The Aotearoa Discovery
SELF DRIVE TOUR
AUCKLAND | ROTORUA | TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK | NAPIER | CHRISTCHURCH | TRANZALPINE TRAIN | FOX GLACIER | QUEENSTOWN | MOUNT COOK | LAKE TEKAPO
A relaxing itinerary with shorter driving days and multi night stays that still showcases the must see highlights and immerses you in that special Kiwi culture and magic with this New Zealand driving tour.
- Relaxed itinerary with short driving distances
- Geothermal Rotorua
- TranzAlpine Train - One of the world’s most iconic rail journeys
The Aotearoa Discovery
Day 1 : Arrive Auckland
On arrival at Auckland Airport you will be met and transferred to your accommodation.
Day 2 : Auckland
Collect your rental car from a downtown depot. The remainder of the day is at leisure in Auckland to relax and explore this vibrant city. Rated as the third most liveable city in the world, Auckland is a place where vibrant city style and spectacular landscapes go hand in hand. Perhaps head to one of the city’s many restaurants, cafés or bars or relax in the sunshine.
Day 3 : Auckland - Rotorua (232 kms)
Leave Auckland via the Bombay Hills and turn off the motorway onto State Highway 2 which takes you across the fertile alluvial dairy farmed soil of Hauraki Plains to Matamata. Enjoy a guided tour of “Hobbiton” the film set location of “The Shire” from the Lord of the Rings films. From here continue over the Mamaku Ranges to arrive in the thermal wonderland of Rotorua.
Day 4 : Rotorua
This morning we have included admission to Rotorua’s top sightseeing attractions. Visit Te Puia and the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute where you can view mighty geysers, boiling mud pools, and traditional Maori arts & culture. Rainbow Springs is a unique showcase of New Zealand’s flora and fauna. Enjoy an amusing and informative farm show at the Agrodome. This afternoon is at leisure. In the evening attend a special Maori cultural performance. Be entertained with traditional songs, dances and stories while enjoying a Hangi feast.
Day 5 : Rotorua - Tongariro National Park (197 kms)
Depart Rotorua and travel to Taupo with a stop to view the spectacular Huka Falls, the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand. Here you’ll see up to 220,000 litres of water a second gushing through the gorge and shooting out over 8 metres beyond to create a beautiful blue pool. Then travel along the Thermal Explorer Highway to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Skirt the shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, crossing the Tongariro River to Turangi and into the Tongariro National Park dominated by the volcanic peaks of Mounts Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.
Day 6 : Tongariro National Park
A day of leisure in the heart of the Tongariro National Park. The Tongariro National Park encircles the volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu and features some of New Zealand’s most contrasting landscapes. The park, covering almost 80,000 hectares, was gifted to the nation by Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV in 1887. Just over a hundred years later, the park was awarded dual World Heritage Site status. Emerald lakes, alpine meadows and hot springs surround the largest volcanoes in the North Island, offering an environment of stunning diversity. All three volcanoes are very much alive, with Mount Tongariro erupting as recently as August 2012. But this doesn’t deter people from skiing down the slopes and hiking to the craters – a monitoring system provides early warning of eruptions. The park’s most celebrated activity is the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’, a one-day trek that traverses the otherworldly terrain along the slopes of all three mountains. Steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes make the walk an unforgettable experience.
Day 7 : Tongariro National Park - Napier (236 kms)
Today drive back to Taupo and on through the vast Kaingaroa Forest and into the Kaimanawa Ranges. The Kaingaroa Forest, spanning 190,000 hectares of plantable land, is one of the crown jewels of international forestry and one of the oldest and largest softwood plantations in the world. Your route descends into the fertile wine growing region of Hawkes Bay and the city of Napier.
Day 8 : Napier
A free day to explore Napier. A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. Rebuilding began almost immediately, and much of it was completed in two years. New buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco. Napier’s city centre has the feeling of a time capsule - the seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary. One of the ways to enjoy the streetscape is on a self-guided walk - ask for a map at the information centre or at the Art Deco Trust. Guided walks around the city are also available every day rain or shine. Napier’s other special attractions include the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and the many vineyards that make good use of the region’s alluvial soils. Pinot Gris and Syrah are the region’s signature drops. On Saturday mornings, the Napier farmers’ market is a chance to shop for artisan foods and fresh produce.
Day 9 : Napier - Christchurch (flight)
Travel to Napier Airport, return your car and check in for your short flight to Christchurch (airfare included). On arrival you will be met and transferred to tonight’s hotel.
Day 10 : Christchurch - Fox Glacier (190 kms + rail)
Early this morning board the TranzAlpine, New Zealand’s premier alpine rail journey. Travel across the Canterbury Plains to the settlement of Arthur’s Pass. The train then tracks slowly under the country’s greatest mountain range, the Southern Alps. Following rivers and skirting lakes, it descends through lush beech forest to Greymouth. On arrival at Greymouth collect your car and make your way south through Hokitika to the west coast glaciers.
Day 11 : Fox Glacier
A free day to relax or explore the captivating Fox Glacier and region.
Day 12 : Fox Glacier - Wanaka (262 kms)
Your journey today takes you further down the west coast, through the awesome Haast Pass to the alpine lakeside village of Wanaka, one of the most stunning natural environments with many unique and diverse attractions and activities.
Day 13 : Wanaka - Queenstown (120 kms)
From Wanaka drive along the shores of Lake Dunstan to Cromwell, through the spectacular Kawarau Gorge and follow the river into Queenstown, nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Day 14 : Queenstown
Today we suggest an optional day trip to Milford Sound. Depart Queenstown and skirt Lake Wakatipu in the shadow of the rugged Remarkables. Drive to Te Anau and follow Lake Te Anau to the Eglinton River Valley. Climb steadily to the Homer Tunnel. Beyond the tunnel is a zig-zag descent into the Cleddau Canyon, between towering, rugged mountains and forest, until the road emerges into the open at Milford Sound. Join a cruise on the Sound (cost not included) and view the wildlife and sheer rock walls and waterfalls, rising over 5,000 ft above the sea level.
Day 15 : Queenstown
Today is free to explore this alpine resort. Included is a ride on the Skyline Gondola. Sit back and relax as you’re taken 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak, where you’ll enjoy the best views in the region unfolding before your eyes.
Day 16 : Queenstown - Mount Cook (262 kms)
Depart Queenstown via the Kawarau Gorge and traverse the Lindis Pass before reaching the MacKenzie Country with its vast expanses of tussock, bordered by the snow capped Southern Alps. Follow the shores of Lake Pukaki into the heartland of the Mount Cook National Park, which encompasses 15 peaks, all towering over 3,000m.
Day 17 : Mount Cook - Lake Tekapo (105 kms)
A relaxing day today and time to enjoy the magnificent alpine environment that is the Mount Cook National Park. At some point return down the shores of Lake Pukaki and continue the short but scenic drive to Lake Tekapo.
Day 18 : Lake Tekapo - Christchurch (227 kms)
Be sure to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd this morning before leaving Lake Tekapo for the drive over Burkes Pass to the small farming towns of Fairlie and Geraldine. Cross the Rangitata River and the Canterbury Plains. On through Ashburton, across the Rakaia River and on to Christchurch.
Day 19 : Depart Christchurch
Your tour ends today with the checkout of your hotel. Perhaps you’ll have time to explore Christchurch a little before returning your car at the airport and taking your onward flight.