New Zealand self drive tour

Description of New Zealand self drive tour

Striking landscapes, lively cities, romantic vineyards and rugged coastline – New Zealand is overflowing with natural beauty and unique outdoor activities. On this luxury self-drive adventure tour, you’ll take in the highlights of both North and South Island, with an action-packed itinerary full of treks, trail, water sports, helicopter rides, wildlife watching opportunities and picture-perfect countryside.

Starting with scenic Taupo, you’ll hike to the cascades of Huka Falls, experience true enchantment in the Waitomo glowworm caves and soak in bubbling hot springs created by volcanic geysers. Then, you’ll cruise around the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds, where you can kayak with seals and then tramp along the famous Queen Charlotte Track for breath-taking views of glittering green waters and forest-fringed coastlines.

Next, drive along the picturesque Pacific coastline to Kaikoura. Here, there are whale watching opportunities, as well encounters with playful dolphins in their natural habitat. Your tour ends in Queenstown, with helicopter rides over Fjord National Park and boat trips around Milford Sound, plus fantastic wining and dining options in the city.

This whirlwind Kiwi adventure showcases the best that New Zealand has to offer, promising lasting memories and once-in-a-lifetime travel moments.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1:Arrive in Auckland & Transfer to Taupo – Arriving in Auckland, you’ll take a private transfer to Taupo with a stop at the magical Waitomo Caves, complete with glowworm grottos – an incredible introduction to New Zealand. At Taupo, you can pick up your rental car and check in to Whakaipo Lodge, a luxury property hidden in the bushland, flanked by towering mountains and serene lake waters. Unwind with a home-cooked meal made using local ingredients and a glass of renowned New Zealand wine.
Day 2:Exploring Taupo – Choose from the wide range of activities Taupo has on offer, including swimming, fishing and cruising around the Great Lake, which was formed by waters filling a volcanic crater. There are also geothermal areas to discover, including spurting geysers, geothermal caves and hot springs which feed mineral-rich thermal pools – a perfect end to the Walk the Craters of the Moon Trail. If you’re looking for a thrill, try white-water rafting and bungy jumping, or pick one of the many hiking and cycling trails. Don’t miss kayaking to the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, engraved into the cliffs of Lake Taupo.
Day 3:Exploring Huka Falls – The pounding waters of Huka Falls (“huka” is the Maori word for foam) are a sight to behold, with a whopping 22,000 litres of water spilling over the ledge every second, plunging eight metres into a churning gorge along the Waikato River. Watch the cascades from the viewing platforms or take a one-hour forest trail, following the river and the roar of the falls.
Day 4:Transfer to Marlborough Sounds – Drop off your hire car and take an internal flight from Taupo to Blenheim, where you’ll take a private transfer to Picton, followed by a private water taxi to Lochmara Lodge, located on the sandy shores of Lochmara Bay. This luxury resort is the perfect base for nature trails, water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding, wildlife tours and simple beachfront relaxation. Don’t miss a pamper at the lodge’s bathhouse and massage suite. At night, New Zealand’s dark and clear skies are perfect for stargazing, while the phosphorescence in the water makes for a surreal nighttime paddling and swimming experience.
Day 5:Exploring Marlborough Sounds – Navigate the emerald waters of Marlborough Sounds to discover sandy coves and perfect picnic spots hidden in the sea-drowned valleys. The four main water bodies are Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, Pelorus and Mahau, which hold 50 different protected nature reserves and an abundance of wildlife. Kayak with seals, spot dolphins and orcas on a cruise, or try birdwatching in the forests and on the beaches, where you’ll find populations of gannets. Historic sites can be found on the islands of Motuara, Long, Blumine and Allports, where a dish of freshly caught seafood and a glass of delicious Marlborough wine is a must.
Day 6:Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track – Today, you are free to explore Marlborough Sounds at your leisure, but we highly recommend hiking a section of the famous Queen Charlotte Track. This 71-kilometre trail offers endless views of glistening bays, wild forest and historic points of interest; the track starts at the location where South Island Maori and Europeans first met and where Captain James Cook sailed into Ship Cove in 1770.
Day 7:Transfer to Kaikoura – Return to Picton via water taxi, then pick up your next hire car for a scenic drive to Kaikoura, to the Kaikoura Boutique Hotel. The hotel is housed in an historic building right on the waterfront and features stylish rooms, as well as a champagne bar. Be sure to try the local delicacy of crayfish.
Day 8:Exploring Kaikoura – Kaikoura is an underwater treasure trove of marine life, providing opportunities for encounters with whales, dolphins, seals, albatross and much more. Dive, snorkel and cruise for glimpses of majestic sperm whales and encounters with sunbathing seal colonies, then hop on a fishing charter to try your hand at contributing to the catch of the day.
Day 9:Exploring Kaikoura – Join an eco-friendly dolphin tour to encounter playful pods of dusky dolphins, as well as the opportunity to swim with these creatures in a responsible way. Watch the dolphins show off their acrobatics in numbers that can be up to 1,000 strong. Back on land, the hike up to Mount Fyffe offers spectacular panoramic views, while a wildlife flight over Kaikoura provides a bird's eye view of the breath-taking natural landscape.
Day 10:Transfer to Queenstown – Drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch Airport, for a quick flight over to Queenstown. Here, you’ll pick up your next hire car and journey on to the five-star Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel, with mountain views that will take your breath away. Tuck into complimentary pre-dinner drinks and canapes made from local ingredients, chatting with your hosts and fellow guests, or take a stroll into town to try out the restaurants and bars.
Day 11:Helicopter Tour & Milford Sound Cruise – Take in humbling alpine scenery with a helicopter ride across the Queenstown region, flying over forests and farmlands into Fiordland National Park, an area filled with glittering lakes and tumbling waterfalls. Landing at Milford Sound, you’ll take a cruise through the valleys, staring up at towering peaks and looking out across the serene waters. On your return flight back to the base, you’ll also be able to see epic ice shelves, with a stopover on a glacier for magnificent views and awe-inspiring photo opportunities.
Day 12:Exploring Queenstown – Take the short 1.5-kilometre Queenstown Hill Time Walk for 360-degree views over the region or hop on the city’s Skyline Gondola; visit the charming town of Glenorchy for hiking trails around Lake Sylvan, then participate in a winery tour to sample world-renowned vinos and vintages. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-inducing adventure, there’s skydiving, bungy jumping, rafting, zip-lining, canyoning, paragliding, heli-mountain biking and much more besides.
Day 13:Exploring Queenstown – Spend your last full day in New Zealand at your leisure. We highly recommend lunch at Amisfield Winery, a beautiful stone building overlooking rolling vineyards and craggy mountains, with food provided by Michelin-star chef, Vaughan Mabee. Then, soak your weary muscles in the Onsen Hot Pools, next to the Shotover River Canyons, where you can recline in the natural thermal waters and sip on champagne.
Day 14:Departure from Queenstown – Sadly, your New Zealand adventure comes to an end. However, this action-packed itinerary is sure to have you leave with wonderful memories and amazing stories from your trip, as well as some truly unique and special experiences.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: New Zealand self drive tour

Environment

As with all of our luxury holidays, this itinerary has been crafted to ensure that it positively effects the local communities and environments visited.

During wildlife encounters in New Zealand, please do not get too close to animals or depart from the usual track. You should be as quiet as possible and do not make any noises to attract or frighten the wildlife. Of course you’ll be excited if you spot a seal or a kiwi, but you should try to express your excitement quietly.

In New Zealand's rural environments, please ensure that you don’t leave any litter – everything you carry in, you must carry out. Aside from the environmental damage, litter can be harmful to the wildlife.

The whale and dolphin watching excursions by boat and air are provided by responsible local companies who hold a Department of Conservation SMART (Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism) permit, as we can ensure that these local companies are committed to the conservation of New Zealand’s marine mammals.

This tour includes an eco-friendly dolphin encounter, where you swim with dolphins in their natural habitat. This activity is guided by local experts, who will ensure that it’s a positive and playful experience for the dolphins.

Community

All the local guides referred to in this itinerary are paid a fair wage, we only recommend accommodation options with responsible initiatives. We believe that using local guides (rather than UK-based guides) is important, as it helps generate local incomes and creates jobs, plus it offers a more authentic travel experience.

We recommend independent local hotels, lodges, guesthouses and campsites, rather than international chain hotels, which helps support local communities and allows you to experience true Kiwi hospitality. For example, the locally-owned eco-friendly retreat of Lochmara Lodge has a number of wildlife recovery programmes and an on-site cafe and restaurant featuring home-grown local produce.

This itinerary offers the opportunity to visit historical sites, including Maori cultural sites, such as the rock carvings at Lake Taupo. As a responsible tourist, we urge you to treat these sites with respect and we encourage you to do some research into Maori traditions and the heritage of New Zealand’s first inhabitants before you travel.

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