Remote, rugged, immense - with beautiful valleys, majestic mountains, pristine lakes and unique wildlife, there is grand scenery to be discovered around New Zealand.
This diverse tour takes you to some of the most beautiful and scenic locations, getting you to places that most travellers don’t ever hear about.
Of course you will not miss out on major tourist attractions! It’s the savvy mix of classic highlights and regions where time has stood still, which makes this trip so special.
Be ready for a touching journey.
On arrival in Auckland Meet & Greet by REST NEW ZEALAND TOURS. Transfer to your accommodation in Auckland, handover of travel documents. If you are not too tired we recommend a leisurely stroll along Auckland’s waterfront.
Rental car pick up. Before you drive up north make a side trip to Auckland’s west coast and visit a Gannet colony at black sand Muriwai Beach. Further north the interesting Kauri Museum in Matakohe is the ideal stop for lunch and prepares you for the giant Kauri trees in Waipoua Forest later on. You stay overnight in Omapere at Hokianga Harbour. For the evening we recommend a guided Maori tour to the Kauri trees from Omapere.
You cross Hokianga Harbour on the ferry and travel to the subtropical Far North. If you have time you can do the detour to Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s northernmost point. On your way to the Bay of Islands you will pass beautiful sandy beaches and small fishing villages. The historic Stone Store in Kerkeri by the river is worth a visit. From Opua you cross the bay on a small car ferry to historic Russell, where you stay the next 2 nights.
The beauty of the Bay unfolds only on a boat tour. Whatever you choose, it will be a memorable experience: the Hole in the Rock, swimming with dolphins, with or without a picnic stop at one of the islands, go sailing or kayaking. Or wander around the Treaty Grounds and visit historic Treaty House in Waitangi. You can even go on a bus tour to Cape Reinga.
You head south on side roads, along the east coast, past beautiful beaches and bays until you arrive in Auckland. Explore the interesting restaurant scene of multi-cultural Auckland, stroll through the Viaduct Basin at the waterfront, take the ferry to historic Devonport or admire the Skyline from Bastion Point at Tamaki Drive or from Mount Eden.
Travel along the western shores of Coromandel Peninsula to Coromandel town. Cafés and small shops invite you for a stop. At Hot Water Beach you can dig your own thermal pool at low tide. A nice short walk from Hahei Beach takes you to the famous Cathedral Cove, one of the most interesting bays in the country. You stay overnight in Tairua, where you can play golf, do some kayaking or simply relax at the beach. The short walk to the top of Mount Paku will reward you with a great view.
You travel along the East Coast and pass through the Kiwi growing area of Te Puke. Make a stop at the visitor centre and learn all about the national fruit of New Zealand. Later you arrive in Rotorua, the heartland of Maori culture and centre of thermal activities in New Zealand. We recommend a Maori cultural show with a traditional Hangi for the evening.
Visit some of the natural wonders of this amazing area and let yourself be entertained by a cheerful sheep show. We strongly recommend a boat trip to White Island, an active volcano. The boat starts in Whakatane. You will spend the night at Ohope Beach, the Gateway to the East Cape.
Today, you go on a long and pleasant drive around the East Cape, geographically the most eastern point of the country and the world. The first Polynesians landed here. The Manuka Mill in Te Arora is worth a visit. You learn all about the healthy oil. Have a look at the beautiful carved St. Mary’s Church in Tikitiki. The hot springs in Te Puia invites you for a break and Tolaga Bay has the longest pier in the country.
Next stop is Napier the Art Deco Capital of New Zealand. A stroll through the city is a real contrast to the drive through the nature and will give you some insight into this architectural period. You continue on less travelled road through the centre of the North Island. It will give you an insight in rural New Zealand. Parts of this road network were used in the past to connect the inland farms with the port of Napier. Horse drawn carriages used to struggle through the difficult terrain. The road is now completely sealed and goes through one of the largest sheep stations in this country. You stay overnight at the foot of Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park.
You are driving inland over the historic Forgotten World Highway to Taranaki National Park, which is dominated by the impressive volcano Mount Taranaki. The pretty town of New Plymouth is located on a large bay at the West Coast. We recommend doing at least one of the many walks in the area of the ever present mountain.
New Plymouth is famous for its beautiful parks. But the main attraction is the cone shaped Mount Taranaki with its green slopes and snow-capped top. Take a walk from one of the visitor centres to explore the mountain. Beaches and bays along the coastal highway are popular with surfers.
The Surf Highway takes you around Mount Taranaki to the city of Wanganui, one of the oldest settlements in the country. After driving along the Kapiti Coast you’ll reach Wellington the capital of New Zealand. We recommend a sightseeing tour and a walk along the waterfront to the National Museum Te Papa. Here you get in depth information about the country’s history and culture.
The tour with the ferry through picturesque Marlborough Sound is one of the highlights of your trip. From Picton you drive along the Queen Charlotte Drive with its many bays and beaches. Enjoy sunny Nelson, with its local art scene before you continue to Abel Tasman National Park.
The park offers a wide array of activities and plenty of walks for all fitness levels. For example you can take a water taxi to Tonga Bay and walk from there to Torrent Bay and take the water taxi back. Or take a kayak along the coast on your own or with a group. Or simply relax on the golden sand of Kaiteriteri beach.
You are driving through rural country side to the alpine region of Nelson Lakes National Park. A special track with some river crossings takes you from St. Arnaud to Murchison. After lunch return to the hinterland. Travel on remote gravel roads through dense beech forest and cross the main divide via the Lewis Pass before civilization catches up with you again in Hanmer Springs. Relax in the thermal pools under the sky or take a walk, bike or a bungee jump.
Kaikoura is beautifully located by the sea with the snowcapped mountains of the Kaikoura Ranges in the background. Here you have the opportunity to swim with dolphins and seals and watching whales in their natural environment. Try some of the local seafood specialities like lobster and crayfish.
Drive along the coast to Garden City Christchurch, often referred to as the most English town outside England, then onto the wide Canterbury Plains to the foot of the Southern Alps where you stay overnight.
The turquoise colour of Lake Tekapo will capture you. Take a scenic flight from Tekapo over Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand’s highest mountain. You drive then along a remote valley, covered by scarce vegetation and tussock grass. Climb across a long forgotten and rarely used mountain pass to reach your overnight destination amidst the Waitaki Valley.
The route takes you via a less travelled Danseys Pass through one of the historic gold mining areas. During the New Zealand gold rush this area was one of the most frequented. As you drive through this historic region you will meet reminders of the past. Have a stroll through Naseby, which was one of the centres back then. You drive to the East Coast and can stop at the Moeraki Boulders before you come to Dunedin. Its Scottish roots are clearly reflected with the majestic buildings. We recommend a visit to the Albatross colony or the Yellow eyed penguins on Otago Peninsula.
You drive on the Southern Scenic Route along the south coast through the Catlins: windy and rough coast, many beautiful bays, forest and waterfalls. Visit the world’s oldest Petrified Forest (160 million years) and Nugget Point. Bluff is the southernmost point of the South Island. You leave your car at the harbour and cross Foveaux Strait by ferry to Stewart Island.
Nature pure! A unique chance to take part in an excursion to a secluded beach where you can observe kiwi birds in their natural surroundings. You can explore Rakiura National Park on one of the many walks. Take a water taxi along coast where you can watch Hooker see lions if you are lucky. We recommend a visit to the unique Ulva Island and its protected bird life.
The ferry takes you back to Bluff where you pick up your car. You continue on the Southern Scenic Route via Riverton to Te Waewae Bay where you can watch dolphins and whales from the cliffs. In Clifden visit the oldest suspension bridge in the country. Drive through Fiordland National Park, the biggest rainforest in New Zealand with 1000 year old Totara trees. Via Lake Manapouri the deepest lake in the country you reach Te Anau.
Doubtful Sound is called ‘The sound of silence’ because of its unspoiled nature, steep cliffs, high mountains, dense rainforest and numerous waterfalls. Seals, Bottlenose Dolphins and Fiordland Crested Penguins can be seen on the islands in the sound. Drive to Lake Manapouri and check-in for your tour. After crossing the lake, you will be taken by bus over a pass to the sound where you board the ship for the overnight cruise. Enjoy the tranquillity and breathtaking views around you.
Because this tour is seasonal we offer a second overnight in Te Anau and day boat trip to the Doubtful Sound, from mid-May to August.
You return around noon and drive with your car along Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. There are no limits for adrenalin junkies in the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world: Jet boat tours, white water rafting, river surfing, all kinds of bungee jumping and river safaris. If you like it more relaxed do a leisurely walk in the Remarkables and admire the view, play golf at world class courses or visit to the gold mining town of Arrowtown. The possibilities are endless.
You cross the Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest official road to Wanaka. Over Haast Pass, a scenic drive with many opportunities to stop and explore, you reach the West Coast. Be impressed by the beauty and the many different shades of green of the dense rainforest. Glaciers, rainforests and coast are close together in Westland National Park. We recommend a side trip to Monro Beach Walk and a stop at Ship Creek Walk. During the months of October to December you might even be lucky and see penguins and hector dolphins playing in the sea.
Make one of the walks in the glacier area or book a helicopter flight with glacier landing from Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. There is a lot to see and to do. Visit the isolated Okarito at the coast and make a kayak trip through the quiet lagoon. Or a jet boat tour in Whataroa to a White Heron Colony where you can watch these rare birds. Hokitika and Greymouth are the jade centres of the country. Visit a workshop and watch the jade carvers doing their art work.
You can do a side trip to the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki in the morning. The route over the main divide to Christchurch takes you along Lake Brunner and climbs over Arthur’s Pass, the only real mountain pass in New Zealand. The famous TranzAlpine Express train crosses it too. Take a walk through Hagley Park and along the Avon River. Enjoy the many cafes and restaurants and take advantage of a last opportunity to purchase souvenirs from Aotearoa.
Drop off your vehicle at the airport rental car office.