This tour is the classic New Zealand self drive tour, designed for your needs. Enjoy an everlasting holiday you might remember and explore the diversity of this amazing country on a stunning route from South to North. Experience the incredible natural beauty and Maori cultural heritage that makes our country so unique. The perfect tour to explore this pristine country!
Find here the itinerary daily details of your New Zealand tour.
This tour package can be customized to suit your requirements precisely. All our self drive tours can also be booked with a chauffeur/tour guide as a private tour option! Please let us know your special requests.
Please take a look at our other New Zealand self-drive tours and if you can’t find the right tour- no problem! We are happy to advise you individually to offer you the perfect New Zealand holiday. Get in touch with us! Behind this website are real people who want to share their enthusiasm and expertise for this country. You enjoy New Zealand and we take care of the rest.
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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.
After picking up your rental car at the airport you will drive to your first accommodation. On the way you will encounter the „City of Sails“. Today you can drive to Mt Eden, an extinct volcano, from where you can enjoy wonderful views over the city. Or you can drive to the elegant suburb of Parnell and the port of Auckland. Afterwards you can either stroll along the harbour or stroll through the shopping malls of the city centre. A visit to the War Memorial Museum or the Sky Tower is also recommended.
We recommend dinner at the Brazilian Wildfire Restaurant. This restaurant, located at the port, offers a special culinary experience. If you prefer dinner with spectacular panoramic views of New Zealand’s largest city, we recommend a visit to the rotating Orbit Restaurant in the Sky Tower (all activities optional).
Today you will leave the Auckland and drive through the fertile Waikato region, which is the „greenest spot“ in New Zealand with its lush meadows. Afterwards, the journey continues to the Coromandel Peninsula.
Today you will experience the Coromandel Peninsula. Visit the Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own „spa pool“ and relax in the hot water. Shovels can be rented locally for $10 or ask at your accommodation. To cool down afterwards, take a dip in the ocean.
You can also discover the impressive Cathedral Cove by boat, kayak or on a beautitiful little track. This rock formation on a white sand beach was also one of the settings of the movie „The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.“
Or take a ride on New Zealand’s only narrow-gauge railroad – the driving creek railway- which takes you over viaducts and through tunnels along magnificent landscapes. A windy course takes you about 2.7 km through lush native forest to a ’station‘ high on the mountain, offering you fantastic views of the Coromandel Peninsula.
Today you will leave the peninsula and head south towards Rotorua.
On the way there you will make a stopover in Matamata. Here you will discover the real Middle Earth. During your 2-hour guided tour you will visit the film set of the „Lord of the Rings“ and the „Hobbit“ triologies, which might be better known to you as the „Shire“. During your tour you will see the Hobbit Caves, „The Green Dragon Inn“ and many other highlights.
Afterwards you will continue to your today’s destination Rotorua.
This region is not only the center of Maori culture, but also famous for its geothermal activity. Geysers, steaming lakes and rivers, bubbling mudholes and multi-colored hot mineral springs known for their healing properties can be admired here.
Today you will spend a free day in Rotoruaa. You can, for example, take the cable car to a panoramic mountain and enjoy the panorama of Rotorua.
In Waimangu Volcanic Valley you can do different hikes (1.5km to 4km), where you will pass different hot springs and walk through rainforest. (optional)
In the evening you will visit a Maori village and participate in a Hangi. The „Hangi“ is the traditional feast of the Maori. First, a hole in the ground is dug, and next to it, special heat-sensitive stones are set to glow in a fire of hot-burning Manuka wood. Then the hole in the ground is filled with the hot stones, and the food to be cooked is placed on the stones in layers, wrapped in leaves. The hole in the ground is then closed with earth and the food is cooked naturally for several hours. You will be present to see how the „hangi“ is then „lifted“. Afterwards you will enjoy the wonderful steamed different vegetables as well as meat. There will also be a selection of salads and of course Maori bread. During a concert with dancing and singing, the Maori will perform their cultural Haka.
As your continue your journey today you can make a stop at Kerosene Creek at the Kerosene Hot Springs. These natural, free hot springs consist of a stream, a 2m high waterfall and several hot pools in the middle of the forest (approx. 200m walk from the car park) about halfway between Rotorua and Taupo. Afterwards your journey continues to Lake Taupo, which was formed about 2000 years ago by a huge volcanic eruption. Here, a stop at the foaming Huka Waterfalls or the geothermal park Craters of the Moon is worthwhile.
Afterwards you drive along Lake Taupo to the Tongariro National Park. This is dominated by three sister volcanoes Mt Ruapehu (2797 m), Mt Tongariro (1967 m) and Mt Ngauruhoe (2291 m), as well as a landscape of black ash, brown dust desert and mountain streams lined by native beech trees. Many Maori tales and legends surround the three mountains. In 1991 the national park was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, and two years later also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Various scenes of the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings were filmed in the Tongariro National Park. Mount Ngauruhoe can be seen in the film as Mount Doom. You will stay overnight here with a view of the volcanoes, in Ohakune, at the foot of Mt Ruhapehu.
The three still partly-active volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park form the scenery of your drive along Desert Road. The drive through barren country, surrounded by peaks up to 2700m, brings you to the green, fertile farm areas of Rangitikei and Manawatu. The journey continues along the Kapiti Coast to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Here you can visit the parliament, stroll along the promenade or explore the national museum „Te Papa“ (entrance free).
The funicular will take you to the Observatory, Botanical Gardens and viewpoint over the harbour, while from Mt Victoria viewpoint you can enjoy a magnificent view of New Zealand’s capital. In the evening we recommend a visit to Zealandia. With a local guide you can go for a short walk through the park and see various animals, which only become active in the evening. With a bit of luck you might even see the kiwi, an endangered flightless bird and the national symbol of New Zealand (all activities optional).
Early in the morning you leave Wellington by ferry and cross the Cook Strait to the South Island. The 3-hour trip on the Interislander ferry is very impressive and offers many beautiful photo opportunities. First you pass through the Cook waterway and then glide through the Marlborough Sounds, an area of „drowned“ valleys created by the geological subsidence of a low mountain range.
After leaving the vessel in Picton you will first reach Blenheim in the Marlborough Plain. Viticulture in this region started in the 70’s when Montana Wines was looking for new land. The composition of the soil, high sunshine duration, a long autumn and cold winter are excellent conditions for a first class wine, especially for Sauvignon Blanc.
Your journey then continues along the wild and romantic coast to Kaikoura. Sperm whales regularly occur here, attracted by the abundant food supply of the warm ocean currents. You can also observe fur seals that lie on the rocks here along the highway, and with a little luck even dolphins jump acrobatically out of the water.
Today you will enjoy a whale watch tour. You will go out on a boat under expert guidance to get closer to the whales. From Kaikoura, you will return to Picton and via the „shell town“ of Havelock, located on the edge of the Marlborough Sounds, you will travel via Pelorus Gorge, where you can enjoy a short hike through native forest (optional). Continue to Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city, and through fertile growing areas of wine, apples, pears and hops to the northern coast of the South Island.
Today you will first drive to Kaiteriteri in the Abel Tasman National Park. Here you will experience an amazing boat trip. Enjoy the trip along the coastline with extensive beaches and small offshore islands. The unique coastal landscape is especially popular for hiking. The boat ride will be followed by a 2-hour hike to intensively enjoy the beauty of the golden beaches and bays. Afterwards you will be taken back to Kaiteriteri, from where you will drive home to Nelson.
Travel southwest through the Motueka River Valley on a scenic drive. After crossing Buller Gorge, you will experience an impressive change of the local flora and reach the subtropical rainforest of the wild west coast.
At Cape Foulwind you will have the opportunity to observe a large colony of sea lions on a short hike. A wild and romantic landscape awaits you along the coastline.
Famous are the limestone cliffs of the „Pancake Rocks“, near the small town of Punakaiki, where you will spend the night today. Sculpted by sea and weather, these rocks resemble stacked pancakes.
After a drive through historic gold mining areas, you will reach the town of Hokitika, which is mainly the center of processing greenstone, the very hard New Zealand jade. Here you can visit a jade factory or the Kiwi House.
Continue along the west coast through evergreen rainforest to the glacier region of the Southern Alps. The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, about 12 km long, slide down to a height of 300 m above sea level, that’s worldwide unique in temperate latitudes.
Today you will drive through the rainforests of the Westland National Park. This is one of the most diverse and fascinating national parks in New Zealand, and has been declared a „Heritage Park“. The lush moss growth of the lowland rainforest and the swamp forests create a fairytale atmosphere.
Cross the Haast Pass and head inland again, where the Aspring National Park opens up to you. This combines more than 100 glaciers and some of the highest peaks in the Southern Alps. You will reach the lakes Hawea and Wanaka. The contrast between the lush green rainforests of the west coast and the dry grasslands of Otago is stunning. The forests are replaced by tanned sheep pastures and highlands covered with „tussock“ grass.
Enjoy the impressive, winding mountain route of the Crown Range, past numerous impressive views of the rugged mountains, you will reach Queenstown in the evening. Beautifully situated on the Lake Wakatipu, it was once settled by sheep farmers and later by gold prospectors, but has now developed into a tourist destination.
Today you are in for another highlight. You will take part in the Milford Sound Nature Cruise. In the west, 14 fjords reach deep into the primeval forests of a rugged alpine world. You will travel along the spectacular Milford Road. At the Homer Tunnel you often see the cheeky keas, the only mountain parrots in the world.
Arriving at Milford Sound, board an excursion boat that takes you through the fjord, gliding almost out to the Tasman Sea. Enjoy the wild romantic scenery, which is determined by almost vertical mountain walls, such as Mitre Peak.
Afterwards you will be brought back to Queenstown.
From Lake Wakatipu the journey goes on over Lindis Pass (971 m) and right through the McKenzie Country.
Sparse rainfall makes this highland appear as a barren steppe landscape. At Lake Pukaki you will have the opportunity to admire the magnificent glaciers of Mt. Cook. This area is full of magical contrasts. You will end another eventful day and spend the night in Twizel.
You will continue to the turquoise shining Pukaki Lake with magnificent views to the Southern Alps. A little later you will reach the turquoise Tekapo Glacier Lake, located in the middle of the mountains, with its photogenically situated small chapel. Flocks of sheep and colorful flowers complete the idyllic picture with the white mountains in the background. You will leave the mountains of the Southern Alps, cross numerous farmlands and reach Christchurch, the largest city of the South Island.
Please drive to Christchurch Airport in time and drop off your rental car here. From here you can start your journey home or onwards. We wish you a good flight!
Please take a look at our other New Zealand self-drive tours and if you can’t find the right tour- no problem! We are happy to advise you individually to offer you the perfect New Zealand holiday. Get in touch with us! Behind this website are real people who want to share their enthusiasm and expertise for this country. You enjoy New Zealand, we take care of the rest.