This is a 25 day self-drive itinerary that travels both islands of New Zealand, starting in Auckland and finishing in Christchurch.
Welcome to Auckland! Pass through customs, collect any baggage and be met by one of our friendly representatives, ready to whisk you away to your city accommodation via an executive sedan.
After checking in and getting yourself settled, turn your roving eye outside and enjoy a free afternoon in the City of Sails. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, with plenty of sights, shopping and street appeal for even the pickiest of travellers.
Take delivery of your rental car this morning. Travel north over the Harbour Bridge and along the Hibiscus Coast to arrive in Paihia, a seaside town nestled on the shores of this National Maritime Park in the Bay of Islands.
On arrival visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds, New Zealand’s most historic site where the Treaty was signed between the Maori Chiefs and the British Crown.
You can relax today and enjoy the Bay of Islands in a number of ways. We’ve included a cruise to the famous Hole in the Rock and Cape Brett for you this morning. Board the luxury catamaran which will whisk you on a comfortable journey out through game fishing waters to the Cape Brett Lighthouse.
Next is Motukokako Island and the famous “Hole in the Rock” where you’ll make a passage through the Hole and on to the Grand Cathedral Cave. On the return journey the cruise takes its time and meanders through the inner islands. View sandy beaches, beautiful bays and marine wildlife as your skipper gives an informative commentary.
Included is an island stopover on beautiful Urupukapuka Island. On the way back you might like to stop off at the quaint seaside village of Russell (New Zealand’s first capital) where you can take some time to wander around and enjoy.
Kerikeri, only 15 minutes drive from Paihia, is worth a visit. Kerikeri Mission House, the country’s oldest house built by John Butler in 1821, and the Mission’s Stone Store dating from 1832 is New Zealand’s oldest stone building. The area is well known for its orchards, vineyards and art galleries.
Head south from Paihia and at Whangarei, take the turn-off to Dargaville. Home to the original Dalmatian gum diggers and kauri loggers who made the area their own in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and whose lives are charted in the local museum.
Approximately 40 kms south of Dargaville is Matakohe, home to the Kauri Museum (admission included). This amazing museum tells the fascinating story of the pioneering days through the use of kauri timber and kauri gum. Explore the many exceptional displays and galleries inside the museum from the magnificent collection of antique kauri furniture and the largest collection of kauri gum in the world to restored machinery including New Zealand’s earliest tractor, a 1929 Cat 60, and a turning steam sawmill.
Leaving Matakohe, rejoin the main highway and make your way towards Auckland.
This morning you continue your journey to the Coromandel through Auckland. You will be traversing the spectacular east coast of the North Island along the Pacific Coast Highway – one of the great touring routes in the world.
The Pacific Coast Highway is well signposted along the entire route, giving a safe and easy way to navigate through some of the most spectacular coastal scenery New Zealand has to offer.
The Coromandel Peninsula is an unspoilt haven. Today you have a full day of leisure. You may choose to enjoy stunning Cathedral Cove. Accessible only on foot or by boat, famous Cathedral Cove is one of the “must visit” sites on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The track begins at the northern end of Hahei. You can also choose to dig your own spa pool using the thermal waters in the sand at Hot Water Beach. Some volcanos develop huge underground reservoirs of superheated water. Over time, this water escapes to the surface — cooling on the way.
There are two fissures at Hot Water Beach issuing water as hot as 64ºC (147ºF)! This water contains large amounts of salt (NOT salt water), calcium, magnesium, potassium, fluorine, bromine and silica. There are other hot water springs nearby but the location of these two springs on the beach make them unique.
You can only dig your own spa pool 1 hour either side of low tide.
Depart today and travel along the Bay of Plenty coastline through the subtropical orchards of kiwi fruit and citrus. Head inland through massive pine forests, passing many of the regions crystal clear lakes en route to Rotorua.
You have time to spend a relaxing afternoon exploring Rotorua.
Free time to explore Rotorua today. You may like to visit the Agrodome or take a gondola ride to the top of Mt Ngongotaha for spectacular views of Rotorua. Later this afternoon visit Te Puia geothermal area to view the boiling mudpools and cascading Pohutu geyser that make Rotorua famous as New Zealand’s thermal city.
This evening experience Te Po, Te Puia’s cultural experience. It is a feast of cultural storytelling, entertainment and Maori kai (indigenous food). After a formal Maori welcome, relax and enjoy a performance including the beautiful songs, haka and poi dance.
After dinner you will be transported by people movers to enjoy the spectacular lighting of the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and hot chocolate.
This morning depart Rotorua and head to Wai-O-Tapu. Walk at your own pace and marvel at the reserve’s unique features that include the world famous Champagne Pool, geysers, bubbling mud, steaming ground, expansive vistas, huge volcanic craters and terrace formations.
Stop at the mighty Huka Falls and Wairakei Geothermal project then wander around the popular lakeside resort of Taupo. Continue on to Napier, one of the world’s finest Art Deco cities.
Today you will travel across Cook Strait, the stretch of water that separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The journey across Cook Strait has a dramatic beauty all of its own.
Both Islands can be viewed, including the magnificent Kaikoura ranges, and there is often the chance to see wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, seals, whales and orca.
On arrival in Picton, drive onto Nelson, a stunning seaside town and gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.
Today is at leisure to explore this beautiful region caught between sweeping coastline and the northern edge of the Southern Alps. Nelson is home to diverse communities that have blossomed on rich land in a Mediterranean climate.
It is a true lifestyle destination based on adventure, art and nature. Highly recommended is a trip to Abel Tasman National Park.
As you head south to Kaikoura, the road is dominated by the awesome beauty of the Pacific Coast. Before the small town of Ward you’ll come to the Lake Grassmere saltworks – an interesting stop, particularly in late summer when the ponds turn coral pink.
Quinnat salmon are known to run in the Clarence River and just north of the Ure River is a road that leads to the walking trails of the Sawcut Gorge. Kaikoura, located in a narrow strip of stunning coastline between mountain peaks and the Pacific Ocean, is a place of unparalleled wildlife experiences.
Your wildlife harbour cruise today will be fully narrated by your skipper who has extensive knowledge of the nature, wildlife and history of the harbour. The highlight of this trip is undoubtedly the sighting of one of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector’s or New Zealand Dolphin.
These friendly and inquisitive mammals meet the boat most days throughout the year and their calves can be seen between October and March. Also on the trip you may catch glimpses of the White Flippered Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world.
There are many different bird species in the Harbour, including five different cormorant species and there is the chance of sighting the endangered yellow-eyed penguin.
Depart Akaroa today and continue south along the East Coast to reach Moeraki, famous for the fascinating Moeraki Boulders (Maori legend describes them as the food baskets of the gods).
Continue south to reach the Scottish influenced city of Dunedin, renowned for its natural history and Otago University.
This morning cruise the length of the beautiful Otago Harbour with Monarch Cruises. Enjoy a wildlife cruise experience with unrivalled viewing of the exciting diversity of wildlife which abounds on spectacular Taiaroa Head; the only mainland nesting place for Northern Royal Albatross in the world, and home to New Zealand fur seals, and eight other nesting bird species.
You may also see dolphins, sea lions and a fascinating array of rarely seen ocean birds including other species of albatross, penguins and marine mammals in their natural environment.
This afternoon is at your leisure. You may wish to take a visit to New Zealand’s oldest brewery for an entertaining and enlightening heritage tour, or book a guided tour of Larnach Castle and the stately home of Olveston House.
Travel today through the historic goldfields of Central Otago to Queenstown, a beautiful alpine resort and regarded as one of New Zealand’s premier holiday destinations.
Your day tour coach follows the southern arm of Lake Wakitipu to Lumsden, and onward to Lake Te Anau. The scenery changes dramatically from tussock covered grasslands to glacier hewn valleys as you enter the Eglington Valley and travel through the breathtaking man made Homer Tunnel to reach Milford Sound.
On arrival at Milford Sound, board either the Milford Mariner or Milford Wanderer – our specifically designed fiord explorers – and settle in for a 2.5-hour cruise. Milford Sound is nothing short of heart-stopping, inducing subconscious smiles in the hard to please and easily bored almost instantly; it’s simply magnificent. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins!
On completion you will return to Queenstown by coach. Or upgrade your itinerary to return via a scenic flight to Queenstown.
Nothing you have experienced will have prepared you for the excitement of a Shotover Jet ride as you speed through the towering, rocky canyons of the South Island’s river of gold. The major highlight is the famous Shotover Turn, where your boat spins through a full 360 degrees in its own length.
On completion the remainder of the day is at leisure to relax or explore Queenstown. Optional activities available include bungy jumping, white water rafting, four wheel driving, cruising on Lake Wakitipu, riding a gondola to the summit of Bob’s Peak for panoramic views or simply enjoying the excellent shopping and dining available.
Depart Queenstown this morning, travel along the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to the Haast Pass, gateway to the World Heritage Westland National Park.
Then continue up the West Coast past spectacular mountain ranges, native forests and lakes to Franz Josef Glacier.
Unique in the fact that the Franz Josef Glacier descends from the Southern Alps to just 240 metres above sea level amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest, endless opportunities exist to allow you to take in the beauty of this special part of the South Island’s West Coast.
Take an optional guided walk or heli-hike to explore the spectacular ice formations, experience the thrill of a scenic flight and place your footprints onto a high alpine snowfield. Feel your adrenaline rush on New Zealand’s most scenic skydive or visit New Zealand’s only White Heron (Kotuku) nesting colony.
Take in the scenery as you kayak the stunning Okarito lagoon or visit Lake Matheson, renowned for its mirror images of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, New Zealand’s highest peaks.
Depart Franz Josef this morning and travel further north along the rugged West Coast to Greymouth. Your journey features some spectacular countryside with the rugged Tasman Sea to the west and the stunning Southern Alps to the east.
Ascend through lush beech forests past the beautiful Lake Brunner via the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass situated 737 metres above sea level, before crossing the spectacular Southern Alps. From there wind over massive viaducts, through spectacular river gorges and the stunning Waimakariri River valley before arriving in Christchurch.
Sadly, your holiday is at an end and you will return your car and depart Christchurch airport today for your onward flight. Here, we bid you a fond farewell and hope you leave with many happy memories of your stay in Aotearoa, New Zealand.