The Grand NZ Self Drive Itinerary

The Grand NZ Self Drive Itinerary

Hello Auckland!

‘Haere Mai’ … Welcome to New Zealand

Relax - you are on holiday and everything has been taken care of.  We will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your central city accommodation. Make the most of some free leisure time in the 'City of Sails' - simply relax or take this opportunity to explore the many sights of Auckland. This evening we suggest you head down to the viaduct for dinner.

Some Activities and sightseeing options if you have time:

Explore Waiheke Island    Island Kayaking Adventure    America’s Cup Sailing
Auckland's Sky TowerRelax on the BeachRangitoto Island Cruise & Walk
West Coast Wine TourWhale and Dolphin SafariMuriwai Surf Beach

Accommodation: Auckland - 1 night

Auckland Waterfront
Hotel de Brett is situated in downtown Auckland and is considered a very unique luxury boutique hotel. Set in Auckland’s hip High Street, the fashion district, the iconic building has been reinterpreted into a 25 room luxury boutique hotel with each room designed with eclectic furniture, New Zealand Art and photography. The décor is a celebration of contemporary New Zealand art and design, with hints of the hotel’s art deco past.
Hotel De Bretts Auckland City


The Bay of Islands

A three-hour drive north following the beautiful Hibiscus Coast, you arrive at the Bay of Islands. The ‘Bay’ encompasses 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula, a maritime adventure playground with an abundance of wildlife including penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, gannets and more. Many of the islands here have walking tracks and have regular ferry’s to get you there. On land, enjoy beautiful river and seaside walking tracks or encounter the mighty Kauri Tree in pristine subtropical rainforest.

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

Accommodation: Bay of Islands - 2 nights

Bay of Islands Northland
On a private native bush reserve that contains one of the few remaining untouched native rain forests in an area famously renowned for its coastal and marine beauty rests The Sanctuary. Guests can relax in the open-plan lounge, kitchen and dining area with floor-to-ceiling windows, leather sofas and 2 wood-burning fireplaces. Breakfast is included each morning.


Hole in Rock & Dolphin Viewing Cruise

This is the most popular dolphin watching cruise in the Bay of Islands, and for good reason! Board your cruise in Paihia or Russell and take in the stunning views as we glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the 'Hole in the Rock'. This four-hour cruise includes an island stopover, dolphin viewing and the Hole in the Rock. Morning cruises depart daily and afternoon cruises are give you the chance to relax or explore at leisure during the afternoon.

'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.'


dolphin Cruise Bay of Islands


Kauri Museum - Auckland

Returning to Auckland for the night, stop in and explore the famous Matakohe Kauri Museum.

The award winning Kauri Museum is famous for its storytelling, preserving our past and showing the viewer what living in early colonial New Zealand was like. The Kauri Museum recounts the history and the legacy left behind by our ancient Kauri Forests. In addition to preserving our past, the Museum plays a role to play in conserving the future of the mighty Kauri.

Visitors to The Kauri Museum will experience

  • Interactive, hands-on displays and life-like models
  • A rare collection of polished kauri gum
  • Life sized, replica two-storey Boarding House
  • Fossilised and swamp kauri, tens of thousands of years old
  • The world’s largest kauri slab – measuring a huge 22.5 metres (74 foot) long
  • A working sawmill
  • A great gift store showcasing kaipara arts and crafts

    Approximate Distance: 232 kms | 145 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 

    Accommodation: Auckland - 1 night
Kauri Museum
Hotel de Brett is situated in downtown Auckland and is considered a very unique luxury boutique hotel. Set in Auckland’s hip High Street, the fashion district, the iconic building has been reinterpreted into a 25 room luxury boutique hotel with each room designed with eclectic furniture, New Zealand Art and photography. The décor is a celebration of contemporary New Zealand art and design, with hints of the hotel’s art deco past.
Hotel De Bretts Auckland City


Cooks Beach - Coromandel's Seaside Bliss

Cooks Beach is on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. Cooks Beach is a town on a three-kilometre white-sand beach on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand. To its north is Cooks Bay, and beyond that is Mercury Bay. To the east is the locality of Hahei and the tourist attraction of Cathedral Cove. 

Approximate Distance: 150 kms | 93 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 30 mins

Accommodation: Cooks Beach - 2 nights

Tairua Beach

Nestled amongst native New Zealand bush at Cooks Beach, and close to the seaside town of Whitianga is 970 Lonely Bay Lodge, a boutique lodge offering luxury accommodation in the Coromandel. Choose from three one bedroom suites or two bedroom ‘honeymoon’ suites. All rooms include a spacious terrace with a king bed and your own ensuite bathroom.

Lonely Bay Lodge


Free Day - Try Hot Water Beach

Head to the beautiful Hot Water Beach, you will find hot water bubbling through the golden sand. Families, kids and couples can be seen digging their own spa pool in the sand and relaxing in the natural hot springs - this is one experience that should be on your New Zealand bucket list and a truly unique Kiwi experience, perfect for a New Zealand Family Adventure Holiday.

Recommended excursions in and around the Coromandel:

Dive the Aldermans   Soak in the Lost Springs  Visit Cathedral Cove
Soak in Hot Water Beach  Rainforest Rail JourneyExplorer Cruise
Water Works ParkGuided Sea Kayaking Kauri Forest Guided Hike
Cathedral Cove


Rotorua / Hangi & Concert

This morning head to the heartland of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is host to some of the world’s most incredible geothermal forces. Geysers and clouds of steam are dotted around the city and the unmistakable smell of sulphur gives the city an otherworldly feel.

Mitai Maori Cultural Experience with a traditional meal.
An evening at Mitai will give you an authentic introduction to Maori culture Enter the world of the Mitai family whose home is in a natural bush setting, see their warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream. This incredibly clear water is full of eels and trout and flows directly from the earth at the sacred Fairy Spring. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal steamed underground. During our cultural performance, you'll learn about the tribes past, see their carvings and ta moko (tattoo art).

You'll be amazed by the spine-tingling haka finale.

Approximate Distance: 229 km | 142 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Accommodation: Rotorua - 2 nights


Rotorua’s designer 5 star Boutique Hotel and Spa offers stylish luxury accommodation, with accommodation to suit most groups of travellers from Hotel rooms to 2 bedroom family apartments situated amidst the exciting attractions and experiences Rotorua has to offer. With excellent facilities such as the restaurant, heated pool, gym and mineral bathing facilities. 

Regent of Rotorua


Tribal Footprints Volcanic Tour

Take a journey with a local guide in the footprints of the Maori tribe “Tuhourangi “

Learn the history of the pink and white terraces and the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera that destroyed both the tribal village and the terraces.

To bring the story alive visits are made to:

  • Buried Village: Drive to the Blue and Green Lakes and visit the Buried Village. Guided walk through excavations/museum of the Buried Village. Tour includes a bush walk to a waterfall.
  • Whakarewarewa thermal village: Visit the living thermal village of Whakarewarewa. Watch/purchase food cooked in the thermal waters and see the Pohutu geyser erupt, boiling mud and thermal springs. Walk through the living arts and crafts Maori village.
  • Lake Tarawera, Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake) Includes entry to the Buried Village/Whakarewarewa Thermal village.
Terraces Rotorua


Rotorua to Napier via Taupo

View the mighty Huka Falls and the Wairakei Geothermal project before stopping at Lake Taupo, the largest in New Zealand. Continue across the Central Plateau to the Hawkes Bay region and Napier, often regarded as the world's Art Deco Capital. On arrival, after checking into your hotel we recommend a walk around the town centre and the beach promenade.

Nowhere else can you see such a variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930s - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission, and above all Art Deco- the style of the 20th Century - in such a concentrated area. Napier is the world’s finest example of the Art Deco age and your guide will bring Napier's fascinating architecture to life for you as you take an easy stroll through the compact Art Deco Quarter in the vibrant city centre.

Approximate Distance: 217 kms | 135 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hrs 

Accommodation: Napier - 2 nights


Overlooking the waterfront in the historical village of Ahuriri is The Crown Hotel. A boutique property offering a selection of studio, one bedroom and two bedroom options with a total of 42 elegant rooms. Enjoy local and fresh produce, seafood, meats and delectable wines.

The Crown Hotel Napier


Hawke’s Bay Gold Reserve Wine Tour

The Hawkes Bay is one of New Zealand's premier wine producing regions. It is a veritable treasure trove of vineyards, offering wines of superlative quality, many of which have won both national and international acclaim.

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 regions fantastic wine. We will visit four to five wineries and enjoy a cheese platter in the grounds of a winery vineyard weather permitting. You will taste around 30 different wines including the main varieties, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Pinot Gris, Viognier and the lesser known aromatics such as Gewurztraminer and Riesling.

wine tour napier


The Wairarapa to Wellington

Leaving the bays vineyards and orchards we are soon travelling through rolling farm land as we travel into the rural heartland of the Wairarapa region. Stop at historic Greytown to view excellent examples of Victorian colonial architecture. The village has a mix of art galleries, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants making it one of New Zealand’s premier shopping destinations. Time for a shop before travelling over the Rimutaka Ranges and down to our capital city Wellington.

Check out the city's sights and head up Mt Victoria for stunning views over the harbour before heading down to see the Houses of Parliament and the distinctive 'Beehive', and Wellingtons Cathedral. You are staying right in the heart of Wellington's vibrant hub of museums, theatres, galleries, boutiques and cafes.

Approximate Distance: 323 kms | 200 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours  30 mins

Accommodation: Wellington - 2 nights

Wellington City
The Bolton is an independent hotel that provides the discerning traveller with a high degree of comfort and privacy. Located at the junction of Wellingtons central business district and political heart, the 5 star Bolton Hotel is elegant, welcoming and well equipped to make the most of your time in the Capital city.
The Bolton Hotel - Wellington


Day at leisure – visit Te Papa

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 of 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 suggested activities and outings

National Museum - Te Papa    Visit Cuba StreetWeta Workshop Tour
Zealandia Wildlife Reserve 

Wellington Cable Car   

Carter Observatory 
Cafe scene Wellington


Interislander / Bay of Many Coves

Drop your car off before boarding the Interisland Ferry, sit back and enjoy New Zealand hospitality on the three hour journey across Cook Strait which connects New Zealand’s North and South Islands - This is one of the most scenic in the world. The journey offers a dramatic view of both the North and South Islands. As you enter the picturesque Marlborough Sounds keep an eye out for wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, seals, whales and orca that make the sounds home.  Enter the South Island through Picton, a picturesque harbour town located at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound. 

At Picton, board water taxi for a scenic cruise to the Bay of Many Coves Resort located in the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound.

Accommodation: Queen Charlotte Sound  - 2 nights


The Bay of Many Coves is nestled amongst native bush right down to the water's edge. The perfect location for a pristine natural getaway. Enjoy world-class cuisine, a private and secluded five star resort with stunning scenery. Cruise amongst the wildlife such as dolphins and orca's, try your hand at fishing, kayaking or simply walk next to the bush with your camera in hand.

bay of Many Coves


Day of leisure - in the Bay

The Bay of Many Coves offers a wide variety of activities at the resort such as kayaking, swimming, spa treatments, bird watching and fishing to name a few. Visitors can also enjoy many other activities in the surrounding area, including:

What to do at the Bay of Many Coves:

Kayaking          Dolphins and Orcas   Swimming Pools             

Glow Worm Tour

Spa TreatmentsBeach

Motuara Island         

Eco Cruising

Motor Yacht Cruising        

Queen Charlotte Track    Wine ToursSailing


Marlborough Sounds Kayaking


Kaikoura - Serengeti of the Sea

Return to Picton by water taxi, collect your car and continue your journey traveling through Marlborough Wine Country, home to world famous Sauvignon Blanc (along with other white varietals and Pinot Noir). The vines will keep you company as you reach the headlands of the East Coast. Once down on the flats this road - (worthy of any big budget car commercial) hugs the coastline - make sure you stop to enjoy the marine life as the New Zealand Fur Seals bask and play along the rocky shoreline, before arriving in gorgeous Kaikoura. The Kaikoura peninsula enjoys a mild microclimate and is overlooked by majestic snowcapped mountains. This 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.

Approximate Distance: 156 kms | 99 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 14 Minutes 

Accommodation: Kaikoura Nikau Lodge - 1 night

Kaikoura Village


Marine Wildlife Encounter / Christchurch

A spectacular marine playground exists off the coast of Kaikoura and living in this environment is the mighty Sperm Whale. It is here that resident bachelors dive to immense depths in search of Giant Squid, so accessible to Sperm whales but still elusive to mankind. Visitors are drawn to Kaikoura by the ability to view these magnificent mammals in their own environment 12 months of the year and Kaikoura The rich diversity of wildlife found means that every day is a chance to see something different and unique - and you will - from seabirds to cetaceans (whales and dolphins), seals, or even Orca.

Wildlife Encounters in Kaikoura

Whale Watching Cruise   Swim with the Seals
Whale Watching Flight       Dusky Dolphin Viewing
Kayaking with Fur Seals   Pelagic Bird Watching

Approximate Distance: 183 kms | 113 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 35 Minutes 

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 night

The George, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is located in the heart of Christchurch overlooking the picturesque Hagley Park and river Avon and just steps from the cultural precinct and key attractions. The George will offer you a supreme comfort, with personalised stay and attentive staff. The hotel is located in the heart of Christchurch, and its just steps away from cultural precinct and key attractions.
The George - Christchurch


Christchurch to Mt Cook

Leave the city today westwards through the Canterbury plains, you will find a superb location for some great photos at Lake Tekapo. Tekapo is one of three significant, neighboring lakes that border the Mackenzie Valley in New Zealand's South Island. Golden tussock grass carpets the surrounding hillside and roll away into the distance where the Southern Alps frame the horizon. The charming 'Church of the Good Shepherd' sits alone on its shores and the views to our highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook are remarkable. 

Approximate Distance: 334 kms | 207 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 

Accommodation: Mt Cook Village - 1 night

Mt Cook National Park

A stunning destination surrounded by the silent splendor of the Southern Alps and with spectacular views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the surrounding National Park World Heritage area. There is a selection of properties within the Terrace Road campus from Hotel to Chalet and Mountainview Motels - all budgets and standards can be catered for.

Hermitage Hotel Mount Cook


Tasman Glacier Explorer / Dunedin

Experience the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake and its icebergs, in the National Park. A unique guided experience departing Mt Cook village by bus to the beautiful Tasman Valley followed by a 1/2hr gentle alpine walk. Board our MAC boat, and explore the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, where you will discover the ever-changing ice face of the Glacier and icebergs. Have you ever been alongside, discovered or touched an iceberg?

Heading South: Making your way to Dunedin starts with a drive down the beautiful Waitaki Valley to visit Oamaru. While its façade is strictly of the Victorian era with ornately decorated grand white stone buildings that once housed upstanding banks, hotels and restaurants - the locals are bohemians artisans, creative’s and antiquarians who run ‘out-there’ galleries, museums, shops, and venues – it has to be seen to be believed and you'll love it.

Dunedin - Scottish City of Grace and Grandeur
It is for good reason that New Zealand's oldest city is known as the 'Edinburgh of the South' - Dunedin comes from Dun Eideann the Scots-Gaelic name for Edinburgh, founded largely by Scottish immigrants, who raised the impressive buildings which now add much to the city's charm. 

Approximate Distance: 316 km | 210 miles  Total Driving Time 4 hours 

Accommodation: Dunedin - 2 nights

Glacier Explorer
Built by Dunedin identity Sir James Fletcher in 1924 to serve as his private residence this historic property offers a rare glimpse of New Zealand’s heritage. Stay in the original house or in one of the luxury apartments in the renovated building next door. Outdoor sitting areas and established gardens to enjoy. The location is excellent, just a short walk from the Dunedin city centre, shops and restaurants or the museum, galleries and railway station.
Fletcher Lodge


Otago Peninsula Wildlife Cruise

Today cruise the length of the Otago Harbour. Experience an unforgettable half day cruise and peninsula tour and explore Careys Bay historic fishing village, Port Chalmers’ busy wharves and the harbour’s beautiful bays, hills, farmland and forest. Enjoy Monarch’s fascinating Wildlife Cruise around Taiaroa Head and the surrounding coastline of dramatic cliffs. Watch the NZ Furseals play and swim near their breeding colonies, out at sea you can spot rarely seen ocean birds including other albatross species and petrels, and you may see penguins, dolphins and other marine mammals.

Dunedin wildlife cruise


Dunedin to Queenstown

This journey takes you from the Eastern coastal climate into the dry-land region of Central Otago.

Say goodbye to the Dunedin district and cross the farmlands of the Taieri Plains turning inland through hill country and winding river valleys where the vegetation changes to the tussock covered schist Block Mountains of the Central Otago dry lands.

Follow the ever-broadening valley of the beautiful Clutha River. The roads get generally straighter with more expansive views of the upcoming Southern Alps in the distance over the rounded off glaciated terrain on the approach to Queenstown.

Approximate Distance: 280kms | 173 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 

Accommodation: Queenstown - 3 nights

Experience the sophistication of Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel, a haven of stylish, 5 star accommodation for all seasons. A boutique hotel with a modern romantic style and exclusive service awaits you in the heart of New Zealand’s adventure capital. Set in peaceful parkland, and savour views of Queenstown’s majestic mountains. Enjoy easy access to the vibrant town centre where shopping, cafes and nightlife are nestled on the shores of spectacular Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel


Cruise Majestic Milford Sound

With camera batteries fully charged, we set out on an unforgettable journey into a World Heritage Site of absolute majesty. The Milford Road takes you from Te Anau to Milford Sound on one of the most scenic drives on the planet. A glorious labyrinth of soaring peaks is punctuated by unspoiled rainforest, plunging valleys, azure lakes, waterfalls and glaciers. 

The light at the end of the Homer Tunnel marks the final reaches of this amazing roadway and our arrival at Milford Sound. Following a boat cruise of the sound, you will understand why this place was once described as the '8th natural wonder of the world'. From the spectacular scenes of Milford Sound, you will travel back to Queenstown

This is a coach cruise fly - return to Queenstown

Milford Sound Cruise


Boutique Wine Tour

Discover Central Otago's scenic wine country on this fun and interactive afternoon tour. Your tour includes 3 visits to wineries around Queenstown and the Gibbston wine region, exploring New Zealand's largest wine cave, a stunning drive through the rugged Kawarau Gorge viewing the original AJ Hackett bungy bridge, a visit to the Lord of the Rings filming site: Pillar of the Kings and knowledgeable guides with fascinating commentary on wine, local sights & early history of Central Otago.

Wine Tour


Queenstown to Franz Josef - Glacier Country

Continue today to Franz Josef and travel along the rugged West Coast Road and over the Haast Pass. Discover the rich alpine rainforest as you journey through this historic region. Through the Gates of Haast is a lost world that’s so spectacular and remote UNESCO designated it a World Heritage area.

Franz Josef village is small (only 500 locals) and is located only ten minutes from the Glacier. The Franz Josef is a glacier located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south it is a unique in the fact that it descends from the Southern Alps to just 200 metres above sea level amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.

Approximate Distance: 350 kms | 217 miles  Total Driving Time: 5 hours 

Accommodation: Franz Josef Village - 2 nights

West Coast Glacier

Te Waonui is the only luxury property of its kind in the area. The retreat is nestled in the lush bush with views of the natural environment at almost every turn. Located in Franz Josef, the retreat offers easy access to the many natural wonders of the South West World Heritage Area. Mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, coastline, and native flora and fauna all lie in wait at the doorstep for visitors to admire and explore.

Te Waonui Forest Retreat - Franz Josef


Glacier Country

This morning you will enjoy a Glacier Heli-Hike with your guide. After your tour, there are still plenty of ways to explore Glacier Country. Perhaps you want to take another scenic flight over the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier or over Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere or a valley walk with a local glacier guide (all own expense). The magnificent Franz Josef Glacier is widely regarded as the gem of New Zealand’s West Coast glaciers. Take the opportunity to experience the most spectacular glacier environment anywhere in the world.

Excursions available in and around the Franz Josef area:

Kayak Okarito Lagoon 

  Glacier Scenic Flight 

Horseback Riding  

   Walk to Glacier Face   
Lake Matheson


TranzAlpine Train Journey

This morning travel to Greymouth and drop off your car at the train station on arrival before boarding the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch. The TranzAlpine Train,  is renowned as one of the great train journeys of the world. Descend through spectacular gorges, river valleys and over massive viaducts before completing your journey in Christchurch.

Approximate Distance: 173 kms | 107 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 14 mins

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 night

The George, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is located in the heart of Christchurch overlooking the picturesque Hagley Park and river Avon and just steps from the cultural precinct and key attractions. The George will offer you a supreme comfort, with personalised stay and attentive staff. The hotel is located in the heart of Christchurch, and its just steps away from cultural precinct and key attractions.
The George - Christchurch


Transfer to Christchurch Airport

"Haere rā" Goodbye! and Bon Voyage!

We take care of your transfer to Christchurch Airport where you will board your onward flight, taking with you the magical memories of a truly exceptional New Zealand holiday.

Some suggested activities if you have time

Easygoing Cycling Tour  Punting the Avon River  Lyttelton Harbour Wildlife Cruise
Māori Cultural EveningFrench Akaroa TourSouthern Alps Ballooning
Christchurch GondolaClearwater GolfArthur's Pass TranzAlpine Hike

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What Jess says about this tour: "Forget rushing from place to place trying to "do" the major landmarks. Filled with two and three night stays, the Grand Tour itinerary gives you time to be immersed in every breathtaking New Zealand location, with space to wander and discover our scenic wonders your own way."
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