See the main highlights of the North and South Islands on this classic New Zealand itinerary. Work your way down from super-sleek Auckland to the epic grandeur of the Southern Alps and Fiordland National Park; stop off at steamy springs and glistening glaciers along the way.
Suggested route & duration
Suggested route: 16 nights from Auckland
• Auckland: 2 nights
• Coromandel: 2 nights
• Rotorua: 1 night
• Tongariro: 1 night
• Wellington: 1 night
• Nelson: 2 nights
• Glacier Region: 1 night
• Wanaka: 1 night
• Queenstown: 2 nights
• Te Anau: 1 night
• Dunedin: 1 night
• Christchurch: 1 night
About this independent tour
Why you’ll love this self-drive
• See the fiery-tinged Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua
• Explore deserted beaches, secluded coves and lush forests in Abel Tasman National Park
• Admire spectacular sheets of frosty-blue ice in the Glacier Region
• Spend time in Queenstown and relive adventures from Middle Earth
• This itinerary can also be done in a campervan or motorhome.
Suggested self-drive details
Day 1: Auckland Hang by the stylish waterfront in this North Island hub. Stay 2 nights at The Sebel Auckland Viaduct Harbour.
Day 2: Coromandel Hike coastal trails and take a detour to the beautiful Bay of Plenty. Stay 2 nights at Grand Mercure Puka Park.
Day 5: Rotorua See colourful crater lakes in this geothermal capital of Māori culture. Stay at Millennium Rotorua.
Day 6: Tongariro Wander this sacred national park’s otherworldly terrain, home to three volcanoes. Stay at Chateau Tongariro Hotel.
Day 7: Wellington Kick back with a coffee by the harbour after a day of sightseeing around the capital. Stay at Rydges Wellington.
Day 8: Nelson This sunny city has lesser-trodden vineyards and is a gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Stay 2 nights at Rutherford Hotel Nelson.
Day 10: Glacier Region Pass deep crevasses and blue ice grottos at the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Stay at Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier.
Day 11: Wanaka Cycle along the lakefront and kayak on crystal-clear waters with views over the Southern Alps. Stay at Edgewater – Lake Wanaka.
Day 12: Queenstown Go sightseeing through The Lord of the Rings locations. Stay 2 nights at Millennium Hotel Queenstown.
Day 14: Te Anau Visit Milford Sound and/or Doubtful Sound from this gateway to Fiordland National Park. Stay at Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas.
Day 15: Dunedin Learn about the city’s Scottish and Māori heritage, or visit the Otago Peninsula in search of rare wildlife. Stay at Distinction Dunedin Hotel.
Day 16: Christchurch Go punting and check out cool galleries in the regenerated ‘Garden City’. Stay at Distinction Christchurch Hotel.
Visit Hot Water Beach at low tide and dig your own natural hot tub
Te Puia, Rotorua
Watch Māori cultural performances and take a tour around the geysers and mud pools
Franz Josef Glacier
Discover pristine waterfalls and ancient temperate rainforest on a Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
Ride up to Bobs Peak for panoramic views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu
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 (p80-83). Alternatively, you could do all or part of this itinerary in a motorhome (p6).
This itinerary is full of amazing experiences. Hit geothermal Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, book a day trip into Abel Tasman National Park from Nelson, or embark on a cruise through one of the magnificent Sounds in Fiordland National Park.
Short on time? End your itinerary in Queenstown before flying home from there. If you’ve got more time, stay longer in Tongariro and trek the Tongariro Crossing. There’s loads to do in Rotorua, Queenstown and Wellington, so we recommend spending extra nights there if you can.
To fit more wine into your itinerary, stop at Hawke’s Bay and visit the Art Deco town of Napier. Take a detour to Kaikoura for the chance to spot whales. We love the Marlborough Sounds – stay at Bay of Many Coves to be right on the water’s edge.
Good to know
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 has shorter, cooler days and wet conditions, so prices will be significantly lower during this time