Start in Auckland or in Christchurch and visit four major award-winning New Zealand wine regions (Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough and Queenstown). See all New Zealand Highlights and enjoy our breathtaking nature. Experience regional specialities and an authentic Maori Hangi (traditional meal) at an authentic Maori village. It’s a relaxed schedule so don’t miss all the essential must-do’s along the way.
This is a fantastic self drive itinerary that offers a variety of unspoiled dramatic landscapes, geothermal activities, majestic Milford Sounds, stunning coastlines, Maori culture, local experiences and great superior accommodation.
This Food & Wine New Zealand journey is a superior self drive tour and also bookable for your Honeymoon or couples-holiday in New Zealand.
Accommodation & Meals:
21 x breakfast, 1 x lunch (day 2 during boat trip), 4 x dinner (day 1, day 4 during Te Po Experience, day 12 during a rural stay, day 15 during Walter Peak Tour)
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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 to allow time to explore and enjoy some stops. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support – details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.
Welcome to New Zealand!
Kia Ora! Welcome to New Zealand. You arrive at the airport and are taken by transfer to your accommodation in the city centre.
Today you will take a day trip to Waiheke Island.
A short ferry crossing from Auckland Harbour takes you there. The island has a moderate climate and ideal growing conditions for wine. Furthermore, various cafés, art galleries and restaurants are found here. You will take a gourmet tour of the island with a local guide and visit three wineries and an olive grove in a small group.
At one of the wineries you will have a light lunch and enjoy the view over the vines. In the late afternoon you will take the ferry back to Auckland.
In the evening you will enjoy your dinner in the Orbit Sky Tower.
You will pick up your rental car today and drive to Rotorua.
The area around Rotorua is famous for boiling mud pools, geysers and boiling lakes. Here you can feel the „pulse of the earth“ up close and the smell of sulphur around Rotorua shows that the surface of the earth is only very thin here. Even nowadays it is possible that the earth in people’s gardens breaks up and a new boiling mud pool is created.
You will be picked up from your accommodation and drive to a marae (Maori meeting place), where you will experience the dances and songs of the Maori and take part in a hangi, a traditional Maori meal cooked in the ground.
Today you have the option to visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which is famous for boiling mud pools, white sinter terraces, geysers and bubbling lakes.
It is the most colourful of the thermal areas. The main attraction is the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts up to 20m high every morning. Such a geyser is formed when overheated deep water penetrates into a groundwater reservoir, heats it up and brings it partly to boiling point. As a result, steam suddenly shoots up in meter-high water fountains.
At Rainbow Springs, a well-kept wildlife park, you can take a walk and see the tuatara, a 200 million year old reptile species, and in a night house you will find the unofficial national animal of New Zealand, the flightless kiwi bird. In the newly built Kiwi Encounter you can learn a lot of interesting facts about this strange bird, which has long puzzled scientists as to whether it even belongs in the bird category (optional)Accommodation: Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort
Expert tips: Today you have the option to visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which is famous for boiling mud pools, white sinter terraces, geysers and bubbling lakes. It is the most colourful of the thermal areas. The main attraction is the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts up to 20m high every morning. Such a geyser is formed when overheated deep water penetrates into a groundwater reservoir, heats it up and brings it partly to boiling point. As a result, steam suddenly shoots up in meter-high water fountains.
Your journey today takes you to Napier. Napier, situated directly on the sea, was completely destroyed during an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the 1920/30s. Since then it has been considered the best preserved city in the world in this striking architectural style.
The region around Hawke’s Bay was the area of the first commercial winegrowing in New Zealand. The riverbed in the Heretaunga Plain produces a variety of fruit wines and the surrounding slopes produce first-class Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, with a typical tropical fruity taste. You will visit the Mission Estate winery to taste 6 wines from the region. Afterwards you will have plenty of time to explore Napier and the surrounding wine region.
Today you will take part in a guided Art Deco tour, and can experience the history of the earthquake in the museum, stroll along the beach or visit the aquarium.
Today you head to Martinborough. Since 1984 this region has developed into one of the best wine producing areas. There are 17 boutique wineries in Martinborough. This area has low rainfall and the wine enjoys more hours of sunshine and warmth than the rest of the North Island.
Try one of the local restaurants in the pretty village of Martinborough and a Pinot Noir, which is particularly good here.
Today you’re going to Wellington. Since 1865 Wellington has been the capital of New Zealand, i.e. the political centre of the country. Worth seeing is the area around Parliament with the former government buildings, of which the oldest, built in 1876, is considered the second largest wooden building in the world. Opposite is the present government. The modern annex is architecturally striking, and known as the „Beehive“.
Today you have the opportunity to explore the capital city of New Zealand. Surrounded by nature and fuelled by creative energy, Wellington is a compact city with a powerful mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine. Fuel your visit with strong coffee and world-class craft beer – Wellingtonians are masters of casual dining, with plenty of great restaurants, night markets and food trucks. Make sure to visit Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum, take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens or relax in Oriental Bay.
In the morning you take the Interislander ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island. The journey is very impressive and offers very nice photo opportunities. You glide through the Marlborough Sounds, an area of drowned valleys, which were created by the geological subsidence of a low mountain range. Steep ridges still bear witness to the original mountain range, which today emerge as narrow peninsulas between deep sea trenches. The steep banks have a fiord-like character in places.
Once you arrive in Picton, you will take an afternoon boat trip for a seafood dinner. On the Seafood Odyssea Cruise you can relax and enjoy the breathtaking Marlborough Sounds with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and local seafood, such as mussels and salmon.
Continue to Blenheim, also known as the Wine Capital, in the Marlborough region. Wine-growing in this region began in the 1970s when Montana Wines in Auckland was looking for new land. The composition of the earth, the high sunshine duration, a long autumn and a cold winter, are excellent conditions for first-class wine, especially for Sauvignon Blanc.
Accommodation: The Peppertree
Today you will explore the Marlborough wine region further. You will cycle from winery to winery on your own (wine tasting not included). When winegrowing began in 1973, few expected this region to become the largest and most famous wine region in New Zealand in less than 20 years. The fruity, pungent tendencies of the first wines animated winemakers, as well as wine drinkers, and sparked a veritable outbreak of wine growing. Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular variety, with the Chardonnay grape in second place, followed by Pinot Noir and Riesling. Sparkling wine is also very popular. Afterwards you drive to Kaikoura.
Off Kaikoura’s coast, sperm whales regularly appear, attracted by the rich food supply of the warm ocean currents. In Kaikoura there is the possibility to go whale watching by boat (optional). Afterwards you drive to your next overnight stay, on a farm.
In the afternoon you will be welcomed by a warm farming family, who will take you on a farm tour to get an insight into the life and work of the New Zealand rural population. Very impressive is, for example, the rounding up of cattle and sheep. Also be sure to explore the large farm garden! The day will end with a tasty dinner in a cosy atmosphere with plenty to talk about with the farmers.
On the drive south you will experience an impressive change of vegetation. Passing extensive farm lands you approach the Southern Alps. The journey takes you through Mackenzie Country. Sparse rainfall makes this highland appear barren. Tussock (native grass) spans the hills like a carpet, and transforms the landscape into a strange looking inner-alpine basin landscape. At Lake Tekapo you can visit the Church of the Good Shepherd, impressive for both its seclusion and history. In good weather the snow-covered 3000m peaks of the Southern Alps are reflected in the turquoise, mirror-smooth lake.
You drive along the turquoise-coloured Lake Pukaki , which, in good weather, reflects the snow-covered peaks of the 3000m high southern Alps. From here it is not far to Aoraki/Mount Cook, which, at 3754m is the highest mountain in New Zealand. The journey continues through the Mackenzie Basin to Omarama, the „place of light“, with its bizarre siltstone rocks, a paradise for gliders because of its special thermals.
You cross the Lindis Pass (971 m) and reach central Otago and soon after Queenstown, which is often called the „St. Moritz of the South Seas“.
Due to its beautiful mountainous location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the small holiday resort of Queenstown has developed into the popular tourist centre of the South Island. The long lake stretches between steeply rising mountain ranges. You will spend the rest of the day in this scenery. You can take the cable car up to Bob’s Peak to enjoy a magnificent view of the adventure capital of New Zealand and the surrounding mountains (optional).
From a culinary point of view, Queenstown is a haven of options. Everywhere in the city there are restaurants and bistros. The burger joint Fergburger is especially popular amongst visitors.
In the afternoon you will take a trip on the historic steamboat „TSS Earnslaw“ and cross Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station. Here you will have a barbecue lunch before the steamer takes you back to Queenstown.
Today you drive to Te Anau, the gateway to the Fiordland National Park. At the entrance of the village, on the shore of the lake, you will find the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary, which is well worth a visit. Here, you will find endangered native birds, which are difficult to observe in the wild. The Takahe, a flightless bird, was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1948 in a remote mountain area and has been strictly protected since then. Other rare birds are also found here in large-scale aviaries.
Today is another highlight of your journey. You drive to Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest and at the same time most undeveloped national park. Hardly any landscape embodies the term wilderness better than Fiordland. In the west, 14 fiords penetrate deep into the primeval forests of a rugged alpine world like overlong tongues of the sea.
Not far away, snow-covered mountain peaks rise above alpine grasslands up to 2700 meters. On probably the most beautiful mountain road in New Zealand, you pass the Mirror Lakes and the dark Homer Tunnel and may even meet keas (alpine parrots) when you stop.
After about 2.5 hours drive you will reach one of the most famous places in New Zealand and the most beautiful end of the world, Milford Sound. Lush vegetation stands out in front of the reflecting fiord and in the background a huge mountain rises out of the sea. Already deeply impressed, you take a boat trip past huge waterfalls and, with a little luck, you will meet seals, penguins and dolphins. Afterwards you drive back to Te Anau.
Today you travel along the Southern Scenic Route to New Zealand’s southernmost city, Invercargill, founded by Scots. You can continue your journey to reach the southernmost point of the South Island, Bluff.
Today you might like try some delicious fish and chips, which are particularly tasty in New Zealand.
Today , the Catlins offer a wide range of hiking possibilities and many other attractions as you continue along the Southern Scenic Route. The first stop on the Southern Scenic Route in the Catlins is at a lighthouse at Waipapa Point, where New Zealand’s most terrible shipwreck took place in 1881. 131 people died when the ship ‚Tararua‘ ran onto a reef here. Sea lions can often be seen on the local sandy beach.
At Curio Bay you can then marvel at the tree stumps and fallen tree trunks of a 160 million year old petrified forest when it becomes visible on a rock platform at low tide. In nearby Porpoise Bay, with a bit of luck, you can observe the very rare Hector’s dolphins, which belong to the smallest dolphin species in the world and only occur in New Zealand waters. Sometimes the very rare yellow-eyed penguins can also be seen here. Heading towards Dunedin the last highlight is the lighthouse at Nugget Point, which was put into operation in 1870.
Dunedin is known as the Scottish stronghold of New Zealand. It was the Scots, who in 1847, gave their settlement the name Dunedin – the Gaelic name for Edinburgh. Today the former settlement is considered the world’s best preserved Victorian-style city.
Today you drive north along the east coast along spectacular places like Moeraki Boulders and Penguine Beaches.
The small settlement of Moeraki invites you to take a break off the main route. Here on the beach lie mysterious spherical stones, the Moeraki Boulders, which always fascinate visitors. Further north along the Pacific coast you continue to the limestone city of Oamaru. The city is famous for its Victorian architecture, rich history and little blue penguins. The port was vital to Oamaru and the surrounding agriculture areas during the late 19th century.
In this historic district, many of the well-preserved majestic buildings still stand today and house a variety of stores, restaurants, etc. Afterwards, you will continue on to Christchurch.
The largest city in the South Island is a vibrant, cosmopolitan place with exciting festivals and theaters, a wide variety of shopping opportunities and other attractions.
For your last evening we recommend you to dine in style on the restored historic tram, in an air-conditioned carriage. During a sightseeing tour through the heart of the rebuilt city center you will experience a unique mixture of old and new (optional).
Today your journey across New Zealand ends. You will drive to the airport and return your rental car before starting your onward journey. We wish you a safe journey home.
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