon travel through lush green pastures, crossing sheep-filled farming land. New Zealand is internationally known for its sheep farming, and these are sights many visitors to this country recognise as typically ‘New Zealand’. You are sure to find the perfect sheep photo here! As your journey continues, the rolling, grassy hills once again turn back into heavily forested, rugged mountains, and you meander your way up into the Fiordland National Park to the South Island’s biggest lake and the town of Te Anau. This evening you have the opportunity to head out across the lake to the Glow Worm Caves for a tour (Optional Experience – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Staying in:

  • Distinction Luxmore Hotel (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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Day Five - Te Anau – Queenstown
Tour day 5
Milford Sound Cruise

Today is one of those days where you will want to have your camera battery charged, and ready to go! After leaving Te Anau, you will journey through the Fiordland National Park and out to Milford Sound on one of the most scenic roads you could hope for. Travel through native rainforests, beech forests, alluvial flats and meadows. You will stop at Mirror Lakes where, as the name suggests, you can see the stunning mountain scenery perfectly reflected in the waters of the lakes. Then on to the Homer Tunnel, man’s attempt to master the sheer rocky ranges, still left rough-hewn around the edges. As you emerge out the other side of the tunnel, you are presented with one of the world’s most dramatic alpine drives, down through the Cleddau Valley. You will have a stop at the Chasm, where the roaring Cleddau River has carved its way through solid rock, and then it’s on to Milford Sound, where you will cruise the waters of this natural wonder. Your cruise meanders down the sound, taking in the Bowen and Stirling Falls as they plummet from glacial hanging valleys sharply into the sea, and the sheer pinnacle of Mitre Peak, rising from the deep waters of the fiord. From the spectacular scenes of Milford Sound, you will travel on to the beautiful sights of Queenstown. An orientation tour skirting around the shores of Lake Wakatipu, takes you into the city centre.

Staying in:

  • Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast

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Day Six - Queenstown Free Time
Tour day 6
View of Queenstown

Explore exciting Queenstown your way! Take the opportunity to encounter a Queenstown legend and ride the Shotover Jet Boat or venture out on a Skippers Canyon Scenic Tour. If laid-back and relaxed is more your idea of fun, then join a Wine Tour and sample some of Central Otago’s award-winning wines or visit our native birds at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park. Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences. After a day of activity, sit back and enjoy a peaceful evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard New Zealand’s oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station. Launched in 1912, the TSS Earnslaw is the largest and grandest vessel ever to ply Lake Wakatipu. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is believed to be the only coal-fired passenger carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. Partake in a gourmet BBQ Highlight Dinner at Walter Peaks’ Colonel’s Homestead and then enjoy an entertaining after-dinner farm show providing a glimpse into high-country farm life. On the cruise back to Queenstown, join in a vintage sing-along or grab your partner for a dance across the polished wooden floors of the Earnslaw.

Staying in:

  • Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

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Day Seven - Queenstown – Franz Josef
Tour day 7
Road to Franz Josef

This morning you will leave the alpine wonderland of Queenstown behind, and begin the passage through Central Otago and out to Westland. On the way out of the Queenstown region, you will stop and visit the faithfully restored gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. As you amble down the beautiful tree-lined avenues, past the 19th century wooden buildings, you will feel like you have stepped into a movie set. From here you will travel over to Cromwell, situated next to the sparkling pristine waters of Lake Dunstan, where you will stop in at a local orchard for a taste of some of the town’s delicious stone fruit. It is a day of gorgeous lakes, as after Dunstan, you will travel further into Central Otago and view the vivid blue waters of Lake Hawea, followed by Lake Wanaka, where the shoreline is charmingly lined by poplars and willows. Following an ancient greenstone trail, you will travel over Haast Pass, marking a change from the alpine scenery of the Southern Lakes, to the rainforest marvel of the wild West Coast. View the sheer drop of Thunder Creek Falls and the grand sight of Mt Hooker, flanked on three sides by extensive glaciers. Our final destination for today is the extraordinary rivers of ice that make up Franz Josef Glacier. You may want to get up close and personal with the glaciers on a helicopter flight. Your flight will hover over the snow face and may land high up in the valley so that you can walk across the ice fall – subject to weather conditions (optional – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Staying in:

  • Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier (Graham Wing) (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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Day Eight - Franz Josef – Christchurch
Tour day 8
TranzAlpine Train at the Station

If weather conditions are unfavourable on Day 15, you will get another chance to fly up to the glaciers this morning or you might want to take a stroll through the small but lively Franz Josef village. Then you head off to the drift-wood strewn beaches of Hokitika. As well as being one of the few West Coast communities to embrace its coastal landscape, Hokitika struck it rich in the resource's stakes. Here you will visit a pounamu factory (native greenstone or jade), for the chance to see master carvers at work creating intricate pieces of jewellery and art. Maori tradition says it is bad luck to buy pounamu for yourself, so if you fancy a trinket of your own, make sure you have someone there to purchase it for you. From Hokitika, you will travel inland to the small settlement of Arthur’s Pass. Here you will board the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch city. This spectacular train journey dates back to 1914 and is rated as one of the world’s most scenic train trips. The train forges through tunnels and over viaducts with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, icy rivers, beech forests, gorges and river valleys. This evening, join your AAT Kings Travel Director and Driver, and your new-found friends for a Farewell Dinner.

Staying in:

  • Ibis Hotel Christchurch (1 night)
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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Day Nine - Farewell from Christchurch
Tour day 9
AAT Coach Crew

Your AAT Kings New Zealand holiday concludes this morning after breakfast. Your flights can depart any time today.

Meals included: Breakfast

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This tour has 3 departure dates.
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Feb 19, 2023
(Sunday)
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was NZD$3,986
now NZD$3,756
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now NZD$4,586
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now NZD$4,586
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Mar 12, 2023
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was NZD$3,986
now NZD$3,756
was NZD$4,816
now NZD$4,586
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NZD$230
Mar 19, 2023
(Sunday)
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was NZD$3,986
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NZD$230
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was NZD$3,986
now NZD$3,756
was NZD$4,816
now NZD$4,586
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