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 and make your way to your accommodation.
Relax in Auckland. Your options include visiting the Auckland Zoo, or Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World; venturing to one of Auckland’s stunning beaches or West Auckland wineries; or doing a spot of shopping.
Auckland is a shopaholic’s paradise, with everything from top-end designers to open-air street markets. Discover the diverse range of cafés and restaurants offering cuisine from around the globe and check out the buzzing nightlife of the central city. Favourite spots include Wynyard Quarter, the Viaduct Harbour, the Britomart precinct and City Works Depot.
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.
This evening, if you would like to dine with a spectacular view, you might like to visit the Sky Tower. You are spoilt for choice with three restaurants and cafés up the Sky Tower, including the Orbit 360 degree dining revolving restaurant; The Sugar Club, which is superbly chic and elegant; or the Sky Café, where you can relax with a coffee, cheese board or ice cream. You will have the opportunity to view the city from 328 metres high above street level and take in the beautiful views, up to 80 kilometres in every direction. Spot the key landmarks, including a number of volcanoes and historical locations within the greater Auckland area.
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 Café.
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.
In the late afternoon, you have the option to visit the Redwoods Treewalk, which features 23 suspension bridges through 115-year-old redwood trees, or explore the Government Gardens and Museum, located on the waterfront of Lake Rotorua.
Stay 2 nights in Rotorua.
Relax and explore Rotorua today, with the option to take a trip to one of the surrounding towns. One destination you may want to visit is Hamurana—this small township with 900 dwellings is located 15 kms (20 mins drive) northeast of Rotorua, and is renowned for the stunning Hamurana Springs. A stream-side walk runs through a redwood grove with beautiful views of the crystal-clear water that runs into Lake Rotorua.
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.
Wellington’s top attractions include Te Papa, Weta Workshop, Wellington Cable Car, Mt Victoria Lookout and Wellington Zoo.
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.
This afternoon you may like to try the visually stunning Makara Peak track, as well as the City to Sea walk where you can experience the best of Wellington’s waterfront. Ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city and enjoy an ice cream at the top.
You also have the option to add on a 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).
In the late afternoon, you have the option to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a Whale Watch Scenic Flight to view the majestic Sperm Whales off the Kaikoura Coast.
Stay 1 night in Kaikoura
Driving time Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs 130 km / 80 miles, 2 hours
Travel on to Hanmer Springs, a year
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. Adventure activities will immerse you in the wild beauty of Hanmer. You might like to go forest hiking, mountain biking, horse trekking or bungy jumping.
Enjoy a meal in Hanmer Springs this evening, or relax in your accommodation.
Driving time Hanmer Springs to Christchurch 134 km / 117 miles, 2 hours
Journey to New Zealand’s Garden City, Christchurch.
Discover the vibrant and picturesque garden city, renowned for its natural beauty, lively entertainment scene, and strong cultural heritage. With its stunning botanical gardens and tree-lined avenues, Christchurch is both a sophisticated city and beautiful place to relax.
Your options include visiting the Canterbury Museum where you can find rare Maori artefacts; the stories behind them will fascinate you. The museum has a frequent range of special exhibitions, a café and a gift shop for you to browse. Other recommended activities include the Christchurch Gondola, Tramway, Punting on the Avon River and the Botanical Gardens Tour.
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. If the sky is clear at night, be sure to venture outside to see the Milky Way! Lake Tekapo is situated in the Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, one of the best places in the world to view the night sky.
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 illusional attraction, or the National Toy and Transport Museum. Other options include
You could also visit Rippon Vineyard and Tasting Room to sample local wines, or catch a film at Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka’s quirky local theatre.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
Explore Wanaka at your leisure today. If you enjoy walking, you might like to embark on one of the various lake or riverside tracks, climb Mt Iron, or take the track to Diamond Lake – continuing to Rocky Summit if you’re feeling fit!
The more adventurous might like to check out Wildwire – a Ferrata course on a rocky Wanaka hillside, showcasing some of the best waterfall views in Wanaka! Clip ‘N Climb is also available, as well as Crossfire gaming centre if you haven’t paid a visit yet.
Watersports are a popular choice, with jet ski and kayak hire available; as well as lake cruises – some including walks onto local islands only accessible by boat.
If you’d prefer something more sedate, a visit to the Lavender Farm never goes amiss. Wander through 10 acres of beautiful lavender fields, meet their friendly farm animals, play garden games and enjoy a hot or cold drink at the café; Wanaka Lavender farm is a great place to unwind!
Driving time Wanaka to Dunedin 276 km / 171 miles, 3.5 hours
Travel to Dunedin, one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the southern hemisphere. Dunedin offers a diverse range of experiences including the Speight’s Brewery, Larnach Castle and of course the stunning Otago Peninsula.
Explore Dunedin this afternoon and visit attractions of interest such as the Olveston Historic Home, Dunedin Railway Station or the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. You may also like to go for a browse around the shops, stop for a coffee or a nice lunch in one of the prestigious cafés and restaurants Dunedin has to offer.
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 café 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. Nestled on the edge of a lake, the picturesque township of Te Anau is the main visitor base for the glacier-carved wilderness that is 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.
Relax and enjoy Queenstown today. You have the option to visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park, the Underwater Observatory, the Queenstown Ice Arena for some ice-skating fun, or simply enjoy a lakefront stroll. The Bathhouse Café on the waterfront is a great stop for a drink or a bite to eat, with a playground for the kids right outside!
You may also like to ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for panoramic views over the Wakatipu Basin. At the top, you have the option to take a thrilling ride on the Skyline Luge. The purpose-built Luge carts put you in complete control as you take on over 800 metres of banked corners, tunnels and dippers. Once you’ve conquered the course, hop on the chairlift and do it all again and again. Gentle and leisurely or steep and adventurous, you’ll be hooked. Once is never enough.
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!
You have the option to make a trip to Arrowtown. You’ll be enchanted by historic Arrowtown, a New Zealand treasure located 20 minutes from Queenstown. Arrowtown is charming and quirky – a delightful gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River. The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a procession of heritage buildings that stretches into a tree-lined avenue of tiny miner’s cottages. The buildings in this lovely precinct house shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants – many classy, most individual, and not one from an international chain.
Enjoy your last evening in Queenstown and raise a glass to a fantastic New Zealand holiday!
Drop your rental car off at Queenstown Airport and depart Queenstown.
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