- 12 Days -

North & South First Look, Self Drive

We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!

A great itinerary for those with limited time and making their first trip to New Zealand. Options include a day to take on the challenge of the Tongariro Crossing, to visit the Weka Workshops in Wellington, to enjoy New Zealand's premier wine growing region, Marlborough, and the country's most popular National Park, The Abel Tasman.

Day 1 to Day 3

Auckland

Auckland is not only the biggest city in New Zealand, it's also the gateway to some amazing scenery and experiences. From its location on Auckland Harbor it's easy to reach some of the 50 islands contained in the adjacent Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. Auckland is the ideal starting point for any New Zealand trip, be it scenic, cultural, fine food and wines or adventure based. Start by selecting the activities that appeal to you in Auckland and adding them to your Wish List. And use the the maps to see your daily progress.

Day 3

Drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park

  • 214 Miles
  • 4 Hours

This will be a long day with interesting optional excursions to enjoy along the way, so an early start is essential. After an hour and a half driving we get you off the main highway to an alternative route where you'll enjoy beautiful rural landscapes that many visitors never had the chance to experience. The activities you choose below will have an impact on your traveling times today.

Day 3 to Day 5

Tongariro National Park

This massive high country plateau, a World Heritage Park, is an incredibly diverse region of tussock grassland, wild rivers, forests and birdlife with the three volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu dominating the landscape. There are great walking and biking trails, white water rafting, some of the best trout fishing in the world and the highlight of any visit, the Tongariro Crossing. The ultimate destination for any adventurer.

Day 5

Drive Tongariro National Park to Wellington

  • 195 Miles
  • 4 Hours

Instead of taking the the main road south, follow the beautiful Whanganui River Road for 80 miles, passing rural landscapes and enjoying forest and river views until you reach the town of Wanganui. From Wanganui, rejoin the main road south for an easy drive, following the coastline and reaching the capital city of Wellington two hours later.

Day 5 to Day 7

Trendy Wellington, Capital City

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the country's most cosmopolitan city. Since the opening of the new National Museum "Te Papa" it has become an increasingly popular destination for international visitors and food lovers will appreciate the large number of excellent boutique cafes and ethnic restaurants that are a feature of the city.

Day 7

The Ferry Between the North & South Islands

  • 3 - 4 hours

This is a 3 to 4 hour ferry trip, carrying both passengers and vehicles, with several sailings a day. Most of the journey is within Wellington Harbor and in the South Island, the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The arrival and departure terminal in the South Island is Picton, just 20 minutes away from Blenheim and the wine growing region of Marlborough. Picton is also at the start of what many regard as New Zealand's most scenic drive, the Queen Charlotte Sound Drive and within 2 hours the city of Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park.


Day 7 to Day 9

Blenheim

Blenheim lies at the heart of Marlborough, the wine-growing region that first brought New Zealand wines to the attention of serious wine lovers from around the world. There are more than 20 wineries within driving distance of the town, and most of them welcome visitors for sampling sessions and cellar door sales.

Day 9

Drive from Blenheim to Motueka

  • 115 Miles
  • 3 hours

Today will be a highlight of your New Zealand vacation as you drive north to Picton where you join the wonderful Queen Charlotte Sound Drive, one of the most scenic drives in the country.  

Day 9 to Day 12

Motueka

The rural town of Motueka is ideally located as a setting off point for the many attractions of the Nelson and Golden Bay regions. The most well known attraction is the nearby Abel Tasman National Park, just a 15 minute drive away. See also - We've Just Purchased a Beach!

Day 12

Homeward Bound

Today you take an afternoon flight back to Auckland in time to connect with your homeward flight to the USA. Kia Ora New Zealand and please return one day soon.

Prices start at

We will respond with a personal quotation when we receive your Wish List.

per person

This will include your accommodation, car hire, ferries and any local tours we recommend you pre-book before you arrive in New Zealand.

The Auckland Art Gallery

Closed in 2007 for 4 years of extensive renovations, this wonderful gallery has now re-opened as one of the country's most iconic buildings.  Experience world-class touring exhibitions, immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of traditional and contemporary international works of art and discover the largest permanent collection of New Zealand art right in the heart of Auckland City.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: Free. Charges may apply to special exhibitions
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Auckland Coastal Trails

This is a terrific opportunity to experience some of New Zealand’s best walking tracks along the trails of the wild West Coast, just 40 minutes from Auckland. Your guide for the day will also take you to waterfalls and rainforest scenery that will take your breath away! A basic level of fitness is required as are good walking shoes

  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: $209.00 per person includes transport, snacks, hot/cold drinks and a delicious picnic lunch, taxes and park fees.
  • Age: 18+
  • Best time: November - April
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America's Cup Sailing

Auckland, also known as 'The City of Sails' is the city that provided the core of the team that first won the America’s Cup in 1995 in San Diego. Here's your opportunity to feel the thrill of sailing an authentic America’s Cup yacht. Take the helm to help steer, work hard on the grinders to hoist the mainsail or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $120.00
  • Age: All (no children under 10 years permitted)
  • Best time: November to April
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City Walking Tours

We can help you arrange a free self-guided walk around the city or for a more in-depth experience, you can walk with an expert guide to discover some of the hidden treasures of Auckland City. From the must-see highlights and picturesque views, to the trendy backstreets and cultural offerings, there will be a range of experiences on offer and stories about how this young city emerged from a narrow volcanic isthmus to become a bustling, cosmopolitan city on the edge of the world.

  • Allow: 90 minutes
  • Cost: Guided from $28.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Tiritiri Matangi Bird Reserve

Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf is one of New Zealand's most important bird conservation projects and one of the few places where you can see and walk amongst rare native birds in their natural habitat. Over the years more than 300,000 native trees have been planted by volunteers and a number of threatened bird species and small animals re-introduced. These include the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the fascinating and ancient lizard like tuatara. 

  • Allow: Full day
  • Cost: $60 including Guided Tour and Ferry from Downtown Auckland (75 minutes each way)
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
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Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island is a large extinct island volcano just a 25 minute ferry ride from the city. On arrival make your way to the summit, an easy walk of about one hour with spectacular views of nearby islands, the harbor and city. On the way pass through black volcanic lava fields covered by fern glens and the largest forest of native pōhutukawa trees in the world. An exciting new development was the announcement in 2011 that the island was now predator-free and this has seen native birds return to the island in large numbers.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: Ferry $21.00 Return
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Waiheke Island Vineyards

Beautiful white sand beaches, vineyards and outstanding scenery are just some of the attractions of Waiheke Island. After a 45 ferry ride from downtown Auckland, you'll be greeted by your local guide, followed by a scenic tour of the island and tastings at three local boutique vineyards. A two-hour lunch stop at a village café or one of the vineyard restaurants completes an interesting and relaxing day. 

  • Allow: Full Day 10:00 am to 4:45 pm
  • Cost: $80.00 + Ferry $24.00 + Lunch
  • Age: 18 +
  • Best time: November - April
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Matakana & Beaches

The Saturday morning Matakana Farmers' Market is a showcase for local artisans, growers and farmers. Enjoy freshly brewed coffee, artisan baking, organic chocolates and fine wines. Nestled on the banks of the picturesque Matakana River, the village is a great place to visit on any day of the week, just a 40 minute drive from Auckland; be there in time for a delicious cafe breakfast and afterwards visit this nearby "secret spot", one of our favorite beaches in all of New Zealand


  • Allow: Half to a full day
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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The Waitomo Caves

This is one New Zealand's iconic visitor attractions. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa is unique to New Zealand and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as your expert guides explains the Caves' historical and geological significance. A highlight of a visit to Waitomo Caves is the river boat ride under the thousands of magical glowworms.

  • Allow: Adds 2 hours to todays driving time - Guided Cave tour takes 45 minutes
  • Cost: From $35.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Surf Town Raglan

If you depart from Auckland nice and early you'll have time to include a drive of one hour round-trip to the colorful seaside town of Raglan, the place made famous by film-maker Bruce Brown in his legendary surfing documentary 'The Endless Summer' A must-do for anyone with even the vaguest connection with surfing. We have a blog about our visit to Raglan here.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: No Charge
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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The Tree Church

In 2011, local resident Barry Cox decided to construct a unique Church of his own using living trees. He never imagined it ever becoming a tourist attraction but there's been so much interest in his project over the years that his Tree Church Gardens is now available for public viewing. Enjoy first-hand the living Church, the labyrinth walk and the extensive gardens.Read more about Tree Church in our blog - North Island Highlights - The Tree Church & The Warden

  • Allow: An hour
  • Cost: $8.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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The Glow Worms at Kakahi

Towards the end of todays drive, take this excursion, away from the main route south, into one of the most remote parts of the North Island to the tiny settlement of Kakahi. Here you are able to visit beautiful Glow Worm Caves, much less known or sophisticated than their famous cousins at Waitomo but offering the advantage of free visits. Keep an eye out for local delicacy, freshwater mussels.

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is widely regarded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand and is ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world. This will be a long day and a challenging one, traversing a remarkable volcanic landscape. Ever present as you walk is the brooding Mount Ngauruhoe, used by filmmaker Peter Jackson as Mt Doom in his Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movies.

  • Allow: Full day including an early start
  • Cost: Park Entry Free - Return transport to start point and from end point $45.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Tongariro River Rafting

The is one of New Zealand's best river rafting experiences. After an on-shore safety briefing and paddle instructions with an experienced guide you begin your white water rafting journey on grade 3 rapids – an ideal grade for experienced paddlers or first-time rafters. In 2.5 hours you navigate over 60 roller coaster rapids with your expert guide at the helm and treated to sights only accessed by raft.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: From $125.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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The Taranaki Falls Walk

Taranaki Falls is a 20-minutes drive away from National Park Village where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. An easy 2 hours loop, the Taranaki Falls Walk leads to the waterfalls lookout, and then to the waterfall's base. The track is awesome! The first part of the track goes through the alpine grassland with amazing views of the volcanoes. The second part of the loop goes through the beech forest with some river crossings (all bridged) and small waterfalls.

  • Allow: Trail Time 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Lake Rotopounamu Trail

This beautiful lake is a 25 minute drive from the town of National Park where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. From the Rotopounamu car park it's just a 20 minute walk to the lake or 2 hours if you choose to walk around the 3 mile loop trail. Beautiful Rotopounamu (the greenstone lake) is nestled into the side of Mt Pihanga and is a favorite place for birdwatchers, walkers and swimmers. 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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Pipiriki & The Whanganui River

Just 25 minutes south of Tongariro is a side road to Pipiriki, the access point one of the most remote and beautiful rivers in New Zealand, The Whanganui River. You'll travel by jet boat exploring magnificent forest scenery, deep ravines covered in mosses and an array of native ferns.

  • Allow: One hour drive return. 45 minutes on the river
  • Cost: From $80.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - April
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The Bridge to Nowhere

This option will require an extra day to be added to your vacation, but it's a choice you will never regret. Stay overnight at The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge deep in the Whanganui National Park wilderness, perched high above the river and accessible only by jet boat, canoe, by foot or helicopter. The canoe journey downstream, back to Pipiriki is simply breathtaking

  • Allow: Overnight
  • Cost: From $255.00 - includes; dinner, accommodation, breakfast, tour and jet boat transfer between the Lodge and Pipiriki.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - April
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Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve

At the town of Waikenae, an hour and a half south of Wanganui is a pleasant forest walk, situated at the nearby Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve. The shortest forest trail takes just 30 minutes, but if you have time there's also an easy, well signposted walk to the summit at 1300 feet that will take you an extra hour. From here there are excellent views of the surrounding countryside and out to nearby Kapiti Island.

  • Allow: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Kapiti Island Nature Reserve

Kapiti Island is our favorite nature reserve, a place where you will encounter many of New Zealand's most beautiful and endangered species in the wild, including the elusive Kiwi. You can visit Kapiti Island for a day or to truly experience all the island has to offer, make an overnight stay at the lodge. Whichever of these options you choose, it will add a day to the duration of your vacation.

  • Allow: One or Two days
  • Cost: One Day from $100, Overnight $300
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Wellington - EXCLUSIVE OFFER

New Zealand Vacations director Jerry Bridge also owns the company "What To Do in Wellington" To support us in our launch year Jerry says that as long as he's in town (which he usually is) he will personally provide New Zealand Vacations customers with an exclusive and free personalized tour of Wellington visiting the main points of interest, some "off the beaten path" places and maybe some places of your own choosing. All you'll be responsible for are entry fees at the places you choose to visit. Thank's Jerry and the "What To Do in Wellington" team.

  • Allow: A half day, tailored to your needs
  • Cost: $90.00 but complimentary to New Zealand Vacations customers
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Te Papa National Museum

Te Papa is a state of the art museum bringing together under one roof the Maori & European history of New Zealand. It is New Zealand's national museum, the largest cultural project in New Zealand's history, completed in 1998 at a cost of $317 million. You will encounter Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, through authentic portrayals of their traditions and living culture including an opportunity to visit a unique Marae (communal meeting place) The best introduction to Te Papa is this 90 minute guided tour that explains Maori culture and treasures, art and New Zealand's colonial history.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: $10.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary

The Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary is an outstanding example of efforts to save New Zealand most endangered native birds and animals. Visit in late afternoon to hear the dusk chorus of the birds before the nocturnal animals come to life or consider a night tour for a special experience. This will be the best opportunity on your itinerary to see such a wide variety of beautiful native birds and other native wildlife.

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: From $18.50
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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The Weta Workshops

Although famous for their award winning work on movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, the Weta Workshop has a creative portfolio that spans a large number of other blockbuster movies and gaming properties. These include The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla and DOTA2. Anyone with even the slightest interest in movies and gaming should visit this fantastic 65,000 square foot multi–disciplinary facility..

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: From $25
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Cloudy Bay Winery

No other New Zealand winery has played such an important role in establishing Marlborough and New Zealand's reputation for producing some of the world finest wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. Now owned by the French company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, this vineyard offers visitors a stylish and enjoyable tasting experience. 

  • Allow: 1 hour
  • Cost: Varies
  • Age: 18+
  • Best time: All Year
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Omaka Aviation Centre

Working quietly behind the scenes, movie director Sir Peter Jackson and a small group dedicated enthusiasts created the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre situated just a 10 minute drive from Blenheim. The Knights of the Sky exhibition, features Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of World War 1 aircraft and rare artifacts. The story of aviation in the Great War of 1914-18 is brought to life in sensational sets, lovingly created by the combined talents of WingNut Films and the Weta Workshop. A 'must do' for anyone with an interest in history.

  • Allow: 1 hour +
  • Cost: From $22.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Queen Charlotte Drive

A nice and early start is recommended for todays spectacular drive, there's a lot to see and do, especially on the road between Picton and Havelock. Stop at the lookout near the Havelock end of the road for breathtaking views. Parts of todays drive encounters some sharp and twisting turns but proceed carefully and you will be well rewarded with a most enjoyable day.

  • Allow: 3 hours +
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
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Wearable Art Gallery Nelson

Only a minute off the road to Motueka this gallery displays 60 World of WearableArt award-winning creations submitted for competition by designers from all over the world. Anyone with even the slightest interest in fashion and design will be thrilled by what they experience here. The adjacent antique car collection will be enjoyed by motoring enthusiasts. 

  • Allow: 45 minutes
  • Cost: $18.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Abel Tasman National Park

This is not only the smallest national park in New Zealand, it is also the most popular. Golden sand beaches, crystal clear waters, superb forests, abundant bird and sea life draw visitors from all around the world. A favorite experience is to be dropped by water-taxi at a golden sand beach and to then walk along the beautiful coastline track to be picked up again at a pre-arranged pick-up point. 

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: Free entry to PARK
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Cape Farewell

Cape Farewell is the northernmost point of the South Island, located on the coast at the start of Farewell Spit. It  provides homes for sea mammals and over 90 species of birds including up to 20,000 godwits, 30,000 knots plus curlews, whimbrels and turnstones. To make the most of this experience, New Zealand Vacations can arrange a one day 4WD guided tour from Motueka, the best way to learn about the history, the wildlife and ecology of the region from a qualified guide. Bring cameras and binoculars to make the most of a visit to this nature-lover's paradise.



  • Allow: Full day
  • Cost: From $250.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Cape Farewell Horse Treks

If you love horse riding, getting off the beaten trail and experiencing one of New Zealand's finest treks, this is the one for you - it has it all. The departure point is a one hour drive from Motueka, some of it winding and the last mile before reaching the trek departure point at Puponga, a gravel road. You start the trek with a meander over private forest and farmland making your way across beautiful Puponga Beach. It then takes you through the Puponga Farm Park and climbs along the Old Man's Range where you have breathtaking views of your surroundings. This trek has some steeper terrain and is suited more for teenagers and adults. 

  • Allow: Drive to and from Puponga 2 hours. Trek is 3-3.5 hours
  • Cost: US$120 per person.
  • Age: Over 16 - basic horse riding skills a must
  • Best time: November to April
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