18 Day Essence of New Zealand

Starting From NZD $7,695
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This New Zealand tour earns its name – it taps into the heart of the nation, from its rich Maori culture to its culinary traditions, natural wonders to adventure activities. You traverse both North and South islands, wine and dine in 10+ cities, cruise through a World Heritage Site (Milford Sound) and bask in the beauty of the country’s tallest mountains and fiercest waterfalls.

Tour Highlights

  • Milford Sound Cruise
  • Stewart Island Village and Bays Tour
  • Walking Art Deco Tour of Napier
  • Maori Hangi experience

Tour Itinerary

(B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner (SD) Specialty Dinner
Tour Code: LCQA

1
Welcome to Christchurch
Day 1
Welcome to Christchurch
Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm. Take some time to relax or explore independently. You may like to step back in time to a grand era of transport and relax on the Christchurch Tram as it 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 2011 earthquake. This evening, meet your fellow travelling companions and your AAT Kings Travel Director for a welcome reception at your hotel. Accommodation for departures up to April 2024 is at Ibis Christchurch, for departures after April 2024 it is at Wyndam Garden Christchurch.
Ibis Christchurch
Centrally located in the heart of Christchurch, this hotel is a great base for exploring the iconic 'Garden City'.
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Wyndam Garden Christchurch
Surrounded by bars and restaurants, 10 kilometers from Christchurch International Airport (CHC), Wyndham Garden Christchurch Kilmore Street offers convenient amenities like a gym, café, and free WiFi.
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2
Christchurch – Omarama (B, D)
Day 2
Christchurch – Omarama (B, D)
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 visit the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd and stop for a quick photo with 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.
Heritage Gateway Hotel
Located in the beautiful village of Omarama in the heart of the Mackenzie district.
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3
Omarama – Dunedin Free Time (B)
Day 3
Omarama – Dunedin Free Time (B)
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 Experience to see more of the region. Take a Wildlife Cruise out to Otago Peninsula, visit the Speights Brewery – a New Zealand institution or journey out to Larnach Castle – New Zealand’s only Castle. Tonight, speak with your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Dunedin’s inner city.
Kingsgate Hotel Dunedin
Located right in the heart of the city, Kingsgate Hotel Dunedin has the Central Business District right at its doorstep. The Otago Museum is just a stroll away, while the beach is a mere 10-minute drive.
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4
Dunedin – Invercargill (B)
Day 4
Dunedin – Invercargill (B)
This morning we leave Dunedin and travel through lush green pastures, crossing sheep-filled farming land through to Gore, the country music capital of New Zealand for a lunch stop. As your journey continues, you arrive into Invercargill, New Zealands southernmost city. This commercial hub is full of grand architecture and gardens. A city obsessed with motoring history, there are tributes to speed legends across town, from the famous Burt Munro to Bill Richardson and his shed full of classic vehicles – the largest private collection of its type in the world. This afternoon you will have some free time to explore this city and its offerings.
Kelvin Hotel Invercargill
Kelvin Hotel is situated in the city centre, only a short walk to major attractions and a 10-minute drive to the Invercargill Airport.
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5
Stewart Island (B)
Day 5
Stewart Island (B)
Board a ferry at Bluff and cruise to Stewart Island. Stewart Island is known by locals as Rakiura which is the Maori reference to Glowing Skies. It has been described as rugged, pristine and tranquil – and rightly so as 97% of the island is designated National Park and Conservation Estate. This means the birdlife, native flora & fauna and other natural environmental features have been able to thrive. Once you arrive, you will gain an entertaining insight into New Zealand’s southernmost community and learn about the history and environment of Stewart Island on a Village and Bays tour. Later, enjoy some free time. Join a guided sail around Paterson Inlet that will take you past unique places including Acker’s Cottage before docking at Ulva Island to admire the bird life and native flora. For a more active option you could hire an E-bike and explore the Island for yourself. Travel back to Bluff by ferry before arriving back to your accommodation in Invercargill.
Kelvin Hotel Invercargill
Kelvin Hotel is situated in the city centre, only a short walk to major attractions and a 10-minute drive to the Invercargill Airport.
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6
Invercargill – Queenstown (B)
Day 6
Invercargill – Queenstown (B)
Enjoy a relaxed start in Invercargill before departing for Queenstown. Known for its adventure you will have a free afternoon to explore. 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. Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences. This evening, why not sit back and enjoy a peaceful evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard New Zealand’s oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station (Optional Experience, own expense). 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.
Copthorne Hotel & Resort Queenstown Lakefront
Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront sits overlooking on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and within walking distance of Queenstown’s central shopping and entertainment area.
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7
Queenstown Free Time (B)
Day 7
Queenstown Free Time (B)
While Queenstown wears its Global Adventure badge proudly, it’s also the perfect place to relax and explore. The town boasts great shopping with luxury brands, iconic New Zealand design stores and boutique fashion. If bungy jumping or tree-to-tree ziplining aren't your cup of tea, consider an Optional Experience to spectacular Milford Sound, travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Fiordland National Park. Experience magnificent scenery and many photo opportunities afforded by the Mirror Lakes, Knobs Flat, Hollyford Valley lookout (Pop’s view), Cleddau Valley and the Chasm, drive through the hand-hewn Homer Tunnel towards the iconic Mitre Peak and the Bowen Falls before reaching Milford Sound for your cruise.
Copthorne Hotel & Resort Queenstown Lakefront
Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront sits overlooking on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and within walking distance of Queenstown’s central shopping and entertainment area.
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8
Queenstown – Franz Josef (B, D)
Day 8
Queenstown – Franz Josef (B, D)
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 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 Experience – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Located in the heart of Franz Josef village and close to Franz Josef Glacier.
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9
Franz Josef – Punakaiki (B, D)
Day 9
Franz Josef – Punakaiki (B, D)
If weather conditions are unfavourable on Day 8, 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. Then, continue to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Tonight, we stay in an eco-friendly resort right on the waterfront. Enjoy dinner while watching the thundering surf at your doorstep
Punakaiki Resort
Situated in Paparoa National Park just a short walk from the magnificent Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.
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10
Punakaiki – Nelson (B)
Day 10
Punakaiki – Nelson (B)
Soak up the scenic wilderness of the Heritage Highway through the impressive Buller Gorge and the Kahurangi National Park before arriving in Nelson.
Rutherford Hotel Nelson
A great location right in the heart of Nelson and only a short walk from shops, restaurants and cafes.
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11
Nelson Free Time (B)
Day 11
Nelson Free Time (B)
On this day at leisure, you’ll have the opportunity 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 shops. The choice is yours!
Rutherford Hotel Nelson
A great location right in the heart of Nelson and only a short walk from shops, restaurants and cafes.
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12
Nelson – Wellington (B, D-for departures after April 2024)
Day 12
Nelson – Wellington (B, D-for departures after April 2024)
This morning, we travel to the pretty seaside fishing village of Picton where you will board the Interislander for a cruise across the Cook Strait, from the South Island to the North. Surprisingly it takes longer to cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound and up the Tory Channel than it does to cross the open ocean of Cook Strait. You will meander through a maze of arms and inlets out of Picton. Once in Wellington enjoy a City tour including viewing New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings. Tonight is an evening at leisure, speak with your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Wellington’s inner city.
Travelodge Hotel Wellington
Situated in the city centre, just a short stroll to funky cafes, incredible shopping, and the beautiful Wellington harbour.
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13
Wellington Free Time (B, D-for departures up to April 2024)
Day 13
Wellington Free Time (B, D-for departures up to April 2024)
For departures until April 2024-You have a day at leisure to see the sights of your choice. Perhaps take a tour of Parliament or one of the Lord of the Rings movie tours, or venture to Weta Workshop, the home of the special effects' wizards whose work features in many blockbuster movies. Enjoy the café lifestyle in our capital city or simply shop till you drop, there is something in Wellington for everyone! This evening enjoy dinner at your hotel. For departures after April 2024 travel to Napier this morning and have the afternoon at leisure.
Travelodge Hotel Wellington
Situated in the city centre, just a short stroll to funky cafes, incredible shopping, and the beautiful Wellington harbour.
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Scenic Hotel Te Pania
Located right on the waterfront of Napier's Marine Parade and only a short walk from the main street of shopping and cafes.
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14
Wellington – Napier (L-for departures until April 2024, B)
Day 14
Wellington – Napier (L-for departures until April 2024, B)
For departures until April 2024 - You’ll have lunch included today provided by ‘Eat My Lunch’. ‘Eat My Lunch’ is a charity organisation that provides lunch for New Zealand school children who otherwise would be going to school without. By having lunch today, you are giving a lunch to a child in need. Travel through the dairy farming land of Manawatu to Napier. In February 1931, Napier was levelled by earthquake and fire but was rebuilt in the depths of the Great Depression in just two years. Nowhere else in the world can you see such a concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s: Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical. You’ll hear the story of the earthquake that devastated Napier in 1931 and be introduced to the Art Deco style and hear stories of the characters involved in rebuilding this city. A Local Guide will accompany you on a walking tour.
Scenic Hotel Te Pania
Located right on the waterfront of Napier's Marine Parade and only a short walk from the main street of shopping and cafes.
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15
Napier – Rotorua (B, SD)
Day 15
Napier – Rotorua (B, SD)
Enjoy a leisurely start to our day before continuing our journey to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Visit the spectacular Huka Falls, the only outlet of water from Lake Taupo and then it’s on to Rotorua. On arrival in Rotorua an orientation tour takes in views of Lake Rotorua. Tonight, an evening of culture, history and scrumptious food awaits you at the Tamaki Maori Village. Wander through the ancient forest village and learn about Maori art forms and traditions, followed by a concert featuring local performers. Experience an authentic Maori Hangi meal, steamed underground in the traditional way.
Sudima Lake Rotorua
Right on the lake edge in Rotorua and very close to the centre of the city.
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16
Rotorua Free Time (B)
Day 16
Rotorua Free Time (B)
Today is your chance to experience the scenic wonders of the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Visit Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you’ll see demonstrations of wood carving and weaving. Then tour the geothermal valley and hear the importance of the geysers and mud pools to the Maori people. Later, you may wish to travel back to Rotorua township and relax lakeside, or you may prefer to choose from one of the varied Optional Experiences on offer. Take a scenic flight out over Lake Rotorua for a bird’s eye view of the region. You may even want to stop at the top of Mt Tarawera, the site of the largest eruption in New Zealand’s living memory! Explore Rainbow Springs Nature Park & The National Kiwi Hatchery, take a ‘behind the scenes’ tour through the working kiwi nursery and hatchery. Later, why not spend a little more time experiencing the thermal wonders, with a soak in the hot mineral waters of the Polynesian Spas? Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences.
Sudima Lake Rotorua
Right on the lake edge in Rotorua and very close to the centre of the city.
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17
Rotorua – Auckland (B)
Day 17
Rotorua – Auckland (B)
Today you will follow the meandering trail of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, past the lush farmlands of the Waikato Region. As you journey over the Bombay Hills, the landscape changes from green, grassy meadowlands to the edges of suburbia. As you make your way into the heart of New Zealand’s largest city, you will discover what it takes to make shape and become an All Black at The All-Blacks Experience. This interactive experience celebrates New Zealand’s rugby heritage, achievements, and culture through exceptional innovation and technology. Your guided tour will feature the jaw-dropping, knee-trembling haka on a four-metre-high screen and entry to the interactive Step-Up zone where you can compare your kicking, catching, and lineout skills to current All Blacks and Black Ferns players.
Holiday Inn Express Auckland City
With its unbeatable location in Auckland’s epicentre, the brand new Holiday Inn Express Auckland City Centre is as convenient as it gets when visiting Auckland City.
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18
Farewell from Auckland (B)
Day 18
Farewell from Auckland (B)
Your holiday concludes this morning after breakfast.

Inclusions

Attractions Included

  • Stewart Island Village and Bays Tour
  • Walking Art Deco Tour of Napier
  • Maori Hangi experience

Coach Features

  • 48 Seat coach
  • Restroom

Experiences Included

  • Specialist team of two highly experienced Travel Director and Driver Guide
  • 1 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Fiordland National Park
  • Centrally located premium 3 star hotels

Meals Included

  • 17 Full Breakfasts
  • 1 Lunch
  • 4 Dinners
  • 1 Highlight Dinner

Visited Locations

  • Auckland
    Auckland, or Tāmaki Makaurau in Maori, is New Zealand’s largest city. It is based around 2 large and picturesque harbours. 'The City of Sails' is known as such because of the many yachts often seen on those harbours.
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  • Rotorua
    Rotorua is an inland city that is famous for its geothermal activity, Maori culture experiences, 18 lakes, and three major rivers in a beautiful natural environment.
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  • Napier
    Napier is a beautiful coastal city on the East Coast of Aotearoa's North Island. It is your gateway to the renowned wine-producing region of Hawke's Bay and its array of gourmet delighting food and wine experiences.
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  • Wellington
    Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city and the location of our parliament. Located at the bottom of the North Island it sits on the Cook Straight, which divides the North and South Islands.  Strong winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname "Windy Wellington".
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  • Nelson
    Nelson is the main centre of the Tasman region. This is an extraordinary, vibrant region where art and businesses thrive together among a stunning natural landscape.
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  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes
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  • Christchurch
    Christchurch is an fascinating city to explore. It was once a historic garden city. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes it has turned into a fascinating city of regeneration and growth.
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  • Omarama
    Sitting in a broad basin between mountain ranges, Omarama is a small town at the junction of State Highways 8 and 83. It sits near the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin, in the South Island.
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  • Queenstown
    Queenstown is a stunning resort town, renowned for its beauty and wealth of adventure activities, it sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps mountains, Queenstown is also a base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns.
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  • Dunedin
    Known as the 'Edinburgh of the South', Dunedin is a city that wears its Scottish heritage with pride. The small city boasts some eye-catching architecture and is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
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  • Invercargill
    Invercargill is a city near the southern tip of Aotearoa’s South Island. The Southland Region's "Capital", it is New Zealand’s southernmost city and was founded in the 1850s.
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  • Franz Josef
    Franz Josef is the name of both the glacier and the nearby village. The small but lively Franz Josef Waiau village is surrounded by lush rainforest with the high snow-capped Alps rising above it.
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Attractions

  • Tamaki Maori Village Hangi
    In 1989, brothers, Doug and Mike Tamaki created a turning point for tourism in Rotorua and forever changed the way people from around the world experienced cultural storytelling. Today Tamaki is an iconic brand in tourism. You will journey back to a time of proud warriors and ancient traditions with the Tamaki Māori Village Evening Experience.
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  • Art Deco Trail with Guide
    Savour the distinctive style of Napier on this guided tour. Napier was levelled by earthquake and fire in 1931 and rebuilt in the depths of the Great Depression. The rebuild was rich in optimism and vitality, though; and the new buildings were built in the distinctive style of the thirties. Spanish Mission, Stripped Classical and above all Art Deco buildings now give the city centre a very special style. 
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  • Te Puia Thermal Mud Pools & Geysers
    Discover one of New Zealand’s most magnificent geothermal wonderlands near Rotorua at Te Puia. See dramatic geysers, bubbling mud and beautiful native bush.
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Available Dates

Dates Price per person
Available
03 Oct 2024 - 20 Oct 2024 Guaranteed Departure
$ 8275.00 - $ 10761.00
$ 7695.00 - $ 10007.00
Available
28 Nov 2024 - 15 Dec 2024
$ 8275.00 - $ 10761.00
$ 7695.00 - $ 10007.00
Available
30 Jan 2025 - 16 Feb 2025 Guaranteed Departure
$ 9735.00 - $ 12660.00
$ 9053.00 - $ 11773.00
Available
02 Oct 2025 - 19 Oct 2025
$ 10710.00 - $ 13930.00
$ 9960.00 - $ 12954.00
Available
27 Nov 2025 - 14 Dec 2025
$ 10710.00 - $ 13930.00
$ 9960.00 - $ 12954.00
Available
29 Jan 2026 - 15 Feb 2026
$ 10710.00 - $ 13930.00
$ 9960.00 - $ 12954.00
Available
19 Feb 2026 - 08 Mar 2026
$ 11005.00 - $ 14315.00
$ 10234.00 - $ 13312.00
Available
19 Mar 2026 - 05 Apr 2026
$ 11005.00 - $ 14315.00
$ 10234.00 - $ 13312.00
18 Day Essence of New Zealand
Days
18
Price from
NZD $7,695 per person twin share
Save up to $830 per person share twin on selected departures!