30 Day Ultimate Explorer Tour of New Zealand
From Cape Reinga, the tip of New Zealand all the way south to Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound, this tour has something for everyone. You’ll begin your adventure in Auckland, where you travel north to the beautiful Bay of Islands. From there you will gradually journey south, enjoying an amazing range of included activities all the way. Highlights of the North Island include snorkelling in the Coromandel Peninsula, a scenic flight in the Bay of Islands and a wine tour in the Hawkes Bay. In the south, there is plenty of adventure and multiple wildlife encounters, including penguins, whales and seals to name a few of the unique creatures you’ll meet.
- North & South Island Self-Drive
- Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch
- Accommodations: Motels
- Rental car included
- Private train station transfers
- Interislander ferry crossing
- Cape Reinga Fly and Drive tour
- Te Puia Maori Arts & Crafts
- Cathedral Cove Cruise
- Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour
Whale Watching Kaikoura tour
- Glaciers Explorers Tour, Mt. Cook National Park
- Dart River Wilderness Safari, Glenorchy
- Franz Josef Glacier Helihike
- Private airport transfers
- TranzAlpine Train from Greymouth to Christchurch
- Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours
- Driving Creek Railway, Coromendal
- Hawkes Bay Wine Experience half day tour
- Able Tasman Seals and Beach walk
- Christchurch Gondola Ride
- Wildlife cruise and Yellow eyed penguin colongy, Dunedin
- Real Journeys Milford Sound nature cruise
Private transfer Auckland airport to your accommodation.
On arrival, you will be met by a private 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 - Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore This unique on-water dining experience is not to be missed while you're in Auckland. Enjoy smooth sailing on the Waitemata Harbour - then watch this photogenic city come alive with twinkling lights. Enjoy your meal as you sail around the beautiful Auckland Harbour taking in the view as the sun slowly sets. You'll be treated to canapes and a drink as you set off towards Westhaven Marina. Choose between dining in the downstairs cabin or on deck to take in the iconic sights of the Auckland Harbour. To finish the evening off, savour your dessert course as you leisurely sail back to Auckland's vibrant Viaduct Harbour.
CityLife Auckland - Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.
Choose from our great range of late model rental cars for your driving holiday
Today you’ll take to the road for your New Zealand Self Drive holiday, so take a look through the great selection of late model vehicles available and take your pick.
To help you on your way GPS is included with all rentals. GPS navigation system Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.
Explore Auckland City Surrounding a natural harbour, New Zealand's largest metro area offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests meld with a lively urban culture. Grab a coffee downtown and watch the sailboats glide from the Viaduct or head harbourside and take the helm of an America's Cup Yacht. Catch the Quickcat to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.
Clear the cobwebs with a little exercise and hike the summit of Mt Eden - Auckland's highest volcano. Pack a picnic and choose one of 800 regional national parks to explore. Hunua Falls - located within the Hunua Ranges - is one not to be missed. If relaxing is more your style, find a good book and head out to a deserted beach. Try Orewa - located an hour north of the city - or stay a little closer and head to Cheltenham Beach in Devonport. Make time to ascend the Sky Tower or The Harbour Bridge and spike your adrenaline by bungy jumping off either (or both!). Finish on a high with dinner at one of the many trendy eateries to be found on Ponsonby Road.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Full Day Taste of Auckland Tour with Lunch Start your day in central Auckland, passing through The Domain and the heritage suburb of Ponsonby before heading over the Harbour Bridge to the North Shore. You'll stroll on Narrow Neck Beach in historic Devonport before summiting Mt Victoria, Auckland's highest volcano. Conclude the morning part of your tour with a visit to the fish market and yachting precinct - the Viaduct Harbour. Leave behind the bustle of the city and head northwest to taste the flavours of Auckland's Heritage Wine Region, Kumeu. Enjoy lunch at a contemporary vineyard restaurant, sample world renowned wines and marvel at the rugged surf-fringed coastline nearby. Your journey will also take you to one of the few mainland gannet nesting sites in the world situated on the Muriwai cliffs overlooking the Tasman Sea. Here you get a close-up of gannet behavior without disturbing their environment.
Koon Chakhatraka on Unsplash
Auckland to Paihia, Bay of Islands The trip from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands takes around 3.5 hours but give yourself some leeway for stops and sightseeing. As you go through Puhoi, take in the bohemian atmosphere of this historical township. Stop for a breath of fresh salty air in Whangarei and take another break at Kawakawa – home to the world famous Hundertwasser toilets. Enjoy the native bush surrounds and marvel at the endless golden beaches as you arrive into central Bay Of The Islands, Paihia. Explore the Bay of Islands Made up of over 140 subtropical atolls, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate. Commonly known as the ‘Winterless North’ this tropical paradise is the ideal holiday destination. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or cool off during a ‘swim with dolphins’ 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. Finally, before you leave take a travel day to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours
Sea Spray Suites - Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.
Photo Credit: Susan Tuckey, Cape Reinga, December 2009
Cape Reinga Scenic Aeroplane Flight and Guided Tour
Today experience the beauty of the North from both air and land. Take a spectacular scenic flight to Cape Reinga over Whangaroa Harbour and the Rangaunu Harbour as well as Coopers Beach, Doubtless Bay and Ninety Mile Beach. The tour also includes a visit to the Cape Reinga lighthouse, and the option to slide down giant sand dunes on sleds.
Bay of Islands to Snells Beach via Waipoua Forest
From the Bay of Islands you will head west, leaving the Pacific Ocean for the wilder shores of Hokianga and the Tasman Sea. Small towns Omapere and Opononi are reminiscent of days gone by with a vintage seaside feel - and are the perfect place to stop for an ice cream in a hot day. Stretch your legs and take the short walking track at the mouth of the Hokianga Harbour, which offers a unique vantage point to view the harbor and rolling sand dunes. To the south is the Kauri coast - which you're about to explore. Head south into the Waipoua Forest, home to giant Kauri trees. Allow time for one of a number of short walks available in the area. Not to be missed is the five minute loop to view the largest Kauri in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta. Backtrack cross-country to the Matakohe Kauri Museum - an award winning museum with extensive historical displays. Continue on the road to Snells Beach, a lovely little township close to Warkworth. If you arrive in plenty of time, head into Matakana Wine Country for some great dining options. Another must do while you’re here is a day excursion to one of many deserted beaches in the Tawharanui Marine Reserve.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 295 kms / 183 miles : 3.8 hours
Snells Beach Motel - Snells Beach Motel is perfectly situated, on the Mahurangi East Peninsula, overlooking the beautiful Kawau Bay and in the heart of the wonderful Matakana Coast Wine Country area.
David Tip on Unsplash
Snells Beach to Coromandel Township
Today you will leave Snells beach, driving from Warkworth and passing through Auckland. As you leave the city boundaries you'll note a change in landscape to lush rolling farmland. Cross the Hauraki Plains, one of the largest dairy producing regions in New Zealand, and take in the abundance of black and white friesian cows. You'll go through the Thames Estuary, a haven for wildlife - in particular shore birds. If you're keen on birds, a detour to Miranda is worthwhile to spot the many godwits and oystercatchers. Arriving in the old gold town of Thames you have the option of two routes to the Coromandel. Take the road over the ranges and highway 25A will deliver you to the coast in 45 minutes. If you're up for a little longer, more scenic drive, take the route via the Pohutukawa Coast, north to the Coromandel Township. Known as one of the most spectacular drives in the region, it is well worth your time if you can spare the extra minutes.
Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour Driving Creek Railway and Potteries has become a Coromandel icon. The dream of Barry Brickell was to establish a pottery workshop on his land. Using a railway he would have access to the clay on the land and the pine kiln fuel. Over the next 15 years the railway developed until in 1990 it was finally licensed to carry fare paying passengers and ever since thousands of visitors have made the trip to Coromandel to experience this unique attraction. The 1 hour return train trip on the innovatively designed trains takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts as it climbs up to the mountain-top terminus. The pottery is still producing and you can watch the artists at work as well as purchase items.
Coromandel Township to Whitianga
The short drive from Coromandel Township to Whitianga takes you via the scenic coastline of Whangapoua Harbour and the Kuaotuna beach. For beach lovers there are plenty of side roads to often deserted golden sand beaches and bays. Whitianga sits on Mercury Bay on the eastern coast of the Coromandel peninsular, Captain Cook arrived there in 1769 to observe the transit of Mercury and hence the bay was named. This small bustling town once played a major part in the kauri logging industry with over 150 million metres of timber being exported between 1830 and the end of the century.
The Whitianga museum, housed in the old dairy factory displays an interesting collection designed to relay engrossing tales of the time. Today the town has a many cafes and craft shops with its income derived mainly from tourists. The summer months bring visitors to enjoy fishing, surfcasting and swimming along the palm fringed beaches. But the largest attraction is probably the big game marlin fishing with many charters available to hunt in the rich waters of the Pacific Ocean. On the other side of the harbour is Australasia's oldest stone wharf from where a passenger ferry takes visitors to the delightful Cooks Beach just a 5 minute walk along the road. Nearby is Buffalo Beach, named after H.M.S. Buffalo, a ship taking convicts and settlers to South Australia that blew aground in 1840.
Aotearoa Lodge - Situated on two and a half acres of tranquil gardens and within a five minute stroll to beautiful Buffalo Beach. A perfect base to explore the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula being close to Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, New Chums Beach and the magnificent Coromandel bush.
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Coves, Caves and Coastline Cruise from Whitianga
Explore the volcanic coastline with its many caves, blowholes and golden beaches all from the comfort and safety of an ex coastguard 28 ft cruiser. Departing from Whitianga Wharf journey past the towering Shakespeare's Cliffs and historic Cooks Beach. Visit Cathedral Cove and the islands in the marine reserve. There is also a chance to swim with the abundant fish in the reserve (on board snorkel gear provided - don't forget your swimsuit and towel).
For those who prefer to stay dry an underwater camera relays images to an onboard TV. Explore Whitianga Whitianga is located at Mercury Bay on the eastern coast of the Coromandel peninsular, a 3 hour drive from Auckland and 1 1/2 hours from Thames. Captain Cook arrived there in 1769 to observe the transit of Mercury and hence the bay was named. This small bustling town once played a major part in the kauri logging industry with over 150 million metres of timber being exported between 1830 and the end of the century.
The Whitianga museum, housed in the old dairy factory displays an interesting collection designed to relay engrossing tales of the time. Today the town has a many cafes and craft shops with its income derived mainly from tourists.
The summer months bring visitors to enjoy fishing, surfcasting and swimming along the palm fringed beaches. But the largest attraction is probably the big game marlin fishing with many charters available to hunt in the rich waters of the Pacific Ocean.
On the other side of the harbour is Australasia's oldest stone wharf from where a passenger ferry takes visitors to the delightful Cooks Beach just a 5 minute walk along the road. Nearby is Buffalo Beach, named after H.M.S. Buffalo, a ship taking convicts and settlers to South Australia that blew aground in 1840. As well as Opito Bay, Flaxmill Bay and Kuaotuna Beach to name but a few of the many locations easily visited from Whitianga, the region is well worth a visit. Hot Water Beach Hot Water Beach derives its name from the geothermally heated water that continually seeps in through the sands. At low tide you can dig a hole and create your own mineral pool. The beach itself is golden, fine sand and is an ideal place to relax.
Aotearoa Lodge - Situated on two and a half acres of tranquil gardens and within a five minute stroll to beautiful Buffalo Beach. A perfect base to explore the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula being close to Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, New Chums Beach and the magnificent Coromandel bush.
MuFei Xu on Unsplash
Whitianga to Rotorua via Tauranga
Heading south from the Coromandel Peninsula you pass through the seaside town of Whangamata - a popular location for Kiwi holidaymakers and home to one of the best beaches in the region. Next you come to the old mining town of Waihi which still has an operating open cast gold mine (Martha Mine) that can be viewed from a vantage point just above the town centre. For rail enthusiasts the Goldfields Railway operates passenger trains along a scenic and historic section of track towards Waikino. The route now takes you into the Bay of Plenty and the port town of Tauranga before you head along the scenic Pyes Pa Road to Rotorua. For Lord of the Rings fans a detour to Matamata is recommended as this is the location of the Hobbiton film set. Arriving into Rotorua from the north you are welcomed by the spectacular view of the lake.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 137 miles : 3.4 hours
Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa - Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.
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 - Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride
The Huka Jet is 30 minutes of pure fun and exhilaration, skimming close to cliffs, sliding past trees, feeling the adrenalin of full 360 degree spins. The excitement continues right up to the base of the foaming Huka Falls, where you get a spectacular water level view to New Zealand's most visited natural attraction. Nothing compares to watching 220,000 litres per second tumbling over the cliff face towards you. The water from the mighty Huka Falls runs down the Waikato River through a series of Hydro Power Stations. You'll get a view of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station in the comfort of a powerful Chevrolet V8 jet boat. This unique Geothermal Power Station uses underground geothermal activity to produce hot steamy water. The Waikato Rivers beautiful environment is varied and unique and is New Zealand's longest river flowing north from our largest lake - Lake Taupō.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours
Bella Vista Napier - Bella Vista Motel Napier invites you to experience its friendly service and modern motel units. Located close to shops, restaurants and the renowned Marine Parade with its majestic Norfolk pines.
James Coleman on Unsplash
Napier City Napier, the city by the sea, is renowned for its 1930s Art Deco architecture, events such as the Art Deco Weekend in February, stately Norfolk pines, surrounding wineries and local fresh produce. Supported by a Mediterranean climate and over 2,200 hours of sunshine a year this popular year-round destination boasts a vibrant cafe culture amongst the splendour of the Art Deco buildings. Around 30 cafes are within walking distance of the central city area, while Ahuriri, just over Bluff Hill, is home to a further cluster of up market establishments.
Marine Parade overlooks the Pacific Ocean and out towards Cape Kidnappers, home to the world's largest mainland gannet colony. A full day can be taken visiting Ocean Spa hot pools and swimming complex, the Hawke's Bay Museum and the National Aquarium of New Zealand. A landmark of Napier is Bluff Hill, which is home for many Napier residents and provides views of the town, beaches of Perfume Point and Westshore and out towards Whirinaki. Bluff Hill also overlooks the Port of Napier, one of New Zealand's busiest ports, transporting timber, local fruit and meat products to worldwide destinations.
In 1931, New Zealand's greatest natural disaster struck Hawke's Bay. At 10.47am on Tuesday February 3rd, an earthquake of magnitude Richter 7.8 struck. In a minute and a half, in two separate shocks, the centre of Napier was almost totally destroyed. Fires quickly broke out and reduced to ashes or gutted what the tremors had left standing. Damage in Hastings was also devastating, although the fires were contained. Wairoa and the smaller towns to the south as far as Dannevirke were affected. There were 258 deaths - 162 in Napier, 93 in Hastings and 3 in Wairoa along with many injuries. The reconstruction of Napier and Hastings were costly but the benefit was two modern cities and the Ahuriri Lagoon, or Inner Harbour as it was usually known, was raised over 2 metres, creating the land, which Napier desperately needed to expand.
Hawke's Bay Wine Experience half day tour
Discover the delights of Hawke's Bay on this 5 hour afternoon winery tour. You'll visit 4 local wineries including the oldest vineyard in New Zealand. You'll have the chance to taste award winning wines, learn about the winemaking process and the history of the region, as well as visit a barrel room and taste wine directly from the barrel.
Claire Edwards on Unsplash
Napier to Martinborough
As you leave the rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay you'll be greeted with some of the country's richest dairy farmland in the Manawatu Gorge. Continue on through the Wairarapa region and stop in the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, where you can see some of New Zealand native animals. Take another break in Masterson, and visit the interactive Woolshed Museum to learn about sheep farming in New Zealand. As you drive south, a visit to historic Greytown is a must-do. Take in the restored Victorian buildings and make time for a cup of tea at one of its quaint cafes. Leaving state highway 2 you will cross over the Ruamahanga River into Martinborough wine country - your destination for the day.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour Visit wonderful vineyards such as Te Kairangi Wines, Tirohana Estate, Cabbage Tree Vineyard and Martinborough Vineyard on this half day tour of the premium wine region of Martinborough. Taste the wines, learn about the development of the region, its people and characters from knowledgeable guides.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 271 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours
The Claremont, Martinborough - Set just outside the main village, The Claremont is the ideal base for you to enjoy everything the region has to offer. Well-appointed, self-contained apartments and units will make your stay very comfortable.
Martinborough to Wellington City
Today you will cross the Rimutaka Ranges as you make your way to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Often compared to Melbourne, Wellington is vibrant cultural hub.Home to the nation’s centre of government. Legislation happens in the aptly named ‘Beehive,’ an executive wing attached to the Houses of Parliament. At one kilometre squared, the city centre (easily traversed on foot) has an international feel and is peppered with underground art shows, alleyway cafes and New York style delis. Take in the boardwalk view as you stroll to Te Papa Museum or indulge your cinematic side exploring Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award winning design studio for Lord Of The Rings.
For a taste of vintage fashion, spend some time (and dollars!) on Cuba Street browsing the boutiques. Work off last night’s dinner with a cycling tour of Oriental Bay and undo your good work with a Hokey Pokey ice-cream in the sun. For those heading further down, the capital is where you board the ferry crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island.
Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour
Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley - just 10 minutes from the central city. Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost. Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley - so your chances of seeing one is high!
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 73 kms / 45 miles : 1.0 hours
Bella Vista Wellington - Bella Vista Wellington is just 5 minutes walk from local beaches and the beautiful waters of Evans Bay. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Wellington CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.
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Interislander Ferry Wellington to Picton
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 offer remarkable photographic opportunities. The final leg of your cruise travels through Queen Charlotte Sound before coming to an end in the picturesque town of Picton.
Picton to Abel Tasman National Park
From Picton you’ll first travel the Marlborough sounds coastline between Picton and Havelock. This drive offers spectacular views of the sounds, so be sure to allow plenty of time for stops and sightseeing. Take moment to explore the secluded sandy coves along the narrow road to Portage. Aim to arrive in Havelock for lunch, as this portside town has a great variety of cafes and restaurants to eat at. Stop at the famous Pelorus bridge, just outside of Havelock. From here there are a number of forest walks to stretch your legs on with the most popular being a 30 minute loop through beech, rimu and totara forest. Continue on over the Bryant Range to arrive into Tasman Bay and the city of Nelson. Motueka is a further 45 minutes along the coast and from there it’s just a short drive to Kaiteriteri and Marahau, all ideal spots from which to explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 162 kms / 101 miles : 2.5 hours
Ocean View Chalets - The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.
Seals, Beach Cruise and Walk Including Picnic Lunch
Experience the best of Abel Tasman on this combined beach cruise and walk tour. You will first take a cruise into the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, where you will pause to watch the antics of the Resident Fur Seal Colony. After landing at the historic Tonga Quarry Beach, take a two hour, fifteen minute walk over forested land and around the spectacular Bark Bay Estuary - renowned for its cascading waterfalls. You will then region the cruise at the sheltered golden cove on Medlands Beach.
Abel Tasman National Park to Kaikoura
Today you will drive through Marlborough to Blenheim, New Zealand's largest wine growing region - and home to many award winning wines. We recommend timing your day to arrive for lunch with a view to sampling some of the local offerings at one of the 40 plus wineries surrounding the area. Continue over the dry hills of the Marlborough Ranges to one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, Kaikoura. For over 50 kilometers (30 miles) follow the shoreline. Keep an eye out for an abundance of seals, seabirds and other native wildlife. Kaikoura is also one of the only places in the world where whales can be seen all year round. To the east you'll see the Pacific Ocean while the West brings views of the towering Kaikoura ranges. Arriving in the Kaikoura township, you'll find it bustling with cafes and restaurants.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 297 kms / 184 miles : 3.9 hours
The White Morph, Kaikoura - Set on the Esplanade in Kaikōura, The White Morph enjoys commanding views of the ocean and mountains. Just a 10-minute walk into town, The White Morph has been beautifully placed so that you can take in the spectacular scenery of Kaikoura while enjoying the variety of attractions on offer.
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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.
Whale Watch Kaikoura Experience New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company. Whale Watch Kaikoura offer a once-in-a-lifetime, up close encounter with the giant Sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, occasionally make an appearance. Cruise in style on modern catamarans, specifically designed for whale watching - Featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.
Kaikoura to Christchurch
Today you travel down the coast before heading inland through the North Canterbury wine region - the Waipara Valley. As you drive through this area you’ll be greeted by one of New Zealand's most notorious animals, the sheep. If you’ve time on your hands we recommend taking a detour to Hanmer Springs for relaxing dip in its thermal pools. Arriving into Christchurch you'll see a new and improved city, steadily rising from the ruins of the 2011 earthquake.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours
Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments - Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments offer luxury accommodation in the heart of Christchurch City. Situated within the beautiful tree-lined street of Bealey Avenue, Terra Vive is ideally located in close proximity to the shops, restaurants and cafes..
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.
Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. 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 Gondola In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch City, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago. Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Pass Discover the true magic of city sightseeing on-board this city tour bus. With a mix of open and closed top buses, you will ride in comfort and style, enjoying spectacular views. Join friendly local guides as they take you on a journey of discovery through Christchurch. Listen to "live" entertaining and informative commentary and learn about the fascinating history, from pioneering days to modern times.
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Christchurch to 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 color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater. Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake.
The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours
Mt Cook Lodge & Motels - Mt Cook Lodge and Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views. If you don’t feel like cooking either visit the Chamois Bar and Grill onsite or take the courtesy shuttle to Hermitage Hotel.
Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin
Today you'll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama - gliding capital of New Zealand - but be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk. Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre - The Octagon.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours
Motel on York - Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. The property offers superior accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants.
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Monarch Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour & Penguin Place
A half day tour of the Otago Peninsula and its unique wildlife including a cruise through Dunedin Harbour. A unique environment, this tour includes a visit to The Penguin Place to view the rare and unique yellow eyed penguin. The tour also includes a scenic bus tour of the high road on the Otago Peninsula.
Dunedin to Te Anau
The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival, you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network. You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours
Lakefront Lodge - Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.
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Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau
The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long.
Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord before back-tracking the way you came. Milford Sound Cruise with Real Journeys Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours
Te Anau to Queenstown
Today make your way to Queenstown across vast tussocklands. Head through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation then continue on through rolling southland countryside. Soon the road skirts the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range makes for an impressive welcome to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Explore Queenstown and surrounds Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of 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. Head down the Gibbston Valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw - to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’
Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown. Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Skyline Gondola Queenstown and 3 Luge Rides In the heart of Queenstown, located 450 metres above town in the Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve is the Skyline Complex. A gondola ride to the summit makes for awe-inspiring views of the city surround. Arrive at the complex and wander the outside viewing decks for a picture perfect outlook. Then onto the Luge! The 800 metre luge track offers an exhilarating journey through banked corners, tunnels and dippers.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours
Blue Peaks Lodge Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
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Dart River Wilderness Jet
The Wilderness Jet journeys deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage and fantasy come to life. Here, you can experience a unique combination of breath-taking scenery and an exhilarating ride as we follow the braided, glacier-fed rivers by jet boat with exciting 360 degree spins along the way. Your guides give you their authentic touch, talking about the area’s rich history, the Greenstone trail and countless Maori legends. We’ll also take the chance to tie up the boat and let you walk amongst the ancient beech tree forests – an atmosphere you may recognise from The Lord of the Rings films.
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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 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 - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Hot Pools Nestled within the lush rainforest surrounds, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of tranquillity. Unwind in one of the three main pools. Temperatures range from 36 to 40 degrees and the water comes directly from a glacial stream. Wash off the day and rejuvenate in this unique forest paradise.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours
Aspen Court Franz Josef Aspen Court Franz Josef is set amongst native bush providing a very peaceful ambience. Internally the motel units are large, practical and modern with all containing quality furnishings and fittings.
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line
Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.
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Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station
Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. 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 inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monteith's Brewery Personalised Bottle & Tour From humble origins in 1868, the Monteith's family-owned Phoenix Brewery became the West Coast's most popular brewery for its strong tasting, full-bodied ale. The Phoenix Brewery later merged with a group of small breweries to form Westland Brewing Company, predecessor to today's Monteith's Brewing Company. In this informative brewery experience, you will learn about the heritage and traditions of the brewing business. Witness the making of a fine beer in open fermenters by coal-fired boilers, using only the finest ingredients. Watch the brewers carefully hand craft the beer in small batches to develop the full natural flavours. When each batch is ready, the brewers employ a brilliant time honoured tradition for quality control - they taste it. On completion, you will receive a tasting a 3 beers of your choice from the tap at the Brewery bar, plus your very own personalised Monteith's 500ml bottle with your name on it - a personalised endorsement from the head brewer himself.
TranzAlpine Scenic Train:
Greymouth to Christchurch Crossing the south from Greymouth to Christchurch, the Tranz Alpine is considered one of the worlds greatest train journeys. You'll travel from east to the west of the south island 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 On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours
Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments - Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments offer luxury accommodation in the heart of Christchurch City. Situated within the beautiful tree-lined street of Bealey Avenue, Terra Vive is ideally located in close proximity to the shops, restaurants and cafes.
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.