Tailor-Made Holiday

New Zealand - Highlights of North & South Island

Self Drive holiday to North and South Islands with sightseeing

23 days

from £6,895pp (excluding flights)

This self drive itinerary offers a fantastic introduction to the great outdoors of New Zealand and covers highlights of both the North and the South Island. 

  • Take to the turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands on a sailing boat or kayak
  • Visit the fascinating Te Papa Museum in the capital city of Wellington
  • See magnificent Sperm Whales off the coast of Kaikoura
  • Soak up the pristine scenery of Milford Sounds
  • Visit the wine growing regions of Blenheim and Hawkes Bay

From the cosmopolitan city of Auckland, to the Bay of Islands on the northern tip of the North Island; where some 150 islands and hidden sandy coves offer a place to relax and enjoy some water based activities.Rotorua is full of volcanic landscapes and Maori history, while the windy city of Wellington signals the end of the North Island.

Cross into the and the South Island with kayaking and walking along the shores of the Abel Tasman national park. The wine regions of Blenheim offer a haven for food and wine lovers, while the shores of Kaikoura are world renowned for their diverse marine life. Marvel at the scale of Mount Cook before heading to the west coast for lakes, waterfalls, glaciers and magical scenery round every bend.

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights £Flight cost from 
£ 6895 £ 1100
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • All accommodation
  • Internal flights
  • International flights as detailed
  • Sightseeing with private guide as per the itinerary
  • Transfers as detailed

what is excluded

  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas


Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Fly London to Singapore overnight

Day 2

Fly Singapore to Christchurch overnight

Day 3

Collect the rental car.

You will be staying at Elizas Manor on Bealey, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

A journey time of approximately four hours

Drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing into through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.

Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mountt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mount Cook Village.

You will be staying at The Hermitage, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Tour on the Glacier Explorer
An up close encounter with icebergs, on a glacial terminal lake. Glacier Explorers is the only tour of its kind in New Zealand, and one of only three in the world. Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of these are accessible to the average person. The boat is able to get close to towering icecliffs and huge floating icebergs. The boats provide a safe way to unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier. Being able to view, touch and taste 500 year old ice is a new experience for most people.

Drive from Mount Cook Village to Te Anau

You will be staying at Dunluce B&B, Bed & Breakfast

Day 6

Day Exploring the Milford Sound
Small Boat Milford Sound Cruise
Your cruise departs Milford Marina at 9:45am
Explore Milford Sound on this small boat cruise. Specialist nature guides accompany you on the 2 1/4 hour experience offering a detailed insight into the flora, fauna and geology of this unique area. The smaller boat offers a more intimate experience from its 4 viewing deck.

You will be staying at Dunluce B&B, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

A journey time of approximately two hours

Today you’ll cross vast tussocklands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

You will be staying at Queenstown House, Bed & Breakfast

Day 8

Skyline Gondola Trip
Head to the Skyline complex and step aboard the gondola to Coronet Peak. Take in the views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the The Remarkables mountain range. Also have the opportunity to take an adrenalin-filled ride on one of the two luge tracks that wind their way back down the hill.

Evening Cruise to Walter Peak
In the evening, take a scenic cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. Disembark at Walter Peak and walk through the lakeside gardens to the Colonel's Homestead. After dinner at the homestead, which is renowned for its fresh seasonal produce and locally hunted game, have the option to watch a brief farm show.

Afterwards, return aboard the TSS Earnshaw and have the opportunity to take part in the traditional sing-along that takes place around the piano.

You will be staying at Queenstown House, Bed & Breakfast

Day 9

A journey time of approximately five hours

Today drive north via Lakes Hawea and Wanaka and through the Haast Pass to the West Coast of the South Island. Drive in the Westland National Park to the township of Franz Josef.

You will be staying at Glenfern Villas, European plan

Day 10

Full Day Glacier Walk
Drive to Fox Glacier and set off on a guided glacier walk. After being fitted with equipment, board the glacier bus for a short drive into the steep-sided glacial valley. Follow the guide as the track zigzags uphill through ferns and temperate forest. Once higher up, begin to admire the stunning views of the glacier.

Outfitted with instep crampons, and using steps cut by the guide, journey on the ice for up to four hours. Travel to the lower icefall - where the glacier moves at two metres day - amidst the crevasses and the towering pinnacles.

Make sure to bring at least three layers of clothing, a packed lunches, drinks, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, gloves and a day pack. The trip includes a guide, ground transport, boots, socks, a raincoat (if required), alpenstocks and crampons.

You will be staying at Glenfern Villas, European plan

Day 11

Drive from Franz Josef Glacier to Rimu via Hokitika

You will be staying at Rimu Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 12

Drive from Rimu to Kaikoura

You will be staying at Lemon Tree Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 13

Whale Watching Trip
Kaikoura is New Zealand's world famous whale watching destination. Sperm Whales can be seen here year-round while 7 other whale species visit regularly. Encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. See migrating Humpback, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales, although this will depend on the time of year. Whale Watch is New Zealand's only marine-based whale watching company offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year.

You should reconfirm your Whale Watch tour the day prior or in the morning if you are taking an afternoon tour. Sailings can be cancelled or postponed if sea conditions are not suitable. Call Whale Watch on 0800 655 121 and quote you.

A full safety briefing is given first and you will spend approximately 2 1/2 hours at sea. If you suffer from motion sickness then please take precautions and please make sure you are dressed for the conditions.

Drive from Kaikoura to Blenheim

You will be staying at Hotel D'Urville, Bed & Breakfast

Day 14

A journey time of approximately twenty minutes

Drop off the rental car at the Picton Hertz depot.

Take a Ferry from Picton to Wellington

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.

Collect the rental car from the Hertz depot in Wellington.

You will be staying at Rydges Wellington, Bed & Breakfast

Day 15

Choice of activities and excursions
Today is at leisure. If you are keen to start exploring ideas are listed below

Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country.

For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores.

Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside The Beehive, New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.

Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar-winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45-minute guided tour through both the Weta Workshop and Weta Cave. If you're a foodie at heart, a two-hour round trip to Martinborough is a must do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For an educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native bird.

You will be staying at Rydges Wellington, Bed & Breakfast

Day 16

Drive from Wellington to Napier - A journey time of approximately 4.5 hours

Collect your hire car ( Compact with GPS Navigation) from the ferry terminal today. The car hire is organised throughout the self drive itinerary and returned to Auckland on the 7th July.

You will first pass the Wairarapa on the eastern side of the Rimutaka Ranges. A significant contrast to the hills of Wellington, it's rich pastures and boutique vineyards of Martinborough give way to grassy plains and rugged coastal shores. Go through Greytown, home to the largest number of wooden buildings in the country then stop in Masterton, a small farming town known for its Golden Shears competition - where shearers compete for the title of fastest shearer. Continue on to Hawkes Bay and Havelock North before arriving in Napier, the art deco capital of New Zealand. This drive is 199 miles, taking approximately four hours.

With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. A trip to Mission Estate, touted as the the birthplace of NZ wine, can't be missed. For the truly enthused, head out on a tour of the vines. We recommend the Grape Escape to make the most of what's on offer. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city's architecture - including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world. If you're after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices, and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. Climb on the apple wagon at Pernell Orchard for a hour long ride through its 33 hectares of fruit or Tempt your taste buds with a trip to the Silky Oak Chocolate Company. End on a high with another ride, this time in comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony - the largest of its kind in the world.

You will be staying at The Napier County Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 17

Choice of activities and excursions
With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. For the truly enthused, ride along on a Grape Escape winery tour to make the most of the local yield. Those into architecture can hop aboard a 1930’s car and take in the city’s prominent Art Deco landmarks. Hire a bike and cycle the trails or grab your sunscreen and head down to one of the golden sandy beaches that form the larger Hawke's Bay. Try a diverse range of produce and take an orchard, cheese, honey, or chocolate tour. End on a high with a tractor ride to view the largest mainland gannet colony in the world, located at Cape Kidnappers.
Time to yourself to explore:
- Take a walk through the streets admiring the original beautiful art deco buildings built after the earthquake in 1931 (a guide can be arranged if need)
- Stroll down the elegant tree-lined Marine Parade next to the Pacific Ocean. Along its length are parks, gardens, outdoor swimming pool and aquarium.
- From November to March you can travel to Cape Kidnappers to see the gannet colonies that come here to nest.

You will be staying at The Napier County Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 18

Drive from Napier to Rotorua

Cross the Ahiminawa Ranges to arrive into the town of Taupo, sitting on New Zealand's largest lake - Lake Taupo - a gigantic volcanic caldera formed during one of the worlds largest eruptions. Just north of Taupo are the Huka Falls, an impressive body of water draining from the Waikato river. See it from the wooden viewing platform or get up close to the spray with a ride on the Huka Jet (Optional). Visit nearby volcanic reserve Craters of the Moon to see boiling pools and steaming vents. Continue on through the Waimungu Valley before arriving into geothermal Rotorua, the heart of New Zealands Maori culture.

Driving distance today is 131 miles and approximately 2.5 hours.

Rotorua sits right in the centre of the world's most volcanically active region and this is highly evident through the smell of sulphur. No visit to Rotorua would be complete without visiting one of the many geothermal parks. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is around 30 minutes from Rotorua and here a network of paths will take you past bubbling pools, sulphur ponds, geysers and waterfalls. For a more relaxing thermal experience, you can't go past the Polynesian Spa, either soak in their mineral pools or experience a unique 'mud massage'. White Island sits around 40 kilometres off the Bay of Plenty coast and is still one the most active volcanoes in the world. Volcanic Air Safaris offer scenic flights to the island and the opportunity to land and explore the original sulphur mines. They also offer scenic flights over Mt. Tarawera and float plane flights to Orakei Korako Hidden Valley. Rotorua is also the heartland of Maori culture in New Zealand and Mitai Maori Village lets you experience the stories, singing and traditional Maori kai (food) cooked in a hangi. For a deeper understanding of Maori arts and crafts, visit Te Puia the premier Maori Arts and Cultural centre. As well as the lake which is teeming with trout for the anglers amongst you, there are opportunities to get up close to our national animal the sheep at Agrodome and the kiwi at Rainbow Springs. For those looking to enjoy some of the adrenalin packed adventures New Zealand is renowned for you'll be pleased to know Rotorua rivals Queenstown for adventure, so whether you are zorbing, rafting or flying through the forest canopy you'll have a blast.

You will be staying at Regent of Rotorua Boutique Hotel & Spa, Bed & Breakfast

Day 19

Choice of activities and excursions
Time to yourself to explore:
- Visit Te Whakarewarewa, Rotorua’s best known and largest thermal reserve.
- Experience a Maori cultural show or enjoy a hangi (traditional Maori meal cooked under ground).
- Indulge in the warm thermal waters of the Polynesian Spa. A bathhouse opened here in 1886, the waters are said to have health-giving properties.
- For something more active, try Zorbing, another Kiwi innovation which involves rolling down a hill strapped inside an inflatable sphere.
- Enjoy some trout fishing in one of the nearby lakes.

Evening Beauty By Night and Mitai Maori Experience
In the evening, experience the renowned Mitai Maori Cultural Experience, which includes a traditional hangi dinner, Maori concert, night-time bush walk and glow worm tour. Afterwards, set out on a spectacularly lit night tour through Rainbow Springs Nature Park.

You will be staying at Regent of Rotorua Boutique Hotel & Spa, Bed & Breakfast

Day 20

Drive from Rotorua to Coromandel

You will be staying at Brenton Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 21

Choice of activities and excursions
Day at leisure to explore the city, take a ferry over to historic Devonport, volcanic Rangitoto Island or beautiful Waiheke Island with its rolling hills and inviting vineyards. Get a birds eye view of the city from the Skytower, take a yacht out on the Huaraki gulf or visit one of the museums or galleries in the city.

You will be staying at Brenton Lodge, Bed & Breakfast


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.



Mollies boutique hotel sets the benchmark for luxury accommodation in Auckland, New Zealand....

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Hotel D'Urville

Hotel D'Urville

A small boutique hotel close to the heart of town with ten large, well appointed rooms, an elegant bar and modern restaurant....

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Brenton Lodge

Brenton Lodge

Peaceful setting in an acre of beautiful gardens, with 4 suites, each with wide sea views, the lodge is a perfect place to explore the Coromandal, situated just 2kms from Whangamata....

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Lemon Tree Lodge

Lemon Tree Lodge

Lemon Tree Lodge offers 'Boutique Style' accommodation, and has been set up to purely cater for couples and single independent travellers....

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The Hermitage

The Hermitage

Ringed by the magnificent snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps, the Hermitage has been a world renowned tourist destination since 1884....

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Queenstown House

Queenstown House

The Queenstown House is an established boutique hotel walking distance to downtown and the waters edge of Lake Wakatipu....

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Rydges Wellington

Rydges Wellington

Centrally located downtown with a spectacular harbour view, our Wellington accommodation features unrivaled rooms and amenities along with complimentary WI-FI....

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of New Zealand

Amy Waters, Travel Expert

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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