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Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

Ultimate New Zealand Self-Drive

  • TAILOR-MADE HOLIDAY IDEA

Duration

21 Days

Prices Start from

£4,900pp (ex. flights)

This 21-day 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. Wildlife tours, scenic flights, glacier adventures, overnight cruises and more.

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Tranzalpine rail journey 2 1

Tranz Alpine Train

Journey from Greymouth to Christchurch through spectacular scenery onboard the Tranz Alpine train.

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand 2

Glacier Heli Hike

Experience an exhilarating landing on the face of Franz Josef glacier by helicopter.

Humpback Whale, Kaikoura, New Zealand 3

Whale Watching

Encounter whales from the water or air off the coast of Kaikoura.

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand 4

Doubtful Sound Cruise

Overnight on Doubtful Sound waking to the sounds of silence surrounded by scenery untouched by time.

Why we like it

This trip includes some of the most beautiful scenic drives in New Zealand. Self-driving is a fantastic way to explore as it gives the freedom to stop en route, which, trust us you will want to. Whether to spot seal pups between Blenheim and Kaikoura or to photograph the beautiful turquoise water of Lake Tekapo on the drive to Mount Cook, always allow more time than you think. This diverse itinerary offers a wonderful overview of New Zealand’s highlights.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1

    Auckland

  • Day 2

    Auckland - Matamata - Rotorua

  • Day 3

    Rotorua

  • Day 4

    Rotorua - Napier

  • Day 5

    Napier - Wellington

  • Day 6

    Wellington - Picton - Blenheim

  • Day 7

    Blenheim - Kaikoura

  • Day 8

    Kaikoura

  • Day 9

    Kaikoura - Christchurch

  • Day 10

    Christchurch - Mount Cook Village

  • Day 11

    Mount Cook Village

  • Day 12

    Mount Cook Village - Dunedin

  • Day 13

    Dunedin

  • Day 14

    Dunedin - Te Anau

  • Day 15

    Te Anau - Manapouri

  • Day 16

    Manapouri - Queenstown

  • Day 17

    Queenstown

  • Day 18

    Queenstown - Franz Josef Glacier

  • Day 19

    Franz Josef Glacier

  • Day 20

    Franz Josef Glacier - Greymouth - Christchurch

  • Day 21

    Christchurch

Day 1

Auckland

Day 2

Auckland - Matamata - Rotorua

Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand

Visit the now iconic scenery at Matamata, home of the shire from the epic Lord of the Rings films.

Day 3

Rotorua

Maori Carving, Rotorua, New Zealand

Spend time exploring the thermal landscapes and Maori culture of Rotorua.

Day 4

Rotorua - Napier

Day 5

Napier - Wellington

Day 6

Wellington - Picton - Blenheim

Beautiful New Zealand vineyard

Cross the Marlborough Sounds and sample world class wines.

Day 7

Blenheim - Kaikoura

Day 8

Kaikoura

Humpback Whale, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Encounter whales from the water or air off the coast of Kaikoura.

Day 9

Kaikoura - Christchurch

Day 10

Christchurch - Mount Cook Village

Day 11

Mount Cook Village

Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Do some walking in the shadow of Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak.

Day 12

Mount Cook Village - Dunedin

Day 13

Dunedin

Little Blue Penguin, Dunedin, New Zealand

Search for albatross, penguin and huka sealion on the rugged beaches around Dunedin.

Day 14

Dunedin - Te Anau

Day 15

Te Anau - Manapouri

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

Overnight on Doubtful Sound waking to the sounds of silence surrounded by scenery untouched by time.

Day 16

Manapouri - Queenstown

Day 17

Queenstown

Cityscape of queenstown with lake Wakatipu from top, new zealand, south island

Dine out and relax on the shores of  Lake Wakatipu or get your adrenaline fix with some jet boating.

Day 18

Queenstown - Franz Josef Glacier

Day 19

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Experience an exhilarating landing on the face of Franz Josef glacier by helicopter.

Day 20

Franz Josef Glacier - Greymouth - Christchurch

Tranzalpine rail journey 2

Journey from Greymouth to Christchurch through spectacular scenery onboard the Tranz Alpine train.

Day 21

Christchurch

Now for the details

Seal, Doubtful Sound, New Zealand
Fur seal

Wake to the Sound of Silence

Smaller and less visited than Milford Sounds, Doubtful Sounds is just as spectacular. A wonderful way to explore the waters of this fiord is by overnight cruise, joining a small boat with a maximum of 12 passengers plus an attentive and knowledgeable crew. Wake up on the still, glass like surface of the fiord in utter silence. Listen to the sound of waterfalls cascading and watch the shifting mists around towering cliffs before kayaking in search of seal, penguin and dolphin.

As evening draws in, catch crayfish for your supper before watching the sunset from the deck. This experience is a highlight for many. Rain or shine, the wilderness scenery of the fiords is beautiful. However, do be prepared for rain as this part of the world typically experiences rain on 300 of our 365 days.

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View from the train windows of TranzAlpine railway over Waimakariri river gorge on journey to Arthurs Pass
View from the window of the Tranzalpine train

Cinematic Scenery by Train

This holiday includes a five hour journey across the South Island, from Greymouth to Christchurch on board the Tranz Alpine scenic train. Considered one of the world’s most scenic train journeys, this journey is spectacular whatever the season. Traversing epic scenery from the majestic Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass, the open vistas of the Canterbury Plains, miles of native beech forests and the waters of the Waimakariri River.

Seats are spacious and reclinable and all have windows framing the beautiful scenery. There is also an open carriage for those preferring to view the scenery from outside.

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Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Heli Hike

A heli hike is one of many iconic activities in New Zealand and a fabulous way to experience the ancient glaciers and mountain landscapes of the South Islands west coast. Before landing on the ice flow, take to the skies for a short scenic flight giving a perspective of how vast the glaciers are. Upon landing your guide will choose a route to follow depending on the movement of the ice that day.

Don crampons and walk on the glacier past towering walls of ice, sculpted over years, entering ice blue tunnels and learning about the history and future of the glacier from your knowledgeable guide. The views are breathtaking.

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Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura

Giants of the Ocean

The east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and in particular the coast of Kaikoura is home to a wealth of marine life. A three kilometre deep canyon, just off the coast creates an ideal environment for whales, dolphin, orca and seals as well as albatross. Sperm whales, dolphin and orca can be seen in Kaikoura year-round while migrating humpback, pilot, blue and southern right whales can normally be seen between June and August. Stay on dry land and spot them from the shore, head out by boat or take to the skies for an aerial search.

Beautiful New Zealand vineyard

Vineyards Explorations

The southern end of the North Island is home to the Art Deco city of Napier and some world-class vineyards. For a vineyard tour with a difference we recommend taking to the open road by bike, stopping to sample Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines alongside gourmet cuisine. Alternatively explore the architecture of Napier and surrounding vineyards by 1930’s vintage vehicle.

Accommodation

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

The Hermitage £££££

  • New Zealand

Ringed by the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, the Hermitage has been welcoming visitors to Mount Cook National Park since 1884. Interiors are comfortable and modern, and the 164 rooms range from suites to more motel style accommodation. Most rooms, as well as the restaurant, make the most of the fabulous mountain views.

View Property

The George Hotel £££££

  • New Zealand
  • City

Overlooking Hagley Park and the River Avon in central Christchurch, The George Hotel has 53 elegant rooms, most of which make the most of the verdant views from either a balcony or floor to ceiling picture windows. The two restaurants serve award-winning innovative cuisine and the service levels are extremely high.

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Breckenridge Lodge £££££

  • New Zealand
  • Vineyard

Breckenridge Lodge is nestled in the picturesque valley of Omarunui, a short drive from the Art Deco city of Napier. Two acres of beautiful gardens surround the property, lined with pathways leading to hidden corners, herb gardens, orchards and areas planted with native trees. A Mediterranean feeling flows through the property and the five suites have private patios overlooking the vineyards below. Chef and owner Malcolm is extremely passionate about food and wine and as such a stay here ensures a gourmet experience.

View Property

Let’s chat

Speak to our experts

Our team is waiting to help you tailor a trip that will leave you with stories for a lifetime. Call us on

01285 601 784

Send us an enquiry

Complete our enquiry form and start your next journey.

Enquire

Excellent organisation and itinerary, very professionally put together in an attractive package. Plus a great travel app. Amy was efficient, helpful and clearly knowledgeable.

New Zealand

A note on price

Prices will vary depending on the time of year you are travelling. Prices do not include international flights. Please ask one of our Travel Experts for an accurate quote. Flights purchased through Steppes Travel departing from the UK are ATOL protected.

This Itinerary
Price
From £4,900 Per person

When to travel