New Zealand: Wonder down under

Isolated in the south-western Pacific for millions of years, New Zealand continues to hold its own secrets even today. This makes it a place of endless discovery for the adventurous traveller. You’ll feel it as soon as you get there- the magic in the air is palpable! Volcanoes and geothermal activity, unbelievably-coloured waters, distinctive wildlife, strikingly rich biodiversity, adventure sports… the list goes on. Here’s a 15 day self-drive itinerary covering the top destinations in both the North and South islands. 

ITINERARY  (14 nights)                     

Day 1: Auckland
You will be met on arrival to collect your rental car and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to discover the many attractions of Auckland. Sights that we suggest include a visit to one of Auckland’s inner city beaches, Mission Bay, with its fantastical Pohutakawa trees. The trip will also take in sights such as Mount Eden, a stunning viewpoint and one of Auckland’s most famous volcanic craters and a visit to the famous Auckland Harbour Bridge. In the afternoon, take a trip to the top of the Auckland Sky Tower and view the City of Sails from 300 metres above. Enjoy dinner tonight in one of Auckland’s many waterfront restaurants as you watch the world sailing by. Overnight Auckland.

Day 2: Auckland - Rotorua (230 km, 4 hours)
Head south to Rotorua, a hot spot for Maori culture and thermal activity. Arrive in Rotorua in the afternoon and take a city tour featuring Kuirau Park mud pool reserve and visit the beautiful government gardens and lakefront. Tonight you will have the opportunity to attend a ‘Hangi’, which is an important part of Maori culture, and you will enjoy a  Maori cultural performance and a scrumptious three course buffet meal. Overnight Rotorua.

Day 3: Rotorua
This morning, take a walk around Te Puia and see the mud pools and geysers and visit the Maori weaving school and Kiwi House. This is a chance to see the national nocturnal bird up close. The afternoon is free for leisure activities (we can book these in advance). Options include: Rotorua Gondola and Luge, a trip to Rotorua Agrodome to experience zorbing or a walk through the redwood forest. Overnight Rotorua.

Day 4: Rotorua - Tongariro National Park (145 km, 2 hours)
Heading south, your first point of call for the day is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland- a site of amazing geothermal activity. You will visit New Zealand’s largest thermal mud pool, sinter terraces and stunning hot and cold pools of many different colours. Heading south, stopping at the mind-blowingly powerful Huka Falls en route, you will reach Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Winding your way around the lake, you will reach Tongariro National Park, where your accommodation is situated in the vicinity of New Zealand’s three most active volcanoes: Tongairiro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Overnight Tongariro.

Day 5: Tongariro National Park - Wellington (330 km, 5 hours)
If you are feeling active this morning there is a possibility of one of the many stunning short walks in the Tongariro National Park featuring native bush, volcanic views and stunning waterfalls. Heading south, you will arrive in Wellington in the afternoon to discover New Zealand’s capital city. Spots on your city tour that we will mark on your maps take in sights such as Mount Victoria- Wellington’s most spectacular viewpoint with 360 degree views of the city, harbour and mountain ranges in the background, Parliament, New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa and Weta Cave where the magic of The Lord of the Rings was created. In the evening, take a wander through the bustling streets of Wellington and enjoy a meal on the waterfront. We will recommend some restaurants that feature a fantastic choice of menus and a vibrant atmosphere. Overnight Wellington.

Day 6: Wellington - Christchurch (3 hour ferry + 4 hour drive)
Today after dropping your rental car back to the Wellington base, you say farewell to the North Island and take a 3 hour ferry crossing through the Marlborough Sounds to the South Island of New Zealand. Upon arrival in the South Island, collect a new car. Driving south, head through the Marlborough wine growing region, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc among other varieties. We will mark out some of our favourite establishments for you so that you have the opportunity to visit one of or several of these fantastic wineries. Further down the coast, make a stop in Kaikoura to see some New Zealand fur seals in their natural environment.  Also head to our number one Kaikoura look out spot where you will experience the startling beauty of the mountains meeting the Pacific Ocean. You will arrive in Christchurch sometime late afternoon/ early evening. Overnight Christchurch.

Day 7: Christchurch - Franz Josef Glacier (450 km, 5 hours)
Today, drive through the Southern Alps to Arthur's Pass. Drive past the Bealey River and lakes Pearson and Lyndon with the towering Alps above. In Arthur's Pass we will mark some of our favourite walking spots and points of interest on the map for you. Be sure to keep a look out overhead for the Kea (New Zealand’s native alpine parrot ). Driving further, you can stop in Hokitika to have a look at the jade factory where you can view up close how the local people carve necklaces and sculptures from the precious stone. This afternoon or early tomorrow morning you will have the option of a hike and a flight over the majestic Franz Josef Glacier, one of the only glaciers in the world to be flanked by rainforest on both sides (can be booked in advance). Overnight Franz Josef.

Day 8: Franz Josef Glacier - Wanaka (250 km, 4 hours)
Take one of the prettiest and most dramatic journeys in the country, over the Haast Pass through to Wanaka. En route visit Lake Matheson, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Lake’ where on a clear day it is possible to see the reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (3,754 mts/ 12,316 ft). Tonight you will stay in Wanaka, one of the most popular Kiwi vacation hot spots situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Overnight Wanaka.

Day 9: Wanaka - Te Anau (260 km, 4 hours)
This morning in and around Wanaka there are many options. For those feeling adventurous you can take a walk up one of our favourite look out spots featuring 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka, Aspiring National Park and the Clutha River. The breathtaking views are well worth the walk! Other options include a visit to Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World or a kayak tour on the lake. This afternoon your South Island tour takes you over The Crown Range (New Zealand’s highest highway) to Arrowtown which was one of New Zealand’s most important towns in the gold rush to Central Otago in the 1860s. Then a further 2 hours to Te Anau, on the shores of the South Island's largest lake and the gateway to Fiordland National Park. Overnight Te Anau.

Day 10: Doubtful Sound day cruise
Today take the 20 minute drive to Manapouri Harbour for your day cruise through Doubtful Sound (or we can arrange bus transfers). This spectacular journey starts with a cruise to the other side of Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip over a pass to the fjords followed by a magical afternoon cruising through the towering peaks and stunning waterfalls of Doubtful Sound. The trip also passes by the famous Manapouri power station. The boat returns to Manapouri at 4:45 in the afternoon and take the 20 minute drive back to Te Anau (or bus) and enjoy dinner with views of the second largest lake in New Zealand (Lake Te Anau). Overnight Te Anau.

Day 11: Te Anau - Queenstown (180 km, 3 hours)
Skirting your way around Lake Wakatipu makes for some stunning photography and you will be amazed by the Remarkables Mountain Range, one of the most famous back drops for The Lord of the Rings films. You should arrive in Queenstown around midday and there is the opportunity to take a trip up the Queenstown Skyline Gondola for panoramic views of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy at leisure. Overnight Queenstown.

Day 12: Queenstown
Today is free to explore Queenstown at leisure and take part in some of the fantastic activities that this ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ has to offer. Options for the adventurous include: skydiving, bungee jumping, jet boating, white water rafting and paragliding. If you feel like taking a more relaxed approach to the day, a cruise on an ancient steam ship or a walk through Queenstown’s Botanical Gardens are not to be missed (these can be booked by us in advance at reduced rates). Overnight Queenstown.

Day 13: Queenstown - Mount Cook - Tekapo (280 km, 4 hours)
You leave Central Otago today through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell. Make a stop en route and visit a local fruit shop and a chance to try ‘Real Fruit Ice Cream’ and sample a few of the New Zealand famous manuka honey products. From there cross the Lindis Pass (965m) to the Mackenzie Country, known for its Merino sheep and wool industry. Weather permitting you can take a short walk at the foot of Mount Cook- New Zealand’s highest mountain and take in its blissful surrounds. Late afternoon head through to Lake Tekapo and where your accommodation is situated near the waterfront. Overnight Tekapo.

Day 14: Tekapo - Christchurch (270 km, 4 hours)
Today take the drive to what can only be described as a spectacular look-out point. At 1000m above sea level one really does have a feeling of being at the top of the world here. Also en route will be a stop at the historic Church of the Good Shepherd, featured on all New Zealand postcards. You will arrive in Christchurch sometime in the late afternoon where you can take a city tour. Spots that will be marked on your map include: Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, Christchurch Gondola, Re-Start Mall and New Regent Street. We will also recommend some great dining in the central city. Overnight Christchurch.

Day 15: Christchurch & onward
Today after dropping your rental car back you will be transferred to the airport for your onward arrangements.

 

Tour cost
Prices start from 3299$ per person on twin sharing basis, 2989$ per person on triple sharing
All prices are in New Zealand dollars and include Government Service Tax of 15%

Booking & Cancellation Policy

What's included

  • Meet and assist at arrival and departure
  • 14 nights' accommodation with breakfast and taxes in superior 4 star hotels/motels
  • 1.8 litre 4 door Nissan (or similar) daily hire, insurance reduction to 250$ and GST (4WD or MPV 30$ per day extra)
  • AA maps marked up by us with all walking spots, sightseeing activities, accommodation, restaurant suggestions and our favourite hidden locations
  • Rotorua cultural evening and Hangi - 3 course meal
  • Ferry crossing between Wellington and Picton
  • Te Puia mud pools and geysers entry
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland entry
  • Doubtful Sound day cruise

What's not

  • Airfare and visa fees
  • Meals other than breakfast
  • Personal expenses like telephone calls, laundry, beverages, etc
  • Entrances and camera fees where applicable
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Government Service Tax @ 4.5%

DESTINATION GUIDE

Kaikoura is a place of startling, rugged beauty, with mountains coming down to meet the sea on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. The area's geography and the upwelling ocean currents around it also make it a hotspot for marine wildlife. It's the perfect place to see fur seals, whales, dolphins... and eat some delicious crayfish!
Read more > 

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