From the vibrant city of Auckland where you’ll be based right in the heart of the city at the Hilton Hotel, then south all the way to the evolving city of Christchurch. Along the way you’ll explore two acclaimed wine regions, the Hawkes Bay known for its reds and the Marlborough Sounds famed for its Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll enjoy two nights at Solitaire Lodge, the perfect base to explore the adventures and culture of Rotorua and two nights at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers with its world class golf course and magnificent views of the Hawkes Bay coastline.
At the end of each great day you will relax in comfort in luxury Boutique Lodges, Retreats and Hotels. Enjoy your time – and this could be your perfect Honeymoon as well!
10 Days Self Drive Tour "Auckland to Christchurch Luxury"
The details below are for each of the days where there is a major driving leg.
Times are based on a reasonable average of between 70 and 80 kph (45-55 mph approx). Plan to take longer than the times listed below to allow time to explore and enjoy some stops.
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The following summary lists driving information for each major driving day of your itinerary. Times and distances are based on ideal conditions without stops. Plan to take longer than the times listed below to allow time to explore and enjoy some stops.
INCLUDED – Private transfer from the Airport to your accommodation. On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Auckland accommodation
On either collection or delivery of your rental car you will be required to sign a rental agreement with the car rental company. A credit card is also required at this time and an authorisation will be obtained by the rental car company to cover excess (deductible amount) as specified in the car rental insurance section at the end of your itinerary. Note that the excess or deductible is not ‚charged‘ to your card, just an authorisation is obtained at this stage. Each person who wishes to drive must present their driving licence at this point. There is no charge for additional drivers. Note drivers under 21 are not permitted.
Auckland to Rotorua: The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it’s here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Hobbiton Movie Set Tour: Become immersed in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata – heart of the lush Waikato farming region – your two hour tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You’ll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films.
Accommodation: Nestled on the shores of Lake Tarawera, Solitaire Lodge offers guests the ideal blend of indulgence and adventure from a picture perfect setting. Luxurious and elegantly appointed with floor to ceiling windows and stunning panoramic views across the lake, guests can choose to relax in front of an open fire with a book from the library, enjoy the bar facilities or take a stroll in the expansive herb garden. Nearby is the Lodge’s private jetty with complimentary use of the lodge’s kayaks, motorised dinghies and trout fishing gear.
Each of the suites are styled for comfort and feature panoramic views of the lake and volcano. Bringing the outdoors in, you are invited unwind and soak up the peace and quiet of this tranquil setting. Solitaire Lodge combines luxury and indulgence with impeccable service and attention to detail in everything they do. It also enjoys a reputation for exquisite and innovative New Zealand cuisine and an excellent wine cellar showcases some of the country’s finest wines.
Explore Rotorua: Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventures. Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.
Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris: Today take an exhilarating helicopter flight north over Hell’s Gate Thermal Valley to active volcano, White Island. Land inside the crater and enjoy an hour long guided tour. See the main erupting crater, active steam vents known as ‚fumaroles‘, hot streams and vibrant sulphur formations. You’ll also be able to view the remains of the old sulphur mine and see the deposits left behind.
Accommodation: Solitaire Lodge
Rotorua to Napier: First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke’s Bay. This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.
Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake – a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of hundreds of cubic metres of water spilling every second down the narrow 11 metre drop. For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers: With spectacular panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, nestled among 6,000 acres of rugged coastal farmland, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers offers a multitude of activities within a five-star luxury setting. Offering many comfortable spaces to relax and unwind, including an intimate snug, stylish lounges, outdoor conservatory areas – there is no better way to take in this picturesque landscape.
Choose from a range of leisure facilities such as: a heated infinity pool and jacuzzi, spa treatments with beautiful forest and ocean views, a world class golf course and clubhouse and a fully equipped gym, offering yoga, pilates, golf specific fitness and personal training. The Farm is also home to some of the best trails in the north island, from independent forest walks to ocean stroll or guided farm tours – pack a picnic and set off on an afternoon of outdoor fun. Also on offer are mountain bikes, quad bikes and horse treks for the more adventurous traveler.
Accommodation – The Farm at Cape Kidnappers: Located in Hawke’s Bay, one of New Zealand’s most important wine districts, Cape Kidnappers has a rich history. The Farm is a five-star experience set on a 6,000-acre sheep and cattle farm which encompasses land reminiscent of Montana but plunges 800 feet straight into the sea. A championship golf course designed by Tom Doak is just one reason to experience The Farm.
Explore Napier and the Hawke’s Bay: With it’s mediteranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke’s Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation’s first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. A trip to Mission Estate, touted as the birthplace of NZ wine, can’t be missed. For the truly enthused, head out on a tour of the vines. We recommend this to make the most of what’s on offer. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city’s architecture – including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world.
If you’re after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices, and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. End on a high with another ride, this time in comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony – the largest of its kind in the world.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Gannet Safaris: Drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga and join Gannet Safaris Overland and the world’s largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Gannet Safaris has been guiding visitors over Cape Kidnappers for over 35 years and their safaris are the only way to be driven right to within a few feet of these remarkable birds. You will travel in comfort in air conditioned 4 x 4 wheeled vehicles, through Cape Kidnappers Station – traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, through stands of native bush, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke Bay right across to Mahia peninsular. The 36km, three hour trip includes a commentary by your tour guide / driver on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. On arrival at the gannets you can stretch your legs and take in the scenery from your position at the brink of the cliffs edge – 100 metres above the ocean!
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Grape Escape half day Hawke’s Bay Wine tour: The Grape Escape Half Day Wine Tour visits some of Hawke’s Bay’s most famous wineries and is designed for casual wine appreciators and wine aficionados. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke’s Bay’s fantastic wines. You will taste great wines made with passion and learn of the areas unique growing conditions. There is the opportunity to purchase and take home your favourite wines and memories. You will visit 4 to 5 local wineries and taste Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Also try some of New Zealand’s finest cheeses matched with wine.
Accommodation: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Napier to Wellington City via Masterton: The rolling countryside of the Hawke’s Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country. Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour: Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand’s rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley – just 10 minutes from the central city.
Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost. Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley – so your chances of seeing one is very good.
Accommodation: The Bolton Hotel is a contemporary apartment hotel in the heart of Wellington’s CBD. This hotel has 142 guest rooms and suites are furnished in a contemporary style and feature Sky Digital television, movies on demand, high-speed Internet, a personal bar, and air-conditioning.
Today you’ll cross the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Approaching Picton you’ll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds.
Interislander Ferry Wellington to Picton with exclusive access to the Premium Plus Lounge: The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as ‚one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world‘. Leaving Wellington Harbour you pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand’s oldest lighthouse (1859). From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many sea birds are often seen.
Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds – and this region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays is a remarkable photographic opportunity. At the end of Queen Charlotte Sound the cruise comes to an end in the picturesque town of Picton. When you’re not out on the deck enjoying the amazing views, you can retreat to the exclusive premium plus lounge which is the most comfortable and relaxing way to travel across the Cook Strait. You’ll enjoy complimentary beverages, light snacks, lunch or breakfast, internet access, magazines and newspapers and the most comfortable seating, so you can sit back and enjoy the journey. Collect your new rental car for the South Island Part: This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV’s.
Picton to Blenheim: You’ll follow the valley south for a 30 minute drive to arrive in Blenheim, located in the heart of Marlborough – New Zealand’s largest wine producing region. Go through acres of leafy green vines and marvel at the magnificent ‘dry hills’ of Marlborough in the distance.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Sounds Connection Half Day Wine Tour: An afternoon among the vines! Be immersed in the Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You’ll be collected from your accommodation and taken through three or four hand-picked wineries to taste the award-winning produce this region is known for. You’ll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through. A lunch stop is not included in this tour so we do advise you have something to eat prior to this activity.
Accommodation – Timara Lodge: Hidden away in New Zealand’s most prestigious wine region, which is endowed with magnificent beauty and crystal clear Sounds, Timara Lodge offers a haven of peace, tranquility and relaxation. Nestled in 600 acres including a romantic lake and a beautiful English style park with sweeping lawns. Each room is completely private with spectacular views of the grounds.
Drive to the seaside town of magic Kaikoura today.
Blenheim to Kaikoura: Cross the ‚dry hills‘ of Marlborough and head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometres and offers many chances to view native wildlife. To the east is the South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is a bustling little place with many cafes, restaurants and shops – but the main reason for visiting here is the wildlife – and it’s one of the only places in New Zealand you can see whales all year round.
Accommodation: Hapuku Lodge was built to give guests a great night’s sleep in one the most beautiful places in the world. This Lodge sits tight between the mountains and the ocean, on a deer stud and olive farm.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Whale Watch Kaikoura: New Zealand’s only marine based whale watching company, Whale Watch Kaikoura offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime up close encounter with the giant sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world’s smallest dolphin, the Hectors, is sometimes seen. You’ll be taken out in modern catamarans specifically designed for whale watching – featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.
Kaikoura to Christchurch: Today you continue down the coast before heading inland through the North Canterbury wine region – the Waipara Valley. As you drive through this area you’ll be greeted by one of New Zealand’s most notorious animals, the sheep. If you’ve time on your hands we recommend taking a detour to Hanmer Springs for relaxing dips in its thermal pools. Arriving into Christchurch you’ll see a new and improved city, steadily rising from the ruins of the 2011 earthquake.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Christchurch Gondola: In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch city, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano – which exploded six million years ago. Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel – a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.
Accommodation: The George is the essence of supreme comfort. The award winning 5 star hotel is opposite Hagley Park and just a few minutes stroll from the Botanic Gardens. 2 superb award winning on site restaurants also feature.