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North & South Grand Tour
Spend 23 unforgettable days exploring New Zealand’s highlights on this self-drive adventure
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This extraordinary 23-day self-drive tour takes you to the North and South Island’s iconic destinations, giving a detailed journey through this fascinating country. Travelling from the vibrant city of Auckland to the tropical Bay of Islands, your tour takes your through the cultural centre of Rotorua and Wellington before taking the scenic ferry cruise across the Cook Strait to the top of South Island. Explore Marlborough, home to some of the world’s finest sauvignon blanc wines; Kaikoura’s wildlife, and the Southern Alps and Mt Cook National Park.
Explore the deep fjord of Milford Sound, Queenstown and the West Coast Glaciers before leaving your hire car and taking to the rails to return to Christchurch via the TranzAlpine Train. Your self-drive journey can be taken at your own pace, with plenty of two-nights stays giving you ample opportunity to really experience the heart of New Zealand. Your hire car in included and a range of options are available and we have plenty of optional tours you can add in to make your visit complete.
On arrival in Auckland, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation in the city’s waterfront.
The day is yours to explore the 'City of Sails' and to pick up your hire car. You could spend the day on a harbour cruise or maybe take a wine tour (ask us for prices). Other options include walking to the summit of Mt. Eden for panoramic views of the gulf. Climb up the Sky Tower and enjoy a meal in its 360-degree revolving restaurant or scale the heights of Harbour Bridge. End your day dining along Ponsonby Road.
Take to the wheel of your hire car and head north to the Bay of Islands. The drive from Auckland takes around 3.5 hours but you’ll want extra time for stops and sightseeing before arriving into Paihia. Check into your waterfront hotel and enjoy its luxurious spa facilities.
You have the day to discover the gems of the Bay of Islands, take to the water or explore the areas rich history. There are plenty of places to stop and relax along a remote stretch of beach, takea refreshing dip with the dolphins, or even head to the very top of North Island to Cape Reinga.
Leave the Pacific Ocean and head to the wild shores of Hokianga and the Tasman Sea. There are several small towns you can stop off at for a break or an ice cream, and you can stretch your legs along the walking track of Hokianga Harbour. Head south into the Waipoua Forest, home to giant Kauri trees. Allow time for one of a number of short walks available in the area. Not to be missed is the five-minute loop to view the largest Kauri in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta. Your day ends at Snells Beach where you can check into your hotel. If you have a bit of extra time, head into Matakana Wine Country for some wonderful places to eat and drink.
Pass back through Auckland and onto the rolling green countryside of the Waikato. This area was made famous as film locations for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy films and you can still visit some of the sets. Your arrival into Rotorua is heralded by the geothermal activity of the area. Check into your boutique hotel overlooking Lake Rotorua. An optional activity in the area is an evening with the indigenous Maori. See warriors in traditional dress, watch their displays of weaponry and combat and enjoy a hand-cooked meal. (optional)
A day at leisure to explore the area at your own pace. As a region dotted with natural hot springs, geysers and active volcanoes, there is plenty to explore – from hot springs to gondola rides over the lake. The area is also home to several Maori tribes.
Enjoy spectacular scenery as you drive from Rotorua to Wellington, passing New Zealand’s largest lake and ascending the central plateau onto the Rangipo Desert. Your drive rakes you along the coast before arriving at your destination. Check into your city centre hotel in Wellington.
Take the ferry across the Cook Strait, a beautiful and fascinating journey through Marlborough Sounds scenery – take in bush covered mountain, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays. Your ferry cruise ends in Picton where you will collect your new rental car and make the short drive to Blenheim. Blenheim lies in New Zealand’s prime wine producing region and you’ll pass acres of vineyards amidst a backdrop of the ‘dry hills’ of Marlborough.
Drive to the seaside town of Kaikoura today. Cross the 'dry hills' of Marlborough and head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. Kaikoura is bustling with cafes, restaurants and shops and the surrounding area of bursting with wildlife. It is one of the only places in New Zealand that you can see whales all year round. Your hotel is perched on the edge of town with spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Today you travel down the coast before heading inland through the North Canterbury wine region - the Waipara Valley. As you drive through this area you’ll be greeted by one of New Zealand's most notorious animals, the sheep. If you’ve time on your hands we recommend taking a detour to Hanmer Springs for relaxing dip in its thermal pools. Arriving into Christchurch you'll see a new and improved city, steadily rising from the ruins of the 2011 earthquake.
Explore the ever-changing city of Christchurch. Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.
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.
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. 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.
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. Highlights of the city include the Saturday farmers market, the many cafes and wine bars and a self-guided walking tour of 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.
Travel through the rolling farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland. 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. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.
Journey along the magnificent Milford Road to Milford Sound for your Fiordland wilderness experience. 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.
Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation and on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables Mountain Range towers over you as you arrive in the adventure capital of New Zealand.
The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown. Whether you want to sample some of the regions best Pinot Noir, take a leisurely stroll for incredible views, or get a full on adrenalin rush with a bungy jump, canyon swim or zipline, there is something here for everyone.
Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast. 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.
Explore the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. 12km long and surrounded by rainforest-clad mountains. You can see the ice from the valley floor without a guide or you can take licensed helicopter tour to explore the glacier itself.
Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch. Drop off your rental car and board the train for the last leg of your journey. 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.
A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.
Your holiday includes:
- Arrival meet & information pack
- 22 nights’ accommodation
- Meals – breakfast only
- Car Hire
- Private train station transfers
- Private airport transfers
- TranzAlpine Train from Greymouth to Christchurch
- Interislander ferry crossing
- Real Journeys Milford Sound nature cruise
Your holiday excludes:
- International flights & taxes (please contact us for a quote)
- Any meals or drinks not mentioned above
- Any activities not mentioned above
- Items of personal nature including tips, laundry
- Travel insurance
- Anything not mentioned above
Prices vary according to season and are per person based on two people sharing travelling together. Please ask us for more details, international flight prices and exclusions.