Essence of New Zealand
Self Drive Tour
Spectacular scenery, stunning rail journeys, verdant rainforest and stunning lakes reflecting amazing mountain peaks, powder puff clouds and clear blue skies all await on this tour through the Land of the Long White Cloud. Explore Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and experience indigenous culture in Rotorua. Visit to the stunning Lake Tekapo, Cruise Milford Sound, see Aoraki / Mt Cook and art deco Napier.
Why not prebook some of these attractions before you go?
• Auckland sightseeing
• Polynesian Spa in Rotorua
• Wellington City tour
• Weta Wellington
• Christchurch sightseeing
• Fox Glacier helicopter ride
• Queenstown wine tour
• Lake Wakatipu cruise
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Essence of New Zealand
Day 1 : Auckland
Arrive in Auckland and make your way to your hotel for a two night stay.
Day 2 : Auckland
The hundreds of sailing boats in Auckland harbour are an amazing sight and have gained New Zealand’s largest city the nickname “City of Sails”. But there’s much more to Auckland than its fantastic harbourfront; you’ll find shopping galore, restaurants that serve food to die for and a thriving night-scene too. Across the harbour is Waiheke Island, home to some of the best vineyards and wineries around and everywhere you’ll find happy people and a relaxed laid back atmosphere; no wonder it’s one of the best places to live in the world.
Day 3 : Rotorua (228km)
Collect your vehicle and journey south through the farming districts of the Waikato. Today visit the world renowned Waitomo Glow-worm Caves. Continue south past Lake Karipiro to arrive in Rotorua for a two night stay.
Day 4 : Rotorua
Explore Rotorua’s hissing steam vents, bubbling mud pots and spouting geysers today. Perhaps visit the Polynesian Spa or take a cruise on the lake. Tonight, enjoy an evening Maori Hangi and Concert. You’ll experience ceremonial rituals, powerful performances and traditional hangi feasting.
Day 5 : Napier (219km)
Today’s journey takes you through farmland and forests as you head for Napier of the east coast. On the way stop at Taupo on the shores of a volcanic Lake Taupo, which was created by a volcanic eruption and its warm waters are great for water sport. This afternoon enjoy a walking tour of art deco Napier.
Day 6 : Wellington (315km)
Visit some of the regions award winning wineries today as you drive south to the nation’s capital Wellington. Drop your rental car at the downtown office and make your way to your hotel for a two night stay.
Day 7 : Wellington
New Zealand’s sophisticated capital sits between rolling hills and a stunning coastline and harbourfront facing the Cook Strait. Friendly and compact, with a relaxed café culture and some wonderful cuisine, it is easily explored on foot. Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand, houses the nation’s treasures and deserves some time on any itinerary and the cable car ride from Lambton Quay is worth the effort. And an hour’s drive out of the city will take you to the Wairarapa and Martinborough famous for its Pinot Noir.
Day 8 : Christchurch
This morning cross Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry and cruise through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton where you board the Coastal Pacific Train to Christchurch. The journey is a scenic feast, with the Kaikoura mountain ranges on one side of the train and the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline on the other. Along the way you pass though Kaikoura, famous for whale or dolphin watching. Travel on through some of New Zealand’s finest horticultural and farmland areas and see amazing wildlife from the comfort of your train carriage. The Coastal Pacific travels through 22 tunnels and crosses 175 bridges, one of them being New Zealand’s only road-rail bridge and has an open air viewing carriage where you can enjoy the scenery in clean, fresh, sea air.
Arrive in Christchurch in the evening for a two night stay.
Day 9 : Christchurch
The “Garden City” of Christchurch, the most English of New Zealand cities with its gardens and the river Avon, sits on fertile plains with the snow-capped Alps as a backdrop and the ocean at its door. It continues to recover from the devastation caused by the earthquakes in recent years and new life is being brought to the city; its Re:Start popup shopping mall and Cardboard Cathedral show true imagination and inspiration. Enjoy a day exploring the city on your own.
Day 10 : West Coast Glaciers
Board the TranzAlpine train this morning. Travel across the heart of the South Island from Christchurch to Greymouth on the west coast on what is considered to be one of the world’s great train journeys. Cross the lush Canterbury Plains, climbing to the high pass guarded by towering, angular mountains. Settle back in warm comfort and enjoy the breathtaking views through panoramic windows or experience the sting of icy mountain air from the open viewing platform, warming your hands on a mug of steaming hot chocolate. Descend to the West Coast, perhaps New Zealand’s last frontier. Your destination is Greymouth, a great base for exploring this unspoiled region with its mighty glaciers and famous Punakaiki pancake rocks. Collect your vehicle in Greymouth and head for the West Coast Glaciers and your overnight at Fox Glacier.
Day 11 : Queenstown (351km)
Today travel south to the arid Central Otago, journey past the shores of Lake Wanaka to the Kawerau Gorge before passing Lake Hayes to arrive in Queenstown for a three night stay.
Day 12 : Queenstown
Idyllically located on the shore of Lake Wakatipu with the picture postcard scenery of the Remarkables Mountain range reflecting in the deep blue waters of the lake discover Queenstown, New Zealand’s “adrenalin capital”. Queenstown has earned this name due to the plethora of exciting activities on offer such as off roading, bungee jumping, jet boating and sky diving. This is a year-round destination you’ll find winter just as thrilling with four ski fields offering great off-piste terrain and stunning views. Tantalize your taste buds in Arrowtown, producing some of the world’s best Pinot Noir this wine region is worth a visit, enjoy a tasting and cellar door tour of the wineries or even take a scenic helicopter flight for panoramic views of this spectacular region.
Day 13 : Milford Sound
A day off from driving today as you visit one of the most beautiful and scenic places in New Zealand on a small group tour. Leaving Queenstown and travelling along Lake Wakatipu the first stop is at the head of the lake. The view from here back to Queenstown is spectacular. After a couple more stops, we arrive in Te Anau at the Alpine Center Cafe for a break. Food, drinks and souvenirs can be purchased here. Continuing to Milford Sound, we stop many more times for short walks and photo opportunities.
At Milford Sound, board a Boutique Small Boat cruise. Enjoy your packed lunch box and complimentary coffee, tea and biscuits on board while cruising past sheer cliff faces and cascading waterfalls. The smaller size of the vessel enables us to get you up close and personal with the local wildlife, like New Zealand fur seals, dolphins and the rare Fiordland crested penguin. A “Glacial Facial” under the Stirling Falls is an experience not to be missed. After the cruise returns, we make our way back to Queenstown with another quick convenience stop in Te Anau.
Day 14 : Lake Tekapo (256km)
Depart Queenstown via the Kawerau Gorge and traverse the Lindis Pass to reach the MacKenzie Country framed by the snow-capped Southern Alps. Perhaps stop and enjoy a glass of the local Pinot Noir on the way and the views of Aoraki/ Mt Cook as you pass Lake Pukaki.
Day 15 : Christchurch (225km)
Perhaps visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog Statue this morning before leaving to climb Burkes Pass before descending to the Canterbury Plains. Stop for a break in pretty Geraldine before crossing the snow fed Rakaia River and on to Christchurch. The rest of the day is free.
Day 16 : Departure
Today check-out from your hotel and return your car at the airport in time to check in for your flight.