Escorted touring holidays in New Zealand
Contemplating an escorted tour through New Zealand? One of the world’s most breath-taking destinations, it’s divided between the North and South islands, with everything from wild, rugged coastlines, soaring mountain peaks, rainforest and waterfalls to hot springs, glaciers and abundant wildlife. There’s so much to see and do it can be hard to know where to start.
Whether you can visit for just a week, a month or more, you’ll relish every minute and wish you could stay longer. No matter the timeframe, the key is to make the most of what time you do have. Of course, factors like weather extremes and narrow, winding roads, coupled with the inevitable jet lag and long days of driving can make for some rather hazardous conditions for getting behind the wheel. An escorted tour eliminates that as the only thing you’ll really have to worry about is ensuring that you brought your passport. You’ll be able to let an expert do the driving for you, relaxing while you soak up all that New Zealand has to offer, visiting some of the very best destinations without spending hours and hours trying to figure out which to put where in our itinerary.
These are just a few of the other reasons we think escorted touring is really the way to go when exploring this country.
View it through the eyes of an expert local
Getting to know the true sense of a place is always best accomplished with the help of a local. Someone who understands the destination inside and out, including its culture, will help you understand the story behind what you’re experiencing, providing an endless source of information you probably wouldn’t have known if you had travelled on your own, adding significant value to the trip. With enthusiastic guides handpicked for their experience and passion, you’re just about guaranteed to go home with memories of a lifetime.
The highlights and hidden gems
It requires a ton of research to learn which places to visit, sights to see and adventures to take part in. Not only can it be exhausting, but there are lots of gems you’re bound to miss without insider knowhow. When joining an escorted tour, you’ll not only experience the must-see sights, but best-kept secrets that only locals know about.
A better value
Typically, an escorted tour is more cost-effective, providing a better value simply because tour operators are available to obtain significant discounts due to bulk buying. That means it’s probably going to be much less expensive than had you put the package together yourself, not to mention, significantly less work. Your itinerary is taken care of, accommodation, many meals and activities, so you can enjoy the trip without worrying about taking your wallet out for every little thing.
Not only are you likely to meet plenty of fun local characters throughout New Zealand, on any given escorted tour there are usually a good mix of couples, friends travelling together and some solo travellers too. One of the greatest benefits is that it provides you with the chance to meet like-minded people from across the globe, and possibly develop new friendships while bonding through shared experiences. You might even find a future travel partner too.
Comfort and amenities
If you drive on your own, you’ll have to be focused on the road, but traveling in a comfortable coach with panoramic windows while someone else does the hard work means there’s no need to concentrate on the wheel. Instead you can gaze out at the scenery without missing a thing. Modern coaches are used that come complete with air conditioning, reclining seats and plenty of legroom. Most are equipped with free Wi-Fi and phone chargers too. That means you’ll be able to capture those photos and immediately share them with family and friends. Plus, there’s no having to search for a restroom either because you’ll have one onboard.
With an escorted tour, dining options are often selected based on local favourites so you can be sure that you’ll enjoy delicious meals with varied menus that include local specialties. No trying to sort through all those reviews trying to figure out where to eat. Typically you’ll enjoy either a buffet-style or an a la carte breakfast with hot and cold items, while lunches, when included, are generally a mix of a special buffet selection or picnic style, Dinners are always three courses, frequently with a choice of entrée, main course and dessert, some served buffet-style with a wide range of foods, others a la carte.
With experts in the region doing the planning, the best available accommodation options are searched out to ensure a good experience. You won’t have to guess which hotels to book only to worry that you might end up disappointed, as insiders known the areas you’ll be visiting inside and out, ensuring well-serviced, clean rooms, typically with coffee- and tea-makers, minibars and room service, as well as private bathrooms and all the necessary facilities. Whenever possible, properties offering additional perks like restaurants and bars, a swimming pool, sauna, etc. are chosen. Of course, when traveling in remote regions, while options may be more limited, you can be sure you’ll be placed in the most comfortable rooms available in any area.
Customised trips for the perfect New Zealand excursion
Of course, if you want a mix of an escorted and some time on your own, that’s always a possibility too. You might plan to arrive early and spend a couple of days enjoying the city where your tour begins, or add a short self-guided tour at the end. Just about any trip can be tailor made to your particular needs and desires to provide the perfect blend for the holiday of your dreams.
Escorted tour options
There are multiple tour options in New Zealand, from Classic tours via coach accompanied by an expert tour guide and Superior coach tours that include upgraded vehicles and accommodation, to Deluxe tours, which are the most luxurious excursions of all.
While all can be customized, the 16-night New Zealand Magic Tour is the quintessential small group tour that begins on the South Island in Christchurch. You’ll travel via the world-famous TranzAlpine train to Franz Josef and pass through magnificent lake- and waterfall-filled scenery, stopping to explore a historic gold mining settlement as you make your way to the adventure capital of Queenstown. Enjoy time on your own, perhaps hopping aboard a jet boat for a thrilling ride or tasting wine on a vineyard tour before hopping aboard New Zealand’s oldest steamship to cruise one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Wakatipu. Fiordland National Park, the country’s largest national park, is on the itinerary too, with its beauty that includes more than a dozen fjords, including Milford Sound. You’ll get to glide across it on a cruise as well, taking in the scenery while keeping an eye out of dolphins, penguins and seals.
More gorgeous lakes and falls await to marvel at before making your way to Dunedin, famous for its wildlife tours. This region offers the chance for closeup views of fur seals, sea lions and penguins, including the rare yellow-eyed penguin. Before you go, you can embark on a cruise to see them. A scenic drive will take you through stunning Aoraki Mount Cook National Park to witness some of the most stunning views in the country, with towering Mount Cook looming over the milky turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. You’ll even have the option to join a flightseeing excursion for a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent landscape before traveling through the Canterbury Plains back to Christchurch. Kaikoura, on the northeast side of the South Island, is renowned for some of the world’s best whale watching with sperm whales spotted all year-round and many other species that can be glimpsed in various seasons.
Whale watching flights are an option here and seeing the massive animals breach the water’s surface from above is unlike anything else. From the picturesque village of Picton you’ll take the ferry across Marlborough Sounds to Wellington to discover its highlights on a city tour, delving into New Zealand’s history, culture, art and national heritage.
Travel through beautiful coastal scenery and serene farmland on your way to Tongariro National Park and Rotorua, the country’s most active geothermal region with its steaming vents, emerald crater lakes and jaw-dropping mountain views. Learn about traditional Maori culture at a special dinner hosted at the Tamaki Maori Village before journeying on to Auckland, stopping to experience the world-famous Waitamo Caves and its underground glowworm grotto.
Another scenic cruise awaits in the Bay of Islands where you’ll be able to discover the Hole in the Rock, one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. Enjoy a day to explore this region filled with more than 140 islands, famous for sailing, with opportunities to sail across the water in a tall ship, catch glimpses of whales, dolphins and penguins, and visit the region’s first capital, Russell. This amazing escorted tour ends back in back in Auckland, but as mentioned, if you aren’t ready to leave just yet, you might want to consider a short tour option like the Bay of Islands Kotare.
The three-night Bay of Islands Kotare Tour provides an in-depth look at these magical islands, including the chance to visit one of the locals’ favourite beaches, Muriwai, where you’ll be mesmerised by the views of the Tasman Sea and Muriwai gannet colony from the clifftop. Discover an ancient forest, take a cruise across Hokianga Harbour with a local guide to explore massive sand dunes, and perhaps even body board down them. Visit the important historic site where the Waitangi Treaty was signed which includes the award-winning Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Museum of Waitangi, and then join a guided tour with a Kawiti family, the descendants of the area’s famous Maori chief, through the remote Kawati Caves, filled with thousands of glowworms.