New Zealand - 25 Day Grand Explorer

This is one of our most popular itineraries providing the ultimate touring experience of New Zealand. North Island highlights include the spectacular Bay of Islands, the geo-thermal region of Rotorua, allowing you the chance to experience our unique Maori culture, through to the art deco architecture of Napier & the wineries of the Martinborough region. After a short stay in the capital, Wellington, we then travel onto the South Island to explore the Kaikoura coastline, the rugged West Coast, and the adventure capital Queenstown. We include a visit to the 'must-see' attraction of Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park, historic Dunedin and magnificent Mt. Cook, before returning to Christchurch.

Auckland Harbour
Day 1Arrive Auckland

Welcome to Auckland, Having completed arrival formalities, take delivery of your rental car and make your way to your chosen accommodation.

The rest of today is free to explore the ‘City of Sails’.

Hotel: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City
Apartment: Ramada Auckland

Waipoua Forest
Day 2Matakohe, Hokianga Harbour

Head north out of Auckland today for about an hour and a half before turning west and taking a step back in time. A stop at the Matakohe Kauri Museum gives you some great insight to the area you are traveling through.

Continue north through Dargaville and the Waipoua Forest before arriving at Hokianga Harbour. Tonight, enjoy a Twilight Encounter, a magical evening tour of the Waipoua Forest guided by local Maori.

All categories: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga

Kerikeri the Stone Store
Day 3Kerikeri, Paihia

After a leisurely start to the day, travel east to the Bay of Islands. Take some time to visit Kerikeri on the way for arts, crafts, antiques and see one of the oldest buildings in the country, the Stone Store.

Continue on to Paihia, a popular seaside resort nestled on the shores of this National Maritime Park.

Hotel: Paihia Pacific Resort Hotel (2 nights)
Apartment: The Waterfront Suites (2nights)

Cape Brett Cruise
Day 4Cape Brett Cruise, at leisure

Your luxury catamaran will take you on a comfortable journey out through game fishing waters to the Cape Brett Lighthouse. Next is Motukokako Island and the famous “Hole in the Rock” where we make a passage through the Hole and on to the Grand Cathedral Cave. On the return journey the cruise takes its time and meanders through the inner islands. View sandy beaches, beautiful bays and marine wildlife. Included is an island stopover on beautiful Urupukapuka Island.

Matakana, Takapuna
Day 5Matakana, Takapuna

Matakana’s beautiful beaches, boutique vineyards and local arts scene make this area a great place to visit. Nearby Warkworth is a captivating historic village in a picturesque spot on the banks of the Mahurangi River.

From here a short drive brings you to Takapuna, a vibrant seaside suburb home to stylish shops, swanky cafés and a bustling Sunday market.

Hotel: Spencer on Byron
Apartment: VR Takapuna

Hobbiton, Rotorua
Day 6Hobbiton, Rotorua

(21 day guests arrive Auckland today)

An easy drive south of Auckland will take you to the Waikato town of Matamata, home to Hobbiton. The region has attracted Lord of the Rings enthusiasts from all over the world since a local farm became the setting for “the Shire” in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Here you will enjoy a guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set, including the hobbit holes, and discover middle-earth movie magic. Continue on to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua.

Hotel: Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua (2nights)
Apartment: Princes Gate Hotel (2nights)

Discover Rotorua
Day 7Discover Rotorua (D)

Discover the delights of Rotorua. There are many activities available including visits to thermal reserves, rafting, kayaking, cruising, spa treatments, adventure and general sightseeing activities. This evening, enjoy a traditional hangi (feast) and cultural evening with local Maori.

Wai-O-Tapu, Lake Taupo, Napier
Day 8Wai-O-Tapu, Lake Taupo, Napier

At Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve, you can walk at your own pace and marvel at the reserve’s unique features that include the world famous Champagne Pool, geysers, bubbling mud, steaming ground, expansive vistas, huge volcanic craters and sinter terrace formations. Stop at the mighty Huka Falls, then wander around the popular lakeside resort of Taupo. Continue on to Napier, one of the world’s finest Art Deco cities

Hotel: Quest Napier (2 nights)
Apartment: Deco City Motor Lodge (2 nights)

Explore Hawke’s Bay Wine Country
Day 9Explore Hawke’s Bay Wine Country

This morning, enjoy a short, locally guided walk that will bring this fascinating architecture alive. The rest of the day is at leisure to discover the Hawke’s Bay, often referred to as the ‘Tuscany of the South Pacific’. You can explore the countryside & city pathways on your late model, mountain bike enjoy a game of golf, visit the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, tour local wineries, ride a hot air balloon or simply take in the local city sights.

Martinborough, Wellington
Day 10Martinborough, Wellington

Drive south today into the Wairarapa, a rural retreat in the very heart of New Zealand. We suggest stopping at Martinborough, a boutique wine village, before continuing onto Wellington, the nation’s capital. A visit to Te Papa, the national museum, is highly recommended.

Hotel: Ibis Wellington
Apartment: Citylife Wellington

Interislander ferry, Marlborough Sounds
Day 11Interislander ferry, Marlborough Sounds

This morning, enjoy a scenic cruise across Cook Strait by the Interislander to the picturesque fishing village of Picton. Transfer by floatplane or water taxi to your remote resort located in the stunning Marlborough Sounds.

All categories: Raetihi Lodge - Summer (2 nights), Portage Resort Hotel - Winter (2 nights)

Enjoy Kenepuru Sound
Day 12Enjoy Kenepuru Sound

A free day to relax & marvel at the magic that is the Marlborough Sounds. Lodge staff will share their love of the area with you through the wide range of water and nature based experiences they put at your fingertips. Complimentary fishing tackle, kayaks and mountain bikes are provided at the lodge and there are a number of bush walks to enjoy.

Picton, Kaikoura Whale Watching
Day 13Picton, Kaikoura

After a leisurely start, return to Picton and take delivery of your new rental car and join the Coastal Pacific highway for the drive to Kaikoura, a coastal town located on a thin strip of coastal land between the Kaikoura mountain range & the Pacific Ocean.

Hotel: White Morph Inn
Apartment: Fairways Ocean Ridge (2017), Kaikoura Gateway (2018)

Whale Watching, Hanmer Springs
Day 14Whale Watching, Hanmer Springs

Enjoy a morning Whale Watch adventure. Every trip is a unique experience & sightings may vary from day to day. Giant sperm whales are the star of the show and are year-round residents. A typical Whale Watch tour may encounter fur seals, pods of Dusky dolphins & the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season, you may also see migrating Hump Back whales, Pilot whales, Blue whales & Southern Right whales. Later, head inland to the alpine village of Hanmer Springs nestled amongst the foothills of the Southern Alps. End your day with a relaxing soak in the thermal mineral pools.

Hotel: Heritage Hanmer Springs
Apartment:Clear Ridge Hanmer Springs

Banks Peninsula, Akaroa
Day 15Banks Peninsula, Akaroa

Continue your drive south towards Christchurch before turning east and travelling over the Banks Peninsula to the quaint and historic seaside village of Akaroa. Settled in the early 1860’s, it has retained its French flavour through its street names & architecture.

Hotel: Akaroa Criterion
Apartment: The Bruce Apartments

Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin
Day 16Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin

Follow the coastal route to Oamaru, widely regarded as housing some of the nation’s finest architecture. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is New Zealand’s largest. Stop to view the mystical and fascinating Moeraki Boulders as you continue your drive into Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the South. It is a city of rare charm set amidst a magical landscape edged by the sea and boasts many activities for lovers of nature and wildlife

Hotel: Wains Hotel Dunedin (2 nights)
Apartment: Apartments at St Clair (2 nights)

Portobello Peninsula, Taieri Gorge Railway
Day 17Portobello Peninsula, Taieri Gorge Railway

This morning cruise the length of the beautiful Otago Harbour with Monarch Cruises and enjoy unrivalled viewing of the exciting diversity of wildlife which abounds on spectacular Taiaroa Head - the only mainland nesting place for Northern Royal Albatross in the world, home to NZ fur seals and eight other nesting bird species. You may also see, dolphins, sea lions and a fascinating array of rarely seen ocean birds. This afternoon board the Taieri Gorge Railway, one of the wporld’s greatest train trips, for a relaxing journey through dramatic and ever-changing landscapes.

Central Otago, Te Anau
Day 18Central Otago, Te Anau

Travel through the Central Otago townships of Balclutha, Gore and Lumsden as you make your way to Te Anau, located on the shores of the largest of the southern glacial lakes and gateway to the spectacular Fiordland National Park, home to the spectacular fiords of Milford & Doubtful Sounds.

Hotel: Distinction Luxmore Hotel
Apartment: Lakefront Lodge

Milford Sound Nature Cruise, Queenstown
Day 19Milford Sound Nature Cruise, Queenstown

Travel by coach along the spectacular Milford Road and through the hand-strewn Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound where you board your vessel for a relaxing nature cruise along the entire length of the Sound to the Tasman Sea. You will view the awe-ispiring Mitre Peak, spectacular waterfalls, rainforests, mountains & wildlife. Collect your vehicle on return to Te Anau and drive on to Queenstown.

Hotel: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Queenstown Lakefront (3 nights)
Apartment: Peppers Beacon Apartments (3 nights)

Explore Queenstown & surrounds
Day 20Day 20Explore Queenstown & surrounds

Enjoy two free days to experience this magnificent alpine resort regarded as New Zealand’s premier holiday destination. Surrounded by majestic mountains, Queenstown boasts an incredible array of adventure & leisure activities in all forms, from extreme to relaxed exploration.

Arrowtown, Wanaka
Day 22Arrowtown, Wanaka

Set beneath the rugged Crown Range is Arrowtown, a fascinating collection of mining cottages with an atmosphere straight out of last century. Enjoy some time to stroll through this historic village, once a haven for the gold prospectors of the 1860’s. The shortest route to Wanaka is over the Crown Range Road. It’s a challenging drive, but the views are simply stunning. Wander around this popular lakeside resort and enjoy the relaxed vibe of this peaceful and picturesque location.

All categories: Edgewater Wanaka

Hast Pass, Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
Day 23Hast Pass, Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers

View incredible scenery as you drive past the untouched native forests and pristine lakes of the Westland National Park & Haast Pass. On to the twin West Coast glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef. There is the opportunity to experience an optional scenic flight over this remarkable region this afternoon, weather permitting.

Hotel: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Apartment: Franz Alpine Retreat

Tranz Alpine Train, Christchurch
Day 24Tranz Alpine Train, Christchurch

Drive along the rugged west coast highway to Greymouth. Cecking in for your TranAlpine train journey to Christchurch, rated as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. It crosses over the spectacular Southern Alps before winding its way over massive viaducts, through scenic river gorges and across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.

Hotel: Ibis Hotel
Apartment: Fino Hotel & Suites

Depart Christchurch
Day 25Depart Christchurch (B)

Sadly, your holiday is at an end and you will be transferred to Christchurch airport today to connect with your onward flight.

Download this New Zealand self-drive itinerary

Quotes & Booking

21 Day Option

Price per person Twin/Double Share
Hotel From: £2,710 per person
Apartment From: £3,048 per person

25 Day Option

Price per person Twin/Double Share
Hotel From: £3,095 per person
Apartment From: £3,883 per person

Cost Includes:

  • 24 nights accommodation in the style of your choice
  • Maori cultural experience with traditional hangi (feast)
  • 25 days car rental including full insurance, unlimited kms & GPS
  • Entry to Matakohe Kauri Museum
  • Waipoua Forest Twilight Encounter
  • Cape Brett & Hole in the Rock cruise
  • Guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve
  • Locally guided Art Deco walk
  • Scenic Interislander cruise
  • Floatplane or water taxi transfers to Kenepuru Sound
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch cruise
  • Entry to Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve & Pools
  • Monarch Wildlife cruise, Dunedin
  • Taieri Gorge Raiway
  • Milford Sound Nature Cruise
  • World-heritage Westland National Park
  • Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
  • Award-winning Tranz Alpine train journey through the Southern Alps
  • Airport transfer on departure

Cost Excludes:

  • Airfares to New Zealand
  • Airport taxes
  • Any sightseeing not specified
  • Travel insurance

*Price is guideline only and subject to availability and exchange rate fluctuations. Please ask one of our consultants for the latest flight deals and prices for all year round departures.

All itineraries can be tailor-made to suit your individual requirements & budget. We have many alternative accommodation options available in each region. Please contact us for more details.

25 Days from £3,095 pp

Some Of The Highlights

  • 24 nights accommodation in the style of your choice
  • 22 days car rental including full insurance unlimited kms & GPS
  • Entry to Matakohe Kauri Museum
  • Waipoua Forest Twilight Encounter
  • Cape Brett & Hole in the Rock cruise
  • Guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set
  • Maori cultural experience with traditional hangi (feast)
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve
  • Locally guided Art Deco walk
  • Scenic Interislander cruise
  • Water taxi transfers to Kenepuru Sound
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch cruise
  • Entry to Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve & Pools
  • Monarch Wildlife cruise, Dunedin
  • Taieri Gorge Raiway
  • Milford Sound Nature Cruise, including picnic lunch
  • World-heritage Westland National Park
  • Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
  • Award-winning TranzAlpine train journey through the Southern Alps
  • Airport transfer on departure
Chat to a Specialist
We can tailor any part of your itinerary, from flights & hotels to sightseeing.
Get in touch
01872 266 899


Time Difference
+11 hours in UK summer
+13 hours in UK winter
Travel Time
24 hours (to Auckland)
New Zealand Dollar
Visa Requirements
No visa required for British passport holders
New Zealand Climate