Arrive in Auckland. The “City of Sails” and New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is bordered by two stunning harbours. Collect your rental car from the airport and make your way to your accommodation.
Relax in Auckland
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. 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 Bay of Islands 219 km / 136 miles, 4 hours
Drive to the Bay of Islands, renowned for its 144 islands and surreal maritime park where you can see an abundance of marine life including whales, penguins and dolphins.
Paihia is the perfect base if you would like to discover the coves and beaches of the Bay of Islands! Paihia is also of historic importance to New Zealand, as this is where the historic Treaty House on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is located, which marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. Just west of Paihia is Haruru, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall and a boardwalk.
In the afternoon relax on one of the many warm secluded beaches and explore the area.
Stay 3 nights in Paihia, Bay of Islands.
Today, board the premium Discover the Bay Cruise and see for yourself the best of what the Bay of Islands has to offer. Journey to the Hole in the Rock and if weather permits, sail through it. See marine wildlife including Dolphins and stop off at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island to have a swim, go for a walk and relax. This cruise includes a delicious BBQ lunch.
Relax in the Bay of Islands for the rest of the day.
Today you have the option to experience Maori culture by visiting Waitangi’s treaty house and national marae (meeting house), or venture off-road to Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach.
For a great day trip, hop on the ferries from Paihia (passenger ferry) or Opua (vehicle ferry) to Russell. Russell is a significant place in New Zealand’s history, being New Zealand’s first European settlement and sea port, while Okiato, near Russell, was New Zealand’s first capital. Russell is also home to the Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand’s first licensed hotel and pub, which has been refreshing rascals and reprobates since 1827! The pub is located on the waterfront in Russell—why not sit back and relax on the verandah overlooking the bay?
Driving time Bay of Islands to Auckland 219 km / 136 miles, 4 hours
Return to Auckland and spend the afternoon exploring the city. You have the option to see what it’s like crewing an actual America’s Cup yacht, or explore the city and surrounding countryside on an immersive Fine Wine and Food tour.
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
Stay 1 night in Auckland.
Driving time Auckland to Matamata 159 km / 98 miles, 2.5 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
After your Hobbiton adventure, enjoy the scenic drive to Rotorua, distinguished by Maori culture and geothermal activity!
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. 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.
Stay 2 nights in Rotorua.
You also 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.
In the evening, enjoy a traditional Maori Cultural Experience including a Hangi Dinner.
Driving time Rotorua to New Plymouth 298 km / 185 miles, 3.5 hours
As a popular tourist destination, New Plymouth is well-known for its black sand surfing beaches, which offer some of the best surfing in the country. Other attributes include Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park, a Mecca for trampers. In contrast with the outdoors lifestyle, New Plymouth also has an artistic side; the city is home to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, NZ’s only contemporary art museum with a permanent collection.
Stay 2 nights in New Plymouth.
Explore New Plymouth’s beaches, famous walkways and unique city. Being right on the coast New Plymouth is well-known for its beaches. These black sand beaches are great for surfing, swimming or just relaxing on a hot summer’s day.
For other active options hire a bike and cycle the town and waterfront, hire a fishing charter for the day or play a round of golf at one of the several golf course in the area.
Driving time New Plymouth to Wellington 351 km / 218 miles, 4.5 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.
Today you have the option to add on a or Lord of the Rings Tour including a tour of Weta Workshop.
You may also 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.
Sailing time Wellington to Picton 70 km / 43 miles, 3
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. Back on dry land, drive through Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region, to reach Nelson. Enjoying New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, Nelson is a creative paradise, with galleries, boutique shopping, local markets and gourmet cafés all packed into the cute downtown walking mall.
Stay 3 nights in Nelson.
Driving time Nelson to Abel Tasman 65 km /40 miles, 1.5 hours (each way)
Only a short drive away is Abel Tasman, renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, rich unmodified estuaries, long sunshine hours and the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. Take a boat cruise into Abel Tasman National Park, where you can relax on the hot golden sand, enjoy a day walk, or simply remain aboard for a return boat cruise. Soak in the natural beauty and enjoy!
You can walk the sun-drenched sands or take a sea kayaking tour around the coast and see a seal colony and little blue penguins bobbing in the water. Taste your way around the region by bicycle on Tasman’s Great Taste Trail or get your daily dose of adrenaline with a visit to one of the region’s world-class mountain bike parks.
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 Hokitika 325 km / 201 miles, 4.5 hours
Discover the rugged West Coast as you travel to Hokitika, famous for its arts and crafts. Watch a masterpiece being crafted from gold, silver, molten glass, bone, silk or greywacke or carve your own creation from wood or jade (“pounamu”). Take in Hokitika’s natural beauty, enjoy its expansive beach, or venture down one of the many walking and mountain biking tracks .
While in Hokitika, you may wish to make the scenic drive to Hokitika Gorge, where an impressive turquoise river flows through a narrow canyon, or Lake Kaniere, a beautiful lake nestled beneath the mountains.
You could also visit the National Kiwi Centre, where you will be able to see a rare kiwi; view New Zealand’s living dinosaur, the Tuatara; and participate in feeding the giant eels. Or make a drive north to Shantytown, where you can explore the heritage village, ride the steam train, try your hand at panning for gold, and take old-time styled photos.
Stay 1 night in Hokitika.
Driving time Hokitika to Franz Josef 136 km / 85 miles, 2 hours
Continue south through dense rainforest towards New Zealand’s most famous glaciers. Stay at Franz Josef Glacier township.
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.
Take an unforgettable 20 minute scenic helicopter flight sweeping above Westland National Park as you explore Franz Josef Glacier before landing in the snow to enjoy exceptional views of the majestic Southern Alps.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Driving time Franz Josef to Wanaka 285 km / 177 miles, 4 hours
The change in landscape will amaze you as you travel down the West Coast. You will travel through Fox Glacier and then slightly further south is the highly recommended Lake Matheson Walk, which is a 2.6 km return circuit to view the famous mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
Continue the stunning drive through to Wanaka. There are many short walks and viewing points to take in along the Haast Pass Highway to break the journey. A stop at the Blue Pools (a natural viewing attraction) is highly recommended. Continue on as you travel past both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka before reaching Wanaka, an alpine paradise with views so good it’s hard to put down your camera.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
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 strolling along one of Wanaka’s stunning walking tracks, relaxing on the lake’s edge or browsing through Wanaka’s boutique shops.
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 Te Anau 230 km / 143 miles, 3 hours
Drive over the beautiful Crown Range, following New Zealand’s highest state highway, and admire the fantastic views along the way. Continue on past Lake Wakatipu as you make your way into the heart of New Zealand, where you will find the town of Te Anau sitting beside a spectacular lake. As the gateway to Fiordland National Park, Te Anau feels like the last bastion of civilisation before you are entirely surrounded by wilderness.
While you relax in Te Anau, you may wish to visit Fiordland Cinema and watch Ata Whenua – Shadowland, which was filmed by helicopters flying over the remote reaches of Fiordland National Park. You could also visit the Department of Conservation visitor centre for displays on the natural wonders of the region. Take a stroll along the lakefront to the Wildlife Park, where you can view endangered native birds, or visit the nearby Lake Manapouri for even more impressive views.
Stay 2 nights in Te Anau.
Driving time Te Anau to Milford Sound 116 km / 72 miles, 2.5 hours
Embark on a scenic journey along the Milford Road, 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, offering a close-up experience of Milford Sound’s rainforest, soaring rock walls, towering snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, hanging valleys and wildlife… words just don’t do it justice, you have to see it for yourself!
Driving time Te Anau to Invercargill 153 km / 94 miles, 2.5 hours
Flight time Invercargill to Stewart Island 36 km / 22 miles, 20 minutes
Travel to Invercargill, where you will catch a scenic flight to Stewart Island, New Zealand’s ultimate eco-tourism destination. Its densely forested hills bordered by untouched coastline of rocky outcrops and creamy golden-sand beaches make Stewart Island a haven for native marine and bird life.
Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third largest island, situated 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. In the Māori language, it’s known as Rakiura which means ‘the land of glowing skies’. You’ll get an inkling why when you see the Aurora Australis which often appears in these southern skies. The 400 or so Stewart Islanders are a proud and independent bunch; but they’re friendly too, you may meet some locals at the local watering hole.
Stay 2 nights on Stewart Island.
Unspoilt, relaxing and incredibly beautiful, Stewart Island is a showcase for untouched New Zealand.
You have the option to enjoy one of the popular local walking tracks, or simply relax and take in the quaint small-town lifestyle of the Island.
Flight time Stewart Island to Invercargill 36 km / 22 miles, 20 minutes
Take in the stunning vistas on your way to Invercargill, well known for its southern hospitality. Visit art galleries and museums, or get close to nature and walk the paths and tracks through Queens Park.
In Invercargill, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery has natural history collections and live tuatara reptiles. Queens Park features, lovely walking tracks, flower displays and sports facilities. To the southeast, Waituna Lagoon is home to abundant birdlife and trout populations.
Stay 1 night in Invercargill.
Driving time Invercargill to Dunedin 210 km / 130 miles, 3 hours
Discover the Catlins Coast, an attraction in itself, whilst travelling to Dunedin, one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the southern hemisphere. Dunedin offers a diverse range of experiences including the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, the Speight’s Brewery, Larnach Castle and of course the stunning Otago Peninsula.
Stay 3 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, and negotiates the gorge with ease as it travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts.
Explore Dunedin today 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.
You also have the option to discover the Otago Peninsula on a wildlife
Driving time Dunedin to Queenstown 286 km / 178 miles, 3.5 hours
Drive through historic Central Otago – past farmland, orchards, and vineyards – to reach Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. Explore downtown or even take a ride on the gondola to get a great perspective of Queenstown and it’s stunning views.
Stay 4 nights in Queenstown.
Get ready for the world’s most exciting jet boat ride! You’ll twist and turn through the narrow canyons of the Shotover River at breathtaking speeds on your Shotover Jet.
Relax and enjoy Queenstown for the afternoon. 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.
Glenorchy is nestled between the Richardson (east) and Humboldt (west) Mountain Ranges and overlooked by the mighty snow-capped Mount Earnslaw in the north. From Glenorchy you can travel on to a number of fantastic valleys, including Rees Valley, Paradise Valley, Dart Valley, and Routeburn Valley. These valleys border both Mt Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park, and they are ringed by some of the most dramatic mountains in New Zealand.
For a more relaxing day, you can get a taste of the Queenstown region on a Central Otago wine tour.
On your last day in paradise, finish on a high and choose from an exciting range of optional activities including scenic flights, 4WD safaris, winery tours, and more.
To end your day, take an evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw followed by dining at the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak – the perfect way to celebrate a fantastic holiday!
Drop off your rental car at Queenstown Airport and depart Queenstown.
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