25 March 2017
You will simply see and do it all on this wonderful 15 day tour self-drive tour of the North and South islands of New Zealand. Beginning in Auckland, the City of Sails, you will drive south stopping to visit the Waitomo glowworm Caves, the famous geothermal town of Rotorua, and the capital city Wellington before crossing the Cook Straits to the South island where the lovely garden city of Christchurch, the west coast glaciers, Milford Sound, Dunedin and amazing Queenstown await. Throughout your car, ferry and train journey you are free to explore and take in all the stunning beauty that Lord of the Rings country has to offer.
On arrival at Auckland Airport you will pick up your rental car and the adventure begins. Your first night is spent in this exciting city with plenty of things to see and do. Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanted holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping and you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland. Being at the narrowest point of the North Island, it literally stretches from one side of the country to the other, from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea. Wherever you are you’re never far from the water, from wild surf beaches to the tranquil Hauraki gulf, and this is why Auckland is known as the City of Sails.
A 300 mile drive today when you leave Auckland. This morning travel south over the Bombay Hills and through the lush Waikato pasturelands. At Waitomo, tour the subterranean caves by boat and see a grotto illuminated by countless tiny glowworms suspended from the caves ceiling. Then travel across the Waikato River and the Mamaku Hills to the famous geothermal centre of Rotorua where you spend the next two nights.
A full day of Rotorua sightseeing including a guided tour through Te Puia Thermal Reserve to see roaring geysers and boiling mud pools, Rainbow Springs where you will see native bird and animal wildlife plus crystal clear pools teeming with trout, the Agrodome Leisure Park famous for its entertaining sheep show, and a gondola cable car ride to the Skyline Skyrides complex. Later relax at the Polynesian Spa, New Zealand’s leading thermal bathing complex.
Today you drive south from Rotorua via Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Follow the lake shore before passing through the World Heritage Tongariro National Park, where the three volcanic mountains of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro dominate the scenery. Then you pass through the market garden regions of Levin and Otaki and on to Wellington.
A free day in New Zealand’s capital city. Make time to ride the cable car, visit the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa) or the Parliament Buildings. Wellington is noted for its live theatre, art galleries, restaurants and cultural activities. Known as the Capital of Cool, Wellington nestles between rolling hills and a stunning harbour, and has a vibrant and compact downtown area that's best explored on foot. You’ll discover an amazing range of cafes and attractions and a humming nightlife. The gourmet and wine experiences of the Wairarapa region are also just a short drive away.
This morning drive to the Interisland Ferry terminal where you leave your car before cruising the Cook Strait, down the tranquil Marlborough Sounds to Picton. There you catch the Tranz Coastal train which takes you over beautiful scenery via Kaikoura to Christchurch. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Time then to explore this most English of cities with its lovely parks, great shops and top class restaurants.
This morning you are taken to the train station to board the Tranz Alpine Express for a memorable journey through the rugged Southern Alps to Greymouth. Breathtaking views all the way and on arrival in Greymouth you will be taken on a tour of Punakaiki. Later pick up another rental car in the town to use for your tour of the South island.
A full day to continue your drive southwards following the coast until you reach Westland National Park where you can get up close to the magnificent glaciers. This afternoon enjoy a guided walk to the Glacier Terminal, or, if you prefer, you can also take an optional scenic flight for a bird’s eye view of this spectacular terrain.
A 400 mile drive today but what a memorable trip it is through some of the most beautiful scenery in New Zealand. Travel over the Haast Pass and through the silver beech forests of Mount Aspiring National Park, past Lake Wanaka and along the Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown, the adrenaline junkies capital of the world where excitement is the name of the game.
A full day free to explore the many exciting optional excursions available in Queenstown. Take a scenic flight, gondola ride or perhaps cruise the lake on the vintage Earnslaw. Try a thrilling jetboat ride or the Dart River excursion, white water rafting or the world famous bungy jump. If all this sounds a bit too energetic, why not take a scenic drive out to visit nearby historical Arrowtown.
An early start as you follow Lake Wakatipu via Kingston arriving in Te Anau for a morning tea break. Follow the shores of Lake Te Anau before entering the Eglington Valley. Pass the mirror lakes and travel through the avenue of the disappearing mountain. This spectacular drive continues through the mountains, valley and forests of the Fiordland National Park, with a dramatic descent into Milford Sound. A fascinating launch cruise to Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak is included.
This morning leave Te Anau and drive to Invercargill, the southernmost city of New Zealand. In the afternoon enjoy a guided tour of the highlights of Invercargill, known as the friendly city. The wide streets, fine heritage buildings, excellent shopping facilities and the warm hospitality of locals, usually surprise visitors. Invercargill is also the gateway to the magnificent Southern coastline of New Zealand. You can enjoy the magical atmosphere and tranquil beauty of Stewart Island - the only place in the world where you can view Kiwis living in their natural habitat.
Continue on the Southern Scenic route today through the spectacular area of the Catlins and on to reach the charming city of Dunedin. Dunedin was first settled by the Scottish and renowned as the "Edinburgh of the South." Places of interest to visit here include the ornately decorated railway station and the world's steepest street.
This morning is free for sightseeing, shopping or optional tours of this very Scottish city, perhaps visiting Larnach Castle or Olveston House. Later you drive north to Moeraki then continue across the Canterbury Plains and back to Christchurch via Oamaru and Timaru. A final night in this charming city where there is so much to see and do.
Today your wonderful tour when you have seen Simply the Best of this beautiful country comes to an end. Time for some last minute sightseeing or shopping for souvenirs in Christchurch before dropping off your hire car at the airport and catching an onward flight or beginning your journey home.
Standard fr £2555pp
Superior fr £2767pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated