Best of Both Islands
From the skyscrapers and galleries of Auckland and the geothermal Maori heartland of the north to the awe-inspiring glaciers and adrenaline-inducing activities of the south, ...
... this self-drive holiday is full of spectacular discoveries. Enjoy the best of both islands as you immerse yourself in New Zealand’s breath-taking scenery.
Some of the highlights included are:
- Climb 220m to the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower
- Spot giant sperm whales on a whale watching trip in Kaikoura
- Cruise the stunning waterfall-studded fjord of Milford Sound
- Watch the landscape change at every turn on the TranzAlpine Train
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- International flights
- 18 nights in 4–5* hotels
- 16 days' car hire
- Ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton
- Sky Tower Auckland
- Wellington There & Back Again tour
- Whale Watching in Kaikoura
- Milford Sound day tour from Queenstown
- Franz Josef heli hike
- TranzAlpine train from Greymouth to Christchurch
- Transfers in Auckland and Christchurch
Need to know+
- Arrives: Auckland Airport (AKL)
- Time difference: GMT+13
- Visa requirements: British passport holders do not require a visa
- Language: English and Maori
- Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
- Flying time from UK: around 27 hours
- Plug type: 3-prong flat blade plug
- Voltage: 240 volts/50 cycles
Fly from UK to Auckland
Take in the sights of Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city. Numerous museums and galleries sit side by side with imaginative restaurants and plenty of malls and markets. Take a boat ride around the harbour, or catch the ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island. While you’re here, you’ll be whisked 220 metres into the air to admire the sweeping city views from the Sky Deck of the iconic Sky Tower.
Head on to Coromandel where, in the mid-1800s, pioneers chased gold to the Coromandel Peninsula and established Coromandel Town, a place where rolling pastures, misty rainforest, chalky white cliffs and golden beaches are interwoven with a thriving arts scene and a sprinkling of local galleries and cafés. Hit the hiking trails at Coromandel Forest Park for unbeatable views over the region and don’t miss kayaking, boating or hiking to Cathedral Cove, known for its breath-taking coastal cliff formations that drop dramatically into the sea.
Head for other-worldly Rotorua, the heartland of Maori culture. This unique spa city will captivate you with its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, although you might want to hold your nose – the town has a distinct scent of sulphur! You will have plenty of opportunity to explore the geothermal valley, bathe in soothing spas, hurtle down the luge track or mountain bike trails, or see an authentic Maori dance.
Continue on to adrenaline-fuelled Taupo, a colourful and friendly little town perched on the edge of the lake it was named after. With its numerous adventurous activities such as skydiving and bungee jumping, this is an action-packed place, but if you’re after something more sedate, try the World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park, where three towering peaks offer mixed level walking trails and numerous photo opportunities.
Continue the picturesque drive south to Wellington, your last stop on the North Island. Don’t miss national museum Te Papa in a striking location on Wellington’s waterfront – it’s a great place to learn a little more about New Zealand’s history and Maori culture. While you’re in town, set off on an exciting There and Back Again tour, where you’ll find out all about creative design and special effects on a visit to the Weta Studio, home to life-sized Hobbits, and various props and costumes from the Lord of the Rings movies.
Hop on board the ferry to Picton and sail to the South Island, where your next stop is the delightful wine growing region of Blenheim. Over 90% of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc is made in Blenheim, and sampling a glass or two is top of the things-to-do list. You can follow the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail on foot, by bike or by car, tasting the wines and artisan food as you hop from vineyard to vineyard.
It’s all about the sea life in Kaikoura, where you’ll embark on a whale watching trip (seasonal) to see the giant sperm whales that inhabit these waters. Along the way, you’re almost guaranteed to see New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross, and if you’re lucky you may also spot humpback whales, blue whales or southern right whales. Sometimes, orcas (killer whales) and Hector’s dolphins, the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin are seen too.
Spend a day in Christchurch, a vibrant city where a great selection of bars and restaurants await. Witness the city’s encouraging restoration and reinvention following the devastating earthquake in 2011, or relax in one of the city’s many beautiful parks. While you’re here, why not pay a visit to the International Antarctic Centre, where a selection of interactive displays tell the tale of life in the South Pole and the various expeditions that have taken place there, including a recreation of Antarctic weather.
Drive to Lake Tekapo, which owes its striking landscape to the turquoise waters of the lake set against the mountainous backdrop of the Southern Alps. A leisurely stroll along the lake shore to the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd promises a picture-perfect moment – bring your camera – or, if you have a little more time and energy, make the three hour return hike to the summit of Mount John for the best views in the area.
Sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, next stop Queenstown boasts some breath-taking views – best admired from the gondola cable car ride. Alternative ways to take in the epic landscape include the highest bungee jump in the country, canyon swings and skydiving. Later on, you’ll head to Milford Sound. After stopping off in Te Anau for tea, visiting the spectacular Mirror Lakes, and gazing at the forested mountains through your glass-roofed coach, you’ll set sail on an unforgettable Milford Sound Cruise through spectacular cliffs and waterfalls. Look out for dolphins as you sail!
Time for yet more stunning scenery in your next stop, Wanaka. Set on the edge of a lake of the same name, laid-back Wanaka is your gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, which offers a wide range of adventures including hiking, scenic drives, helicopter tours and jet boating. Back in town, make some time for the National Transport & Toy Museum, which displays more than 50,000 clockwork and battery powered toys, cars, bears and action figures.
Welcome to glacier country. Franz Josef and neighbouring Fox glacier are unique in that they descend from the lofty Southern Alps to terminate less than 300m above sea level amid lush tracts of rainforest. See the icy formations of the Franz Josef by a heli-hike, which starts with an eagle’s eye view from your helicopter flight, before delivering you straight to the ice for a guided hike across the pristine terrain, taking in the ice caves, pinnacles and seracs. Afterwards, reward yourself with a well-earned meal in the cosy village of Franz Josef where there are plenty of dining options to choose from.
Drive on to Greymouth and say goodbye to your car, because from now on, you’ll be travelling in the famous TranzAlpine Railway. You’ll pass through native beech forest, across the legendary Arthur's Pass, traversing the Southern Alps, through the gorges that line the Waimakariri River, and across the Canterbury Plains before arriving in to Christchurch, your final stop. Take some time to plunder the numerous quirky shops and boutiques for last-minute souvenirs and gifts, and take a look around the Cardboard Cathedral - an icon of Kiwi resilience after the earthquake.
Depart Christchurch and return to the UK
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