16 Day Natural Wonders NZ Self-Drive Tour
New Zealand Tours
Self-Drive - NZ
Experience a mesmerizing journey through New Zealand’s awe-inspiring natural wonders, where you’ll immerse yourself in breathtaking landscapes, encounter a variety of wildlife, and delve into the untouched beauty of the wilderness.
- Rental car touring, day 1 – 17
- 16 x nights in described accommodations
- 16 x breakfast
- Interislander – ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton for foot passengers & rental car
- Digital travel documents
- 15% New Zealand sales tax (GST)
- Travel insurance
- International flight
- Meals unless otherwise stated
- Activities specified with “optional”
- Gasoline and parking fees
Create Your Tour
This self-drive tour is an example, but we have over 10 years of experience creating customised itineraries for your specific needs. Let us know your travel requirements and we can create a special itinerary for your dream self-drive holiday of New Zealand.
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Day 1: Arrival Auckland
Welcome to New Zealand.
After your arrival, you will pick up your rental car at the airport. During the drive to your first accommodation you will get acquainted with the "City of Sails", as Auckland is often called.
Auckland offers a lot of sights and scenic highlights. The 328 meter high "Skytower" is Auckland's landmark. A visit is recommended during the day, but also especially at sunset with its magnificent views.
Mount Eden, an extinct volcano, is also worth a visit. From there you have a great view of Auckland. Auckland was built exactly on 60 volcanic hills.
In the "War Museum" you will learn a lot about the history and culture of the Polynesians.
You have numerous opportunities for walks along the harbor or through the shopping centers. In the elegant suburb "Parnell" you can have a coffee while strolling through the shopping mall. This suburb is Victorian in character.
Day 2: Auckland - Whitianga approx. 208km, 3h20min
Today you leave Auckland and in good weather you can see a long mountain silhouette. This mountain range forms the narrow spine of the 80km long Coromandel Peninsula, which juts north like a tongue.
Known for its pristine beaches, misty forests and relaxed atmosphere, the Coromandel Peninsula is one of New Zealand's most popular vacation destinations. Seen through binoculars across the Gulf of Auckland, Coromandel is everything a big city is not. With its mountainous hinterland covered in native rainforest and more than 400 kilometers of dazzling white sand beaches, it's rustic, unspoiled and relaxed.
Activities and attractions abound, from fishing and diving to hiking and biking. You might opt for a skydive in Whitianga or a guided kayak tour along the coast.
Day 3: Whitianga
Today you can get to know the Coromandel Peninsula with all its contrasts between white beaches, lush green cultivated land, as well as mild mountain ranges, which are still overgrown with thousands of years old primeval forest.
From Hahei you can take an impressive hike to the famous "Cathedral Cove". It is a one hour hike mostly along the coast with spectacular views before you reach a white beach where you can walk through a cathedral-like cave.
At the world famous "Hot Water Beach" you can take your own hot bath just a few meters from the Pacific Ocean. Great surfing, cafes and art galleries make this a true Kiwi experience.
Day 4: Whitianga - Rotorua approx. 220km, 3h40min
In the morning you will drive to the Bay of Plenty to Rotorua.
The city is known as an art and cultural center of the Maori, but is also considered the steaming thermal region of New Zealand. Rototua was built around numerous hot mineral springs and is the tourist center of the North Island.
A short walk through the public thermal park "Kuirau Park" gives you a first insight of Rotorua with mud pools and a small crater lake.
After the long drive it is recommended to relax in the "Polynesian Spa". The spa is directly on the lake and has different pools with different temperatures (private pools can also be rented). They are fed from special healing springs. It is especially nice to visit on a clear evening.
Day 5: Rotorua
Today we recommend to see some of Rotorua's main attractions.
Colorful sinter terraces, geyser eruptions, bubbling mudholes and stinking fumes from sulfur fumaroles can be seen at Te Puia. TePuia has a brand new Kiwi Conservation Centre. Traditional Māori carving and weaving is performed before your eyes, including wood, stone and bone carving and flax weaving.
Kaituna white water rafting is an attraction for the adventurous. Your raft will take you through native forests, steep gorges and many swirling rapids. You will paddle and roll through spectacular scenery in the Kahikitea Forest.
Day 6: Rotorua - Taupo - Tongariro National Park approx. 180km, 2h20min
In the morning you will drive towards Taupo. A photo stop is possible at the Huka Falls. These waterfalls are located in a narrow gorge through the Waikato River.
Continue to Tongariro National Park, which is becoming one of the most popular parks due to its ever-changing, sometimes moon-like landscape and spectacular views. You will look at Mt. Tongariro (1968 m), its sister volcanoes Mt. Ngauruhoe (2291 m) and Mt. Ruapehu (2797 m).
Day 7: Tongariro National Park - Wellington approx. 340km, 4h15min
You will continue south and experience an interesting change of vegetation. The drive through barren steppe land surrounded by peaks up to 2800 m brings you to the green, fertile farm areas Rangitikei and Manawatu. Then, passing the self-proclaimed "gumboot capital" Taihape", you will head towards the capital city of Wellington.
Wellington is exposed to the wild weather of the Cook Strait and is therefore also called the "Windy City". Take a warm jacket with you.
If you only have time for one thing, visit the National Museum of New Zealand "Te Papa", which is located right at the harbor. You will get a deeper insight into Pacific culture and the history of how New Zealand came to be. Wellington has numerous nice cafes with pretty much the best coffee in the country.
The Lookout from the local mountain "Mount Victoria" gives you an unforgettable view over the city to the harbor Port Nicholson.
Another highlight is the "Cable Car", a small train that goes up to the Botanical Garden. From there you can take a leisurely walk back to your hotel.
Day 8: Wellington - Picton + boat transfer
In the morning, board the Interislander ferry bound for Picton on the South Island. You will sail across the Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds, an area of "drowned" valleys formed by the geological subsidence of a low mountain range. Steep ridges still bear witness to the original mountains, which today protrude as narrow peninsulas between deep inlets. Continue along Queen Charlotte Drive towards Nelson, the city with the most hours of sunshine in the country.
Interislander - Ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton for foot passengers & rental cars
Day 9: Picton
The Abel Tasman National Park has long been incredibly popular with travellers, its hidden golden sand beaches, turquoise waters, idyllic coastal walks, diverse activities act as a magnet. You can enjoy the beauty of the golden beaches and bays from a boat or kayak along the coast.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60-kilometre walk with the special status of being one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.
Day 10: Picton - Punakaiki approx. 330km, 4h30min
You will continue through beautiful areas towards the west coast, crossing the spectacular Buller Gorge before reaching Westport. At Cape Foulwind you can hike to a colony of New Zealand fur seals and also to the lighthouse. You will leave Westport behind and drive along the picturesque Paparoa National Park. A short walk will take you to the "Pancake Rocks." The rocks look like pancakes: soft layers were washed out by the gnawing Tasman Sea. At high tide, the churning sea here offers a spectacular spectacle.
Day 11: Punakaiki - Fox Glacier approx. 241km, 3h30min
Along the West Coast you will continue through historic gold mining areas to the glaciers. The west coast is also known for its jade or greenstone deposits. In Hokitika this precious rock is processed into beautiful jewelry.
In Franz Josef you reach the Southern Alps and now have the mountain range directly in front of you. As a natural weather barrier, the high mountain ridge is responsible for one of the most extreme rainfall regimes.
These once huge glacier tongues have pushed down in their valleys to just 250 meters above sea level, but for some time now they have been retreating at a rapid rate.
If you have never seen a glacier before, you will be especially thrilled by a helicopter sightseeing flight or a glacier tour.
Day 12: Fox Glacier - Queenstown approx. 328km, 4h40min
Truly spectacular are not only the wild beaches and glaciers of the west coast, but also the hikes in the rainforest. Continuing your journey through evergreen rainforest, you will reach Lake Moeraki. Over the Haast Pass, climate and watershed of the Southern Alps, past the high mountains of the Aspiring National Park, you will reach Queenstown, the 'adrenaline capital of the world', where bungy jumping was invented!
Day 13: Queenstown
Queenstown is located in a beautiful setting, with gorgeous lake and mountain views, The best view is from Bob's Peak.
Besides jet boating and bungy jumping, you can also go rafting, rappelling, skydiving, ziplining, paragliding, delta flying, motocrossing, canyoneering, heli-skiing, off-roading, tobogganing, rock climbing, snowshoeing, take a cruise, zip riding, indoor climbing, golfing, quad biking, mountain biking, feed the ducks or take a wine tour.
Day 14: Queenstown - Te Anau approx. 171km, 2h10min
Short drive to Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.
Today you will have the opportunity to take a cruise on Milford Sound. You will drive into Fiordland National Park, New Zealand's largest and also most undeveloped national park. To the west, 14 fjords penetrate deep into the primeval forests of a rugged alpine world like overlong ocean tongues. Not far, snow-capped mountain peaks rise above alpine grass mats to 2700m. You drive along the spectacular Milford Road. At Homner Tunnel you often see the cheeky Keas, the only mountain parrots in the world. At noon you depart for the Milford Sound cruise, gliding out almost to the Tasman Sea.
'Te Anau Wildlife Centre' is another recommended attraction where you have a good chance of seeing takahe, kea and kaka.
A bit more touristy is the popular cruise to the 'Te Anau Glowworm Caves.
Day 15: Te Anau - Twizel approx. 360km, 4h30min
Continue inland through the McKenzie Country. Sparse rainfall makes this highland appear as a barren steppe landscape. Wide "tussock" meadows, which cover the hills like a carpet, transform the landscape into a strange looking inner alpine basin landscape. At Lake Pukaki you will have the opportunity to admire the magnificent glaciers of Mt. Cook. The Maori call the with 3754m highest mountain of New Zealand "Aorangi", the "cloud piercer".
You can fish for salmon and trout in the local rivers, canals and lakes. If you are not lucky, visit the salmon farm and buy a fish - fresh or smoked.
Day 16: Twizel - Christchurch approx. 285km, 3h40min
The drive continues through the vast farmlands of the Canterbury Plain to Christchurch. The city is the largest metropolitan area in the South Island and was once one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand until the city center was destroyed in an earthquake in the spring of 2011.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and is often referred to as the "most English city outside of England." It is also known as the "Garden City" because of its many beautiful parks and private gardens.
In the evening we recommend dinner at the "Tramway Restaurant", where you will take a round trip on the streetcar.
Day 17: End of Trip
Drive to Christchurch airport and drop off your rental car. You will fly towards your next destination. Have a good onward journey.
natural wonders itinerary