21 Day Northbound Encounter
Christchurch to Auckland
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

21 Day Northbound Encounter

Visiting the highlights of New Zealand as well as a few hidden gems, this tour includes a great range of activities. You’ll enjoy wildlife tours, scenic flights, glacier adventures, overnight cruises and so much more. In the evenings you’ll relax at our favourite boutique lodges where your hosts will make you feel right at home.

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Quick Itinerary Details

North & South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$9,252 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Auckland

21 days/20 nights

Boutique lodges & hotels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 7 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch City also known as the 'Garden City'
Accommodation: Orari & Orari Apartments

Day 2: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 3: Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, then south for Dunedin
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 4: Join Monarch Wildlife Cruises for an amazing encounter with the marine wildlife of the Otago Peninsula
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

Day 5: Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Accommodation: Te Anau Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 6: Its a short drive to Manapouri where you'll depart for your Doubtful Sound overnight cruise
Accommodation: Overnight Boat in Doubtful Sound
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 18 kms / 11 miles : 0.2 hours

Day 7: Return to land, then travel to Queenstown and tonight cruise to Walter Peak High Country Station for dinner
Accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 166 kms / 103 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 8: Journey into the remarkable Mt Aspiring National Park on board the Dart River Jetboat
Accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi

Day 9: Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Westwood Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 10: Experience the Glacier up close and personal during your amazing helihike
Accommodation: Westwood Lodge

Day 11: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Orari & Orari Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 12: Drive to Kaikoura via coastal road to stay overnight in this seaside town
Accommodation: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 13: Departing the South Island you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds before crossing the Cook Strait to Wellington
Accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 137 kms / 85 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 14: Journey over the Rimutaka Ranges, then up through the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay wine regions
Accommodation: McHardy Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 320 kms / 199 miles : 4.0 hours

Day 15: Explore Napier and Hawkes Bay, this evening sample the food and wine of top winery restaurants
Accommodation: McHardy Lodge

Day 16: Leave the coast behind and head inland to Lake Taupo and then onto the cultural heartland of Rotorua
Accommodation: Pullman Rotorua
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 211 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Day 17: View the remarkable features of Rotorua Lakes by air, before landing in Orakei Korako Hidden Valley. This afternoon drive to Auckland the 'City of Sails'
Accommodation: Airedale Boutique Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 219 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 18: Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the sub-tropical Bay of Islands
Accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

Day 19: Cruise the Bay of Islands, then you have the rest of the day to relax or explore
Accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Day 20: Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast
Accommodation: Airedale Boutique Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 343 kms / 213 miles : 4.4 hours

Day 21: Depart Auckland today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 21 day tour starting in Christchurch

Day 1 - Arrive in Christchurch City also known as the 'Garden City'
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation

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

Welcome to Christchurch City

Christchurch New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. A great way to explore is to take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights or ride the historic trams across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral, that's right it is built of cardboard!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Discover Christchurch Afternoon Tour

A half day sightseeing tour of Christchurch highlighting both the damage to the city inflicted by several large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the r...

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A half day sightseeing tour of Christchurch highlighting both the damage to the city inflicted by several large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the rebuild which is currently in progress, together with the surviving beauty of the city and the historical landmarks. Experience the grand architecture, beautiful gardens and scenic viewpoints on a half-day city tour of Christchurch.
The tour commences in the central city of Christchurch and covers the area which was completely devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011. The guide will explain both the history of the city and the effects of the earthquake. On leaving the inner city, the tour travels to Mona Vale a historic homestead and gardens. Then you will travel to the Sign of the Takahe, a historic building with a lookout providing spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains and to the Southern Alps. The tour then travels via the Port Hills and Lyttleton Harbour by way of the Sign of the Kiwi and Governors Bay to the Port of Lyttleton. The tour proceeds through the Lyttleton harbour tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and cave rock before returning to the central city where the tour will conclude.

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Your accommodation: Orari & Orari Apartments

Orari Bed and Breakfast offers elegant and inviting accommodation in the heart of Christchurch city. This heritage building has all the charm of a grand Victorian home, but with modern comforts providing for an enjoyable stay.
Day 2 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 2
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

Navigating New Zealand can be done easily in two ways. If you have a smartphone, you will be able to connect it to the USB of your rental car and your maps and other apps will display on the screen in the centre console of your vehicle, with the sound coming through the car speakers.
If you don't have a smartphone, chat to us to ensure we book you a car with a portable GPS system. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Christchurch to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mount Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mount Cook Village.
Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier The Tasman.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 3 - Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, then south for Dunedin
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 3
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand, be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.
Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre The Octagon.

Dinner at Camp Estate, Larnach Castle

Dinner is offered in a Castle Dining Room, and is only available to Camp Estate guests. They do not operate a conventional restaurant, but in keeping with the historic setting of Larnach Castle, offer a three-course table d’hôte menu served house party style to all guests at one sitting, a chance to meet our other guests.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house, situated 500m from Larnach Castle. The house is built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate offers total privacy, with entry to Larnach Castle and grounds included.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 4 - Join Monarch Wildlife Cruises for an amazing encounter with the marine wildlife of the Otago Peninsula
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 4
Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounter Tour Including Wildlife Cruise

A small-group bus tour from Dunedin. Join a local guide for a journey across the Otago Peninsula. Travel over the high road with postcard views of the harbour and coast. You'll travel past quaint communities and rural farms. Spot wading birds as your mini-bus explores around the inlets and the wetland eco-systems. Your tour will visit a remote Otago Peninsula beach. A short walk from the mini-bus will provide dramatic views of rugged coastal cliffs, offshore islands and perhaps some huge sea lions. The trip continues to Wellers Rock Wharf, for a Monarch Wildlife Cruise. You'll travel out of the harbour, around Taiaroa Head, and out to sea. Watch royal albatross glide across the water and return to their breeding colony. Beneath a historic lighthouse is a colony of playful fur seals. You'll spot other rare seabirds and maybe blue penguins or other marine mammals. You are also welcome to bring a pre-packed meal on tour with you. Snacks and drinks can be purchased whilst aboard the MV Monarch. We recommend having a good-sized lunch before the tour departs Dunedin. The final stop is at a Yellow-eyed Penguin conservation reserve. Visit the on-site rehab centre before a tour of the reserve. You'll take trails through native bushland, walking through tunnels and trenches to different viewing hides scattered around the reserve. Watch as the world's rarest penguin returns ashore and interacts around their nesting sites. The tour ends with a relaxed drive, following the harbour, back to Dunedin.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house, situated 500m from Larnach Castle. The house is built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate offers total privacy, with entry to Larnach Castle and grounds included.
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 5 - Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 5
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound, renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the la...

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Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival, you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.
You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

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Your accommodation: Te Anau Lodge

Te Anau Lodge began its existence as a Catholic convent in 1936 before being converted into a wonderful lodge. A beautiful Rimu wood interior awaits you and each of the 7 rooms house furniture made from stunning native woods.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 6 - Its a short drive to Manapouri where you'll depart for your Doubtful Sound overnight cruise
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 6
Te Anau to Manapouri

This short drive takes you along the lake edge of Te Anau and across lush southern farmlands to the small township of Lake Manapouri, gateway to Doubtful Sound.

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

Take in the tranquillity of remote Doubtful Sound on this unique overnight wilderness cruise. Beginning in Manapouri with a short boat ride across the lake, you'll be taken by coach over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. Board the Fiordland Navigator, a purpose-built vessel designed like a traditional coastal trading scow. Be accommodated in a private cabin with an ensuite bathroom or a quad-share bunk room with shared bathroom facilities. The Navigator has a large spacious deck for viewing the scenery and wildlife as well as a dining saloon, bar and observation lounge. As you take in the stunning scenery of the Fiord, you'll be provided with a running commentary of the area and its history, points of interest and wildlife. You'll have the opportunity to see dolphins, fur seals and, if you're lucky rare Fiordland penguins. After anchoring in a sheltered cove, choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or stabicraft, or if you're really brave take a dip in the water. In the evening enjoy a three-course buffet dinner prepared on board and served in the dining saloon. Enjoy beer and fine wines from the licensed bar, and spend time star gazing on the upper deck. Following hearty cooked breakfast the next morning you will spend your remaining time exploring other parts of the fiord before returning to Deep Cove for the trip back to Manapouri.

Your accommodation: Overnight Boat in Doubtful Sound

The Fiordland Navigator is purpose built for cruising in the fiords. The vessel offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining saloon and observation lounge.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 18 kms / 11 miles : 0.2 hours

Day 7 - Return to land, then travel to Queenstown and tonight cruise to Walter Peak High Country Station for dinner
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 7
Manapouri to Queenstown

Your Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise returns to Manapouri at midday.
Crossing the rolling tussocklands, pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. Continue north through lush Southland countryside towards Lake Wakatipu. The road now hugs the lake edge and the Remarkable mountain range towers over your approach to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

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

Enjoy a quintessential Kiwi experience, a delicious gourmet BBQ buffet meal and a farm demonstration in a stunning lakeside setting. Take in the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and its surroundings as you cruise across the lake to the historic Walter Peak high country farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship.
Enjoy the ambience of the heart of the stately homestead while your Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant chef prepares a gourmet BBQ dinner. Your seasonal menu includes an extensive selection of local New Zealand produce, including succulent meats and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Complete your meal with your choice of delicious desserts, New Zealand cheeses, tea and coffee.
After dinner, watch the farm dogs in action with a sheep-herding demonstration and say hello to the other farm animals. Finally, cruise home under the southern stars and enjoy the fresh night air as the lights of Queenstown draw ever closer.

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi

The Dairy Private Hotel – a unique blend of exquisite design, rich history and warm hospitality in the city centre. Beginning as Queenstown’s original ‘dairy’ (corner store) in 1920, it has now transformed into an interiors masterpiece after an exquisite refurbishment that features wallpapers from British luxury interiors brand House of Hackney.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 166 kms / 103 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 8 - Journey into the remarkable Mt Aspiring National Park on board the Dart River Jetboat
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 8
Dart River Wilderness Jet

Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage and fantasy come to life. As one of Queenstown’s most exhilarating activities, the Wilderness Jet adventures on a spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park.

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi

The Dairy Private Hotel – a unique blend of exquisite design, rich history and warm hospitality in the city centre. Beginning as Queenstown’s original ‘dairy’ (corner store) in 1920, it has now transformed into an interiors masterpiece after an exquisite refurbishment that features wallpapers from British luxury interiors brand House of Hackney.
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 9 - Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 9
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: Westwood Lodge

Westwood is a purpose built lodge, crafted entirely from wood and exquisitely decorated throughout. The lounge is the place to meet to watch the Southern Alps turn a soft pink in the setting sun.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 10 - Experience the Glacier up close and personal during your amazing helihike
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 10
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike

After a thrilling scenic flight, high above the rugged terrain, you will land on the glacier, ready to undertake a 2.15 hour guided glacier hike. Your friendly guide will lead you through some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring glacial scenery in the world. Your guide will choose your route carefully as you go and, with an eye for the most spectacular ice formations, you’ll soon be making your way through an extraordinary landscape of towering peaks and glistening blue ice.

Your accommodation: Westwood Lodge

Westwood is a purpose built lodge, crafted entirely from wood and exquisitely decorated throughout. The lounge is the place to meet to watch the Southern Alps turn a soft pink in the setting sun.
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 11 - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 11
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.

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: Orari & Orari Apartments

Orari Bed and Breakfast offers elegant and inviting accommodation in the heart of Christchurch city. This heritage building has all the charm of a grand Victorian home, but with modern comforts providing for an enjoyable stay.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 12 - Drive to Kaikoura via coastal road to stay overnight in this seaside town
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 12
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.

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 - 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 ...

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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.

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Your accommodation: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses

Hapuku Lodge was built to give guests a great night's sleep in one the most beautiful places in the world. The Lodge sits tight between the mountains and the ocean, on a deer stud and olive farm.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 13 - Departing the South Island you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds before crossing the Cook Strait to Wellington
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 13
Kaikoura to Picton

Today follow the coast to Picton, located at the top of the South 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 along the oceanside walkway. 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.

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: Bolton Hotel Wellington

The Bolton Hotel offers contemporary apartment-style accommodation in the heart of Wellington. Just steps from the Parliament buildings and central business district, Bolton Hotel is conveniently close to the best of the city's shops, cafes and restaurants and is within walking distance of Wellington's vibrant waterfront.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 137 kms / 85 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 14 - Journey over the Rimutaka Ranges, then up through the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay wine regions
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 14
Wellington to Napier

Leaving Welllington today you will first pass the Wairarapa on the eastern side of the Rimutaka Ranges. A significant contrast to the hills of Wellington, it's rich pastures and boutique vineyards of Martinborough give way to grassy plains and rugged coastal shores. Go through Greytown, home to the largest number of wooden buildings in the country then stop in Masterton, a small farming town known for its Golden Shears competition - where shearers compete for the title of fastest shearer. Continue on to Hawkes Bay and Havelock North before arriving in Napier, the art deco capital of New Zealand.

Walking tracks in and around Hawkes Bay

There are some excellent walks in and around the Hawkes Bay region. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation. Listed below are a selection of short walks but check with the Department of Conservation information centre for weather conditions, track suitability and conditions first.

Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve Tracks
Discover Te Ana or Tangoio Falls on a short, easy walk suitable for kids, or take a longer walk through native bush on the Tangoio Walkway. .
Distance: 2 - 4.4 km one way. Completion Time: 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on which track you choose.

White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve
Experience New Zealand's remaining coastal forest on these short, easy walks that are good for children.
Distance: 1.6 km loop. Completion Time: 40 minutes.

Ahuriri Estuary
View a community of wading birds, fish, mud dwellers and aquatic plant life from the estuary track and boardwalk. Over 70 species of resident and migratory waterbirds use the estuary as a feeding and resting area.
Distance: 2.8 km one way. Completion Time: 1 hour.

Te Mata Park
Te Mata Park has a rich human and geological history, and is home to a range of unique plants and native birds. The park has five different walking options varying in difficulty and distance.
Distance: 1.3 km - 5.4 km. Completion Time: 40 minutes - 1 hours 15 minutes.

Lake Tūtira
There are two main walks at Lake Tūtira, a short walk along the edge of the lake or a longer loop through the reserve. Both offer great views of the lake as well as native and introduced plant species.
Distance: 1.3 km - 5.4 km. Completion Time: 40 minutes - 1 hours 15 minutes.

Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui Walking Track
Follow the beach from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui alongside cliffs that show fragmented fault and tilt lines, recording the gradual rise of New Zealand. Black Reef is the first gannet nesting site, 7.5 km from Clifton. A 1 km climb takes you from the shelter on the beach to a benched area on the hill where you can view the second colony, and spectacular views of Hawke's Bay.
Distance: 19 km loop. Completion Time: 5 hour return.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Silky Oak Triple Chocolate Temptation Tour

The Silky Oak Chocolate Co Ltd is a 100% New Zealand owned family business, with a proud reputation for producing exquisite handmade couverture (real)...

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The Silky Oak Chocolate Co Ltd is a 100% New Zealand owned family business, with a proud reputation for producing exquisite handmade couverture (real) chocolates, using traditional methods. Silky Oak's handcrafted chocolate range has something for everyone and the Triple Chocolate Temptation tour is the best way to fully experience and appreciated these delights. Your guide will first explain chocolate making process at the factory, before accompanying you through the Chocolate Museum covering 3,000 years of chocolate history.  The museum tells the story of a food whose past is as rich as its flavour, bought to life with colourfully illustrated texts, life sized tableaux, and a huge collection of chocolate paraphernalia, including a 2,500 year old Mayan Chocolate pot.  You then get to sample the fabulous chocolate being produced here, including a chocolate drink (or tea/coffee), chocolate muffin/ slice, served with liquid chocolate and cream at our Café, you'll also enjoy a take home gift, chocolate of course.

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Your accommodation: McHardy Lodge

This beautifully restored, single storey 1890's residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city. Experience a 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 320 kms / 199 miles : 4.0 hours

Day 15 - Explore Napier and Hawkes Bay, this evening sample the food and wine of top winery restaurants
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 15
Napier City

Napier, the city by the sea, is renowned for its 1930s Art Deco architecture, events such as the Art Deco Weekend in February, stately Norfolk pines, surrounding wineries and local fresh produce. Supported by a Mediterranean climate and over 2,200 hours of sunshine a year this popular year-round destination boasts a vibrant cafe culture amongst the splendour of the Art Deco buildings.
Around 30 cafes are within walking distance of the central city area, while Ahuriri, just over Bluff Hill, is home to a further cluster of up market establishments. Marine Parade overlooks the Pacific Ocean and out towards Cape Kidnappers, home to the world's largest mainland gannet colony. A full day can be taken visiting Ocean Spa hot pools and swimming complex, the Hawke's Bay Museum and the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
A landmark of Napier is Bluff Hill, which is home to many Napier residents and provides views of the town,  beaches of Perfume Point and Westshore and out towards Whirinaki. Bluff Hill also overlooks the Port of Napier, one of New Zealand's busiest ports, transporting timber, local fruit and meat products to worldwide destinations.
In 1931, New Zealand's greatest natural disaster struck Hawke's Bay. At 10.47am on Tuesday February 3rd, an earthquake of magnitude Richter 7.8 struck. In a minute and a half, in two separate shocks, the centre of Napier was almost totally destroyed. Fires quickly broke out and reduced to ashes or gutted what the tremors had left standing. Damage in Hastings was also devastating, although the fires were contained. Wairoa and the smaller towns to the south as far as Dannevirke were affected. There were 258 deaths - 162 in Napier, 93 in Hastings and 3 in Wairoa along with many injuries. The reconstruction of Napier and Hastings was costly but the benefit was two modern cities and the Ahuriri Lagoon, or Inner Harbour as it was usually known, was raised over 2 metres, creating the land, which Napier desperately needed to expand.

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

With its Mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. A trip to Mission Estate touted as the birthplace of NZ wine can't be missed. For the truly enthused head out on a tour of the vines. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city's architecture including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world. If you're after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. End on a high with another ride, this time in a comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony, the largest of its kind in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Gannet Safaris

Drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga and join Gannet Safaris Overland and the world's largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape ...

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Drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga and join Gannet Safaris Overland and the world's largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Gannet Safaris has been guiding visitors over Cape Kidnappers for over 35 years and their safaris are the only way to be driven right to within a few feet of these remarkable birds. You will travel in comfort in air-conditioned 4 x 4 wheeled vehicles, through Cape Kidnappers Station - traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, stands of native bush, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke Bay right across to Mahia peninsular. The 36km, three hour trip includes a commentary by your tour guide/driver on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. On arrival at the gannets you can stretch your legs and take in the scenery from your position at the brink of the cliff's edge, 100 metres above the ocean!

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

This wine tasting tour is designed for casual imbibers and wine aficionados. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantas...

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This wine tasting tour is designed for casual imbibers and wine aficionados. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantastic wines. Taste great wines made with passion and learn of the areas unique growing conditions. Take home outstanding wines and wonderful memories. Join a fun filled wine tasting afternoon in the sun driving through absolutely stunning scenery. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of this region's fantastic wine. Visit four to five wineries and enjoy a cheese platter on the grounds of the Ngatarawa Vineyard beside the lily pond.

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Your accommodation: McHardy Lodge

This beautifully restored, single storey 1890's residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city. Experience a 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner
Day 16 - Leave the coast behind and head inland to Lake Taupo and then onto the cultural heartland of Rotorua
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 16
Napier to Rotorua

Cross the Ahiminawa Ranges to arrive into the town of Taupo which is situated on New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo a gigantic volcanic caldera formed during one of the worlds largest eruptions. Just north of Taupo are the Huka Falls, an impressive body of water draining from the Waikato river. See it from the wooden viewing platform or get up close to the spray with a ride on the Huka Jet. Visit nearby volcanic reserve Craters of the Moon to see boiling pools and steaming vents. Continue on through the Waimungu Valley before arriving into geothermal Rotorua, the heart of New Zealands Maori culture.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - National Kiwi Hatchery Tour

The National Kiwi Hatchery Tour is a special opportunity to gain insight into and view this highly regarded conservation centre. Developed with the vi...

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The National Kiwi Hatchery Tour is a special opportunity to gain insight into and view this highly regarded conservation centre. Developed with the visitor experience in mind, the hatchery boasts special viewing opportunities and is hosted by kiwi expert guides who ensure guests leave fully informed and all questions answered. Learn all about New Zealand’s intriguing national icon and the efforts of the kiwi husbandry team, see and discover what it takes to hatch and rare chicks, and if you’re lucky see baby chicks in person!

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Pā Tū Evening Maori Cultural Experience

New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, Tamaki Māori Village presents TE PĀ TŪ. Feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal ...

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New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, Tamaki Māori Village presents TE PĀ TŪ. Feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pā (village) blanketed by towering Tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheatre. Te Pā Tū shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across 4-hours of celebration and feasting. These events change with each season of the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar. 

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Your accommodation: Pullman Rotorua

Pullman Rotorua is surrounded by surreal scenery and iconic attractions. Discover shooting geysers, bubbling mud, natural hot springs and magical forests.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 211 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Day 17 - View the remarkable features of Rotorua Lakes by air, before landing in Orakei Korako Hidden Valley. This afternoon drive to Auckland the 'City of Sails'
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 17
Orakei Korako Hidden Valley with Volcanic Air Safaris by floatplane

From above Mount Tarawera impressive views include vast volcanic rifts, distant national parks and our treasured lakes. Flying south on a floatplane, you will gain an appreciation of what local Maori refer to as the ‘Sisters of Fire’. Here, volcanic activity has pierced the earth surface across the fault-line forming the reserves of Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu which, when viewed from above, dismay a spectacular palette of natures most vibrant colours. Landing at Orakei Korako, ‘the Hidden Valley’, is an amazing opportunity to experience hot springs, gushing geysers and the natural beauty of this geothermal wonderland.

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 in Auckland City, your destination for the night.

Your accommodation: Airedale Boutique Suites

Airedale Boutique Suites Auckland is located on a landmark site on Queen Street in the heart of Auckland City. This superb art deco style hotel is conveniently located in the city's vibrant cultural, shopping and central business district.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 219 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 18 - Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the sub-tropical Bay of Islands
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 18
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: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

Day 19 - Cruise the Bay of Islands, then you have the rest of the day to relax or explore
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 19
Hole in the Rock Cruise with Fullers GreatSights

Board your cruise and take in the stunning views as you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’. According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for dolphin viewing and the crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.

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 see the dolphins on an 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. Alternatively you may like to take a day tour to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Waitangi Treaty Grounds Guided Tour and Cultural Performance

Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the local Maori and the British Governmen...

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Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the local Maori and the British Government. This two day pass allows you access to the Treaty of Waitangi Grounds and includes admission to the Te Kōngahu Museum and Te Rau Aroha Museum and a Maori Cultural performance. During your guided tour, you'll learn about the history of the treaty and discover the stories and events that shaped New Zealand. The cultural performance inside the carved meeting house includes waiata (singing), poi, a display of Maori weaponry and the haka - a war dance New Zealand is well known for.

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Your accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 20 - Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast
21 Day Northbound Encounter - Day 20
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: Airedale Boutique Suites

Airedale Boutique Suites Auckland is located on a landmark site on Queen Street in the heart of Auckland City. This superb art deco style hotel is conveniently located in the city's vibrant cultural, shopping and central business district.
Meals included: Breakfast

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

Day 21 - Depart Auckland today
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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