23 Day New Zealand Essence
23 Day New Zealand Essence
Capture the essence of New Zealand as you self drive around both North and South Islands and visit all the iconic places such as the Bay of Islands, Tongariro National Park, Waitomo, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Mt Cook, Milford Sound and many more. A tour for those wanting to deep dive into New Zealand, with plenty of activities along the way.
Hole in the rock cruise Bay of Islands
Milford Sound Cruise
Franz Josef Heli Flight with ice landing
Queenstown Heli Wine Tour
Whale watching Kaikoura
New Zealand's tallest mountain, Mt Cook
This epic 3 week journey starting in Auckland and finishing in Christchurch is one not to be missed. Discover the variety of astonishing and dramatic landscapes across the entire country.
Terms and Conditions
Prices are per person based on twin share occupancy in a double room, and are subject to availability. If anything comes back unavailable, we will endeavor to find you a suitable alternative.
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Day 1 : Auckland
Welcome to Auckland and New Zealand.
A shuttle driver will meet you at the airport and drive you to your accommodation. Your detailed tour information pack will be given to you once you arrive at your accommodation.
Take the rest of the day to relax and explore the inner city. The city centre of Auckland is not too difficult to navigate on foot, so you can easily walk around. Visit the Skytower to take in great views of the city, and stroll around the waterfront with its many nice bars and restaurants. Auckland is also New Zealand's largest city with plenty of shopping, even for the most seasoned of travelers
Hotel : Rendezvous Grand Hotel Auckland
Day 2 : Auckland - Bay of Islands
Today you'll hit the road for your New Zealand self drive tour, as you will pick up your vehicle.
You'll cross the harbour bridge going north towards the Northland and the Bay of Islands, a region with a abundance of marine life, subtropical climate and pristine beaches, but also a region with historical significance.
Once you pass Whangarei, we recommend you drive the final stretch to the Bay of Islands along the marvelous Tutukaka Coast with its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and marvelous beaches along the way. The Tutukaka Coast is home to the Poor Knights Islands, world renowned for it's world class diving and marine life. Just north of Matapouri, a beautiful walk brings you to Whale Bay. Sandy bay is another beautiful spot and has great surfing.
Paihia will be your base to explore the Bay of Islands. Enjoy the afternoon off at your leisure. Visit the historical sites at the Waitang Treaty Grounds, relax in the picturesque seaside town of Russell, or have a go at sea kayaking.
Hotel : Copthorne Hotel and Resort Paihia
Driving distance : 251 km - Driving time : approximately 4 hours 20 mins
Day 3 : Bay of Islands
In the morning you'll join a cruise in the marine playground of the Bay of Islands.
The Hole in the Rock cruise 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 you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’.
You'll have the afternoon free to explore the region a little more at your leisure.
Hotel : Copthorne Hotel and Resort Paihia
Day 4 : Bay of Islands - Auckland
On your way back to Auckland, stop for a coffee at the famous Hunterwasser toilets in Kawakawa, before taking another detour, this time via the western side of Northland. Visit the beautiful Hokianga harbour and stop at the Waipoua Forest, known for its groves of giant Kauri trees and one of New Zealand's largest tract of remaining native forest.
As you approach Auckland, it is also well worth visiting the wild and surf pounded West Coast beaches of Muriwai and Piha.
Hotel : Rendezvous Grand Hotel Auckland
Driving distance : 346 km - Driving time : approximately 4 hours 50 mins
Day 5 : Auckland- Waitomo - Taupo
Heading South through the lush farmlands of the Waikato region, your destination for today is Taupo.
Along the way you'll pay a visit to the world famous Waitomo glowworm caves, where you will marvel at thousands of magical glowworms and become part of over 130 years of cultural and natural history.
About 2kms north of Taupo as you approach the town, a must see are the impressive Huka Falls. This is where the Waikato River, New Zealand's longest river, enters a shallow ravine of hard volcanic rock. The resulting sight is nothing but spectacular. More than 220,000 liters of water per second rushes by.
B&B : Number Ten B&B Taupo
Driving distance : 347 km - Driving time : approximately 4 hours 30 mins
Day 6: Taupo - Wellington via National Park
Today you make your way down to Wellington, the coolest little capital in the world. Find out yourself why Wellington was named the best liveable city in the world in 2016!
The drive to the capital will take you right through the Dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park with the mighty Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu dominating the moon like landscapes and further along the Desert Road.
In Wellington, visit to the national museum Te Papa is a must-do. A trip on the iconic cable car gives you great views across the city and bay at the top.
Stroll around in Cuba street, with its many funky bars known for their craft beers, cafes, and excellent restaurants.
Hotel : City Life Wellington
Driving distance : 420 km - Driving time approximately 5 hour 10 mins
Day 7 : Wellington - Picton - Nelson
Today you will say goodbye to the North Island and cruise across the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry, with great views of the Marlborough Sounds.
Upon your arrival in the small but picturesque fishing town of Picton, you will carry on your journey to creative Nelson, the sunniest place in New Zealand.
Hotel: Rutherford Hotel Nelson
Traveling distance : 235 km - Traveling time approximately 5 hours
Day 8 : Nelson - Punakaiki
The scenery changes dramatically driving through the Buller Gorge on the way to the wild West Coast Once past the gorge a recommended side trip and stop is Lake Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park.
Punakaiki on the West Coast lies in the smallest national park of New Zealand, Paparoa National Park, known for its famous pancake rocks, and where columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of hotcakes.
Hotel : Punakaiki Resort
Driving distance : 265 km - Driving time approximately 3 hours 35mins
Day 9 : Punakaiki - Franz Josef
It's a relatively short drive to Franz Josef in Westland National Park today, an area of magnificent primeval vistas – snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, tussock grasslands, lakes, rivers, wetlands and beaches.
The seaside town of Hokitika is well worth a stop along the route, a place to appreciate the fascinating history of the west coast. The Arahura River, which enters the sea just north of Hokitika, is a traditional source of pounamu (greenstone). There are a number of jewelry stores selling greenstone in town, and are well worth a look.
When you arrive in Franz Josef, you'll experience the Glaciers at their best, up close and personal! Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are two of New Zealand largest glaciers. From above you’ll view and appreciate the incredible natural phenomenon, towering ice formations and vastness the glaciers. Top it off with a snow landing. Stand on the ancient ice of the glaciers. You’ll also fly over the Tasman Glacier on the eastern side of the Southern Alps and close to Mount Cook/Aoraki, New Zealand’s highest peak.
Hotel : Scenic Hotel Franz Josef
Driving distance 217 km - driving time approximately : 2 hrs 52 mins
Day 10 : Franz Josef - Wanaka
The road between Frans Josef and Haast winds its way along the rugged West Coast with lush native bush and rainforest. Haast is located in the heart of Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, with national parks to the north, south and east. You'll head inland and into the Mt Aspiring National Park with its towering mountains and glaciel fed rivers with crystal clear waters. The road then takes you along Lake Hawea before arriving into Wanaka.
In winters skiers from all over the world flock to Wanaka for its great skiing, and in summer the impressive mountains provide for a range of adventure activities.
We recommend a one of the many short day walks in the Matukituki Valley about 40km west of Wanaka.
Hotel : Wanaka Alpine Lodge
Driving distance 286 km - driving time approximately : 3 hrs 35 mins
Day 11 : Wanaka - Queenstown
The drive across the Crown Range to Wanaka is short but sweet.
Upon arrival in Queenstown, you will be picked up from accommodation and taken to the airport for a scenic heli flight, with an alpine landing for a perfect photo opportunity. You will be dropped at the Gibbston Valley after the helicopter flight where Queenstown Wine Trail will pick you up to continue on with the wine tour. This tour offers a unique food and wine experience at a relaxed pace in picturesque surroundings. You will visit three wineries for hosted tastings. Lunch consists of several dishes each perfectly matched with estate wines.
Hotel: Heritage Hotel Queenstown
Driving distance 70 km - driving time approximately : 1 hour
Day 12 : Queenstown
This day in and around Queenstown takes you deep into "Paradise", near Glenorchy in Mt Aspiring National Park.
An unmissable experience with the exhilaration of a wilderness jet boat ride combined with a leisurely downstream float on easy to use Funyaks (inflatable kayaks) awaits you. This trip is a must-do to explore the truly unique Dart River. Your amazing journey begins with an exhilarating jet boat ride up the Dart River deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park. From here you’ll then travel back down river at your own pace in our unique Funyaks exploring pristine waters as they flow from the Southern Alps to Lake Wakatipu, hidden side streams with amazing rock pools and dramatic chasms. Just when you think your Funyaks adventure is over, you will enjoy a gourmet buffet lunch before heading via 4 wheel drive coach to locations used in the movies to illustrate Middle Earth from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.
Hotel : Heritage Hotel Queenstown
Day 13 : Queenstown - Milford Sound - Te Anau
Visit Milford Sound today and experience a world of cascading waterfalls, sheer rock faces and dense rainforest. Your journey along the shores of Lake Wakatipu takes you further south to Te Anau first, gateway to the Fiordland National Park.
You will travel along the Milford Road – one of the world's most scenic roads – and through the Homer Tunnel, before arriving for your Milford Sound Cruise. Enjoy striking views of iconic Mitre Peak from the head of the Sound – it rises 1,692 metres from the south shore and is named for its resemblance to a bishop’s mitre.
The pristine Milford Sound is part of the World Heritage Fiordland National Park, in the south west of the South Island, and is famed for its pristine natural beauty and remote atmosphere. It is New Zealand’s best known fiord and the only one that can be reached by road. The fiord extends 15km inland from the wild Tasman Sea and is regularly visited by wildlife including penguins, seals and dolphins.
You will return to Te Anau where you will spend the night.
Hotel : Distinction Hotel Te Anau
Driving distance : 380 km - Driving time : approximately 4 hrs 50 mins
Day 14 : Te Anau - Dunedin
Crossing back from west to east today, your journey will take you off the beaten track to the Catlins in the southwest of the South Island. This regions is blessed with some spectacular waterfalls as well as the abundance of marine wildlife. New Zealand fur seals, hooker sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins and seabirds all live here. The Curio Bay area is also a protected nesting ground for yellow-eyed penguins. You'll need to arrive at low tide and the best viewing position is from the purpose-built platform.
Make sure you also visit Nugget Point, one of the most distinctive landforms along the Otago coast. A five minute walk takes you to the lighthouse, where you'll enjoy amazing views along the coastline in both directions.
You will spend your night in Dunedin. Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin is the country's city of the south, wearing its Scottish heritage with pride. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
B&B : The Birches B&B Dunedin
Travelling distance : 289 km - Travelling time : approximately 3 hrs 23 mins
Day 15 : Dunedin - Lake Tekapo via Queenstown
This morning travel through the towns of Omarama and Twizel before driving up the western side of Lake Pukaki to Lake Tekapo, that is very close to Mt Cook that is Australasia’s highest mountain at 3724 metres. The park covers over 70,000 hectares of breathtaking alpine scenery and is also home to the Tasman Glacier, the longest in the Southern hemisphere.
Enjoy the afternoon off to explore at your leisure. The Hooker Valley walk starting at the DOC campground is an unmissable walk, getting you up close with New Zealand's most impressive mountain.
Hotel : Peppers Bluewater Resort Lake Tekapo
Driving distance : 423 km - Driving time : approximately 5 hrs 9 mins
Day 16 : Lake Tekapo - Christchurch
Drive through the MacKenzie Country to Lake Tekapo, where you can stop to view the tiny Church of the Good Shepherd, built of local stone and oak in 1935.
You will be leaving the Southern Alps behind you as you approach Christchurch across the vast Canterbury plains.
In the afternoon/evening we've scheduled you in for a combined tramride/dinner across the garden City.
Hotel : Heritage Hotel Christchurch
Driving distance : 227 km - Driving time : approximately 2 hours 55 mins
Day 17 : Christchurch - Kaikoura
This morning head north out of Christchurch. It’s two hours direct to Kaikoura or you may like to take a more scenic inland route via Hanmer Springs to bathe in the mineral pools in their alpine setting. This afternoon we have included a Whale Watch Cruise. Board your boat and prepare your camera finger – you’re about to meet New Zealand’s resident sperm whales on a 3-hour whale watching excursion, sure to inspire awe, affection and a touch of giddiness. Spot cheeky fur seals, pods of Dusky dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross among the waves, and if you’re lucky (and it’s the right season) migrating humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales may appear!
Kaikoura is also known for some of the best seafood of the country, escpecially crayfish, so we highly recommend you try to sample some while you are here.
Hotel: White Morf Inn Kaikoura
Driving distance : 182 km - Driving time : approximately 2 hours 25 mins
Day 18 : Kaikoura - Wellington
As you travel to Picton to catch your ferry ride back to the North Island, the journey continues on Blenheim and wine country Marlborough, world famous for its Sauvignon Blanc wines.
You will be returning to Wellington the same day to continue your journey on the North Island.
Hotel : City Life Wellington
Traveling distance : 258 km - Traveling time : approximately 5 hours 31 mins
Day 19 : Wellington - Napier
Leaving Wellington, make your way through the farming towns of Masterton, Carterton and Greytown before arriving in the boutique wine-village of Martinborough.
As you continue north, you'll be driving through some of New Zealand’s rural heartland with a mixture of sheep, dairy and crop farming. Stop at Pukaha Mount Bruce Nature and Wildlife Reserve where you’ll experience some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife up close and in the wild
Another famous wine region of New Zealand is the Hawke's Bay, and here we've organised a wine tour in the afternoon, where you'll sample some of New Zealand's best wine.
You'll spend the night in the Art Deco town of Napier,widely regarded as one of the best Art Deco cities of the world, the result of a thorough rebuilding after a massive earthquake destroyed the town in 1931.
Hotel : Art Deco Masonic Hotel
Driving distance : 320 km - Driving time : approximately 4 hours 12 mins
Day 20 : Napier - Rotorua via Taupo
Heading back inland today, make sure you stop at the Waipunga waterfall about halfway on the Napier-Taupo highway.
You destination for the day will be Rotorua, but an incredible experience awaits you before continuing to Rotorua, the Taupo floatplane.
After your flight, it's a short distance to Rotorua, and as you approach, you may marvel at the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. The loop walk takes about 1 hour return,
You destination, Rotorua, has been known for its geothermal activity for over 150 years and today you are able to see, feel, smell and hear some of this wonder of nature.
Hotel :Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Driving distance : 219 km - Driving time : approximately : 2 hrs 39 mins
Day 21 : Rotorua
A day to relax in Rotorua, so why don't you indulge in an authentic Polynesian spa or experience Maori culture at one of the cultural experiences, topping it off with a Hangi feast.
Rotorua is New Zealand's main geothermal area and a centre where Maori culture thrives. It is situated on the shore of Lake Rotorua, and the whole region offers a mix of pristine lakes to enjoy. Explore the many geothermal wonderlands with boiling mud pools, geysers, steamy and colorful lakes, and unwind at a natural hot spring spa or choose from one of the therapeutic spa and massage therapies.
Rorotua also boasts an incredible variety of adventure activities, with world class mountain biking trails, the quirky fun activity where you're tumbling town a hill in a Zorb, ziplining in native forest trees, Rotorua caters for every type of traveler.
Day 22 : Rotorua - Coromandel
On the road to the Coromandel, you'll pass the small town of Matamata, also known as the home of Hobbiton.
The Coromandel Peninsula is relatively small, but the roads are very windy, so traveling times are slow. The Coromandel offers some of the country's most exquisite beaches, and its well worth exploring the region at a relaxed pace.
The drive to and in the Coromandel will take you through a number of relaxed beach towns such as Waihi, Whangamata and Tairua.
You will continue to head north until you reach Hahei, where you will find the famous Hot Water Beach and can dig your own spa at low tide. A little bit further up the road is the equally famous Cathedral Cove,
Just past Whitianga,,your final destination for the day, make sure you stop at the lesser known New Chums Beach. This beach is regarded as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, so well worth the little side trip!
B&B : Bayview B&B Whitianga
Driving distance : 221 km - Driving time : approximately : 3 hrs 20 mins
Day 23 : Coromandel - Auckland
Today your tour will conclude, and you will be returning to Auckland to drop off your rental vehicle.
You will pass through Coromandel town, a town full of history from New Zealand's early gold mining and logging days and return to Auckland via the Hauraki trail road before it connects to the main highway which takes you to the airport.
Driving distance : 217 km - Driving time : approximately : 2 hrs 55 mins
- Complimentary airport transfers
- Detailed tour information pack upon arrival at first night's accommodation.
- 23 day car rental with unlimited daily kilometers and zero excess liability reduction insurance
- 22 Nights Accommodation in B&B, Lodges and 4 star hotels.
- Hole in the Rock Cruise Bay of Islands
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Franz Josef Heli Flight with ice landing
- Queentown Heli Flight wine tour
- Dart River Wilderness Jet
- Milford Sound Cruise
- Christchurch tramway restaurant dinner tour
- Whale watching Kaikoura
- Napier wine tour
- Wai-o-Tapu geothermal wonderland
- Interislander Ferry
- Where the date of cancellation is a date 45 days or more before the start of the tour, the cancellation fee will be equivalent to the deposit paid
- Where the date of cancellation is a date 30 to 45 days before the start of the tour the cancellation fee shall be 25% of the contract price
- Where the date of cancellation is a date 7 to 30 days before the start of the tour the cancellation fee shall be 50% of the contract price
- Where the date of cancellation is a date 7 days or less before the start of the tour the cancellation fee shall be 100% of the contract price
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