The Essential New Zealand
28 Day Self Drive Touring Itinerary Starting in Auckland
Breadcrumb
New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

The Essential New Zealand

The ultimate New Zealand essential tour! Visit and experience the very best of New Zealand, from the top of the North Island, to the deep south, enjoy superb hospitality with a fantastic range of boutique hotels and lodges. Includes a wide range of different experiences designed to immerse you into the scenery of this incredible country.

Tour summary and feature
Brief Overview & Inclusions

Self Drive Touring Itinerary

This suggested tour costs from NZD$15,844 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch

28 days/27 nights

Boutique Lodges & Hotels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 49 times in the last 7 days

This tour idea can be customized to suit you perfectly.
All our New Zealand touring ideas are designed to inspire & inform you. Our specialty is Tailor-Made New Zealand touring vacations & holidays. To start your plans just contact our team of specialists today and leave the rest to us.
Tour full itinerary
Day by Day Itinerary
The Essential New Zealand - Day 1
Private Transfer Auckland Airport to Auckland Accommodation

You will be met at the Auckland airport by the driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand's self-proclaimed "City of Sails" is the country's largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - All Blacks Experience

See what it takes to make, shape and be an All Black. Experience first-hand the excitement and emotion of game day. Discover the stories behind some of world rugby’s most famous players, moments and matches.
This guided experience introduces you to the game of rugby before being lead through state-of-the-art displays combining sound, images, interactive technology and hands-on activities. Discover New Zealand’s deep passion for our national sport, experience the full force of the All Blacks haka, tackle interactive zones where you can try out your kicking, catching, line-out and accuracy skills against legendary All Blacks.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Wētā Workshop Unleashed

Explore worlds of horror, sci-fi and fantasy in the making. An exciting, realistic, and authentic experience, with three fully developed and original film concepts: A nail-biting horror Fauna, a fantasy epic Age of the Ever-Clan, and the mind-bending sci-fi Origins.
A 90-minute guided experience through fully themed environments, including immersive horror, fantasy, and sci-fi story worlds. Be immersed by a specially-created unique sweeping cinematic soundtrack, animatronic creatures, physical and digital interactives, hyper-realistic sculpted giants and characters, a horror house experience, and much more.

Your accommodation: Fable Auckland

Located right on Queen Street the Fable Auckland is boutique and stylish property with an ideal location to enjoy and explore the vibrant heart of the 'City of Sails'.
The Essential New Zealand - Day 2
Coast and Rainforest Full Day Tour with Bush and Beach (includes lunch)

Your full day excursion takes you first to the Arataki Visitor Centre, gateway to the Waitakere Ranges and a short drive from Auckland Central. Enjoy panoramic views extending from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean as you absorb the area's history and admire the magnificent traditional Maori carvings. Walk the regenerating rainforest where your experienced guide will detail local flora and fauna. Take in the giant tree ferns, and bubbling streams before venturing onto a wild west coast beach. Enjoy a picnic lunch before your eco-tour ends in an area of untamed original rainforest. Here, mature 200-300 year old kauri trees have developed separately from the rest of the world for millions of years and this part of the rainforest is particularly rich in bird life due to a successful programme to eradicate pests.

Your accommodation: Fable Auckland

Located right on Queen Street the Fable Auckland is boutique and stylish property with an ideal location to enjoy and explore the vibrant heart of the 'City of Sails'.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
The Essential New Zealand - Day 3
Collect your rental car.

We have an extensive range of late model cars and 4WD vehicles from the top suppliers. See the range here or chat with your consultant about special requests such as vehicle type, size or features.

Auckland to Waipoua Forest

The drive north to Waipoua Forest and the Kauri Coast takes you along the remote West Coast of the North Island and around one of the world's largest natural harbours, the Kaipara Harbour. The region was worked by immigrant Dalmatians who toiled to make a living from the gum fields. A visit to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe tells the story of their hardships and pioneering spirit and of the remarkable impact this tree had on the region and the wider world and is a must do. You'll have plenty of opportunity to stop along this spectacular route, so be sure to leave time for sightseeing.

Twilight Waipoua Encounter

Experience the Waipoua Forest at night on this spectacular 4 hour tour. Learn about the rich birdlife and fauna that inhabit the forest, including the carnivorous kauri snail. You'll also get to experience the deep spiritual respect the Maori people have for this place. Your Maori guide will brief you on the protocols for your visit and you once formal greetings have been made you will be allowed to meet the giant Tane Mahuta, or Lord of the Forest - the oldest Kauri tree in the world.

Your accommodation: Waipoua Lodge

Waipoua Lodge is nestled on a ridge overlooking the mighty Waipoua Forest. Experience authentic New Zealand luxury hospitality in a breathtaking ancient and natural environment. Please contact the property a day or two before your arrival to discuss menu preferences.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 221 kms / 137 miles : 2.7 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 4
Waipoua to Russell, Bay of Islands

From Waipoua Forest continue north to the Hokianga Harbour and the historic townships of Omapere and Opononi. A short detour to Rawene (signposted) is worthwhile to view the wooden buildings on the harbour. Crossing from the West Coast to the East you soon arrive to the subtropical Bay of Islands. Kerikeri, famous for its crafts and fruit orchards is the largest township in the region and is also home to some fine historic buildings. Paihia sitting on the western side of the harbour is a busy little tourist town while Russell on the eastern side offers a more tranquil escape.

Your accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 135 kms / 84 miles : 2.2 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 5
Hole in the Rock Cruise with Fullers GreatSights

Board your cruise and take in the stunning views as you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known as the Hole in the Rock. According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for dolphin viewing and the crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.

Explore the Bay of Islands

Commonly known as the ‘winterless north’ New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is made up of over 140 subtropical atolls. Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate, this tropical paradise ticks all the boxes. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or see the dolphins on an ocean safari. If diving is your thing, take the morning to descend the Rainbow Warrior - The Greenpeace flagship sunk by French saboteurs in 1985. Wander around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843. Learn about our culture in historic Waitangi, the site where The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the Maori and European settlers dictating the terms by which New Zealand would become a British colony. Alternatively you may like to take a day tour to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

Your accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 6
Paihia to Auckland direct

Today leave the Bay of Islands behind as you head south towards Auckland, City of Sails. You'll go through Kawakawa, famous for its unique Hundertwasser toilets, before passing the port-side town of Whangarei. Continue on through Warkworth and take a side trip to Matakana, renowned for its beaches and boutique vineyards. As you near the outskirts of Auckland, stop for a breather in Puhoi, New Zealand's only Bohemian settlement, before passing through the North Shore and into the heart of Auckland City.

Your accommodation: Fable Auckland

Located right on Queen Street the Fable Auckland is boutique and stylish property with an ideal location to enjoy and explore the vibrant heart of the 'City of Sails'.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 137 miles : 2.8 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 7
Auckland to Waitomo

The drive south from Auckland takes you into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato, before arriving in the limestone hills of the Waitomo countryside, which is home to a huge underground network of caves.

Footwhistle Glowworm Cave Tour

Your tour begins as you are picked at the Waitomo iSite and enjoy a scenic shuttle to Caveworld's family owned cave, while your guide provides commentary bringing the rich history of Waitomo to life. Here you will take a short walk through the breathtaking New Zealand bush, keeping an eye out for the native birdlife. Heading down to the entrance of the cave you will discover the beauty of the glowworms, learn about the formation of Footwhistle Cave - known to local Maori as Te Anaroa Cave. You are encouraged to bring along your cameras a tripods to freeze the beautiful twinkling lights in time, with dim solar-powered lights through the cave that allow you to appreciate the magnificent displays and get the perfect shot. Complete your intimate tour with a Kawakawa tea as you relax in a ponga hut nestled into the native surrounds.

Your accommodation: Kamahi Cottage

Kamahi Cottage is a luxury country cottage, farm stay and self-contained 5 Star Bed & Breakfast just 30 minutes from Waitomo Caves. Ideal as an intimate romantic retreat or weekend getaway, it’s peaceful and private with stunning views. The setting is a large and lovely country garden on a typical New Zealand sheep and cattle farm.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 111 miles : 2.1 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 8
Waitomo to Rotorua

Today cross the lush farmland of the Waikato as you make your way inland to Rotorua. Pass through several small farming towns such as Otorohanga and Putaruru, before the region’s geothermal activity signals your arrival into the city of Rotorua.

Your accommodation: On the Point

On the Point is a beautiful lodge accommodation in a stunning location and offering panoramic views. It also offers gourmet New Zealand food and wine, as well as a range of on site activities from pampering massage, fly fishing from the private beach, water sports, tennis, gym and boating and is only 10 minutes from the heart of Rotorua City.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 139 kms / 86 miles : 1.9 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 9
Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. Geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to one of the Maori Villages should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Spike your adrenaline at Velocity Valley Adventure Park on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Alternatively, head up the Rotorua Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.
Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

Te Pā Tū Evening Maori Cultural Experience

New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, presenting Te Pā Tū. Feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pā (village) blanketed by towering Tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheatre. Te Pā Tū shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across 4-hours of celebration and feasting. These events change with each season of the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar.

Your accommodation: On the Point

On the Point is a beautiful lodge accommodation in a stunning location and offering panoramic views. It also offers gourmet New Zealand food and wine, as well as a range of on site activities from pampering massage, fly fishing from the private beach, water sports, tennis, gym and boating and is only 10 minutes from the heart of Rotorua City.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 10
Rotorua to Napier

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.
Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake, a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of hundreds of cubic metres of water spilling every second down the narrow 11 metre drop.
For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Art Deco Trust Guided Evening Walk

Experience Napier's fascinating heritage created by the dramatic story of this city's rebirth in the vibrant 1930s. In February 1931, Napier was levelled by earthquake and fire but was rebuilt in the depths of the Great Depression in just two years. Nowhere else in the world can you see such a concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s: Art Deco, Spanish Mission, and Stripped Classical.

Your accommodation: McHardy Lodge

This beautifully restored, single storey 1890's residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city. Experience a 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 11
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

With its Mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. A trip to Mission Estate touted as the birthplace of NZ wine can't be missed. For the truly enthused head out on a tour of the vines. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city's architecture including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world. If you're after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. End on a high with another ride, this time in a comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony, the largest of its kind in the world.

Walking tracks in and around Hawkes Bay

There are some excellent walks in and around the Hawkes Bay region. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation. Listed below are a selection of short walks but check with the Department of Conservation information centre for weather conditions, track suitability and conditions first.

Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve Tracks
Discover Te Ana or Tangoio Falls on a short, easy walk suitable for kids, or take a longer walk through native bush on the Tangoio Walkway. .
Distance: 2 - 4.4 km one way. Completion Time: 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on which track you choose.

White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve
Experience New Zealand's remaining coastal forest on these short, easy walks that are good for children.
Distance: 1.6 km loop. Completion Time: 40 minutes.

Ahuriri Estuary
View a community of wading birds, fish, mud dwellers and aquatic plant life from the estuary track and boardwalk. Over 70 species of resident and migratory waterbirds use the estuary as a feeding and resting area.
Distance: 2.8 km one way. Completion Time: 1 hour.

Te Mata Park
Te Mata Park has a rich human and geological history, and is home to a range of unique plants and native birds. The park has five different walking options varying in difficulty and distance.
Distance: 1.3 km - 5.4 km. Completion Time: 40 minutes - 1 hours 15 minutes.

Lake Tūtira
There are two main walks at Lake Tūtira, a short walk along the edge of the lake or a longer loop through the reserve. Both offer great views of the lake as well as native and introduced plant species.
Distance: 1.3 km - 5.4 km. Completion Time: 40 minutes - 1 hours 15 minutes.

Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui Walking Track
Follow the beach from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui alongside cliffs that show fragmented fault and tilt lines, recording the gradual rise of New Zealand. Black Reef is the first gannet nesting site, 7.5 km from Clifton. A 1 km climb takes you from the shelter on the beach to a benched area on the hill where you can view the second colony, and spectacular views of Hawke's Bay.
Distance: 19 km loop. Completion Time: 5 hour return.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hawkes Bay Wine and Dine Tour with Grape Escape

Experience a fun-filled Grape Escape wine and dine tour in the sun driving through absolutely stunning scenery. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of this region's fantastic wine. We visit four to five boutique wineries. Later, we enjoy a light cheese platter on the grounds of Ngatarawa or Sileni, weather dependent. You will taste around 30 different wines along with the main varieties, including Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, and lesser-known aromatics such as Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Triple Chocolate Dipper Tour with the Silky Oak Chocolate Company

A true chocolate indulgence combining chocolate tasting at Silky Oak Chocolate factory shop, entry into the Chocolate "Thru' the Ages" Museum, a Chocolate drink (or tea/coffee), chocolate muffin/ slice, served with liquid chocolate and cream at their Café.  You'll be presented with a bonus take-home gift - chocolate of course! This is chocolate overload for serious chocoholics!

Your accommodation: McHardy Lodge

This beautifully restored, single storey 1890's residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city. Experience a 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 12
Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.
Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

Your accommodation: Naumi Hotel Wellington

Naumi Studio Wellington, an iconic heritage landmark in the heart of the Cuba Street precinct. After an extensive renovation, this 116-room property has transformed into visual feast for the senses, enthralling guests with eclectic spaces inspired from seafaring, the library world and enduring love.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.1 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 13
Wellington City

Wellington home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini Melbourne', this (self-described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food, and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner-city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.
Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique, fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.
Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop Experience, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. If you're a foodie at heart, a two-hour round trip to Martinborough is a must-do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For an educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia, the world's first fully-fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

Lord Of The Rings Half Day Tour - Wellington

With some of the best Lord of the Rings tours Wellington has to offer, you will not be disappointed on this tour. You'll visit local filming locations, view a short documentary showing the filmmaking exploits of Peter Jackson and his remarkable team and be guided through the sights and sounds of the Weta Workshop in Miramar. This is followed by a fascinating 'Window into the workshop' exhibition, showing film props and weaponry, with the artists themselves describing how the artefacts were created.

Your accommodation: Naumi Hotel Wellington

Naumi Studio Wellington, an iconic heritage landmark in the heart of the Cuba Street precinct. After an extensive renovation, this 116-room property has transformed into visual feast for the senses, enthralling guests with eclectic spaces inspired from seafaring, the library world and enduring love.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 14
Interislander Ferry Wellington to Picton with exclusive access to the Premium Plus Lounge

The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Leaving Wellington Harbour you pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph). From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many sea birds are often seen.
Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds - and this region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays is a remarkable photographic opportunity. At the end of Queen Charlotte Sound the cruise comes to an end in the picturesque town of Picton.
When you're not out on the deck enjoying the amazing views, you can retreat to the exclusive Premium Plus lounge which is the most comfortable and relaxing way to travel across the Cook Strait. You'll enjoy complimentary beverages, light snacks, lunch or breakfast, internet access, magazines and newspapers and the most comfortable seating, so you can sit back and enjoy the journey.

Collect your rental car.

We have an extensive range of late model cars and 4WD vehicles from the top suppliers. See the range here or chat with your consultant about special requests such as vehicle type, size or features.

Picton

Picton is a picturesque portside town at the top of the South Island. Gateway to the forest, marine and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds, Picton is built around a sheltered harbour. Home to cafes, restaurants and galleries it also has a floating maritime museum and aquarium. Picton is also the starting point to Queen Charlotte Track, one of New Zealand’s leading hiking trails.

Your accommodation: Escape to Picton Boutique Hotel

Escape to Picton is a beautiful boutique hotel situated on the waterfront overlooking the marina in Picton. Just a two minute walk to the boats, where you can take advantage of the many activities on offer in the region.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 15
Picton to Kaikoura

From Picton head south on State Highway One towards Blenheim, and the wine producing region of Marlborough. Ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce, stop for a guided wine tour with Full Day Marlborough Wine Tour.
Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometres and offers many chances to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. To the east is the Pacific Ocean and to the west you'll follow alongside the Kaikoura Ranges before arriving into the bustling Kaikoura Township.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Seafood Odyssea Cruise with Marlborough Tour Company

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Queen Charlotte Sound with seemingly endless bays and coves to explore and different scenery around each corner. Seafood Odyssea Cruise offers a unique range of sightseeing, birdlife and wildlife. Learn about the Marlborough Sounds area, the local seafoods grown and enjoy a fabulous seafood tasting on board matched to stunning Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Your accommodation: Bendamere House B&B

Bendamere House B&B has quality ensuite rooms, detached from the main house adding to the privacy and comfort, with superb views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Seaward Kaikoura mountain range.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 157 kms / 98 miles : 2.1 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 16
Kaikoura

The Kaikoura Coast is renowned for its abundant marine life, and this is huge visitor drawcard. Due to the teeming food supply in its icy seas, whales, seals and dolphins are frequently spotted year round in the area. Observe the fur seal colony basking in the sun at the tip of the peninsula and be sure to take a trip by boat to view the whales.
If you prefer, hop aboard a 30 minute scenic flight and see the coast by air. But if you're feeling really adventurous take a dip with the resident seal population on either a land or boat based trip. Kaikoura township has a charming feel and after a day of marine adventures is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. not to be missed is a meal of fresh crayfish - the town's signature dish. Before you leave, visit historic Fyffe House for insight into the region’s Whaling Past.

Captains Cabin Experience with Whale Watch Kaikoura

The Captain’s Cabin is situated in the wheelhouse alongside the skipper and watchkeeper. This cabin provides guests with exclusive access to the skipper as they go about their duties as well as a dedicated guide for the duration of the tour. There is a maximum of 12 passengers, giving a more intimate, comfortable, and modern setting.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - South Pacific Helicopters Aftershock Adventure

This forty-minute scenic flight travels through the Clarence River Valley and up into the mountains for a landing at the turquoise waters of the newly formed Hapuku Lake, created during the 2016 earthquake. This trip showcases the unique geology of the Kaikoura area, and shows you some of the effects of the incredible earthquake that triggered over 20 faults to erupt, changing the landscape and environment forever.
Some of the sights you can see during your flight include the Papatea Fault, which is visible along the coastline heading out into the sea, and the coastal uplift which was up to 6 meters in some points.

Your accommodation: Bendamere House B&B

Bendamere House B&B has quality ensuite rooms, detached from the main house adding to the privacy and comfort, with superb views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Seaward Kaikoura mountain range.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 17
Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs

The drive from Kaikoura follows the spectacular coast before heading inland through North Canterbury’s major wine region, The Waipara Valley. You’ll see many sheep as you wind your way through the vineyards and small towns of Rotherham and Waiau before arriving into the alpine village of Hanmer Springs, your destination for the night.

Hanmer Springs Private Thermal Pool Hire - 30 Minutes

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa is set in the charming alpine village of Hanmer Springs and offers 15 thermal pools of various temperatures, so there's a perfect pool for everyone. For families, there is a large family activity pool where the kids can burn off excess energy. Set amongst alpine scenery the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pool is great fun and the ideal way to enjoy a day in Hanmer Springs. The complex has 6 private indoor thermal pools. The hot spring spas are between 39 and 40 degrees Celsius and each pool is beautifully lit with views to the outside. Each of the private pools also contains its own shower and changing area so you'll have everything you need right there. You'll feel a world away from everyone else and love the opportunity to spend some quality time forgetting the stress of everyday life.

Your accommodation: The St James

Architecturally designed and elegantly furnished suites at The St James ensure each and every guest enjoys the tranquility and splendor of Hanmer Springs, coupled with unmatched service and comfort.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 134 kms / 83 miles : 2.0 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 18
Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

Today you’ll travel through the Waipara Valley, the fastest wine growing region in New Zealand and across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch. You’ll pass vast grassy plains and parched farming landscapes as you make your way over the Weka Pass and past small towns such as Amberley and Leithfield before arriving into the largest Port in the South Island, Christchurch.

Your accommodation: The George Hotel

The George is the essence of supreme comfort. The award-winning 5 star hotel is opposite Hagley Park and just a few minutes stroll from the Botanic Gardens. It also has an award-winning restaurant, 50 Bistro onsite.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 122 kms / 76 miles : 1.5 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 19
Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.
Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens, or head to Oxford Terrace in the city to find a great spot to eat or drink.
Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.  

Christchurch Triple Pass - Tram, Punting and Gondola

Experience three of Christchurch's iconic attractions in one day: the Christchurch Tram, Christchurch Gondola, and Punting on the Avon River. The historic tram is a delightful way to explore the evolving inner city, taking in the various sights with the hop-on hop-off pass and learning about the city from the live commentary. You'll also enjoy a bird's eye view of Christchurch and the Canterbury region including the distant peaks of the Southern Alps when you ride the gondola cableway to the top of the Port Hills in Heathcote Valley. Punting on the Avon River takes you through the city's green belt: a relaxing way to explore what is affectionately known as the 'Garden City'.

Your accommodation: The George Hotel

The George is the essence of supreme comfort. The award-winning 5 star hotel is opposite Hagley Park and just a few minutes stroll from the Botanic Gardens. It also has an award-winning restaurant, 50 Bistro onsite.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 20
Christchurch to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue colour. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village.
Please note: There are no food shops at Mt Cook, and dinner options are limited to one restaurant. If you wish to self-cater, you must stock up before arriving in Mt Cook, or make dinner reservations in advance.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 21
Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park

At 3754 metres Aoraki-Mt Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain, located deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. From the Visitor Centre at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of this immense peak. As well as its impressive beauty, Mt Cook National Park is also home to a huge range of awe-inspiring sights and activities. Take to the air with Mt Cook Ski Planes for a scenic flight that includes a glacier landing. At around 27 kilometres long the Tasman Glacier is New Zealand's longest and a Glacier Explorers tour will give you the opportunity to see its unique features.
There are many short hikes in and around the park and these are well signposted. Those with an interest in the night sky should take a stargazing tour with the Hermitage Hotel. The region is considered to have one of the clearest night skies in the world and is one of the few gold-rated dark sky reserves worldwide.
The Hermitage Hotel complex offers fine dining, multiple cafes and a bar. Due to the remote location of the property, there are no shops and limited supplies at Mt Cook Village. Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre for insight into this region's mountain climbing history. You'll also learn of Sir Ed's incredible achievements and his dedication to helping others around the world.

Ultimate Alpine Adventure

On this flight you will have the chance to fly in both the Ski Plane and Helicopter in the same day. Flying through the remarkable Tasman Valley and landing on the snow covered peaks with this scenic option is an unforgettable experience! Depart from Aoraki Mt Cook Airport in either our Ski Plane or Helicopter. Enjoy the beautiful views of the many mountains surrounding the picturesque Tasman Valley as you fly through one of the most beautiful regions New Zealand has to offer. The icebergs dotting lake the blue glacier lake, the Hochstetter ice fall and the cloud piercing Aoraki Mt Cook are some of the stunning views you will encounter on your journey through the Southern Alps. After landing high in the mountains you will get to spend some time enjoying one of the many snow covered peaks that Aoraki Mt Cook National Park has to offer. With snow covered shoes you will then fly back to the Aoraki Mt Cook Airport in the either the Ski Plane or the Helicopter. Giving you the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the park in both aircrafts, making this flight option a spectacular once in a life time opportunity.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 22
Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown

Leaving the alpine region of Mt Cook, you'll travel through the lakeside town of Twizel, then a little further to Omarama - the gliding capital of New Zealand. Continue on over the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads with a summit of 971 meters. Arrive in the quaint village of Tarras, then continue on a short way to the historic Bendigo Reserve, one of Otago’s original gold mining settlements.
Follow the road to Cromwell, and keep going through the sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge towards the Gibbston Valley, one of New Zealand's premier wine growing regions. See the historic Kawarau Bridge where you can bungy jump or relax and watch others take the plunge. Approaching Queenstown, the Remarkables mountain range comes into view as you arrive into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. You'll be greeted off the boat and guided through beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead.
Here you'll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country.
On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship's pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: Hulbert House

Hulbert House is a boutique accommodation in a beautifully restored Victorian villa dating back to 1888. Steeped in authentic history, the hosts bring you a distinctive combination of historic elegance and contemporary service.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 257 kms / 159 miles : 3.0 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 23
Milford Sound Coach, Cruise, Fly small group tour from Queenstown

Experience Milford Sound from the road, sea and air on this full day journey. Ride in a premium Mercedes van with panoramic windows to fully enjoy the stunning scenery, then head to the water on a cruise of the fiord before taking to the air for the journey back to Queenstown over the breathtaking Southern Alps.

Your accommodation: Hulbert House

Hulbert House is a boutique accommodation in a beautifully restored Victorian villa dating back to 1888. Steeped in authentic history, the hosts bring you a distinctive combination of historic elegance and contemporary service.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
The Essential New Zealand - Day 24
Explore Queenstown

Well-known as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’, Queenstown is home to a range of adventures, from the world's first and most famous bungy jumps to jet boat thrills, white-water rafting, and skydiving. However, Queenstown offers far more than a fast-paced, action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic, and scenic wonders. Take a stroll through the beautiful lakefront parks and gardens, browse through market stalls on weekends, dine in wonderful al-fresco restaurants, or ride on the 100-year-old historic Steamship - TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station. Take the Queenstown Gondola up to Bob's Peak and soak up the panoramic views of the magnificent lake and mountain ranges. And after all of that, if you do want the adrenaline rush, Queenstown is known for taking your pick from the Shotover Jet, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge, or Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Central Otago Wine Tour with Altitude Tours

An immersive, fun and educational wine tour visiting five of Central Otago’s finest and off the beaten track cellar doors through the big four wine regions of Gibbston, Cromwell, Bendigo and Bannockburn.

Your accommodation: Hulbert House

Hulbert House is a boutique accommodation in a beautifully restored Victorian villa dating back to 1888. Steeped in authentic history, the hosts bring you a distinctive combination of historic elegance and contemporary service.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 25
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier via Wanaka

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in New Zealand to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1-hour return walk through the native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beaches occasionally. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. Keep heading North and be sure to enjoy the view of the ever-changing towering snowcapped Southern Alps Mountain Range. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night Franz Josef township.

Your accommodation: Westwood Lodge

Westwood is a purpose built lodge, crafted entirely from wood and exquisitely decorated throughout. The lounge is the place to meet to watch the Southern Alps turn a soft pink in the setting sun.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 26
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike

After a thrilling scenic flight, high above the rugged terrain, you will land on the glacier, ready to undertake a 2.15 hour guided glacier hike. Your friendly guide will lead you through some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring glacial scenery in the world. Your guide will choose your route carefully as you go and, with an eye for the most spectacular ice formations, you’ll soon be making your way through an extraordinary landscape of towering peaks and glistening blue ice.

Explore Franz Josef

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

Your accommodation: Westwood Lodge

Westwood is a purpose built lodge, crafted entirely from wood and exquisitely decorated throughout. The lounge is the place to meet to watch the Southern Alps turn a soft pink in the setting sun.
Meals included: Breakfast
The Essential New Zealand - Day 27
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today head north along the mighty West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beach occasionally. Whataroa is the next town where you can see one of the world's rarest birds, the New Zealand white heron or Kotuku nest at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve, and guided tours from October to March will take you there. 
Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings and workings remain. In fact, Ross is still home to one of the few working gold mines left in New Zealand and the local information center offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Hokitika is a great place to explore craft and gift stores and head to the coast and take in the endless sea views. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge is located 45 minutes inland and offers turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located at the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur's Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

Your private transfer driver will meet you on arrival into Christchurch train station and take you to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: The George Hotel

The George is the essence of supreme comfort. The award-winning 5 star hotel is opposite Hagley Park and just a few minutes stroll from the Botanic Gardens. It also has an award-winning restaurant, 50 Bistro onsite.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

The Essential New Zealand - Day 28
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

Tour quick quote rework
Get an Instant Quote or Book this Tour
The Essential New Zealand
Step 1:
Step 2: Select preferred car type or size
No pricing loaded - please make sure you have selected a car type or contact us
Step 3: Select number of passengers and room configuration

Enter phone number to get a call from a travel planning expert within in 24 hours

Enter email address to receive your instant quote

Tick this box if you do not wish to receive emails about special offers
No pricing loaded - please choose another date or contact us
Your quote for this tour:
Start date:
End date:
Guests:
Rooms:
Car type:
Total cost for ALL guests on this tour package is:
NZD$0
This quote is based on vehicles to accommodate your party in the vehicle type. We suggest changing the car type or contacting us for the best options.
The package cost above excludes rental vehicle hire as you are requesting a price for a vehicle outside of our designated season. Please reach out direct for rental vehicle rates.

NOTE: Quotes are subject to the availability of specific accommodations and other inclusions. Our NZ touring experts will be in touch with you regarding this. Costs quoted in currencies other than New Zealand dollars (NZ$) are based on today's exchange rate and are subject to change. Terms and Conditions apply.

Remember: We can create this itinerary with any accommodation style or customise it to suit your interests and timeframe.

Private Guided Tours: For an itinerary similar to this but with a Private driver and guide, please contact us to discuss.

Contact form
Send us an enquiry about this tour idea here

Fields marked * are mandatory

Your contact information
Subscribe to our Regular Newsletter for Inspiring Holiday Ideas
Currency selector
Select your currency to view indicative pricing
The New Zealand Fine Touring Group

Fine Tours New Zealand was the first business in the NZFT group. We now operate a range of different businesses all dedicated to ensuring visitors to New Zealand and Australia get the experience they deserve.