Travelling at your own pace and following our tailor-made, luxury self-drive New Zealand itinerary, you’ll cover the highlights of both the North and South islands and stay in some of New Zealand’s finest accommodation.
Starting from Auckland in North Island, you’ll drive to Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua, Taupo and on to the nation’s capital – Wellington - before crossing over to the South Island. Here, you’ll visit the magnificent Abel Tasman region before heading towards the Franz Josef glacier, Lake Wanaka and the adventure capital of Queenstown.
This self-drive New Zealand itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements, so please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport for your overnight flight.
On arrival, you’ll be greeted and taken by private car to your hotel.
Breakfast at your hotel.
This morning your rental car will be delivered to your hotel, so you can make your way to The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs near Matauri Bay.
We recommend stopping off at the spectacular Bay of Islands, a great place for a spot of lunch. It has over a kilometre of beautiful white sand and crystal clear water.
Breakfast at the hotel.
If you’re a keen golfer, enjoy the lodge’s world-class golf course and if you’re looking for some pampering and ultimate relaxation, why not check out the spa? You could head north to Ninety Mile Beach (90-minute drive) which is close to Cape Reinga, the most northerly tip of New Zealand.
Today involves a little more driving as you make your way to Cooks Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. The impressive Whangarei Falls make a great stop on your way back down south, as does the small town of Thames. From here, the road clings to the coast for spectacular views of the tranquil bays of the Coromandel.
Spend today exploring the local area. Nearby are the well-known tourist spots of Hahei and Hot Water Beach. Hahei is home to a Marine Reserve and the Cathedral Cove walkway – an easy coastal walk with spectacular scenery. At Hot Water Beach you can dig out your own natural spa on the beach either side of low tide.
Depart the Coromandel and make your way to Rotorua, which is about a 3-hour drive. Rotorua is a spiritual home to the Maori of Te Arawa and is set amongst a myriad of crystal clear crater lakes.
This evening we suggest joining a small group cultural tour to experience the traditional hangi meal and learn about Maori legends and history.
Before heading to Taupo today (an hour’s drive), we’d suggest a visit to one of the thermal reserves to experience nature’s awesome earth forces – bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and hot water lakes. The Lake Taupo region is also rich in Maori tradition and is home to some of the country’s finest trout fishing as well as a fantastic spot to relax and take in the lakeside views.
Enjoy your day in and around Taupo. You could try your hand at trout fishing with a local guide, or if you’re feeling adventurous try bungy jumping or a jet boat ride at Huka Falls. There are excellent cycling and hiking routes here if you’d like to rent a bike or take a closer look at the volcanoes in Tongariro National Park.
Today, you’ll continue south towards Wellington. New Zealand’s compact capital city offers an urban experience in a stunning natural setting. Renowned for its great cafés and restaurants and home to the Te Papa Museum (we highly recommend a visit here). Set off early to enjoy the afternoon and evening here.
After breakfast, you’ll drive to the ferry terminal and drop off your rental car. The 3-hour crossing to Picton on the South Island provides your first glimpse of the spectacular Marlborough Sounds.
On arrival in Picton, collect your car and make your way south to the Abel Tasman region. Your hosts will put together a suggested itinerary for your next two days.
Nearby Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park. It is famous for its golden beaches, we have given you two full days to explore.
Local sea-kayaking operators offer full and half-day easy paddle guided trips to enjoy scenery like Split Apple Rock and take you to watch seals along the beach. There is a coastal and inland walking track, or you could take a wine tour around nearby Nelson.
Continue down the West Coast to Franz Josef today, enjoying a scenic coastal drive. Franz Josef is home to the Franz Josef Glacier, one of only two glaciers that penetrate as far as the lower rainforests.
Don’t leave Franz Josef without seeing the glacier, either by a guided hike or better still a helicopter flight!
Wanaka is set on the southern shore of Lake Wanaka. Here you’ll have plenty of opportunities to relax and look over clear blue lake waters lapping the shores, with the Alps as a backdrop.
Spend a day at leisure; we recommend a lake cruise and nature walk to discover the local wildlife and some of the best panoramic views in New Zealand. You could take a flight over Mount Aspiring National Park, or explore further into Fiordland.
Make your way to Queenstown via the Crown Range Road. It’s a 90-minute drive so you’ll have time to fit in a vineyard tour before you leave Wanaka!
Once you’ve checked in to your lodge, spend the remainder of the day at leisure. Queenstown follows the shores of Lake Wakatipu, a deep blue pool of pure mountain water, and the ‘Remarkables’ mountain range with its purple-brown peaks topped with snow.
You have three full days to explore Queenstown and its surrounds. Queenstown is NZ’s adventure capital, so if you’ve ever wanted to skydive canyon swing, jet boat, zip line, river raft or heli cycle – this is the place!
For more sedate options, we’d recommend a trip to magical Doubtful or Milford Sound, the walking trails around the lake, a day spa experience, sampling the famous Central Otago Pinot Noir or a visit to nearby Arrowtown.
Make your way to Queenstown Airport and return your rental car prior to your onward flight.
Why not combine this trip with a stopover in the South Pacific or Sydney? Check out our trip ideas below...
New Zealand is a year-round destination and there is always something to see and enjoy whatever time you decide to travel. High season runs from December to February (summer), prices will be at a premium at these times and availability limited so it is advisable to book in advance. March to April and September to November can be a great time to travel as the weather is fine and the crowds fewer. Low season is May to August (winter) for most of New Zealand, this is, however, the best time for skiing and so ski towns such as Queenstown will be at their busiest.
We’re experts in planning tailor-made holidays, so whether you’re looking for a luxury New Zealand holiday, ideas for a road trip or multi-stop flights to New Zealand with stopovers – let us help you with the planning. Our experts can tailor-make precisely the trip you’re looking for – this itinerary is purely a suggestion, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.
19 nights in a selection of luxury lodges and boutique luxury hotels, including: