Great Sights of New Zealand Self Drive Tour

Starting in Queenstown and ending in Auckland, explore the wonderful natural environment of both South and North Islands. Your highlights will be many, including the wildlife of Kaikoura and the sheltered waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound, before crossing the Cook Strait to the North Island and the quirky capital city of Wellington. Travel through the central plateau to Rotorua and its bubbling mud pools and unique Maori culture before arriving into Auckland the ‘City of Sails’, and a relaxing day spent on Waiheke Island before departing.

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Welcome to Queenstown

Welcome to New Zealand, take this day to relax and orientate your selves. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and ringed by towering mountains, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s ultimate holiday destinations. It may be the adventure capital of the world, but it’s also home to an excellent food and wine scene as well as great shopping, hiking and endless opportunities to relax. It’s just as easy to go fishing, golfing, gold panning or wine tasting as it is to bungy jump or sky dive. Famed for its international winter skiing profile and outdoor beauty, Queenstown is a brilliant destination to visit year-round. One thing is certain here: you won’t run out of things to do.  

Accommodation Queenstown - 2 nights

Collect Rental Car and Explore the area

Visit Arrowtown - a charming village-like settlement only a short drive from Queenstown, Arrowtown is home to gold mining heritage, historic buildings and leafy riverbanks. During autumn (fall), Arrowtown ignites in a riot of gold, red and orange as the deciduous trees that line its streets prepare for winter. Arrowtown sits along the banks of the gold-bearing Arrow River. The settlement itself was created in 1862 during the height of the Otago Gold Rush – pioneers flocked here in the hope they would strike it lucky. Visit Glenorchy - this is a 45 minute drive from Queenstown and and is the last stop before the world famous Fiordland National Park, Routeburn Track, Dart River and Greeenstone Valley.

Recommended excursions in and around Queenstown:

Routeburn Track Guided Day Walk Explore Historic Arrowtown Highest Bungy Jump
Wine Tasting Tour Central Otago Biking Skippers Canyon Round at Millbrook Golf Resort
TSS Earnslaw Steamboat Cruise Dart River Jetboat Safari Gibbston Valley Wine Trail
Travel to Mt Cook, stay overnight in Twizel

Travel north through the Lakes district and over the Lindis Pass to Mount Cook National Park - A Fantasy Land of Ice and Rock. Mt Cook National Park, known for its exquisite alpine beauty and is home to the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook. Its Maori name, ‘Aoraki’ means ‘cloud piercer’ and at 12,016ft (3,755m) it towers above the surrounding snow-covered peaks in the park. There are some stunning walks to view glaciers, tarns and lakes ranging from 30 minutes to 6 hours - Mt Cook is a must visit. Tonight stay in the Twizel, a small friendly town in the Mackenzie Basin.

Approximate Distance: 200 kms | 125 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 40 mins

Accommodation - Twizel - 1 night

Kaikoura - the Serengeti of the ocean

Leaving Twizel head north past Lake Tekapo and into the Canterbury Plains. You will travel north of Christchurch eventually meeting the coast of the Pacific Ocean before reaching Kaikoura.The Kaikoura peninsula enjoys a mild microclimate and is overlooked by majestic snowcapped mountains. Kaikoura's unique proximity of ocean and mountain range offers a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including whale watching, dolphin and seal swimming, kayaking, fishing and hiking.

Wildlife encounters available in kaikoura

Whale Watching Cruise Swim with the Seals in Kaikoura
Whale Watching Flight Kaikoura Dusky Dolphin Viewing or Swimming
Kayaking with Fur Seals Albatross & Pelagic Bird Watching Kaikoura

Approximate Distance: 486kms | 300 miles  Total Driving Time: 6 hours

Accommodation - Kaikoura - 1 night

Kaikoura to Picton

After lunch continue your journey through Marlborough to Picton. Marlborough is the engine room of the New Zealand wine industry. In the 1970's the plains would have been filled by sheep - now it  is vines as far as the eye can see, producing world cool climate varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. A 25 minute drive north of Blenheim you will find Picton the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds.

Approximate Distance: 156kms | 100 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours

Accommodation - Picton - 2 nights

Enjoy a relaxing day in Marlborough

The choices today are endless - you could choose to take a scenic cruise in the Marlborough Sounds, or an exciting walk in the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound or visit one of the excellent vineyard restaurants for lunch. Another fascinating option is a visit to the Aviation Heritage Centre. This centre has a dramatic presentation of some of the worlds rarest WW1 aircraft and aviation memorabilia (models were created by Weta Workshop - the wizards behind the Lord of the Rings & Hobbit Trilogies). It is even possible to book a tiger moth flight!

Ferry Northbound to Wellington - the Arts Capital of New Zealand

This morning, make your way to the Interisland Ferry Terminal in time for your Cook Strait ferry sailing. This challenging stretch of water connects the Tasman Sea to the Southern Pacific Ocean, you will leave the South Island through the picturesque Marlborough Sounds. Wellington is another of our Harbour Cities situated at the southern most tip of the North Island. The Wellington vibe is creative and ecclectic - the nations politicians and parliament rub shoulders with street performers, the National Te Papa Museum and a lively cafe culture.

Accommodation Wellington - 2 nights

Free day to explore Wellington

Wellington is the nation’s capital city. A magnificent landscape of steep sided hills sits beside a beautiful harbour, and the city itself bustles with a vibrant creative culture. Renowned for its eclectic, arty atmosphere, Wellington is a real kiwi cultural treat and numerous galleries and character-filled shops line its colourful streets. The Museum of New Zealand 'Te Papa' is full of national treasures and sits beside the water in the downtown area of the city centre - well worth a visit. Wellington is also famous for having some the New Zealand's best restaurants - gourmet dining experiences here are truly world class. Culture, cuisine and scenic beauty abound in New Zealand’s iconic capital.

Some suggestions to enhance your stay in Wellington:

National Museum - Te Papa Visit Cuba Street Weta Workshop Tour
Zealandia Wildlife Reserve  Wellington Cable Car
Carter Observatory 
Drive via the volcanic plateau to Rotorua

Today head north out of Wellington passing through several small towns along the way Paraparaumu, Shannon, Taihape and Waiouru (home of the NZ Army). You will travel the desolate alpine beauty of the Desert Road - catch a sunbeam burst through dramatic clouds as the snow capped peaks of Ruapehu and Tongariro loom nearby. Lake Taupo is set amidst rolling green countryside and spectacular mountain scenery. Rotorua is a natural wonder of geothermal activity that includes natural hot pools, steaming craters and boiling mud pools.

Approximate Distance: 452 kms | 280 miles  Total Driving Time: 6 hrs

Accommodation Rotorua - 2 nights


Discover the heart of Maori culture in New Zealand at Te Puia, located in Rotorua in the Central North Island - a region that is surrounded by picturesque lakes and forests. This is also one of the most geothermally active environments in the country and Te Puia's 70 hectare park in the beautiful Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley is right in the heart of the action. Restless forces boil to the surface in the enchanting, superheated mud pools and hot springs and geysers gush hot steam and water in spectacular fashion. The famous Pohutu Geyser erupts approximately every 20 minutes and bursts reach heights of 30m (100ft). Silica terraces, native bush and birdlife and a wonderful insight into Maori culture and tradition rounds off a fascinating and memorable experience.

Free Time Rotorua - Auckland the City of Sails

Recommended excursions in and around Rotorua:

See Geysers & Boiling Mud Polynesian Hot Springs Whirinaki Forest Walk
Thermally Active Golf Biking the Mighty Forests Flight to Volcanic Island
Museum of Art & History Evening Cultural Experience White Water Rafting


Auckland City is situated amongst a cluster of extinct volcanic cones, next to a large harbour that bustles with life, both on water and on land. The Auckland isthmus straddles a slim piece of land with coastline facing both the Pacific Ocean, and, on the wild West Coast, the Tasman Sea. 

Approximate Distance: 228 kms | 140 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hrs 30 mins

Accommodation Auckland- 2 nights

Waiheke Island - Cruise to the heart of the Hauraki Gulf

Just 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, across the beautiful Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island is a tranquil paradise.Since the late 1970's Waiheke's benign climate has seen the growth of a flourishing wine industry. A "small is beautiful" philosophy yields low quantities of extremely high quality fruit, which is made into international award-winning wines. 

Take a tour of the island and stop off in Oneroa at one of the excellent cafes for lunch.

Homeward Bound!

Enjoy a final leisurely breakfast and relax, take a stroll around our beautiful city, explore the highly acclaimed Waterfront Restaurant Quarter it is likley you have an evening flight out from Auckland so choose one of the many activities available to give a more in depth understanding of Auckland and the surrounding area.

Some Activities and Sightseeing Options Available are:

Explore Waiheke Island Island Kayaking Adventure America’s Cup Sailing
Auckland's Sky Tower Relax on the Beach Rangitoto Island Cruise & Walk
West Coast Wine Tour Whale and Dolphin Safari Muriwai Surf Beach

Haere rā and Bon Voyage!

We are sure you will enjoy the Great Sights of New Zealand Self Drive Tour and our promise is to make your travels through New Zealand as hassle-free and hospitable as possible - ensuring that today you leave with a memory card full of photos, and huge smiles on your faces when recalling your time in New Zealand! Have a great homeward journey, farewell and hope to see you again soon in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

Ready to find out more? Talk to us here in New Zealand about the 'Great Sights of New Zealand Self Drive Tour' - We Guarantee it will be the Holiday of a Lifetime!