2020 North Island Autumn Journey
Wednesday 25 March - Tuesday 7 April 2020
This 14-day tour combines train, coach and ferry, and offers a magnificent combination of sights and experiences.
Following a train journey north, we spend two nights at the timelessly elegant Chateau Tongariro in the heart of the Tongariro National Park.
We experience the unique and isolated landscape of New Zealand railway history with the Forgotten World five tunnels rail adventure.
Spend two nights in the five star Skycity Hotel in Auckland.
Indulge in a high tea experience at the iconic Zealong Tea Estate.
Our comprehensive itinerary also includes visiting Te Papa, Hobbiton, Te Puia Geothermal Valley, Stratosphere Restaurant in Rotorua and an Art Deco tour in Napier.
*Please note this is a draft itinerary and is subject to change
Day 1 - Wednesday, 25 March 2020: Wellington - Meet and greet
If you arrive early join locals and visitors alike for a historic trip on the Wellington Cable Car. It offers a charming escape from the busy city streets to the tree lined walkways of the Botanic Gardens. Wellington is also home to numerous small museums, galleries and great shopping.
Make your own way to the Ibis Hotel Wellington. Our tour group can check in from 2pm where you meet your guides and fellow travellers.
Dinner included - Overnight at Ibis Hotel
Day 2 - Thursday 26 March: Wellington - Wellington excursions
Our first morning begins with a private tour of Parliament before time on your own at Te Papa Tongarewa – Museum of NZ. Lunch are your own arrangements.
In the afternoon we split into two groups and travel to Weta Workshops in Miramar to embark on a journey from Middle-earth to Tracy Island and beyond as you explore 20 years of award-winning creativity! This includes a guided tour, where you’ll learn about the creative processes behind the crafting of props and costumes. Also included is a screening of a behind the scenes documentary.
Breakfast, dinner included - Overnight at Ibis Hotel
Day 3 - Friday 27 March: Wellington to National Park (train) and Whakapapa Village (coach)
We start our train journey north, departing at 7:55am. The Northern Explorer journeys on ‘the main trunk line’, where you can take in scenic and historic points along the way. There are brief stops at Paraparaumu, Palmerston North and Ohakune before we reach National Park with an expected arrival time of 1:15pm.
There is an afternoon tour (departing directly from National Park Railway Station) to the Waiouru National Army Museum to view a unique collection of military exhibits, memorabilia and public research material. The museum is also the place for families to trace their military connections and history.
Our coaches transfer us from Waiouru to Whakapapa Village.
Breakfast, dinner included - Overnight at The Chateau Tongariro
Day 4 - Saturday 28 March: Whakapapa - Whakapapa excursions
Today we travel to Taumaranui on our coaches where we embark on a Forgotten World Adventure. You will experience the first 16km of the Forgotten World Railway, travelling through five tunnels including the longest tunnel (1.5km) on the line. We will stop for morning tea at Matiere before returning on the rails back through the tunnels (bonus!) to the departure point. This trip will be enjoyed by all, regardless of health or mobility.
We then adjourn to Lauren’s Lavender farm for lunch before returning to Whakapapa in the afternoon. The more adventurous may like an optional 40km return jet boat adventure enjoying the beautiful scenery, history and short fun rapids on the Wanganui River.
Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, dinner included - Overnight at The Chateau Tongariro
Day 5 - Sunday 29 March: Whakapapa (coach) to National Park and Auckland (train)
If weather permits there are a range of outdoor walks that can be enjoyed in for the morning, or you can choose to sit and relax in the luxurious surroundings of the Chateau Tongariro.
Before we rejoin our train for a 1:15pm departure to Auckland we lunch at the National Park railway cafe.
Highlights of this journey include the Raurimu spiral, spectacular rail viaducts and rural scenery. There are brief stops in Otorohanga (the Kiwiana capital of New Zealand), Hamilton, and Papakura before we arrive in Auckland, where we transfer to the SkyCity hotel for a late dinner in the Fortuna Restaurant.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included - Overnight at SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Day 6 - Monday 30 March: Auckland - Auckland excursions
Today you can use the Auckland Explorer Hop on Hop off 24 hr pass to make your way around Auckland by coach departing every 20 mins. The 24hr pass routes includes stops at Auckland Museum, Auckland Zoo, MOTAT, Parnell, Eden Park, Kelly Tarltons, Sky Tower and much more. Also included in the 24hr pass are ferry transfers to Devonport, for shopping and a visit to the National Navy Museum. An alternative tour takes a Fullers ferry around the Auckland Waitemata Harbour and inner Hauraki Gulf islands with a short stop at Rangitoto Island.
Dinner is in the Orbit Restaurant at the top of the SkyTower at 6:30pm. Head up the Sky Tower early and enjoy the panoramic 360˚ views from 220 metres high above street level. With views out to 80 kilometres in every direction. you can spot key landmarks, volcanoes and other historical locations within the greater Auckland area, across to Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island.
Breakfast, dinner (Orbit Restaurant) included - Overnight at SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Day 7 - Tuesday 31 March: Auckland to Hamilton (coach)
We leave Auckland and travel by coach to Hamilton where we visit the Zealong Tea Estate - a unique opportunity to experience the world’s purest tea in New Zealand's only commercial tea plantation. In beautiful surroundings we enjoy a glamorous late morning ‘High Tea’.
In the afternoon we explore Hamilton’s premier themed gardens, Waikato’s most popular tourist attraction. The site features 21 gardens representing the art, beliefs, lifestyles and traditions of different civilisations or historical garden styles. These gardens are grouped into the Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape garden collections.
Breakfast, high tea, dinner included - Overnight at Distinction Hamilton
Day 8 - Wednesday 1 April: Hamilton - Hamilton excursions
Today we travel through the heart of the King Country to Waitomo Village where we embark on an underground adventure through the Waitomo Caves by boat. Experience the cultural and natural history of this underground wonder including the glow worm grotto. This has been recognised as one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions for the last 130 years. There is also the chance to visit the Waitomo Discovery Centre, one of the best special interest Museums in New Zealand.
We then head north to Otorohanga, known as the ‘Kiwiana town’. Walk the Ed Hillary Walkway, a “Kiwiana Arcade” showcasing New Zealand’s popular culture, icons, heritage and heroes. Enjoy lunch on your own in Otorohanga.
We stop briefly at our hotel in Hamilton, and then embark on an optional coach trip to Raglan (the surfing capital of NZ) before returning for the evening.
Breakfast, dinner included - Overnight at Distinction Hamilton
Day 9 - Thursday 2 April: Hamilton to Rotorua (coach)
We travel by coach to the unique and exciting Hobbiton Movie Set location in Matamata. This experience includes a guided tour through the village and famous film sets, and concludes with specially brewed beverages in the Middle-earth Green Dragon bar.
In the afternoon we travel to Rotorua with a stop in Tirau, the corrugated iron capital of the world. This small but vibrant town is also known for its local boutique shopping. Lunch on your own in Tirau
Breakfast, dinner included - Overnight at Millennium Rotorua
Day 10 - Friday 3 April: Rotorua - Rotorua excursions
Today we will have the opportunity to experience geothermal attractions at Te Puia, the centre for Maori culture and geothermal wonders like the Pohatu geyser. Te Puia houses the NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, as well as significant examples of Maori architecture and a kiwi house.
An optional (first) tour to the WingsSpan National Bird of Prey Centre is available (bookings essential - limited to 25). This tour is at the same time as the Te Puia excursion.
Lunch on your own is at Te Puia or Rotorua on return from Wingspan.
Afternoon of leisure. Alternatively a short excursion by coach will be offered to the grand Californian Coast Redwood Forest, for short walks, or an opportunity to take the optional ‘tree tops’ walk.
Breakfast, dinner included - Overnight at Millennium Rotorua
Day 11 - Saturday 4 April: Rotorua - Rotorua excursions
Today there is a second opportunity for an optional tour to the WingsSpan National Bird of Prey Centre (bookings essential - limited to 25). Those travelers who missed the Te Puia visit can undertake this today.
Lunch on your own.
Afternoon will be at your leisure or join our coaches for an excursion to New Zealand's most famous archaeological site - the excavated buried village of ‘Te Wairoa’, the maori settlement buried by ashfall from the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. As time permits, there may an additional optional tour to Rainbow Springs Wildlife and Nature park.
In the evening we will travel by gondola to dine amidst the stars at the Skyline Restaurant, and enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Rotorua from Mount Ngongotaha.
Breakfast, Stratosphere Dinner included - Overnight at Millennium Rotorua
Day 12 - Sunday 5 April: Rotorua to Napier (coach)
We travel from Rotorua to Taupo, with a stop at the Lava Glass gallery to view glass blowing, the sculpture garden and for morning tea.
Lava Glass has a magnificent sculpture garden featuring more than 600 glass art sculptures and some of the largest pieces of glass blown in New Zealand. Take a stroll through an acre of manicured grounds, around ponds, past bird-attracting native trees, and fields of magical glass flowers.
Our next stop is the famous Huka falls, a thundering 11-metre high waterfall and the most visited and photographed natural attraction in New Zealand.
There is an opportunity for some time and lunch on your own in Taupo before we depart for the final coach section through to Napier.
Breakfast, morning tea, dinner included - Overnight Scenic Hotel Te Pania
Day 13 - Monday 6 April: Napier - Napier excursions
We start our day in Napier with a split tour aboard the Hawkes Bay Express for an Art Deco and history tour of Napier. The original town of Napier was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1931 and was completely rebuilt in the contemporary style of ’Art Deco’. The city is now recognised as the most complete Art Deco city in the world.
Lunch own arrangements in Napier township.
In the afternoon we travel overland in 4WD coaches to the Cape Kidnappers Gannet colony.
If gannets are not to your liking there is an alternative tour to the famed Mission Winery Estate for wine and cheese tasting (bookings essential) or simply relax or perhaps explore Napier on your own.
We will host a ‘farewell dinner’ at the Masonic Hotel. We suggest you bring an item of clothing, hat, shawl etc to wear for this evening or pick something up from one of the many shops in Napier to enhance the ‘Art Deco’ theme for the evening.
Breakfast, ‘Art Deco’ themed farewell dinner included - Overnight Scenic Hotel Te Pania
Day 14 - Tuesday 7 April: Napier to Wellington (train)
Our last day… We board our Heritage train for the journey south to Wellington via the spectacular coastlines, wide rural valleys and small towns of the Wairarapa.
Our final destination is back where we began in Wellington – arriving at about 3:30pm.
Coaches will transport us to hotels or the airport for connecting flights.
Travellers may choose to stay an extra night (at your expense) at the completion of the tour. Book this through our Customer Care team. Rooms are limited.
Breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon teas included
Twin share - $5,999 pp inc GST
Single Supplement - $6,499 pp inc GST
Please note : These prices do not include airfares or travel costs between your location and the start and finish points.
This includes payment by internet transfer or payment at any BNZ branch.
Payee: Stuff LTD
Account number: 02-0500-0700089-12
Reference number: Your last name plus 159
You can send us a cheque made out to : Stuff LTD
Addressed to :
Readers' Rail Tour
PO Box 3740
You can also pay any outstanding balances by credit card. Simply call us on 0800 0800 99 during business hours, and we’ll process the payment over the phone. 3.5% fee applies.
"Not a day goes by without us sharing with friends and family some of the wonderful highlights of the trip; the Forgotten World Adventure rail cart, the Zealong Tea Estate, Hobbiton, the Wingspan tour and the Gannets just to name a few. The trip was made so enjoyable by you the organizers, your personalities shone."
"I want to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed the Rail tour. Many thanks to all tour guides, drivers and rail staff – everyone helped make the tour run smoothly, and comfortably for us."