|15 days/12 nights self drive exploration of New Zealand's North & South Islands|
Included in the $999 land only package:
Ask an Aspire expert about upgrading to all 4-star hotels for $400 more per person.
Air/Land inclusive package $2299 per person
Day 1 - Depart US
Day 2 - Cross International Date Line
Day 3 - Arrive New Zealand - Auckland
Auckland is New Zealand's biggest city and on arrival transfer by Supershuttle to your city center hotel where you will spend one night. Wherever you stay in Auckland, you're never far from breathtaking scenery, beautiful beaches, invigorating walks, idyllic holiday islands, outstanding food and wine, great shopping and exciting nightlife. Auckland's waterside location has fostered the locals' love affair with the sea, earning this place the nickname "City of Sails". Auckland sprawls over a narrow isthmus between the sparkling waters of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours. A cloak of rainforest covers the surrounding hills, dozens of dormant volcanic cones dot the landscape and enchanting holiday islands are scattered throughout the vast Hauraki Gulf.
Day 4 - Self Drive Auckland to Rotorua
This morning collect your medium automatic rental car from downtown Auckland and commence your self drive south to the thermal wonderland of Rotorua where you will spend two nights. You may like to travel via Waitomo and visit the world famous underground Waitomo Glow-worm Caves.
Auckland to Hamilton
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is situated between two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. It’s a place to enjoy marine adventures, wine trails, forest walks and urban sophistication.
The Waikato River will accompany you for much of your journey through the green countryside. Places of interest along the way include the wine growing area of Te Kauwhata and the coal mining town of Huntly. Before you get to Hamilton, you’ll notice side roads leading to Waingaro Hot Springs and Raglan, a surf resort on the west coast.
The city of Hamilton is carved in two by the mighty Waikato River. Attractions include gardens, riverboat cruising and a giant free flight aviary. Excellent restaurants and cafes can be found at the southern end of the city’s main street.
Hamilton to Waitomo Caves
The trip south takes you through prime Waikato farmland. In summer, you can pause in the town of Te Awamutu to admire the roses. A detour towards the coast will take you to Kawhia, where hot water bubbles up through the sand - you can dig a pool between low and mid tide. Just before the turn off to Waitomo, you’ll come to Otorohanga. The kiwi house in this town is a chance to meet New Zealand’s national symbol.
The Waitomo Caves region is famous for its subterranean splendour. Beneath the surface of this ancient limestone region is a series of vast cave systems decorated with stalactites, stalagmites and glow-worms. Some caves open to the public, and are easy to walk through, others require specialised caving equipment.
Explore Waitomo at your leisure or consider adding one of our tour options - Some of our favorites:
|Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Inside the ancient limestone caves live tiny insects whose iridescent light has amazed visitors of the Glowworm Grotto for over 100 years. Guided walks lead visitors through the amazing Cathedral, a high ceiling cave with acoustics to rival the most modern arena, to a small boat. From here the boat is towed across the water to where hundreds of tiny lights flicker on the cave roof above.
|Black Water Rafting
The Black Labyrinth is the original classic adventure. Tube down the 'hidden' waterfall, through rocky chutes and vaulted limestone galleries and emerge in the Waitomo forest.
|Lost World - Abseiling
Abseil 100m into this unique and spectacular chasm - the descent takes around 30 minutes and is followed by a dry caving trip exploring huge chambers en route to the surface. See giant speleotherms, including flowstone and spagatites, the famous glowworms and all manner of weird and wonderful rock sculptures. There's a 30m ladder climb and walking along narrow ledges, at all times protected by specialist safety equipment and systems. Unbelievable
Waitomo Caves to Rotorua
Your journey to Rotorua will take you through a mixture of farmland, lakeland and forest. Te Kuiti is the only major town you’ll encounter, so stock up on picnic supplies in preparation for the drive. Serious walkers can explore the beautiful Pureora Forest Park, which is home to several rare bird species. Trout fanciers can try their luck at Lake Whakamaru. The hydro power station at Atiamuri is an interesting stop.
You’ll know you’ve arrived in the city of Rotorua when you see (and smell!) the geothermal steam plumes of Whakarewarewa. Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so there’s evidence of volcanic activity everywhere you look. Explore the geothermal areas and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people.
Day 5 - Rotorua
Explore Rotorua at your own leisure.
New Zealand’s tourism icon, Rotorua is spiritual home to the Maori of Te Arawa and is set amongst a myriad of crystal clear crater lakes. Here you will experience nature’s awesome earth forces – bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and hot water beaches. Geothermal activity also provides the source of Rotorua’s fame as nature’s spa of the South Pacific. Relax in pools of natural mineral water, wrap yourself in healing mud or treat yourself to a massage under warm thermal waters. Rotorua provides many opportunities to come face to face with the spirit of Maori culture.
Or add one of these pre bookable sightseeing options:
For more Rotorua tour options, see our e-brochure.
Day 6 - Rotorua - Wellington
Today make your way further south to the capital city of Wellington for a two nights stay, take the whole day driving as there are lots of interesting stops on the way:
Rotorua to Taupo
The road to Taupo will keep you entertained with its unusual, volcanic geography. You’ll also drive through large tracts of plantation pine forest. Take a side road to a geothermal park, where you’ll discover geysers, silica terraces and craters of boiling mud. Towards the end of your journey you’ll encounter the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station. Other diversion include Huka Falls and a world-acclaimed golf course.
The resort town of Taupo sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake, which is well stocked with sizeable trout. You’ll find everything a traveller could wish for, including an excellent choice of restaurants. Most accommodation establishments make good use of the underground thermal activity to provide hot spas for relaxation.
Taupo to Turangi
You’ll follow the eastern edge of Lake Taupo to reach Turangi. The drive is very scenic and there are many picnic opportunities along the way. Where streams run into the lake, you’ll often see trout fisherman trying their luck.
The town of Turangi is the trout fishing capital of New Zealand. There are famous fishing spots in almost every direction, including ‘The Delta’, ‘The Hole’, ‘Little Big O’ and ‘Tailrace’ (believed to contain the world’s fattest trout). The nearby hot springs of Tokaanu are another attraction, or you can try rafting the Tongariro River. The walks and skifields of the Tongariro National Park are also close by.
Turangi to Wellington
On the long, straight Desert Road you’ll enjoy amazing views of Tongariro National Park’s volcanoes. In Waiouru, the QE2 Memorial Museum is worth a look. As you drive south towards Taihape (the Gumboot Throwing capital of the world), the landscape becomes dominated by rivers and valleys. The Mangaweka Gorge is a scenic masterpiece.
Find time to browse the antique shops of Bulls, or spy on wading birds in the estuary near Foxton. Two beautiful dune lakes are an easy detour from Levin. Offshore from Waikanae Beach is Kapiti Island Nature Reserve. A car museum and gourmet cheese factory are other attractions in this area.
Wellington is compact, cultured and full of character. Nestled between the harbour and the hills, the downtown area is ideal for explorations on foot. Enjoy cafes, restaurants, museums, theatre and all kinds of shops.
Day 7 - Wellington - Full day at leisure
New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, offers an unforgettable urban experience in a stunning natural setting. Set between a sparkling harbour and rolling green hills, this compact city has great shopping, professional theatre, memorable arts, culture and heritage and great cafs and restaurants all close to untouched nature spots. Central Wellington itself is only 2 kilometers in diameter and you can walk from one side to the other in under 20 minutes. It is divided into four unique quarters each reflecting the city’s four distinct flavors. Shoppers can walk from the concentrated retail of The Lambton Quarter, through to boutiques and lifestyle stores in The Willis Quarter, on to the alternative, funky stores of The Cuba Quarter to finish with a good drop of bubbly in the Courtenay Quarter, Wellington’s premier entertainment district. In between, there are more than 400 cafs, restaurants and bars to choose from.
For more Wellington tour options, see our e-brochure.
Day 8 - Wellington - Picton - Nelson
Today take the Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton (rental car included on the ferry). On arrival at Picton make your way to Nelson where you will spend two nights
Wellington to Picton
The passage across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds is one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world. The fast ferry makes the trip in just over 2 hours, the cruise-style ferry takes 3 hours. Both types of vessel can transport vehicles. Highlights along the way include the Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel, Cook’s Lookout and the beautiful coves of the sounds.
The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the South Island base for the ferry service that links the North and South islands of New Zealand. It’s also the gateway to the marine, forest and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds. Museums and interesting walks will keep you entertained while you’re here.
Picton to Nelson
The drive to Nelson first takes you to the town of Havelock, which is known as the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World. Nearby Canvastown is a place to explore old gold mining fields – thousands tried to get rich here in the 1860s. At Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve you can enjoy a bush walk or a swim, depending on the time of the year. And if you’d like a glimpse of local life in 1890, Rai Valley has a beautifully preserved cottage museum.
The city of Nelson is home to a fascinating community of beach, bush and art lovers. From here you can organise yourself an eco-adventure or become immersed in the local creative culture. Every year the city hosts the Montana New Zealand Wearable Art Awards, where art comes off the wall and onto the body.
Day 9 - Nelson - Full day at leisure
The Nelson region is known for its year-round sunshine, golden beaches, national parks, boutique wineries, micro breweries and a large creative community of working artists. Add to this locally grown produce, freshly caught seafood, historical streetscapes and waterfront restaurants and you’ll see that it offers a thoroughly pleasurable way of life. Situated in the north-west corner of the South Island, the Nelson region is surrounded by sheltering mountain ranges, giving it a Mediterranean-type climate.
Or add one of these pre bookable sightseeing options:
|Kayak, Seals & Walk day tour - Abel Tasman National Park
Morning 'Split Apple Paddle' guided half day kayak trip, explore the spectacular Kaiteriteri coastline. Stop on a golden sand beach for a short break. In the afternoon swap the kayak for walking shoes, and cruise to the golden sands of Onetahuti, visiting the fascinating seal colony at Tonga Island on the way.
|Bay Tours / Moa Escape - Full Day Tour
Enjoy a truly exclusive tour of the Nelson Wine Region. Visit wineries both on the plains and the hills where you can meet the owners and winemakers. You’ll also sample wine from the ten classic grapes grown in New Zealand. Taking in pristine scenery will ensure a memorable day – this tour is both fun and informative
|Abel Tasman National Park - Walk & Relax
Calling in at Kaiteriteri before departing for Anchorage, relax on the beach with a picnic or enjoy a one hour return walk to Te Pukatea Bay, a 1 1/2 hour return walk to Pitt Head to view the lighthouse and panoramic views, or from Anchorage walk to Cleopatra's Pool.
For more Nelson tour options, see our e-brochure
Day 10 - Nelson - Greymouth
Today make your way south down the West Coast to Greymouth (approx. 290kms). Greymouth is the main centre of the Grey District and lies beside the Tasman Sea and the Grey River. It is the geographic and commercial heart of the West Coast, with the largest population. Today it is seen as an ideal base to explore the beautiful region of the West Coast.
Day 11 - Greymouth - Franz Josef
Today continue down the West Coast to Franz Josef. Franz Josef township is a little service village located approximately 5 km away from the face of the Franz Josef Glacier on State Highway 6. It has a small but busy heliport & numerous tourist accommodations and sightseeing options - a perfect overnight stop to enjoy the Glaciers.
Greymouth to Hokitika
The road between Hokitika and Greymouth provides great views of the wild west coast. Detour to the beach and breathe the salt spray air. Driftwood is the ornamentation of choice for west coast beaches – every shape, size and colour. Shantytown, just south of Greymouth, is a reconstructed 1880s gold rush town – great family entertainment.
Hokitika was first settled in 1860, after the discovery of gold on the west coast. It still has the feel of a ‘frontier town’, and there are some lovely old buildings to admire. Greenstone (NZ jade) is the town’s treasure these days – you can see it being polished and sculpted. You might also want to pan for gold, investigate the museum and do the historical walk.
Hokitika to Franz Josef
The road to Franz Josef is rural, but with a wild streak. The farmland is trying to turn back into forest, and the beauty of the rivers is raw and primeval. A visit to the White Heron colony near Whataroa is a rare experience. You could also enjoy a picnic by the shores of Lake Ianthe or discover the goldfield walkway at Ross.
First explored in 1865, the Franz Josef Glacier has been moving forward at a rate of about 1 metre a day since 1985. Previously it was in retreat. You can walk to the terminal of the glacier in about 10 minutes. Franz Josef township has a good range of accommodation and eating establishments.
Consider adding one of our tour options:
|Half or Full Day Glacier Guided Hikes
Your guide stops to explain the unique features of the Franz Josef Glacier and its surroundings. After strapping on crampons you make your way up the terminal face of the glacier, where pre-formed tracks make exploring the lower reaches of the glacier achievable for most agile people. For the most adventurous, the full day hike takes you further into the heart of the glacier.
Combine an awesome scenic helicopter flight over the glacier with a unique guided walk amongst the ice caves, pinnacles and seracs of this pristine, alpine environment. You'll see the extraordinary colours of the ice-flow from above and then up close, on an unforgettable guided walk.
For more Glacier tour options, see our e-brochure.
Day 12 - Franz Josef - Queenstown
Today make your way to Queenstown via the Haast Pass and Wanaka. The first people to discover Queenstown's rare beauty were Maori pounamu (jade) hunters. Then came the gold miners, in search of another kind of treasure. Today Queenstown is treasured for its magnificent scenery, adventure opportunities and luxury lifestyle. The downtown area of Queenstown covers less than 2 square kilometers. Most shops and restaurants are within easy walking distance. Queenstown's compact downtown area is a cosmopolitan hub that's relaxed during the day and huge fun at night. In any season, you can count on stylish accommodation, designer shopping and marvelous cuisine experiences. Enjoy a three night stay in this amazing region.
Franz Josef to Fox Glacier
After a short drive south, you’ll arrive at Fox Glacier. The glacier’s terminal face is just 5 kilometers from the township, and the road to the walking track crosses ancient moraine from earlier advances and retreats. Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier was named after an early New Zealand Prime Minister, William Fox.
Fox Glacier to Haast
Not far from Fox Glacier is the western end of the Copland track. In half a day you can walk to the hot springs at Welcome Flat. Pretty Lake Paringa is full of trout, and you can enjoy a delicious meal of salmon at the salmon farm. Lake Moeraki is another peaceful forest lake with good fishing – a 40 minute walk takes you to the penguin colony at Monro Beach.
The long one-lane bridge over the Haast River leads you into the settlement of Haast, once a construction camp for the Ministry of Works (the government department responsible for road and bridge building). It’s a town with a touch of the wild west – helicopters fly deer hunters into the rugged ranges and local pubs make a feature of stuffed animal trophies.
Haast to Wanaka
Enjoy waterfalls and river scenery as you leave the coast and climb up the Haast river valley to Haast Pass. The road snakes through the Aspiring National Park, and the vegetation becomes more sparse as you travel inland. The wilderness town of Makarora is a chance to refuel and refresh. Watch for the famous ‘bra fence’ – it’s become a local legend. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea make the last part of your trip beautifully scenic.
The lakeside town of Wanaka can provide you with an appealing mix of fine living, family fun and adventure. It has a high concentration of cafes, restaurants and interesting shops. You’ll also find unique attractions, like the 3D maze and the ‘warbird’ air show, which is held every two years.
Wanaka to Queenstown
The shortest route to Queenstown is over the Crown Range Road. It’s a challenging drive, but the views are amazing and you’ll probably encounter friendly keas (mountain parrots). More conservative drivers can take the route that runs beside the Clutha River, Lake Dunstan and the Shotover River. The vineyards of the Gibbston area and bungy jumpers at the Kawarau River Bridge are interesting distractions along the way.
The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting, sophisticated and fantastically scenic. It’s the place to source almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating, horse trekking, rafting and river surfing. It’s also a destination for luxury experiences – gourmet food and wine, spa treatments and leisurely games of golf.
Day 13-14 - Queenstown - Full days at leisure for sightseeing
Time is available for optional sightseeing. For thrill-seekers Queenstown has it all. You might like to go bungy jumping, white water rafting, jet boating, mountain biking, horse riding or parachuting. Leisurely favorites include the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship, Walter Peak Station, the Skyline Gondola ride, wine tasting at local wineries, walks, and excursions to Glenorchy and Skippers Canyon. For golfing enthusiasts, a Bob Charles designed course is available at nearby Millbrook Resort. Queenstown's cosmopolitan flavor is reflected in the vibrant downtown centre, where there is a myriad of restaurants, bars and shops open daily.
Add one of these pre bookable sightseeing options:
|Milford Sound Nature Cruise
An on board nature guide with specialist knowledge of the region's history, flora and fauna provides detailed interpretation in English with a roving microphone. There is plenty of time available to explore points of interest and view the spectacular alpine scenery including waterfalls, rainforest and the towering peaks; and keep a lookout for wildlife including seals, dolphins and penguins when in season. Coach or flight transfers available.
|Dart River Safari - Funyaks
During your Funyaks full day experience you will experience NZ's most scenic jetboating experience and then float down river in their own inflatable kayak allowing plenty of time to explore the rivers hidden secrets. Enjoy a wilderness buffet lunch and exceptional guide interaction on this premium product. Funyaks is more suited towards visitors who are looking for a unique eco-experience - guests must have average fitness.
|Appellation Central Wine Tours
Appellation Central offers guided tours showcasing Central Otago's fine wine and cuisine. These tours venture into the heartland of Central Otago visiting vineyards in Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell. Small groups and custom fit minibuses ensure a relaxed and interactive day out from Queenstown and a great way to experience Central Otago.
|Queenstown Rafting Triple Challenge - Shotover Jet/Helicopter/WhiteWater Rafting
The Ultimate Adventure. Begin with the shotover jet, speed through rocky canyons and experience the Hamilton 360 spins. Climb aboard a helicopter for a spectacular flight into Skippers Canyon. Land at Deep Creek and meet your rafting guide, peaceful waters at first before hearing the roar of the"mother" section
|Nomad Safari - Skippers Canyon
a half-day heritage tour that follows the rugged and once treacherous Skippers Road. Hacked by hand into the sheer cliff sides of the Shotover River Valley. Navigate this awe-inspiring canyon and visit many historic sites such as the Skippers Suspension Bridge, township of Skippers, and the restored school house - gain a real insight into the local heritage through photos and histories of life in this tough environment
For more Queenstown tour options and cruise options on Milford and Doubtful Sound, see our e-brochure.
Day 15 Depart for US
Return your rental car to the Queenstown airport depot & board your flight for Auckland. Connect for Los Angeles, crossing the international dateline and arriving back in Los Angeles or San Francisco before you departed!
Good for departures 27 February - 08 Jun & 24 July - 21 September 2014. Prices are per person based on double occupancy. Please ask an Aspire consultant for an exact quote based on your travel dates outside of the above offer. Upgrade from 3* to 4* hotel package from $400 per person. Add on flights available to LA from most USA cities – ask an Aspire consultant for the best available quote from your home city. All prices reflect a 3% discount for purchases made by cash/wire transfer/check, please see terms and conditions for credit card payment. There are no discounts for payment made by credit cards