The 23-day New Zealand Wanderer self-drive is the quintessential New Zealand road trip. This trip features New Zealand's diverse culture and scenery from top to bottom, coast to coast. Destinations include: Auckland - Bay of Islands - Coromandel Peninsula - Rotorua - Wellington - Marlborough - Nelson - Kaikoura* - Christchurch - West Coast - Glaciers - Queenstown - Milford Sound.
Below is a brief trip summary. For any questions, details on optional activities, driving times, or other queries, please contact one of our Travel Consultants. Pricing includes pre-booked accommodation, rental car and insurance, Wellington transfers, ferry and water taxi trips as detailed, a Milford Sound coach excursion, other pre-booked activities as selected, and a comprehensive packet of personalized trip notes, road atlas, and more. See Self-drive Tour Pricing on our Dates & Rates page for details.
*Note, there is currently no public road access to Kaikoura; therefore, an alternative destination has been arranged. Talk to one of our Travel Shepherds for details.
Day 1: Welcome to New Zealand!
A Black Sheep Touring Co. representative will meet you at your accommodation in central Auckland following your transfer from Auckland Airport. He or she will advise you on your rental car pick-up and take you through your tour documentation, providing tips on driving and travel in New Zealand. Spend the rest of the day resting from your journey and exploring this dynamic city.
Day 2: Auckland to Bay of Islands
It's a scenic drive to the Northland region, a remote area that time seems to have forgotten. Accommodation for the next three nights is in the beautiful Bay of Islands, a popular yet peaceful retreat. Your notes will point you to a self-guided hike that will allow you to rejuvenate and take in the picturesque surroundings.
Day 3: Day on the Bay
The day is free to enjoy this maritime paradise. Suggested optional activities include sailing on the bay or taking a dolphin-watching cruise amongst the islands. A Black Sheep consultant can advise of pricing and secure your booking.
Day 4: Hiking in the Bay
This day is spent enjoying the wider region. Northland was once blanketed by ancient kauri trees, true lords of the forest rivaled only by the redwoods in girth. Spend a day on a self-guided walk amongst these giants and exploring tracks (identified in your notes) that highlight the grandeur of the magnificent coastline. Alternatively, visit New Zealand's most historic site at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Day 5: Bay of Islands to Auckland
Bid the Bay farewell and return to Auckland, stopping at scenic points along the way. Just north of the city, on the ruggedly beautiful west coast, is one of New Zealand's largest gannet colonies. Stop for a close-up view of these wonderful birds as they court, breed, and nest.
Day 6: Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula
Departing Auckland, head for the lush and peaceful Coromandel Peninsula, loved by New Zealanders and often missed by overseas travelers. Take a self-guided hike along the coast to a secluded cove featuring beautiful sandstone formations. Your lodge for the next two nights lies in a tiny seaside village and is just a short walk from one of the prettiest beaches in New Zealand.
Day 7: Exploring the Peninsula
Explore the Coromandel's subtropical rainforest, visit historic goldmines, stand beneath the world's largest ferns and swim at beautiful, sheltered beaches. Hire snorkeling gear and follow the snorkel trail in the Te Whanganui-a-Hei marine reserve. There is a great range of self-guided hikes in the region. Alternatively, much can be learned on a guided excursion into the rainforest, led by a member of an award-winning naturalist team. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant has details.
Day 8: Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua
Head south, pausing in a historic gold mining town before reaching Rotorua, a cultural center for Maoridom and an active volcanic and geothermal region. Maori culture, spa rejuvenation and adventure activities, including some of the country's best mountain bike trails, are on offer here. Details on mountain bike hire are included in your self-drive packet, along with other optional activities, including a deviation to Hobbiton and a range of Maori cultural and thermal experiences as identified by your Black Sheep Travel Consultant.
Day 9: Geothermal Adventure
Explore some of the regions most extraordinary geothermal features with a variety of optional add-ons: visit the active White Island volcano, take a float-plane flight over the impressive Mt Tarawera crater rift and steaming lakes, or visit a colourful and diverse thermal reserve featuring boiling mud pools and geysers.
Day 10: Rotorua to Wellington
This morning, depart Rotorua and drive south to Wellington, New Zealand's picturesque capital city. On route, visit Huka Falls and Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, and travel along the famous Desert Road, with views of Tongariro National Park's volcanoes. In Wellington, take in the wonderful features of this vibrant city.
Day 11: Wellington to Marlborough and Nelson
This morning, board your vessel and cross the Cook Strait to the South Island, gliding past the spectacular coastline of the Marlborough Sounds. Landing in Picton, collect your rental car and travel to the Marlborough wine region, renowned worldwide for its Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays. After tastings and perhaps a winery lunch (don't forget to choose your designated driver!), continue on to your accommodation in sun-drenched Nelson, pausing for a short hike through native beech forest along the way.
Day 12: Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman, with its temperate forest, aquamarine waters, and golden sand beaches, is arguably one of the most beautiful parks in the country. We recommend you join a special sea kayaking experience along the coast, ducking in and out of secluded bays, stopping to stroll along its beaches, and drawing in the tranquil beauty of the sea. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can advise on details and pricing and pre-book for you (recommended).
Day 13: Nelson to Kaikoura
Depart the Nelson region and journey east to the dramatic Pacific coast and the seaside hamlet of Kaikoura, New Zealand's marine-life center. After settling into your waterfront accommodation, take yourself on a spectacular hike around the Kaikoura Peninsula, winding past intriguing limestone formations and fur seals lounging on the rocks whilst enjoying magnificent views of the surrounding sea and mountains. Kaikoura means 'to eat crayfish (lobster)' and we recommend the best places to sample the local specialty this evening.
Day 14: Marine Life Encounters
Today you'll have the chance to behold Kaikoura's tremendous creatures in their natural habitat with a range of optional activities, including whale watching, swimming with dolphins or fur seals, or visiting the offshore feeding grounds of albatross.
Day 15: Kaikoura to Christchurch
Journey south to the Canterbury region and the city of Christchurch, described as the most English of New Zealand's cities. Explore the city: hire a punt on the Avon, visit the Canterbury Museum or stroll through the Botanical Gardens before your stay in the city this evening.
Day 16: Christchurch to Punakaiki
Depart Christchurch and drive inland, over the glorious Southern Alps. Cross alpine rivers and wind beneath snow-capped peaks before descending to the wild and woolly West Coast region. Drive along stunning shoreline to your accommodation for the next two nights. Explore hidden tracks and natural features outlined in your trip notes and enjoy the bounty of talented craftspeople here.
Day 17: Taking the Underground
This part of the South Island is honeycombed with intricate cave systems which can be explored in a choice of ways, from scenic caving to adventure caving to New Zealand's renowned and unforgettable cave rafting. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can advise on the options for this day, including above-ground alternatives.
Day 18: Punakaiki to the Glaciers
This morning is a spectacular drive to New Zealand's glacier region where you'll be based for the next two nights in comfortable alpine accommodation. Before dinner, stroll beneath a thick canopy of old-growth rainforest on one of the prettiest little walking tracks in New Zealand.
Day 19: Adventures on Ice
Your trip notes recommend the best way to make the most of this spectacular region. Walk along the glacial riverbed to view the impressive terminal face of Fox Glacier and explore additional trails through neighbouring ancient rainforest. Optional activities allow you access to the glacier, including a variety of glacier hikes and a heli-flight that lands you on the neve.
Day 20: Queenstown Bound
Walk around a forest-rimmed lake created by retreating glaciers long ago before embarking on a stunning drive to Queenstown. Your trip notes identify sensational hidden walks and scenic stops along the way. Dense rainforest gives way to the stark mountains of the Mt Aspiring National Park as you enter the Otago region, New Zealand's outback and home to its high country sheep stations. Queenstown, resting on beautiful Lake Wakatipu and flanked by the aptly named Remarkables mountain range is a stunning setting in which to stay for your remaining three nights.
Day 21: Queenstown
Queenstown is New Zealand's adrenalin center. There is a broad range of optional activities available, including jetboating, horse trekking, whitewater rafting, sky diving, four-wheel-drive adventures, and bungy jumping, or more leisurely pursuits such as walking, fishing and wine trails. Talk to our Travel Consultant about available options.
Day 22: Milford Sound Nature Cruise
Today, we have included a coach excursion into spectacular Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. The journey to the fiord is one of the most scenic on which you could hope to travel. Letting someone else do the driving optimizes your ability to take in the scenery and you'll make brief stops along the way to explore nature's wonders. At Milford Sound, board your vessel and cruise the full length of the fiord and out to the Tasman Sea, passing alongside thundering waterfalls and fur seals basking on the rocks. Return by coach to Queenstown this evening or upgrade to a scenic return flight or overnight cruise (commenced on Day 20).
Day 23: Homeward Bound
Depending on your flight schedule, you'll have time to relax and make final purchases before dropping your rental car at Queenstown airport and traveling home or to your next destination. We're confident you'll leave New Zealand with an experience that will enrich your life for years to come.