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Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

Ultimate New Zealand Self-Drive



21 Days

Prices Start from

$6,223pp (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 the itinerary

Boat Journey
Train Journey
  • Day 1
  • Day 2
    Auckland - Matamata - Rotorua
  • Day 3
  • Day 4
    Rotorua - Napier
  • Day 5
    Napier - Wellington
  • Day 6
    Wellington - Picton - Blenheim
  • Day 7
    Blenheim - Kaikoura
  • Day 8
  • Day 9
    Kaikoura - Christchurch
  • Day 10
    Christchurch - Mount Cook Village
  • Day 11
    Mount Cook Village
  • Day 12
    Mount Cook Village - Dunedin
  • Day 13
  • Day 14
    Dunedin - Te Anau
  • Day 15
    Te Anau - Manapouri
  • Day 16
    Manapouri - Queenstown
  • Day 17
  • Day 18
    Queenstown - Franz Josef Glacier
  • Day 19
    Franz Josef Glacier
  • Day 20
    Franz Josef Glacier - Greymouth - Christchurch
  • Day 21

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

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.


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.

View Property

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.


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
From $6,223 Per person

When to travel

New Zealand in January

The long warm sunny days make this a wonderful time to visit, but accommodation fills up quickly. Locals have their summer holidays so add to visitor numbers.

New Zealand in February

The warmest month for much of the country. Locals return to work, easing some pressure on accommodation. A great time to enjoy South Island summer.

New Zealand in March

The best month to visit, as summer crowds disperse but beautiful warm weather generally prevails. An ideal time for a more spontaneous trip.

New Zealand in April

Temperatures fall, especially in the South Island. The autumn colours can be spectacular, and you may still get away with shorts in Auckland.

New Zealand in May

Autumn sweeps through the North Island, reinvigorating the green rolling hills. A quiet time of year to travel, after summer and before ski season.

New Zealand in June

The start of the ski season in the North Island, with the first snow showers beginning to fall. Crisp clear sunny days can still be found on the South Island.

New Zealand in July

The snow begins to settle and international snow sports teams can be spotted doing their off-season training.

New Zealand in August

The coldest month, but still plenty to see and do. Ski season is in full swing, and humpback whales can be spotted near Kaikoura on their way north.

New Zealand in September

Spring is in sight, but there is still plenty of snow on the mountains. Newborn lambs can be spotted in the vibrant green fields.

New Zealand in October

The snow melts and the rivers are at their peak, making for an exciting time to do white water sports. Longer days allow for more time to enjoy the outdoors.

New Zealand in November

A beautiful time of year, with wild gorse and vibrant lupins dotting the fields, making the countryside particularly colourful. Snow can still be seen on the tops of the mountains.

New Zealand in December

Temperatures heat up, but early in the month it is still relatively quiet. Christmas and New Year’s celebrations can be enjoyed in true Kiwi style – on a beach or in the expansive wilderness.

Holiday Inspiration

Our experts have created and curated these tailor-made holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something that is the spark for your unique adventure.

Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise sets us apart. So too our curiosity. A curiosity of the world and of you, and your passions. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

Are you ready to discover extraordinary?

Why Steppes

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