Port Lyttleton, Christchurch, New Zealand

Northbound Navigator

In just over 3 weeks, you’ll experience an amazing diversity in scenery, landscape and geography as you journey from the alpine regions of the South Island to the sub-tropical Bay of Islands in the North Island.  Along the way you have many two night stays allowing you the time to relax and soak up your surroundings which will vary from cosmopolitan cities to national parks and everything in between.

price pp from
NZD$4,454
based on twin share
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About this NZ Road Trip

North & South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$4,454 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Auckland

23 days/22 nights

Motels

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

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

 Viewed 13 times in the last 7 days

Also included in this package

Private airport transfers

Private train station transfers

Tour map
Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
TranzAlpine train, New Zealand
Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip

Day 1 - Arrive into Christchurch City

Northbound Navigator - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Christchurch 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 Christchurch City

Christchurch, New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights - or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.

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Day 2 - Collect your rental car this morning, then you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country

Northbound Navigator - 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.

Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat.  These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Tasman Valley 4WD Tour

A rugged back road 4WD adventure accessing awe inspiring views over the Tasman Glacier and its gigantic moraine wall. You will get to stop at several vantage points and have the opportunity to walk up to the top of the Tasman Glacier moraine wall to view some of the most spectacular photographic opportunities within the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Your professional guide has a wealth of knowledge of the Aoraki/Mt Cook area. Learn about the area, its unique geology, local flora and fauna and get an entertaining insight into the rich pioneering history and stories of the past 150 years.

Your accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Mt Cook Lodge and Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views. If you don’t feel like cooking either visit the Chamois Bar and Grill onsite or take the courtesy shuttle to Hermitage Hotel.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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Day 3 - Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin

Northbound Navigator - Day 3
Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama - gliding capital of New Zealand - but be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.
Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre - The Octagon.

Your accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. It offers superior luxury accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants. Qualmark 5 star rated.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

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Day 4 - Today is yours to explore Dunedin and the nearby Otago Peninsula

Northbound Navigator - Day 4
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise and Yellow Eyed Penguin Tour

A half day tour of the Otago Peninsula and its unique wildlife including a cruise through Dunedin Harbour. A unique environment, this tour includes a visit to The Penguin Place to view the rare and unique yellow eyed penguin. The tour also includes a scenic bus tour and the wading bird wetlands.

Your accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. It offers superior luxury accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants. Qualmark 5 star rated.

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Day 5 - Travel through the rolling farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland

Northbound Navigator - Day 5
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Your accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

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Day 6 - Te Anau to Milford Sound for your nature cruise, then return to Te Anau

Northbound Navigator - Day 6
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord before back-tracking the way you came.

Milford Sound Nature Cruise

A two hour nature cruise of spectacular Milford Sound. On board one of three purpose built vessels you'll experience tumbling waterfalls, towering peaks, lush rainforest and native wildlife. Learn about the region, its history and natural surroundings while enjoying a delicious picnic lunch. As you cruise, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins - frequent visitors to the fiord.

Your accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

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Day 7 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown

Northbound Navigator - Day 7
Te Anau to Queenstown

Today you’ll cross vast tussock lands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. You'll be greeted off the boat and guided through beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead.
Here you'll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country.
On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship's pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

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Day 8 - Enjoy the many exciting activities on offer in the 'Adventure Capital' of Queenstown

Northbound Navigator - Day 8
Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston Valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw -  to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown.
Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dart River Wilderness Jet

An hour and a half of thrilling high-speed wilderness jet boating skimming across the clear waters of the Dart River into the Te Waipounamu World Heritage Area. Hear about flora, fauna and history on a 30-minute rolling forest walk with your friendly guide. On a backroad tour of Paradise immerse yourself in scenes and backdrops from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Learn about the Pounamu (Greenstone) that made the Dart River a key trading route for early Māori. Tales of early settlers who carved rich farms from the rugged landscape.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

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Day 9 - Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast

Northbound Navigator - Day 9
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range - the highest sealed road in New Zealand - to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1 hour return walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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Day 10 - Explore the amazing West Coast Glaciers

Northbound Navigator - Day 10
Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice up close walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

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Day 11 - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch

Northbound Navigator - Day 11
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey - the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.
 

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur's Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival into the Christchurch train station you will be met by a private transfer driver and taken to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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Day 12 - Head up through North Canterbury to the wildlife mecca of Kaikoura

Northbound Navigator - Day 12
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.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline - where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Whale Watch Kaikoura

Experience New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company. Whale Watch Kaikoura offer a once-in-a-lifetime, up close encounter with the giant Sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, occasionally make an appearance.
Cruise in style on modern catamarans, specifically designed for whale watching - Featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

Your accommodation: The White Morph, Kaikoura

Set on the Esplanade in Kaikōura, The White Morph enjoys commanding views of the ocean and mountains. Just a 10-minute walk into town, The White Morph has been beautifully placed so that you can take in the spectacular scenery of Kaikoura while enjoying the variety of attractions on offer.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

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Day 13 - Travel to the idyllic Abel Tasman National Park

Northbound Navigator - Day 13
Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. One of the best seal watching locations is Ohau Point (25km north of Kaikoura), where you can observe the adults on the shoreline and the pups frolicking in the waterfall, just a short walk from the road (signposted). As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards New Zealand's largest wine producing region.The vineyards surrounding Blenheim are a great place to stop for a wine tasting or lunch at one of the many fine restaurants, including the award winning Herzog Winery and Restaurant. A short drive from Blenheim you reach the busy port town of Picton, and it's here that the Interislander ferries arrive and depart. The town centre is quite small with plenty of shops and cafes and the waterfront area is a very pleasant place to spend time watching the activity of the ships. The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre on the wharf is worth a visit with the star attraction being the vessel the Edwin Fox, reputably the 9th oldest ship in the world. It's also the starting point the for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. Queen Charlotte Drive travels the Marlborough Sounds coastline between Picton and Havelock. Magnificent views of the sounds can be had from many vantage points so allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The highway between Nelson and Picton also crosses the Pelorus River and just at this junction is the famous and historic Pelorus Bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks with the most popular the 30 minute loop through beech, rimu and totara forest to the swing-bridge. Crossing the Bryant Range you arrive onto Tasman Bay and the city of Nelson. Motueka is a further 45 minutes along the bay and from there it's just a short drive to Kaiteriteri and Marahau, all ideal spots from which to explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 303 kms / 188 miles : 4.3 hours

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Day 14 - Explore Abel Tasman National Park

Northbound Navigator - Day 14
Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Why not enjoy a scenic cruise through the Sounds or take a kayaking tour around its many sheltered bays? Relax to the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals - fur seals and dolphins.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Marine Reserve Sea Kayak Full Day Tour including lunch

Catch the water taxi north to the golden expanse of Onetahuti beach to discover New Zealand fur seals (Kekeno) and little blue penguins at Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Kekeno are extremely good swimmers watch them in their natural environment on Tonga Island. Then paddle south with the breeze, exploring sculptured granite headlands, tranquil lagoons and everything that's special about the heart of the Abel Tasman. Your guide has many stories of Maori and European settlers, and the natural history of this picturesque area.Return to Marahau by Water Taxi.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

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Day 15 - Today you'll cross the Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Departing Picton you'll cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds

Northbound Navigator - Day 15
Abel Tasman National Park to Picton

The drive takes you through the city of Nelson and along the coast of Tasman Bay towards the Bryant Range. The highway between Nelson and Picton also crosses the Pelorus River and just at this junction is the famous and historic Pelorus Bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks with the most popular the 30 minute loop through beech, rimu and totara forest to the swing-bridge.
Starting in the town of Havelock the Queen Charlotte Drive travels the Marlborough Sounds coastline towards the port town of Picton. Magnificent views of the sounds can be had from many vantage points so allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. If you can spare the time take the narrow windy road to Portage along Mahau Sound and Kenepuru Sound with their bush clad hillsides and secluded sandy coves.
Picton the busy port town of Picton, and its here from that the Interislander ferries arrive and depart. The small town centre has plenty of shops and cafes and the waterfront area is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours watching the activity of the ships. The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre on the wharf is worth a visit with the star attraction being the vessel the Edwin Fox, reputably the 9th oldest ship in the world.

Interislander Ferry Picton to Wellington

The 92 km journey between Picton and Wellington takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds. This region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays offer remarkable photographic opportunities.
From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and often dolphins and sea birds are seen. After crossing the strait you approach Wellington Harbour and 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).

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: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 162 kms / 100 miles : 2.5 hours

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Day 16 - Uncover the charms of Wellington City, including the quirky cafes and fascinating museums

Northbound Navigator - Day 16
Wellington City

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.

Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.

Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. If you're a foodie at heart, a two hour round trip to Martinborough is a must do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour

In a small group, you will head out to the Valley to explore the very best filming locations Wellington has to offer. See Rivendell where Frodo recovered from his knife attack, the River Anduin where the Fellowship voyaged to Amon Hen, the Gardens of Isengard where Gandalf rode to see Saruman and the site of the orcs felling the trees, the quarry used for the filming of Helms Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. Then back to the city to visit the Mount Victoria lookout and Buckland Forest where you can find the "shortcut to mushrooms" then "get off the road" and hide where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders before taking a run to the Buckleberry Ferry and discovering Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment along the way.

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: CityLife Wellington

City Life Wellington is a suite style hotel with every amenity required for a comfortable stay, as well as being in a superb location to explore the compact city centre. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

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Day 17 - Today is filled with fantastic scenery including Lake Taupo, the Desert Road and the Kapiti Coastline as you depart Wellington

Northbound Navigator - Day 17
Wellington to Rotorua

The drive from Wellington to Taupo takes you via the Kapiti Coast and the seaside towns of Plimmerton, Paekakariki and Paraparaumu are worth a short detour. Heading north you pass through the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving onto the central plateau. A little further the military town of Waiouru is home to the National Army Museum, an incredible collection of New Zealand’s military history and a memorial to its servicemen. Skirting Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites, you can see the 2,500 metre peak of the volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu. You might also recognise the symmetrical shape of Mt. Ngauruhoe as this was used as the scenery of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  The township of Taupo sits on the shores of New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo - a gigantic volcanic caldera formed during one of the world’s largest ever eruptions. Just north of the town are the Huka Falls and a short detour to view is advised. The Huka Jet can get you much closer with a thrilling jet boat ride. Nearby Craters of the Moon is a geothermal reserve with great walking tracks around its many boiling pools and steaming vents. Continuing on to Rotorua you pass the volcanic valley, visit either Wai O Tapu or the Waimangu Valley for a closer look. Arriving into Rotorua the city’s geothermal activity is evident with steam rising from the roadside and hills. Rotorua is considered the heart of New Zealand’s Maori cultural and it’s here you can learn of their history and traditions. The Rotorua Museum is outstanding and one of its main displays is about the devastating eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886. Nearby Ohinemutu Village is located on the site of the first Maori settlement in the area. One of the most popular introductions for many to the Maori culture is through an evening at Mitai Maori Village.  Here you will gain an insight into the traditional Maori way of life through song, dance and entertainment. A dinner prepared in the traditional manner is served to finish the evening off.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers Qualmark 4 star motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well-equipped units provide a comfortable stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 441 kms / 274 miles : 5.3 hours

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Day 18 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides

Northbound Navigator - Day 18
Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. Geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to one of the Maori Villages should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.

Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano.
Spike your adrenaline at Velocity Valley Adventure Park on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour.
Alternatively, head up the Rotorua Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.

Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees. In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers Qualmark 4 star motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well-equipped units provide a comfortable stay.

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Day 19 - Travel through the fertile green farmlands of Waikato before arriving into our largest city

Northbound Navigator - Day 19
Rotorua to Auckland

The drive from Rotorua to Auckland takes you through the heart of the Waikato and its rich agricultural land. New Zealand's longest river - the Waikato - guides you through the art and craft stores of Tirau and the township of Cambridge. Continue on a little further to arrive into Auckland City, your destination for the night.

Your accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 219 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

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Day 20 - Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the sub-tropical Bay of Islands

Northbound Navigator - Day 20
Auckland to Paihia, Bay of Islands

The trip from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands takes around 3.5 hours but give yourself some leeway for stops and sightseeing. As you go through Puhoi, take in the bohemian atmosphere of this historical township. Stop for a breath of fresh salty air in Whangarei and take another break at Kawakawa - home to the world famous Hundertwasser toilets. Enjoy the native bush surrounds and marvel at the endless golden beaches as you arrive into central Bay Of The Islands, Paihia.

Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

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Day 21 - Discover the history of Waitangi or take a cruise through the island studded bay

Northbound Navigator - Day 21
Explore the Bay of Islands

Commonly known as the ‘winterless north’ New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is made up of over 140 subtropical atolls. Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate, this tropical paradise ticks all the boxes. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or cool off during a ‘swim with dolphins’ ocean safari. If diving is your thing, take the morning to descend the Rainbow Warrior - The Greenpeace flagship sunk by French saboteurs in 1985. Wander around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843. Learn about our culture in historic Waitangi, the site where The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the Maori and European settlers dictating the terms by which New Zealand would become a British colony. Take a travel day to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dolphin Cruise to Hole in the Rock with Fullers GreatSights

Board your cruise 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’. According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for dolphin viewing and the crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.

Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.

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Day 22 - Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast

Northbound Navigator - Day 22
Bay of Islands via Waipoua Forest to Auckland

Today you will leave the Bay of Islands for a scenic return trip to Auckland. Head west, leaving the Pacific Ocean for the wilder seas of the Tasman and Hokianga. Go through the small townships of Omapere and Opononi, each with a great seaside feel.

Your route now goes south through Waipoua Forest, home to the largest and oldest Kauri trees in the country. Make sure you allow time for several of the signposted short walks as you pass - not to be missed is the five minute loop to view the largest of all the trees -Tane Mahuta.

As you make your way back down the country you’ll pass the Matakohe Kauri Museum with extensive displays on the region’s logging, farming and social history. Continuing on, go through Warkworth and the bohemian settlement of Puhoi before crossing the harbour bridge to arrive in Auckland city.

Your accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 343 kms / 213 miles : 4.4 hours

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Day 23 - Depart Auckland today

Northbound Navigator - Day 23
Depart Auckland today

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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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