NZ's Culture and Heritage Self Drive Itinerary

Classic Arrowtown gold miners cottage.

Auckland - Polynesian Capital of the World

‘Haere Mai’ … Welcome to New Zealand!

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

After checking into your hotel, relax and acquaint yourself with our beautiful city. Explore the highly acclaimed Waterfront Restaurant Quarter or choose one of the many activities available for a more in-depth understanding of Auckland and the surrounding area.

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 City
Located in the heart of cosmopolitan Auckland, the recently refurbished Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland is New Zealand's largest hotel and within walking distance to Queen Street and Viaduct Harbour with fine dining, shopping and entertainment venues at your doorstep. The hotel features 452 elegant, oversized guest rooms and suites that will ensure comfort and convenience.
Grand Millennium Hotel


Auckland to the Bay of Islands: Discover Northland

Begin your adventure by journeying north to the Bay of Islands: en route, you'll discover the secrets of some of New Zealand's most beloved elders, the ancient Kauri trees of the Northland.

Matakohe Kauri Museum
The award-winning Kauri Museum in Matakohe explores what became of Kauri trees after they were felled by humans. Their strong, durable timber and gum were highly prized by settlers, with a flourishing industry that shaped New Zealand's future. In addition to preserving our past, the Museum plays a vital role in conserving the future of the mighty Kauri.

Historic Russell
Arriving in the Bay of Islands, you'll step back in time to peaceful Russell: this exquisite historic village was New Zealand's first ever capital, known as "The Hell Hole of the Pacific" and once famed for its lawlessness!

Sleep soundly tonight at New Zealand's first ever licensed hotel — the iconic Duke of Marlborough – right by the waterfront, with a front-row seat for the sunset over the harbour and beyond.

Approximate Distance: 242 km | 150 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 40 mins

Accommodation: Russell - 2 nights

Kauri Museum
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.


Bay of Islands: Historical “Cream Trip” Cruise

A stunning Maritime Park spanning 144 islands, the Bay of Islands is a sub-tropical paradise brimming with hidden bays and a wealth of marine life. Today you'll discover the Bay in the very best way — by taking to the water.

Historical "Cream Trip" Cruise
This fabulous day-long excursion is the most extensive historical cruise in the Bay of Islands. In 1927, Ernest Fuller began delivering mail and supplies to the Bay's inner islands by boat, collecting cream from the farmers to take back to the mainland. He soon began inviting tourists to tag along for the "Cream Trip," and the rest is history.

These days the journey is more comfortable on a modern, multi-level catamaran, but you’ll experience the same idyllic bays, local homes and the prominent natural landmarks like the 'Hole in the Rock' near Cape Brett.

Marine mammals are abundant so the chance to see whales, seals, dolphins and other wildlife are high. The leisurely pace allows you to get up close and even swim with the dolphins if conditions permit!

Cream Cruise Bay of Islands


Visit New Zealand's Birthplace, Return to Auckland

Waitangi Treaty Grounds 
This morning you will visit the "birthplace of New Zealand": the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This multi-award-winning attraction brings our history to life before your very eyes.

Find out how 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between Maori and Pakeha (European settlers) shaped the future of the New Zealand nation. After strolling the museum and grounds, you will enter a beautifully carved Whare Rūnanga (meeting house), for an awe-inspiring Maori cultural performance that will give you chills.

Returning to Auckland, with stunning views out across the Hauraki Gulf and Rangitoto Island nearby.

Approximate Distance: 233 km | 144 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 35 mins

Accommodation: Auckland - 1 night

Waitangi Treaty Grounds
A contemporary hotel for the curious, the explorers and those who thrive on new experiences. Functionally chic, this contemporary hotel features 190 rooms and suites designed for all travellers, overlooking the vibrant Princes Wharf that is home to a stunning array of dining, entertainment and shopping experiences.
M Social Auckland


Auckland to Rotorua: Our Maori Heartland

Your journey continues to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Sitting squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Rotorua's landscape is unique: arriving here is like landing on the moon! This is Earth's crust at its most exciting.

Maori Cultural Evening & Hangi Banquet
In the evening you will experience the wonderful hospitality of New Zealand Maori at a Cultural Evening and Feast. Enjoy a banquet of foods cooked the traditional Maori way — on hot stones in an underground oven (a Hangi). Learn about Maori culture and spirituality through joyous song and dance performances. Seeing the Haka demonstrated right in front of you is unforgettable.

Not for you? Well, maybe it is - read our full review Tamaki Māori Village Experience.

Approximate Distance: 226 km | 140 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 45 mins

Accommodation: Rotorua - 1 night

Traditional Maori Cultural Show

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


Napier: Geothermal Wonders & Glorious Art Deco

On your way toward Napier via Great Lake Taupo, stop and enjoy a soak in one of New Zealand's picturesque wild hot springs.

Natural Hot Pools & Wai-O-tapu Thermal Reserve
Kerosene Creek is a beautiful hot stream right in the middle of the lush native bush, and we highly recommend stopping for a quick soak!

Close to Kerosene Creek is Wai-O-tapu, a wonderland of geothermal activity. This is the home to the world famous Champagne Pool, one of the most beautiful examples of geothermal activity around. New Zealand’s largest bubbling mud pool is surrounded by huge volcanic craters making the experience very otherworldly — but wait, there is more... the Highlight is the Lady Knox Geyser that spectacularly erupts daily at 10.15am

Napier - New Zealand's Art Deco City
The coastal city of Napier has a unique feel and atmosphere, thanks to its exquisitely preserved 1930s architecture. Arriving here is like stepping back in time.
This colourful, sunny city was flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in the favoured style of the day. Today, Napier is one of the few fully intact Art Deco cities in existence.

Napier's architectural treasures are not lost on the locals: Art Deco themed festivals and parties abound throughout the year. Don't be surprised to see folks wandering the streets in the 1920s and 30s attire, as if they just stepped off the set of 'The Great Gatsby'!

Lonely Planet: This ‘charismatic’ New Zealand city ‘can provoke a Great Gatsby swagger in the least romantic soul’.

Approximate Distance: 223 km | 139 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 45 mins

Accommodation: Napier - 1 night

Art Deco Napier

One of Hawke’s Bay’s newest accommodations, situated in Ahuriri in Napier. This colourful seaside village offers art galleries, funky fun shops, boutique cinema and a plethora of cafes and eateries. Across the road is a sandy beach suitable for swimming. The rooms are comfortable, contemporary and chic with lots of light and space to move.

Navigate Seaside Hotel - Napier


Napier to Wellington: Capital of Creativity & Culture

This morning enjoy a guided tour of Napier's architectural gems, before journeying to Rotorua for a Maori cultural experience to be remembered.

Art Deco Walking Tour
See Napier's heritage come to life with an easy guided stroll through the compact Art Deco Quarter. Your professionally trained Art Deco guide will tell you about the devastation of the earthquake in depth, you'll discover how the city came to be rebuilt in only two years.

Onwards to Wellington
Known for its arty, creative residents, Wellington is filled with character and colourful streets. Packed with quirky shops and great galleries, it's lots of fun to wander around.

Head to the waterfront and explore the amazing Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand). Here you can follow the incredible ocean journey of our Maori ancestors as they discover New Zealand and build a life here. Learn about what makes the earth shake, and why our mud bubbles and boils. You'll be an expert on New Zealand before you know it!

Here are some sightseeing and activity suggestions while in Wellington:

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

Wellington Cable Car   

Carter Observatory 


Vogue: "coolest little city in the world" on Wellington.

Approximate Distance: 319 km | 140 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Wellington - 1 night

Wellington, New Zealand's Cool Little Capital
U Residence Hotel Wellington is located in downtown Wellington, a 3-minute walk from Te Papa Museum. It offers a fitness centre and free Wi-Fi access. The modern apartments come with a balcony. U Residence Hotel Wellington is 700 m from Cuba Street and 1.3 km from Oriental Bay Beach. It is 7 km from Wellington International Airport.
U Residence Wellington


Wellington to Akaroa - Bonjour to Little France

Fly from Wellington to Christchurch

After landing in Christchurch and collecting your rental car, a scenic drive over the Banks Peninsula transports you to Akaroa: a harbour-side village which counts the world's rarest dolphin among its neighbours.

Historic Akaroa
You'll love pottering around French-settled Akaroa, with its quaint 19th-century cottages housing an array of artisan galleries & boutiques. Most streets have French names, and many descendants of the original French families continue to live here. It's a charming setting, right by the shimmering waters of the Akaroa Harbour.

Akaroa's most famous resident is the tiny Hector's Dolphin, which you won't find anywhere else in the world. If you take a scenic harbour cruise they are a joy to watch, darting and diving around your boat, as playful as puppies!

Approximate Distance: 81 km | 51 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 20 mins

Accommodation: Akaroa - 1 night

Akaroa Little France.

Nestled in a tranquil valley and set on 29 acres of unsurpassed rural landscapes, Kaituna Valley Homestead features free WiFi and free private parking.This beautiful and grand house exudes the charms of a bygone era while utilising all the comforts of modern living. The spacious apartment at the property consists of a bedroom, bathroom and a separate sun room overlooking the valley.

Kaituna Valley Homestead


Akaroa to Oamaru: Ancient Māori Rock Art & Victorian Beauty

Farewelling Akaroa, you'll journey south to Oamaru today, pausing in South Canterbury to admire New Zealand's only known Maori cave paintings.

The Moa Hunters and their early Māori Rock Art
The area you will be travelling through contains New Zealand's oldest art galleries: our ancient limestone caves. The Maori rock paintings within these caves are of enormous cultural significance.

Join local Māori guides on a rock art site tour. Following the footsteps of the ancestors, you will learn how they lived and why they left their cave drawings. These are believed to be the only known example of Māori cave paintings in New Zealand.

The North Otago town of Oamaru greatly prospered from gold mining in the 1800s and boasts some of the finest heritage buildings in New Zealand. The splendid nineteenth-century whitestone buildings — formerly prestigious banks and hotels — are now home to galleries and specialty stores.
Oamaru is considered the Steampunk capital of the world, and the Steampunk Museum in town is well worth a look.

Head to the Oamaru Harbour at sunset for a special treat. As darkness falls, a local colony of Little Blue Penguins waddle up the steep bank, before heading towards their comfy nests. Locals and visitors alike gather to watch the penguin parade; this is a sight not to be missed.

Approximate Distance: 301 km | 187 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Oamaru - 1 night

Historic Oamaru

Quiet and private Executive Motel Accommodation in a village like setting, Highfield Mews places you in the heart of Oamaru. Within easy walking distance of the town's cafés, restaurants, shops and Historic Precinct. Luxurious interiors complemented by unique design Highfield Mews is enhanced with many features and comforts that have resulted in these superb suites.

Free Wifi and bike hire just part of the excellent range of facilities on offer.


Dunedin - Scottish City of Grace and Grandeur

Continuing down the South Island's east coast, the grand old city of Dunedin awaits you — and it's home to New Zealand's only castle.

Moeraki Boulders
Be sure to stop en route at Koekohe Beach to admire the Moeraki Boulders. There are over 50 of these 65-million-year-old natural wonders strewn along the sands. They are up to 2 metres (6.5 feet) wide and the largest weight around 7 tonnes (7.7 tons)!

Dunedin: City of Grace and Grandeur
The name "Dunedin" comes from the Scots-Gaelic name for Edinburgh: "Dun Eideann" and you won't have to look hard to see the Scottish influence in this lovely old university town.

One of the best-preserved Victorian cities in the Commonwealth, Dunedin also incorporates a diverse array of architectural styles from Tudor to Neo-Gothic.

Approximate Distance: 113 km | 70 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 30 mins

Accommodation: Dunedin - 1 night

The former Dunedin Chief Post Office (1937), transformed the 1937 former Chief Post Office in Dunedin into an elegant 4 1/2 star luxury hotel. It occupies an entire city block in The Exchange, the historic business centre of Dunedin. The impressive building was considered a monument to the importance of the role of the state and also to Dunedin's preeminent position as the country's most prosperous city. The Distinction Dunedin Hotel offers a variety of brand new accommodation to suit everyone from the businesses traveller requiring spacious and modern facilities to those wanting a relaxing weekend away.
The Distinction Dunedin Hotel


Queenstown: Castle Walls & Snow-Capped Mountains

Larnach Castle Tour
Built-in 1871 by the merchant baron William Larnach, over 200 workers spent more than three years constructing the main shell of Larnach Castle. Master European craftsmen spent a further 12 years embellishing the interior, using the finest materials from around the world. The magnificent architecture of this superbly crafted building showcases a unique collection of New Zealand antiques, spectacular tower views, and beautiful gardens.

After your visit, you'll leave the South Island's east coast behind and head inland: the mountains are beckoning.

Queenstown sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, set against the dramatic Southern Alps. Early Maori explorers journeyed here in search of pounamu (greenstone) — a nephrite jade used to make chisels and weaponry — and also to hunt for the giant Moa bird. But the town really kicked off in the 1800s when Europeans found gold and the rush began in 1862.

The compact township of Queenstown is easy to stroll around, and with a vast array of drinking and dining establishments to choose from on the lakefront, you'll have unrivalled mountain views wherever you decide to relax and unwind this evening.

Approximate Distance: 285 km | 178 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 40 mins

Accommodation: Queenstown - 3 nights

Larnach Castle

Sitting on the crystal-clear shores of Lake Wakatipu, Novotel Gardens is centrally located - only a five-minute walk to town on level ground - home to prime restaurants and boutique shopping. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with views from private balconies over manicured landscapes, with the property being adjacent to the beautiful Queenstown Gardens.

Novotel Queenstown


Explore Lake Wakatipu on a Vintage Steamboat

The dramatic natural landscape has made Queenstown the hub for adventure sports in New Zealand. But the jewel in the crown is Lake Wakatipu - and today you'll get to know it better on a vintage steamship cruise.

TSS Earnslaw Cruise to Walter Peak Station
The vintage TSS Earnslaw is the oldest passenger steamship still in operation in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a charming way to view the lake and its grand surroundings Your destination is to the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak Station (Farm). The charming, lakefront location is a real drawcard, as is the great dining experience on offer so sit back and enjoy some fine high country hospitality or take one of the tours offered around the workings of the station.

Take the rest of the day to enjoy Queenstown however you desire. Here are some suggestions:

Other Recommended Excursions in Queenstown:

Routeburn Day WalkHighest Bungey JumpExplore Arrowtown

Wine Tasting Central Otago      

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

Gibbston Valley Wine Trail

TSS Earnslaw, a vintage steamship.


Arrowtown: Treasure of the Gold Rush Era

Sitting alongside the gold-bearing Arrow River, you'll find one of the most picturesque settlements in New Zealand. Welcome to historic Arrowtown.

This delightful-looking township was established in 1862 after a local sheep shearer struck gold. Within a year, over 1500 miners flooded here to try their luck, constructing wooden cottages, cobbled streets, shops, and churches, many of which remain today. The result is a town overflowing with character, surrounded by shadowy forested mountains.

Come in autumn and you'll see the hillsides ablaze with a covering of crimson and golden leaves. It's a photographer's delight! Try panning for gold yourself on the Arrow River's shores. Who knows, you might strike it rich before you return to Queenstown this evening!

Historic Arrowtown


Homeward Bound

"Haere rā" Goodbye! and Bon Voyage!

There maybe time for some last minute sightseeing or shopping before making your way for your outbound flight.

We know you will enjoy the New Zealand's Cultural and Heritage 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 'New Zealand's Cultural and Heritage Tour' - We Guarantee it will be the Holiday of a lifetime!



Profile picture for user Steve
What Steve says about this tour: For history buffs and those who want to get a real feel for our indigenous history and culture, this tour is fabulous. From the Waitangi Treaty grounds, through the art deco centres, our Scottish, English and Chinese heritage, the goldrush era and more. The carefully selected accommodation options and the expertise of our local guides makes this tour a stand-out for me.
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