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.
Sir Edmund Hillary epitomised the New Zealand spirit of adventure and he is our inspiration when planning your experience of a lifetime. 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
Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer tour includes Hillary’s life highlights including travelling 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. At Aoraki/Mt Cook, a visit to the museum dedicated to Edmund’s adventurous spirit and his achievements is a must. A special dinner is hosted there by Edmund’s daughter Sarah Hillary or son Peter Hillary – also a keen mountaineer and adventurer. Find out how they continue to keep their father’s memory alive.
BOOK YOUR TOUR WITH LOCO JOURNEYS & RECEIVE A FREE 1-DAY CHRISTCHURCH TRAM PASS*
The first week of your journeys leads you on a circuit of the South Island’s highlights, enjoying experiences such as the TranzAlpine train, the West Coast Glaciers, and the wonders of Queenstown, Te Anau and Milford Sound. You will cruise on the steamship TSS Earnslaw and ride on the Kingston Flyer. Onward to Dunedin where you will enjoy another iconic rail journey, The Tiaeri Gorge, an epic rail trip over white water rapids, towering viaducts and tunnels.
Mountain country then beckons and you will enjoy a two night stay at the prestigious Hermitage Hotel overlooking Aoraki/Mount Cook and a visit to the excellent Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.
We return back to Christchurch to join The Coastal Pacific Scenic Train, one of the most picturesque journeys on New Zealand’s railways. Throughout this scenic experience, you will meander along the Pacific coast across remote beaches, between mountains and sea, on a timeless journey of breath-taking beauty to Kaikoura.
From Kaikoura through to Marlborough, saving the best for last, the grand finale of epic proportions sees you hauled under a full head of steam by the glorious Marlborough Flyer amongst the comfort of vintage carriages. This historic WW1 memorial steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele, named in honour of our fallen soldiers at The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. This is a locomotive fit for kings, having hauled royal trains on two previous royal visits in the early 1900’s. A journey to end all journeys from a bygone era.
Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour Highlights
TranzAlpine Rail Journey
Franz Josef Hot Pools
Walter Peak Homestead
Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw
Arrowtown Lakes District Museum
Kingston Flyer train ride
Milford Sound Day Trip & Cruise
Croydon Aviation Museum
Waimea Plains Railway
Guest Speaker from the Hillary family
Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Aoraki/Mt Cook
International Antarctic Centre
Coastal Pacific Scenic Train Journey
Marlborough Flyer Steam Train
Cruise on the Interislander Ferry
Heritage Rail Highlights & the ‘Big Five’
Your Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer tour features the “Big 5” rail journeys of the South Island
The glorious Marlborough Flyer from Kaikoura to Picton
Saving the best to last and the icing on the cake for all rail-fans, from Kaikoura to Marlborough, 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.
Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Optional Excursions
Each option on our is highly recommended to make the most of your New Zealand rail highlights tour. Ask at the time of booking.
FREE Christchurch Tramway 1-Day Pass – This LOCO Journeys exclusive offer is available to those travellers booking pre-tour accommodation with LOCO Journeys. The pass must be used prior to the tour starting and will require 2 nights pre-tour accommodation booked for you by LOCO in Christchurch. Ask for more details at the time of booking. This offer is valid for tours departing up to and including the 4 November 2024 – thereafter there is the option to take a tram ride as part of your tour.
Franz Josef Helicopter Flight – Enjoy a sensational helicopter flight over the Southern Alps and famous West Coast Glaciers. A real highlight for the adventurers.
Te Anau Glow Worm Tour – A special experience crossing Lake Te Anau by boat and then enjoy heading underground into glow-worm caves which were only rediscovered in 1948
Doubtful Sounds Cruise (instead of Milford Sound cruise) – An option to view the more expansive but no less impressive Doubtful Sound
Glacier Explorer Cruise – a unique few hours cruising the glacier lake of the Tasman Glacier
Big Sky Stargazing – there’s only a handful of dark-sky reserves across the world. Star-gazing in New Zealand’s South Island viewing the Southern Hemisphere night sky is like nowhere else on earth.
Whale Watch Cruise or Kaikoura Scenic Flight – either experience will offer memories you will cherish as you seek out the mammoths of the sea.
Northern ExplorerTrain – once your 13-Day tour is over, extend your journey and take the chance to ride on New Zealand’s epic Northern Explorer taking you from Wellington to Auckland in one day. LEt us know at the time of booking.
Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour Dates
Prices are based on per person sharing. Single supplements apply to all tour prices, rates shown below.
13 Day Tour, Christchurch to Wellington
26 March 2024 – $7,950* – SOLD OUT
15 April 2024 – $7,950 – SOLD OUT
23 September 2024 – $7,950
7 October 2024 – $7,950
21 October 2024 – $7,950
4 November 2024 – $7,950
12 November 2024 – $7,995*
26 November 2024 – $7,995*
3 December 2024 – $7,995*
13 Day Tour, Christchurch to Wellington
14 January 2025 – $7,995*
21 January 2025 – $7,995*
28 January 2025 – $7,995*
4 February 2025 – $7,995*
11 February 2025 – $7,995*
11 February 2025 – $7,995*
18 February 2025 – $7,995*
4 March 2025 – $7,995*
11 March 2025 – $7,995*
1 April 2025 – $7,995*
8 April 2025 – $7,995*
15 April 2025 – $7,995*
For tours departing after and including 12 November 2024, the tour does NOT include dinner on days 3 & 7 and there is no lunch provided on day 7 either as per shown in the itinerary. On all other departures these meals are included.
Please see below for a detailed itinerary and booking conditions.
For a detailed brochure dedicated to the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tourcontact us and we are happy to email this to you.
LOCO Journeys can offer you pre-tour and post-tour departure activities, flights and accommodation. *Important: To enjoy LOCO Journeys exclusive FREE 1-day Christchurch tram pass, you must book 2 nights pre-tour accommodation in Christchurch through LOCO Journeys. This offer is valid for tours departing up to and including the 4 November 2024.
Guests wishing to continue their journey to Auckland on the Northern Explorer or return to Christchurch should advise at the time of booking and this can be arranged and booked on your behalf.
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. Please note; for tours departing after and including 12 November 2024, the tour does NOT include dinner on days 3 & 7 and there is no lunch provided on day 7 either as per shown in the itinerary. On all other departures these meals are included.
Other meals include, gourmet BBQ lunch at Walter Peak Homestead.
Services of Tour Leaders
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 upon request
LOCO Journeys exclusive free Christchurch 1-day tram pass is available to those booking their Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer Tour through LOCO Journeys. Free hop-on hop-off Christchurch tram pass is offered as a per person value-add bonus with the stipulation that you book your pre-tour accommodation through LOCO Journeys. This offer is valid for tours departing up to and including the 4 November 2024.
The one day tram pass must be used prior to the tour departing and cannot be used during the tour.
Two nights pre-tour Christchurch accommodation will be required to use the free tram-pass. This accommodation must be booked through your LOCO Journeys consultant at the time of booking to activate your pass as part of your booking.
Christchurch - TranzAlpine Train - Franz Josef (D)
Day 1 | Your journey begins at Christchurch Railway Station, where the iconic 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 one-way, taking almost five hours. 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. Luxury coaches await in Greymouth to transport you to your hotel in the ruggedly beautiful Franz Josef. Finish your day with some well-deserved pampering at the local Glacier Hot Pools.
Day 2 | Fanz Josef - Haast - Queenstown (B,L)
Wake up to enjoy the option for a helicopter tour of the Franz Josef glacier. Leaving Franz Josef, we travel down the West Coast through the Haast Pass, journeying through large tracts of native rain 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.
Day 3 | Queenstown & Arrowtown (B,L,D)
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.
Day 4 | Queenstown - Kingston Flyer Steam Train - Te Anau (B,L,D)
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 an extended time experiencing the wonders of Te Anau and Milford Sound.
Day 5 | Te Anau - Milford Sound - Te Anau (B,L,D)
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. There is the option to explore Doubtful Sound by cruise boat instead. 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.
Day 6 | Te Anau - Waimea Plains Historic Railway - Dunedin (B,L,D)
Departing Te Anau for Dunedin, via Mandeville and the Croydon Aviation Museum and Waimea Plains Railway – where we “fire-up” the Rogers K92 Steam Locomotive (the original Kingston Flyer). During this luxury coach journey, we take in the unmatched pristine beauty and rugged countryside that the Southland region is renowned for.
Day 7 | Dunedin (B,L,D)
In the morning, we explore the remote Taieri Gorge by Dunedin Rail over river gorges, weaving our way through a myriad of historic tunnels and guide you to the historic Wingatui Viaduct, a marvel of 1880s construction that remains the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand. Then, there is the option to discover Larnach Castle, which is 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.
Day 8 | Dunedin - Oamaru - Mount Cook (B,L,D)
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”.
Day 9 | Aoraki Mount Cook (B,D)
Enjoy a leisurely morning at 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. Morning optional activities include a glacier ski plane 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. Followed that afternoon, by a scenic drive through the National Park surrounded by the silent splendour of the Southern Alps. Dinner that evening is with a guest speaker from the Hillary family.
Day 10 | Mount Cook - Geraldine - Christchurch (B,L,D)
A morning departure from the hotel leaving Aoraki Mt Cook by coach, we journey back to the coast via Tekapo and Fairlie on the way to Christchurch. On arrival in Christchurch, explore modern day Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre and experience a taste of this unique and breathtaking continent – just like the explorers before you.
Departing Christchurch on the Coastal Pacific Scenic Train, 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.
This morning we introduce you to a true “rockstar of rail” and a grand finale of epic proportions, as the train is then hauled under a full head of steam by the glorious Marlborough Flyer. It is “all aboard” and we continue to take in the spectacular coastal journey as we depart Kaikoura. Onwards north via the Dashwood Pass and Awatere Valley to Marlborough, the famous wine region boasting over 100 vineyards. This historic WW1 memorial steam locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele, named in honour of our fallen soldiers at The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Having hauled royal trains on two previous royal visits in the early 1900’s, this is a journey fit for a king.
Day 13 | Picton - Interisland Ferry - Wellington (B)
On the final day of the tour, 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. There is the option for post-tour accommodation at the James Cook Grand Chancellor. Tour Ends. Guests wishing to continue their journey to Auckland on the Northern Explorer or return to Christchurch should advise at the time of booking and this can be arranged and booked on your behalf.
For more information about this tour, price queries and updates on specials, please Enquire Now.