AAT Kings has an exciting range of tours throughout New Zealand. Getaway
joined their seven-day Small Group National Parks Escape tour, one of their newer options. It takes a maximum of 21 passengers in an air-conditioned coach with reclining seats and panoramic windows.
It all begins with being transferred from Christchurch Airport to your hotel. You can wander around the city and join your driver/guide in the evening for a welcome drink.
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The following day you head over the Canterbury Plains with views of the Southern Alps, cross the Lewis Pass and travel through rainforest to Greymouth. The rugged coast road leads to Punakaiki and your eco-friendly hotel on the beachfront.
Punakaiki Pancake Rock and Blowholes are the big attractions there. On the edge of the 30,000-hectare Paparoa National Park, the Pancake Rocks are columns of limestone which began forming 30 million years ago. Amongst them, blowholes act as exit holes for seawater during heavy ocean swells. The huge water spouts are pretty spectacular.
There is a well-maintained walkway leading through native forest, emerging into areas of coastal flax and scrub. The area is home to the very tall native Nikau palm.
On day three the tour continues through Buller Gorge where you will see the mighty Buller River and spectacular forest. New Zealand's longest swing bridge crosses the rushing river. It's 110m across and 17m high.
In Nelson there is a city tour and a visit to the World of Wearable Arts Museum and Collectable Cars.
The quirky visitor attraction has two sections one which houses theatrical costumes and wearable art fashion designs and one which houses the cars. The elaborate garments were costumes for theatrical performances and that theme has been incorporated in the museum with music, lighting and movement.
The car collection covers three centuries of motoring from Edwardian times to highly sophisticated modern super cars.
The next day you go on an Abel Tasman National Park tour or scenic flight and dinner at a local restaurant or cafe that night.
As you travel through the Marlborough wine region from Nelson to Hanmer Springs you pass the Grassmere Salt Works on the rugged east coastline. The rather alien landscape is the result of natural salt production. Seawater, fresh from the Pacific, is pumped into Lake Grassmere and warm north-westerly winds evaporate the water and increase the concentration of salt.
You will spot New Zealand fur seals at Ohau Point as you head to Kaikoura. There is an option of a whale-watching flight there and time to explore Kaikoura before tracking inland through the enchanted Hanmer Forest to the springs where you spend the night.
The next morning, relax in thermal hot pools or enjoy a massage. That afternoon you head back over the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch for a city tour.
On the last day you can wander around Christchurch at leisure before transferring to the airport for your onward journey.
You take in so much of New Zealand with AAT Kings, but tours are leisurely, relaxed and informative and your accommodation is excellent.
A round trip from Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island.
AAT Kings has five-day National Parks Escapes from Christchurch. Guided tours start at $1120 per person twin share and include accommodation, airport transfers, coach transport, most meals and visits to Nelson and Hanmer Springs. Valid until September 30, 2009.
Air New Zealand has flights to Christchurch.
One-way fares from:
- Melbourne $259
- Sydney $260
- Brisbane $269
- Adelaide $510
- Perth $612
Prices correct at October 30, 2008.
For further information
Ph: 1300 556 100
State highway 6
Ph: +64 3 731 1168
Fax: +64 3 731 1163
World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum
95 Quarantine Road
Ph: +64 3 547 4573
Fax: +64 3 547 0856
Air New Zealand
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.