Piha beach, Auckland, New Zealand

Essential Highlights (Southbound)

This 7 day itinerary travels through the heart of the North Island to the capital city of Wellington. Cross the Cook Strait and explore the Pacific Coastline of the South Island before arriving into Christchurch. An ideal tour for those short on time and a wonderful introduction to the diversity New Zealand has to offer.

price pp from
NZD$2,621
based on twin share
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About this NZ Road Trip

North & South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,621 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch

7 days/6 nights

Hotel 4 star

 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible

 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

 Viewed 7 times in the last 7 days

Tour map
Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand
Canterbury Plains, New Zealand
Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip

Day 1 - Arrive into Auckland the 'City of Sails'

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 1
Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

Access to our exclusive New Zealand Touring APP. The APP includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Welcome to Auckland City

Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Fullers Auckland Harbour Cruise

Today Cruise the sparkling waters of Aucklands Waitemata Harbour. You'll learn about the most well-known city landmarks, including a stopover on dormant volcano Rangitoto. You'll see spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and Devonport's historic naval base as well as enjoying the Bean Rock Lighthouse with a complimentary hot drink and sandwich.

Your accommodation: M Social Hotel Auckland

A contemporary hotel for the curious, the explorers and those who thrive on new experiences. Functionally chic, this contemporary hotel overlooks the vibrant Princes Wharf that is home to a good array of dining, entertainment and shopping experiences.

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Day 2 - Collect your rental car and drive south through Waikato countryside to Matamata (Hobbiton) then onto Rotorua

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 2
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton

Head southbound on State Highway one through the lush farmland and dairy pastures of the Waikato region. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of the greater Auckland area and its here you turn inland towards Matamata. This is the real Middle Earth, and you'll see many locations used in the filming of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit - as well as visiting the actual set of Hobbiton.

Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest

Become immersed in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata - in the heart the lush Waikato farming region, your tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films.

Matamata to Rotorua

Just south of Matamata is the township of Tirau, home to the largest tin sheep and sheepdog, but it also offers a surprising number of bric a brac, art, craft and antique stores if you feel like browsing.
Arriving into the City of Rotorua the regions geothermal activity becomes evident as you see steam rising from the roadside and surrounding hills.
Considered the cultural centre for the Maori people, Rotorua is the ideal place to gain an insight into the history and culture. The Rotorua Museum located in the government gardens is outstanding and its displays and presentations focus on the local Maori tribes and the major events through history that have affected them. Dominating the display is the devastating volcanic eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886 but also of great interest is the Maori battalion display which portrays stories of this once feared military unit.
Nearby Ohinemutu Village is the original site of the first Maori settlers in the area and despite its now modern surroundings and buildings you can still gain a sense of what the original village was like. The magnificent meeting house and historic carvings along with the unique 'Tudor-style' St Faiths Church feature in many visitors photo albums.
One of the most popular introductions to the Maori Culture is through an evening at Mitai Maori Village where you can enjoy performances and demonstrations followed by a traditionally cooked hangi meal.
Of course Rotorua is also a great place to enjoy many other activities including, fishing, 4WD trips, relaxing spa treatments, mountain biking, walking and hiking plus helicopter and float plane trips.

Mitai Maori Village

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and see warriors in traditional dress who paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance that tells the story of the Maori people, their past, carvings, and ta Moko -Tattoo art. Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat and be amazed by the spine tingling Haka finale. Truly an experience to remember.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 239 kms / 148 miles : 2.9 hours

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Day 3 - Take a spectacular scenic flight over Lake Tarawera, then its a short drive along the Geothermal Highway to Taupo

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 3
Mount Tarawera Fly Drive Combo by Floatplane

Combine the experience of a 4WD hiking tour on Mount Tarawera by Kaitiaki Adventures. Your journey begins with an off road 4WD experience through native New Zealand bush, transporting you to the craters edge. After a 1.5-2 hour hike your 4WD will drop you at the remote shores of Lake Rerewhakaaitu when you will return to Rotorua by Floatplane. Enjoy a spectacular aerial overview of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Mount Tarawera and our hidden lakes district. This stunning flight completes the Tarawera experience and returns you to your departure point on the shores of Lake Rotorua at our downtown city floatplane pier.

Rotorua to Taupo

Today drive through the heart of the Central North Island volcanic plateau. Visit the geothermal regions Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waimangu Volcanic Valley, before arriving into the town of Taupo, which sits on New Zealand's largest lake - Lake Taupo. Just north of the town are the Huka Falls and a short detour to view is highly recommended, as is a visit to the nearby Craters of the Moon geothermal reserve.

Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride

The Huka Jet is 30 minutes of pure fun and exhilaration, skimming close to cliffs, sliding past trees, feeling the adrenalin of full 360 degree spins. The excitement continues right up to the base of the foaming Huka Falls, where you get a spectacular water level view to New Zealand's most visited natural attraction. Nothing compares to watching 220,000 litres per second tumbling over the cliff face towards you.
The water from the mighty Huka Falls runs down the Waikato River through a series of Hydro Power Stations. You'll get a view of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station in the comfort of a powerful Chevrolet V8 jet boat. This unique Geothermal Power Station uses underground geothermal activity to produce hot steamy water. The Waikato Rivers beautiful environment is varied and unique and is New Zealand's longest river flowing north from our largest lake - Lake Taupō.

Your accommodation: Hilton Lake Taupo

Originally built in 1889 as The Terraces Hotel the property was transformed to the elegant Hilton Lake Taupo in 2009. Just minutes from the town center it features sweeping views over the largest lake in New Zealand and across to Tongariro National Park.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 75 kms / 47 miles : 0.8 hours

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Day 4 - Cross the Central Plateau passing Tongariro National Park then south to the Capital City of Wellington

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 4
Taupo to Wellington

The drive around the edge of New Zealand largest lake leads you to Turangi, the self proclaimed Trout Fishing Capital. You can view the Department of Conservations' National Trout Centre and Hatchery here. You then climb up onto the central plateau and the high country Rangipo Desert. Skirting Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites and clouds permitting you can see the 2,500 metre peak of the still volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu. You might recognise the symmetrical shape of Mt. Ngauruhoe as this was used as the scenery of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. A little further the military town of Waiouru also hosts the Army Museum, an incredible collection of New Zealand’s military history and a memorial to its servicemen. Heading south you pass through the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving on the Kapiti Coast. The coastal seaside towns of Paraparaumu, Paekakariki and Plimmerton are worth a short detour before arriving into the capital city of Wellington. Plan to take most of the day for this drive.


Wellington City is New Zealand's capital. It sits on a wonderful deep natural harbour and is surrounded by bush clad hills. The city centre itself is quite compact (only around 1 square kilometre) and so exploring on foot is relatively easy. From your city centre accommodation you can easily stroll the cafes and restaurants around Courtenay Place and if you arrive early enough New Zealand;s national museum, Te Papa, is also close by.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour

Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley - just 10 minutes from the central city.
Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost.
Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley - so your chances of seeing one is high!

Your accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

The Bolton Hotel offers contemporary apartment-style accommodation in the heart of Wellington. Just steps from the Parliament buildings and central business district, Bolton Hotel is conveniently close to the best of the city's shops, cafes and restaurants and is within walking distance of Wellington's vibrant waterfront.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 363 kms / 225 miles : 4.5 hours

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Day 5 - Board the Interislander ferry to Picton

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 5
Interislander Ferry Wellington to Picton

The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Leaving Wellington Harbour you pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph).
From the Cook Strait spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many sea birds are often seen. Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds and this region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays offer remarkable photographic opportunities. The final leg of your cruise travels through Queen Charlotte Sound before coming to an end in the picturesque town of Picton.

Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

Your accommodation: Picton Yacht Club Hotel

Located in the heart of Picton, only a short walk to the marina, shopping & dining precinct and the ferry terminal. Being in the Marlborough region, it is the gateway to the top of the picturesque South Island and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Meals included: Breakfast

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Day 6 - Depart Picton and drive south to the Garden City of Christchurch

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 6
Picton to Christchurch

From Picton you cross the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges as you head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometres and offers many chances to view native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. To the east is the turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is a bustling place with many cafes, restaurants and shops - but the main reason for visiting here is the wildlife. Whale Watch Kaikoura is New Zealand's only marine-based whale watching company offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales.

The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch continues to follow the spectacular coastline before heading inland and through North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley to arrive into Christchurch City.

Your accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This luxury hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Christchurch Convention Centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 326 kms / 202 miles : 4.0 hours

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Day 7 - Explore more of Christchurch before continuing your travels

Essential Highlights (Southbound) - Day 7
Depart Christchurch today

Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 7 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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