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Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Heritage Rail & Coach Tour

Duration: 13, 12, 10 & 6 Days

Price: From $2,990 NZD

Departure From: Wellington, Blenheim, Christhchurch & Dunedin

Departure Date: October 2022 & April 2023

Tour Type: Escorted Tour

Meal Plan: B+B and selected meals

Physical Grading: 2

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Inspired by one of the greatest and most iconic adventurers of our time, the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer invites you on an epic journey by rail and luxury coach through the majestic South Island of New Zealand.

We pay homage to Sir Edmund Hillary and learn more about his achievements and humanitarian efforts as we explore the South Island of New Zealand and experience the postcard perfect vistas and dramatic alpine scenery that this part of the world is renowned for.

“Adventure for the sake of a dream, for the pleasure of searching”

Sir Edmund Hillary

You will travel through Marlborough, where Edmund was trained for the air force during the Second World War and where he made some daring ascents of Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku. In Christchurch, learn more about his team’s expedition crossing Antarctica using converted farm tractors at the International Antarctic Centre. A special dinner is hosted by Edmund’s son, Peter Hillary – also a keen mountaineer and adventurer – and find out about how he continues to keep his father’s memory alive. At Aoraki/Mt Cook, a visit to the museum dedicated to Edmund’s adventurous spirit and his achievements is a must.

You will spend the first week travelling the entire length of the South Island by heritage rail, in the comfort of vintage carriages, staying in Marlborough, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Aoraki/Mount Cook (detour inland by luxury coach) and Dunedin.

Heritage rail highlights include hauled by steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele. South of Kaikoura from Marlborough to Kaikoura, your rail journey continues with two magnificent heritage 1950’s diesel locomotives. A return journey between Kingston & Fairlight on the iconic Kingston Flyer steam train will the icing on the cake for all rail fans. 

Once we reach Invercargill at the bottom of the mainland, we begin the traverse inland on luxury coaches to experience the wonders of Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown and Franz Josef, then to cap it all off, experience one of the world’s famous rail journeys on board the TranzAlpine traversing the Southern Alps, between Greymouth and Christchurch.

A journey of a lifetime from Wellington via Marlborough, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Dunedin, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown & Franz Josef, before the home stretch to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass, using a combination of Heritage Train & Luxury Coach.

Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour

Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour Highlights

  • Cruise on the Interislander Ferry
  • Morning Tea at The Wine Station, Blenheim
  • Visit to The Store, Kekerengu
  • Private tram ride in Christchurch
  • International Antarctic Centre
  • Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Aoraki/Mt Cook
  • Celebrity guest speaker, Peter Hillary
  • High Tea & Castle Tour at Larnach Castle
  • Takahe Sanctuary
  • Milford Sound Day Trip & Cruise
  • Arrowtown Lakes District Museum
  • Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw
  • Walter Peak Homestead
  • Kingston Flyer train ride
  • Franz Josef Hot Pools
  • TranzAlpine Rail Journey
  • Two complimentary beverage vouchers to be enjoyed each heritage train day.

    Please note, these highlights may not feature in all tours. Please check your preferred itinerary.
TSS Earnslaw Queenstown
Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw

Heritage Rail Highlights

From Marlborough to Kaikoura, you will be hauled under a full head of steam by the historic WW1 memorial steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele, named in honour of our fallen soldiers at The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. South of Kaikoura, your rail journey continues with two magnificent heritage 1950’s DA locomotives in an impressive & powerful double-header formation. Further in the tour, a return journey between Kingston & Fairlight on the iconic Kingston Flyer steam train will be the icing on the cake for our rail fans.

Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer

Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour Dates

October 2022 Departures Very limited seats left available!

  • 13 Day Tour from Wellington finishing in Christchurch, departing 27 October 2022 -$6,950 per person
  • 12 Day Tour from Blenheim finishing in Christchurch, departing 28 October 2022 – $6,650 per person – SOLD OUT
  • 13 Day Tour from Christchurch finishing in Wellington, departing 29 October 2022 – $6,950 per person
  • 10 Day Tour from Christchurch finishing in Christchurch, departing 29 October 2022 – $5,950 per person
  • 6 Day Tour from Dunedin finishing in Wellington, departing 5 November 2022 – $2,990 per person – SOLD OUT

April 2023 Departures

  • 13 Day Tour from Wellington finishing in Christchurch, departing 14 April 2023 -$6,950 per person
  • 12 Day Tour from Blenheim finishing in Christchurch, departing 15 April 2023 – $6,650 per person
  • 13 Day Tour from Christchurch finishing in Wellington, departing 16 April 2023 – $6,950 per person
  • 10 Day Tour from Christchurch finishing in Christchurch, departing 25 April 2023 – $5,950 per person
  • 6 Day Tour from Dunedin finishing in Wellington, departing 23 April 2023 – $2,990 per person

Please note, prices are based on per person sharing. Single supplements apply to all tour prices, rates shown below.

October 2022 Departures

Please register your interest with us for our scheduled tours departing in October 2023



Please see below for itinerary, departure details, and booking conditions.

Itinerary and inclusions will change depending on departure city.

For a detailed brochure dedicated to the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour Contact Us and we are happy to email to you.

LOCO Journeys can offer pre and post departure activities, flights and accommodation. Just let us know what you would like to do!

Click here for alternate New Zealand scenic train and railfan tours.

Tour Inclusions

  • Four star hotel accommodation
  •  TranzAlpine rail journey.
  • Heritage train from Blenheim to Kaikoura (not included in the 10 day tour)
  • Interisland ferry (not included in the 10 day tour)
  • Sightseeing and entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities to local guides, drivers, train staff etc.
  • Deluxe air-conditioned coach transportation
  • Baggage handling of one suitcase per person
  • Meals as indicated within the itinerary;
  • Other meals include, gourmet BBQ lunch at Walter Peak Homestead,  High Tea at Larnach Castle and morning tea at The Wine Station, Blenheim (morning tea is not included in the 10 day tour).
  • 2 complimentary beverage vouchers are issue to be enjoyed on each heritage train daily
  • Services of Tour Leaders

Pricing Notes

For October 2022 Departures

  • Advertised price based on per person, twin share
  • Non-refundable deposit of 20% of tour cost per person is due at time of booking. You date of full payment will be advised at the time of booking.
  • A single supplement is available as follows:
    • 13 day tour from Wellington is $995
    • 12 day tour from Blenheim is $995
    • 13 day tour from Christchurch is $995
    • 10 day tour from Christchurch is $795
    • 6 day tour from Dunedin is $390
  • Price is subject to change unless paid in full

 

Tour Itinerary

Itinerary for passengers departing Wellington & Blenheim. Day 1: Wellington to Blenheim (B,D)
Your journey begins in the harbour city of Wellington. The tour commences with one of the most picturesque ferry crossings in the world as we cruise across the Cook Strait, then weave our way through Queen Charlotte Sound to the port town of Picton. Travelling by coach to Blenheim, there is the option to visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in the afternoon. Passengers will stay at Scenic Hotel and Chateau Marlborough, both are modern and stylish properties located in the heart of Marlborough's wine country town of Blenheim.
Passengers starting their journey from Blenheim join the tour today. Arrive at Blenheim Station for a complimentary morning tea and then we introduce you to the historic WW1 memorial steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendale, (named in honour of our fallen soldiers at The Battle of Passchendale in 1917). The steam train will gently roll into Blenheim Station and it is "all aboard" and onward South via the Dashwood Pass and Awatere Valley. We steam ahead for Kekerengu where we disembark for lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean at "The Store". After taking on water for the steam train we pull away for the spectacular coastal journey to Kaikoura. Passengers will stay at The White Morph Hotel (or equivalent), taking in spectacular views of the Kaikoura Esplanade.Passengers will stay at The White Morph Hotel (or equivalent), taking in spectacular views of the Kaikoura Esplanade.Passengers will stay at The White Morph Hotel (or equivalent), taking in spectacular views of the Kaikoura Esplanade.
Kaikoura, home of resident whales, where the guardians of the seas – the mountains of the Southern Alps – rise majestically from the deep trenches of the Pacific Ocean. Several different species of whale can be seen off the coast of Kaikoura at different times of the year, and most of the time, the huge resident Sperm Whales can be sighted. The ocean trench just off the coast means sperm whales are often seen close to shore. There will be optional excursions for whale, dolphin and seal watching (by boat or plane). We depart Kaikoura for Christchurch hauled by two heritage 1950’s DA locomotives - in dramatic double-header formation - displaying in their impressive racing colours. After arrival in Christchurch, be collected at your hotel by a privately chartered Tram for a historic tram journey around the city before dinner. Passengers will stay at the centrally located Novotel Cathedral Square.
A morning visit to explore modern day Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre and experience a taste of this unique and breath-taking continent - just like the explorers before you. After departing from Christchurch by train to Oamaru, luxury coaches then provide the link inland to Aoraki/Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, which helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Everest. Recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area, the National Park is a breath-taking environment of glaciers, terminal lakes, turbulent rivers and Australasia’s tallest peak, the mighty Aoraki / Mt Cook soaring above at 3,724 metres. There is the option after dinner to enjoy star-gazing at the Planetarium, digitally immersed in what has been voted the world’s largest “International Dark Sky Reserve”. Passengers will stay at the iconic Hermitage Hotel with majestic mountain views.
Enjoy a leisurely morning and then a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which is a tribute to New Zealand’s global icon as well as discovering New Zealand’s colourful transport, climbing and hotel history. Followed by a scenic drive through the National Park surrounded by the silent splendour of the Southern Alps. Afternoon optional activities include a glacier helicopter tour or a scenic flight with expert pilots navigating their way over a glacial lake, passing soaring mountain tops over NZ’s longest glacier - the 600 metre thick, Tasman Glacier. Dinner that evening is with celebrity guest speaker, Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary. Passengers will stay at the iconic Hermitage Hotel with majestic mountain views.
Departing from Aoraki / Mt Cook, we journey back to the coastal route via Omarama and Pukaki to meet the train in Oamaru and continue south by rail to Dunedin. Passengers will stay at Scenic Hotel Southern Cross which is Dunedin’s most established hotel, nestled in the heart of the city.
Situated on the picturesque Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle is one of New Zealand’s premier visitor attractions. Lovingly restored by the Barker Family, the Castle and surrounding grounds are at the heart of the Dunedin visitor experience. Arrive in time for refreshing high tea in the Ballroom Café followed by a guided garden tour. In the afternoon, there is the option to explore the ‘hidden’ underground Fort Taiaroa - the fort was established over 100 years ago to counter the threat of invasion from Tsarist Russia and is located underneath the Albatross colony. This is the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world. Passengers will stay at Scenic Hotel Southern Cross which is Dunedin’s most established hotel, nestled in the heart of the city.
We bid farewell to Dunedin by train and head towards the southern-most point of the main trunk line. We initially hug the coast, the train winds its way inland towards the town of Gore, and then southwards to Invercargill. Luxury coaches provide the link inland, traversing the Southern Scenic Route from Invercargill to the Fiordland National Park district, where we spend a couple of awe-inspiring days experiencing the wonders of Te Anau and Milford Sound. Passengers stay at Distinction Hotel Luxmore in Te Anau.
Traveling along the Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. A day tour to Milford Sound offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery to be viewed anywhere in the world. Board the coach and travel through stunning scenery along the Milford Road and into Fiordland, where your cruise boat awaits you. The tour includes a cruise around the fiord so you can experience its wonders up close and see landmarks like Mitre Peak and amazing wildlife, such as dolphins and seals. Cruise the inner most reaches of Milford Sound to the open Tasman Sea and back. A one-day itinerary is enough to see all the beautiful views along the way, take a scenic cruise around the fiord, and get back to Te Anau in time for dinner. Passengers stay at Distinction Hotel Luxmore.
Wake up to enjoy a visit to the Takahe Bird Sanctuary. Takahe are the stars of the show and meeting these prehistoric-looking characters is a ‘must do’ for Fiordland visitors. The sanctuary is a large part of the success of the Takahe Recovery Programme. Continuing to the village of Kingston nestled on southernmost end of Lake Wakatipu, is the iconic Kingston Flyer Steam Train, taking you on a memorable journey between Kingston & Fairlight. The adventure playground of Queenstown then awaits. Cap off a special day as we take in The Remarkables Mountain Range and lake views from the hotel. Passengers will stay in the Novotel Lakeside Hotel in Queenstown, centrally located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Wake up to join a lake cruise on board the historic TSS Earnslaw, the 1912 Edwardian steamboat, which takes us across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet BBQ lunch. Enjoy an afternoon visit to the historic and picturesque goldmining town, Arrowtown, with a visit to the Lakes District Museum. Passengers will stay in the Novotel Lakeside Hotel in Queenstown, centrally located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Leaving Queenstown, we pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Dunstan, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Continuing through Makaroa on the boarder of Mount Apsiring World Heritage Park, we will travel through the Haast Pass, journeying through native beech forest and over the Southern Alps, before emerging on the West Coast. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Our last night is spent at Franz Josef and all guests are encouraged to wind down and enjoy some well-deserved pampering at the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools. Passengers stay at the Scenic Hotel in Franz Josef, located on the edge of the Westland World Heritage Park.
The final day and before departing Franz Josef options are available for helicopter tours of the glacier. Then, the TranzAlpine awaits. Often regarded to be one of the world’s great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres in one direction, taking almost five hours. Along this journey you will see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps, and see miles of native beech forest - the journey of a lifetime. Tour Ends.
Wake up to enjoy the option for a helicopter tour of the Franz Josef glacier. Leaving Franz Josef, we travel along the West Coast through the Haast Pass, journeying through native beech forest and over the Southern Alps. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Continuing through Makarora on the border of Mount Aspiring World Heritage Park, we pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Dunstan. The adventure playground of Queenstown then awaits! Cap off a special day as we take in The Remarkables Mountain Range and the view of Lake Wakatipu from the hotel. Passengers stay at in the Novotel Lakeside Hotel in Queenstown, centrally located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Wake up to enjoy the option for a helicopter tour of the Franz Josef glacier. Leaving Franz Josef, we travel along the West Coast through the Haast Pass, journeying through native beech forest and over the Southern Alps. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Continuing through Makarora on the border of Mount Aspiring World Heritage Park, we pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Dunstan. The adventure playground of Queenstown then awaits! Cap off a special day as we take in The Remarkables Mountain Range and the view of Lake Wakatipu from the hotel. Passengers stay at in the Novotel Lakeside Hotel in Queenstown, centrally located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Wake up to join a lake cruise on board the historic TSS Earnslaw, the 1912 Edwardian steamboat, which takes us across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet BBQ lunch. Enjoy an afternoon visit to the historic and picturesque goldmining town, Arrowtown, with a visit to the Lakes District Museum. Passengers stay at in the Novotel Lakeside Hotel in Queenstown, centrally located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Departing Queenstown, we continue to the village of Kingston which is nestled on southernmost end of Lake Wakatipu. Here, the iconic Kingston Flyer Steam Train awaits to take you on a memorable journey between Kingston & Fairlight. Then, we enter the Fiordland National Park district, continuing to traverse the Southern Scenic Route, our journey calls in to visit the Takahe Bird Sanctuary. Takahe are the stars of the show and meeting these prehistoric-looking characters is a ‘must do’ for Fiordland visitors. The sanctuary is a large part of the success of the Takahe Recovery Programme. We spend a couple of awe-inspiring days experiencing the wonders of Te Anau and Milford Sound. Passengers stay at Distinction Hotel Luxmore.
Traveling along the Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. A day tour to Milford Sound offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery to be viewed anywhere in the world. Board the coach and travel through stunning scenery along the Milford Road and into Fiordland, where your cruise boat awaits you. The tour includes a cruise around the fiord so you can experience its wonders up close and see landmarks like Mitre Peak and amazing wildlife, such as dolphins and seals. Cruise the inner most reaches of Milford Sound to the open Tasman Sea and back. A one-day itinerary is enough to see all the beautiful views along the way, take a scenic cruise around the fiord, and get back to Te Anau in time for dinner. Passengers stay at Distinction Hotel Luxmore.
Depart Te Anau for Invercargill, where we will discover the beginning of the main rail trunk line. Here you will board vintage carriages and be hauled north by two heritage 1950’s DA locomotives in an impressive double-header formation in their dramatic racing colours. The train winds its way towards the town of Gore, and then turns towards the coast on the way to Dunedin. Passengers will stay at Scenic Hotel Southern Cross which is Dunedin’s most established hotel, nestled in the heart of the city.
Situated on the picturesque Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle is one of New Zealand’s premier visitor attractions. Lovingly restored by the Barker Family, the Castle and surrounding grounds are at the heart of the Dunedin visitor experience. Arrive in time for refreshing high tea in the Ballroom Café followed by a guided garden tour. In the afternoon, there is the option to explore the ‘hidden’ underground Fort Taiaroa - the fort was established over 100 years ago to counter the threat of invasion from Tsarist Russia and is located underneath the Albatross colony. This is the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world. Passengers will stay at Scenic Hotel Southern Cross which is Dunedin’s most established hotel, nestled in the heart of the city.
Passengers starting their journey from Dunedin join the tour today. Departing from Dunedin by rail, we continue to hug the coast towards Oamaru. We then detour inland by luxury coach via Omarama and Pukaki towards the spectacular Aoraki / Mt Cook. Here, we find the home of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, which helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Mt Everest. Recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area, the National Park is a breath-taking environment of glaciers, terminal lakes, turbulent rivers and Australasia’s tallest peak, the mighty Aoraki / Mt Cook soaring above at 3,724 metres. There is the option after dinner to enjoy star-gazing at the Planetarium, digitally immersed in what has been voted the world’s largest “International Dark Sky Reserve”. Passengers will stay at the iconic Hermitage Hotel with majestic mountain views.
Enjoy a leisurely morning and then a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which is a tribute to New Zealand’s global icon as well as discovering New Zealand’s colourful transport, climbing and hotel history. Followed by a scenic drive through the National Park surrounded by the silent splendour of the Southern Alps. Afternoon optional activities include a glacier helicopter tour or a scenic flight with expert pilots navigating their way over a glacial lake, passing soaring mountain tops over NZ’s longest glacier - the 600 metre thick, Tasman Glacier. Dinner that evening is with celebrity guest speaker, Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary. Passengers will stay at the iconic Hermitage Hotel with majestic mountain views.
A morning departure from the hotel leaving Aoraki/Mt Cook by coach, we journey back to the coast via the Fairlie & Tekapo to meet the train in Timaru and continue north by rail to Christchurch. Guests on the 10 day tour, sadly your journey concludes here. After check-in, be collected at your hotel by a privately chartered Tram for a historic tram journey around the city before dinner. Passengers will stay at the centrally located Novotel Cathedral Square.
A morning visit to explore modern day Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre and experience a taste of this unique and breath-taking continent – just like the explorers before you. Departing Christchurch, our destination is Kaikoura, home of resident whales, where the guardians of the seas – the mountains of the Southern Alps – rise majestically from the deep trenches of the Pacific Ocean. Several different species of whale can be seen off the coast of Kaikoura at different times of the year, and most of the time, the huge resident Sperm Whales can be sighted. The ocean trench just off the coast means sperm whales are often seen close to shore. Passengers will stay at The White Morph Hotel (or equivalent), taking in spectacular views of the Kaikoura Esplanade.
Wake up to optional excursions for whale, dolphin and seal watching (by boat or plane). We then introduce you to the star of the tour, the historic WW1 memorial steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele, (named in honour of our fallen soldiers at The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.) It is “all aboard” and we continue to take in the spectacular coastal journey as we depart Kaikoura. We steam ahead for Kekerengu where we disembark for lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean at “The Store”. Then onwards north via the Dashwood Pass and Awatere Valley into Blenheim – the famous Marlborough wine region boasting over 100 vineyards. Passengers will stay at the luxurious Chateau Marlborough, a modern and stylish property located in the heart of Blenheim.
On the final day of the tour, there is the option to visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. Departing Blenheim, we visit The Wine Station and then we coach from Blenheim to Picton, where one of the most picturesque ferry crossings in the world awaits. We weave our way through the Queen Charlotte Sound and cruise across the Cook Strait to the harbour city of Wellington. Tour ends in Wellington.

For more information about this tour, price queries and updates on specials, please Enquire Now.