The Ultimate Adventure's Driving Itinerary


Documents and 24/7 Support: We've Got You Covered!

When you touch down in New Zealand your detailed documentation pack will be hand-delivered by one of our trusted representatives. You'll find everything you need in one handy place: your personalised itinerary, clear instructions and maps, and reservation details for your accommodation and activities.

24 Hour Assistance: We’re just a free phone call away if you encounter any issues while you're on the road - at any time of day or night. Don’t waste your precious vacation time stressing - First Light Travel are here to help you quickly when every second counts.

What's also included?

Dedicated Travel Consultant                  Detailed Daily Itinerary and Vouchers        

144 Page A4 NZ Touring Atlas  

Full 24 Hour Support 50 Page Essential New Zealand Guide  


Head North to the Beautiful Bay of Islands 

On arrival into Auckland, collect your car and make your way North. 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. 

After arriving in the Bay of Islands it is a 10 minute ferryride to the quaint seaside town of Russell, where you stay at the famous The Duke Of Marlborough Hotel (the oldest pub in New Zealand) and dine only a few feet the from waters edge.

Approximate Distance: 232 kms | 145 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 30 mins

Accommodation Russell - 1 Night

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel is New Zealand's first licensed hotel, bar, and restaurant and is beautifully located on the waterfront in the historic village of Russell. There are three levels of accommodation each increasing in comfort and style. Available to all is the use of two excellent restaurants and a sundeck lounge from which to take a rest and enjoy the activity on the waterfront in the Bay. This truly historic establishment is a favorite amongst the locals and holidaymakers in the know.


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

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.


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: 89 kms | 55 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour

Accommodation: Tutukaka - 2 nights

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.



Muriwai Beach and Waitomo

No back-tracking as you head south via the Wild West Coast theading south.  These beaches are unique with black volcanic sand and raging surf surrounded by lush native forest and large sand dunes. Muriwai Beach is your lunch stop today, not only a great place for a surf but you can stop and get a close look at a large gannet colony or take time out and go for a spectacular horse ride along the beach. The beauty of the Ultimate New Zealand Self Drive Adventure is you do have the freedom to choose your pace and if you want, add in some extra adventure activities along the way.

To the south of Hamilton, 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: 379 kms | 235 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 50 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. 


Travel to 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: 144 kms | 89 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 50 mins

Accommodation National Park - 2 nights

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.

There is one guide per 8 walkers. A usual guided Tongariro Crossing will take 7 to 7.5 hours 


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. Take time to stop at  Taupo for lunch or partake in one of the many adventures available. Set amidst rolling green countryside and spectacular mountain scenery, the lake is similar in size to Singapore. Lake Taupo offers an exciting array of adventure activities – skydive from 5000 meters  (15,000 feet) - personally recommended by many First Light Travel staff. Don’t miss the opportunity of taking a 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. 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 Golf Biking the Mighty Forests  
Museum of Art & History Evening Cultural Experience    White Water Rafting


Approximate Distance: 185 km | 115 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 20 mins

Accommodation Rotorua - 1 night

Relax in Rotorua at the 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. Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, Sky TV and DVD/CD facilities during your stay. A continental or cooked breakfast can be delivered to your room every morning of your stay and an 11am check out will make your stay in Rotorua totally memorable.
Silver Spoon 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. Enjoy a Nelson craft beer or a glass of local wine before heading out for dinner.

Accommodation Nelson - 1 night


Ambleside Bed & Breakfast is a restored character villa situated within the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. Enjoy a quiet and peaceful stay in one of the four luxuriously appointed bedroom suites.

Nice picture of the accomodation in Nelson.


Overnight Kayaking and Beach Camping

Pristine coastline by land and sea...

Explore the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park – one of New Zealand’s iconic adventure tourism destinations – with an overnight sea kayaking and beach camping experience. Enjoy two days exploring sheltered waters, golden sand beaches, near-shore islands and pretty estuaries. This marine reserve is home to a New Zealand Fur seal colony and both marine and terrestrial birds are abundant along the coastline.

Approximate Distance: 64 kms | 40 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour

Accommodation Abel Tasman National Park - 1 night

Sorry due to the isolated nature of the Abel Tasman you have to experience an evening with no 'Mod Con's' - we doubt you will be able to have any internet connection. Bark Bay is another golden beach in the Abel Tasman National Park and has a beautiful tidal estuary which you can walk along. Bark was stripped from trees to be used in a Nelson tannery last century, hence the origin of the name of the bay (the bark has grown back)

Abel Tasman Camping Adventure


Overnight in Marahau

Your kayaking adventure will end around 4.30pm returning you to Marahau at the beginning of the Park. We wholeheartedly recommend tonight you try a burger at The Fat Tui in Marahau.

Located at the Southern entrance to Abel Tasman National Park are the Ocean View Chalets in Marahau. The blue-green sea and golden beaches are easily accessible with nearby walking tracks. Relax in tranquility amongst the native bush and peaceful surroundings. Each chalet is self contained and private with wonderful ocean views, all are free standing, comfortable and bright. 

Abel Tasman Ocean View Chalets


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: 505 kms | 314 miles  Total Driving Time: 6 hours 30 mins

Accommodation Fox Glacier - 1 night

Experience our warm hospitality and the mountain views towards the glacier valley. Enjoy our tranquil private setting surrounded by temperate rainforest edging the Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
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: 262 kms | 163 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 40 mins

Accommodation Wanaka - 1 night


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 10 mins

Accommodation Queenstown  - 2 nights

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 accommodation which include One Bedroom Apartment, Two Bedroom Apartment and Studio Suites

Alexis Motel and Apartments


Queenstown at Leisure / Evening Hiking Brief

Enjoy a day relaxing in Queenstown, a pretty town nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Here, there’s something for everyone – from easy walks to cafe culture, gold panning, wine tasting or adrenaline activities; it’s impossible to run out of things to do. Today, make the most of Queenstown’s scenic beauty and endless opportunities to kick back and relax. This evening before your hiking brief, return your rental car at the depot. 

Recommended excursions in and around Queenstown:

Routeburn Day Walk Highest Bungey Jump Explore Arrowtown

Wine Tasting Central Otago      

Biking Skippers Canyon       Round at Millbrook Golf Resort
Earnslaw Steamboat Cruise   Dart River Jetboat Safari      

Gibbston Valley Wine Trail


Hollyford Track Pre-Departure Briefing: A pre-departure briefing for the Hollyford Track begins at 6 pm. This is a chance for you to meet your guide and fellow walkers. Your guide will "walk" you through the next three unforgettable days, on the Hollyford Track.


Hollyford Track (Day 1) - Glowworms & Waterfalls

Todays Walk: 17 km (12 mi)

Depart Queenstown and travel alongside the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and on to Te Anau and into the Hollyford Valley. Travel through the majestic Eglington Valley to the start of the Track visiting the famous bushman with the namesake Gunn's Camp on the way. Then re-trace the footsteps of early explorers along the Hollyford River to Pyke River Lodge. As the Track undulates gently through native beech forest and beside tumbling waterfalls enjoy interesting historical tales and interpretation of the forest and bird life. In the evening you can visit our nearby glow-worm colony.

Meals Provided: Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation Pyke River Lodge, Hollyford Valley - 1 night

In the native forest beneath converging mountain rangers, and amongst native forest at the confluence of the Hollyford and Pyke Rivers you will find Pyke River 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. Pyke River lodge accommodate 16  hikers, in two-persons rooms, with separate shared bath facilities.   
Pyke River Lodge


Hollyford Track (Day 2) - Lakes & 1000 Year Old Trees

Todays Walk: 12 km (7 mi)

Begin your day with a short walk to Lake Alabaster and learn of the history and geology of the area whilst in the midst of stunning surroundings. Cross Fiordland's longest swing bridge and then enjoy a captivating jet boat journey down the Hollyford River and across Lake McKerrow to the historic site of Jamestown, the intended capital of the South Island in the late 19th century. Walk through the ancient Podocarp forest (New Zealand native pines) with huge Rimu, Totara and Kahikatea trees wrapped in massive Rata vines. Then visit the fur seal colony at Long Reef on the wild West Coast. You may see the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin. Spend the night at Martins Bay Lodge.

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation Hollyford Valley, Martins Bay Lodge - 1 night

Our accommodation tonight is in Martin's Bay 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.
Martins Bay Lodge


Hollyford Track (Day 3) Walk & Flight Over Milford

Todays Walk 8km (5 mi)

Travel by jet boat to the beach and explore the seven kilometre Martins Bay Beach, sand dunes and lagoon. Learn about its history and its plant, sea and bird life. Return to Martins Bay Lodge and then enjoy a scenic flight to Milford Sound, with views of the Track route, Hollyford Valley and Mt Tutoko, Fiordland's highest peak. Board your coach for your return journey to Queenstown by approximately 7.30 pm.

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation Queenstown - 1 Night

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 accommodation which include One Bedroom Apartment, Two Bedroom Apartment 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!

Profile picture for user Emma
What Emma 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!
Enquire Now

Want Your Very Own Custom Itinerary?

We can customise any of our online itineraries or create your own from start to finish

Pricing terms

The price is based on current exchange rates but is only an approximation. Please contact us for a final price