Arrive in Auckland – the “City of Sails” is New Zealand’s largest city and is bordered by two stunning harbours. Collect your rental car from the airport, explore the city, then make your way to your accommodation.
Stay 2 nights in Auckland City.
Leave the hustle and bustle of the city and discover the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, which is visited by a staggering one third of all the types of marine mammals found on earth. Departing directly from the Viaduct Harbour, you will be welcomed aboard the 20 metre, purpose-built vessel ‘Dolphin Explorer’ for an unforgettable marine mammal eco-safari out on the sparkling waters of the Hauraki Gulf. During your 4.5 hour eco-cruise, you are guaranteed to see whales and dolphins – or you get a free trip! Friendly, knowledgeable guides, commentary on the culture and history of the Hauraki Gulf, and a fully licensed bar with snacks available for purchase.
Driving time Auckland to Matamata 148 km / 91 miles, 2 hours
Make your way to Matamata to discover the real Middle-Earth on the most picturesque private farmland. Near Matamata, visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from the Lord of the Rings films in a fascinating two-hour guided tour. The set has been completely rebuilt and will remain as it was seen in the films. There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm. You can relax and soak up the unique atmosphere with a great cup of coffee or a light meal in the Shires Rest Cafe.
Driving time Matamata to Rotorua 68 km / 42 miles, 1 hour
Enjoy the scenic journey to Rotorua, distinguished by Maori culture and geothermal activity. This diverse city will put on a display as you encounter geysers, mud pools, steaming craters and 16 beautiful lakes.
Stay 2 nights in Rotorua.
Relax in Rotorua for the day.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at Rotorua’s most spectacular location – Skyline Restaurant. Sit back and relax as the views from the gondola unfold on your journey to the Skyline complex. The Skyline Restaurant will then serve you a mouthwatering taste of New Zealand, a buffet of legendary proportions. Feast on mouth-watering fresh soups, salads and seafood specialties such as mussels, queen scallops, sushi and sashimi. Enjoy carvery roasts of beef, lamb or pork with specialty sauces to match, with live cooking from your friendly chefs. The legendary Art of the Grill menu will tempt your taste buds even further, with a selection of fillet steak, prawn and Morten Bay Bugs – all cooked on the grill to your liking. Add to that a range of sumptuous desserts, and you’ve got yourself a unique dining experience not to be missed. Tiered seating guarantees stunning views from every table! After dinner, enjoy the scenic ride back down on the gondola.
At the top of the gondola you also have the option to add on a thrilling Luge Ride, enjoy nature walks, and visit the Jelly Belly Shop and Volcanic Hills winery and tasting room.
Driving time Rotorua to Taupo 76 km / 47 miles, 1 hour
Enjoy a Peek at the Lake Scenic Floatplane Flight, which takes off from Taupo Bay, past Acacia Bay to Rangatira Point, viewing the crystal clear waters of Whakaipo Bay. Climb up through Mapara Valley, view red scoria quarries, then discover the headwaters of the Waikato River. Fly over the Craters of the Moon and over the Borefields of the Wairakei Power Station, followed by a circuit of the Huka Falls, before passing over Taupo to land on the lakefront (20 minutes approx).
Stay 1 night in Taupo.
Driving time Taupo to Wellington 375 km / 233 miles, 5 hours
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, has so much to offer. Set on the edge of a stunning harbour, surrounded by rolling hills, it’s a city rich in culture waiting to be explored. From shopping and picturesque walks to exhibitions, festivals, Te Papa Tongarewa: the Museum of New Zealand, and more – Wellington has something for everyone.
Stay 2 nights in Wellington.
Relax and enjoy Wellington City for the day. You may like to visit Zealandia, located a 10- minute drive from downtown Wellington. Hidden in a suburban valley, this project aims to return a 225-hectare section of bush to its pre-human state. Take a walk and hear the songs of the flourishing native bird population.
Optional Lord of the Rings Tour.
Sailing time Wellington to Picton 70 km / 43 miles, 3 hours
Driving time Picton to Kaikoura 156 km / 97 miles, 2 hours
It’s all about the journey today as you board the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry, which will transport you on a scenic cruise to Picton. Enjoy the coastal drive along the South Island’s East Coast to Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is a stunning coastal township offering a backdrop of majestic mountains. As an important fishing port, Kaikoura is a mecca for seafood lovers. Local specialties include blue cod, paua (abalone) and of course crayfish (lobster).
Stay 1 night in Kaikoura
Driving time Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs 130 km / 80 miles, 2 hours
Travel on to Hanmer Springs, a year round holiday destination offering a variety of outdoor activities, great cafes and of course the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. Visitors have been travelling to bathe in the rejuvenating hot mineral pools for over 120 years! Relax in open-air thermal pools and de-stress with spa therapies.
Stay 2 nights in Hanmer Springs.
Today, join Thrillseekers Jet and experience the adrenaline rush of going 80 km per hour, skimming the river below, with Thrillseekers Jet! Cut corners as turquoise snowmelt churns out behind you, and experience 360° spins while you travel up the stunning Waiau Gorge.
Explore Hanmer Springs in the afternoon.
Driving time Hanmer Springs to Christchurch 134 km / 117 miles, 2 hours
Journey to New Zealand’s Garden City, Christchurch. Relax and explore Christchurch in the afternoon.
In the evening, enjoy a Maori Cultural Experience which includes a guided tour through the kiwi house to see kiwi and other New Zealand wildlife icons. Afterwards, you will be greeted with a traditional Maori welcome and challenge (wero), followed by a tour of the replica Maori village, where you will learn about their history, ancestors and traditions. Before dinner you will experience a traditional Maori performance including the haka and a waiata a ringa. To finish off your evening, enjoy a four course dinner with traditional hangi mains, where food is cooked underground long and slow from stones that are heated in a pit.
Stay 1 night in Christchurch.
Driving time Christchurch to Lake Tekapo 230 km / 143 miles, 3 hours
Travel south across the Canterbury Plains and inland towards the Southern Alps to reach Lake Tekapo, an amazing turquoise lake. Lake Tekapo presents many world class attractions great for the whole family, from the famous Church of the Good Shepherd and Tekapo Springs to scenic flights exploring NZ’s highest mountains and largest glaciers, including Mt Cook, Tasman Glacier, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.
Relax in Lake Tekapo for the afternoon, exploring walking tracks and attractions of interest.
Stay 1 night in Lake Tekapo.
Driving time Lake Tekapo to Wanaka 200 km / 124 miles, 3 hours
Venture past Lake Pukaki, a picturesque turquoise glacial lake, before you travel through the dramatic Lindis Pass which links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. Wanaka awaits you, boasting panoramic views, a relaxing atmosphere and myriad walking tracks.
Relax and explore Wanaka – you may want to visit Puzzling World, Wanaka’s iconic illusional attraction, or the National Toy and Transport Museum. Other options include the Warbirds and Wheels Museum and Crossfire, where you can enjoy clay bird shooting, mini putt, a driving range and more.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
Today’s options include visiting Rippon Vineyard and Tasting Room or catching a film at Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka’s unique movie theatre. Other options include strolling along one of Wanaka’s stunning walking tracks, relaxing on the lake’s edge or browsing through Wanaka’s boutique shops.
Driving time Wanaka to Dunedin 276 km / 171 miles, 3.5 hours
Travel to Dunedin, one of the best
Stay 2 nights in Dunedin.
Today, join the Taieri Gorge Railway for one of the world’s great train trips, an experience not to be missed. Departing from Dunedin’s beautiful railway station, the Taieri Gorge Railway begins its scenic journey into some of New Zealand’s most rugged, ever-changing scenery. The train travels into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep canyon carved out over aeons by the ancient Taieri River. The train negotiates the gorge with ease as it travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts. The train will stop or slow down at various scenic points along the way, and you will get the chance to take photos or disembark to look around. Stand on the open-air platforms while the train moves, or enjoy a quiet drink and food from the onboard cafe while the train manager tells the story of the nature and history of the area.
Driving time Dunedin to Te Anau 290 km / 180 miles, 4 hours
Journey through lush green farmland to reach Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.
In the afternoon, join Southern Lakes Helicopters for a spectacular scenic helicopter flight! Sample the grandeur of the Fiordland scenery on your adventure into the untamed Kepler Mountains. See what lies beyond the Te Anau horizon! Views of the Kepler Track Great Walk and the Hidden Lakes spread out before you. Land at a mountain tarn to enjoy the rugged vistas from the Main Divide. Approx. 30 minutes, including a mountain landing.
Stay 2 nights in Te Anau.
Driving time Te Anau to Milford Sound 116 km / 72 miles, 1.5 hours (each way)
Today, enjoy the stunning Milford Sound Nature Cruise! 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. No other road in Fiordland offers such a diverse glimpse into New Zealand’s alpine zone.
Upon reaching Milford Sound, you will enjoy a 2.5 hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise. With specialist nature guides on board, Real Journeys Nature Cruises offer a close-up experience of Milford Sound’s rainforest, soaring rock walls, and wildlife. Throughout the cruise, the guides share stories of the fiord’s history and are happy to answer your questions.
Relax and explore Te Anau for the afternoon.
Driving time Te Anau to Queenstown 172 km / 106 miles, 2.5 hours
Enjoy the scenic journey past the stunning Lake Wakatipu before arriving in Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. Discover downtown Queenstown in the afternoon and evening.
Stay 3 nights in Queenstown.
In the morning, get a taste of New Zealand’s farming lifestyle at Walter Peak High Country Farm. Situated on picturesque Lake Wakatipu’s southwestern shores, the farm is the perfect place to spend a relaxing few hours. The farm tour itself is a wonderful, interactive experience for the whole family, with something to keep everyone entertained and happy. Your rural host will meet you after you disembark from the TSS Earnslaw and take you for a walking tour of the farmyard. The first stop is the holding pens, where you can help feed the sheep and deer and even get up close to the Scottish Highland Cattle. Then stroll through the lakeside gardens to the charming Colonel’s Homestead for afternoon tea. Afterwards, the farmer will lead you over to the shearing shed where you can watch the farm dogs rounding up sheep from the hill paddocks and see the farmer shear a sheep. You will then board the TSS Earnslaw for your cruise back to Queenstown.
Relax in Queenstown in the afternoon.
Relax in Queenstown and enjoy your last day in paradise!
Drop your rental car off at Queenstown Airport and depart Queenstown.
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