Self-Drive Itinerary

Rent a Car and Drive Yourself Around New Zealand

Undoubtedly, the best way to see, and experience, New Zealand is with a self drive holiday. When you hire a car and drive yourself it allows you to wander where you desire, to stop in all sorts of interesting places and towns where you can mix with the locals in a way that just cant happen when you are part of a larger tour group. Below is a suggest itinerary to help you in planning your New Zealand Holiday

Day One: Auckland to Paihia

(237km – 3.5 hours) From Auckland head north, through Orewa,  along the Hibiscus Coast through magnificent forests until you reach Paihia, the gateway to the Bay of Islands. On a nice day Ruakaka beach between Waipu and Whangarei is defiantly worth a stop  Spend the afternoon enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Pahia, Russel and Waitangi.  Visit the historic Waitangi Treaty House, take a sea kayaking tour to the Haruru Falls or take a stroll along the beach.

We can recommend a really good place to stay during your time in Paihia. It is the Ashgrove Motel run by Wendy and Fred Grindlay. The Ashgrove is 3 minutes drive from the center of Paihia, located in a very peaceful surroundings, with beautiful grounds complete with swimming pool and spa –

Day Two: Paihia

Travel north from Paihia past the stunning white sands of  Parengarenga Harbour and Waitaki Landing to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island. An alternative to driving is to take the tour buses that travel up the sandy 90 Mile Beach  A short walk from the car park will take you to the famous lighthouse.  Travel back to Paihia for the night.

Day Three: Paihia to Auckland

(237km – 3hrs 20mins) Travel back to Auckland and spend the afternoon sightseeing.  Visit Parnell Village, the Auckland Museum or the underwater world of Kelly Tarlton.  Enjoy an evening cruise on the harbor. As an alternative, travel back to Auckland by crossing to the rugged West Coast and see the Waipua Forest with its giant Kauri trees.


Paihia – Bay of Islands

Day Four: Auckland to Rotorua

(235km – 3hr 20mins) Travel south from Auckland over the Bombay Hills and through the dairy farming heartland of the Waikato. The friendly riverside city of Hamilton is a good place to stop for a rest and a wonder before continuing east along the Thermal Explorer Highway to Rotorua.

Day Five & Six: Rotorua

Take two days to explore the bubbling mud pools and gushing geysers of the area.  Visit some of the many tourist attractions Rotorua has to offer including Rainbow Springs Nature Park, The Buried Village and the Museum of Art and History.

Day Seven: Rotorua to Taupo via the Waitomo Caves

(330km – 4hr 30mins) From Rotorua head west through the magnificent  Mamaku Ranges to Waitomo.  Take a guided tour of the spectacular underground caves and a boat ride downstream through the Glowworm Grotto.  From Waitomo, drive south through Taumarunui, Ohakune and Turangi to the lakeside town of Taupo.


Rotorua – Geothermal Wonderland

Day Eight: Taupo to Wellington

(370km – 5.5 hours) Before leaving Taupo, retrace your route north for 3 km to visit Craters of the Moon Thermal Reserve and the mighty Huka Falls. Now head south across the Desert Road, enjoying the views of Mount Ruapehu with its smoking crater lake. Today’s route takes you  through country towns and varying landscapes until you arrive in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.

Day Nine: Wellington

Spend a day exploring Wellington’s array of cafes or visit Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand.  What to do in Wellington? Take a cable car ride to Kelburn and walk through the Botanic Gardens to the Parliament Buildings or along Lambton Quay.  Wellington has some of the best nightlife in New Zealand so take the time to walk the streets and sample the bars in Courtany Place and Wharf area.

Day Ten: Wellington to Blenheim

(4hr 20mins including ferry) Catch the InterIsland Ferry across Cook Straight, which has the reputation of being one of the wildest stretches of water in the world, through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds  to Picton. Drive south to Blenheim the commercial centre of the Marlborough region.  This area is rapidly earning a reputation as a world class wine growing region so experiencing alfresco dining at one of the area’s many vineyards is a must.

Renting cars - touring Wellington

Wellington – Capital City

Day Eleven: Blenheim to Christchurch

(400km – 4hr 25mins) Drive south to Kaikoura, an area rich in marine life. You will have noticed the dramatic change from the North Islands mainly sandy coastline to the rugged, wild . rocky coastline of the South Island   Spend the day whale watching, swimming with the local seals or try a sea kayaking tour with dolphins.  Head south to the very English, Garden city of Christchurch.

Day Twelve: Christchurch

Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city.  Built around the Christchurch Cathedral, with its Square and the winding Avon River the city offers many different attractions.  From floating in a Punt down the Avon River to the nightlife of the Christchurch Casino this city has something for everyone. Its magnificent architecture, parks, and the Avon River are defiantly worth a long stroll around to fully experience this beautiful city.

Day Thirteen: Christchurch to Fox Glacier

(420km – 6hr 00mins) Head west from Christchurch and across the  rugged Southern Alps.  Stop for morning tea in the small alpine village of Arthur’s Pass and admire the mountain scenery before traveling on to the untouched West Coast.  Drive south along State Highway 6 past World Heritage areas and clear glacial lakes to the town of Fox Glacier.


Hagley Park – Christchurch

Day Fourteen: Fox Glacier to Queenstown

(381km – 5.5 hours) In the morning, visit Lake Matheson and the Fox Glacier before driving south to picture postcard town of Queenstown.  On the way, stop at any of the roadside walkways and take a stroll through the native forests.

Day Fifteen: Queenstown

Spend the day shopping in Queenstown’s many boutiques and specialty stores and defiantly take a cruise aboard the TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu. This is the Adventure capital of New Zealand with  activities such as jet boating, white water rafting, hot air ballooning and bungy-jumping.  In the evening, take the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak and enjoy dinner in the restaurant overlooking Queenstown.

Day Sixteen: Queenstown to Te Anau

(179km – 2.5 hours) Travel around south to the lakeside town of Te Anau.  Relax for the afternoon and take a walk along the lake shore.


Queenstown – Adventure Capital

Day Seventeen: Te Anau (Milford Sound Cruise)

Drive north through the stunning Fiordland National Park and onto Milford Sound.
Take a chartered cruise past ice age glaciers and Mitre Peak to the open sea.  Return to Te Anau.

Day Eighteen: Te Anau to Dunedin

(295 km – 4hr 10mins) Drive east from Te Anau through Central Otago to the very Scottish town of Dunedin The Royal Albatross colony, and the Speights Brewery are both a must. At night enjoy the  nightlife of this student town which can boost more bands per head of population than any other town in NZ. Defiantly stroll amongst the grand solid stone buildings down to the railway station and experience the small city that was the center of the worlds richest gold fields in the 1860’s. If your feeling energetic walk up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world.


Te Anau – Gateway to Fiordland

Day Nineteen: Dunedin to Oamaru

(120km – 1.5 hours) Travel north bound through the town of Oamaru Your journey north is flavored with history. The town of Palmerston has a museum devoted to the region’s Scottish past. After visiting the mysterious spherical boulders at Moeraki, you could pick up some interesting, ancient stones on the beach at Hampden. Clark’s Mill is next – a limestone flour mill built in 1866. Just before Oamaru is Totara Estate Centennial Park, where you can see restored 1860s farm buildings.

Oamaru has a population of around 12,000 and an impressive heritage. Many of the elegant historic buildings were made from the local sandstone. Visit the Harbour – Tyne area – the best-preserved collection of historic commercial buildings in New Zealand. You should also check out the penguin colony, the museum and the pretty public gardens. This small town is well worth a stop

Day Twenty: Oamaru

Drive up the Waitaki valley through the small town of Duntroon and past the Lower Waitaki, The Aviemoor, and Benmore hydro electric dams with their associated lakes. Continue on through the Lindis Pass to Wanaka. This trip takes you high up into the Southern Alps tussock country and through some breathtaking scenery . Make a point of stopping at Puzzle World before returning to Oamaru for the night.

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Moeraki Boulders

Day Twenty  One: Oamaru to Christchurch

(246kms – 3.25 hours) Take the highway north. River crossings are a feature of the journey. If you enjoy fly fishing, you could make this trip last a long time. Just beyond the town of Hook, take a detour to Waimate to see the museum and an original thatched cottage – it was made from a single tree. In summer the Waimate District is overflowing with delicious berry fruits.

Timaru is a small but beautifully formed city. The historic walk will introduce you to many of the old buildings. Enjoy the boutique brewery, botanic gardens and the park at Caroline Bay, which has an aviary and a maze. Timaru also has the third largest public art gallery in the South Island and an excellent museum.

Your trip  is straight and flat. It’s worth taking the loop road to Geraldine to visit the gourmet cheese factory and vintage car museum. Rafting in the Rangitata Gorge is another possibility. Just after Timaru you’ll drive into Temuka, a town that produces high quality pottery – look for the factory shop if you’d like a useful souvenir. Ashburton is a large town that serves the local rural community. It sits between the Rakaia and Rangitata rivers, so fly fishing is the local obsession. Ashburton also has about six museums and some excellent craft galleries. The ski fields of Mt Hutt are an easy drive from here.