This self-drive tour of the best of both islands will take you to the very best this country has to offer. It lasts 15 days. Highlights include Auckland, referred to as “The City of Sails”, Rotorua, the centre of New Zealand’s geothermal activity, Maori Culture, Franz Josef Glacier – one of the few glaciers that is surrounded by rainforest. A day cruise through Queenstown, dubbed “The Adventure Capital of the World”, and the stunning shores of Lake Wanaka. This is your tour, done your way. Relax and enjoy the authentic Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Day 1 – Arrival at Auckland
One of our friendly representatives will welcome you to NZ. They will take you to your car rental and give you your personalized travel guide. You could visit Mission Bay, one of Auckland’s inner-city beaches where you can see magnificent Pohutukawa trees as part of your self-guided tour. The trip might also include Mt Eden, an impressive viewpoint and one the most well-known volcanic craters in Auckland, as well as a visit to one of The Road Trip’s favorite lookout spots, which offers great views of Rangitoto Island, Waiheke Island, and other islands. You will enjoy a 3-course dinner at Sugar Club, as well as a visit to the Auckland Skytower.
Day 2: Auckland to Rotorua via Hobbiton (250km, 3.5 hours driving)
Today, you will say goodbye to the City of Sails and travel south towards Rotorua, a hot spot in Maori culture. You will stop at Hobbiton and The Shire’s Rest on your way. These are the last remaining film sets from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Rotorua is best reached in the afternoon. You can take a tour of the city that includes Kuirau Park’s mud pool reserve, and then view the beautiful government gardens and lakefront. You can take a dip in the famous Polynesian Spa’s thermal waters (optional, extra cost).
Day 3 – Rotorua
You will be taking a guided walk through Te Puia, experiencing mud pools and geysers, and visiting the Maori Weaving School (included activity). This is your chance to view our national bird in person. The afternoon is open to leisure activities. Rotorua Gondola & Luge are some of the options. You can also visit Rotorua Agrodome and experience zorbing. Also, you can visit a kiwifruit farmer, The Buried Village in Te Wairoa or Redwoods Treewalk. All activities are optional and extra costs apply. Tonight, you’ll enjoy a Hangi with Maori natives and a cultural performance (included).
Day 4 – Rotorua Tongariro National Park (145km, 2 hours driving)
Today, you leave Rotorua and travel south towards Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s Unesco World Heritage Sites. Waimangu Volcanic Valley is your first stop on the day. This volcanic valley is a place of incredible geothermal activity. The world’s largest hotspring, sinter terraces, and stunning hot-cold pools in many colours will be on display. You can also cruise on Lake Rotomahana, above the famous Pink and White Terraces (included). You will arrive at Lake Taupo in New Zealand by heading south, stopping at the incredible Huka Falls. You will arrive in Tongariro National Park surrounded by volcanoes, beautiful Mangawhero Falls, and many LOTR filming locations. These include areas that were used to portray Mordor (the rocky wasteland of Emyn muil) and Mount Ngaurauhoe (known by LOTR enthusiasts as Mount Doom).
Day 5 – Tongariro National Park, Wellington (331km – 5 Hours Drive)
You can take one of the beautiful short walks in Tongariro National Park if you feel energetic. The Road Trip’s favorite route is two hours long and features native bush, stunning waterfalls, and volcanic views. You will travel south to Wellington in the afternoon. Here you can explore New Zealand’s capital. Take a city tour to see sights like Mt Victoria, Wellington’s highest viewpoint, Te Papa, our national museum or Zealandia, where you can have a dinner on the waterfront (optional, extra cost).
Day 6 – Wellington to Christchurch (35 minutes flight)
Today you’ll fly domestically to Christchurch. You could also take a Christchurch sightseeing tour in the afternoon. Christchurch is known as “The Garden City” in New Zealand. A city tour may include a walk in the botanic garden and a drive around Christchurch’s bays, stopping at Lyttelton, which was once the gateway to many of Christchurch’s early settlers. You might take a dip in the Avon River, or visit the International Antarctic Centre. Tonight, you can enjoy dinner at one of the many great restaurants in the city (all activities are optional and extra cost).
Day 7 – Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier (450km – 5 Hours Drive)
Today’s journey will take you across the Canterbury Plains, through the Southern Alps, and to Arthurs Pass. Keep an eye out for the Bealey river and the lakes Pearson and Lyndon, as well as the towering Alps. Stop at Arthurs Pass to take one of the many nature walks within the park. You might also be able to spot the Kea, New Zealand’s native alpine pararot. The waterfall is a spectacular 150-metre drop and offers stunning views of the mountains from the vantage point of native beech forests. This spot is our favorite. You can also stop in Hokitika for a visit to the greenstone factory. Here you can see up-close how the locals carve necklaces or sculptures out of the precious stone. Next, visit the Hokitika Gorge and its stunning bright blue waters and native forest. You can take a refreshing soak in the Glacier Hot Pools.
Day 8 – Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka (250km – 4 Hours Drive)
You will have the chance to take a scenic helicopter flight and snow land on Franz Josef Glacier. Or, you can go on a guided 3 hour heli-hike on glacier ice! Optional – Not included in quote This tour takes you over the Haast Pass from Wanaka, one of the most beautiful and dramatic in the country. On the way, you’ll stop at Lake Matheson (also known as Mirror Lakes), where you can see Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, on clear days. There are many walking options around Haast Pass today. You can take one or more walks. Some of these walk features spectacular waterfalls, deep blue pools and even trout swimming. Ship Creek is a beautiful beach with native totara trees that runs along rugged coastline. It’s one of our favorite spots on The Road Trip. Tonight, you will be in Wanaka – one of New Zealand’s most sought-after holiday spots.
Day 9 – Wanaka
Today’s excursion will take you to Wanaka, a beautiful lakeside community. There are many options: You can take a walk up one our favorite lookout spots with 360-degree views of Lake Wanaka and Aspiring National Park, the Clutha River and the Clutha River. Or you could go kayaking on the lake. If you’re feeling particularly fit, consider taking on the Rob Roy Glacier hike and Roy’s Peak. All activities are optional and may incur an additional cost.
Day 10 – Wanaka to Te Anau (260 km – 3 hours drive)
After exploring Wanaka this morning, your South Island tour takes to the Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest highway to Arrowtown. This is an important spot in the Central Otago gold rush in the 1860s. You can also visit the village of Chinese gold miners or browse the shops in the small town. Next stop: Amisfield Winery, where you can enjoy a 4-course degustation lunch overlooking Lake Hayes. You will continue driving for 2.5 hours to Te Anau.
Day 11 – Milford Sound Day Cruise and return to Te Anau (240km, 4 hours return drive).
Prepare for one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand’s landscape. The drive from Te Anau through Milford Sound is one the most breathtaking in the world, and a highlight of any New Zealand tour. You will be able to see breathtaking valleys and breath-taking mountains, as well as the cheeky Kea (New Zealand’s mountain parrot). Enjoy a 1.5-hour boat cruise through the Tasman Sea, featuring stunning waterfalls and majestic mountains that plunge into the Tasman Sea. You should keep an eye out for seals, dolphins, and the Fiordland crested Penguin. You can take a short walk in the Fiordland National Park on your return trip to Te Anau.
Day 12 – Te Anau – Queenstown – (184km – 2hrs drive)
You will be taking a boat tour across Lake Te Anau this morning to see the glow worm caves. This is a great opportunity to witness the shimmering glow of thousands of glow-worms in a 12,000 years old grotto. After this you’ll head to Queenstown which is known as New Zealand’s adventure capital. You will have stunning photos as you skim around Lake Wakatipu. Also, be sure to take in the Remarkables Mountain Range. This is one of the most iconic back drops of Lord of the Rings. Queenstown offers plenty of things to do and you can spend the afternoon as you please.
Day 13 – Queenstown
Enjoy an exciting ride on the Shotover Jet this morning! You can explore Queenstown and enjoy the many amazing activities this “Adventure Capital of the World” has to offer the rest of the day. Skydiving and paragliding are all options for adventurous types. A cruise on Queenstown’s 100-year-old steamship TSS Earnslaw or a stroll through Queenstown Botanic Gardens will allow you to relax and enjoy the day. You can drive to Glenorchy, at the head of Lake Wakatipu. Our clients love helicopter flights to Coronet Peak. Here, passengers can enjoy the snow all year. (Weather permitting).
Day 14 – Queenstown via Mt Cook to Tekapo (280 km – 4 hour drive).
Today you will leave Central Otago via the Kawarau Gorge, Cromwell and Cromwell. Here you can stop and try fresh fruit ice cream or New Zealand’s famous manuka honey products. Cross the Lindis Pass (965m), to reach Mackenzie Country. This country is known for its Merino Sheep industry and wool industry. If the weather permits, you can walk to the top of Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. You can also take a trip up to Mt John on your way to Lake Tekapo to feel like you are at the top of the world. The stunning 360-degree views of the Mountains and turquoise-coloured lakes can be enjoyed from this location (Road opens until 5pm, $8 fee). You will be staying in Lake Tekapo tonight and enjoying its turquoise coloured waters. Enjoy a guided tour of Mt John Observatory tonight to see the amazing night sky at Tekapo (included).
Day 15 – Lake Tekapo to Christchurch plus departure (243 km – 3 hours drive)
Today you’ll drive to Christchurch, where you will make your travel arrangements. We hope you had a wonderful tour with us.