9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour
9 day North & South Island Self Drive, from Auckland to Christchurch
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9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour

Experience the North and South Island on this 9 day tour. Highlights include Auckland, Rotorua, Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier, the Tranz Alpine train, and Queenstown.

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North & South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,160 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch

9 days/8 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 21 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance
Quick itinerary overview - 9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour

Day 1: Welcome to the harbourside city of Auckland
Accommodation: Nesuto Stadium Hotel and Apartments

Day 2: Discover the famous Glowworm caves and vast rural landscapes on your way to Rotorua
Accommodation: Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 317 kms / 197 miles : 4.0 hours

Day 3: Explore the adventure, thermal wonders and Maori culture of Rotorua at your leisure
Accommodation: Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa

Day 4: Start your South Island experience in the vibrant lakeside of Queenstown. Take an afternoon lake cruise.
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 3 kms / 2 miles : 0.1 hours

Day 5: Explore the many wonders of Queenstown or enjoy a day trip to explore Fiordland National Park
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 6: Free day to explore Queenstown
Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 7: Discover the incredible scenery of the Haast Pass on your way to meet the West Coast
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 8: Continue along the West Coast and meet the famous Tranz Alpine Train this afternoon
Accommodation: Quest Worcester St
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 9: Take time to explore Christchurch before heading home today

Detailed itinerary
See a day by day description including activities & accommodation suggestions for this itinerary example
Tour full itinerary
Day 1 - Welcome to the harbourside city of Auckland
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 1
Welcome to Auckland

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

Private transfer Auckland airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore

This unique on-water dining experience is not to be missed while you're in Auckland. Enjoy smooth sailing on the Waitemata Harbour - then watch this photogenic city come alive with twinkling lights. Enjoy your meal as you sail around the beautiful Auckland Harbour taking in the view as the sun slowly sets. You'll be treated to canapes and a drink as you set off towards Westhaven Marina. Choose between dining in the downstairs cabin or on deck to take in the iconic sights of the Auckland Harbour. To finish the evening off, savour your dessert course as you leisurely sail back to Auckland's vibrant Viaduct Harbour.

Your accommodation: Nesuto Stadium Hotel and Apartments

Nesuto Stadium 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, Nesuto Stadium is in a wonderful location to visit all of Auckland Cities attractions.
Day 2 - Discover the famous Glowworm caves and vast rural landscapes on your way to Rotorua
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 2
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.

Auckland to Waitomo

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

Footwhistle Glowworm Cave Tour

Enjoy a courtesy scenic shuttle to the Footwhistle Glowworm Cave while your experienced guide reveals the rich history of Waitomo. Take a short walk through breath taking native bushland to the cave entrance. There, your guide lights the candles which sets the scene for an intimate cave experience. You will see glowworms and cave formations up close while you appreciate the beauty of Footwhistle Cave (also known to local Maori as Te Anaroa Cave).
The solar powered lights are kept low so you can appreciate the magnificent glow worm displays just centimetres away. Around a corner lie the bones of one of New Zealand's lost treasures, the ancient Moa.
After enjoying a relaxed stroll through the cave, take a seat in Footwhistle's Cathedral to see it lit up by a dazzling magnesium torch. Complete the tour by enjoying a complimentary Kawa tea whilst you relax in the punga hut surrounded by native forest.

Waitomo to Rotorua

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

Your accommodation: Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa

Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 317 kms / 197 miles : 4.0 hours

Day 3 - Explore the adventure, thermal wonders and Maori culture of Rotorua at your leisure
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 3
Explore Rotorua

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Puia: Te Rā Daytime Experience

Only a short hop from the Rotorua township you'll find Te Puia, known as New Zealand's living Māori cultural experience. Sprawling across 60 hectares of volcanic land, it's home to the world-renowned Pohutu Geyser, a live kiwi enclosure and more than 500 geothermal wonders. Shrouded in a continuous haze of steam, Te Puia has a dramatic and ethereal air.
As you're guided along the wooden walkways, thermal springs and boiling mud pools surround you on either side, while native ferns and flax can be seen in the forest ahead. Te Puia takes pride in keeping Māori traditions and craft alive and it is home to the New Zealand National Carving and Weaving Schools. You'll have the chance to watch these unique craftspeople working as they share their skills with the next generation.

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. 

Your accommodation: Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa

Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.
Day 4 - Start your South Island experience in the vibrant lakeside of Queenstown. Take an afternoon lake cruise.
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 4
Drop your rental car at Rotorua Airport

Drop your rental car at Rotorua airport before continuing your onward journey.

Air New Zealand flight Rotorua to Queenstown
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.

Spirit of Queenstown Scenic Cruise

Sit back and relax aboard Spirit of Queenstown. Take an epic voyage of discovery around Lake Wakatipu and go further than any other cruise to explore secluded bays, historic landmarks and mountain views. The purpose-built catamaran ensures unobstructed views out either side of the vessel with large tall viewing windows and spacious outdoor decks for panoramic viewing.
The cruise includes a glass of wine and a freshly prepared platter of delicious Gibbston Valley cheeses, and locally sourced chutneys and dried fruits.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 3 kms / 2 miles : 0.1 hours

Day 5 - Explore the many wonders of Queenstown or enjoy a day trip to explore Fiordland National Park
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 5
Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston Valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw -  to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown.
Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Milford Sound Fly/Nature Cruise/Fly from Queenstown with Southern Discoveries

Explore Milford Sound’s stunning fiord from the air and on the water by boarding a plane for a 40 minute scenic flight to Milford Sound flying over the spectacular Southern Alps. On arrival into Milford Sound, you will cruise the full length of the fiord on a small catamaran with comfortable indoor seating and tall windows for panoramic viewing of spectacular Milford Sound. A specialist Nature Guide shares their local knowledge with lively and informative commentary, pointing out seals, dolphins and penguins (when in season).
On arrival at the Milford wharf, there is a transfer to the Milford airport for the return flight to Queenstown. The flight takes a different path so that passengers experience further dramatic scenery before arriving at Queenstown airport.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Queenstown

On boarding the luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown, enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Manapouri. From Pearl Harbour, Manapouri, you cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri to West Arm and then travel by coach over Wilmot Pass through dense rainforest. There are opportunities along the way to examine the plant life and view the spectacular scenery. Once at Doubtful Sound you board the catamaran, Commander Peak, for a 3 hour cruise of beautiful Doubtful Sound to the Tasman Sea. On board there is excellent viewing of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals basking on the rocks, or a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. Rare Fiordland crested penguins are sometimes encountered in the right season. An interesting on board commentary keeps you informed and on the return journey, the vessel's engines are turned off and visitors are treated to the 'Sound of Silence'.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
Day 6 - Free day to explore Queenstown
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 6
Enjoy a second day in Queenstown

With such an abundance of activities on offer, one day in Queenstown is never enough!  Today you’ll have some spare time for those things you didn’t get to do yesterday.  For more thrills you can choose from jet boating, luging, bungy jumping or a canyon swing. If golf is your game, the exceptional Millbrook Golf Course is the place for you. Explore a little further afield - nearby historic gold mining township Arrowtown, is a popular destination and features many original buildings and features. At the head of Lake Wakatipu sits Glenorchy, the scenic drive here is worth the trip alone, however arriving into this peaceful township you could easily rest the day away.  Nearby is the start of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.  You can enjoy a section of this track as a day walk or for the ultimate wilderness adventure choose the 3 day all-inclusive fully guided option.  To really appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds this area, a scenic flight or hot air balloon ride will take your breath away.  For a slightly more grounded experience, the Skyline Gondola offers fantastic views of Queenstown and the Remarkables.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Queenstown Skyline Gondola Ride

Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere! From which you can take in the awe-inspiring views of this spectacular landscape. Sit back and relax as you enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak and the magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.
Day 7 - Discover the incredible scenery of the Haast Pass on your way to meet the West Coast
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 7
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range - the highest sealed road in New Zealand - to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1 hour return walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

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

Day 8 - Continue along the West Coast and meet the famous Tranz Alpine Train this afternoon
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 8
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey - the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Crossing the south from Greymouth to Christchurch, the Tranz Alpine is considered one of the worlds greatest train journeys. You'll travel from east to the west of the south island through Arthur's Pass National Park.

From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Quest Worcester St

Quest Christchurch rooms offer guests a relaxed and comfortable experience perfect for short or long stays. Property is located within the Christchurch CBD, only a short walk to Cathedral Square, New Regent Street Entertainment Precinct, Isaac Royal Theatre, Botanic Gardens, Town Hall and Convention Centre, Christchurch Arts Centre, Art Gallery and Museum.

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

Day 9 - Take time to explore Christchurch before heading home today
9 day Contrasts of New Zealand Self Drive Tour - Day 9
Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover.  In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens, or head to Oxford Terrace in the city to find a great spot to eat or drink.

Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.  

Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

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

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