16 Day Essence Of New Zealand

16 Day Essence Of New Zealand

Capturing the essence of New Zealand this lively tour shows off the best the country has to offer. You’ll be in the thick of things from the first day, inviting your senses to sample the joys of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Rotorua, Queenstown and Franz Josef.

Tour Info

Tour Type: Self Drive Tours
From: Auckland to Christchurch
Departures: Jan 2019 - March 2020
Price: From (NZD) $2750 per person
Tour Operator: Relaxing Journeys
Duration: 16 Days
Tour Code: GNENZ

Inclusions

15 nights accommodation
Rental vehicle of your choice including airport and ferry port collection charges
Guided tour of Waitomo Caves
Maori Mitai Cultural Evening with traditional Feast
Admission to Te Puia's Geothermal Valley
Admission to Skyline Skyrides
Relax at the Polynesian Spa
Interislander Ferry Crossing

Conditions

Prices are per person based on twin-share, and are subject to availability. Prices are correct at the time of submission but are subject to change without notice. Valid for travel January 2019 – March 2020. Blackout periods may apply. A non-refundable deposit of $500 per person is required at time of booking.

Click here for our full terms and conditions.

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Day by Day Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Arrive Auckland

Welcome to Auckland! Once you’ve moved through customs and collected your baggage, it’s time to sign for your rental car and check-in at your accommodation. You’ve landed on the doorstep of New Zealand’s largest city, an idyllic setting overlooking the forested Waitakere Ranges, the sheltered Manukau Harbour and the island-studded Hauraki Gulf to the north.

No wonder over a million people choose to live here! Beautiful beaches and dreamy offshore islands are just half an hour from the city. In fact, the sea is so much a part of the place that an unusually high number of people own their own boats, giving the city its moniker of the ‘City of Sails’.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 2
Auckland - Waitomo Caves - Rotorua

Head south through Hamilton today to Rotorua. On the way stop off at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves (included in the tour price). For over 100 years Waitomo Glowworm Caves have attracted millions of people from all over the world.

This evening you will be picked up and taken to the Mitai Village for a unique and unforgettable cultural experience. Be enthralled by the natural bush setting, see warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream and see glow worms in their natural habitat.

See your traditionally cooked hangi meal being lifted from the ground. During the cultural performance, you’ll learn about our past, carvings and ta moko (tattoo art). (D) (2 nights)

Your choice of accommodation

Day 3
Rotorua

Rotorua has been known for its geothermal activity for over 150 years now and today you are able to see, feel, smell and hear some of this wonder of nature. At Te Puia, experience the raw power of Te Whakarewarewa geothermal valley with bubbling mud pools, steaming vents and the world famous Pohutu Geyser. Take a journey into the heart of Maori culture, arts and crafts.

Then take a ride on the 8 seater gondola which climbs up the side of Mt Ngongotaha and experience Rotorua’s most spectacular views with Skyline Skyrides. This is a fun, all age, all weather attraction with views of the City and Lake Rotorua. You can have lunch here at the café or restaurant, and enjoy the fresh air a little more if you decide to ride a cart down the Luge.

At the end of the day you can relax at the Polynesian Spa where you have the choice of 7 hot mineral spring pools – or upgrade to some wonderful treatments from the Spa such as the Aix Massage.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 4
Rotorua - Taupo

Depart the “thermal city” of Rotorua and continue south through the large man made forest Kaingaroa to reach the popular lake resort of Taupo. The area owes its landscapes to its dramatic volcanic origins. Lake Taupo fills two of these vast former volcanoes and is New Zealand’s largest lake.

Taupo is also home to the spectacular Huka Falls, Taupo Bungy, DeBrett’s Thermal Pools and fantastic fishing on the Lake. You may also like to take a drive through the Wairakei Geothermal area.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 5
Taupo - Wellington

This morning depart Taupo and travel along the shores of Lake Taupo to Turangi, before travelling over the Desert Road, dominated in the background by the three peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, to arrive at the small town of Taihape.

Continue south through lush farmland to reach the city of Palmerston North, famous for its agricultural University, before arriving in the “capital city” of Wellington.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 6
Wellington - Picton - Blenheim

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, collect your rental car and make your way past vineyards and wineries to Blenheim. (2 nights)

Your choice of accommodation

Day 7
Marlborough

Today is at leisure to explore Blenheim and the wine area of Marlborough. There are more than 20 wineries within driving distance of the town – explore them with a guided tour or bike tour.

Visit the Marlborough Sounds, take a wine tour or a Greenshell Mussel cruise or experience all three with the Icons of Marlborough tour. A visit to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is highly recommended. A magnificent collection of World War planes set in scenes put together by Weta Workshops with the assistance of Peter Jackson who owns a majority of what you see on exhibit.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 8
Blenheim - Christchurch

After breakfast travel south from Blenheim to Kaikoura, world renowned as the whale watching centre of New Zealand. Optional excursions include the opportunity to view giant sperm whales by boat or air, see dolphins, fur seals and Royal Albatross at close range in their natural habitat or swim with pools of Dusky Dolphins – wetsuits provided!

Later, continue south to the “Garden City” of Christchurch, thought of as the most English of New Zealand cities.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 9
Christchurch - Mt Cook

Head south today across the Canterbury Plains, through the picturesque town of Geraldine. Be sure you make a photo stop at Lake Tekapo, a beautiful turquoise coloured lake. Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of the lake. This is one of the most photographed churches in the world made of stone and sand from around the lake.

You are now in Mackenzie Country and the scenery is fantastic as you drive to Lake Pukaki and turn towards the Southern Alps and Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Follow this glacier-fed lake and the Tasman River all the way up to the alpine village of Aoraki-Mt Cook.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 10
Mt Cook - Queenstown

Leave New Zealand’s highest mountain behind today as you drive through Twizel and Omarama before heading up over the Lindis Pass – this is the area where gold was first discovered in the Central Otago region in 1861.

Central Otago has a harsh but beautiful landscape due to its summer heat and winter cold. A lot of gold was discovered in the area in the late 1800’s. More recently in the late 1900’s it’s been discovered as a great place for growing grapes so there are some good reasons for exploring this area.

Continue on through the Kawarau gorge to get to the alpine town of Queenstown where you are staying for three nights. (3 nights)

Your choice of accommodation

Day 11
Queenstown

A free day to experience this magnificent resort. Surrounded by majestic mountains, Queenstown boasts adventure and leisure activities in all forms, from extreme to relaxed exploration.

Here you can take a thrilling jet boat ride, pan for gold, raft the white water rapids, take a wine trail, fish for trout, play golf or 4WD sheer canyons. It is also a great base from which to explore the Fiordland National Park, gateway to the awesome Milford and Doubtful Sounds.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 12
Queenstown

Running along the Clutha River, Lake Dunstan and the Shotover River, the Central Otago Wine Trail region encompasses Wanaka, Cromwell, Bannockburn, Bendigo, Alexandra, and Gibbston, boasting an international reputation for Pinot Noir.

There are over 30 wineries and vineyards in this area offering tastings, tours, lunches and meals. Further along SH6, 15 minutes from central Queenstown, stands the Arrowtown Junction at Lake Hayes, home of the unmissable Amisfield Winery and Bistro – sink your teeth into a local meal and savour the notes of New Zealand before arriving in Queenstown.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 13
Queenstown - Franz Josef

This morning, journey up the West coast of the South Island to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Drive to Cromwell, Wanaka and on through the Southern Lakes district to the Haast Pass then north, through dense rain forest broken by rugged coastal vistas, towards the glaciers. (2 nights)

Your choice of accommodation

Day 14
Franz Josef

There’s lots to explore in this area – you can take your own time walking up to the glacier, going to the Okarito Lagoon or join a guided walk on the glacier, take a heli-hike adventure, or a scenic flight over both glaciers.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 15
Franz Josef - Christchurch

Continue north to Hokitika where you can see some great Pounamu (Jade) shops, before turning inland to travel over the beautiful Arthur’s Pass. Along the way you’ll see the awesome engineering feats of the Otira Viaduct and Tunnel.

You’ll have time to stop and look around before descending through some fantastic alpine scenery and on down to the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch. (If you have time you may wish to add a day here and stay at Punakaiki instead).

Your choice of accommodation

Day UP
TranzAlpine Train Upgrade Package

Upgrade your itinerary to include a trip on the Tranz Alpine train, so that you drop your vehicle off in Greymouth and then join the TranzAlpine Train for your journey across the Alps.

The TranzAlpine is described as “The Great New Zealand Rail Adventure” and is rated as one of the top six scenic train journeys in the world – with accolades like those, you know it will be good.

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. The TranzAlpine then winds its way over massive viaducts, through spectacular river gorges and the stunning Waimakariri River valley before arriving in Christchurch.

On arrival in Christchurch we’ll arrange transfers to your accommodation and transfers the next day to the airport for your onward flight.

Your choice of accommodation

Day 16
Depart Christchurch

After breakfast this morning, please make your way to the airport where you will return your car in time for your onward flight.

Your choice of accommodation

4.5/5.0

There are 11 reviews of this tour from past clients of Relaxing Journeys, averaging 4.5 out of 5.

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Accommodation
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Relaxing Journeys Experience

Tour Reviews

4
11/03/2019
My wife and I really enjoyed our trip. Marie was very helpful in tailoring the holiday for us. The accommodation and tour bookings arranged by Relaxing Journeys all proceeded without a problem. Our only feedback is that the standard of accommodation booked in Christchurch was of a lesser standard than other locations and was a bit disappointing.
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5
01/02/2019
We recently completed the 16 Day Essence of New Zealand tour that we booked with you. I wanted to give you some feedback on the tour, so here it goes. First off, we enjoyed the tour very much. We had a great time and feel that we saw most of the country. We were quite happy with most of the hotels you booked for us; many exceeded my expectations. Our tour started in Auckland. We switched out one night in Blenheim for one extra night in Auckland. As it turns out, this was the right choice. Our flight landed in Auckland at 5:30PM and it took us a while to get out of the airport; we probably didn't get our rental car until at least 6:45. As such, had we not added a night in Auckland, there really would not have been any time to see the city. For me, our cruise of Auckland's harbor was one of the highlights of the North Island. Next we went to Rotorua via the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. Using the voucher went smoothly. Our stay in Rotorua went well but there were a few things I'd change. Other than the glow worm caves, all of our activity vouchers were for Rotorua. This left us with a choice of either doing only things we had vouchers for or wasting vouchers. It would have been nice if they were spread out more throughout the trip. For example, an easy change would be to give a voucher for Skyline Queenstown instead of Skyline Rotorua. Also, our hotel in Rotorua, the Sudima Lake Rotorua, was clearly not up to the level of the other hotels on the trip and we did not care much for it. Also, we did not use the voucher for the Polynesian Spa because we did not know we would be given one and so we did not bring swimwear. If we had known in advance we'd receive this voucher, this would have been helpful. After leaving Rotorua, we spent the night in Lake Taupo. We liked the town and loved our hotel there, the Reef Resort. We arrived in early afternoon and then went hiking in Tongariro National Park (NP). The following day, as planned we woke up early and drove to Wellington, arriving in early/mid afternoon. That afternoon was our only available day of doing anything in Wellington, and we found plenty to do there. In order to break up the drive, maybe it would be good to have people stay at the south end of Lake Taupo, near Turangi. The ferry to the South Island was great and enjoyable. We enjoyed Picton and the wineries near Blenheim. We spent the next night in Christchurch; we arrived around 5 and then walked around the city a bit. I'm glad we did because we didn't have a lot of time to later, as I thought we would. Driving from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo the next day took longer than I thought it would, but I loved staying by the lake. I was able to go out at night and see the stars in this International Dark Sky Reserve. The next day we drove to Queenstown via Mt. Cook; it was long day but enjoyable. In Queenstown we were thrilled with our hotel, the Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel, the only one of the entire trip that gave us breakfast for free. Of our two days in Queenstown, one day we took a Milford Sound tour (which was great, but long), and the other day we walked around, went up to the Skyline and took a jet boat ride. It was all very enjoyable. The next day we drove through Arrowtown, Wanaka and Mt. Aspiring NP on our way to Fox Glacier. We fit a lot in on this rather lengthy drive. In staying in the town of Fox Glacier, we went to Franz Josef Glacier in the morning but then did nothing in the afternoon due to rain; had the weather cooperated, the plan was to see Lake Matheson. Although staying in Franz Josef might have been better (shorter drive the next day, closer to glacier we toured), I'm not sure I would change that because the clerk at the hotel informed us of a great place to see Fox Glacier we would not have known about otherwise, plus I enjoyed the food in Fox Glacier. The next day was also a long day, taking us from Fox Glacier back to Christchurch. Along the way we stopped at the Pancake Rocks, which we thought were worthwhile. Arthur's Pass NP was also scenic, but with the time, we largely just drove through it, stopping once or twice for a quick picture. We made it back to Christchurch around 6:45, which allowed to us keep a reservation we'd made for a local restaurant when we were there previously. The next morning, with our flight to Auckland leaving at 6PM, we visited the Canterbury Museum, did Punting on the Avon, and briefly visited the International Antarctic Center. All in all, it was great. I'd rate it a 5 out of 5. There were some long days, but even with those we managed to pack a lot in. The only real changes I think I'd make are 1) space out the vouchers a bit more 2) spend the night of Day 4 farther south to allow for more time in Wellington and 3) include a trip to Milford Sound, which was incredible. I also think it would be good to inform people of some of the options more. I see them on the page now, but was not aware of them prior to our departure.
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5
28/12/2018
The whole experience in NZ was absolutely wonderful, thanks to Relaxing Journeys!! Everything went beautifully (hire car, hotels, ferry, etc) and everything was so organised and timed to perfection. The hotel staff and hire car staff were most accommodating and I would recommend this tour to anyone!
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5
09/11/2018
Very reasonably and highly professionally organized tour. The selected accommodations and activities were excellent and exciting. Everything delivered promptly. The tour worth its money.
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5
01/11/2018
The trip went very smoothly and we had a great time! The hotel rooms were nice and we almost always had a small kitchen and sometimes, a washer/dryer! We particularly loved the chateau at Mt. Cook and the lakefront room in Queenstown. There were a few places where the WiFi was spotty (Franz Joseph) or limited, but it was generally quite good. The activities that were suggested by the company were terrific and they were very responsive to any requests for additions or changed. The materials in the packet we picked up were also very helpful.
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4
23/08/2016
My husband and I were very satisfied with our Relaxing Journeys tour. Mani worked with us to customize a tour that gave us the opportunity to not only see many of New Zealand's beautiful landscapes and attractions, but also included activities and locations we personally requested such as snowboarding and touring Hobbiton. Our tour was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and progressed smoothly, hitting only a few small snags (due to unforeseen circumstances) here and there. We did have some difficulties using the Kruse GPS at times and would suggest a few changes to the navigation system itself. Overall, we would definitely recommend Relaxing Journeys to others and will hopefully use them again for a future NZ trip!
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4
04/04/2016
We loved your country. So much natural beauty and unusual landscapes and friendly people . Suggestions on how to bring my review up to Excellent would be to provide a better GPS system; we experienced some extremely frustrating times as the system often led us astray and proved not to be always reliable. We are all used to using GPS systems and came to the conclusion this must have been the cheapest version available. All of the hotels were fantastic except for the ones in Queenstown (too remote from the Waterfront and was dark and dated) and Auckland (was clean but below the standard of the other hotels we visited). In spite of the GPS problem we were happy with the car...plenty of space and was comfortable. We had so many highlights that it would take too long to list them, but the ones we particularly enjoyed were: TSS Earnslaw trip to Walter Peak and demonstrations; Mt Cook overnight; Farmstay, Maori cultural center and dinner.
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4
01/03/2016
The first part of our trip was very rushed as there was lots of driving to do to get to the next destination with only 5 minutes to spare at one location after arriving to be picked up by a coach. The activities booked were great though. Overall we enjoyed our tour of both Islands and believe New Zealand to be a beautiful country. All vouchers and transfers went smoothly and we met some lovely friendly people. We also met other tourists enjoying a Relaxing Journeys adventure and bumped in to them occasionally at different destinations along the way. All pick ups and drop offs were on time and very helpful. Would like to suggest that Te Anau be placed on your places of interest to stay as our 2 nights there were very enjoyable and it is a beautiful part of the country and so much closer to Milford Sound.
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5
26/02/2015
Without question, the three of us felt this was a fabulous tour. The offerings of your company allowed us to tailor the trip to our interests. Though we did not use Relaxing Journeys for accommodations in Auckland, Rotorua, or Wellington, we were immensely pleased with our personal selections (which had higher Trip Advisor ratings than those you had offered). I would particularly call your attention to the Emerald Spa Motor Inn in Rotorua. With a lovely, quiet location on a pretty street; wonderful options for breakfast which was delivered to our rooms; a large jacuzzi spa in each room - it was really excellent. It is because of accommodation issues with the Portage Resort and Punga Grove in Franz Joseph that the over-all accommodation rating is only 'pretty good'.

At the Portage, the inequity of accommodation between the two bedrooms in our unit was most unsatisfactory, and the failure of housekeeping to even set foot in our room for basic cleaning up during our full day there was not what was expected. The Punga Grove accommodation was very spacious and adequately fitted out. What tarnished our stay there was the failure of the front desk to deliver some of the items checked on the form for our Continental Breakfast our first morning, then to totally overlook delivery of the Continental Breakfast for our second morning. These are things that can be addressed, I am sure. I don't know if you arranged it or not, but it was wonderful to find the car we picked up in Picton to be an exact duplicate of the car we had left in Wellington. Because of that, when we left Picton in a serious wind/rain storm, I did not have to familiarize myself with a different car. In summary, this was a well organized trip with vouchers provided for all accommodations and activities requested and excellent assistance provided from the time of the initial inquiry by Leanne and later, Marie. We would not hesitate to recommend Relaxing Journeys to others considering a tour such as ours.
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4
25/08/2013
We had such a fantastic time on our driving tour! We covered both Islands in two weeks and we got to do everything that we both wanted to do in this time. Highlights for us were Roturua (loved the Maori village, the spas and Te Puia), Queenstown (we both did paragliding) and Franz Josef glacier where we did the heli-hike. A really well planned holiday with lots of fun!
Overall Tour Rating

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Optionals

New Zealand has a great deal of things to see and do, why not add one of our optional sightseeing activities to your trip. Prices are per adult (we'll adjust your quote for any children).

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16 Day Essence Of New Zealand
Self Drive Tours
Tour Code: GNENZ
From (NZD) $2750 per person
Save (NZD) $275 per person
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Rating:
11 reviews (4.5/5)

Capturing the essence of New Zealand this lively tour shows off the best the country has to offer. You’ll be in the thick of things from the first d... Read More

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16 Day Essence Of New Zealand
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