DAY 01: Auckland
Auckland is the main Gateway City to New Zealand. Greater Auckland, with a population of over one million, is New Zealand’s largest urban area, and centre of commerce and industry, but within minutes of the city you can experience uncrowded beaches, rural countryside and forests. The dominating feature of the Auckland cityscape are the graceful lines of the Harbour bridge, the sparkling waters of the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf, and the brooding cone of Rangitoto Island – the last of the city’s 48 volcanoes to erupt – just over 600 years ago. Upon arrival, pick up your rental car at Auckland airport.
DAY 02: Auckland to Paihia (241km)
On State Highway 1, travel north from Auckland past Warkworth and Leigh, through Wellsford and on up to Whangarei. Along the way, there are many forests to explore. You could also take off to the east and visit some of the surf beaches along the coast, such as Langs Beach, near Waipu. Whangarei (population 44,000) is the commercial and cultural heart of Northland. The city is surrounded by forested hills and is situated a harbour which houses yachts from around New Zealand and the world. If you are interested in clocks, the Clapham Clock Museum is worth a visit, with nearly 1000 unusual timepieces from around the world. It is located in the Town Basin, 5 minutes from the town centre. Continue on to Kawakawa, which has a railway line running down the main street, which was originally built for trains to haul coal to Opua. Here you turn right to Paihia, where you will be staying for the next two nights.
DAY 03: Paihia
On these days you have time at leisure to explore the magnificent Bay of Islands. Perhaps take a cruise, see the dolphins, or visit the Treaty House at Waitangi. Here, in 1840 the British Government and Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Take a ferry ride to Russell, the first capital of New Zealand, on the car ferry. We also suggest a boat cruise through the Bay of Islands, the Cape Brett cruise, where you can see the “Hole in the Rock”. Or perhaps go on a bush tour along the “90 mile beach” to Cape Reinga or visit historical Russell Village.
DAY 04: Paihia
Day at leisure.
DAY 05: Paihia to Pauanui (Coromandel Peninsula) (370 km)
A choice of routes back south today – you can travel back down State Highway 1 straight into Auckland, or try a different route – over to the west coast through Opononi, along the beautiful coast. Further south on this route is the Waipoua Forest, which holds a reserve of 2639 hectares of kauri, the largest surviving stand of these magnificent trees, which once covered much of the northern half of the North Island. The largest tree in Waipoua is the Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest). It is 51 metres high, 14 metres around, with no branches for the first 12 metres. Carry on the main State Highway 1 through Auckland again 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 to the upmarket beach township of Pauanui.
DAY 06: 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 07: Pauanui 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 08: Rotorua
Time today to visit some of the major tourist attractions in the Rotorua township and surrounds.
DAY 09: 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 10: 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. Out of Wanganui, travel down the west coast to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand on the southwestern tip of the North Island. Wellington sits on a beautiful harbour, with Mount Victoria on the outskirts.
DAY 11: Wellington to Nelson (By Ferry – 110km)
Catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island at the InterIslander 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 12: Nelson
A day at leisure to explore the Marlborough and Abel Tasman region around Nelson.
DAY 13: Nelson to Greymouth (290 km)
From Nelson you will head out past the Abel Tasman National Park region to the “wild west coast” of the South Island, through the small towns of Westport and Greymouth.
DAY 14: Greymouth to Glacier Region (179 km)
From Greymouth continue south 40 km to Hokitika. Hokitika was the centre of the richest gold-producing area in New Zealand in the 1960s. Visit the West Coast Historical Museum in town for an insight into the history of the area. Just a short drive further will bring you down into the famous Westland National Park, home to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. You will have time today to experience a walk up to the Glacier face or even out onto the ice itself.
DAY 15: Glacier Region to Queenstown (404 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. 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. 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 16: Queenstown
Today is at leisure for you to explore the many activities and scenic wonders of the township Queenstown and the surrounding areas.
DAY 17: 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 18: 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.
DAY 19: Dunedin
Today we suggest a drive out along the Otago Peninsula for a sample of the unique South Island wildlife found in abundance on this scenic peninsula. At the tip of the peninsula is Taiaroa Head, a special reserve that includes the only mainland nesting site of the magnificent Royal Albatross. The rare Yellow-eyed penguins can also be seen at the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve, halfway along the peninsula.
DAY 20: Dunedin to Mt Cook Region (330 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.
DAY 21: Mt Cook to Christchurch Region (330km)
Travel past Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo and enter the Canterbury Plains, the widest area of flat land in New Zealand and into 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.
DAY 22: Christchurch
Your program ends today.