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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour 

10 days from Auckland to Christchurch

Travelling through the heart of the country you’ll journey past an incredible diversity of New Zealand landscapes and scenery.  From the North Island’s rich Maori culture and modern cosmopolitan cities you’ll venture south crossing the Cook Strait to the picturesque Marlborough Sounds and wildlife mecca of Kaikoura.  With time to explore the major centres, this tour is also flexible enough to add additional days onto if you have extra time.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 10 days/9 nights from Auckland to Christchurch
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Hotel 3 star (Can be customised? YES )
 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible
 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers
 Tour pack: Includes detailed driving instructions, maps, guide books and much more
 This tour can be customised to suit you precisely - just request here

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Champagne Pool, Rotorua, New Zealand
Christchurch, New Zealand
 

Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive into Auckland City
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Day 2: Explore Auckland and surrounds
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Day 3: Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua
Accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 4: Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides
Accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua

Day 5: Today is filled with fantastic scenery including Lake Taupo, the Desert Road and the Kapiti Coastline as you approach Wellington
Accommodation: Hotel Ibis Wellington
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 452 kms / 280 miles : 5.6 hours

Day 6: Today you'll cross the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Approaching Picton you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds
Accommodation: Chateau Marlborough
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.3 hours

Day 7: Drive to the seaside town of Kaikoura today
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 110 kms / 68 miles : 1.3 hours

Day 8: Continue south through Canterbury countryside to Christchurch
Accommodation: Heartland Hotel Cotswold
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 9: Explore the ever evolving city of Christchurch
Accommodation: Heartland Hotel Cotswold

Day 10: Depart Christchurch today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 7 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive into Auckland City

Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Your tour documentation pack and support

Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities - along with relevant brochures and information. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support - details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.

Welcome to Auckland City

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.

Your accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Located on Hobson Street, downtown Auckland the hotel offers apartment style convenience with hotel facilities.
Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Explore Auckland and surrounds

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 - Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

This spectacular AJ Hackett walking tour is the only bridge climb in New Zealand - and the ultimate way to experience the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. All walkways are custom engineered and gentle sloping archways mean this activity is suitable for all ages. As you're guided to the top you'll be greeted with a 360 degree, panoramic view of the sparkling Waitemata harbour. See the best of the city from above and learn all about the secrets of the bridge!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Sailing Cruise including Lunch with Explore

With a fleet of large purpose-built sailboats, the Pride of Auckland Company operates on the sheltered waters of the Waitemata Harbour. As you relax on the deck of a 50ft sailing monohull yacht, take in the spectacular Auckland landscape while you enjoy your picnic lunch. See the harbour bridge from below as you try your hand steering the helm. Relax and settle in for unforgettable 90 minute experience.

Your accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Located on Hobson Street, downtown Auckland the hotel offers apartment style convenience with hotel facilities.

Meals included: Breakfast

Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 3

Day 3 - Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Visit the actual Hobbiton movie set and immerse yourself in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Set in the heart the Waikato farming region your two hour tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque Matamata sheep farm. You'll then be guided into Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and the Party Tree while hearing behind-the-scenes tales insight into the making of the films.

Your accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua

The Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua enjoys a location that is second-to-none on the very shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua, adjacent to the world famous Polynesian Spa complex and just a short stroll to all the attractions in Rotorua.

Meals included: Breakfast

Sudima Lake Rotorua

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 4

Day 4 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides

Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

At Rainbow Springs you'll have the chance to see some of New Zealand's native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. Come face to face with, and learn more about, New Zealand’s precious wildlife. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand's living dinosaur can also be seen here.
Go behind the scenes with New Zealand's national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Canopy Tours - The Original Canopy Tour

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees.
In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mitai Maori Village

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and see warriors in traditional dress who paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance that tells the story of the Maori people, their past, carvings, and ta Moko -Tattoo art. Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat and be amazed by the spine tingling Haka finale. Truly an experience to remember.

Your accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua

The Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua enjoys a location that is second-to-none on the very shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua, adjacent to the world famous Polynesian Spa complex and just a short stroll to all the attractions in Rotorua.

Meals included: Breakfast

Sudima Lake Rotorua

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 5

Day 5 - Today is filled with fantastic scenery including Lake Taupo, the Desert Road and the Kapiti Coastline as you approach Wellington

Rotorua to Wellington

The drive from Rotorua to Wellington takes you via the township of Taupo home to New Zealand’s largest lake. Following the lakeshore South you’ll pass Turani and then ascend the central plateau onto the high country Rangipo Desert. Skirting the edge of Tongariro National Park, you’ll reach the military town of Waiouru before descending through rich farmland and the rural towns of Taihape And Mangaweka. Follow the coast through Paraparaumu, Paekakariki and Plimmerton to arrive at your destination, Wellington.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night 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 very good.

Your accommodation: Hotel Ibis Wellington

Hotel Ibis Wellington is ideally located in Featherston Street in the heart of Wellington City and easy walking distance to Wellington's famous cafe lifestyle.

Meals included: Breakfast

Hotel Ibis Wellington

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 452 kms / 280 miles : 5.6 hours

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 6

Day 6 - Today you'll cross the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Approaching Picton you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds

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.

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.

Picton to Blenheim

Only short 30 minute drive, you’ll follow the valley south to arrive in Blenheim, located in the heart of Marlborough - New Zealand’s largest wine producing region. Go through acres of leafy green vines and marvel at the magnificent ‘dry hills’ of Marlborough in the distance.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Sounds Connection Half Day Wine Tour

An afternoon among the vines! Be immersed in the Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You'll be collected from your accommodation and taken through three or four hand-picked wineries to taste the award-winning produce this region is known for. You'll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through. A lunch stop is not included in this tour so we do advise you have something to eat prior to this activity. 

Your accommodation: Chateau Marlborough

Chateau Marlborough, Marlborough's premier boutique hotel overlooking Seymour Square Gardens, prides itself on offering guests luxury accommodation with an enviable attention to detail. All just a short walk from Blenheim's town centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Chateau Marlborough

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.3 hours

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 7

Day 7 - Drive to the seaside town of Kaikoura today

Blenheim to Kaikoura

Cross the 'dry hills' of Marlborough and 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 native wildlife. To the east is the South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is a bustling little place with many cafes, restaurants and shops - but the main reason for visiting here is the wildlife - and it's one of the only places in New Zealand you can see whales year round.

Your accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel

The Anchor Inn is a luxury motel superbly located on the Kaikoura waterfront with most rooms enjoying magnificent sea and mountain views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Anchor Inn Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 110 kms / 68 miles : 1.3 hours

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 8

Day 8 - Continue south through Canterbury countryside to Christchurch

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Whale Watch Kaikoura

New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company, Whale Watch Kaikoura offer visitors 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, is sometimes seen.
You'll be taken out in 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 continue 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.

Your accommodation: Heartland Hotel Cotswold

The Heartland Hotel Cotswold is just minutes walk to boutique shopping at Merivale and Hagley Park. The distinctive architecture of the Heartland Hotel Cotswold reflects Christchurch's image as the most English of cities outside of England.

Meals included: Breakfast

Heartland Hotel Cotswold

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 178 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

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Auckland to Christchurch self drive tour - Day 9

Day 9 - Explore the ever evolving city of Christchurch

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. 

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 a authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Akaroa Day Tour including Harbour Nature Cruise

Enjoy a full day tour to Akaroa with Canterbury Leisure Tours. You will travel the scenic route to Akaroa via Governors Bay, Gebbies Pass, Lake Forsyth and Little River. Stop for spectacular views over the Akaroa Harbour. You'll then take a two hour cruise through Akaroa Harbour for a chance to see this quaint french settlement from the sea as well as dolphins, penguins and seals. On the return journey to Christchurch you will visit the cheese factory at Barry's Bay and sample some of New Zealand's finest cheese.
Lunch at the popular waterfront restaurant 'Bully Hayes' is included - offering a wide choice of New Zealand cuisine.

Your accommodation: Heartland Hotel Cotswold

The Heartland Hotel Cotswold is just minutes walk to boutique shopping at Merivale and Hagley Park. The distinctive architecture of the Heartland Hotel Cotswold reflects Christchurch's image as the most English of cities outside of England.

Meals included: Breakfast

Heartland Hotel Cotswold

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Day 10 - Depart Christchurch today

Depart Christchurch today

Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 7 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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