The Ultimate Adventure's Driving Itinerary

Standing atop of a foothill with a wondrous view of the South Islands Alps.

Fly to the Beautiful Bay of Islands 

On arrival into Auckland, make your way to the domestic terminal and fly to KeriKeri where you will collect your rental vehicle on arrival and make your way to Paihia.

The sub-tropical region of the Bay of Islands is a stunning Maritime Park with 144 islands, secluded bays, and an abundance of marine life including marlin, whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species. Being somewhat sheltered, the area is ideal for yachting, fishing, kayaking and diving. Rolling countryside, tidal estuaries, mangroves, sparkling and long silvery beaches abound. It is an area of considerable historical significance, and is the place where Maori and European signed the Treaty of Waitangi that joined them as one nation. Long considered the cradle of Polynesian and European settlement in New Zealand, the area is rich in history and natural beauty. 

Approximate Distance: 24 kms | 15 miles  Total Driving Time: 30 mins

Accommodation: Paihia - 1 Night

Aerial view of Northlands Bay of Islands with its turquoise calm waters.

Located midway between Paihia and Waitangi, relax and unwind and take in the magnificent ocean views right from your balcony! These spacious self contained apartments are the perfect base whlle you explore Waitangi, Paihia, Russell and take the time for a cruise out on the Bay.


Relaxing Island Sailing Adventure

This is a sailing paradise and unsurprisingly a favourite cruising ground for many a keen Kiwi sailor. So enjoy the Bay of Islands the way the locals do, on a boat with a small group of like-minded people, spend carefree days in an incredible setting doing the things you enjoy, take in the natural beauty at a leisurely pace.

This is an all-inclusive sailing expedition gives you three magical days of kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and exploring. Enjoy the diversity of the Bay of Islands first-hand and learn about the area’s fascinating history. It’s the perfect start to your New Zealand holiday. 

No other trip will let you explore this unique area in quite the same way.

Sample Itinerary Day 1: Depart Paihia wharf at 8am. Spend the morning at sea, catching fish and spotting wildlife. Lunch stop at Roberton Island followed by a walk to a lookout and swimming/snorkelling. Afternoon sail to Oke Bay for our overnight stop. Evening kayak/ beach combing and bbq dinner.

Accommodation: 2 Nights Aboard The Sailing Ship Manawanui

Sailboat making its way through the main Islands in the bay.

The next two days will be spend on a boat. The journey will take you and your family onto the ocean and on to uninhabited islands. Explore the destinations by kayaking, snorkeling and walking. She is a 72 ft (22 m), 1981 John Pugh cutter-rigged steel ketch. A proven go-anywhere boat, she is designed for comfort and safety and has been around the world twice. 

Sailing in the Bay of Islands.


Day 2 of your Sailing Adventure

Sample Itinerary Day 2: 8am breakfast followed by a sail to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock. Hike to Cape Brett lighthouse followed by fishing and a sail to Deepwater Cove. Snorkelling in the marine reserve in Deep Water Cove. Sail to Waewaetorea Island. Sunset dinner on deck. 

NB: This is a sample itinerary. The routes and activities are entirely weather dependent. Basically, the cruise is best described as island-hopping, with a few hours of passage making followed by an exploration of our destination and a good meal.

Quietly gliding on perfectly still waters kayakers enjoy the Bay of Islands.


Day 3 of your Sailing Adventure

Sample Itinerary Day 3:  8am breakfast followed by a walk to the top of Waewaetorea for a panoramic view of the Bay of Islands. A few hours spent relaxing on the beach,kayaking, snorkelling. Sail to the Black Rocks to harvest green-lipped mussels for lunch. Fresh seafood lunch followed by a sail in the afternoon seabreeze back to Paihia. Arrive Paihia around 3.30/4pm. Then its a very short 1 hour drive to Tutukaka.

Approximate Distance: 90 kms | 56 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 30 mins

Accommodation: Tutukaka - 2 nights

The Bay of Islands consist of 144 Islands, many of which are uninhabited.

Pacific Rendezvous Resort is situated on a 26-acre peninsula overlooking the Tutukaka Harbour entrance. All apartments have a view of the sea, either an ocean view or a harbour view. Some of the best beaches are found on the Tutukaka coast - we especially recommend the stunning Whale Bay. 

A standard room at the Pacific Rendezvous overlooking the Tutukaka Harbour.


Dive or Snorkel the Poor Knights Marine Reserve

A magical underwater wonderland - Rated as one of the top diving sites in the world, the Poor Knights Marine Reserve is the jewel in the crown of New Zealand diving and snorkelling. A marine reserve since 1981, caves, tunnels and archways are home to an abundance of friendly, curious marine life – a day of diving or snorkelling here is exhilarating and unforgettable.

NB: If you don’t have a diving certification and think you would like to see what it is like diving on Scuba, then this can be arranged as a “Try Dive” diving with a private instructor. This is certainly a worthwhile experience so if you are interested please just ask.


A John Dory seen side on while diving the Poorknights Marine Reserve.


Waitomo - Cave Country

Today you will travel to south to Waitomo. The small and pleasant town of Waitomo is the focal point of the region’s subterranean wonders. The caves at Waitomo are one of New Zealand's most commanding wonders – a celebration of nature's work over the last one hundred thousand years. There are hundreds of miles of labyrinthine caves, glow-worms, under ground lakes, stalactites and stalagmites, and all manner of limestone crustaceans - a lost world waiting to be discovered. Above ground, the area around Waitomo is also popular for horse riding and bush walking.

Approximate Distance: 385 kms | 239 miles  Total Driving Time: 5 hours 15 mins

Accommodation: Waitomo - 2 nights


These Wilderness Cottages were built to capture the unique beauty of its surroundings. This farm is a fantastic example of what Waitomo is renowned for: subterranean caves with glowworms, rough limestone out-crops, lush green fields and friendly people. There are a number of walking tracks through our native bush. There are also a number of rock climbing areas which are mapped out for those interested.

Wilderness Cottage


The Lost World Caving and Abseiling Epic Journey

Today you will take on the Lost World Epic  which includes the world’s longest commercial caving abseil (30 mins) followed by the most surreal lunch stop ever.  The Lost World Caving and Abseiling Epic Journey is an expertly-guided, full-on experience – you need to be fit and you are going to get very wet. This adventure is sure to be one of the highlights of your time here and certainly was a must when designing the Ultimate New Zealand Adventure Tour. 

Deep underground in the Lost World cave system in Waitomo.


National Park via Mighty Lake Taupo

Today gives you the opportunity to re-charge your batteries before the Tongariro Crossing. Enjoy a sleep in and a hearty breakfast before driving to National Park .   

If you are purley interested in hiking then its worth driving on through to National Park, there are plenty of worthwhile short walks available. National Park is New Zealand's oldest National Park with a dual World Heritage status (recognising both the cultural & spiritual importance to Maori along with its outstanding volcanic setting).

Approximate Distance: 145 kms | 90 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours

Accommodation: National Park - 2 nights

Kayakers heading to the Maori rock carvings on Great Lake Taupo.
The lodge is a small boutique colonial inspired accommodation whose buildings date back to the early 1900s. The lodge is made up of just six well-appointed, large, warm rooms with their own bathrooms. The lodges focus is to offer guests an unforgettable stay which corresponds to and magnifies the amazing surrounds of the Central Plateau area. Whether you are coming to hike, bike, canoe, ski or just wanting to escape the rat-race and chill in and around the mountains.
Tongariro Crossing Lodge


Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Fancy a Walk on the Moon? The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is often referred to as one of the best day walks in the world. It winds its way through the otherworldly landscapes of Tongariro National Park. This National Park was New Zealand’s first, and was created in 1887 when its three spectacular volcanoes – Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe – were gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Tuwharetoa tribes. Today, the park covers a total area of 78,651 ha and its unique environment makes it the perfect setting for a hiking adventure.

Highlights Include: View stunning volcanic landscapes with twisted lava formations, volcanic steam vents. Vast craters, active volcanoes, boiling lakes, barren desert, lush forest, crystal-clear mountain streams, steaming geysers and emerald green lakes.

On average the guided Tongariro Crossing will take 7 to 9 hours to complete

Tongariro Crossing is known as New Zealand's best day walk.


Travel to Geothermal Rotorua

Your drive from National Park to Rotorua skirts Lake Taupo - the result of a supervolcanic eruption twenty-six thousand years ago, the lake is similar in size to Singapore. Lake Taupo offers an exciting array of optional adventure activities – skydive from 5000 meters (15,000 feet), the opportunity to kayak to the large Maori Rock Carvings on the lake cliffs, or enjoy stretching your legs with a stroll through one of the native bush trails. 

Set squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland. Giant geysers rocket into the air and colourful sulphur terraces hiss and boil. Enjoy a day soaking up this magical place. There’s so much to see and do - experience the geothermal attractions up close, mountain bike on tracks that wind through giant stands of Redwoods, take a boat cruise on Lake Rotoiti or simply relax in the naturally heated mineral pools on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

Recommended excursions in and around Rotorua:

See Geysers & Boiling Mud    Polynesian Hot Springs  Whirinaki Forest Walk
Thermally Active GolfBiking the Mighty Forests 
Museum of Art & HistoryEvening Cultural Experience   White Water Rafting


Approximate Distance: 180 km | 112 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Accommodation: Rotorua - 1 night

A geyser roars into life capturing the imagination of the viewer.
Relax at Silver Fern Accommodation and Spa, located just minutes away from the city centre and close to the tourist attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Silver Fern offers spacious, light and secure suites with a private spa pool or double spa bath to enjoy on those cold nights. A continental or cooked breakfast can be delivered to your room and an 11am check out will make your stay in Rotorua totally memorable.
Silver Fern Rotorua


Fly to Nelson

Nelson receives some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand, making it the perfect destination to visit year round. Located in the North-West corner of New Zealand, the Nelson region is surrounded by sheltered mountain ranges, golden beaches, national parks and boutique wineries and breweries.On arrival in the sunshine capital of the country, stroll the art galleries and soak up Nelson’s buzzing creative vibe. Recover your energy with one of Nelson's outstanding craft beers at a local brewery.

Accommodation: Nelson - 2 nights

Beautiful view of the streets in Nelson.
Joya Garden & Villa Studios are surrounded by gardens home to a variety of birds and offering terrace patios. There is a stream and 3 waterfalls that connect to a small goldfish pond.
Joya Garden Studio


Abel Tasman - Split Apple Rock Kayak

Make a return day trip to Abel Tasman National Park. Paddle a safe, sheltered section of the Abel Tasman Bay coastline. See lots of good stuff in a small area including islands, caves, beaches and of course, Split Apple Rock. Loved by families and the cruiser in all of us for the last 18 years. Two hours on the water of guided kayaking.

This trip has a strong emphasis on fun and enjoyment. We don’t just show you the best spots to travel to, you will have a great time with a group of people in a beautiful area. Like all of our short trips we paddle at a relaxed pace and pause often to enjoy views, stories and conversation.

  • No experience necessary.
  • Enjoy the most sheltered part of the Kaiteriteri coastline.
  • A great option for family fun.

For families with younger children we would recommend the morning tour. The afternoon tour can quite offen be breezy due to the sea breeze which picks up around midday.

Approximate Distance: 60 km | 37 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour (each way)

Abel Tasman Kayaking


Punakaiki - Remote Wild West Coast

Journey to Punakaiki on the South Island's rugged and remote West Coast, one of New Zealand's most unspoiled and ancient destinations.

The route takes you inland through diverse landscapes, with farmland giving way to dramatic mountain passes and rushing rivers. Emerging at the coast for the final stretch, you're rewarded with magnificent windswept ocean views on your left and steep, rainforested mountains on your right.

Arriving in Punakaiki, you'll marvel at the Pancake Rocks. The bizarre, flattened rock stacks were sculpted over 30 million years, beaten into shape by the relentless ocean waves. You're in the heart of Paparoa National Park, mystical land of limestone canyons, underground caves, and coastal rainforests bursting with wildlife.

Approximate Distance: 260 km | 162 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 45 mins

Accommodation: Punakaiki  - 1 night

Pancake Rocks
Nestled in native forest on the edge of Paparoa National Park and just 1.2 kilometers south of the Pancake Rocks, we find Paparoa Park Motel. If you are looking for a self-contained motel accommodation on the West Coast, this Punakaiki motel is perfect with some with spectacular views looking across the bay to the Pancake Rocks/Blowholes others with wonderful New Zealand native bush views.
Paparoa Park Motel


Drive the Wild West Coast to Fox Glacier

Wild and rugged, yet immensely beautiful, the South Island's West Coast region evokes a string of superlatives. Wave-pounded coastlines, lush temperate rainforests, the island's highest mountains and most accessible glaciers all feature. The region's first settlers came in search of gold and the coast has its share of ghost towns, but there are also thriving communities like Westport, Greymouth and the seaside town of Hokitikia, now dependent on coal mining and increasingly, tourism. Fur seals and colonies of rare black petrels, white herons and blue penguins breed along the coast, whose national parks offer some of New Zealand's best and quietest hiking trails. 

Approximate Distance: 245 kms | 152 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 30 mins

Accommodation: Fox Glacier - 1 night

New Zealands West Coast and its wild pounding waves and craggy cliff faces.
Experience our warm hospitality and the mountain views towards the glacier valley. Enjoy the tranquil private setting surrounded by temperate rainforest edging the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Our prime location is just a short walk from local cafés, Fox Guiding, scenic helicopter tour offices, shops, and the popular glow worm forest walk.
Fox Glacier Lodge


Heli-Hiking on Fox Glacier | Lake Wanaka

Experience awe-inspiring glacial scenery by air, then by foot

Fox Glacier is an impressive puzzle of snow and ice, extending well below the snow line and almost to sea level. An exciting helicopter flight combined with a guided, two-hour glacier hike amongst pristine icy scenery is the best way to experience this icy wonderland. Your guide will choose the route, seeking out the most spectacular ice formations, towering pinnacles and brilliantly blue ice. Panoramic views of the surrounding mountains form a beautiful backdrop for stellar photo opportunities. Before you continue on to Wanaka have a picnic lunch next to Lake Matheson, considered New Zealand's most beautiful lake.

Approximate Distance: 265 kms | 161 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 45 mins

Accommodation: Wanaka - 1 night

Heli Hiking Fox Glacier.

Situated on the lake shores, a stroll across the lawn will have you gazing across Lake Wanaka to the spectacular Southern Alps. Choose between one bedroom suites, studios and two bedroom apartments. Savour the lakeside atmosphere while you are treated to a fresh and contemporary menu in Sargoods Restaurant and Wineglass Cafe.

The Edgewater Resort Lake Wanaka


The Niger Stream Canyon

World-Class Canyoning Action

Ready for a day of adrenaline pumping action in New Zealand’s spectacular outdoors? Located in the Matukituki Valley, the Niger Stream is a world-class canyon – the perfect place for a day of high energy fun. You’ll abseil and slide your way down picturesque waterfalls and climb and jump over rocks, splashing into pools of crystal-clear water. An exhausting, highly rewarding day in the great outdoors, this is one of the most wonderful back-to-nature experiences you can have here and a must when we where designing the The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure Tour. After your canyoning head to Queenstown.

Approximate Distance: 70 kms | 43 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 15 mins

Accommodation: Queenstown  - 1 night

West Coast World Class Canyons

Just 8 minutes walk into the heart of Queenstown you will find the Alexis Motel and Apartments, surrounded by majestic alpine scenery and spectacular views across Lake Wakatipu. Choose from a variety of self contained one bedroom apartments, two bedroom apartments and studio suites

Alexis Motel and Apartments


Day 1 Hollyford Adventure: Travel to Te Anau

Start your adventure by traveling from Queenstown to the picturesque lakeside town of Te Anau on our private coach for a detailed pre-departure briefing. Our experienced guides will provide all the essential information you need, help you prepare your tramping pack, and answer any questions you may have.

Enjoy dinner with your fellow walkers, getting to know each other before retiring to your hotel room for the night.

Approximate Distance: 175 kms | 109 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Accommodation: Te Anau  - 1 night

Te Anau
Located to make the most of this beautiful area on the Te Anau lake front, a short stroll from the Te Anau town centre. Distinction Te Anua Hotel and Villas, offers chic, elegant and comfortable room options. This 4 Star hotel is surrounded by extensive landscaped gardens where you can enjoy the spectacular view of Lake Te Anua and the Fiordland ranges.
Distinction Hotel Te Anau & Villas


Day 2 Hollyford Track - Te Anau to Ka Tuku Lodge

Todays Walk: 19.5km (12 miles)

Start your day with breakfast at the hotel before boarding our private coach to the remote Hollyford Valley, where your Wilderness Experience begins.

On this first day in the valley, you'll hike 19.5 kilometers, discovering hidden waterfalls and wandering through ancient native bush, marveling at the myriad shades of green. Along the way, learn about the unique flora and fauna and hear stories of those who traversed the Hollyford paths before you.

Finish the day at Ka Tuku Lodge, where an impressive three-course meal awaits. Celebrate the achievements of the day over a glass of Central Otago wine or a refreshing craft beer.

Accommodation: Ka Tuku Lodge - 1 night

Fiordlands beautiful Hollyford Valley.
In the native forest beneath converging mountain rangers, and amongst native forest at the confluence of the Hollyford and Pyke Rivers you will find Ka Tuku Lodge. Have a hot shower while your Kiwi hosts prepare a gourmet dinner before retiring for a comfortable nights sleep. Here you will be able to be treated with a spectacular sunrise and sunset views of Mt. Madeline and the Darren Range. Ka Tuku Lodge accommodate 16  hikers, in two-persons rooms, with separate shared bath facilities.   
Ka Tuku Lodge


Day 3 Hollyford Track - Ka Tuku Lodge to Martins Bay

Todays Walk: 15 km (9 miles)

Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at Ka Tuku Lodge before setting out on a short walk to Wāwāhi Waka (Lake Alabaster). On your return, make sure to visit the renowned Pyke Bridge, the longest swing bridge in Fiordland National Park.

Next, take a jet boat ride down the Hollyford River and across Lake McKerrow to the podocarp forest, where you'll see ancient rimu, kahikatea, and totara trees, some over a thousand years old. As you approach the rugged West Coast, the ancient forests will give way to coastal gardens.

End your day at Waitai Lodge, where a three-course meal and a toast celebrating the day's stunning vistas await you.

Accommodation: Hollyford Valley - 1 night

Hiker enjoying one of the many waterfalls - Hollyford Track
Our accommodation tonight is in Waitai Lodge, with hosts to look after your every need. Set amidst spectacular scenery, this well appointed private lodge at Martins Bay has everything required for a comfortable stay. This is a fully serviced lodge, with hot showers, a drying room, great food and friendly Kiwi hospitality from our hosts.  Absolute comfort in the most remote of settings to end a red letter day. It is the perfect place for you to relax without no mobile phone coverage, you just have to lean back and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Waitai Lodge


Day 4 Hollyford Track - Walk & Flight Over Milford

Todays Walk: 5km (3 miles)

After enjoying another hearty cooked breakfast, you'll be ready to embark on the final walking leg of the Hollyford journey, exploring Martins Bay Spit, which separates the Hollyford Valley from the Tasman Sea.

Take your time to explore the sand dunes and stroll along the isolated beach, soaking in the rugged beauty of the wild West Coast. Then, return to Waitai Lodge for a scenic helicopter flight back through the iconic and dramatic Milford Sound. Marvel at the grandeur of vertical granite cliff faces and breathtaking waterfalls hidden within the lush native forest.

Upon arriving in Milford Sound, your friendly coach driver will be waiting to drive you back to Queenstown (or Te Anau if preferred) via the impressive Milford Road.

Accommodation Queenstown - 1 Night

Walking along the wild beachfront at Martins Bay.

Just 8 minutes walk into the heart of Queenstown you will find the Alexis Motel and Apartments, surrounded by majestic alpine scenery and spectacular views across Lake Wakatipu. Choose from a variety of self contained one bedroom apartments, two bedroom apartments and studio suites

Alexis Motel and Apartments


Homeward Bound

Enjoy a relaxed morning in Queenstown reflecting on your adventure-packed New Zealand holiday before you are transferred to the airport to begin your journey home.

Haere rā and Bon Voyage!

We are sure you will enjoy the Ultimate New Zealand Self Drive Adventure 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 Ultimate New Zealand Self Drive Adventure Tour'  - We Guarantee it will be the Holiday of a Lifetime!

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What Elizabeth says about this tour: This is the tour that's packed with all the coolest things to do and try in the great kiwi outdoors. Be sure to bring some good energy reserves and a young-at-heart attitude then hold on tight for the most thrilling three weeks of your life. Highly recommended!
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