The New Zealand Experience
Updated: Jan 22
On this independent tour you will be visiting the highlights of New Zealand travelling by train and car. This itinerary takes you to see the spectacular scenery, lets you enjoy superb food and wine, gives you the chance to meet friendly locals and offers a range of magical and unique experiences. This itinerary is perfect for someone who’s looking for a little bit of everything New Zealand has to offer.
Duration: 23 days, 22 nights
Cost from: £2400 per per person
With flights from: £3200 per person
Day 1: Auckland (2 nights)
After landing at Auckland Airport venture into the city for your two night stay and first taste of New Zealand. Maybe visit the staggering Sky Tower, or venture over to Waiheke Island for a spot of wine tasting.
Day 3: Bay of Islands (2 nights) Pick up your fully insured rental car today and head North up to the Bay of Islands.
Stop-offs worth considering include Kerikeri’s Stone Store, Whangarei Falls, and the sandy, sweeping stretch of Bream Bay.
Take the Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise which unlocks near-limitless access around this region. Keep your eyes peeled for fins and flippers, as dolphins often chase the boat. Cape Brett Peninsula looms in the distance before you hit Motukokako Island, the site of the famed Hole in the Rock.
Make your way to the award-winning Waitangi Treaty Grounds – the walk is worth the effort for the marvellous view.
Day 5: Hamilton (1 night)
Stay in Hamilton for one night as you drive back down south from the Bay of Islands. With lots of pretty little cafes to choose fro. Relax with a coffee and visit the stunning Bucolic Gardens, there is plenty to do during your short stay. Day 6: Rotorua (2 nights)
Rotorua is full of culture and is a unique geothermal area. From here you can visit the Waitomo caves to see the thousands of gloworms lighting up the dark, visit the Te Puia Thermal Reserve with thermal activity ranging from boiling mud pools to the world-famous 100ft Pohutu Geyser that can erupt up to 20 times a day. In the evening, head to Tamaki Village for an authentic Maori experience. The evening begins with a ceremonial ritual, followed by an amazing re-enactment, a powerful cultural performance, storytelling and a hangi feast.
Day 8: Auckland (1 night) Go back to Auckland for one night and return your hire car, have dinner overlooking the harbour and get some good sleep ready for your early start in the morning.
Day 9: Wellington (2 nights) Have a quick breakfast and make your way to Auckland Strand Station to catch your 11 hour Northern Explorer train journey from Auckland to Wellington. The train journey is scenic and offers unique views of landscapes, rugged bush land, volcanic peaks and open countryside.
On arrival into Wellington check into your hotel and start exploring New Zealand's capital city. With the Art Deco culture and classic architecture it's a very pleasant city to stroll around. Visit Te Papa museum - translated means 'Container of treasures', learn about the history and culture of the region. Visit the Weta workshop close by to Wellington where movie sets are created and filmed including the Lord of the Rings.
Take a trip to Zealandia an Eco Sanctuary, a conservation area that has a vision to restore Wellingtons Valley's forest and freshwater system as closely as it can to it's pre-human state. They have done some great work here including reintroducing 20 species of native wildlife back into the area.
Day 11: Kaikoura (2 nights)
Take one last look at Wellington and make your way to the ferry port to catch the ferry to the South Island town of Piction. The three and a half hour journey takes you across the picturesque Cook Strait. On arrival into Picton you will be heading straight to the train station to connect to the Coastal Pacific which takes you through Blenheim, a wine growing region and through the mountains ranges of Kaikoura where you will stay for 2 nights.
Kaikoura is full of wildlife and is the perfect place to spot whales, dolphins and other marine life. There is a local seal colony that lounge around on the shoreline or play in the water. Take a kayak tour to get a closer look at these majestic creatures.
Day 13: Christchurch (1 night) Back on the Coastal Pacific today for your three hour journey into Christchurch. Framed by the alps, Christchurch is an interesting little city, learn about the heritage and culture by taking a city tour. Visit the shipping container shops and restaurants that are used by business owners whose premises were sadly devastated by the earthquake in 2011.
Day 14: Tekapo (2 nights) Pick up your hire car today and start travelling south. Your first stop will be Lake Tekapo for 2 nights. A stunning town set around a deep blue lake. Visit some thermal hotel pools or take one of the walks around Lake Tekapo. There are shorter or longer marked treks. View the stars like never before by visiting Mount John Observatory a 'Dark Sky Reserve' and be guided by a professorial astronomer and look for star formations including the Milky Way and The Southern Cross.
Day 16: Queenstown (2 nights) Enjoy your scenic drive between Tekapo and Queenstown. On arrival, check into your hotel and start exploring Queenstown, the home to many adrenaline pumping activities. The town sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu with views of stunning alpine ranges. Enjoy activities such as cycling, trekking, bungy jumping, canyon swinging and river rafting. Another easy town to walk around with plenty of amazing restaurants and bars to choose from.
Day 18: Te Anau (1 night) Say goodbye to Queenstown and start your 2 hour journey to Te Anau. On arrival park your car at your hotel and join your included Eco cruise of Milford Sound. This tour includes the scenic coach to the sounds and during the cruise visit iconic locations in this natural pristine paradise, spot wildlife, view unspoiled nature including waterfalls and rocky cliffs. You will be dropped back to your hotel for the night once the tour finishes.
Day 19: Wanaka (1 night) Take the scenic route from Te Anau to Wanaka. Another town set around a stunning lake. There are plenty of walking opportunities here as well as art galleries, shops and independent cafes, restaurants and food trucks.
Day 20: Franz Josef (1 night)
Carry on up the west coast today and arrive in Franz Josef, a World Heritage Area. Take the 1.5 hour walk to get within 750m of the glaciers terminal face. You can get even closer if you fancy a guided ice walk. After your walk take a dip into one of the hot pools close by or visit Lake Maporika where you can rent paddle boards or kayaks to explore the lake.
Day 21: Hokitika (1 night) After your 2 hour journey from Franz Josef, check into your new hotel in Hokitika. The hotel is set right on the beach, the perfect location for an evening stroll to catch the sunset. The town has a heavy art and culture heritage. If you have time take a picnic and trek the Hokitika Gorge walk. A beautiful little walk that brings you out on a bridge over the gorge with stunning views of a lush green landscape and pristine blue water.
Day 22: Christchurch (1 night) Leave your car at Greymouth today and board New Zealand's most famous train journey, the TranzAlpine. A scenic journey across the South Islands mountains and the Canterbury plains. Sit back in your comfortable seat and take in the striking landscape from the Southern Alps to the Native beech forest. Arrive at Christchurch at approximately 18:31 where you will check into your hotel for your last night in New Zealand.
Day 23: Depart Christchurch.
The tours are tailor made by me and can be changed to suit your needs. This tour is based on 2 people sharing and includes all accommodation, train journeys, car hire and the Milford Sound Cruise. The price is based on low season and is subject to change based on availability.