DAY 01: Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula (160 km)
Head South on the main State Highway 1 from Auckland and onto Highway 2 towards the Coromandel Peninsula. Along the coast of the Firth of Thames is the township of Thames which provides a reminder of the gold rush which began in 1867. Around 1900, the town had about 19000 inhabitants. From Thames it is a short trip over the beautiful Coromandel Ranges Mountains to the upmarket beach township of Pauanui.
DAY 02: Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is a beautiful area, with cool forests, picturesque beaches, rugged coastlines and swimming holes. Take a bushwalk, a walk on the beach, dangle a line, or do nothing at all.
DAY 03: Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua (218 km)
Travel South from Pauanui past many more beautiful beaches, and the township of Tauranga, one of the North Island’s largest ports. Your route takes you through the Kiwifruit Country around Te Puke and on to the heart of thermal activity and cultural centre of New Zealand, Rotorua. Rotorua is on the central North Island volcanic plateau, which causes the geysers, pools of boiling mud and water, steam vents and terraces of silica. The most well know thermal area is the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve.
DAY 04: Rotorua to Tongariro National Park (177 km)
Travel to the township of Taupo, right on the edge of Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Taupo is a trout fisherman’s paradise. There are also all sorts of water-based activities available – para-sailing, sailing, water-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing, white-water rafting (on the Tongariro River) as well as horse-riding, sky-diving and bungy jumping. Just north of Taupo is Huka Falls, a very dramatic area. Drive along the east shore of Lake Taupo to Turangi, then onto State Highway 47 into Tongariro National Park.
DAY 05: Tongariro National Park to Wellington (336 km)
Leaving Tongariro National Park journey down to Wanganui, on the South Taranaki Bight on the banks of the Wanganui River. From Wanganui travel down the west coast to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand on the south-western tip of the North Island. Wellington sits on a beautiful harbour, with Mount Victoria on the outskirts.
DAY 06: Wellington to Nelson (By Ferry)
Catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island at the Inter-Island terminal on Wellington’s waterfront. The car will need to be dropped off before catching the ferry and another vehicle picked up in Picton. The ferry cruises through the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound on its arrival into Picton, in the beautiful Marlborough Sound area. Drive around this area before travelling through Havelock to Nelson, a pretty city flanked by the sea, golden beaches and hills.
DAY 07: Nelson
A day at leisure to explore the Marlborough and Abel Tasman region around Nelson.
DAY 08: Nelson to the Glacier Region (469 km)
Continue further south-west over to the west coast of the South Island at Westport, in the region known as the West Coast, a narrow coastal strip 600 km long and no more than 50 km wide, wedged between the Southern Alps and the Tasman sea. Drive through the rugged and densely forested Buller Gorge. The road is one of the most beautiful and impressive scenic drives in New Zealand. Travel down the coast through Punakaiki, and then on to Greymouth, and Hokitika. The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are located within the Westland National Park.
DAY 09: Glacier Region to Wanaka (287 km)
The famous Fox Glacier is a 14 km long tongue of ice which descends to 250 metres above sea level. It is the most accessible glacier in New Zealand. Franz Josef Glacier is 12 km long. Leave the Glaciers today, continuing south-west on State Highway 6. At Haast the road turns inland along the Haast River, in the region of Central Otago, past Lake Wanaka to the town of Wanaka.
DAY 10: Wanaka to Queenstown (117 km)
From Wanaka either follow the main highway further inland through Luggate, Lowburn, Cromwell and back west to Queenstown, or take the Crown Range road via Cardrona. The Cardrona Valley is an old gold-mining route. Mt Cardrona is a haven for skiers of all standards. Heli-skiing in the Harris Mountains is very popular for dedicated skiers. If you’re feeling adventurous in Queenstown, a ride with Heli-Jet on the Kawarau River, Shotover Jet on the Shotover River, try white-water rafting, take a helicopter ride, go bungy jumping or bush walking. Or, for a more relaxing day, take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu on TSS Earnslaw or just have a picnic lunch and take in the beautiful surroundings.
DAY 11: Queenstown
Today is at leisure for you to explore the many activities and scenic wonders of the township of Queenstown and the surrounding areas.
DAY 12: Queenstown to Te Anau (170 km)
From Queenstown travel south along Lake Wakatipu the west to Te Anau on the outskirts of the Fiordland National Park. Fiordland National Park is listed as a World Heritage Park. At 1.52 million hectares, it is the largest national park in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world. Milford Sound is the best known, most easily accessible and one of the grandest of the fiords along this coastline. It runs past of New Zealand’s most famous landmarks, Mitre Peak, which rises 1692 metres almost straight up from the water.
DAY 13: Te Anau to Dunedin (292 km)
Travel east on via Lumsden and Gore, renowned for its brown trout fishing. Dunedin, founded by Scottish migrants in 1848, has the distinctive character of a university city as many citizens are students. Dunedin is situated on the Otago Peninsula, which is indented with bays, providing many picnic and swimming sites. The hills above are criss-crossed with old stone walls. At the tip of the peninsula is Taiaroa Head, a special reserve that includes the only mainland nesting site of the magnificent Royal Albatross.
DAY 14: Dunedin to Christchurch (362 km)
Pass through Palmerston and Oamaru in the region of North Otago. Travel inland via Omarama, Twizel and Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki, a spectacular turquoise-coloured glacial lake. Stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo for one of New Zealand’s most picturesque picnic spots. Enter the Canterbury Plains, the widest area of flat land in New Zealand and into Christchurch.
DAY 15: Christchurch
Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s historic cities with a distinctly “English” feel to it. The city is currently reinventing itself after itself after the 2010/11 earthquakes which destroyed much of the city. Among the city’s popular sights are RE:Start, an outdoor retail and café precinct built in fashionably presented shipping containers, the Transitional Cardboard Cathedral, a fascinating architectural structure made out of cardboard. Your program ends today.