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

19 day 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.

Tour summary and feature

North & South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$3,627 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Auckland

19 days/18 nights

Motels

 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible

 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

 Viewed 13 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

At a glance - 19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour

Day 1: Welcome to Queenstown. Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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

Day 3: Travel the magnificent Milford Road by luxury coach, sit back and enjoy the views. Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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: Amore Motor Lodge
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: Amore Motor Lodge

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: CityLife Auckland
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: CityLife Auckland

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: CityLife Auckland
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

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 19 day tour starting in Queenstown

Day 1 - Welcome to Queenstown

Private Transfer Queenstown Airport to your Accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Queenstown accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

Access to our exclusive New Zealand Touring APP. The APP includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

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 valley 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: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Day 2 - The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 2
Explore Queenstown and surrounds

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. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

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 - Shotover Jet Canyon Jet Boat Ride

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride! Skim past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breathtaking speeds. And a major highlight - hold tight for the world-famous Shotover Jet full 360-degree spins!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. You'll be greeted off the boat and guided through beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead.
Here you'll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country.
On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship's pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Day 3 - Travel the magnificent Milford Road by luxury coach, sit back and enjoy the views

19 day 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: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Day 4 - This morning your rental car is delivered, then its over the Crown Range and through the Haast Pass to the West Coast

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 4
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

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 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 - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. 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

Day 5 - Explore the glaciers and wilderness of Westland National Park

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 5
Explore Franz Josef Glacier

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 terminal face without a guide. 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Hot Pools

Nestled within the lush rainforest surrounds, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of tranquility. Unwind in one of the three main pools. Temperatures range from 36 to 40 degrees and the water comes directly from a glacial stream. Wash off the day and rejuvenate in this unique forest paradise.

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.

Day 6 - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch

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

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. 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 inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monteiths Brewery Personalised Bottle & Tour

From humble origins in 1868, the Monteith's family-owned Phoenix Brewery became the West Coast's most popular brewery for its strong tasting, full-bodied ale. The Phoenix Brewery later merged with a group of small breweries to form Westland Brewing Company, predecessor to today's Monteith's Brewing Company. In this informative brewery experience, you will learn about the heritage and traditions of the brewing business. Witness the making of a fine beer in open fermenters by coal-fired boilers, using only the finest ingredients. Watch the brewers carefully hand craft the beer in small batches to develop the full natural flavours. When each batch is ready, the brewers employ a brilliant time honoured tradition for quality control - they taste it.

On completion, you will receive a tasting a 3 beers of your choice from the tap at the Brewery bar, plus your very own personalised Monteith's 500ml bottle with your name on it - a personalised endorsement from the head brewer himself.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast 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.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

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

Your accommodation: Amore Motor Lodge

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

Day 7 - Explore the ever-changing city of Christchurch

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 7
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

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. 

Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for a 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 - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Pass

Discover the true magic of city sightseeing on-board this city tour bus. With a mix of open and closed top buses, you will ride in comfort and style, enjoying spectacular views. Join friendly local guides as they take you on a journey of discovery through Christchurch. Listen to "live" entertaining and informative commentary and learn about the fascinating history, from pioneering days to modern times.

Your accommodation: Amore Motor Lodge

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.

Day 8 - Just a short drive north through the Waipara Valley vineyards to the Pacific Ocean and Kaikoura

19 day 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 - 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

Day 9 - Drive from Kaikoura to Picton today

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 9
Kaikoura to Picton

Today follow the coast to Picton, located at the top of the North 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 inland to view the pups frolicking in the waterfall upstream. 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

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

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 10
Interislander Ferry Picton to Wellington

The 92 km journey between Picton and Wellington takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds. This region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays offer remarkable photographic opportunities.
From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and often dolphins and sea birds are seen. After crossing the strait you approach Wellington Harbour and pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph).

Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

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.

Day 11 - Uncover the charms of Wellington City, including the quirky cafes and fascinating museums

19 day 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, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. 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 a 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 - Walking Gourmet Food Tour

With your knowledgeable and entertaining Zest Guide, explore Wellington's foodie quarters and some of their favourite food places on this delicious introduction to the culinary capital. Visit a boutique coffee roastery or specialty cafe. Enjoy tastings at Wellington's best specialist food places including trying regional cheeses, honey, chocolates and much more, tasting at every stop. Savour a delicious, light tasting lunch with matched New Zealand wines at a top Wellington restaurant. During the tour, your guide can also introduce you to many other aspects of the Capital, ranging from iconic city architecture, sculptures and fantastic places to shop and eat. Walking time is approximately 90 minutes, all weather, over 5 hours.

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 is high!

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.

Day 12 - Today is filled with fantastic scenery, beginning with the Kapiti Coastline as you depart Wellington

19 day 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 Rotorua Museum is outstanding and one of its main displays is about the devastating eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886. Nearby 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

Day 13 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides

19 day 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 - Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo

At Rainbow Springs you'll have the chance to see some of New Zealand's native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. Come face to face with, and learn more about, New Zealand’s precious wildlife. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand's living dinosaur can also be seen here.
Go behind the scenes with New Zealand's national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour

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

Enjoy an in depth experience of the customs and traditions of Māori, with a traditional pōwhiri (Māori welcoming ceremony), a warrior's challenge and a full kapa haka (Māori performing arts) concert. Feeding guests is regarded by Māori as an honour and a sign of a tribe's mana (standing), so a sumptuous banquet is provided during the evening. This banquet combines contemporary cuisine with a traditional hangi (earth-cooked oven meal). Following dessert, you will be transported to enjoy the spectacular lighting of the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. Guests can wander around the illuminated natural attractions, including our world famous Pohutu geyser, while enjoying more Māori-inspired delicacies and a hot drink.

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.

Day 14 - Cross the green Waikato countryside to Auckland

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 14
Rotorua to Auckland

The drive from Rotorua to Auckland takes you through the heart of the Waikato and its rich agricultural land. New Zealand's longest river - the Waikato - guides you through the art and craft stores 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 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.

Your accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.

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

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 15
Explore Auckland City

Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture, humming with life. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour - try your hand at sailing an America’s Cup yacht - or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.

Walk (if you're that way inclined) to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and lose yourself in one of the 800 regional national parks on offer or grab a book and relax on a deserted beach. Head up the Sky Tower, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) and have a meal in the 360 degree revolving restaurant. Scale the outermost perimeter of the Harbour Bridge - or test your stomach and bungy off both. To end your day, catch a cab to Ponsonby Road and sample some upmarket culinary delights.

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! Hop on and off as much as you like at any of the 15 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore

This unique on-water 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: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.

Day 16 - Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the sub-tropical Bay of Islands

19 day 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

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

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

Commonly known as the ‘winterless north’ New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is made up of over 140 subtropical atolls. Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate, this tropical paradise ticks all the boxes. 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. 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, and the option to slide down giant sand dunes on sleds.

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.

Day 18 - Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast

19 day 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: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.

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

Day 19 - Depart Auckland today

19 day Classic New Zealand Driving Tour - Day 19
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

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