Auckland to Christchurch with Hot Water Beach, Tongariro, Abel Tasman, Glaciers, Milford & Mt Cook

25 days

Indulgence Tours

  • Full service, premium arrangements
  • Comprehensive daily route guides & recommendations
  • Large Groups & Independent Travellers
  • Luxury New Zealand travel arrangements since 2011

Enter your email & contact number and you’ll be redirected to our one minute tour questionnaire

Fields marked with an * are required

Itinerary

Auckland

Auckland’s stunning harbour is the centerpiece of New Zealand’s largest and most international city. This is the ‘City of Sails,’ boasting more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. Forty-eight dormant volcanoes are located around the city, including Mt Eden, from which you can enjoy superb views of the city. Alternatively, get a superb city from from the top of Sky Tower, in the city center. If you have time, jump on the ferry to Rangitoto Island, where you can climb to the summit of this extinct volcano in the middle of Auckland harbour. Great restaurants abound, including in swanky Viaduct Harbour, on the edge of the city centre.

Auckland to Bay of Islands

228 km, 2h 50min

Head north from Auckland, up the Hibiscus Coast towards New Zealand’s winterless north. A scenic mix of lush, rolling farmland and stunning golden coastline characterises the route up to Paihia and the Bay of Islands. In Paihia, find yourself presented with an abundance of options, from exploring the nearby historic townships of Russell and Kerikeri, to taking a cruise on the bay to visit Hole in the Rock. Just out of town are the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, historic scene of the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Those with more time can make the visit to the northern tip of New Zealand at Cape Reinga, with possible stops at 90-mile beach and the ancient Kauri forests at Puketi en route.

Bay of Islands

Enjoy a relaxed day in the immediate vicinity of Paihia; exploring a kaleidescope of ocean vistas and historic attractions – or alternatively take on a wider exploration of the delights of Northland. Those happy to clock up some distance can travel to Cape Reinga, at the northwesternmost tip of the North Island. Those wishing to explore 90-mile beach can take daily tours departing Paihia. Alternatively, head west from Paihia to Waipoua Forest – the best preserved and largest of the remaining Kauri Forests in New Zealand.

Bay of Islands to Auckland

228 km, 2h 50min

Make your way back south to Auckland. Take a walk to view the impressive Whangarei falls, and consider detours of the main route – such as heading from Waipu out to Mangawai Heads, taking in glorious coastal scenery and tidy seaside villages. If you have little more time, consider a detour to Waipoua Forest on the west coast to see the largest Kauri Tree (Tane Mahuta) in New Zealand (about 5 hour drive). Estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old, it is the largest kauri known to stand today.

Auckland to Hot Water Beach

175 km, 2h 15min

Make a morning departure from Auckland, making your way directly to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, and the extraordinary Hot Water Beach. At Hot Water Beach, a natural hot spring directly under the sand allows you to dig your own private spa. This is one of the most amazing free, natural experiences in New Zealand. Also on this beautiful stretch of coastline is the impressive Cathedral Cave, which can be visited by sea kayak or by taking an enjoyable walk.

Hot Water Beach to Rotorua

232 km, 3h 15min

Drive your way down the scenic east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, before turning inland to visit the impressive Karangahake Gorge, an original site of New Zealand’s gold rush. Take a walk to explore the old mine shafts, before returning to the route south. Lord of the Rings fans will want to stop by Hobbiton before continuing to Rotorua. Those that skip Hobbiton may have time to go rafting or to take a mud spa, before attending a fantastic Maori cultural performance and dinner in the evening.

Rotorua to Taupo

82 km, 1h

The amount of time on the road today is relatively brief, leaving more time to explore some of the many attractions in the area. Between Rotorua and Taupo are the popular Wai-O-Tapu and Waimangu thermal areas. At Wai-O-Tapu, the Lady Knox geyser is induced to erupt daily at 10:15am. Closer to Taupo is the unmissable Huka Falls, where in spectacular fashion over 200,000 litres of water squeezes through a narrow passage every second – the falls are New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction. On the shores of the deep blue of Lake Taupo, the township of Taupo can offer either relaxation or adrenalin. Taupo offers skydiving, jetboating, kayaking, bungy and many other adventurous activities.

Taupo to Tongariro National Park

120 km, 1h 40min

Drive your way along the striking blue waters of Lake Taupo, arriving after about an hour at the amazing volcanoes of the World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park. Drive your way up to Whakapapa and enjoy some stunning walking in this alpine wilderness. During the summer months, walking the Tongariro Crossing is highly recommended, as it is regarded as one of the world’s best day walks. Note: this is a full day walk and preparation is essential.

Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Crossing is one of the best one-day walks in the world. The walk leads one-way from Ketetahi Car Park to Mangatepopo Car Park, and is 19.4km in length. The walk takes 6-9 hours. There are very few facilities on the walk, so be fully prepared with suitable equipment, clothing, food and drinks.

Tongariro National Park to Wellington

315 km, 4h 10min

From the wonderful alpine wilderness of Tongariro, make your way to the coast, with a optional detour to Whanganui National Park en route. From the pleasant riverside city of Wanganui, continue on the route to Wellington, giving yourself more time to explore the capital in the afternoon. The route starts out leading you through more rolling green dairy farm country, eventually rejoining the coast to pass through the wonderful seaside towns of the Kapiti Coast. Finally, arrive in Wellington, New Zealand’s indisputably fantastic capital city. Although small by population, Wellington is dense with wonderful attractions, from its stunning harbour, to Te Papa Museum, the famous red Cable Car, the Beehive, and Zealandia sanctuary. Definitely a great place to keep you busy – the fact it has the best restaurants in New Zealand is just a bonus!

Wellington

Although small by population, Wellington is dense with wonderful attractions, from its stunning harbour, to Te Papa Museum, the famous red Cable Car, the Beehive, and Zealandia sanctuary. Definitely a great place to keep you busy – the fact it has the best restaurants in New Zealand is just a bonus. Take a drive around the surrounding area to Red Rocks and Miramar, or take a hike in the scenic hills above the city from the wind turbine above Brooklyn.

Wellington to Nelson

107 km, 1h 45min

Take a flight from Wellington to the place that is arguably New Zealand’s arts capital: Nelson. Take a walk up to the Centre of New Zealand, visit the Cathedral, or just hang out in one of the towns many funky cafes. If you like the seaside, Tahunanui Beach, said to be excellent for swimming, and popular with walkers, joggers, windsurfers and sunseekers, is a mere 5km along the coast road from the town centre.

Abel Tasman Daytrip

130 km, 2h 50min

Make the drive from Nelson to Marahau, access point to Abel Tasman National Park. This is a place of golden beaches, granite cliffs and deep blue ocean. It is synonymous with both kayaking and the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s nine designated Great Walks, so the recommended plan is to combine the two in a day trip in conjunction with one of the local operators.

Nelson to Kaikoura

243 km, 3h 5min

Depart Nelson and head through the Marlborough region, making your way to the sunny city of Blenheim, located in one of New Zealand’s best known wine-growing regions. Consider a gourmet lunch at a winery, before continuing south on the brilliant coastal route to Kaikoura. Seafood lovers must be sure to stop by Nin’s Bin, for a sampling of some of New Zealand’s famous fresh lobster – before continuing on to the whale-watching mecca of New Zealand: Kaikoura.

Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs

135 km, 1h 50min

One special way to start your morning in Kaikoura is by going swimming with dolphins. Kaikoura is also a major whale watching destination, so consider doing so by scenic flight or ferry. Roadside seafood is an option in Kaikoura, before travelling inland to the hot spring resort of Hanmer Springs.

Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs

135 km, 1h 50min

One special way to start your morning in Kaikoura is by going swimming with dolphins. Kaikoura is also a major whale watching destination, so consider doing so by scenic flight or ferry. Roadside seafood is an option in Kaikoura, before travelling inland to the hot spring resort of Hanmer Springs.

Hanmer Springs to Hokitika

135 km, 1h 50min

Ascend the Southern Alps, crossing Lewis Pass, where you may enjoy an alpine walk on the St James Walkway. Continue through thick ancient New Zealand beech forests to the historic gold mining town of Reefton. Continue to the city of Greymouth, where historical New Zealand can be experienced at Shantytown. Continue south to Hokitika, the west coast’s largest hub for arts and wares, from fine glass pieces to the famous pounamu, New Zealand’s local greenstone. A detour from town will lead you to the wonderful Hokitika gorge.

Hokitika to Franz Josef

134 km, 1h 40min

Continue south along a narrow strip of vibrant green farmland that sits wedged between the coast and the mountains. Short walks are available at Lake Mahinapua, worthy of a quick stop. The Southwest of New Zealand is one the great natural areas of the world, being internationally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Arrive at Franz Josef Glacier, one of the two major glaciers on the West Coast. You can hike the glacier from the bottom, combine a glacier hike with a heli flight, or take a scenic flight above it all. Alternatively, consider a kayak trip on Lake Mapourika.

Franz Josef to Wanaka

285 km, 3h 20min

Today’s spectacular route leads from the dramatic green wilderness of the West Coast to the drier climate that pervades on the east side of the New Zealand Alps. Head south down the coast to the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre at Haast, then turn inland toward the mountains, following the winding Haast Pass Highway as it weaves up a narrow valley between towering mountains. Thundering roadside waterfalls line the route, and you’ll also find the striking and vivid Blue Pools a pleasant 30 minute walk from the roadside. Continue past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, passing the charming lakeside town of Wanaka.

Wanaka to Te Anau

287 km, 3h 20min

From Wanaka, first stop is Cromwell. This is orchard country, with apples, peaches, pears, plums and cherries all grown in abundance. Take a few minutes at one of the local fruit stands for some of the local fruit ice cream. Continue from Cromwell along the scenic, desert route alongside the Kawarau River toward Queenstown, passing the wineries of the Gibbston Valley and Kawarau Bungy. Bypassing Queenstown, the route to Te Anau goes south alongside Lake Wakatipu. Te Anau sits in a lush position between farmland and the mountains of Fiordland. Explore the Kepler track, join a glow worm tour, take a scenic flight or perhaps make the visit to nearby lake Manapouri.

Milford Sound Return, ex Te Anau

235 km, 2h 50min

Take the stunning drive through giant glacier carved valleys to visit one of the most scenic spots in New Zealand, Milford Sound. Be awed and energised by the scenic beauty of the marvellous vistas here, particularly of Mitre Peak, which soars straight from the sea like a jagged tooth. Consider a scenic cruise to explore this wonderful place. In the afternoon, make your way back to Te Anau.

Te Anau to Queenstown

171 km, 2h 10min

Depart the beautiful shores of Lake Te Anau, and make your way through farm country to Kingston at the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu. Continue along the scenic lakeside route to arrive in the major tourist hub of Queenstown. Located in a fabulous lakeside position surrounded by mountains, Queenstown lies amid a bounty of attractions, from adventurous to tranquil. There is a huge variety of activities on offer, as well as relaxing walks and scenic drives.

Queenstown to Mt Cook

263 km, 3h

Depart Queenstown and the beautiful shores of Lake Wakatipu. Continue past the wineries of the Gibbston Valley, following the scenic, desert route alongside the Kawarau River to the town of Cromwell. Stop by one of the local fruit standsfor some ice cream, sought-after for being made while you wait from frozen berries and fruit of your choice. Then continue north, heading over the scenic Lindis Pass, to finally come to the small town of Omarama. Although small, Omarama is famous as one of the best sites in the world for glider flights, and once hosted the world championships. From Omarama, follow the route to the stunning and imposing Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak.

Mt Cook to Christchurch

309 km, 3h 40min

First up, head to Lake Tekapo, the most well-known and stunning of New Zealand’s glacial lakes. Visit the famous Church of the Good Shepherd on the lake shore, and consider taking part in some of the great activities available in town. From Tekapo, follow the road leading out of the mountains to the vast Canterbury Plains, and on to Christchurch. Christchurch continues to recover from significant earthquake damage and increasingly boasts new sights and attractions for visitors. At the edge of the city is the Canterbury Museum, the Botanic Gardens, and Hagley Park, where you can enjoy punting along the Avon river. The International Antarctic Centre, near the airport, is another major Christchurch attraction, interesting for adults and kids alike. The Port Hills – formed by the crater of the huge extinct volcano – offer great views back over the city.