From Christchurch to Auckland you’ll enjoy wildlife tours, scenic flights, glacier adventures, overnight cruises, award-winning wines and so much more. In the evenings you’ll relax at our favourite boutique lodges where your hosts will make you feel right at home. No matter if your interested in a classic driving tour combined with top boutique accommodation and an awesome adventure/actitivity package, or if you love scenic flights, helicopter ice-landings, nature and wildlife experiences, hiking, Maori culture. We offer it all.
And it’s the perfect Honeymoon in New Zealand as well! This is a once in a lifetime tour you will never forget!
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).
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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 Christchurch airport to your accommodation. On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Christchurch accommodation
INCLUDED– Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities – along with relevant brochures and information.
Christchurch, New Zealand’s garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights – or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.
Accommodation – Orari Bed and Breakfast offers elegant and inviting accommodation in the heart of Christchurch city. This heritage building has all the charm of a grand Victorian home, but with modern comforts providing for an enjoyable stay.
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.
Today you’ll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury Plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you’ll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo. Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand’s tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue colour. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village. Choose to view the Mt Cook National Park by a ski plane, or land on one of the glaciers in a helicopter. Find your sense of adventure and Kayak on a glacial lake or test your legs on one of the many walking tracks in and around the village. Before leaving, a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre is a must do.
Lake Tekapo is New Zealand’s highest lake and it’s turquoise colour astounds visitors. The unusual colour of the water comes from fine rock particles suspended in the glacier fed waters reflecting the light. One of the most popular – and most photographed – landmarks in the region is the Church of the Good Shepherd. This iconic stone building was dedicated in 1935 and utilises part of the wood from the demolished Tekapo bridge. Nearby a statue of a Bronze Sheepdog pays tribute to the strong contribution these animals have made to the farming community. West of Lake Tekapo is Mt John, and it’s here you will find the Canterbury University Observatory. Driving to the summit of this mountain is well worth the soaring views you’ll get from the top. Drive a little further towards Lake Alexandrina, a wildlife reserve home to many birds. No motorised craft are allowed on the water, making ita very peaceful visit. For a different view of this stunning landscape, catch a scenic flight over Mt Cook National Park and the West Coast Glaciers – Fox and Franz Josef.
Just a 1-1.5 hour drive from Tekapo, Mt. Cook National Park is a rugged and beautiful environment encompassing 19 peaks, the tallest of them being Aoraki Mt Cook – New Zealand’s highest mountain. Standing 3754 metres tall the Mt Cook can be seen from the southern end of Lake Pukaki. For those wanting a unique experience, catch a ski plane over the park, and land on the 15 kilometre long Tasman glacier. Stretch your legs on one of the many short walks around the area, and relax over dinner in the Mt Cook Village. Be sure to stop in at the new Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, showcasing the region’s contribution to pioneering the sport of mountain climbing. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.
INCLUDED – Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook: Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand – and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view inaccessible areas of NZ’s largest glacier – The Tasman.
Accommodation – Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki
The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884
Today you’ll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. You’ll go through Omarama, gliding capital of New Zealand. Be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley you’ll follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk. Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre – The Octagon.
Accommodation – Fletcher Lodge
Located just a few minutes walk from the hub of the city, Fletcher Lodge offers the charm and personal attention of a bed and breakfast whilst extending the amenities associated with full service luxury Hotels. Nestled in a secluded, established garden the lodge is conveniently located within minutes of many of the city’s finest and most popular cafes and restaurants.
INCLUDED – A half day tour of the Otago Peninsula and its unique wildlife including a cruise through Dunedin Harbour. A unique environment, this tour includes a visit to The Penguin Place to view the rare and unique yellow eyed penguin. The tour also includes a scenic bus tour and the wading bird wetlands
Accommodation – Fletcher Lodge
The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route.
Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound – renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.
Te Anau Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.
This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. By geological standards the caves are very young (12,000 years) and are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall.
This short drive takes you along the lake edge of Te Anau and across lush southern farmlands to the small township of Lake Manapouri, gateway to Doubtful Sounds.
INCLUDED – Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise:
Take in the tranquility of remote Doubtful Sound on this unique overnight wilderness cruise. Beginning in Manapouri with a short boat ride across the lake, you’ll be taken by coach over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. Board the Fiordland Navigator, a purpose-built vessel designed like a traditional coastal trading scow. Be accommodated in a private cabin with an ensuite bathroom or a quad-share bunk room with shared bathroom facilities. The Navigator has a large spacious deck for viewing the scenery and wildlife as well as a dining saloon, bar and observation lounge. As you take in the stunning scenery of the Fiord, you’ll be provided a running commentary of the area and its history, points of interest and wildlife. You’ll have the opportunity to see dolphins, fur seals and – if you’re lucky – rare Fiordland penguins.
After anchoring in a sheltered cove, choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or stabicraft, or if you’re really brave – take a dip in the water. In the evening enjoy a three course buffet dinner prepared on board and served in the dining saloon. Enjoy beer and fine wines from the licensed bar, and spend time star gazing on the upper deck. Following hearty cooked breakfast the next morning you will spend your remaining time exploring other parts of the fiord before returning to Deep Cove for the trip back to Manapouri.
Accommodation – The Fiordland Navigator is purpose built for cruising in the fiords. The vessel offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining saloon and observation lounge.
Your Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise returns to Manapouri at midday. Crossing the rolling tussocklands, pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. Continue north through lush Southland countryside towards Lake Wakatipu. The road now hugs the lake edge and the Remarkable mountain range towers over your approach to Queenstown, the adventure and adrenaline capital of New Zealand.
INCLUDED – TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour
Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship. You’ll be greeted off the boat and guided through beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead. Here you’ll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country.
On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.
Accommodation – The Dairy Private Hotel is a small private luxury hotel providing exquisite bed and breakfast accommodation. Just 1 minutes walk from Queenstown Centre it also features a large lounge and open fire, outdoor spa and a bar.
INCLUDED – Dart River Wilderness Jet: An hour and a half of thrilling high-speed wilderness jet boating skimming across the clear waters of the Dart River into the Te Waipounamu World Heritage Area. Hear about flora, fauna and history on a 30-minute rolling forest walk with your friendly guide. On a backroad tour of Paradise immerse yourself in scenes and backdrops from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.
Learn about the Pounamu (Jade/Greenstone) that made the Dart River a key trading route for early Māori. Tales of early settlers who carved rich farms from the rugged landscape.Total trip time is around 6 hours from Queenstown or 4 hours from Glenorchy.
Accommodation – The Dairy Private Hotel
From Queenstown you’ll cross the Crown Range – the highest sealed road in New Zealand – to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring national park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a ten minute walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole.
Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast – a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night – Franz Josef township.
Accommodation: – The Westwood Lodge is a purpose built lodge, crafted entirely from wood and exquisitely decorated throughout. The lounge is the place to meet to watch the Southern Alps turn a soft pink in the setting sun.
INCLUDED – Franz Josef Glacier Helihike:
After a thrilling helicopter scenic flight, high above the rugged terrain, you will land on the glacier, ready to undertake a three hour guided glacier hike. Your friendly guide will lead you through some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring glacial scenery in the world. Your guide will choose your route carefully as you go and, with an eye for the most spectacular ice formations, you’ll soon be making your way through an extraordinary landscape of towering peaks and glistening blue ice.
Following on from your Heli Hike enjoy access to Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, the perfect end to an unforgettable day.
Accommodation – The Westwood Lodge
INCLUDED – Considered one of the world’s great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You’ll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur’s Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.
INCLUDED – Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to Accommodation. On arrival into the Christchurch train station you will be met by a private transfer driver and taken to your accommodation.
Accommodation – Orari Bed and Breakfast
The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury’s major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline – where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive. See fur seals on the rocks as you approach the township and if you’re lucky, spot whales and dolphins off shore.
Accommodation – Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses was built to give guests a great night’s sleep in one the most beautiful places in the world. The Lodge sits tight between the mountains and the ocean, on a deer stud and olive farm.
Today follow the coast to Picton, located at the top of the South Island. As you leave Kaikoura take in the spectacular shoreline and keep a lookout for native wildlife as you go. Stop to view adult fur seals at Ohau point, and take a short stroll inland to view the pups frolicking in the waterfall upstream. Continuing on, you’ll have the ocean on one side and the Kaikoura ranges on the other before traversing the dry hills of Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine producing region. Visit one of the vineyards surrounding Blenheim for wine tasting or a gourmet lunch before beginning the final leg of your journey to Picton.
INCLUDED – Interislander ferry Picton to Wellington:The 92 km journey between Picton and Wellington takes around 3 hours and has been described as ‚one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world‘.
Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds. This region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays offer remarkable photographic opportunities. From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and often dolphins and sea birds are seen.
After crossing the strait you approach Wellington Harbour and pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand’s oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country’s highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph).
Accommodation – Bolton Hotel Wellington 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 (including WiFi), a personal bar, and air-conditioning.
Leaving Welllington today you will first pass the Wairarapa on the eastern side of the Rimutaka Ranges. A significant contrast to the hills of Wellington, it’s rich pastures and boutique vineyards of Martinborough give way to grassy plains and rugged coastal shores.
Go through Greytown, home to the largest number of wooden buildings in the country then stop in Masterton, a small farming town known for its Golden Shears competition – where shearers compete for the title of fastest shearer. Continue on to Hawkes Bay and Havelock North before arriving in Napier, the art deco capital of New Zealand.
Accommodation – McHardy Lodge: A 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms. This beautifully restored, single storey 1890’s residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city.
Napier, the city by the sea, is renowned for its 1930s Art Deco architecture, events such as the Art Deco Festival in February, stately Norfolk pines, surrounding wineries and local fresh produce. Supported by a Mediterranean climate and over 2,200 hours of sunshine a year this popular year-round destination boasts a vibrant cafe culture amongst the splendour of the Art Deco buildings. Around 30 cafes are within walking distance of the central city area. Marine Parade overlooks the Pacific Ocean and out towards Cape Kidnappers, home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony. A full day can be taken visiting Ocean Spa hot pools and swimming complex, the Hawke’s Bay Museum and the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
A landmark of Napier is Bluff Hill, which is home for many Napier residents and provides views of the town, beaches of Perfume Point and Westshore and out towards Whirinaki. In 1931, New Zealand’s greatest natural disaster struck Hawke’s Bay. At 10.47am on Tuesday February 3rd, an earthquake of magnitude Richter 7.8 struck. In a minute and a half, in two separate shocks, the centre of Napier was almost totally destroyed. Fires quickly broke out and reduced to ashes or gutted what the tremors had left standing. The reconstruction of Napier and Hastings were costly but the benefit was two modern cities.
With is mediterranean 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 the birthplace of NZ wine, can’t be missed. 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.
INCLUDED – Twilight Odyssey Progressive Wine and Dinner Tour:
Take a scenic drive through the vineyards as you learn about the region and its wines. Enjoy a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at Vidal. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views from Te Mata Peak while enjoying a glass of bubbles as the sun sets from 399m above sea level (overlooking the glimmering lights of the Twin Cities in winter). The Twilight Odyssey Tour starts at approximately 5:30pm and continues to approximately 11:30pm and includes Sightseeing of the region with Fully Guided Commentary, Progressive Three Course Meal at NZs Top Winery Restaurant, Wine Tasting, Champagne, Wine with Dinner, Dessert Wine, Tea and Coffee.
Accommodation – McHardy Lodge
Black Swan Boutique Lodge combines old world charm with a modern funky twist. Set in one acre of outstanding gardens on the edge of Lake Rotorua, the lodge is an intimate retreat just a short drive from the centre of Rotorua.
INCLUDED– Orakei Korako Hidden Valley with Volcanic Air Safaris by floatplane:
On this spectacular scenic flight you’ll take a floatplane over the Crater Lakes District and the volcanic rift of Mt Tarawera. You’ll then continue south via the Waimangu and Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park to land in the Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako. Transfer by boat across the lake to explore the hot springs, gushing geysers and natural beauty of this geothermal wonderland before rejoining your aircraft for the return trip to Rotorua.Allow 2 hour 15 minutes for this activity.
The drive from Rotorua to Auckland takes you through the heart of the Waikato and its rich agricultural land. New Zealand’s longest river – the Waikato – guides you through the art and craft stores of Tirau and the township of Cambridge. Continue on a little further to arrive into Auckland City – New Zealand’s largest, with a population of around 1.5 million people (about one third of the national population) spread over approximately 60 square kilometres. From the vibrant and trendy fashion and cuisine found in Ponsonby and Parnell to the breathtaking native bush and beaches of the West Coast, Auckland is full of life and the opportunities to explore are endless.
Accommodation – Eden Villa is an historic villa located in a quiet street in Mt Eden, just a short drive from downtown Auckland. Nearby Mt Eden Village, offers a great selection of cafes and restaurants. Guests at Eden Villa can feel at home whether relaxing in the spacious garden or sitting by the fire in winter. All rooms are beautifully appointed with modern en suite bathrooms.
The drive from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands takes around 3.5 hours but give yourself a little leeway for stops and sightseeing. As you go through Puhoi, take in the bohemian atmosphere of this historical township. Stop for a breath of fresh salty air in Whangarei and take another break at Kawakawa – home to the world famous Hundertwasser toilets. Enjoy the native bush surrounds and marvel at the endless golden beaches as you arrive into central Bay Of The Islands, Paihia.
Accommodation – Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell’s tranquil Matauwhi Bay.
INCLUDED – Dolphin Cruise to Hole in the Rock: Board your cruise and take in the stunning views as you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’. According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle.
Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for dolphin viewing and the crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.
Accommodation – Arcadia Lodge
Today you will leave the Bay of Islands for a scenic return trip to Auckland. Head west, leaving the Pacific Ocean for the wilder seas of the Tasman and Hokianga. Go through the small townships of Omapere and Opononi, each with a great seaside feel. Your route now goes south through Waipoua Forest, home to the largest and oldest Kauri trees in the country.
Make sure you allow time for several of the signposted short walks as you pass – not to be missed is the five minute loop to view the largest of all the trees -Tane Mahuta. As you make your way back down the country you’ll pass the Matakohe Kauri Museum with extensive displays on the region’s logging, farming and social history. Continuing on, go through Warkworth and the bohemian settlement of Puhoi before crossing the harbour bridge to arrive in Auckland city.
Accommodation – Eden Villa
Explore more of vibrant Auckland city before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey. Please remember: Fill up your car with fuel before returning it to the rental car depot at the airport.
Farewell from New Zealand. Thank you for joining our tour and visiting New Zealand!