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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer 

20 days from Auckland to Queenstown

Starting in Auckland with time to truly explore the region’s natural features this tour then travels through the heart of the North Island by scenic train. The South Island beckons with a host of natural and scenic locations and inclusions. From Abel Tasman National Park's beaches to Kaikoura's whales to the West Coast's unique Glaciers and geology, the diversity is outstanding.   In the deep-south you’ll discover the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula and spend a night in the remote Doubtful Sound before returning to Queenstown.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 20 days/19 nights from Auckland to Queenstown
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Boutique lodges & hotels (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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Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Franz Josef, West Coast, New Zealand
 

Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive into Auckland
Accommodation: Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

Day 2: Explore Auckland 'The City of Sails'
Accommodation: Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

Day 3: Explore the best of the city in the morning and this afternoon indulge in the local food and wine
Accommodation: Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

Day 4: Auckland to Wellington on the Northern Explorer scenic train
Accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

Day 5: Explore the capital Wellington City
Accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

Day 6: Catch the Interislander Ferry to the South Island then drive to Abel Tasman National Park
Accommodation: Split Apple Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 162 kms / 101 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 7: Explore Abel Tasman National Park
Accommodation: Split Apple Lodge

Day 8: Pass through the Nelson Lakes region which leads you to Kaikoura
Accommodation: Manakau Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 297 kms / 184 miles : 3.9 hours

Day 9: Head south through North Canterbury to Christchurch
Accommodation: Merivale Manor House
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 10: Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine Scenic Train, then onto Punakaiki
Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort

Day 11: Drive south along the stunning West Coast Road with its rugged coastline and mountain backdrop
Accommodation: Westwood Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 212 kms / 131 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 12: Get up close to the glaciers on a spectacular scenic flight
Accommodation: Westwood Lodge

Day 13: Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to Wanaka, then take the Crown Range Road to Queenstown
Accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 344 kms / 213 miles : 4.3 hours

Day 14: Explore the beautiful scenery of Queenstown and sample the amazing range of activities on offer
Accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel

Day 15: Today explore the film locations from the Lord of the Rings, then tonight cruise across Lake Wakatipu for dinner
Accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel

Day 16: Travel to Doubtful Sound for your overnight cruise
Accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 162 kms / 101 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 17: Enjoy todays drive through Central Otago to Dunedin
Accommodation: Fletcher Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 289 kms / 179 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 18: A day to explore the wildlife and history of Otago Peninsula
Accommodation: Fletcher Lodge

Day 19: Return to Queenstown from Dunedin
Accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 270 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours

Day 20: Depart for home

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 1 kms / 1 miles : 0.0 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive into Auckland

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: Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

This small hotel bed & breakfast is located in the heart of Auckland's Ponsonby district. A two minute stroll to the vibrant cafes bistros, restaurants, art and craft galleries and just five minutes by car to the harbourside and central Auckland.
Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 2

Day 2 - Explore Auckland 'The City of Sails'

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 - America's Cup Sailing Experience with Explore

The world's oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy, the America's Cup is the ultimate yachting regatta. Usually reserved for billionaires and professional yachties, you now have the opportunity to partake in this elite sport. During your two hour sailing adventure you’ll become part of the crew. Either take the helm, try your arm strength on the grinders or simply sit back and enjoy the action as you tack and gybe your way across the harbour. No experience is required for this trip, however children under 10 years are not recommended.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Waiheke Island Explorer Hop On Hop Off Tour

It's the most flexible and cost effective tour option on the island. Introducing you to the island's top spots; hop on and off as much as you like at any of its 15 convenient stops which include vineyards, beaches and restaurants. If you prefer, stay on board and enjoy a 1 1/2 hour scenic tour of the island.
The buses stop at some of the island's iconic spots including Oneroa Village, Onetangi Beach, Batch Winery, the new Tantalus winery/brewery, Mudbrick Vineyard, Cable Bay Vineyard and more.
Knowledgeable tour drivers, and the addition of an on-board host, ensure you'll receive the most informative commentary as you travel around and you can get all the local tips and tricks for how best to enjoy Waiheke!
The Explorer Hop on Hop off departs from each hop on hop off location approximately every 60 minutes throughout the day.

Your accommodation: Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

This small hotel bed & breakfast is located in the heart of Auckland's Ponsonby district. A two minute stroll to the vibrant cafes bistros, restaurants, art and craft galleries and just five minutes by car to the harbourside and central Auckland.

Meals included: Breakfast

Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 3

Day 3 - Explore the best of the city in the morning and this afternoon indulge in the local food and wine

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.

Your accommodation: Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

This small hotel bed & breakfast is located in the heart of Auckland's Ponsonby district. A two minute stroll to the vibrant cafes bistros, restaurants, art and craft galleries and just five minutes by car to the harbourside and central Auckland.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Great Ponsonby Art Hotel B&B

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 4

Day 4 - Auckland to Wellington on the Northern Explorer scenic train

Transfer to Auckland train station

You will be collected from your Auckland hotel and transferred to Auckland train station.

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train: Auckland to Wellington

The Northern Explorer is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, to Wellington, New Zealand's arts and culture capital. Along the way you pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from panoramic windows or open air viewing decks. All carriages feature large panoramic windows giving sweeping views of the magnificent North Island. The Observation Carriage includes a mix of seating including lounge-style seating. The lounge-style seating is arranged at the very rear of this glass-backed carriage enabling you to enjoy a totally unique Northern Explorer experience.

Private transfer Wellington train station to hotel

You will be met on arrival into Wellington train station and transferred to your hotel.

Your accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

The Bolton Hotel is a contemporary apartment hotel in the heart of Wellington's CBD. This hotel has 142 guest rooms and suites are furnished in a contemporary style and feature Sky Digital television, movies on demand, high-speed Internet (including WiFi), a personal bar, and air-conditioning.

Meals included: Breakfast

Bolton Hotel Wellington

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 5

Day 5 - Explore the capital Wellington City

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, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. 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 a 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Walking Gourmet Food Tour

With your knowledgeable and entertaining Zest Guide, explore Wellington's foodie quarters and some of their favourite food places on this delicious introduction to the culinary capital. Visit a boutique coffee roastery or specialty cafe. Enjoy tastings at Wellington's best specialist food places including trying regional cheeses, honey, chocolates and much more, tasting at every stop. Savour a delicious, light tasting lunch with matched New Zealand wines at a top Wellington restaurant. During the tour, your guide can also introduce you to many other aspects of the Capital, ranging from iconic city architecture, sculptures and fantastic places to shop and eat. Walking time is approximately 90 minutes, all weather, over 5 hours.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Lord of the Rings Half Day Tour with Wellington Rover

This incredible half day tour explores key sites in the film-making process around Wellington City. Pass the Embassy Cinema and ascend Mt Victoria for amazing views of the city and harbour before visiting the Outer Shire and 'Wellywood' - the home of the Wellington film industry. You will also get to visit the famous Weta Cave where you will be guided through the physical props and special effects magic of the Windows into the Workshop exhibit.

Your accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

The Bolton Hotel is a contemporary apartment hotel in the heart of Wellington's CBD. This hotel has 142 guest rooms and suites are furnished in a contemporary style and feature Sky Digital television, movies on demand, high-speed Internet (including WiFi), a personal bar, and air-conditioning.

Meals included: Breakfast

Bolton Hotel Wellington

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 6

Day 6 - Catch the Interislander Ferry to the South Island then drive to Abel Tasman National Park

Private transfer to Interislander ferry terminal

You will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the Interislander ferry terminal in time for your ferry check in.

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.

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.

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.
 

Your accommodation: Split Apple Lodge

The purpose built Split Apple Lodge is nestled amongst five acres of bush and is just ten minutes from both the beautiful Kaiteriteri Beach and the splendour of Abel Tasman National Park. Breathtaking views from every window compliment superbly equipped ensuite rooms

Meals included: Breakfast

Split Apple Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 162 kms / 101 miles : 2.5 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 7

Day 7 - Explore Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the sounds or take a kayaking tour around it’s many sheltered bays. Enjoy the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals  - fur seals and dolphins.
 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Abel Tasman National Park Cruise and Walk Open Day Pass

Abel Tasman Cruises combined with short bush walks are a great way to experience this beautiful national park.  Join Abel Tasman Wilson's Experiences' boat at Kaiteriteri for your Abel Tasman National Park Cruise. The boat hugs the shore, travelling in close to the idyllic beaches. Your skipper provides a full commentary of the trip. Take you own lunch or pre - order a prepared lunch the night before. The following are some of the more popular cruise and walk options you can choose from.

Vista Scenic Cruise
Cruise from Kaiteriteri, through the Astrolabe Roadstead to Torrent Bay and Bark Bay, calling into picturesque beaches and coves where walkers and kayakers are transferred to golden-sand beaches. Pause to view the antics at Tonga Island Seal Colony in the Marine Reserve, then continue past isolated northern beaches to the long sweep of burnished sands at Totaranui.

Pitt Head Loop
Cruise through the sheltered waters of the Astrolable Roadstead to disembark at Anchorage Beach. There you can choose to take a leisurely stroll to Te Pukatea Bay or walk the Pitt Head Track. Alternatively relax on the beach and go swimming in the calm azure waters. Walking time is around 1 hour.

Seals and Beach
For the best of everything, this trip is for you. Take a scenic cruise into Tonga Island Marine Reserve, pausing to watch the antics at its resident Fur Seal Colony. Land at historic Tonga Quarry beach then take a walk for about 2 hrs 15 mins (4.1 kms, 2.5 miles) over a forested saddle and around spectacular Bark Bay estuary with its cascading waterfalls.

Bark Bay Falls
From the sheltered beach at Kaiteriteri, cruise past the sculpted granite headlands and islands. Pause to view the long, golden, forest-fringed beaches of Torrent Bay. Disembark at Medlands Beach. A short stroll takes you to popular, sheltered Bark Bay with its pleasantly shaded camping area. Swim in calm azure waters, sunbathe or relax in the shade of native forest trees. A forested track around the estuary takes you to Bark Bay Falls (approx. 1 hour return).

Swing Bridge, Bush and Beach
Cruise into the heart of the National Park with full commentary to introduce you to this fascinating coastline. Disembark at idyllic Medlands Beach, where you will walk to the long golden-sand beach of Anchorage, via Torrent Bay (approx. 4hrs) The track weaves through sunny groves of Manuka and fern between breathtaking views of the granite coast and lush gullies of mature forest, to reach tranquil forest pools. Cross the rushing Falls River by an impressive swing bridge. Allow extra time to take a short side track beside a crystal forest stream to visit tranquil Cleopatra's Pool.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Beaches, Bays and Seals Guided Sea Kayaking Trip Including Picnic Lunch

Combining the best of the Abel Tasman, this trip showcases incredible beaches, coastal walks and native wildlife. First you'll meet your guide and join the 9.30am Vista Cruise along the magnificent coastline to Torrent Bay. You'll then arrive at Torrent Bay Lodge and complete a full training session and safety briefing before moving on to the water in kayaks to discover beautiful beaches, tidal estuaries and rivers.
Stop for a picnic lunch in a sheltered cove and take some time to swim, explore or sunbathe on the sand. On your return trip, if the winds are favourable, sails will be hoisted and you'll sail back via Pinnacle Island to view the seal colony there - if you're lucky, you may even see some resident blue penguins at the same time. Arriving back at Torrent Bay Lodge, freshen up with a hot shower and re-join the vista cruise back to Kaiteriteri, arriving at 4.10 pm.
During the summer there is the option to enjoy an unguided two hour coastal bush walk after the kayaking trip. Walk around the picturesque Torrent Bay Lagoon - via Cleopatra's Pool - to anchorage where you will re-join the boat back to Kaiteriteri.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch

This relaxing paddle explores the spectacular Kaiteriteri coastline with its golden beaches, and sculpted granite cliffs. Stop for lunch at a secluded cove before heading back to Kaiteriteri for your picnic lunch. Swap your kayak booties for walking shoes and join the Vista Cruise to Onetahuti where you'll have the chance to view the seal colony at Tonga Island on the way.
After arriving at the at the Tonga Island Quarry, disembark and walk the coastal track to Medlands Beach where you region the Vista Cruise back to Kaiteriteri. Time spent kayaking is 2.5 hours including breaks. The unguided walk is 7km and the minimum age is 10 years old.

Your accommodation: Split Apple Lodge

The purpose built Split Apple Lodge is nestled amongst five acres of bush and is just ten minutes from both the beautiful Kaiteriteri Beach and the splendour of Abel Tasman National Park. Breathtaking views from every window compliment superbly equipped ensuite rooms

Meals included: Breakfast

Split Apple Lodge

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 8

Day 8 - Pass through the Nelson Lakes region which leads you to Kaikoura

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.

Your accommodation: Manakau Lodge

This brand new purpose built lodge is located in the foothills of the Kaikoura ranges a few minutes drive from the township. All rooms have verandahs with either mountain or ocean views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Manakau Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 297 kms / 184 miles : 3.9 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 9

Day 9 - Head south through North Canterbury to Christchurch

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 - 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.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor House

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Meals included: Breakfast

Merivale Manor House

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

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 10

Day 10 - Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine Scenic Train, then onto Punakaiki

Private transfer hotel to Christchurch train station

A private transfer will collect you this morning and deliver you to Christchurch train station in time for your train journey.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Christchurch to Greymouth

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train travels between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other. From your carriage you'll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth - a great base for visits to Punakaiki and the West Coast glaciers.

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.

Pancake Rocks

Punakaiki is most famous for the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Visitors are often less aware of the great many other experiences available. Located in the heart of the Paparoa National Park, the area offers guided beach, forest and mountain walks, canoeing, wildlife, horse trekking, surfing, caving and climbing, heritage sites. There are taverns, cafés and restaurants, and a great range of accommodation. The area also boasts a vibrant arts and crafts community and a cooperative gallery.

Your accommodation: Punakaiki Resort

The Punakaiki Resort is a modern, award-winning hotel complex, architecturally designed to harmonise with the local environment. Nestled in the foothills of Papaproa National Park the resort has spectacular views of the Wild West Coast beaches while all rooms have rainforest and/or ocean views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Punakaiki Resort

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 11

Day 11 - Drive south along the stunning West Coast Road with its rugged coastline and mountain backdrop

Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier

The drive South on State Highway 6 takes you through many West Coast towns. The first is Greymouth, the commercial centre for the West Coast. Just south of the town is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear.
The next town is Hokitika and this is a great place to explore the craft and gift stores. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge, off the beaten track and inland a little is a spectacular detour. Turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
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 centre offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Continuing south Hari Hari is the township that Guy Menzies decided to land in (or rather crash land) as he became the first person to fly solo across the Tasman.
Whataroa, a small township on the main road is where you would head off to see one of the worlds rarest birds. The entire population (somewhere between 150 and 200 birds) of 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.
Arriving in to the Glacier region you catch your first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier from a few kilometres out as it flows from the Southern Alps. Franz Josef township is a lively place with a great atmosphere, plenty of choice to dine out and some wonderful activities to enjoy.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Hot Pools

Nestled within the lush rainforest surrounds, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of tranquility. 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.

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

Westwood Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 212 kms / 131 miles : 2.6 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 12

Day 12 - Get up close to the glaciers on a spectacular scenic flight

Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Located in In the heart of the West Coast, Franz Josef is small but lively town. Known for its 12 km long glacier and surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains, the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To get close to the ice, walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows.

Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. 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's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

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

Westwood Lodge

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 13

Day 13 - Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to Wanaka, then take the Crown Range Road to Queenstown

Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)

Heading south you pass through the second glacier town of Fox Glacier. A short side trip to view the glacier is easy before heading along the coast and more classic West Coast bush scenery. At Knights Point Lookout elephant seals can often be seen basking on the sandy beaches at the far end of the point. Crossing the massive Haast River you turn inland and head into the valley climbing through mountains littered with waterfalls.

The Haast Valley offers a spectacular view of the river and its enormous power. The Blue Pools near Makarora are a great 30 minute walk. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea guide you into the township of Wanaka before you head over New Zealand's highest sealed road, Crown Range Road before dropping into Queenstown. This drive should be planned as a whole day to really enjoy the scenery and to allow time to explore the walks, and many stops en route.

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel

The Dairy is a small private luxury hotel providing exquisite bed and breakfast accommodation. Just 1 minutes walk from Queenstown Centre it also features a large lounge and open fire, outdoor spa and a bar.

Meals included: Breakfast

The Dairy Private Hotel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 344 kms / 213 miles : 4.3 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 14

Day 14 - Explore the beautiful scenery of Queenstown and sample the amazing range of activities on offer

Experience the wonders of Queenstown

Renowned as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital,’ Queenstown is not just an action destination. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath the (truly remarkable) Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is a melting pot of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders. Follow the vines through Gibbston Valley as you sample the region’s best wine. Stop at the Chard Farm cellar door, visit the award-winning Peregrine vineyard or take a cellar cave tour at Gibbston Valley Winery. Cruise to Walter Peak station for dinner on board a 100 year old steamship - the TSS Earnslaw. While you're there, a farm tour is a must do for those not familiar with rural living.

Take some time to wander the waterfront, and grab lunch at one of the many amazing cafes and restaurants on offer. Try Vudu’s Pantry and larder or for a holiday treat go to Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata. Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown - a disused gold mining settlement built in the 1800’s.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. After all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or White Water Rafting.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Jet Boat the Shotover River

Take a ride on ‘Big Red’ through the spectacular canyon walls of the upper Shotover River.  Shotover Jet Boat is the only company allowed to operate in this remarkable location and their skilled drivers will take you on a wet and wild ride you’ll never forget.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Appellation Boutique Wine Tour

Go off-the-beaten-track with this unique Central Otago wine tour. Taste wines at four of the best vineyards in the Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell regions. The wineries you'll visit are selected from the following: Peregrine, Chard Farm, Carrick, Mt Difficulty, Felton Road, Akarua and Olssens vineyards. This tour also includes a delightful gourmet platter lunch at the award-winning Carrick Winery Restaurant.
Departing Queenstown, you'll go through picturesque valleys, dramatic gorges and rolling vine-covered hills. See the Otago Goldfields, Historic Old Cromwell Town and Lake Dunstan and the Kawarau Gorge.

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel

The Dairy is a small private luxury hotel providing exquisite bed and breakfast accommodation. Just 1 minutes walk from Queenstown Centre it also features a large lounge and open fire, outdoor spa and a bar.

Meals included: Breakfast

The Dairy Private Hotel

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 15

Day 15 - Today explore the film locations from the Lord of the Rings, then tonight cruise across Lake Wakatipu for dinner

Safari of the Scenes Wakatipu Basin Tour

For those keen on the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings films, come with us for an unexpectedly delightful journey. In safari-equipped 4WD vehicles, you will be taken on a true off-road adventure. Experienced guides will take you on a breathtaking excursion through diverse scenery around the Wakatipu Basin. See historic Arrowtown and go over the Arrow River, as well as experiencing the truly remarkable views of the lake and mountain surround from the Skippers Canyon Saddle.

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

Hop aboard the historic steamship TSS Earnslaw for an iconic Queenstown experience. Take in the local scenery as you cruise Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station, a working sheep farm. On your arrival at Walter Peak you'll stroll through its stunning lakeside gardens to the homestead for a gourmet barbeque dinner. Watch your chef prepare your meal from a delicious seasonal menu and choose from a tempting selection of New Zealand meat and local produce. Complete your meal with an indulgent dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea & coffee. Following dinner enjoy an entertaining demonstration of life on a high country farm. The return cruise offers a chance to enjoy a singalong with the ship’s pianist or simply breathe in the crisp night air on the moonlit decks as the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel

The Dairy is a small private luxury hotel providing exquisite bed and breakfast accommodation. Just 1 minutes walk from Queenstown Centre it also features a large lounge and open fire, outdoor spa and a bar.

Meals included: Breakfast

The Dairy Private Hotel

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 16

Day 16 - Travel to Doubtful Sound for your overnight cruise

Queenstown to Manapouri

The spectacular Lake Wakatipu guides you south towards Te Anau and Fiordland.  The rolling farmland of Southland accompanies you as you pass through Garston, Athol and Five Rivers before turning west towards Mossburn and Manapouri.

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

Take in the tranquility of remote Doubtful Sound on this unique overnight wilderness cruise. Beginning in Manapouri with a short boat ride across the lake, you'll be taken by coach over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. Board the Fiordland Navigator, a purpose-built vessel designed like a traditional coastal trading scow. Be accommodated in a private cabin with an ensuite bathroom or a quad-share bunk room with shared bathroom facilities. The Navigator has a large spacious deck for viewing the scenery and wildlife as well as a dining saloon, bar and observation lounge. As you take in the stunning scenery of the Fiord, you'll be provided a running commentary of the area and its history, points of interest and wildlife. You'll have the opportunity to see dolphins, fur seals and - if you're lucky - rare Fiordland penguins. After anchoring in a sheltered cove, choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or stabicraft, or if you're really brave - take a dip in the water. In the evening enjoy a three course buffet dinner prepared on board and served in the dining saloon. Enjoy beer and fine wines from the licensed bar, and spend time star gazing on the upper deck. Following hearty cooked breakfast the next morning you will spend your remaining time exploring other parts of the fiord before returning to Deep Cove for the trip back to Manapouri.

Your accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

The Fiordland Navigator is purpose built for cruising in the fiords. The vessel offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining saloon and observation lounge.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 162 kms / 101 miles : 1.9 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 17

Day 17 - Enjoy todays drive through Central Otago to Dunedin

Manapouri to Dunedin

The drive from Manapouri to Dunedin  takes you through classic Southland farmland scenery but if you want to spend the whole day exploring a little off the beaten path than taking the Southern Scenic Route through The Catlins is highly recommended.

Your accommodation: Fletcher Lodge

Located just a few minutes walk from the hub of the city, Fletcher Lodge offers the charm and personal attention of a bed and breakfast whilst extending the amenities associated with full service luxury Hotels. Nestled in a secluded, established garden the lodge is conveniently located within minutes of many of the city's finest and most popular cafes and restaurants.

Meals included: Breakfast

Fletcher Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 289 kms / 179 miles : 3.4 hours

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 18

Day 18 - A day to explore the wildlife and history of Otago Peninsula

Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Premier Tour Including Larnach Castle

This premier package gets you closer to our unique southern ocean wildlife. See the worlds= only mainland nesting place for the Northern Royal Albatross. NZ fur seals also breed here and the impressive NZ Sealions may be seen on sandy beaches. Often seen are other albatross species, petrels, penguins, dolphins and more. You will also take a tour of Larnach Castle, one of Dunedin's great landmarks where the expert guides take you on a journey back in time; into the rich, turbulent and scandalous lives of the Larnach family. Enjoy the history and superb craftsmanship of New Zealand's only castle. Climb to the parapets for 360 degree views of the Otago Peninsula and explore the stunning gardens of international significance.

Your accommodation: Fletcher Lodge

Located just a few minutes walk from the hub of the city, Fletcher Lodge offers the charm and personal attention of a bed and breakfast whilst extending the amenities associated with full service luxury Hotels. Nestled in a secluded, established garden the lodge is conveniently located within minutes of many of the city's finest and most popular cafes and restaurants.

Meals included: Breakfast

Fletcher Lodge

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Auckland to Queenstown Southbound Explorer - Day 19

Day 19 - Return to Queenstown from Dunedin

Dunedin to Queenstown

This drive takes you through the heart of the historical Otago Goldfields . The townships of Lawrence, Roxburgh and Alexandra - once booming mining towns in the late 1800's gold rush - now sleepy sun-traps bearing the little resemblance to their bustling past. However, some buildings do remain as do the original shafts and workings. In more recent times Alexandra has become the 'stone fruit capital' of New Zealand -  with the ideal climate for the trees. It is also a great place to buy some of the local produce. The road follows the South Island's longest river, the Clutha River, and at Clyde you will see one of the largest hydro power stations harnessing its energy before passing through the Gibbston Wine Valley to arrive at your destination today, Queenstown.  
 

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel

The Dairy is a small private luxury hotel providing exquisite bed and breakfast accommodation. Just 1 minutes walk from Queenstown Centre it also features a large lounge and open fire, outdoor spa and a bar.

Meals included: Breakfast

The Dairy Private Hotel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 270 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours

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Day 20 - Depart for home

Depart Queenstown today

Drop your rental car at the Queenstown airport today and farewell New Zealand.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 1 kms / 1 miles : 0.0 hours

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