Ultimate New Zealand Self-Drive
- Price GuideFrom $4,445 Per Person
At a Glance
Day by Day Itinerary
- DAY 1
Auckland: Arrival into Auckland
Your Essential New Zealand trip begins with your arrival into Auckland International Airport where you’ll have the rest of the day to rest up after your long flight and enjoy a preview of the city. You’ll be met by your private driver for transfer to your hotel, with many restaurants and bars within walking distance.
- DAY 2
Auckland: Day of Leisure – Optional Waiheke Island Trip
Enjoy the day discovering Auckland at your own pace. We highly recommend visiting the SkyTower for a great overview of the city stretching all the way to the ocean from 1,076 above. If you’re looking for a thrill, you might want to take the SkyWalk or SkyJump, plunging down 53 floors at speeds of 53 mph. The Viaduct Harbour along the waterfront is filled with dozens of bars, restaurants, and shops to explore. You’ll also find some fabulous stretches of golden sands just north of the city. An optional ferry trip to explore vineyards on Waiheke Island is possible too.
- DAY 3
Rotorua: Geothermal Wonders and Maori Culture
This morning you’ll pick up the car we have reserved for you to make the approximately three-hour journey to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, famous for its bubbling mud pools and spouting geysers. By traveling Highway 27, you can stop in Matamata to tour the Hobbiton movie set, created for Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” film series. After reaching Rotorua you’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy it. You might want to check out Kuirau Park, the country’s only free geothermal public park, an easy walk from the city center, filled with all sorts of magical wonders.
- DAY 4
Rotorua: Private Guided Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Complex Tour
Today you’ll get an in-depth look at Rotorua’s most impressive geothermal features with a private guided tour of Wai-O-Tapu. That not only includes the erupting geyser Lady Knox and the largest mud pool in New Zealand, but the stunning Champagne Pool. The steamy jade waters encircled by burnt orange make up the area’s largest spring at around 200 feet in diameter. Watch as bubbles rise to the surface, the reason for its name. It spills over a waterfall before trickling over Primrose Terrace toward Bridal Veil Falls. After returning to your hotel you’ll have the rest of the day to yourself.
- DAY 5
Hawke’s Bay: Art Deco Architecture in Napier
Traveling further south, you’ll reach Lake Taupo before turning towards Napier along the east coast. Nearly the size of Singapore, witness evidence of its volcanic birth in the steaming craters, geysers and boiling mud pools. You might want to enjoy a swim in the geothermally warmed water from one of the beaches along the shore before continuing to Napier. While it was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake it was quickly rebuilt with magnificent Art Deco architecture, including the impressive Daily Telegraph building. The city’s symbol, the Pania of the Reef statue depicting a Maori maiden, can be found along the waterfront promenade.
- DAY 6
Hawke’s Bay: Day of Leisure
The day is yours for exploring Hawke’s Bay, with the landscape ideal for a cycling tour if you want to explore on two wheels. While a cycling wine tour is featured on the itinerary later, wine enthusiasts won’t regret enjoying one here too, with multiple outfitters offering excursions. The land is mostly flat, and the majority the region’s over 75 wineries are within easy cycling reach. The diversity of wine is matched by the diversity of the landscapes, found everywhere from coastal cliffs to lush valleys. Those who prefer golf can tee off at one of the world’s finest courses, Cape Kidnappers.
- DAY 7
Martinborough: Wairarapa Wine Region
Your last destination on the North Island is charming Martinborough in the Wairarapa Region. This photogenic village is filled with colonial-style buildings while the surrounding landscape is blanketed with some 30 vineyards. There are plenty of cellar dollars that open for tastings here too, arranged around the perimeter of the town grid. If you like good brews and want to change things up, take a tour of Martinborough Brewery to sample and explore New Zealand’s rich history of beer brewing. Patuna Farm offers horse riding, a fabulous experience riding and soaking up the beauty of the area, including a waterfall and lots of wildlife.
- DAY 8
Martinborough: Vineyard Cycling Tour
You’ll enjoy a vineyard cycling tour through Martinborough today, collecting your bicycle this morning to ride the flat country roads, stopping at olive groves and vineyards along the day. Enjoy sipping and touring, concluding with a delicious lunch back in town. After returning your bicycle you’ll have the afternoon to relax, with a long day ahead tomorrow. You might want to spend some time unwinding in the main square of town and exploring the pretty streets that circle its center. When hunger hits you’ll find plenty of enticing bistros, cafes and restaurants for a delicious dinner, with Poppies one of the most renowned.
- DAY 9
Kaikoura: Ferry to the South Island
After breakfast this morning you’ll continue your travels by heading to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Here you’ll board your ferry, for the 3- to 3.5-hour journey to Picton, sailing across Cook Strait. If the weather allows, head to the deck where you’ll be surrounded by stunning scenery that just keeps getting better. As you cruise into the port, you’ll pass emerald forested hills steeply rising from the dark sapphire water, with the coastline dotted with hidden sandy coves and sheltered inlets. Upon arrive, pick up your next vehicle for the two-hour drive to Kaikoura on the east coast.
- DAY 10
Christchurch: Whale Watching Boat Tour
Kaikoura is famous for whale watching, with some of the best opportunities in the country. Sperm whales are plentiful, but you might also spot orca whales and other creatures like the resident dusky dolphin with its beautiful markings. They often play alongside of the boat, chasing it and occasionally even performing flips. During New Zealand’s spring, September through early December, whale calves can often be seen alongside their mothers. After your tour, continue traveling along the east coast to Christchurch. Enjoy a stroll through the streets – when multiple earthquakes destroyed many buildings, local artists brightened it up by creating eye-popping street art.
- DAY 11
Franz Josef: TranzAlpine Train
Drop off your car this morning before enjoying an enchanting ride on the TranzAlpine train, traveling from Christchurch to Greymouth. The four-hour journey traverses through magnificent mountains, dense forest, and over the Waimakariri River Gorge through more than five viaducts and 16 tunnels. One of the world’s most scenic, the views of the Southern Alps are absolutely jaw-dropping. Disembarking in Greymouth, you’ll pick up another car for the drive to Franz Josef, a stone’s throw from Franz Josef and Fox glaciers in Westland National Park which stretches from the sea to the mountains laced with many waterfalls, streams and lakes.
- DAY 12
Queenstown: Franz Josef Glacier Hike
An exciting glacier adventure awaits this morning, starting with a helicopter ride to Franz Josef glacier. You’ll join an expert guide for a two-hour hike, outfitted with glacier boots and crampons so that you can access a section of the eight-mile-long glacier itself, exploring pinnacles and ice caves. Following the hike, continue your travels by driving to Queenstown. This spectacular approximately 4.5-hour drive brings so many breath-taking views you’ll want to take your time. Wind through lush forest, along the coast, and heading back inland you’ll follow turquoise rivers while discovering countless waterfalls that cascade down towering mountains in every direction.
- DAY 13
Queenstown: Day of Leisure
Enjoy a day of leisure, taking advantage of the activities in the world’s “adventure capital.” Queenstown itself is compact, just a short walk from the center you can hop on the Skyline Gondola heading straight up Bob’s Peak. At the top you’ll find shops, restaurants and an observation deck with an incredible panoramic view. Return by the gondola, or zip down on the luge. Other possibilities including bungee jumping in the very place it was birthed, hiking the endless trails or visiting nearby Wananka on Wanaka lake to paddle the pristine water in a kayak. Whatever you do, you’ll be surrounded by jaw-dropping vistas.
- DAY 14
Queenstown: Jet Boat Excursion
Get ready for one of the most famous Queenstown experiences today. After breakfast you’ll head to the wharf where your jet boat is waiting. The world’s ultimate jet boat adventure, it will bring you through narrow, dramatic canyons, weaving in and out of the glacier-fed inlets from Queenstown to Lake Wakatipu and along the Dark River Valley while battling strong currents at speeds of almost 60 miles per hour. It ends at beautiful Glenorchy surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and ancient beech forests where scenes from “Lord of the Rings” were filmed. You’ll return to Queenstown via a shared transfer.
- DAY 15
Queenstown: Day of Leisure + Optional Milford Sound Flightseeing/Cruise
Your final day is all yours. You’ll have the option to take a bucket-list experience, with a scenic flight soaring over some of the country’s highest peaks and famous glaciers to Milford Sound. After landing, you’ll hop on a cruise to explore what Rudyard Ripling called the world’s “eighth wonder,” surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, with lunch served onboard. If you’d prefer to stick around town you might take the six-hour hike up Ben Lomond which offers a panoramic view over Queenstown stretching to the surrounding mountains. There are many fine dining restaurants to celebrate your trip this evening too.
- DAY 16
No matter how much time you spend in New Zealand it’s never enough, but after 15 nights you’ll have explored many of the highlights, with hundreds of photos to look back on. After checking out of your hotel, return your rental car and begin your journey home with a flight out of Queenstown Airport.
- 15 nights hand-picked high quality hotel accommodation
- Private airport departure and arrival transfers
- All domestic transfers as noted on itinerary
- Delicious daily breakfast
- Rental car hire
- Private guided Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Complex tour
- Vineyard cycling tour in Martinborough
- Kaikoura whale watching boat tour
- TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth
- Franz Josef glacier hike
- Queenstown jet boat excursion
- 24/7 support from our staff throughout your trip
What's not Included
- Your international flights – please contact your travel expert know if you require assistance with flights
- Gratuities for local guides
- We strongly advise all guests to purchase comprehensive travel insurance
- Visas if required
Let’s make this itinerary yours.
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