15 Day Self Drive Tour – The Best of Both Islands

The Road Trip, South Island
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15 Day Self Drive Tour - The Best of Both Islands

15 Day Best of Both Islands Self Drive Tour


AucklandRotoruaTongariro National ParkWellingtonChristchurchFranz Josef GlacierWanaka – Te AnauDoubtful Sound Day Cruise – Te AnauQueenstown – Lake Tekapo via Mt CookChristchurch

On this 15 day best of both islands self-drive itinerary you will experience the best that our amazing country has to offer. Highlights include: Auckland ‘The City of Sails’, Rotorua, the hub of New Zealand’s geothermal activity and Maori Culture, an overnight stay in Tongariro National Park with views of our three most picturesque volcanoes, Wellington city with its charm and vibrancy, Franz Josef Glacier, a day cruise through some of our majestic fjords and Queenstown.

The best part is that all the best hidden spots and sightseeing activities will be marked on your maps, saving you time and hassle. Welcome to ‘The Road Trip’, where your journey begins.

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Auckland

You will be welcomed to New Zeland by one of our friendly representatives to collect your rental car of choice. Sights that we suggest include a visit to one of Auckland’s inner city beaches, Mission Bay where it is possible to see stunning Pohutakawa trees. The trip will also take in sights such as Mt Eden, a stunning viewpoint and one of Auckland’s most famous volcanic craters, a visit to the famous Auckland Harbour Bridge and gander at the exclusive Ponsonby Yacht Club. You can also visit one of The Road Trip’s favourite look out spots that boasts great views of both Rangitoto Island and Coromandel Peninsula. This afternoon take a trip to the top of the Auckland Skytower and view the City of Sails from 300 m above. Tonight enjoy dinner in one of Auckland’s many waterfront restaurants as you watch the world ‘sailing’ by.

Day 2 – Auckland to Rotorua (232km – 4 hours drive)

Today you farewell the ‘City of Sails’ and head south to Rotorua, a hot spot for Maori culture and thermal activity. Arrive in Rotorua in the afternoon and take a city tour featuring Kuirau Park mud pool reserve and view the stunning government gardens and lakefront. Tonight you will have the opportunity to attend a ‘Hangi’. A Hangi is an important part of Maori Culture and you will be amazed by a greeting, cultural performance and scrumptious 3 course buffet meal.

Day 3 – Rotorua

This morning take a walk around Te Puia and experience mud pools, geysers and visit the Maori Weaving school and Kiwi House. This is a chance to see our national nocturnal bird up close. This afternoon is free for leisure activities(we can book these in advance). Options include: Rotorua Gondola and Luge, a trip to Rotorua Agrodome to experience zorbing or a walk through the redwood forest.

Day 4 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park (145km – 2 hours drive)

Heading south through ‘Thermal wonderland’ your first point of call for the day is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland- A Wonderland of Stunning Geothermal Activity. You will visit New Zealand’s largest thermal mud pool, sinter terraces and stunning hot and cold pools of many different colours. Heading south stopping at the mind-blowingly powerful Huka Falls en route, you will reach Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Winding your way around Lake Taupo you will reach your destination for the evening of Tongariro National Park, where your accommodation is situated in the vicinity of New Zealand’s 3 most active volcanoes: Tongairiro, Ruapehu and Ngaurauhoe.

Day 5 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington (331km – 5 hours drive)

If you are feeling active this morning there is a possibility of one of the many stunning short walks in the Tongariro National Park. One of The Road Trip’s favourites is 2 hours long featuring native bush, volcanic views and stunning waterfalls. Heading south you will arrive in Wellington in the afternoon to discover New Zealand’s capital city. Spots on your city tour that we will mark on your maps take in sights such as Mt Victoria- Wellington’s most spectacular viewpoint with 360 degree views of the city, harbour and mountain ranges in the background, parliament, New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa and Weta Cave where the magic of The Lord of the Rings was created. In the evening take a wander through the bustling streets of Wellington and enjoy a meal on the waterfront. We will recommend some restaurants that feature fantastic choice of menu and vibrant atmosphere.

Day 6 – Wellington to Christchurch (3 hour ferry + 4 hours drive)

Today after dropping your rental car back to the Wellington base, you say farewell to the North Island and take a 3 hour ferry crossing through the Marlborough Sounds to the South Island of New Zealand, also known as New Zealand’s mainland. Upon arrival in the South Island and collection of a new car, the first place that you sight is Picton, known as the gateway to the Marlborough sounds and a great base for kiwi families that holiday there every summer. Driving south head through the Marlborough wine growing region, the largest and premier wine growing region of New Zealand famous for its Sauvignon Blanc among other varieties. We will mark out some of our favourite establishments for you so that you have the opportunity to visit one of or several of these fantastic wineries. Further down the coast make a stop in Kaikoura to see some New Zealand fur seals in their natural environment. Don’t miss taking one of our favourite walks, this delves into one of our favourite spots hidden in native bush, featuring baby seals playing in the river. Also head to our number one Kaikoura look out spot where you will experience the stunning beauty of the mountains meeting the Pacific Ocean. You will arrive in Christchurch sometime late afternoon/early evening.

Day 7 – Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier (450 km – 5 hours drive)

Today drive through the Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass. Keep a look out for the Bealey River and lakes Pearson and Lyndon with the towering Alps above. In Arthurs Pass we will mark some of our favourite walking spots and points of interest on the map for you. Be sure to keep a look out overhead for the Kea (New Zealand’s native alpine parrot ). Our favourite secret spot features stunning 150 metre waterfalls and spectacular views of the mountains as we peek through native beech forest. Driving further you can stop in Hokitika to have a look at the greenstone factory where you can view up close how the local people carve necklaces and sculptures from the precious stone. This afternoon or early tomorrow morning you will have the option of a flight over the majestic Franz Josef Glacier, one of the only glaciers in the world to be flanked by rainforest on both sides (can be booked in advance).

Day 8 – Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka (250 km – 4 hours drive)

One of the prettiest and most dramatic journeys in the country is what you can experience on this tour over the Haast Pass through to Wanaka. En route visit Lake Matheson, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Lakes’ where on a clear day it is possible to see the reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain Mt Cook (3754m/12,316ft). The walking possibilities are endless today around Haast and Haast Pass and you can do one of or several walks. Some of our favourites feature spectacular waterfalls and deep blue coloured pools where it is possible to see trout swimming. These will all be marked out for you. One of our favourite hidden spots at The Road Trip is an isolated beach featuring native totara trees hugging rugged coastline. Keep a look out for dolphins bobbing up and down on the shoreline. Tonight you will stay in Wanaka, one of the most popular kiwi vacation hot spots situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka.

Day 9 – Wanaka to Te Anau (260 km – 4 hours drive)

This morning in and around Wanaka there are many options. For those feeling adventurous you can take a walk up one of our favourite look out spots featuring 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka, Aspiring National Park and the Clutha River. The breath-taking views are well worth the walk! Other options include a visit to Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World or a kayak tour on the lake. This afternoon your South Island tour takes you over The Crown Range, (New Zealand’s highest highway) to Arrowtown which was one of New Zealand’s most important towns in the gold rush to Central Otago in the 1860’s. This afternoon your drive takes you a further 2 hours to Te Anau situated on the shores of New Zealand’s 2nd largest lake and the gateway to Fiordland National Park.

Day 10 – Doubtful Sound Day Cruise plus return to Te Anau

Today take the 20 minute drive to Manapouri Harbour for your day cruise through Doubtful Sound (or we can arrange bus transfers). This spectacular journey starts with a cruise to the otherside of Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip over a pass to the fjords followed by a magical afternoon cruising through the towering peaks and stunning waterfalls of Doubtful Sound. The trip also passes by the famous Manapouri power station. The boat returns to Manapouri at 4:45 in the afternoon and take the 20 minute drive back to Te Anau (or bus) and enjoy dinner with views of the second largest lake in New Zealand (Lake Te Anau).

Day 11 Te Anau to Queenstown (184 km 3 hours drive)

Skirting your way around Lake Wakatipu makes for some stunning photography and you will be amazed by the Remarkables Mountain Range, one of the most famous back drops for Lord of the Rings. You should arrive in Queenstown around midday and there is the opportunity to take a trip up the Queenstown Skyline Gondola for 360 degree views of the breath taking mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy at leisure.

Day 12 – Queenstown Activities

Today is free to explore Queenstown at leisure and take part in some of the fantastic activities that this ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ has to offer. Options for the adventurous include: Skydiving, Bungy Jumping, Jet Boating, White Water Rafting and Paragliding. If you feel like taking a more relaxed approach to the day, a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw 100 year old steam ship or a walk through Queenstown’s Botanic Gardens are not to be missed (These can be booked by us in advance at reduced rates).

Day 13 – Queenstown to Tekapo via Mt Cook (280 km – 4 hours drive)

You leave Central Otago today through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell make a stop en route and visit a local fruit shop and a chance to try ‘Real Fruit Ice cream’ and sample a few of the New Zealand famous manuka honey products. From there cross the Lindis Pass (965m) to the Mackenzie Country, known for its Merino Sheep and wool industry. Weather permitting you can take one of The Road Trip’s favourite short walks at the foot of Mt Cook- New Zealand’s highest mountain and take in its blissful surrounds. Late afternoon head through to Lake Tekapo and where your accommodation is situated near the waterfront.

Day 14 – Mt Cook to Christchurch plus city sightseeing (270 km – 4 hours drive)

Today take the drive to what can only be described as a spectacular look-out point. At 1000m above sea level one really does have a feeling of being at the top of the world here. Also en route will be a stop at the historic Church of the Good Shepherd, featured on all New Zealand postcards. You will arrive in Christchurch sometime in the late afternoon where you can take a city tour. Spots that will be marked on your map include: Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, Christchurch Gondola, Re-Start Mall and New Regent Street. We will also recommend some great dining in the central city.

Day 15 – Departure Day

Today after dropping your rental car back you will be transferred to the airport for your onward arrangements. We trust that you have had an amazing experience of our country.


View Interactive Google Map

A. Auckland

B. Rotorua

C. Tongariro National Park

D. Wellington

E. Christchurch

F. Franz Josef Glacier

G. Wanaka

H. Te Anau

I. Doubtful Sound

J. Queenstown

K. Lake Tekapo

L. Christchurch

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