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Te Anau, New Zealand

New Zealand

A Classic 20 night New Zealand Road Trip

This trip takes in the very best parts of New Zealand without rushing around too much, so we've included as many 2 night stops as possible rather than 1 night stops.

It can also be done in a motorhome which also gives you the freedom to be quite flexible once you're there.

Everything can be tweaked, so if you'd like to stay longer in some places or miss other places out, that's fine. We'll tailor the trip to your interests and budget.

Hotels will normally mid mid-range in central locations, but again if you'd like more premium accommodation please let us know.

We can also offer fully escorted New Zealand touring with several touring companies - it doesn't have to be for the full duration, so if you wanted an escorted tour on South Island but were happy seeing North Island in a car, that's fine too!

1 night

FLY London to Auckland - stopovers are available in cities such as Dubai or Singapore and can help break up the journey.

TIP - you'll probably be fairly tired on arrival so a flight that arrives in the evening when you can go straight to your hotel and bed, is a very good idea!

What to do:
  • Sky Tower - it's the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, and offers amazing views, drinks in the Sky Lounge and dinner at Orbit, a 360-degree revolving restaurant!
  • Auckland Harbour - enjoy the cafes, bars and restaurants of this vibrant part of Auckland and take one of the many harbour cruises on offer
  • Auckland Botanical Gardens - out of the centre and can be seen on the way to Rotorua
  • Sea Life aquarium
  • Auckland Art Gallery
2 nights

COLLECT YOUR CAR - after a good night's sleep, collect your car and your adventure begins!

** N.B. For the ferry crossing - most car hire companies require you drop the car off in Wellington and collect a new one in Picton.

Rotorua is one of New Zealand's 'Must See' places with bizarre geothermal landscapes of bubbling mud pools and geysers. Driving into the town is interesting in itself - we saw steam rising from the side of a road and went to investigate. It turned out there was a park nearby with steaming, boiling mud pools which you can just wander around for free.

Rotorua, New Zealand
Travelling time:  
3 hours drive from Auckland
What to do:
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland - the number one attraction with the famous Lady Knox Geyser, and multi coloured steaming pools - you can easily spend half a day here
  • Polynesian Spa - thermal pools to relax and chill
  • Waimangu Volcanic Valley - go on a self guided walk down to the lake where your boat is waiting for a 50 minute cruise where you'll be able to see geothermal activity on the lake edge
  • Hells Gate Mud Bath and Spa
  • White-water rafting and kayaking - grades range from 2 to 5
  • Mitai Maori Village - cultural entertainment
  • Skyline Rotorua - cable cars with 180 degree views of the city, plus luge rides and evening dining
  • Agrodome - world famous sheep show
  • Whakarewarewa Forest - redwoods walk 
1 night

A slight detour on the way down to Wellington but well worth the one night here. Napier is famous for its art-deco architecture from the 1930's and makes for a very pleasant stop by the sea.

Travelling time:  
3 hours drive
What to do:
  • Wander around the town and see the art deco building style used to rebuild the town after the 1931 earthquake
  • Stop at beautiful Lake Taupo for lunch on the way to Napier
2 nights

The best city in New Zealand in my opinion with a great shopping, arts and restaurant culture and fantastic views over the harbour from the hills above. A 2 night stay is recommended.

Travelling time:  
4 hours drive from Napier
What to do:
  • Te Papa museum - the museum of New Zealand and which often has special exhibitions
  • Cuba Street - the bohemian quarter, and Courtney Place - full of cafes, restaurants and bars
  • Mount Victoria - the lookout gives wonderful panoramic views of the city
  • Zealandia - wildlife attraction
  • Botanical Gardens - reached by cable car from the city centre
2 nights

COLLECT YOUR CAR - if you have left your car in Wellington, collect a new car and drop off in Christchurch.

From Picton, it's a 2 hour drive to Kaikoura, which I think is one of the highlights of any trip to New Zealand and yet so many tours seem to miss this out, or only allow for a short stay. Most people think of whale watching, and it is excellent, but there are also seals and dolphins you can swim with.

Ferry Crossing - the Interislander ferry makes the crossing from Wellington to Picton about 4-5 times per day, and is considered to be one of the most scenic ferry crossings in the world. On board there are cafes, shops, a cinema and bar, plus the observation deck. For a small premium, adults can upgrade to 'Premium Plus' class which gives extra comfort, wifi and a meal with wine or soft drink.

Kaikoura, New Zealand
Travelling time:  
Just over 3 hours on the ferry, and then 2 hours from Picton
What to do:
  • Seal swim - go snorkelling with New Zealand fur seals, a once in a lifetime experience
  • Swim with wild dolphins - or if you prefer you can stay in the boat and watch them play
  • Whale watching - there are giant sperm whales present all year around here
  • Coastal Walk - enjoy a scenic walk which takes you along the cliffs before descending on to the beach where you can spot seals resting and playing
  • Waterfall - there is a waterfall where seals come to swim in the pool below
2 nights

Christchurch is still recovering from the recent earthquake, and it is clear that it will be a few more years yet before it is fully re-built. However that does not mean you should miss it out - a walk around the city reveals some of the issues such as whether or not to demolish the badly damaged cathedral, but also some of the inspired ways that the city is coming to life once again - the colourful shipping crates that have been turned into shops, and the 'cardboard' cathedral, just out of town.

Travelling time:  
2.5 hours from Picton
What to do:
  • Punting on the River Avon
  • Botanic Gardens in Hagley park
  • The International Antarctic Centre near Christchurch Airport
  • Kiwis at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
  • Day trip to Akaroa - about 90 minutes drive east of Christchurch is the delightful French village of Akaroa where the highlight is the nature cruise to see dolphins (brilliant), seals (Kaikoura is better) and lots of birdlife (we saw a tiny penguin). There are a good selection of decent tourist shops and cafes, a bizarre attraction called the Giant's House, and evening penguin walks. All highly recommended which is why you need at least 2 nights in Christchurch.
Franz Josef
2 nights

COLLECT YOUR CAR - you will now keep the car until the end of your holiday.

The two glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox are about 30 minutes drive from each other along a scenic and winding road. If you're coming from Greymouth, it makes sense to stay at Franz Josef - all the activities you might want are here.

Train from Christchurch to Greymouth - one of the world's top 6 train journeys, this is a spectacular journey from Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the west coast. You'll pass through stunning scenery and valleys, up and across the Southern Alps via Arthur's Pass.

Franz Josef, New Zealand
Travelling time:  
4.5 hours on the train, plus 2.5 hours from Greymouth
What to do:
  • Glacier Valley walk - 3 hours duration
  • Ice explorer trip by helicopter
  • Scenic flights
  • West Coast Wildlife Centre - breeding program for kiwis
  • Helihiking - fly over Franz Josef glacier and do a guided walk - average level of fitness required, pre-booking recommended
  • Quad bike adventures
  • Glacier hot pools - for relaxing in at the end of the day
2 nights

The place to come for all the hair raising activities you never want to do such as bungee jumping and jet-boating, and Queenstown certainly does have more of a buzz about it than other cities. There are some nice restaurants by the harbour, where there's also an ice bar, and this is also the place to come for cruises on the famous TSS Earnslaw steamship. The drive along the Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy (the end of the lake as on TV) is spectacular.

Travelling time:  
4.5 hours from Franz Josef Glacier
What to do:
  • TSS Earnslaw cruise - vintage steamship, some cruises combine with a farm tour
  • Skyline Queenstown - amazing views, award winning restaurant and the luge
  • Arrowtown - beautiful nearby town famous for gold panning
  • Rafting, jet-boating, bungee jumping, skydiving, gliding, paragliding and even skiing are all on offer
  • Drive to Glenorchy
  • Wine tours, some including food
Te Anau
1 night

Te Anau is a very good place to stay the night before a cruise to either Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound, as otherwise the transfer from Queenstown is quite long, especially if you're just doing a day cruise.

Travelling time:  
2.5 hours from Queenstown
What to do:
  • Glowworm caves - includes a cruise on Lake Te Anau
  • Horse trekking
  • Boating on Lake Te Anau
Overnight Milford Sound Cruise
1 night

While a day trip can be spectacular, nothing beats the overnight cruise which gives you far more time to take in the wonderful scenery, waterfalls, mountains and wildlife, and a more relaxing and peaceful experience.

You will cruise the full length of Milford Sound with an on-board nature guide, and get the chance to explore on tenders or kayaks, or just watch the scenery from the deck. A 4 course evening buffet dinner is served, and next morning after a full buffet breakfast there is time for more exploring before the return to Milford.

The boat has around 30 cabins, all with en-suite bathrooms, and there are viewing decks and the observation lounge.

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Travelling time:  
2 hours drive from Te Anau
1 night

On the way to Mount Cook, you could of course stop back at Queenstown for the night, but you've already been, and there is a quaint little town called Arrowtown just a little further on. It's a delight to wander round and visit the Chinese settlement, and to do the lovely riverside walk. I had an afternoon there but would quite happily have stayed for dinner as there are some tempting restaurants.

Travelling time:  
4 hours from Milford Sound
What to do:
  • Wander round the quaint shops
  • Riverside walk
  • Chinese settlement village
Mount Cook
2 nights

The drive to Mount Cook is almost as spectacular as the mountain itself - we stopped endlessly for photo stops as the road follows the edge of Lake Pukaki for much of the 30 mile drive to the village.

There are a number of walks possible from fairly easy to serious hiking. The visitor centre has a huge amount of information about Mount Cook and the options available.

Please note that accommodation can get booked up several months in advance, especially in peak season.

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand
Travelling time:  
3 hours from Arrowtown
What to do:
  • Walking the trails of Mount Cook
  • Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and its 126 seat custom designed theatre
1 night

On the way back to Christchurch you must make a stop at Lake Tekapo, a small town by the turquoise lake. Lupins flower at certain times of year and you can get wonderful panoramic views from the observatory above the town. A great place to stop for a coffee.

NEXT Day - FLY Christchurch to London.

Travelling time:  
4 hours from Mount Cook
What to do:
  • Stop en route at Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Enjoy a last good meal before your flight home

Guide Prices

Please note that these should be seen as a guideline only - please call us for up to date availability and an exact costing. Prices are 'per person' based on 2 adults sharing one room.

The average price paid for this type of trip is around £5500 per person, however with so many variables, this is just a very rough guide.

A full costing will be sent to you once you are happy with the itinerary. Here's a few things that affect the cost:

  • Generally speaking, May and June are the cheapest months to travel, but the peak months are December to March when it is summer in New Zealand and the weather is warmer.
  • Flights going or coming home in peak times (December, January) will be at a premium
  • Hotels - this is based on good mid standard hotels, a mixture of 3 and 4 star accommodation. Budget hotels are also available, as are more luxurious hotels.

If you are trying to keep the cost as low as possible then consider missing the overnight cruise, and perhaps doing a day cruise instead. Also, we sometimes find that the best flight deal is a simple roundtrip from London to Auckland. The savings can make it worthwhile the extra  flight from Christchurch to Auckland and another night at the end in Auckland. 

Next steps

  1. Contact us with your initial ideas, rough dates, places of interest etc.
  2. We'll work with you to create a perfect self drive route that allows you to see as much of New Zealand as possible, but without excessive driving. We can often save you money on the flights by tweaking the itinerary a little.
  3. You'd receive a fully costed itinerary, which you can amend as much as you like until it is right for you. 
  4. If you are happy with everything, then we'll book all the flights, hotels, car hire, ferries etc, and take an initial deposit.
  5. Nearer the time, your balance will be due, and you'll receive final documents.
  6. Enjoy a fantastic holiday to New Zealand!
What's Included?
  • All flights including internal flights
  • All hotels
  • Car hire
  • Ferry crossing between Wellington & Picton
  • TranzAlpine Train
  • Overnight Milford Sound Cruise
  • Optional Stopovers, including hotels and transfers

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I just book the flights?
A. Yes - if you plan to find accommodation when you are out there, that's fine, we can just book the flights.

Q. What is the charge for the Travel Planning Service?
A. There is no charge - you just pay for the flights, hotels, car hire etc. in the normal way.

Q. Do I need a visa to enter New Zealand?
A. Not a visa, but an electronic travel authorization. We have done a few of these now and would be happy to help as long as you send us your passport details.

Q. What hotels do you use?
A. It depends on your budget - generally speaking 3 to 4 star hotels, but sometimes a luxury hotel or lodge is preferred

Q. When is the best time to book?
A. Accommodation is at a premium in high season - Christmas to the end of January, so early booking is essential for these dates.

Cruises around New Zealand

As many of the main sights are within easy reach of the coast, cruising is a very easy and relaxing way to see New Zealand, and also great value for money. And there's another hidden benefit too - some cruises have a day or two in Milford and/or Doubtful Sound.

For example, Celebrity have a 12 night cruise from Auckland to Sydney that includes sailings in both Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, before heading to Tasmania and then ending in Sydney.

As most cruises either depart from or arrive in Australia, it opens up the chance to see a little bit of Australia too. So you could build quite a nice tailor made itinerary around it, for example, fly to Auckland and spend a couple of days, then hire a car and have a few days in Rotorua (for the geysers), then head back to Auckland for your cruise, sail around New Zealand and disembark in Sydney. Then a few days in Sydney and finish your trip on the tropical beaches of Port Douglas near Cairns.

Escorted Tours

If your trip to New Zealand is a once in a lifetime, then you'll probably want to spend the best part of 3 weeks there in order to enjoy most of the main experiences, and in fact there are several escorted tours that are of around that duration.

But there are of course many variations on what looks like a rather similar route, and sometimes large variations in cost. So when you come to see us, we'll help explain a number of differences.

 •   How you can book a tour with VIP home departure included
 •   What are the hidden costs, especially with the more budget trips, such as meals and excursions
 •   How many key exciting experiences are included, such as an overnight cruise on Milford Sound
 •   Whether you'll be in a small group or much larger one (this is partly down to personal preference, but we'll be happy to outline the differences)
 •   Whether the price is about right given the quality and location of hotels
 •   If you can add stopovers, usually in the Far East
 •   What are the pros and cons of the different tour companies

There are also a number of trips that combine New Zealand with Australia, for example AAT Kings 'Highlights of Australia and New Zealand' manages to squeeze several top experiences into 22 days including watching the sunset at Uluru, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, a guided tour of Sydney Opera House, a journey on the spectacular TranzAlpine train in New Zealand, and a lunch cruise on Milford Sound.

More information

Call  01462 677111