This 23-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 along with a few of our favourite hidden gems. Wildlife tours, scenic flights, glacier adventures, overnight cruises and more. Relax at our hand-picked boutique lodges, where your hosts will make you feel at home.
- Travel onboard the Tranz Alpine, one of the worlds great rail journeys, from Greymouth to ChristchurchCruise the remote Doubtful Sound onboard the Fiordland Navigator
- Experience an exhilarating landing on the face of Franz Josef glacier by helicopter
- Participate in an interactive wine tasting tour on the Hawkes Bay estates
- Witness the geothermal wonderland of the Crater lakes and the volcanic rift of Mt Tarawera from a float plane
- Have a close encounter with the giant Sperm Whales off the coast of Kaikoura
The South Island has an abundance of Great Walks and adrenaline pursuits on the doorstep. . Arriving in Christchurch where you will spend the first day acclimatising before embarking on your self-drive holiday. Passing through the heartland of the South Island marvel at the scale of Mount Cook before heading to the west coast for lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers with magical views around every corner.
Cruise onboard the Fiordland Navigator on the stunning Doubtful Sound. Discover the hidden arms of Doubtful Sound. Fur seals and bottlenose dolphins are often seen and at times, rare penguins can be observed. There is also time to kayak around the shoreline or go exploring in the tender craft with a nature guide.
Infamous Queenstown should not be missed before continuing before reaching Franz Josef Glacier on the west coast. Fly over all three of its icefalls by helicopter, landing high on the high face. The brilliant blue ice must be witnessed from here. The only way to return from the west coast to Christchurch is on the Tranz Alpine scenic train journey from Greymouth. It is considered one of the world's most scenic train journeys. With brand new carriages offering huge panoramic windows, it is a comfortable way to travel.
The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through some fine rolling farmland and North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Whale watching tours allow an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year. Kaikoura is New Zealand's world-famous whale watching destination. Sperm Whales can be seen here year-round while depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales. Kaikoura often hosts the world's largest dolphin - the Orca and is home to the world's smallest and rarest - the Hector's.
The top of the South Island is renowned for its wine growing region, centred in Blenheim and the dry hills of Marlborough producing some of the finest wine in the world. Stop in Blenheim for wine tasting and lunch before reaching Picton.
The windy city of Wellington, also the capital of New Zealand, signals the southern end of the North Island. The North and South Island is divided by a 22 kilometre stretch of water known as the Cook Strait. Reached by plane or ferry, depending on preference, Wellington is the first port of call in the North.
Keeping with the winemaking theme, Napier and the Hawkes Bay region offers a further 30 wineries. Take a Grape Escape winery tour to make the most of this local yield and walk amongst the vines, learning about the region. Or why not explore the art deco architecture of Napier aboard a 1930's vintage vehicle.
Rotorua in the centre is full of volcanic landscapes and Maori history. Sitting on top of one of the world's most active volcanic regions, the earth's crust grinds and moves producing heat and molten rock just below the surface. Today Rotorua offers a myriad of activities for all to enjoy. Fly over the Crater Lakes District and the volcanic rift of Mt. Tarawera by floatplane and then continue south via Waimangu and Waiotapu Thermal Areas to land at the Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako. Transfer by boat across the lake to explore the bubbling hot springs, gushing geysers and natural beauty of this hidden geothermal wonderland. Surrounding the city are thermal reserves such as Whakawerawera and Wai-O-Tapu, walk amongst bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and sulphur ponds.
Travel 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. Stay in the picturesque township of Russell, take to the seas by catamaran visiting the most beautiful bays in the island.
Returning to Auckland, there is time to explore this vibrant harbour city, and shopping area of Ponsonby before bidding farewell to New Zealand.
Tailor Made New Zealand
This holiday idea can be completely personalised to suit you perfectly. We can add more days, remove days, change accommodations and add specific activities to suit your interests or simply design something completely from scratch. Call our New Zealand Travel Experts to start planning your trip of a lifetime.
For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.