A motorhome-worthy trip of must-sees and lesser-visited gems. Explore Bay of Islands, often overlooked by travellers who are short on time; and head to the heart of the Southern Alps.
Suggested route & duration
Suggested route: 21 nights Auckland to Christchurch
• Auckland: 1 night
• Bay of Islands: 3 nights
• Coromandel: 2 nights
• Rotorua: 2 nights
• Tongariro: 1 night
• Wellington: 1 night
• Nelson: 2 nights
• Greymouth: 1 night
• Glacier Region: 1 night
• Queenstown: 2 nights
• Te Anau: 1 night
• Dunedin: 2 nights
• Aoraki/Mount Cook Region: 1 night
• Christchurch: 1 night
About this independent tour
Why you’ll love this self-drive
• Spot whales and roam rolling green hills in Bay of Islands
• Head out on clifftop walks and find secluded coastal hideaways in Coromandel
• Meet rare wildlife like yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago Peninsula
• Lay eyes on the highest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook
When to go
• Weather in New Zealand can be unpredictable (especially on the South Island), but January to February is generally best for consistent periods of settled weather
• Spring and autumn (October to November and April to May) tend to have pleasant weather and are less crowded than the summer months
• July to August is more likely to have wet conditions, so prices will be lower during this time
Suggested self-drive itinerary details
Day 1: Auckland Go yacht-spotting at the sleek ‘City of Sails’. Stay at Grand Millennium Auckland.
Day 2: Bay of Islands See marine life at this rocky haven. Stay 3 nights at Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands, Paihia.
Day 5: Coromandel Go on rainforest walks and head up the mountain on the scenic Driving Creek Railway. Stay 2 nights at Grand Mercure Puka Park.
Day 7: Rotorua Discover geysers and whizz down Lake Rotorua in a canoe. Stay 2 nights at Millennium Rotorua.
Day 9: Tongariro Discover a trio of volcanoes and blue-green lakes.
Stay at Chateau Tongariro Hotel.
Day 10: Wellington Savour the café culture and hidden food stops. Stay at Rydges Wellington.
Day 11: Nelson Explore the wonderful Abel Tasman National Park. Stay 2 nights at Rutherford Hotel Nelson.
Day 13: Greymouth Visit Shantytown for a recreated gold-rush experience. Stay at The Ashley Hotel Greymouth.
Day 14: Glacier Region See striking icefalls at Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Stay at Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier.
Day 15: Queenstown Breathe in the fresh alpine air and lap up the Lake Wakatipu scenery. Stay 2 nights at Millennium Hotel Queenstown.
Day 17: Te Anau See Fiordland National Park’s epic landscapes. Stay at Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas.
Day 18: Dunedin Head to nearby Larnach Castle, a great photo spot. Stay 2 nights at Distinction Dunedin Hotel.
Day 20: Aoraki/Mount Cook Region Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park has permanent snow fields and the famous mighty mountain. Stay at The Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Mount Cook.
Day 21: Christchurch Amble around parks and punt along the Avon River. Stay at Distinction Christchurch Hotel.
Bay of Islands
Admire intricate rocks, spot diverse marine life and enjoy some of New Zealand’s best weather
A scenic journey between North and South – upgrade to the Plus Lounge for free food
Abel Tasman National Park
Tour the beaches and forests on Wilsons Abel Tasman’s ‘The Great Day Out’ from Nelson
Cruise around the peninsula and spot albatross, seals and penguins on this full-day tour
Tailor your tour
Make it your own
We’ve crafted this self-drive based on our own experiences and customers’ feedback. It’s fully flexible, so talk to us and we can create your perfect trip.
Where to stay
We’ve included some of our most popular hotels but you can upgrade to quirky or ultra-luxe options like the QT Hotels in Wellington and Queenstown, Regent of Rotorua or a Luxury Lodge. Doing at least part of this itinerary in a motorhome is also a great idea – read more on p6.
Visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Bay of Islands; wander around Te Puia’s misty geysers in Rotorua; take a detour to Lake Tekapo and see the Church of the Good Shepherd; and spot beautiful wildlife on the Otago Peninsula.
This is a pretty packed itinerary, so if you have more time we recommend slowing the pace a little. Add an extra night in Tongariro to take on the world-famous one-day Tongariro Crossing; spend more time soaking up Wellington’s cool vibes; or stay longer around picturesque Queenstown.
There’s plenty more to see, if you have the time. Tour the gorgeous wine regions of Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough and Marlborough; schedule in a stop at Taupo for watersports; or take a detour to Kaikoura for year-round whale watching.