South Island
Grand Rail Tour
15 Days

15 days / 14 nights

The South Island Grand Rail Tour is a comprehensive and evenly paced tour to experience the best of New Zealand’s South Island and includes all 3 Great New Zealand Rail Journeys – the Northern Explorer Train, the Coastal Pacific Train and the Tranz Alpine Train.

Featuring multiple 2 night stays to give an even pace to the travel (and not be packing/unpacking everyday).

The tour includes 2 special event dinners – the TSS Earnslaw Cruise to Walter Peak for dinner, and the exclusive dinner at Larnach Castle.

Stay 2 nights in Wellington and visit Te Papa & view the Gallipoli “Scale of War” exhibit, cruise cook strait to Picton, 2 nights Christchurch. Travel through Arthurs Pass, visit Shantytown goldmining village in Greymouth, Fox Glacier, 2 nights Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw cruise & Walter Peak dinner, Cruise Milford Sound, Te Anau, Invercargil & Bluff, The Catlins, 2 nights Dunedin, visit Olveston House, Larnach Castle & exclusive dinner, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo.

Tours include a wide range of home pickup & return areas, including return airfare.

NZD $7399

per person, twin share

Solo travellers (same gender) are matched for twin share at no extra cost.

NZD $1750 Single Supplement

(to guarantee a single room)

Departure Dates

03 Oct 2024

15 LEFT!

17 Oct 2024

 

7 Nov 2024

 

03 Feb 2025

 

27 Feb 2025

 

06 Mar 2025

 

20 Mar 2025

 

03 Apr 2025

 

24 Apr 2024

 

Door to Door Service - Transfer & Flight Options

Gold Club Tours offer door to door service from a wide range of areas.

Hotel or home pickup and return (including flight(s) available at no extra charge from the below listed pickup locations:

 

In the event your area is not included in the tour price, Gold Club Tours can take your address details and advise potential arrangements and any related charge – when possible it will be provided for Free.

Pickup Locations

All our listed home pickup areas are listed below. Arrangements for travel to Wellington vary depending on your starting location. Some guests may be taken to join the train at different stations enroute to avoid unnecessary travel time. Tauranga guests for instance would typically be taken to join the the Northern Explorer Train at Hamilton.

Guests who are not close enough to train stations, but are close to airports, can home pickup & return and would fly to Wellington on the first day of the tour, and fly home from Christchurch at the end of the tour (met on arrival at airport and returned home).

Please contact us by email or phone, and we can quote pricing based on your date of departure – there may be no additional charge (the Northern Explorer is not used, so the related saving reduces airfares quoted).

If your area is not listed below, please contact us to find out if we can offer this for you – we look for reasons to say yes, not no.

Flights

Return flight from Christchurch & home/hotel return included in tour price from the above listed pickup locations. Guests fly from Christchurch on final day of tour and on arrival are met and returned to their hotel or home address. Typically, guests fly to the airport closest to their home return area, although this may vary in some instances. Guests who wish to have specific requests catered to, such as direct vs connecting flights, specific flight times or specific airports, alternative locations, alternative dates, etc, may incur additional charges (wherever possible we do not charge additional). Guests are welcome to make their own return travel arrangements and are eligible for a discount of $100 per person per flight should they elect to do this (Guests making their own return travel arrangements would conclude their tour in Christchurch, with a transfer to a nominated address in Christchurch included. Gold Club Tours must be advised at time of booking).

Travel Insurance

Gold Club Tours always recommend that guests take out travel insurance. This is important whether it is for international or domestic travel. In the event you are unable to travel before or during a tour, cancellation terms apply – take out insurance to protect yourself.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Northern Explorer Train to Wellington

Today you are picked up from your home or hotel, to join to join the Northern Explorer train. (depending on location of origin you will be transferred to one of the several train stations the Northern Explorer stops).

Enjoy fantastic views from the train’s panoramic windows or perhaps venture out to the open-air viewing deck. See magnificent views of the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu and the world famous Raurimu Spiral, as well as stunning river gorges.

On arrival in Wellington you are met at the train station and transferred to your hotel. 


Stay: Rydges Hotel (or similar)

Day 2

Wellington, Te Papa “Gallipoli – The Scale of War

This morning we visit Te Papa museum and view the “Scale of War” exhibit. This is a world renowned exhibition produced by Peter Jackson & Weta Workshop detailing New Zealand’s role in the Gallipoli Campaign. At the conclusion of our time at Te Papa, we enjoy a tour of Wellington’s sights including Mt Victoria, the Beehive and the Botanic Gardens. After the tour, the rest of your day in Wellington is free for you to explore or relax.

 

Stay: Rydges Hotel (or similar)

Day 3

Cook Strait, Picton, Coastal Pacific Train, Christchurch

After breakfast this morning, we depart the hotel for the Interislander ferry and farewell Wellington. Travel across Cook Strait, enter Queen Charlotte Sound and cruise this idyllic and tranquil waterway to the busy and scenic little fishing town of Picton. Lunch is available onboard (at your own expense). On arrival in Picton, we join the Coastal Pacific Train to journey to Christchurch. Pass through the seaside town of Kaikoura before arriving in Christchurch. This evening we dine on-board the train, as the train arrives after 7pm.  On arrival in Christchurch we are met and transferred to our hotel.

 

Stay: Pavillions Hotel (or similar)

Day 4

Christchurch

After breakfast this morning, enjoy a tour of some of the well-known city sights that Christchurch is famous for. At the conclusion of the city sights tour, the remainder of the day is at leisure. Your tour leader can assist you with lunch recommendations and optional excursions.

 

Stay: Pavillions Hotel (or similar)

Day 5

Tranz Alpine Train, Pounamu Pathway, Hokitika

This morning join the Tranz Alpine Train to Greymouth. Head up into the Southern Alps and view dramatic alpine scenery – mountain peaks, rugged gorges and rivers. Stop briefly at Arthur’s Pass, the alpine village in the centre of the Alps. Then on to Greymouth, and a visit to the Pounamu Pathway. Immerse yourself in the legends and history of pounamu, the revered greenstone of the Māori people. Explore the interactive Pounamu Pathway Center with engaging exhibits and multimedia displays that bring to life the stone’s significance and traditional carving techniques. Then we head on to Hokitika where we stay this evening.

 

Stay: Beachfront Hotel (or similar)

Day 6

Hokitika to Fox Glacier

We leave Hokitika this morning and drive south along the coastal road which boasts wonderful panoramic views of alpine scenery and dense native forests, as we head towards glacier country. We will stop at Lake Matheson (weather permitting, note lake is approximately 1km walk each way from coach parking area) noted for its magnificent mirror-like reflections of the Southern Alps. We then continue on to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. These twin rivers of ice are unique, as nowhere in the world outside the polar regions are glaciers found so close to sea level. 

Optional - Scenic Heli + Glacier Landing

NZD$350 per person

Take in the grandeur of Fox Glacier on a 20 minute trip. Land on the snow plains of the Fox Glacier, jump out and take it all in. Includes scenic helicopter flight, Snow landing atop the Glacier, Informative pilot commentary.

At Franz Josef Glacier (weather permitting), you have the opportunity to take an optional scenic flight over these spectacular ice-flows. This evening, we dine at a local restaurant.

 

Stay: Bella Vista Fox Glacier (or similar)

Day 7

Fox Glacier to Queenstown

This morning we enjoy breakfast at a local cafe, before we farewell Fox Glacier. Travelling south, we will pass isolated and lovely Bruce Bay before reaching the small settlement of Haast. Leaving the coast today, we will travel inland past Thunder Creek Falls to the “Gates of the Haast.” Then it is a steep climb, following the ancient Maori Greenstone Pilgrimage route through the Haast Pass, and down to the shores of the milky, glacier-fed Lakes of Hawea and Wanaka, to arrive for a stop in the picturesque township of Wanaka.

We then travel through rich farmlands to join the Clutha River where it enters the Kawarau Gorge. The final stop before reaching Queenstown, where we will stay for two nights.

 

Stay: Mercure Hotel Queenstown (or similar)

Day 8

Queenstown, Cruise on TSS Earnslaw & Dinner at Walter Peak

Today, the entire day is at leisure for you to enjoy the many scenic delights of this world-famous alpine resort. Many guests will want to take advantage of the optional tour to Arrowntown, which is available for free to Gold Club Tours guests. Your tour leader can assist you in planning your day and making arrangements. 

Optional - Arrowtown Visit

INCLUDED FREE!

This morning guest have the option of joing an optional visit to the historic goldmining settlement of Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a gorgeous this picturesque town that offers a glimpse into New Zealand's 19th-century gold mining era. Wander the quaint streets lined with beautifully preserved heritage buildings, explore the fascinating museums, and visit the historic Chinese Settlement. Guests are then returned to their hotel, or they can continue by joining the optional Queenstown Wine Tour.

Optional - Queenstown Wine Tour

NZD$185 per person

Guests who have joined the optional Arrowtown Tour have the option to continue on the Queenstown Wine Tour. Visit several local vineyards to hear about their different wines, including tasting the various local varieties.

This evening, we will board the vintage steamship T.S.S. Earnslaw for a delightful cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak, a high country sheep station. There is time to inspect the sheep and highland cattle before relaxing in the Colonel’s Homestead and enjoying some friendly Kiwi Hospitality and a sumptuous dinner, which is one of the culinary highlights of the tour.

 

Stay: Mercure Hotel Queenstown (or similar)

Day 9

Queenstown, Milford Sound Cruise, Te Anau

Departing first thing, we drive along Lake Wakatipu to Lake Te Anau and enter Southland. Here, outstanding scenery greets us as we continue through the beech forests of the Eglington Valley with its steep walls, grassy floor and exquisite mirror-like lakes before entering the rugged grandeur of the Hollyford Valley. We pass through Cascade Creek and the hand-hewn Homer Tunnel, stopping at The Chasm, before continuing on through the glacial formations of the Cleddau Valley and descending to Milford. Here, we board our boat and follow the deep icy blue waterway to explore the hidden depths of Milford Sound. There is plenty of time to admire the intricately carved deep fiord and rock walls, and the most memorable of them all: Mitre Peak. Sitting at 6,000 feet, it is the tallest peak in the world rising directly from the bottom of the ocean. We cruise by tumbling waterfalls of Lady Bowen falls, Stirling Falls and many others as we journey to the hidden mouth of the Sound and out to the Tasman Sea. Watch out for the schools of playful dolphins that surf the bow wave of the boat and spot the seals basking in the sun on the rocky shores. Then our coach will take us to our hotel in Te Anau, home of the South Island’s largest lake.

 

Stay: Distinction Luxmore Te Anau (or similar)

Day 10

Te Anau, Bluff, Invercargill

This morning, we drive along Lake Manapouri, said to be New Zealand’s most beautiful lake, before crossing the rich and fertile country of Southland. Invercargill boasts being both the southernmost & westernmost city in New Zealand, and is essentially the gateway to Bluff, home of its namesake: the world-famous Bluff oysters. Bluff oysters are widely regarded as the finest in the world! Enjoy a brief tour of Bluff and Invercargill, before having free time.

Optional - Stewart Island Tour

NZD$350 per person

The optional visit to Stewart Island includes a return flight from Invercargill, a guided tour on the island of approximately 1 hour, with some free time, as well as return transfers to and from Invercargill airport.

The rest of the afternoon you have free time. This evening, enjoy dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

 

Stay: Ascot Park Hotel (or similar)

Day 11

Invercargill, The Catlins, Dunedin

This morning, we depart Invercargill for Dunedin via the magnificent coastal vistas of the Catlins, famed for the wildlife, forests and rugged natural beauty. Late this afternoon, we arrive at the traditionally “Scottish City” of Dunedin – quaint, friendly and once New Zealand’s hub of commerce. During the gold rush years, Dunedin was New Zealand’s largest and most prosperous city and is home to New Zealand’s first university. We will stop at the Olveston House, a 35 room Jacobean mansion that allows an intimate view of the life of a prosperous Dunedin merchant and his family in Edwardian times. The mansion houses a treasure of Georgian and Victorian furniture, paintings, silver, china and glassware with a notable oriental collection.

 

Stay: Dunedin Leisure Lodge (or similar)

Day 12

Dunedin, Larnach Castle Dinner

Today, we enjoy a day at leisure in Dunedin to explore – perhaps take a short walk up to the Octagon, the commercial heart of the city and home to many restaurants and pubs. You may choose to visit the Speights Brewery or the Otago Settlers Musuem, or a trip out to some of the amazing wildlife sites & reserves on the Otago Peninsula (your tour leader will be able to assist you with arrangements, admissions and transport are at additional expense).

This evening, we visit Larnach Castle, an imposing stone mansion that was constructed in 1871 by William Larnach, a former government minister. Your guide will inform you of the dark Larnach secrets as you are escorted through the mansion to view the ornately furnished rooms and halls. Here, we are privileged to enjoy an exclusive sumptuous dinner at the castle.

 

Stay: Dunedin Leisure Lodge (or similar)

Day 13

Dunedin, Mt Cook, Omarama

Today’s coach journey is highlighted by magnificent mountains, crystal clear lakes and man-made wonders as we pass the hydro dams at Waitaki and Aviemore, and on to Mt Cook National Park, home of New Zealand’s highest mountain. We stop at Mt Cook, before continuing to our accommodation in Omarama.

 

Stay: Distinction Heritage Gateway Hotel Omarama (or similar)

Day 14

Omarama to Tekapo, Christchurch

Today we depart for Christchurch. We travel to beautiful Lake Tekapo, where a stop is made to view the Church of the Good Shepherd. Crossing Burkes Pass, we travel through the sheep-stations and tussock-covered lands of the MacKenzie Country and across the colourful patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains, the country’s largest wheat producing area, before arriving in Christchurch, the second largest metropolitan area in New Zealand. On arrival at Christchurch, you will check into your hotel for the evening.

 

Stay: Pavilions Hotel (or similar)

Day 15

Depart Christchurch

Sadly, this is the last day of our tour. You are at leisure to enjoy the day until the time for your transfer to the Christchurch airport to join your departing flight. On arrival at your destination airport you are met and returned to your home.

Tour Inclusions

Tour Highlights

Tour Reviews

Tour Leader

4.74

313 Reviews

1 Comments

I’ve been to 7 guided tours & Leanne & Robin were the best tour guides I ever had – They both worked hard, have patience of an angel.

Emelda Cole, Red Beach, Auckland

Accommodation

4.61

312 Reviews

1 Comments

The rooms were all wonderful

Sue Wood, Invercargill

Breakfasts

4.72

304 Reviews

1 Comments

Really good variety everywhere we stayed & good quality food. If we needed something extra more than helpful to do so. Always with a smile.

Jim & Anna Niven, New Lynn, Auckland

Dinners

4.59

303 Reviews

1 Comments

Again WOW!! All hotel meals fabulous – Walter Peak – another level & lovely @ Larnach Castle

Leigh Murdoch, Papamoa, Bay of Plenty

Tour Vehicles

4.7

298 Reviews

1 Comments

Very comfortable coach, smooth riding & no road noise. Great windows.

Rosalie Ross, Tikipunga, Whangarei

Included Activities & Admissions

4.73

292 Reviews

1 Comments

All these activities were a bonus to our tour and greatly enjoyed. To have them built in was great. We just went with the flow.

Wendy Franklin, Warkworth

Home Pickup

4.8

285 Reviews

1 Comments

Appreciated the professionalism and quality vehicles used.

Brian & Diane Stevens, Pukekohe, Auckland

Home Dropoff

4.66

279 Reviews

1 Comments

Over & above as we had extended our holiday by a week & still got the pick up & drop off – The BEST service ever.

Raewyn Morris, Howick, Auckland

Value For Money

4.63

293 Reviews

1 Comments

Amazing great prices compared to other companies.

Raewyn Richards, Papamoa, Bay of Plenty