Welcome to New Zealand (Auckland)
Collect your rental car from the airport and drive down to your hotel for check-in. Auckland is a great hub to discover the natural wonders of the region, but the city itself offers several attractions for visitors. Think gourmet food, a selection of art galleries and pristine beaches within easy access – some great ways to spend the evening before starting your road trip the next day.
Leaving the City (Auckland – Bay of Islands)
The beautiful Bay of Islands is just a few hours’ drive north of Auckland. Travel over Harbour Bridge and along the Hibiscus coast, which offers panoramic views of the sea along rolling golden beaches. Cross the city of Whangarei, where you can stop to see the gorgeous Whangarei Falls or kick back with a drink or snack at Quayside. End the day at Kerikeri, where we will spend two nights, exploring the Bay of Islands – a region that encompasses more than 140 subtropical islands and is known for its untouched beaches and indigenous culture.
Exploring the Bay of Islands
Spend the day at leisure, enjoying the Bay of Islands and other fascinating spots in the Northland region. We can arrange for a day trip to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach. Travel through Northland’s pristine rural countryside, and the stunning shores of Ninety Mile Beach, right to the tip of Northern New Zealand at Cape Reinga. This off-road adventure offers experiences like sand surfing, a trek through an ancient forest and fascinating anecdotes of Māori legends.
Exploring Kerikeri (Bay of Islands – Auckland)
Spend the morning at leisure before leaving for Auckland again. We can arrange for an exploration of Kerikeri, often called “Northland's favourite subtropical town”, on a tour that will take you to the best-kept secrets of the area, including a historic lesson on the early settlers, delectable organic wines and handmade chocolates.
Country Roads (Auckland – Rotorua)
Travel south today towards the country town of Pukekohe. If it’s a Saturday, you can stop by to shop at the popular morning market. As you drive further on the southern motorway, the landscapes turn more rural, and along the way, the mighty Waikato River comes into sight. On the banks of this river lies the town of Hamilton, a popular stopover on the route. You can visit the Hamilton Gardens here, which take you through history of the world through its plants. End your journey at the ‘Thermal City’ of Rotorua – a great place to witness Maori culture in action. You can opt for a cultural performance or even visit a living Maori village.
Exploring Taupo (Rotorua – Tongariro National Park)
Leaving the Thermal City behind, drive to Taupo, home of New Zealand’s largest lake and the majestic Huka Falls. Here, you can try out a bunch of activities like trout fishing in the lake, skiing on Mount Ruapehu, and taking a geothermal walk. There’s also a prawn farm and the nearby Mine Bay and its exquisite rock carvings that can be explored on a private kayak expedition. From here, drive into the Tongariro National Park for the night.
Experience some of the most dramatic landscapes of New Zealand at the Tongariro National Park, which is home to three volcanoes –Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. As you take one of the many walking tracks of the area, you will come across myriad natural phenomena, from emerald lakes to steaming craters, staggering waterfalls and alpine gardens. Take the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing for awe-inspiring volcanic scenery as well as stunning views of Lake Taupō and Mt Taranaki. We can also arrange for an overnight hike to help you immerse in the sounds and sights of the jungle.
Relax and Unwind (Tongariro National Park – Wellington)
Drive further south to the capital city of Wellington, situated at the southern end of North Island. The inner-city beach here is a great place to relax and take a much-needed break at this point. Come evening, the city has a thriving cultural scene with many galleries and theatres. We also recommend trying out the local craft beer. Spend some time unwinding in the city, which has been called the “coolest capital” in the world.
The South Island (Wellington – Nelson)
Return your rental car this morning in Wellington as it’s time to cross over to the South Island. You will travel by ferry through the famed Marlborough Sounds, a collection of water bodies that centre around ancient sunken valleys and offer one of the most scenic ferry rides in the world. At the heart of the region lies Picton, where the ferry service ends. It’s about a three-hour journey, so you might want to stop for lunch in town at one of the many seaside cafes. Or pick up your rental car and head straight for Nelson, your base for the night.
Experience Maori Culture (Nelson)
Nelson is popular for its art scene, home to both contemporary and traditional Maori artists and craftsmen. Take some time to explore the iconic galleries; catch a show at Theatre Royal or visit the markets which pop up every Saturday and Sunday in town and feature the best of local art. You can also spend the day at the Abel Tasman National Park, situated on the coast, making for a great mix of nature hikes and beach life. Explore the area on catamarans, kayaks or water taxis. Observe native wildlife and Maori history on a walk through the jungles. Or simply sit back and relax at the beach.
The West Coast (Nelson – Greymouth)
Drive from Nelson to the rugged western coast of the South Island, one of the most impressive routes in the word. As you leave the city, a small detour on route will bring you to the Nelson Lakes National Park. The park is centred around two beautiful lakes, Rotoroa and Rotoiti, surrounded by alpine forests and mountains. As you touch the western coast, the road hugs the coastline, providing breath-taking views of Tasman Sea. We recommend stopping at Punakaiki to see the famous pancake rocks that date back about 30 million years! End the day at stunning seaside town of Greymouth. If you want to step out in the evening, the place is known for its local breweries.
Ancient Glaciers (Greymouth - Glacier Region)
Leave Greymouth and continue further south towards the glacier region. As you travel along the West Coast, you are reminded of how this region came into global fame with the Gold Rush of the 1860s, specifically the “cool little town” of Hokitika. Stop by for some souvenir shopping at the local markets that specialise in gold, wood, pottery and the traditional greenstone. As you drive further, the land continues to get wilder and more rural. End at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, striking relics from the last ice age. These enormous glaciers are amongst the most accessible in the world, as they extend well below the snowline.
Spend the day exploring the region. We can arrange for a guided walk across the glaciers with professionals or a helicopter ride to take you right to the top. Having your own car makes it easier to visit the faces of both glaciers in a day, located approximately 20 kilometres from one another, even if you don’t plan on a walk or helicopter ride. Don’t miss the Glacier Hot Pools on Franz Josef to relax those tired muscles.
The Haast Pass (Glacier Region – Queenstown)
Depart from the Glacier Region, crossing through the stunning Haast Pass, one of the three major passes on the Southern Alps that extend through most of South Island. The pass is also part of New Zealand’s longest single highway, the state highway No. 6. Here, you can slow down your pace to explore the area at length. Cross the glacial lakes, Hawea and Makarora, stopping at the narrow isthmus that connects the two bodies, locally called The Neck. The area offers many great lookout points. If you have time to spare, try the walking track on Mount Iron, a 1.5 hour walk with 360-degree views, especially of Lake Wanaka and the Upper Clutha Basin. End the day in Queenstown.
The resort town of Queenstown offer endless activities and attractions. Discover the mythical lands from Lord of the Rings; try one of the world’s first bungy jumps at Kawarau Bridge; explore the vineyards of Gibbston Valley with a private wine tasting; visit the gold rush village in historic Arrowtown; try one of the many scenic cycling and hiking tracks in town; or unwind at a local spa soaking in hot pools.
Water Ways (Queenstown – Te Anau)
Drive down to Te Anau, gateway to the Fiordland National Park. You can spend the day at leisure or visit the spectacular Milford Sound. Waterfalls cascade from as high as 1000 meters across this mighty fjord, which was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. Alternatively, visit the mysterious Glowworm Caves of Te Anau. The twisted network of waterways inside are home to a subterranean world where you will drift in complete silence, under the radiance of hundreds of glowworms.
On the Road (Te Anau – Dunedin)
Drive towards Otago to the Scottish-influenced city of Dunedin on the south-east coast. The route is surrounded by rolling green hills with distant mountain ranges in the backdrop. An interesting stopover on route is the Croydon Aviation Heritage Trust, where you can discover aircrafts from the 1920s and 30s and even fly inside their vintage fleet! End your day at Dunedin, often called the Edinburg of New Zealand. Try an art walk to discover the vibrant side of Dunedin and the whimsical artwork that adorns its street corners and alleys.
The Otago Peninsula (Dunedin)
Drive down to Dunedin’s most popular attraction, the Otago Peninsula and visit Larnach Castle, a place with a scandalous and tragic past. Learn about the castle as you explore its stunning Victorian interiors and award-winning gardens. The region is also known for its extraordinary and rare wildlife species, including Yellow-eyed and Blue Penguins, Fur Seals, Sea Lions and a colony of Royal Albatrosses. We can arrange for an experienced guide to take you around the area.
City Stopover (Dunedin – Chirstchurch)
Depart Dunedin and travel north to the Garden City of Christchurch. Take the afternoon to explore the city on foot. Christchurch has a vibrant cultural scene, with many bars, eateries and boutiques to discover. To escape the city, try the award-winning Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Return your rental car and head to the airport for your flight back home.