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Book a self-drive New Zealand tour and enjoy the must-do experiences on both islands. Travel from Auckland to Christchurch and visit beaches, cities, glaciers, and fiords on this unforgettable New Zealand tour.
Our New Zealand tour packages are fully customisable. In other words, we recommend using this itinerary as a starting point as you begin planning your holiday.
Read on for the full details of this 21 day New Zealand tour.
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 as your New Zealand tour begins.
Relax in Auckland. Your options include visiting the Sky Tower, 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 1 night in Auckland City.
Driving time Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula 169 km / 105 miles, 3 hours
Renowned worldwide as a holiday destination, with white sandy beaches, misty rainforests and wilderness a-plenty, the Coromandel is the ideal place to unwind.
Whitianga is the main settlement of Mercury Bay, an attractive township with a deep-water harbour. Now a vibrant coastal town, Whitianga is evolving into a delightful place to visit. Whitianga has an excellent selection of restaurants and cafés, and the thriving retail community provides an interesting collection of outlets.
Stay 2 nights in Whitianga, Coromandel Peninsula.
Today, join the Glass Bottom Boat for a unique boat cruise. Depart from the Whitianga Wharf to explore the breathtaking volcanic coastline, including the famous Cathedral Cove. See the stunning Champagne Bay, plus a range of blow holes and sea caves, including Orua’s Sea Cave, the second largest sea cave in New Zealand! See what lies above and below the surface in the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve and be amazed by all the marine life to be seen. You can choose your own level of fun. Either sit back and enjoy the amazing marine life through the glass boat, or take the plunge and snorkel amongst the fish. All equipment supplied and no experience necessary. Blue penguins are a common sight year-round.
Relax in the Coromandel this afternoon. You may wish to visit Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot pool, or relax in naturally heated mineral waters at The Lost Spring Geothermal Spa in Whitianga. Surrounded by tropical plants and soothing waterfalls, the thermal waters flow from a spring deep within the earth’s surface. For a real treat, indulge in a pampering session at the on-site day spa.
Driving time Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua 252 km / 157 miles, 3.5 hours
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.
Relax and explore Rotorua in the afternoon, 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.
Stay 2 nights in Rotorua.
Relax and explore Rotorua today. You have the option to visit the Redwoods Treewalk, which features 23 suspension bridges through 115-year-old redwood
In the evening enjoy dinner at Rotorua’s most spectacular location – Skyline Restaurant. Sit back and relax as the views from the gondola unfold while you 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 salads, seafood and carvery roast meat. The legendary Art of the Grill menu will tempt your taste buds even further. Add to that mouth-watering desserts, and you’ve got yourself a unique dining experience not to be missed. 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 short drive south to Taupo, rich in natural beauty providing attractions such as the Huka Falls. The Huka Falls is New Zealand’s most visited attraction, where more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second. Keeping with the water theme, Taupo is a great lake for trout fishing, boat cruises, water-skiing, sailing and kayaking. The Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be seen from the water, make for a great boat trip or kayaking excursion. The forests surrounding the lake offer hiking and mountain biking to suit all levels of experience.
Stay 1 night in Taupo.
Driving time Taupo to Napier 140 km / 86 miles, 2 hours
Head to the East Coast and discover Napier, the Art Deco Capital of New Zealand within the country’s oldest and second largest wine growing region, the Hawke’s Bay.
Relax and explore Napier in the afternoon, with the option to visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand, home to the country’s most diverse range of sea life. You might also like to visit Otatara Pa (Maori Fortified Village) which was the largest Pa in the Hawkes Bay region, now a historical reserve showcasing many of the foundations of terraced dwelling sites and food pits.
Stay 2 nights in Napier.
Today enjoy a Napier Wine Experience Tour, visiting four world class local wineries for wine tastings and a winery tour with a difference! Includes wine tastings at New Zealand’s oldest winery and New Zealand’s only winery museum.
In the evening enjoy a meal at one the restaurants that Napier has to offer or relax in your accommodation.
Driving time Napier to Wellington 328 km / 203 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 concerts, live theatre, 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.
If you are a Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit fan, adding a Lord of the Rings Tour is a must!
Sailing time Wellington to Picton 70 km / 43 miles, 3 hours
Driving time Picton to Nelson 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. Your New Zealand tour continues on the South Island. Back on dry land, drive through Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region, to reach your destination, Nelson.
Enjoying New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, discover the creative paradise that is Nelson, with galleries, boutique shopping, local markets and gourmet cafés, you will soon love the Nelson way of life.
Stay 2 nights in Nelson.
Driving time Nelson to Kaiteriteri 47 km / 29 miles, 1 hour (each way)
Today enjoy a boat cruise into Abel Tasman National Park, where you can relax on the hot golden sand or enjoy a day walk. Take in the natural beauty and enjoy!
Relax in style with the best view of the Abel Tasman National Park from comfortable seats around tables on upper and lower decks with an Abel Tasman cruise. Featuring a café and bar on board. Let the friendly hosts introduce you to the stories of the landscape.
On your return to Nelson, you might like to visit the attractive walking mall at the heart of town is filled with galleries, gourmet cafés, and local shops. Visit the art studios, explore the craft markets, taste the delicious locally made artisan products and find something extraordinary to take home with you.
Driving time Nelson to Greymouth 288 km / 178 miles, 4.5 hours
Travel to the West Coast today. On the way to Greymouth, you have the option visit Punakaiki (45 minutes north of Greymouth), where you will find the Pancake Rocks. These curious limestone formations are especially spectacular at high tide in a westerly sea. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.
Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast of the South Island with around 31,000 people calling it home. This hardy West Coast town has a history of jade hunting, gold mining and dramatic river floods. The West Coast
Stay 1 night in Greymouth.
Driving time Greymouth to Franz Josef 170 km / 105 miles, 2.5 hours
Continue south through dense rain forest towards New Zealand’s glaciers.
While in Franz Josef you may wish to soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, nestled in lush rainforest in a haven of natural tranquility. You can walk to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier to take a look at the ice, or enjoy one of the local walks. In Franz Josef township you have the chance to see New Zealand’s rarest kiwi at the West Coast Wildlife Centre, a unique and interactive experience that brings together nature, conservation, and wildlife all under one roof.
In the afternoon enjoy a scenic helicopter flight sweeping above Westland National Park as you explore Franz Josef Glacier before landing in the snow to enjoy amazing views of the majestic Southern Alps.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Driving time Franz Josef to Wanaka 284 km / 176 miles, 4 hours
The change in landscape will amaze you as you travel down the West Coast with peeks of the Tasman Sea. Take the Haast Pass Highway and admire waterfalls and many viewing points and short walks along the way before reaching Wanaka, an alpine paradise with views so good it’s hard to put down your camera.
Wanaka has the buzz of a genuine alpine town and is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures, and with Mount Aspiring National Park located close by it’s the perfect destination for exploring the Southern Alps.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
Relax and explore Wanaka today. You may want to visit Puzzling World, Wanaka’s illusional attraction, or the National Toy and Transport Museum. Other options include strolling
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.
Driving time Wanaka to Queenstown 68 km / 42 miles, 1 hour
Drive over the beautiful Crown Range, one of New Zealand’s highest alpine roads, and admire the vistas from fantastic viewing points. Be sure to stop at historic Cardrona Hotel for a refreshment before your arrival into Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital of the world.
Stay 3 nights in Queenstown.
Enjoy a scenic coach journey through heartland New Zealand to reach Milford Sound where you will enjoy a 2.5 hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise. Stare in amazement as Milford Sound will impress! Sheer cliffs, towering snow capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, hanging valleys, sub-tropical rain forests, marine life… words just don’t do it justice, you have to see it for yourself! After your cruise relax while your coach travels through stunning scenery delivering you back to your Queenstown accommodation.
Today 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.
Make the most of your last night in Queenstown and add on an enjoyable cruise on Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu to reach Walter Peak High Country Station for a Gourmet Dinner. Make a toast to a fantastic holiday as you cruise back to Queenstown.
Driving time Queenstown to Lake Tekapo 252 km / 156 miles, 4 hours
Travel north today to reach Lake Tekapo an amazing turquoise blue lake. Tekapo presents many world class attractions from the famous Church of the Good Shepherd, to scenic flights exploring NZ’s highest mountains and largest glaciers; including Mount Cook, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.
Relax in Lake Tekapo, with the option to soak in the Tekapo Springs thermal pools, drive or walk up to the Mount John Observatory for panoramic views over Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin (you could even stop for a coffee or lunch at the Astro Café), stroll
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 Christchurch 219 km / 136 miles, 3.5 hours
Journey across the Canterbury Plains today to reach Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. 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.
In the evening experience the luxury of a 36 seater colonial style dining tram. Enjoy fabulous dining at your private table with a sightseeing tour showcasing Christchurch’s inner city vibrancy and heritage. Raise a glass to a fantastic New Zealand tour!
Stay 1 night in Christchurch.
Drop your rental car off at Christchurch Airport and depart Christchurch.
As you begin planning your New Zealand tour, your personal travel consultant will work with you to customise your itinerary. Every part of this holiday package can be customised. In other words, we can change the inclusions, schedule, or accommodation level to suit your preferences.
We also offer a range of other 21-day New Zealand itineraries for inspiration.
Our New Zealand tour packages include accommodation, activities, and a rental car. This means we handle all bookings for a convenient, stress-free holiday. In addition, we are on the ground to help you in New Zealand in case of any weather-related changes or other disruptions.
Contact New Zealand Travel Organiser today to begin planning your unforgettable New Zealand tour.
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