For the professional as well as the beginner – this tour will be an unforgettable experience. It will take you through the most remote and fascinating areas of New Zealand – isolated high country, hidden lakes, clear rivers, and virgin rainforests. You will see many highlights of New Zealand on this trip, visiting the best National Parks but you will also have time for leisure and relaxation.
The tour itinerary has been designed as a great alternative to the classic routes. It can, however, be mastered by anyone who likes to drive a car and has a bit of the spirit of adventure. Detailed driving instructions will guide you to your daily destinations and accommodations. Some of the accommodations are unique and you will experience true Kiwi hospitality first hand. You can choose between budget, standard and superior accommodation.
You travel independently and choose whenever and wherever you want to take a break. If you have more time to spend we recommend you add a few days at some destinations. You can travel all year round, 365 days.
Day 1: Auckland
After arrival you pick up your rental car and travel documents. You then drive to your accommodation in the city. If you are not too tired make a leisurely stroll along Auckland’s waterfront.
Day 2: Auckland – Rotorua
Approximate driving time 3.5 hours, 146 miles
Pick up your rental car. You drive to Rotorua, the heartland of Maori culture and centre of thermal activities in New Zealand. Visit some of the natural wonders of this amazing area and let yourself be entertained by a cheerful sheep show. The many lakes and forests of this area offer plenty opportunities for water activities and walks. Relax in the thermal pools under the sky in the evening. We recommend a Maori cultural show with a traditional Hangi for the evening.
Day 3: Rotorua – Te Urewera National Park – Lake Waikaremoana – Napier
Approximate driving time 6.5 hours, 198 miles
Today you are crossing Te Urewera National Park and you will be happy to travel by 4×4. The partly gravel road takes you through dense rainforest to the secluded Lake Waikaremoana and later on to the Art Deco Capital of New Zealand, Napier at Hawkes Bay. A stroll through the city is a good contrast to the impressions of the day and will give you some insight in the interesting history of Napier. You can end the day at one of the many vineyards of this region.
Day 4: Napier – Tongariro National Park
Approximate driving time 5 hours, 100 miles
Driving on a less travelled road through the centre of the North Island will give you an insight into rural New Zealand. Parts of this road network were used in the past to connect the inland farms with the port of Napier. Horse drawn carriages used to struggle through the difficult terrain. The road is still only partly sealed and goes through one of the largest sheep stations in this country. You stay overnight at the foot of Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. You can do a walk in the afternoon in this fascinating area.
Day 5: Tongariro National Park – Whanganui National Park – Wellington
Approximate driving time 5.5 hours, 195 miles
Via Raetihi your tour continues to Pipiriki and along Whanganui River, the most beautiful river on the North Island. You follow the course of the river along the old Whanganui River Road to Wanganui and on to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Wellington is a vibrant city and we recommend a sightseeing tour and a walk along the waterfront to Te Papa the National Museum of New Zealand.
Day 6: Wellington – Picton – Nelson
Approximate driving time 1.5 hours, 68 miles, ferry crossing 3.5 hours
The tour with the ferry through picturesque Marlborough Sound is one of the highlights of your trip. From Picton you drive along the picturesque Queen Charlotte Drive with its many bays and beaches to sunny Nelson. Enjoy the local art scene and the many vineyards and beaches of this aea.
Day 7: Nelson – Nelson Lakes National Park – Lewis Pass – Hanmer Springs
Approximate driving time 6 hours, 192 miles
You drive to the remote Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park. A special track with some river crossings takes you from St Arnaud to Murchison. After lunch you return to the hinterland and travel on remote gravel roads through dense beech forest and cross the main divide via the Lewis Pass before civilization catches up with you again in Hanmer Springs. Relax in the thermal pools under the sky or take a walk, go golfing, hire mountain bike or do a bungy jump.
Day 8: Hanmer Springs – (Kaikoura) – Christchurch – Mt Hutt
Approximate driving time 4.5 hours, 180 miles
Make a side trip to Kaikoura to swim with dolphins and seals and watch whales in their natural environment. Or drive direct to Garden City Christchurch. Often referred to as the most english town outside England. Take a walk through Hagley Park and along the Avon River before you drive over the wide Canterbury Plains to the foot of the Southern Alps where you stay overnight.
Day 9: Mt Hutt – Lake Tekapo – Kurow
Approximate driving time 5 hours, 145 miles
The turquoise colour of Lake Tekapo will capture you. Take a scenic flight from Tekapo over Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. You drive then along a remote valley, covered by scarce vegetation and tussock grass. Climb across a long forgotten and rarely used mountain pass and stay overnight in a historic Bed & Breakfast.
Day 10: Kurow – Cromwell – Queenstown
Approximate driving time 6 hours, 215 miles
You drive over another remote pass. During the New Zealand gold rush this area was one of the most populated in the country. One of the reminders of this glorious past is the tiny village of St Bathans. A handful of historic houses, a pub and a very nice man made lake are the only witness of this era. From the wine region of Central Otago you drive over a remote track to the Wakatipu Basin and to Queenstown.
Day 11: Queenstown
There are no limits for adrenalin junkies in the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world: Jet boat tours, white water rafting, river surfing, all kinds of bungy jumping and river safaris. If you like it more relaxed do a leisurely walk in the Remarkables and admire the view, play golf at world class courses or visit to the gold mining town of Arrowtown. You can also do an organized trip to Milford or Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park. The possibilities are endless.
Day 12: Queenstown – Wanaka – Westland National Park/ Franz Josef
Approximate driving time 6 hours, 223 miles
You cross the Crown Range over New Zealand’s highest official road to Wanaka. You reach the West Coast over the Haast Pass, a scenic drive with many opportunities to stop and explore. Be impressed by the breathtaking beauty and the many different shades of green of the dense rainforest. Glaciers, rainforests and coast are close together in Westland National Park. We recommend a side trip to Monro Beach Walk and a stop at Ship Creek Walk. During the months of October to December you might even be lucky and see penguins and hector dolphins playing in the sea.
Day 13: Franz Josef – Hokitika/Greymouth
Approximate driving time 2.5 hours, 99 miles
Make one of the walks in the glacier area or book a helicopter flight with glacier landing from Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. There is a lot to see and to do. Visit the isolated Okarito at the coast and make a kayak trip through the quiet lagoon. Or a jet boat tour in Whataroa to a White Heron Colony where you can watch these rare birds. Hokitika and Greymouth are the jade centres of the country. Visit a workshop and watch the jade carvers doing their art work.
Day 14: Hokitika/Greymouth – Arthur’s Pass – Christchurch
Approximate driving time 4 hours, 160 miles
You can do a side trip to the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki in the morning. The route over the main divide to Christchurch takes you along Lake Brunner and climbs over Arthur’s Pass the only real mountain pass in New Zealand. The famous TranzAlpine Express train crosses it too. You arrive in Christchurch. Enjoy the many cafes and restaurants and take advantage of a last opportunity to purchase souvenirs from Aotearoa.
Day 15: Christchurch
Drop off your vehicle at the airport rental car office or in the city.