On the other side of the world, opposite Europe, New Zealand’s North and South Island extend over a length of 1600 kilometres. Endless beaches, fiords, fern forests and geysers, the magnificent mountain world of the Southern Alps, as well as endless pastures, open up a multitude of unique opportunities for nature lovers.
Hardly any other part of our world offers so many different landscapes in a relatively small area. The spectacular landscapes and the species-rich flora and fauna are the focus of this journey. The natural beauty of our National Parks is one of the most impressive experiences of this tour. A boat trip in Milford Sound will certainly remain unforgettable. Covering the best features of both islands you will travel in comfort and by your own paste. Your accommodation is waiting for you. And it’s the perfect Honeymoon in New Zealand as well!
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 look at our other New Zealand self-drive tours and if you can’t find the right tour- no problem! We are happy 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 your round trip, 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.
Despite the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Christchurch was placed second on The New York Times’ list of 52 ‘Places to Go’ in 2014. This speaks volumes of the spirit of this city and its people, whose collective creativity has seen a number of restorative art projects developed on the empty lots and buildings the disasters left behind. The city also offers a fabulous array of activities, including punting down the Avon River, helicopter tours, hot-air ballooning and whale and dolphin watching. Or stroll around the Botanic Gardens.
Welcome to New Zealand!
After picking up your rental car, you can embark on a tour through New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’, as Christchurch is also fondly called.The famous Hagley Park invites you to take a walk or let you swing leisurely over the Avon River. Another attraction is the International Antarctic Centre near the airport. We also recommend an exceptional dinner at the “Tramway Restaurant” on the train.
Just 75 kilometres from the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, Akaroa is a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. Relax or take part in the many activities that are on offer. Explore the dramatic outer bays and take your time to soak in the magic of this area.
The drive takes us over the mountains of the crater rim of the “Banks Peninsula” to Akaroa. Despite British sailors who proclaimed British sovereignty for the South Island in Akaroa in 1840, it was the French settlers who established a kind of colony here. Even today, one discovers the French influence in the area, which can be found mainly in geographical names.
There is a special feature in Akaroa Bay: Hector’s dolphins live there, a rare species that only occurs here. A nature reserve has been set up on the coast especially for these sea dwellers so that the dolphins are not injured by fishing nets. In the afternoon, you will go on a boat trip where you will have a closer look at the dolphins.
Oamaru has two unusual claims to fame: remarkable Victorian architecture and penguins. This is indeed an unusual combination but Oamaru is no ordinary town. Many of the town centre’s newly renovated historical buildings play host to an array of quirky galleries, wonderfully bizarre shops, and trendy cafes all run by a small tight-knit community of often wildly eccentric bohemian locals. Oamaru’s main attraction is undoubtedly the opportunity to witness colonies of blue penguins, the smallest and only blue species of penguin in the world, as well as yellow-eyed penguins, one of the world’s rarest birds. Once this highlight has been ticked off the list, take a stroll around the well-preserved Historic District, with its distinctive, limestone, nineteenth-century buildings that have afforded Oamaru the title “The Whitestone City”. Throw in a surprisingly impressive culinary scene and it’s no wonder that this kooky little hamlet is fast gaining a reputation as New Zealand’s coolest town.
You will pass through the Banks Peninsula, wine-growing areas and the fertile Canterbury Plain, characterised by agriculture and cattle farming. You cross the Rakaia River, known for huge salmon, and continue south to Oamaru.
A colony of native Little Blue Penguins has settled at the harbour. Every evening before dusk, the animals come back ashore. From a grandstand you can watch hundreds (seasonal) of penguins from a few metres away as they waddle out of the sea to their nesting sites on land – a very amusing spectacle!
Situated on tree-covered hills overlooking the spectacular Otago Harbour and Peninsula, Dunedin (Celtic for Edinburgh) is New Zealand’s largest city geographically. But there’s no urban sprawl here; instead you’ll find impressive historic architecture, parks, and natural beauty in abundance. You’ll want to visit Larnach Castle (high tea is served at 3pm every day); Speight’s Brewery for tours, tastings and hearty meals; St Paul’s Cathedral; and the Ice Stadium to watch a game or two of curling. Beyond the city limits you’ll find some gems, too, including the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and the seaside settlements of Karitane and Port Chalmers.
You continue to follow the Pacific coast southwards. The small settlement of Moeraki invites you to take a break off the main route. Here, the mysterious stone balls of the ‘Moeraki Boulders’ lie on the beach and continue to fascinate visitors. Continuing along the coast, you reach the capital of the Otago Province, Dunedin, founded by the Scots.
Dunedin is home to rare wildlife.
A visit to Larnach’s Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, is also an important and popular piece of Dunedin’s history and well worth a visit.
In the afternoon you will visit the wildlife hotspots of the Otago Peninsula on a Standard Peninsula Encounter Tour by Elm Wildlife Tours. On the bus tour with a naturalist guide you will discover Hooker sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and many different species of seabirds, such as albatrosses.
Oban is the largest settlement on Stewart Island (also known as Rakiura), the southernmost inhabited island of the New Zealand archipelago. Most easily accessed via ferry from Bluff, this scenic destination on the shores of Halfmoon Bay makes an excellent base for exploring some staggering natural attractions on the island. Key activities include swimming and sea kayaking; bird watching at the Ulva Island Open Sanctuary; chartered fishing trips; and a range of hiking and walking trails. As well as shorter tracks, this area is famous for its range of long-distance walks, including the Rakiura Track (36 kilometres, three days) and the North-West Circuit (125 kilometres, about 10 days). Finally, Oban is one of the few places in the world to view the aurora australis (or Southern Lights).
We first pass through the rarely visited area of the ‘Catlins’, a wild and rugged stretch of coastline remote from civilisation. Here there are numerous sea bears and sea lions, which you may be lucky enough to see. You reach the small town of Bluff, popular with gourmets for its excellent oyster farming. Here at the southern end of the South Island you board a comfortable catamaran and cross the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island.
After breakfast, you will set off on a natural history excursion. This time the tour takes you by boat to a small island off the coast: “Ulva Island”.
This island is considered a first-class bird reserve where you can study the endemic birds of New Zealand in a natural environment. No telephoto lens is needed to photograph the native forest birds such as tui, bellbird, weka, kereru and kakariki – they are so not shy. The primary forest, dominated by rimu, miro, totara and rata, is also virtually untouched and free of introduced predators.
An accompanying local guide will give you a first-hand account of New Zealand’s rainforest and the special features of the flora and fauna on Stewart Island.
Te Anau is situated in the southern region of New Zealand’s South Island, on the eastern bank of Lake Te Anau (the largest lake on South Island). The town is the perfect gateway to the unique and awe-inspiring geographical attractions of Milford Sound (boasting rich marine life and spectacular views), and the Fiordland National Park (offering the excellent Kepler, Routeburn, and Milford hiking and biking trails among astonishing landscapes). However, beautiful Te Anau has plenty to offer in its own right. Active travellers can enjoy water sports on the lake, such as kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and trout fishing, while gentle boat cruises provide a more leisurely option. Make sure to visit the incredible Te Anau Caves to see other-worldly displays of glowworms and an impressive underground waterfall, and visit the beautiful native birds at the Punanga Manu o Te Anau aviary.
After a 1-hour catamaran ride, you return to the mainland. Along a scenic side route with remote bays, you pass the nice town of Riverton, situated on a lagoon, with pretty cafés and galleries. You follow the windswept, lonely coastline north, surrounded by forested mountains. At Clifton you can visit the beautiful historic suspension bridge built in 1899. You continue on scenic road 99 through farmland filled with herds of deer, cattle and sheep to Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.
Doubtful Sound is a real insider tip, as it is not directly accessible by car like Milford Sound. It can be reached by boat from Manapouri via the glacier lake of the same name. You can reach Doubtful Sound by bus via the 670 m high, steep Wilmot Pass. This pass was only cut into the rock to build the power station at Lake Manapouri. You will explore this pass by kayak.
Surrounded by steep mountains, lush green vegetation and a spectacular play of colours, you will get to know the flora and fauna of the fjord country. Bottlenose dolphins are often seen. Seals are numerous on isolated rock formations. Muttonbird, Bellbird, Tui, Shearwater and native Wood Pigeons can be spotted along the way.
Here you can fully surrender to the feeling of untouched wilderness.
Queenstown is situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and has stunning views of the surrounding alpine peaks. Considered by many as one of the world’s adventure capitals, it offers visitors a wide selection of adrenaline-boosting activities to choose from, such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, zip lining, skiing and skydiving. Queenstown also has a lively bar and restaurant scene, and for those who prefer the quieter things in life there are vineyards, golf courses, spas and wellness centres.
You cross the vast plains of Southland, known for deer farming. You pass vast pastures full of sheep and cattle feed crops, but also native, rare tussock grass. The journey continues along Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. Due to its beautiful mountain location on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, the small holiday resort of Queenstown has developed into the popular tourist centre of the South Island. The elongated lake stretches between steeply rising mountain ranges.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most exciting destinations and therefore offers plenty of attractions. Explore wineries, spectacular filming locations, adventure activities or pamper yourself with a trip to a spa.
The quaint west coast town of Franz Josef has a few hundred permanent residents, but numbers swell during the holidays to around 2000 visitors per day. This is glacier country, and Franz Josef glacier (after which the town is named) and Fox Glacier, some 23km further south, are the main attractions. The town offers myriad options for cosy accommodation, especially after the snow and ice activities on offer – combine a helicopter tour with a guided walk on the glacial terrain to view ice caves, and spectacular crevisses and pinnacles. Helicopter tours over the two glaciers are also available, with a stop off at the head of either glacier so you can experience the frozen landscape up close.
The drive continues through Otago’s main wine and stone fruit growing area and along the glacier lakes of Wanaka and Hawea. You drive through the mountains of the Aspiring National Park and reach the Haast Pass a little later, crossing the climate and watershed of the Southern Alps. Along the west coast you drive through evergreen rainforest to the glacier region.
Above the snowline, large masses of ice accumulate to form fast-flowing valley glaciers. The Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier slide down to a height of 300 m above sea level – unique in temperate latitudes.
As its name suggests, this historical town lies at the mouth of the Grey River. The town is well geared for travellers, offering all the necessary services and the odd tourist attraction, the most famous of which is Shantytown, a re-created 19th-century gold-mining town surrounded by an impressive native forest. Greymouth’s wide avenues are strewn with galleries specialising in pounamu, also known as New Zealand jade. Spend a day admiring these exquisite greenstone carvings for which this town is famous, take a tour of one of the town’s impressive local breweries, or indulge in some excellent trout fishing on the peaceful banks of the stunning Lake Brunner. Greymouth caters for a broad range of interests. Those in search of adrenaline pumping adventure will be well sated, but so too will those looking for a quiet, relaxing day out in a magnificent natural landscape. There really is a little bit of everything for everyone in Greymouth!
You continue along the west coast and drive through historic gold mining areas.
The West Coast is also known for its jade and greenstone deposits. In Hokitika, this precious rock is processed into beautiful jewellery. Here you have the opportunity to hike in the coastal rainforest.
The journey continues to Greymouth. Greymouth’s past bears witness to gold fever and the forces of nature.
On the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the seaside settlement of Kaikoura is located on a rocky peninsula, protruding from lush farmland beneath the mountains. This little hamlet has become a popular tourist destination, primarily due to its famous wildlife watching opportunities. Few places can boast such a wide range of accessible wildlife. With whales, dolphins, fur seals, penguins and albatrosses frequently spotted, this area is truly a nature lovers dream. Visitors can join the Art Trail to witness the skilled local artisans at work in their own studios and galleries or visit the town’s first home which was built in 1842, remains remarkably well-preserved and, interestingly, was built using whale bone as its foundation. So, if you are looking for a bit of history, a touch of crafty culture and a whole heap of outdoor adventure, Kaikoura won’t fail to impress.
From Greymouth, take a little-used road to Reefton, a former gold-mining town where coal is still mined today. At Lewis Pass you can study flora and fauna on a ‘Nature Trail’. The journey continues through native southern beech forest surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Definitely worthwhile is the short detour to the spa town of Hanmer Springs, where you can relax in the open-air thermal baths (optional). Continue your journey through fertile hilly farmland and then along the Pacific Ocean to Kaikoura.
Huge sperm whales regularly occur off Kaikoura’s coast, as they use the deep waters offshore on their passage to/from Antarctica, and warm ocean currents provide rich food sources. If you are lucky, you can watch hector or dusky dolphins from the shore as they shoot elegantly and acrobatically out of the water. With a seal colony nearby, New Zealand fur seals can also be spotted in the water and lying on the rocky shore. Seabirds of all kinds (sometimes even the majestic albatrosses) visit the often rugged Kaikoura coastline, gliding effortlessly through the skies.
Sandwiched between the lush green rolling hills of the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island and the calm, tranquil waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, lies the small, picturesque town of Picton. This peaceful seaside town is known as the gateway to the greater Marlborough area and it makes an excellent base for exploring the Sounds, the Queen Charlotte Track or the wonderful wine region around Blenheim. The town’s favourable location around a sheltered harbour makes it an ideal spot for boat cruising, fishing, dolphin watching or sea kayaking. Less energetic travellers can enjoy browsing local craft markets, exploring the floating maritime museum or simply watching the world pass by at one of the numerous cafés and bars lining the waterfront of this delightful little port town.
In the morning, a very special adventure is on the programme. You will go out on a boat under expert guidance to get closer to the whales. They regularly occur here, especially the giant sperm whales.
Then continue through Blenheim on the Marlborough Plain. Viticulture in this region began in the 1970s. The composition of the soil, high sunshine duration, a long autumn and cold winter seemed to be the best prerequisites for a first-class wine.
You reach Picton. The small harbour town is not only the centre for excursions into the world of deserted bays and waterways framed by deep green forest, but also the port for the ferry to the North Island.
Encompassing vast farmlands and lush forests, Waikanae is a scenic town with an idyllic location between the calm Tasman Sea and the rugged Tararua Ranges, along New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. Ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, this seaside setting is home to the stunning Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve, the sandy shores of Waikanae Beach, the refreshing swimming holes and walkways of the Waikanae River, and the spectacular coastal area of Nga Manu Nature Reserve, a thirteen-hectare forested area home to over 56 bird species. Additionally, visitors can roam around the lively city centre’s artisanal stores and decadent eateries, or visit the famed Kapiti Coast Museum. Don’t miss out on a chance to indulge in organic produce and artisanal products at the bustling Saturday Market.
The journey on the Interislander ferry is very impressive and offers many beautiful photo motifs. First you glide through the Marlborough Sounds, an area of “drowned” valleys created by the geological subsidence of a low mountain range. Steep ridges still bear witness to the original mountain range, which today jut out as narrow peninsulas between deep inlets. The steep banks have a fjord-like character in places. Salmon and mussels are farmed in the sounds – next to wine production, the most important industry in the region. You will then pass through the Cook Waterway, which separates the North Island from the South Island, and reach the port of Wellington.
Here in Wellington, you will explore a nature reserve in the middle of the city.
In the late afternoon, you will drive along the Kapiti Coast and stay overnight in Waikanae, a small town north of Wellington.
The small rural town Ohakune is blessed with magnificent scenery, as well as some of New Zealand’s best skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of nearby Mount Ruapehu. Sporty travellers will be in their element here, with kayaking, hiking and cycling also high on the list of local activities. Ohakune is the kick-off point for trips to Tongariro National Park, the country’s oldest wildlife reserve and a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site, known for its stunning glacial lakes with aquamarine waters, rugged volcanic peaks blanketed with snow, and rich Maori culture. The town also has plenty of great wining, dining, shopping and entertainment options.
This morning you board a boat in Paraparaumu to the strictly protected and mammal-free Kapiti Island. Here you have a permit from the nature conservation authority to explore the island on a natural history walk. Special features of this island include the numerous forest parrots (kaka) and the takahe, which is almost no longer found on the mainland, the kokako and other endemic birds. If the weather is good, you can see as far as the South Island from the island’s lookout point.
The drive heads north from the Kapiti Coast through fertile farmland into the volcanic centre of the North Island. Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand and of volcanic origin. The wise foresight of Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino laid the foundation for the establishment of the fourth oldest national park in the world. Tongariro National Park is defined by three sister volcanoes, of which Mt Ruapehu (2796 m) is the highest and most active.
In the early morning you have the opportunity to do the “Tongariro Crossing” hike. You climb the impressive volcanic massif on a trail that has become one of the most popular hiking trails due to the constantly changing, partly moon-like landscape and the spectacular views. You look from Mt. Tongariro (1967 m) to the sister volcanoes Mt. Ngauruhoe (2291 m) and Mt. Ruapehu (2796 m). You will cross several craters, pass fumaroles and hot springs and admire the bright turquoise “Emerald Lakes”. The strenuous alpine traverse opens up almost all vegetation forms of the national park. Solidified lava flows and bizarre rock forms convey a feeling of “moonscape”, while minerals colour the crater lakes garishly.
The city of Rotorua has been a spa town since the 1800s, thanks to the many geysers, hot springs and mud pools that can be found in what is one of the world’s most active geothermal fields. The Maori, who considered the region sacred, make up 35% of the population and a popular attraction is discovering their rich culture and traditions. Rotorua is surrounded by lakes, mountains, forests and other natural features that afford visitors the opportunity to try out a number of outdoor activities between relaxing sessions in the hot springs and pools.
Today you have another opportunity for a natural history hike and circle the beautiful Lake Rotopounamu at the foot of the Tongariro volcano. Then you will pass Lake Taupo. Stop at the famous Huka Waterfall.
Continue to Rotorua. Rotorua is famous for its many hot springs, geysers and mud volcanoes. The city is also the centre of Maori culture. We recommend a visit to Tamaki Village. There you will learn honoured traditions, stories, songs and performing arts of the ancient times, which are still widespread among the Māori today.
Set on the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula’s Mercury Bay, alluring Whitianga is a charming seaside destination best known for Buffalo Beach, a five-kilometer-long stretch of white sand perfect for swimming, fishing, and collecting seashells. There are plenty of other activities on offer, including hiking(through the grand Coromandel Ranges), or kayaking or snorkelling (among bright schools of fish in the secluded Cathedral Cove, where a cathedral-like tunnel separates two tranquil, pristine beaches lapped by calm, turquoise waters). Those seeking an unusual and relaxing experience can dig themselves a private spa bath on Hot Water Beach. Travellers visiting in September can look forward to the Whitianga Scallop Festival, a fun-filled weekend tradition with an emphasis on seafood cuisine and cooking demos.
Along the Bay of Plenty, past the harbour town of Tauranga with the striking volcanic cone of Mount Maunganui and the gold-mining town of Waihi, you will reach Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula.
If you have some time, visit the city centre of Tauranga, which has several historically significant areas that can be explored on a delightful walk.
The laid-back beach town of Mount Maunganui sits on a peninsula by Tauranga Harbour and actually has a huge white sandbank.
Today is dedicated to the east coast and its diverse beaches. Highlights include Cathedral Cove, Hahei Marine Reserve and Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own spa pool right on the beach (tide dependent).
Auckland with its suburbs has over 1 million inhabitants. It is the largest city in the country and spreads generously over a narrow isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. Over 60 extinct volcanic cones and craters characterize the landscape, while an endless procession of sails in the harbor is typical of the relaxed way of life here. Auckland was the state capital until 1865 and is today the economic center of New Zealand.
You leave the Coromandel Peninsula and head north to Auckland. During the drive to your hotel you will get acquainted with the “City of Sails”, as Auckland is also called.
You can drive up the extinct volcanic cone of Mount Eden, from where you have a beautiful view over the city, or drive to the elegant suburb of “Parnell” and on to Auckland Harbour. Here you will visit the Sea Life Aquarium, where you will learn a lot about New Zealand’s underwater creatures.
Your New Zealand tour ends today. You drive to the airport and return the rental car to the car rental agency.
We wish you a pleasant onward or homeward 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. That’s why we are winner of the “Bespoke Tour Operator of the year” LTG-Award – New Zealand 2018, 2019″.
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 your round trip, we take care of the rest.
Get in touch for your unforgettable New Zealand holiday. That’s what we are here for. Behind this website are real people who are at your disposal with expertise and passion for this extraordinary place in the world. We know where to go as we live here – and we are looking forward to sharing our hidden gems with you.