Best of New Zealand Self-Drive 

Hop around New Zealand from top to toe, visiting some of its most famous sights, tasting wine and embarking on mini adventures wherever you roam.

A three-week road trip exploring both North and South Islands.

Your trip kicks off in Auckland, and as you drive through the countryside and city, the best of New Zealand will reveal itself. Working through North Island, then catching the ferry to the dramatically scenic South Island, this itinerary checks off must-see locations and finishes with a memorable railway journey through the mountains aboard the TranzAlpine Express.

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21 nights
Auckland, Coromandel, Rotorua, Napier, Wellington, Blenheim, Kaikoura, Tekapo, Queenstown, Glacier Region, Christchurch

Those who love being on the go and hopping from place to place to see as much of a destination as possible.

Recommended itinerary

Days 1-2


After a long flight, you’ll be glad to finally check into The Sebel, apartment-style accommodation overlooking the yachts in Viaduct Harbour. It’s an excellent location for getting around the city, and you have a full day here to get to know its highlights, whether you want to peruse Auckland’s art galleries or spend time around its two harbours.

Days 3-4


You’ll collect a hire car from Auckland and make the three-hour drive to the Coromandel, a famously scenic area on the North Island comprising lovely towns, beaches with natural springs, and pretty coves for kayaking. You’ll stay in Coromandel Town, a city that boomed in the 1860s gold strike and leaves behind a legacy of its mining history.

Days 5-6


A three-hour drive brings you to Rotorua. Plan a break in your journey to visit Hobbiton Village to tour the movie set featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies. When you arrive at Rotorua, a classic lodge waits to welcome you. You have a full day to explore Rotorua, a geothermic area known for its fizzing geysers, searing hot springs, and bubbling mud pools. It’s also where you can get to know Maori culture better and spend an evening trying hangi cooked in the ground.

Days 7-8


Swap Rotorua’s geothermal wonderland for the art deco charms of Napier. A three-hour drive takes you south to this fascinating town, where an incredible array of beautiful Art Deco buildings make it feel like a movie set. You can decide how to spend your time here: perhaps you’ll visit Hawke’s Bay wineries to try the local Pinot Gris and Syrah, or maybe you’ll take the opportunity to see the incredible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

Days 9-10


Pick a great playlist for your four-hour drive to Wellington at the southern tip of the North Island. The Martinborough wine region is the perfect place to stop en route (particularly for the non-driver!), and the QT Wellington is a quirky boutique hotel to look forward to at the end of the journey. Time in Wellington is best spent indulging in the city’s gastro scene and riding the Wellington Cable Car for city panoramas. Many consider the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa unmissable, revealing plenty about the area’s environment, Maori culture, and art.

Days 11-12


South Island awaits. You’ll take the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry and continue the drive to Blenheim, a town in the pre-eminent Marlborough wine region, for a two-night stay. Enjoy the mountain scenery, pop into excellent wineries to sample the excellent Sauvignon Blanc, and stroll around the pretty town.

Day 13


Take the coast road to Kaikoura for a memorable overnight stay at Hapuku Lodge. Stay in a treehouse or lodge as part of an accommodation concept that has a clear eco-vision that mirrors its surrounding area. The township of Kaikoura was the first local authority in the world to become a Green Globe-certified community.

Day 14

Lake Tekapo

You could spend the morning whale watching before embarking on a scenic five-and-a-half-hour journey to Lake Tekapo, perhaps paying a quick visit to Christchurch on the way (although you’ll visit it properly before you depart New Zealand). A milky blue lake and New Zealand’s Southern Alps await as South Island begins to reveal its scenic drama.

Days 15-17


A beautiful three-hour drive brings you to Queenstown — New Zealand’s epicentre of outdoor adventures. You’ve got three nights here, enough time to join a Lord of the Rings tour, visit the Central Otago wine region, or soar above the scenery on a gondola. You could also take a day trip to Fiordland National Park.

Days 18-19

Glacier Region

Take the scenic route via Haast Pass through the Southern Alps to the west coast and the glacier region — either Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier. You have a full day in the area to take an ice-hiking adventure or visit the ethereal glow worm caves. You may also want to see Lake Matheson, one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand.

Days 20-21


Drive a couple of hours north to Greymouth on the South Island’s west coast. You’ll return your hire car here, then board the TranzAlpine Express to cross to the east coast on a four-and-a-half-hour train journey through the mountains. When you arrive in Christchurch, you’ll check into a hotel for your final two-night stay where you can explore the world-famous botanic gardens before your return journey home.