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. Your options include visiting the Auckland Zoo, or Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World; venturing to one of Auckland’s stunning beaches or West 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.
Driving time Auckland to Bay of Islands 219 km / 136 miles, 3 hours
Drive to the Bay of Islands, renowned for its 144 Islands and its 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. Relax on one of the many warm secluded beaches.
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.
You have the option today to venture off-road to Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach. You may also like to experience Maori culture by visiting Waitangi’s treaty house and national marae (meeting house).
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, 3 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 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.
Stay 1 night in Auckland.
Driving time Auckland to Matamata 159 km / 98 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 Hamilton 62 km / 39 miles, 1 hour
After your adventure, continue to Hamilton, a vibrant town in the heart of the North Island.
Stay 1 night in Hamilton.
Driving time Hamilton to Waitomo Caves 71 km / 44 miles, 1 hour
Venture to the Waitomo Caves, where you will enjoy the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Ruakuri Caves Combo! Deep underground in the heart of the Waikato are a series of unique caves that will take your breath away. At the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, thousands of tiny glowworms cling to the cave ceiling, creating a starry sky within the underground night. Nearby, the Ruakuri Cave is home to an innovative spiral entrance, echoing waterfalls, and limestone that flows into delicate shawl-like formations.
Driving time Waitomo Caves to Rotorua 148 km / 91 miles, 2.5 hours
After your cave adventure, 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 3 nights in Rotorua.
Explore Rotorua. Add on a New Zealand RiverJet ride for a fantastic geothermal jet boat safari.
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 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. 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.
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 a traditional Maori Cultural Experience including a Hangi Dinner.
Driving time Rotorua to Napier 219 km / 136 miles, 3 hours
Discover Napier, the Art Deco capital of New Zealand situated within the oldest and second largest wine growing region, Hawkes Bay.
Stay 2 nights in Napier.
If nature is of interest, a Safari to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony – the world’s largest, most accessible Gannet nesting place – is a must. Otherwise, add on a Napier Wine Tour and taste the world-class wines of the region!
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.
Driving time Napier to Wellington 319 km / 198 miles, 4 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 enjoy an outstanding Lord of the Rings Tour including a visit to Weta Wor
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. 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 afternoon, 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 134 km / 83 miles, 1.5 hours
Travel on to Hanmer Springs, a year-round holiday destination offering a variety of outdoor activities and of course the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. Visitors have been travelling to bathe in the rejuvenating hot mineral pools for over 120 years! Relax in open-air thermal public and private pools and de-stress with spa therapies.
Stay 1 night in Hanmer Springs.
Driving time Hanmer Springs to Christchurch 134 km / 83 miles, 2 hours
Make your way to 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.
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.
Stay 1 night in Christchurch.
Driving time Christchurch to Akaroa 81 km / 50 miles, 1.5 hours
Akaroa is a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of Banks Peninsula. Banks Peninsula is noted for its beauty and unique wildlife – the land is shaped by rugged volcanic peaks that give way to sandy beaches and two magnificent harbours. Explore the village, with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, restaurants, cafés, cheese factory, museum and a nationally significant mosaic sculpture garden.
Stay 2 nights in Akaroa.
Relax or take part in the many activities on offer, including Pohatu Penguins Nature and Sea Kayak Tours – Pohatu is home to the largest Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. You may also like to take a harbour cruise to view dolphins, penguins and fur seals.
In the evening you may like to visit one of the local restaurants with their focus on French cuisine and head along to Barrys Bay Cheese, where they’ve persevered with original methods for over a century.
Driving time Akaroa to Lake Tekapo 302 km / 188 miles, 3.5 hours
Travel south across the Canterbury Plains and inland towards the Southern Alps to reach Lake Tekapo, a stunning turquoise 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 Mt Cook, Tasman Glacier, and Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.
Stay 2 nights in Lake Tekapo.
Relax and explore Lake Tekapo today. Wander along the stunning lakefront, soak in the spa pools at Tekapo Springs, or visit the historic Church of the Good Shepherd.
From Lake Tekapo you can also take a trip to Mt Cook Village (one hour each way) to see New Zealand’s highest mountain (Aoraki Mount Cook) and largest glacier (Tasman Glacier).
In the evening, option to add on a nighttime tour at Mt John Observatory.
Driving time Lake Tekapo to Wanaka 220 km / 137 miles, 3 hours
Venture past Lake Pukaki, a picturesque turquoise glacial lake, and continue your journey through the dramatic Lindis Pass which links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. Stop in Cromwell if you wish, where you can visit orchards and fruit farms to buy some delicious fresh fruit, fruit ice creams, juices and ciders. Continue on to reach 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 – 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 Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest State Highway, and admire the fantastic views along the way to Queenstown. Past Queenstown, you will venture into the heart of New Zealand as you travel to Te Anau.
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 3 nights in Te Anau.
Driving time Te Anau to Milford Sound 116 km / 72 miles, 1.5 hours
Embark on a scenic journey along the Milford Road, one of the finest alpine drives in the world.
Upon reaching Milford Sound, a boat will take you on a 2.5 hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise. Make sure you keep a look out for dolphins, seals and penguins! Enjoy a new perspective of the Milford Highway as you travel back to Te Anau.
In the evening you might like to enjoy a meal in Te Anau, with plenty of great places to eat and drink. Make sure you sample some local Fiordland fare – Venison and Seafood are the local specialties, especially the fresh-caught Lobster.
Driving time Te Anau to Manapouri 21 km / 13 miles, 20 minutes
Sailing/Driving time Manapouri to Doubtful Sound (return trip) 8 hours
Located deep in the heart of a World Heritage Area, Doubtful Sound is an overwhelming place. You can feel the power of nature here – the remoteness, the wilderness and the peace. Enjoy a full-day Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise including a boat cruise on Lake Manapouri, a scenic coach over Wilmot Pass, and a full three-hour Doubtful Sound Cruise. Keep a look out for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins.
Driving time Te Anau to Dunedin 289 km / 179 miles, 4 hours
Make your way 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.
You have the option to discover the Otago Peninsula on a wildlife cruise, to see the world’s only mainland nesting place of the Northern Royal Albatross. Along the way, you will get the chance to see fur seals, up to 20 species of rare ocean birds, and—if you’re lucky—penguins and dolphins. Or you can view the local penguin colony up close on an Argo tour.
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 will take you on a scenic journey into some of New Zealand’s most rugged, ever-changing scenery.
Explore Dunedin this afternoon and visit attractions of interest such as the Olveston Historic Home 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.
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 3 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.
You might like to take a day trip to Glenorchy. At the Head of Lake Wakatipu, 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.
Finish your day with 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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