Classic New Zealand Driving Tour
19 day North & South Island Self Drive, from Queenstown to Auckland
Breadcrumb
New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour

Explore the cities and scenery of both the South and North Islands on this extensive 19 day extensive tour.  In the South Island you’ll begin with a few days to enjoy the activities in Queenstown and visit Milford Sound.  You then begin your journey north to your final destination of Auckland City.  Highlights along the way include: West Coast glaciers; the wildlife mecca of Kaikoura; Maori cultural centre, Rotorua; and the relaxing Bay of Islands.

Currency selector
Select your currency to view indicative pricing
Tour summary and feature
Itinerary details at a glance

North & South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$4,958 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Auckland

19 days/18 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 36 times in the last 7 days

This North & South Island Self Drive tour idea includes:

- Private Transfer Queenstown Airport to your Accommodation
- Shared Transfer from the Railway Station to a City Hotel
Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Queenstown
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 2: The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 3: Travel the magnificent Milford Road by luxury coach, sit back and enjoy the views
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 4: This morning your rental car is delivered, then its over the Crown Range and through the Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 5: Explore the glaciers and wilderness of Westland National Park
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 6: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Quality Suites Amore
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 7: Explore the ever-changing city of Christchurch
Accommodation: Quality Suites Amore

Day 8: Just a short drive north through the Waipara Valley vineyards to the Pacific Ocean and Kaikoura
Accommodation: The White Morph, Kaikoura
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 9: Drive from Kaikoura to Picton today
Accommodation: Harbour View Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 137 kms / 85 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 10: Departing Picton you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds before crossing the Cook Strait to Wellington
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington

Day 11: Uncover the charms of Wellington City, including the quirky cafes and fascinating museums
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington

Day 12: Today is filled with fantastic scenery, beginning with the Kapiti Coastline as you depart Wellington
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 441 kms / 274 miles : 5.3 hours

Day 13: Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central

Day 14: Cross the green Waikato countryside to Auckland
Accommodation: Sudima Auckland City
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 219 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 15: Explore the 'City of Sails', perhaps a wine tour or harbour cruise
Accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Day 16: Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the sub-tropical Bay of Islands
Accommodation: Sea Spray Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

Day 17: Enjoy a free day to relax in the balmy Bay of Islands or venture north to Cape Reinga at the top of New Zealand
Accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Day 18: Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast
Accommodation: Sudima Auckland City
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 343 kms / 213 miles : 4.4 hours

Day 19: Depart Auckland today

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

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 1
Transfer from Queenstown Airport to your accommodation

Welcome to the Adventure Capital of Queenstown.  You will be met at the airport and driven to your accommodation.

Welcome to Queenstown

Renowned for its adrenaline inducing activities Queenstown is synonymous with adventure. Parked on the shores of Lake Wakatipu this small alpine town is nestled below soaring vistas of The Remarkables Mountain Range. While arguably the brightest gem in New Zealand’s crown, Queenstown offers far more than an action-packed getaway. Spend time on the Gibbston wine trail and end with a meal at Michelin star chef Josh Emett’s restaurant, Rata. Take a trip down memory lane on a 100 year old steamship the TSS Earnslaw. Soak in the scenery on your walk around the lake, or venture further afield into Fiordland National Park. Head over the hill to resort town Wanaka, or re-live scenes from Lord Of The Rings by four wheel drive. But - if you really do want that rush - head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis Bungy, freefall on the Canyon swing or Zip line the Gondola. Just be sure it's done on an empty stomach  – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Your accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Scenic Suites Queenstown offers guests exquisite style, comfort and spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps. The hotel prides itself on its four star hospitality that will make your stay in Queenstown even more memorable.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 2
Explore Queenstown

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. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. If you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.
Finally, if you're lucky enough to visit in winter (July-September) there are four ski resorts close by. You can head up to Coronet Peak and the Remarkables close to Queenstown, or head to Wanaka for Cardrona and Treble Cone.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Skyline Gondola Queenstown and 3 Luge Rides

In the heart of Queenstown, located 450 metres above town in the Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve is the Skyline Complex. A gondola ride to the summit makes for awe-inspiring views of the city surround. Arrive at the complex and wander the outside viewing decks for a picture perfect outlook. Then onto the Luge! The 800 metre luge track offers an exhilarating journey through banked corners, tunnels and dippers.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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

Enjoy a quintessential Kiwi experience, a delicious gourmet BBQ buffet meal and a farm demonstration in a stunning lakeside setting. Take in the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and its surroundings as you cruise across the lake to the historic Walter Peak high country farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship.
Enjoy the ambience of the heart of the stately homestead while your Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant chef prepares a gourmet BBQ dinner. Your seasonal menu includes an extensive selection of local New Zealand produce, including succulent meats and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Complete your meal with your choice of delicious desserts, New Zealand cheeses, tea and coffee.
After dinner, watch the farm dogs in action with a sheep-herding demonstration and say hello to the other farm animals. Finally, cruise home under the southern stars and enjoy the fresh night air as the lights of Queenstown draw ever closer.

Your accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Scenic Suites Queenstown offers guests exquisite style, comfort and spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps. The hotel prides itself on its four star hospitality that will make your stay in Queenstown even more memorable.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 3
Milford Sound Cruise and coach tour from Queenstown

Return luxury coach transport from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with a 1 hour 40 minute Cruise along the full length of the fiord. On boarding a Real Journeys luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown or Te Anau, 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 modern, spacious vessel for a leisurely cruise in the fiord. The cruise provides excellent viewing opportunities and plenty of time is available to enjoy waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and the wildlife. During the cruise your friendly crew provide commentaries in several languages and point out the sights such as Mitre Peak and the Pembroke Glacier.

Your accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Scenic Suites Queenstown offers guests exquisite style, comfort and spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps. The hotel prides itself on its four star hospitality that will make your stay in Queenstown even more memorable.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 4
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.

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 the 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 highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beaches occasionally. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. Keep heading North and be sure to enjoy the view of the ever-changing towering snowcapped Southern Alps Mountain Range. 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

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 5
Explore Franz Josef

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

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.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 6
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today head north along the mighty West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beach occasionally. Whataroa is the next town where you can see one of the world's rarest birds, 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. 
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 center offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Hokitika is a great place to explore craft and gift stores and head to the coast and take in the endless sea views. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge is located 45 minutes inland and offers turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
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 at 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.

Shared Transfer from the Railway Station to a City Hotel with Christchurch Touring

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

Your accommodation: Quality Suites Amore

Amore Motor Lodge is one of the newest motels in Riccarton, Christchurch. The modern, well-appointed studio suites and spacious 2-bedroom apartments provide the ultimate in comfort are fully self-contained. Stay just 100 metres from the Westfield Mall and a short walk to Hagley Park and Riccarton Bush Farmers Market.

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

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 7
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.

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. 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.  

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hot Air Balloon Ride

Escape to a world of peace and tranquillity. Hot Air Ballooning is a magical experience and a flight with Ballooning Canterbury offers panoramic views across the fertile Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. There is nothing quite so romantic and exciting as floating effortlessly over an ever changing landscape.
Before leaving the ground, the pilot will give you a briefing. During your flight you will experience spectacular views and have fantastic photo opportunities. Chilled champagne, orange juice and a light snack then be served. Hot air ballooning is a hands-on experience and you will be encouraged to assist with the setup and pack away of the balloon itself.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Discover Christchurch Afternoon Tour

A half day sightseeing tour of Christchurch highlighting both the damage to the city inflicted by several large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the rebuild which is currently in progress, together with the surviving beauty of the city and the historical landmarks. Experience the grand architecture, beautiful gardens and scenic viewpoints on a half-day city tour of Christchurch.
The tour commences in the central city of Christchurch and covers the area which was completely devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011. The guide will explain both the history of the city and the effects of the earthquake. On leaving the inner city, the tour travels to Mona Vale a historic homestead and gardens. Then you will travel to the Sign of the Takahe, a historic building with a lookout providing spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains and to the Southern Alps. The tour then travels via the Port Hills and Lyttleton Harbour by way of the Sign of the Kiwi and Governors Bay to the Port of Lyttleton. The tour proceeds through the Lyttleton harbour tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and cave rock before returning to the central city where the tour will conclude.

Your accommodation: Quality Suites Amore

Amore Motor Lodge is one of the newest motels in Riccarton, Christchurch. The modern, well-appointed studio suites and spacious 2-bedroom apartments provide the ultimate in comfort are fully self-contained. Stay just 100 metres from the Westfield Mall and a short walk to Hagley Park and Riccarton Bush Farmers Market.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 8
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 - Dolphin Encounter Swimming with the Dolphins

Experience a magical swimming encounter with dusky dolphins off the coast Kaikoura. You’ll be taken out in the catamaran and have the chance to swim in the water with these wild mammals in a completely natural environment. The dusky dolphin inhabits the waters around Kaikoura for most of the year - making it one of the only places in the world where dolphins can be encountered every day.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Ocean's Cabin with Whale Watch Kaikoura

Experience New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company. Whale Watch Kaikoura offer a once-in-a-lifetime, up close encounter with the giant Sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, occasionally make an appearance.
Cruise in style on modern catamarans, specifically designed for whale watching, featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

Your accommodation: The White Morph, Kaikoura

Set on the Esplanade in Kaikōura, The White Morph enjoys commanding views of the ocean and mountains. Just a 10-minute walk into town, The White Morph has been beautifully placed so that you can take in the spectacular scenery of Kaikoura while enjoying the variety of attractions on offer.

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

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 9
Kaikoura to Picton

Today follow the coast to Picton, located at the top of the South Island. As you leave Kaikoura you'll take in the spectacular shoreline and keep a lookout for native wildlife as you go. Stop to view adult fur seals at Ohau Point, and take a short stroll along the oceanside walkway. Continuing on, you'll have the ocean on one side and the Kaikoura ranges on the other before traversing the dry hills of Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine-producing region. Visit one of the vineyards surrounding Blenheim for a wine tasting or a gourmet lunch before beginning the final leg of your journey to Picton.

Your accommodation: Harbour View Motel

Spacious, self contained accommodation with views of the harbour and marina. Studio units each with its own private balcony, just minutes from the water's edge and a short stroll to town.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 137 kms / 85 miles : 2.0 hours

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 10
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.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 11
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 Experience, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. 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 an 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 - Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour

Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley, just 10 minutes from the central city.
Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost. Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley, so your chances of seeing one are high!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Wētā Workshop Experience + Guided Transfers

Get the full experience to Wētā Workshop and back with a guided transfer. Also, bag some other cool perks that will make your experience extra special. Learn about the real props, costumes and creatures created for your favourite films. Interact with cool stuff from the Weta workshop creative departments and catch an artist at work on the tour stage. Discover the filmmaking technique of miniature effects and learn how they are built for hit TV and film productions. Get up close to the props, weapons and costumes created for The Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, The Great Wall, Avatar, District 9, and more.

Your accommodation: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 12
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 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: Quest Rotorua Central

Located in the heart of Rotorua, just a stone’s throw from the restaurant and shopping precinct. Purpose built in 2012, all apartments are equipped with modern fixtures, full cooking and laundry facilities that make Quest Rotorua Central your perfect home away from home.

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

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 13
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 - National Kiwi Hatchery Tour

The National Kiwi Hatchery Tour is a special opportunity to gain insight into and view this highly regarded conservation centre. Developed with the visitor experience in mind, the hatchery boasts special viewing opportunities and is hosted by kiwi expert guides who ensure guests leave fully informed and all questions answered. Learn all about New Zealand’s intriguing national icon and the efforts of the kiwi husbandry team, see and discover what it takes to hatch and rare chicks, and if you’re lucky see baby chicks in person!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Original Ziplining Experience with Rotorua Canopy Tours

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Pō - Indigenous Evening Experience

Indulge in Te Puia's world-famous hāngī buffet dinner, served in the inviting atmosphere of Pātaka Kai Restaurant, Bar & Café. The menu, crafted with the freshest ingredients, offers a delightful array of traditional Māori cuisine, This banquet combines contemporary cuisine with a traditional hangi (earth-cooked oven meal). The evening's cultural performance will take place in an exquisitely carved meeting house, Te Aronui a Rua. Here, you'll experience a rich showcase of Māori traditions, beginning with a pōhiri (traditional welcome), followed by the melodious harmonies of waiata (song), the powerful rhythms of mōteatea (traditional chant), the graceful artistry of poi, and the intense energy of the haka. As the night draws to a close, savor hot chocolate heated in geothermal water and steamed pudding while basking in the enchanting ambiance of the geyser terrace. Bathed in colored light and surrounded by the mystical steam rising from the earth, this unforgettable evening at Te Puia is a feast for the senses and a celebration of Māori culture.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a spectacular showcase of New Zealand’s most colourful and unique geothermal elements sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity. You are introduced to a uniquely different natural landscape – the key to what you see lies below the surface – one of the most extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand, extending over 18-sq. km. Enjoy viewing unique volcanic features as you walk at your own pace along well-defined tracks. Relax in the first-class Visitor Centre, home to the Gift Shop and Café facilities. Visit the Mud Pool, the largest in New Zealand, it was originally the site of a large mud volcano which was destroyed through erosion in the 1920s. See the history and beauty of the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15 am every day. Lady Knox Geyser provides a unique opportunity to see an eruption to heights of 10 to 20 metres.

Your accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central

Located in the heart of Rotorua, just a stone’s throw from the restaurant and shopping precinct. Purpose built in 2012, all apartments are equipped with modern fixtures, full cooking and laundry facilities that make Quest Rotorua Central your perfect home away from home.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 14
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 from Shires Rest

Become immersed in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata in the heart of the lush Waikato farming region, your tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films. Spend time wandering through Bagshot Row before being led inside a Hobbit Hole to view the detailed interiors, designed to provide an authentic glimpse into the dwelling of a Hobbit.

Your accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of Auckland’s bustling shopping, arts, dining and entertainment precincts and opposite the New Zealand International Convention Centre.

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

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 15
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. 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 - Waiheke Island Explorer Hop On Hop Off Tour

The most flexible tour on Waiheke Island, introducing you to the island's top spots! Start the tour of at Auckland harbor cruising on the ferry to reach Waiheke Island where you can hop on and off as much as you like at any of the 16 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. At the end of the tour hop on the ferry and cruise the sparkling waters back to the Auckland harbor.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Sailing Dinner Cruise with Explore

This unique on-water sailing and 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: Sudima Auckland City

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of Auckland’s bustling shopping, arts, dining and entertainment precincts and opposite the New Zealand International Convention Centre.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 16
Auckland to Paihia, Bay of Islands

The trip from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands takes around 3.5 hours but give yourself some leeway for stops and sightseeing. As you go through Puhoi, take in the bohemian atmosphere of this historical township. Stop for a breath of fresh salty air in Whangarei and take another break at Kawakawa, home to the world famous Hundertwasser toilets. Enjoy the native bush surrounds and marvel at the endless golden beaches as you arrive into central Bay Of The Islands, Paihia.

Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 17
Explore the Bay of Islands

Made up of over 140 subtropical atolls, New Zealand's Bay of Islands is renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate. Commonly known as the 'Winterless North' this tropical paradise is the ideal holiday destination. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or cool off during a ‘swim with dolphins’ ocean safari. If diving is your thing, take the morning to descend the Rainbow Warrior - The Greenpeace flagship sunk by French saboteurs in 1985. Wander around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843. Learn about our culture in historic Waitangi, the site where The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the Maori and European settlers dictating the terms by which New Zealand would become a British colony. Finally, before you leave take a travel day to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Cape Reinga Scenic Aeroplane Flight and Guided Tour

Today experience the beauty of the North from both air and land. Take a spectacular scenic flight to Cape Reinga over Whangaroa Harbour and the Rangaunu Harbour as well as Coopers Beach, Doubtless Bay and Ninety Mile Beach. The tour also includes a visit to the Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.

Back to top

Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 18
Bay of Islands (Paihia) to Auckland via Waipoua Forest

Today you will leave the Bay of Islands for a scenic return trip to Auckland. Head west, leaving the Pacific Ocean for the wilder seas of the Tasman and Hokianga. Go through the small townships of Omapere and Opononi, each with a great seaside feel.
Your route now goes south through Waipoua Forest, home to the largest and oldest Kauri trees in the country. Make sure you allow time for several of the signposted short walks as you pass - not to be missed is the five minute loop to view the largest of all the trees -Tane Mahuta.
As you make your way back down the country you’ll pass the Matakohe Kauri Museum with extensive displays on the region’s logging, farming and social history. Continuing on, go through Warkworth and the bohemian settlement of Puhoi before crossing the harbour bridge to arrive in Auckland city.

Your accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of Auckland’s bustling shopping, arts, dining and entertainment precincts and opposite the New Zealand International Convention Centre.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 343 kms / 213 miles : 4.4 hours

Back to top

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: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

Back to top

Tour quick quote rework
Get an Instant Quote or Book this Tour
Classic New Zealand Driving Tour
Step 1:
Step 2: Select preferred car type or size
No pricing loaded - please make sure you have selected a car type or contact us
Step 3: Select number of passengers and room configuration
How many guests are children?
How many guests are children?

Enter phone number to get a call from a travel planning expert within in 24 hours

Enter email address to receive your instant quote

Tick this box if you do not wish to receive emails about special offers
No pricing loaded - please choose another date or contact us
Your quote for this tour:
Start date:
End date:
Guests:
Rooms:
Car type:
Total cost for ALL guests on this tour package is:
NZD$0
or
This quote is based on vehicles to accommodate your party in the vehicle type. We suggest changing the car type or contacting us for the best options.
The package cost above excludes rental vehicle hire as you are requesting a price for a vehicle outside of our designated season. Please reach out direct for rental vehicle rates.

NOTE: Quotes are subject to the availability of specific accommodations and other inclusions. Our NZ touring experts will contact you if any changes are needed. Costs quoted in currencies other than New Zealand dollars (NZ$) are based on today's exchange rate and are subject to change. Terms and Conditions apply.
If you have chosen to hire a Budget rental car, you may incur a one-way fee if a portion of your hire is under 7 days. Your sales consultant can confirm this on booking.

Remember: we can create this itinerary with any accommodation style or customise it to suit your interests and timeframe.

Contact form
Enquire about this tour

Fields marked * are mandatory

Your contact information
Subscribe to our Regular Newsletter for Inspiring Holiday Ideas
Currency selector
Select your currency to view indicative pricing