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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour 

17 days from Christchurch to Auckland

From Christchurch you’ll first travel a loop of the lower South Island, beginning with the iconic TranzAlpine scenic train crossing the Southern Alps to the West Coast.  Highlights of the section of the trip include a scenic flight and snow landing on the remarkable West Coast glaciers and a spectacular cruise in Milford Sound.  Heading north you’ll enjoy a wine tasting tour in Marlborough, before crossing the Cook Strait to the North Island and the quirky capital city of Wellington. Travel through the central plateau to Rotorua and its bubbling mud pools and unique Maori culture before arriving into Auckland the ‘City of Sails’.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 17 days/16 nights from Christchurch to Auckland
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Motels (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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Blue Pools, Haast Pass, New Zealand
Kaikoura, New Zealand
 

Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive into Christchurch City
Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Day 2: Board the TranzAlpine train and journey over the Southern Alps to Greymouth
Accommodation: Charles Court Motel, Greymouth

Day 3: With mountains on your left and the wild Tasman Sea you'll venture south to Westland National Park
Accommodation: Bella Vista Franz Josef
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 167 kms / 104 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 4: Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast, then over the Crown Range to Queenstown
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 344 kms / 213 miles : 4.3 hours

Day 5: Board your luxury coach to Milford Sound, then sit back and relax as you take in the fantastic views
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 6: The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 7: Follow the Kawerau Gorge to Central Otago, then cross the Lindis Pass into the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

Day 8: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through the MacKenzie Country and the Canterbury Plains
Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 327 kms / 203 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 9: Continue north through rural Canterbury to the Pacific Ocean and seaside settlement of Kaikoura
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 10: Drive through the coastal road before reaching the vineyards of Blenheim
Accommodation: Bella Vista Blenheim
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

Day 11: Today you'll cross the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Departing Picton you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 27 kms / 17 miles : 0.4 hours

Day 12: Relive the Lord of the Rings with a fascinating tour of the Wellington film locations
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington

Day 13: Today is filled with fantastic scenery including the Kapiti Coastline as you depart Wellington and the Desert Road
Accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 441 kms / 274 miles : 5.3 hours

Day 14: Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides
Accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Day 15: Drive north through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Auckland
Accommodation: Waldorf Stadium Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 219 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 16: A free day to explore the 'City of Sails'
Accommodation: Waldorf Stadium Apartments

Day 17: Depart Auckland today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive into Christchurch City

Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Christchurch 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 Christchurch City

Known as New Zealand's garden city, Christchurch is a vibrant metro area. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights, or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Ticket

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.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

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.
Merivale Manor Motel

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Board the TranzAlpine train and journey over the Southern Alps to Greymouth

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.

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.

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.

Greymouth

Greymouth sits on the Grey River and is the largest commercial centre on the West Coast. Within the town centre are several historical buildings of note, making it a pleasant place to stroll. For a taste of adventure, there are many activities to do.

The Wild West Adventure Company can take you glow worm caving, four wheel driving, white water rafting, horse back riding, riverboat cruising, bush walking, camping or relaxing in local hot pools. In the centre of town you will also find the Monteith's brewery and a tour of this is highly worthwhile. Just to the south is Shantytown, a replica of a working goldmine village with reconstructed buildings, mine working and a wonderful collection of steam trains.

Greymouth is also where the Tranz Alpine train arrives and departs.

Your accommodation: Charles Court Motel, Greymouth

Located just south of the city centre Charles Court Motel features 1,2 and 3 bedroom units all with kitchen facilities. Also access to the beach is easy and other facilities include a swimming pool, BBQ area, and children's playground.
Charles Court Motel, Greymouth

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 3

Day 3 - With mountains on your left and the wild Tasman Sea you'll venture south to Westland National Park

Greymouth to Franz Josef

Leaving Greymouth today you will head south to Franz Josef and Glacier Country. Pass through Hokitika and be sure to take a detour to the spectacular Hokitika Gorge, a turquoise coloured river surrounded by native bush-clad cliffs.

Continue on through Ross, a historic gold mining town where several buildings still remain intact. As you travel further down the coast you’ll also go through Hari Hari, the town where Guy Menzies, the first person to fly solo over the Tasman crash landed. Follow the coast through several small towns before catching a glimpse of the Franz Josef glacier as you arrive into the town centre.

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: Bella Vista Franz Josef

Bella Vista Franz Josef is located right in the heart of the village close to shops, cafes and restaurants and offers excellent facilities.
Bella Vista Franz Josef

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 167 kms / 104 miles : 2.0 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 4

Day 4 - Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast, then over the Crown Range 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: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.
Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 5

Day 5 - Board your luxury coach to Milford Sound, then sit back and relax as you take in the fantastic views

Milford Sound Nature Cruise with return luxury coach transfers from Queenstown

Return luxury coach transport from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with an extended 2.5 hour Nature Cruise along the full length of the fiord. On board a Real Journeys luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown, you will enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Te Anau. The coach driver provides an informative commentary. After a morning tea break in Te Anau, where you have the option of purchasing refreshments, the coach continues along the spectacular Milford Road. There is time for photo stops and short walks along the way. On reaching Milford Sound, you board the Milford Mariner for a leisurely extended cruise of the fiord. The cruise provides excellent viewing opportunities and plenty of time is available to enjoy waterfalls, rain forest, mountains and wildlife with extensive commentary by the on board nature guide. Includes picnic boxed lunch.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Meals included: Lunch

Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 6

Day 6 - The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown

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 - Queenstown Gondola and thrilling luge ride

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. For those keen on a little exertion, choose to hike instead - and take in the lush native bush and pine forest from the ground. Arrive at the complex and wander the outside viewing decks for a picture perfect outlook. Ride the 800 metre luge track for an exhilarating journey through trees.

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 - 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: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.
Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 7

Day 7 - Follow the Kawerau Gorge to Central Otago, then cross the Lindis Pass into the MacKenzie Country

Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Today you will head through the Kawarau Gorge and across the Kawarau Bridge - a popular bungy jumping location. Continue through the Gibbston Valley and leave time to stop at one of its many vineyards for a tasting. Once you exit the gorge you'll arrive in the orchard town of Cromwell, known for its abundance of fruit growers. If you're a foodie at heart, we recommend taking a side trip to Bannockburn for a complete food and wine experience at one its many award-winning wineries and restaurants.

Cromwell itself sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the old historic town is well worth the visit. Completely submerged when the Clyde Dam was built and Lake Dunstan established in 1992, the remnants of the old Cromwell town provides a unique snapshot into this areas history.

Head over through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads, with the summit reaching 971 metres. It's tussock covered hills are a barren but beautiful sight as you descend into the Mackenzie Basin. You'll go through the towns of Omarama and Twizel - the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mount. Cook Highway to arrive in the small village.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.

Your accommodation: 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 Lodge & Motels

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 8

Day 8 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through the MacKenzie Country and the Canterbury Plains

Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Leaving Mount Cook national park, travel a short distance before stopping at the visitor centre on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. Learn about the formation of the region and take in the spectacular views of Mt. Cook. Lake Tekapo also displays the same reflective qualities of Lake Pukaki - making the waters a bright turquoise. You’ll go through the small town of Tekapo, home to some of the most photographed subjects in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog statue. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just marvel at the magnificent views. From here you travel through Burkes Pass and into the rich farming valley that surrounds Geraldine. Continue on across the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch City, your destination for the night.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

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.
Merivale Manor Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 327 kms / 203 miles : 3.7 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 9

Day 9 - Continue north through rural Canterbury to the Pacific Ocean and seaside settlement of Kaikoura

Christchurch to Kaikoura

The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline - where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive.

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: 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.
Anchor Inn Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 10

Day 10 - Drive through the coastal road before reaching the vineyards of Blenheim

Kaikoura to Blenheim

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. One of the best seal watching locations is Ohau Point (25km north of Kaikoura), where you can observe the adults on the shoreline and the pups frolicking in the waterfall, just a short walk from the road (signposted). As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine producing region. Blenheim sits right at the heart of Marlborough and is ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce. A great way to do this is to take a guided wine tour with Sounds Connection Wine Tours.

Blenheim

Surrounded by row upon row of vines, Blenheim sits at the heart of the Marlborough Wine region. A compact town centred on an old fashioned market place, Blenheim is a great place to soak up the country atmosphere. A great choice of cafes, restaurants and shops will help you while away an afternoon.
Of course the region is most famous for its world class wines and a visit would not be complete without sampling the vintages at the many wineries.

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: Bella Vista Blenheim

In a quiet location, close to town you are staying in the heart of Blenheim, surrounded by the world famous Marlborough wine growing area and just a few minutes’ walk from a wide variety of restaurants & bars.
Bella Vista Blenheim

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 11

Day 11 - Today you'll cross the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Departing Picton you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds

Blenheim to Picton

The short drive from Blenheim to Picton takes you through more wine growing regions and the valley to the west of the Robertson Range. Picton is a port town and its here that the Interislander ferries arrive and depart. The town centre is quite small with plenty of shops and cafes and the waterfront area is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours watching the activity of the ships. The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre on the wharf is worth a visit with the star attraction being the vessel the Edwin Fox, reputably the 9th oldest ship in the world. The hills to the west of Picton are the start of Queen Charlotte Drive, a very picturesque road to Havelock and Nelson that winds its way along the shores of the sounds.

Interislander ferry Picton to Wellington

Described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world,' the 92 km journey between Picton and Wellington takes around 3 hours. The first hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds before heading out into open waters. This region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays offer remarkable photographic opportunities. Once out on the Cook Strait, amazing views of the Kaikoura Ranges can be seen, often accompanied by dolphins and sea birds. After crossing the strait you approach the Wellington Harbour, passing many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head, location of New Zealand's oldest lighthouse, Red Rocks, home to a large seal colony and Oterangi Bay  - the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph).

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.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel. rooms have every amenity required for a comfortable stay and the location is superb to explore the compact city centre.
CityLife Wellington

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 27 kms / 17 miles : 0.4 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 12

Day 12 - Relive the Lord of the Rings with a fascinating tour of the Wellington film locations

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.

Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour

In a small group, you will head out to the Valley to explore the filming locations for Rivendell where Frodo recovered from his knife attack; the River Anduin where the Fellowship voyaged to Amon Hen; the Gardens of Isengard, where Gandalf rode to see Saruman and the site of the orcs felling the trees; see the quarry used for the filming of Helms Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. Then back to the City to visit the Mount Victoria lookout and Buckland Forest where you can take a "shortcut to mushrooms", "get of the road" and hide where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders before taking a run to the Buckleberry Ferry and discovering Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment along the way.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel. rooms have every amenity required for a comfortable stay and the location is superb to explore the compact city centre.
CityLife Wellington

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 13

Day 13 - Today is filled with fantastic scenery including the Kapiti Coastline as you depart Wellington and the Desert Road

Wellington to Rotorua

The drive from Wellington to Taupo takes you via the Kapiti Coast and the seaside towns of Plimmerton, Paekakariki and Paraparaumu are worth a short detour. Heading north you pass through the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving onto the central plateau. A little further the military town of Waiouru is home to the National Army Museum, an incredible collection of New Zealand’s military history and a memorial to its servicemen. Skirting Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites, you can see the 2,500 metre peak of the volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu. You might also recognise the symmetrical shape of Mt. Ngauruhoe as this was used as the scenery of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  The township of Taupo sits on the shores of New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo - a gigantic volcanic caldera formed during one of the world’s largest ever eruptions. Just north of the town are the Huka Falls and a short detour to view is advised. The Huka Jet can get you much closer with a thrilling jet boat ride. Nearby Craters of the Moon is a geothermal reserve with great walking tracks around its many boiling pools and steaming vents. Continuing on to Rotorua you pass the volcanic valley, visit either Wai O Tapu or the Waimangu Valley for a closer look. Arriving into Rotorua the city’s geothermal activity is evident with steam rising from the roadside and hills. Rotorua is considered the heart of New Zealand’s Maori cultural and it’s here you can learn of their history and traditions. The Rotorua Museum is outstanding and one of its main displays is about the devastating eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886. Nearby Ohinemutu Village is located on the site of the first Maori settlement in the area. One of the most popular introductions for many to the Maori culture is through an evening at Mitai Maori Village.  Here you will gain an insight into the traditional Maori way of life through song, dance and entertainment. A dinner prepared in the traditional manner is served to finish the evening off.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers Qualmark 4 star motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well equipped units provide a comfortable stay.
Bella Vista Rotorua

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 441 kms / 274 miles : 5.3 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 14

Day 14 - 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. 

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: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers Qualmark 4 star motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well equipped units provide a comfortable stay.
Bella Vista Rotorua

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 15

Day 15 - Drive north through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Auckland

Rotorua to Auckland

Today you will make your way to Auckland through the heart of the Waikato and its rich dairy pastures. Follow the Waikato river through the small artsy settlement of Tirau and the township of Cambridge. Continue on a little further to arrive into Auckland City, your destination for the night.

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: Waldorf Stadium Apartments

Waldorf Stadium Apartment Hotel offers 4.5 star self-contained apartment accommodation in downtown Auckland City. Located a short walk from Britomart Transport and Entertainment Precinct, Auckland Waterfront and Ferries, Queen Street and Vector Arena, Waldorf Stadium is in a wonderful location to visit all of Auckland Cities attractions in.
Waldorf Stadium Apartments

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 219 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

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Northbound Christchurch to Auckland 17 day self drive tour - Day 16

Day 16 - A free day to explore 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 - 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 - Great Tastes Half Day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

Today you'll be leaving the city and heading northwest to Kumeu Wine Country, Auckland's Heritage Wine Region. Enjoy lunch at a contemporary vineyard, sample world-renowned wines and marvel at the rugged surf-fringed coastline nearby. Your first stop is award-winning Soljans Estate Winery. Utilising both traditional and modern techniques, Soljans produce varied and richly flavoured wines. Built with sunshine in mind and a distinct Mediterranean-style, the onsite restaurant showcases fresh seasonal produce from around the region.
Continuing on, you'll visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony - one of the few mainland nesting sites in the world. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Tasman sea you'll have breathtaking views of the beach and ocean beyond. Your final tasting is at West Brook Winery, one of New Zealand's oldest. These wines reflect true varietal character and their unique regional origins.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Fullers Auckland Harbour Cruise

Today Cruise the sparkling waters of Aucklands Waitemata Harbour. You'll learn about the most well-known city landmarks, including a stopover on dormant volcano Rangitoto. You'll see spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and Devonport's historic naval base as well as enjoying the Bean Rock Lighthouse with a complimentary hot drink and sandwich.

Your accommodation: Waldorf Stadium Apartments

Waldorf Stadium Apartment Hotel offers 4.5 star self-contained apartment accommodation in downtown Auckland City. Located a short walk from Britomart Transport and Entertainment Precinct, Auckland Waterfront and Ferries, Queen Street and Vector Arena, Waldorf Stadium is in a wonderful location to visit all of Auckland Cities attractions in.
Waldorf Stadium Apartments

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Day 17 - Depart Auckland today

Depart Auckland today

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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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