Auckland - Christchurch

Fly total time: 14 days

< Download a pdf of this itinerary.

At a glance

  • 13 Nights / 14 Days

  • North & South Island

  • Maori Cultural Immersion in Bay of Plenty 

  • Geothermal wonders in Rotorua

  • Whale watching in Kaikoura

To ensure your clients are well rested after their flight, we recommend they stay a night or two in their arrival city before collecting a rental vehicle. Driving in a new country can be challenging and will be even worse if the driver is tired. The driver should always be well rested, take regular breaks during the journey and plan to drive for only 1-2 hours at a time.
 
New Zealand has unique road rules and driving conditions that your clients may not be used to. For a safe and enjoyable journey make sure your clients know where to find information on New Zealand’s road rules before they depart for their holiday.

Here are some suggestions:

< Download a pdf of this itinerary.

  • Day 1 - Auckland

    Drive Fly 0
    Arrive into Auckland, clear customs and immigration and head into the city.

    If your clients want more than 14 days then check out our Northland extension here.

    This is an easy 4 day add-on into one of New Zealand’s most beautiful beach regions.
    Alternatively, an easy add-in for this itinerary is the 3 day Coromandel add-on – take the Ferry from Auckland via Waiheke Island and it fits into the journey well as Tauranga is just at the base of the Coromandel.

    If your clients are just spending the night in Auckland then take this day to experience New Zealand’s biggest city, from the adrenaline inducing Sky Tower jump to a peaceful wine tasting experience on Waiheke Island, just 40 minutes by ferry, but a whole world away from the bustling CBD. 

    Top Tips

    • Pre-book an airport transfer for your clients as taxis can be expensive.
    • Auckland’s best restaurants require reservations so encourage them to book ahead if they’re only hear for the one night.
    • The Waiheke Ferry runs every hour (half hours in the early morning as well) and takes just 40 minutes to reach the island on a comfortable catamaran with covered seating, wifi and a café.  The Wine tours and Hop-on / Off bus meet the ferries, public buses are also available but all the bus services are infrequent – about once an hour.  If you have guests that want to visit Man-O-War vineyard they are best to book a Sea Plane + tour combo as none of the buses will visit that Vineyard. 

    Recommended activities:

    • Enjoy a meal at the trendy Britomart Precinct or Wynyard Quarter
    • Hit the shops in the CBD to find quality local goods as well the best international brands
    • Explore NZ Auckland America’s Cup Sailing Challenge
    • Visit the Sky Tower for stunning views.  For an adrenalin rush book a Skyjump or Skywalk
    • Head out on the sparkling waters of the Waitemata Harbour from the Viaduct area in the heart of downtown Auckland.  Take a cruise to see whales and dolphins, go sailing or zip around by jet boat
    • Take a short ferry ride across the harbour to the charming seaside village of Devonport.  Browse the specialty shops and cafes or walk up Mt Victoria for great harbour views
    • Head further afield with a half day boat trip to fascinating volcanic Rangitoto Island or have a full day trip to the laid back vineyards and beaches of Waiheke Island or West Auckland
    • Take a guided tour of Auckland and surrounds to explore unspoilt rainforest, rugged surf beaches, unique birdlife and beautiful waterfalls
    • Visit Auckland Art Gallery – Toi O Tāmaki, the largest art institution in New Zealand
    • Experience a 1.5 hour climb under, in, through and over Auckland’s iconic harbour bridge
    www.aucklandnz.com
  • Day 2 - Auckland - Whakatane - Tauranga

    Drive Fly 1 hour 45 minutes 204 KMS 126 MI
    Bay of Plenty is just a short flight from Auckland and offers cultural immersion at Mataatua Marae in Whakatane where visitors can really live the culture and participate in ancient rituals and workshops. Drivefrom Whakatane to Tauranga, just 1 hour away.  As dusk falls, experience the nightlife on the ‘The Strand’ in Tauranga with live music and fantastic restaurants.
     

    Top Tips

    Air New Zealand fly from Auckland to Tauranga, but Air Chathams flies direct to Whakatane which means you can save your clients back-tracking.  On Air Chathams you get 23kg luggage included and each seat has a window as it’s a 1-1 configuration.  

    If including the Coromandel extension then re-order the itinerary to go Waikato – Tauranga – Whakatane – Rotorua for time efficiency.

    If your clients don’t have time for the full ‘Know Mataatua’ experience in Whakatane then there is a shorter version.

    Recommended activities:

    • Take an incredible helicopter tour to White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Whakatane. Alternatively Boat tours take approximately 6 hours
    • Visit Moutohora Island Sanctuary (Whale Island) – a dormant volcano and wildlife sanctuary five nautical miles off Whakatane, allow approximately 3 hours 30 minutes
    • Enjoy a unique and enchanting cultural experience with Mataatua
    • In Tauranga, experience an evening kayak trip to see spectacular glowworms. The tour includes refreshments at sunset, and transfers to/from Tauranga accommodation can be arranged
    www.bayofplentynz.com
     
  • Day 3 - Tauranga - Waikato - Rotorua

    Drive Fly 1 hour 63 KMS 39 MI
    Tauranga sprawls along the edge of an attractive harbour and is easily explored on foot. There’s a well-developed café culture, lots of gift galleries and designer stores. 

    Travel into the Waikato region well-known for its underground wonders, black sand surf beaches and rolling green hills.  It offers a wealth of nature-based activities and attractions surrounding a vibrant city hub.  It’s also home to New Zealand’s most famous Shire – Hobbiton.  Consider adding a day to allow more time to explore the region.

    Top Tips

    • Book in advance for Hobbiton as it is very popular and can sell out well in advance.
    • For the ultimate fan experience, Hobbiton offers an evening feast, only available on certain days depending on time of year.

    Recommended activities:

    • Visit Mount Maunganui, a popular beach area just 30 minutes’ drive from Tauranga.  Enjoy a scenic walk on Mauao Mount Maunganui, choose the summit tracks or the base track
    • Take a guided tour through Hobbiton Movie Set and have a drink at The Green Dragon Inn
    • See the spectacular cave formations and glow worms at Waitomo Glow-worm Caves
    • Visit Hamilton Gardens with its unique New Zealand traditional Maori vegetable garden as well as other international themed gardens
    • Get a taste of the organic Zealong oolong tea plantation near Hamilton
    • Enjoy a meal at Good George in Hamilton, a restaurant and official brewer for beverages served at Hobbiton Movie SetTM
    www.hamiltonwaikato.com
     
  • Day 4 - Rotorua

    Drive Fly 0
    A short drive delivers the world-famous Geothermal wonders of Rotorua.  Take a dip in the many hot pools and feast on Kai (food) cooked in the hot steam at Te Puia while watching the Pohutu Geyser erupt every 45 minutes.  Finish the day with a traditional Hangi dinner and cultural show or colourful night lantern walk through the Redwood Treetops.  Mt Tarawera offers a fantastic view across the region, on a clear day see all the way from Mout Tongariro to White Island.  If you’re looking for something more adventurous try OGO Zorbing or the Skyline Luge, suitable for tall the family.
     

    Top Tip

    • Rotorua has several natural hot streams nearby, like Kerosene Creek, but these can be crowded and have no facilities, if comfort and relaxation is key then the private hot pools are your best option.
    • Volcanic Air will organise custom flights over the region and their helicopters take off right from the lake front for the best views possible.
    • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal wonderland is where your clients will find the most striking Geothermal scenery
    • Looking for something more luxury?  Check out Solitaire or Treetops Luxury Lodges.  Try the mirimiri massage at Treetops based on Maori healing ideas.
    www.rotoruanz.com

    Recommended activities:

  • Day 5 - Rotorua - Taupo

    Drive Fly 1 hour 85 KMS 52 MI
    Continue south towards Taupo, a relaxing lake front town, stopping in at Wai-O-Tapu on the way for more spectacular Geothermal scenery.  From Taupo, kayak or cruise out into the crater lake to see the ancient Maori rock carvings in the shadow of Ruapehu and Tongariro mountains or crank up the energy and take a jet boat up to the mighty Huka Falls.
     

    Top Tips

    • For the ultimate luxury stay upgrade to Huka Lodge, renowned for excellent fishing.  Alternatively if you’re more of a golfer, or just like to relax in a spa then try The Kinloch Club, 20 minutes out of downtown Taupo.

    Recommended activities:

    • Take a lake cruise to see cliffside Māori rock carvings
    • Jetboat the Waikato River for an up close view of the Huka Falls, where 222, 000 litres of water a second pour through a narrow rock chasm 
    • Lunch at the Huka Prawn Park for a taste of the fresh local produce
    • Get an adrenalin rush with a Tandem skydive from Taupo Airport
    • River raft the Tongariro River
    • Go trout fishing with a local guide
    • Experience two of the best golf courses in New Zealand with a round at Wairakei International or The Kinloch Club
    • Hire a mountain bike and check out the local scenery
    • Taste the world-famous Manuka Honey at Huka Hive
    www.greatlatketaupo.com
  • Day 6 - Taupo - Tongariro National Park

    Drive Fly 1 hour 36 minutes 106 KMS 65 MI
    Tackle the famous 19.4km one-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike and traverse volcanic craters and lava flows to reach stunning emerald and blue lakes or just explore the shorter walks to beautiful waterfalls around National Park, afterwards retire to the Chateau Tongariro.
     

    Top Tips

    • The roads around here can be windy, and the views are stunning so allow enough time for photos stops.
    • It’s a 1.5 hour drive from Taupo to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Base Camp, allow for an early start to do the walk on the same day.  You will need to stay nearby the night after the walk
    • The Tongaririo Alpine Crossing is clear of snow from December to May. Allow approximately 6 – 8 hours to complete the track.  If visiting in winter then National Park switches to a ski field from June – October.
    • Inexperienced hikers should book a guided Tongariro trip due to changeable weather. More experienced walkers just need to book the shuttle buses as it’s a one-way hike.
    • If the weather don’t attempt the crossing, there are plenty of other walks to enjoy nearby.
    • The Northern Explorer train runs from Auckland to Wellington on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Join at National Park at 1:15, there are no car depots here so leave the car in Taupo and book a transfer service to the park instead of driving here.
    • The closest Luxury Lodge to Tongariro National Park is River Birches Lodge
    www.visitruapehu.com/

    Recommended activities:

    •    Tongariro Alpine Crossing
    •    Northern Explorer Train to Wellington
  • Day 7 - Tongariro National Park - Wellington

    Drive Fly 4 hours and 30 minutes 345 KMS 214 MI
    Keep travelling south to the Coolest little Capital, Wellington.  If leaving the car in Taupo, catch the Northern Explorer scenic train from National Park and relax as the scenery changes before your eyes.

    Wellington’s thriving coffee and craft beer culture means you will never go thirsty. Enjoy a food tour of the city or nature lovers should visit Zealandia to enjoy native wildlife.  Combine it with a trip on the Cable Car to get great scenic views of the city and harbour.  

    Spend another day enjoying what Wellington has to offer, drive across the Rimutaka range to the Wairarapa, home to another vineyard region, or head across the Cook Strait to the South Island.
     

    Top Tips

    • Free Guided tours are available around the Government Buildings, but you do need to book in advance.  
    • Book a night tour at Zealandia to spot Kiwi’s in their natural habitat
    • Wellington’s many city walkways offer amazing viewpoints around the city, and all of them are easily accessible by metlink public bus services.
    www.wellingtonnz.com

    Recommended activities:

    • Discover New Zealand’s stories at the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
    • Ride the historic Wellington Cable Car for city views and walk back through the beautiful inner city Botanic Gardens
    • Visit the Carter Observatory and learn about the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere
    • Travel back in time and experience New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna at the Zealandia Sanctuary, a 10 minute drive from downtown
    • Check out movie making magic with a behind the scenes tour of the Weta Cave in Miramar or  a Lord of the Rings location tour
    • Drive or take the train over the Rimutaka Hill to the charming vineyard town of Martinborough in the Wairarapa region.  It’s foodie heaven and so close to Wellington
    • Drive 1 hour up the Kapiti Coast and catch a boat to Kapiti Island, a special nature reserve accessible from Paraparaumu Beach
  • Day 8 - Wellington - Nelson

    Drive Fly 5 hours 15 minutes (includes ferry) 209 KMS 129 MI
    The three-and-a-half-hour ferry across the Cook Strait to the seaside town of Picton includes a scenic cruise through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds.   Collect a rental car from the terminal area and take a short but worthwhile detour west to Nelson.

    There is an option to fly from Wellington to Nelson, approximately 40 minutes.

    Nelson is surrounded by three national parks but spend some time in the centre before you go exploring. Unwind with a glass of craft beer, from one of the many craft beer breweries, in New Zealand’s sunniest region.  If visiting on a Saturday make sure you check out the local markets.
     

    Top Tips

    • Drop your car at Wellington Ferry terminal, this saves paying extra for the car and depots in Picton are directly outside the terminal – most twin island bookings will include this service.
    • Bluebridge offer a 2:30am sailing, arriving in Picton at 6am. Book a sleeper cabin with access from midnight and get a few hours sleep. Book a wake-up call and enjoy the Sounds at sunrise. 
    • Looking for something a little more luxury then head out to Stonefly Eco Lodge, about 40 minutes from downtown Nelson.
    www.nelsontasman.nz

    Recommended activities:

  • Day 9 - 10 - Nelson - Abel Tasman National Park

    Drive Fly 50 56 KMS 34 MI
    Keep going west for about 50 minutes and you’ll reach Abel Tasman National 
    Park, a haven for hiking, kayaking and marine wildlife.  Try a traditional Waka Canoe or a guided kayak and walk to hear about the history of the area.  In the evening return to Nelson or stay overnight in the park in a beautiful waterfront lodge. 

    Top Tip

    • Stay overnight in Abel Tasman National Park for the best experience.  Accommodation options range from DOC huts or glamping to beautiful lodges.
    • Combine kayaking and walking with a guiding company to get the perfect trip.
    • Try to include the northern end of the park around Awaroa for excellent marine life, dolphins are often spotted from the beaches here.

    Recommended activities:

    • Explore Abel Tasman National Park
    • Walk part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Guided options are available
    • Enjoy a kayaking adventure around breath-taking coves and beaches
    • Relax on a cruise or sailing trip around the park's stunning coastline
  • Day 11 - Abel Tasman National Park - Blenheim (Marlborough)

    Drive Fly 4 hours 247 KMS 153 MI
    Head back east about two hours drive to taste some of New Zealand’s world class Sauvignon Blanc. With its rugged mountain ranges, fertile plains, intricate waterways, aviation and aquaculture industries, Marlborough has a lot to offer no matter what time of year it is.  Blenheim is the main centre, it is easy to explore on foot and features a bustling main street, historic landmarks and beautiful gardens.
     

    Top Tips

    • Book a vineyard tour in Marlborough as the tastings can be quite generous! 
    • For a change of pace, leave the car in Blenheim and catch the Coastal Pacific scenic train to Kaikoura and Christchurch.
    www.marlboroughnz.com 
     

    Recommended activities:

    • Sample a glass of award winning Sauvignon Blanc at one of Marlborough’s top class wineries 
    • Visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, featuring rare aircraft, memorabilia and displays created by Weta Workshop
    • Go on a dolphin watching tour or get up close and personal with a dolphin swimming experience
    • Enjoy the best of Marlborough seafood with The Greenshell Mussel Cruise
  • Day 12 - Blenheim - Kaikoura

    Drive Fly 1 hour and 46 minutes 128 KMS 79 MI
    Follow the coastline south, about one-and-a-half hours drive, to Kaikoura, the famous whale watching mecca where you can see Giant Sperm Whales, Humpbacks, Pilot Whales and Orcas.  Make sure you get out on the water with Whale Watch Kaikoura and IN the water with Dolphin Encounter or visit the local fur seal colony if you have more time to explore. Fresh seafood is in abundance in Kaikoura, sample delicious crayfish from a roadside stall.

    Top Tips

    • Pre-book your Whale watch or Dolphin encounter trip as these sell out in busy seasons as only a handful of people get to swim with the dolphins.
    • For a little more luxury upgrade to Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses
    www.kaikoura.co.nz/
     

    Recommended activities:

    • Enjoy a Whale watching tour, either on the water or in the air
    • Join a tour to swim with dusky dolphins
    • Get up close to a diverse array of seabirds, including albatross, petrels, shearwaters, shags, terns and gulls, on a boat based tour
    • Go swimming with playful New Zealand fur seals
  • Day 13 - Kaikoura - Christchurch

    Drive Fly 2 hours and 34 minutes 181 KMS 112 MI
    Continue south to Christchurch, New Zealand’s vibrant and ever-changing second-largest city, affectionately known as ‘The Garden City’. For stunning views head up the Christchurch Gondola or explore the centre as you ride on the historic Christchurch Tram.
     

    Top Tips

    • Tramway restaurant in Christchurch combines dinner with a classic city tour.
    • Enjoy a stroll through the botanic gardens
    • Check out INATA café for a unique dining experience.
    www.christchurchnz.com/
     

    Recommended activities:

  • Day 14 - Depart New Zealand

    Drive Fly 0
    Today your clients will depart New Zealand. They can fly home from this international gateway, dependent on their airline, or they will need to take a domestic flight to connect with their international flight.