The 32-day New Zealand Odyssey self-drive is the ultimate New Zealand travel fantasy. You will practically be able to call yourself a local at the end of this self-drive adventure that takes you from soaring peaks to golden coastline, deep rainforest to volcanic plateau. Highlights include a Milford or Doubtful Sound wilderness cruise and the optional opportunity to do the Tongariro Crossing, listed by National Geographic as one of the world's top 10 one-day walks. Destinations include: Auckland - Bay of Islands - Coromandel Peninsula - Rotorua - Tongariro - Wellington - Marlborough - Nelson - Kaikoura* - Christchurch - Punakaiki - Glaciers - Queenstown - Fiordland - Catlins - Dunedin - Otago Peninsula.
Following is a brief summary of the self-drive tour. Please contact one of our Travel Consultants for a more detailed itinerary that includes driving times and information on suggested activities. Pricing includes pre-booked accommodation, arrival transfer in Auckland, rental car and insurance, ferry to the South Island, a Milford or Doubtful Sound 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. team member will meet you in Auckland, assist with rental car collection, and take you through your tour documentation, providing tips on driving and travel in New Zealand. Rest up from your journey then head out and explore this vibrant waterfront city.
Day 2: Auckland to Bay of Islands
It's a scenic drive to the remote and peaceful Northland region. The beautiful Bay of Islands is your retreat for the next three nights. Your notes will suggest a self-guided hike that takes in the picturesque surroundings.
Day 3: Bay of Islands - Day on the Bay
Spend the day enjoying this maritime paradise. Optional activities include sailing on the bay in a tall sailing ship, taking a dolphin-watching trip amongst the islands, or visiting the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds. A Black Sheep consultant can advise of pricing and secure your booking.
Day 4: Bay of Islands - Hiking in the Bay
Spend this day exploring the region. Northland was once covered by mighty kauri trees, ancient giants challenged only by redwoods in circumference. Spend a day on self-guided walks beneath their canopy and visit nearby Kerikeri, with its historic Stone Store and waterfall tracks (identified in your notes). Return to the Bay for your final night there.
Day 5: Bay of Islands to Auckland
Return to Auckland, making optional scenic stops along the way, including a visit to one of New Zealand's largest gannet colonies. North of Auckland, on the wild and rugged west coast, spectacular sandstone pillars provide breeding and nesting grounds for these captivating birds. A walk-way provides a close-up opportunity to view their activities.
Day 6: Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula
From Auckland, travel to the lush Coromandel Peninsula, a laid back getaway loved by Kiwis and often overlooked by overseas visitors. This afternoon, hike to a secluded cove guarded by pohutukawa trees and majestic sandstone formations. Your accommodation for the next two nights lies in a quaint seaside settlement adjacent to one of the country's most picturesque beaches.
Day 7: Coromandel - Exploring the Peninsula
The day is free to explore this beautiful region. Optional activities include a visit to a unique rainforest railway, following the snorkel trail in the Te Whanganui-a-Hei marine reserve, or enjoying the phenomenon of Hot Water Beach. There is also a great range of hikes in the region. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant has details.
Day 8: Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua
Head south, through some of the North Island's most popular resort towns, to Rotorua, a center for Maoridom and an active geothermal region. Explore Maori culture, luxuriate in geothermal spa facilities, and enjoy the many adventures on offer here, including outstanding biking and hiking trails and an optional deviation to Hobbiton. Details of options are included in your self-drive packet in consultation with your Black Sheep Travel Consultant.
Day 9: Rotorua - Geothermal Adventure
Today, a range of optional activities allow you to explore the region's fascinating geothermal features: take a launch to the active White Island volcano for a guided excursion in this unique landscape, take a scenic flight over steaming valleys and the giant rift left by the Mt Tarawera eruption, or view boiling mud, hot lakes and geysers in a diverse and colourful thermal reserve.
Day 10: Rotorua to Tongariro
Day 11: Tongariro - Exploring the National Park
Depart Rotorua and continue to journey south to Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Just north of the lake, pause at Huka Falls and watch the Waikato River squeeze through a narrow gorge and into a beautiful blue/green pool below. Arrive at your lodgings for the next two nights at the base of Mt Ruapehu. There are a number of good short hikes that leave from the village area and nearby.
Tongariro National Park was the first national park in New Zealand and holds dual World Heritage status for its geological and cultural significance. This is premier fly fishing country and there are many exceptional short hikes and mountain biking trails in the region. For something more challenging, consider the Tongariro Crossing, arguably New Zealand's best full day hike and considered one of the best in the world. Ask your Black Sheep Travel Consultant for details.
Day 12: Tongariro to Wellington
Travel along the Desert Road for amazing views of Tongariro's volcanoes and through the wide river valleys of the Manawatu on route to Wellington, the country's capital. Enjoy this vibrant, compact, waterfront city during your overnight stay. Your trip notes will identify highlights.
Day 13: Wellington to Nelson via Marlborough
This morning, board your vessel for your crossing of the Cook Strait to the South Island. Glide past the beautiful coastline of the Marlborough Sounds and land in Picton. Collect your rental car and travel to the renowned Marlborough wine region. Choose your designated driver and consider tastings and a vineyard lunch before continuing to Nelson perched on the Tasman Bay. Your notes identify a worthwhile short hike in the heart of Hobbit country on route. Settle in for your two-night stay.
Day 14: Nelson - Abel Tasman National Park
A scenic drive around the bay from Nelson, The Abel Tasman National Park is arguably a must do as one of the most beautiful parks in the country. The stunning features of the park are best experienced by both land and sea. We recommend you take a sea kayaking expedition along the coast, exploring remote bays and stopping to stroll golden beaches and hike the forest track. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can advise on details and pre-book for you (recommended).
Day 15: Nelson to Kaikoura
Bid Nelson farewell and travel to Kaikoura, New Zealand's marine-life Mecca, with suggested stops along the way. Take a self-guided hike this afternoon amongst natural limestone sculptures, nesting sea birds and snoozing fur seals as you enjoy the stunning sea and mountain views. Tonight is a chance to sample the local specialty, crayfish (lobster), against the backdrop of the bay.
Day 16: Kaikoura - Marine Life Encounters
A range of optional activities allow you to witness Kaikoura's abundant wildlife in their natural habitat: view sperm whales by sea or air, swim with dolphins or fur seals, take a pelagic bird-watching trip offshore to the feeding grounds of albatross, petrals and more. Talk to your Black Sheep Travel Consultant about these and other options.
Day 17: Kaikoura to Christchurch
Journey south along scenic coastline and through the fertile farmland of the Canterbury region to the city of Christchurch, New Zealand's Garden City. Though the site of a devastating earthquake in 2010, the city is an inspiring example of hope and creativity, with art and ingenuity everywhere. The city's favourite features remain: stroll through the vast Botanical Gardens, visit the fascinating displays at the Canterbury Museum or hire a punt or canoe on the Avon River.
Day 18: Christchurch to Punakaiki
This morning, drive inland and cross the glorious Southern Alps to the wild West Coast region. Snow-capped peaks, alpine rivers and karst outcrops give way to lush ferns and dramatic coastline as you wind your way to your destination. The next two nights are spent on the edge of the Paparoa National Park, home to the intriguing Pancake Rocks. Explore hidden tracks outlined in your trip notes and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful, remote area.
Day 19: Punakaiki - Taking the Underground
This region is know for its limestone landscape and is honeycombed with intricate cave systems. These can be explored in a choice of ways, including taking a scenic caving hike or doing a renowned and unforgettable cave rafting trip. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can advise on the options for this day, including enjoyable above-ground alternatives.
Day 20: Punakaiki to the Glaciers
Depart this morning for a spectacular drive to New Zealand's glacier region. Stop in Franz Josef for a view of the glacier there, then travel to the quaint sister village of Fox where you'll settle for the next two nights. Nearby is perhaps one of the prettiest trails in New Zealand where you can walk beneath a thick canopy of old-growth rainforest before dinner.
Day 21: Fox Glacier - Adventures on Ice
There are a number of optional ways to explore Fox Glacier and the surrounding region. A hiking track along glacial riverbed offers fantastic views of the glacier's terminal face. Access onto the glacier can be done through a range of guided expeditions, from half-day hikes to helicopter landings that offer extraordinary views of the Fox Glacier ice fall. Your trip notes offer insight into additional options in the area, including hiking and biking trails.
Day 22: Queenstown Bound
Today, you're in for on a stunning drive to Queenstown. Your trip notes identify sensational hidden stops along the way as you pass through the Mt Aspiring National Park and enter the Otago region, New Zealand's equivalent of the Wild West. Pause in the stunning lakeside town of Wanaka before crossing the impressive Crown Range and descending to Queenstown. Resting on the edge of beautiful Lake Wakatipu and backed by the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown is a stunning setting for the next two nights.
Day 23: Queenstown
Queenstown is the world capital of adventure. To join in the spirit, consider a ride on the thrilling Shotover Jet or visit nearby Arrowtown and the historic Kawarau bungy bridge to watch others take the plunge. There is a huge range of optional activities available, both of the flat-out fun and the laid-back leisure variety. Talk to your Black Sheep Travel Consultant about what's on offer.
Day 24: Te Anau and Fiordland Nature Cruise*
This morning, depart Queenstown and drive through rolling countryside to Te Anau, on the edge of the South Island's largest lake, Lake Te Anau. Here, join your coach excursion to spectacular Fiordland National Park. The journey to the fiord is one of the most scenic road trips you could hope to travel. Upon reaching the fiord, board your vessel and cruise its length, passing dramatic waterfalls and wildlife on route to the mouth of the fiord and the Tasman Sea. *In summer, your excursion is to Milford Sound and will include an overnight stay on your vessel. In winter, your journey is a spectacular day trip to Doubtful Sound, returning to Te Anau for a relaxed two-night stay there. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can provide more details.
Day 25: Te Anau
Depending on the time of year (see above), you will return to Te Anau on this day from Milford Sound, or awake here for a leisurely day exploring this beautiful lakeside location. Optional activities include hiking, biking, boat trips, night-sky tours, and a guided trip across the lake to fascinating glowworm caves. Your trip notes will have recommendation
Day 26: Te Anau to the Catlins
Day 27: The Catlins to Dunedin
Journey south from Te Anau to our southernmost city, Invercargill. From there, take the scenic, winding road through the Catlins, an area undiscovered by the touring masses and home to rare wildlife, including Hector's Dolphins, penguins, seals and sealions. Wilderness beaches, waterfalls, forested walkways, lakes and rivers provide non-stop scenery on this touring route. Your trip notes highlight features along the way. Tonight is spent in a charming settlement in the region.
Depart this morning for the city of Dunedin, home to Otago University. The architecture and ambience of this lively university town hark back strongly to its Scottish roots, dubbing it the “Edinburgh of the South”. Walk amongst the grand Victorian buildings and enjoy the vibe of city before settling in for the night.
Day 28: The Otago Peninsula
Dunedin rests at the base of the Otago Peninsula, home to a remarkable number of rare sub-Antarctic animal species, including the yellow-eyed penguin, the Hooker’s sea lion, and the royal albatross. Take advantage of their accessibility by spending time exploring the wildlife here and hiking the labyrinth of trails that overlook the stunning coastline. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant has details on guided wildlife encounters and other options for the region.
Day 29: Dunedin to Mt Cook
Head north along the coast before turning inland, toward Aoraki Mt Cook. The alpine setting is spectacular and once settled into your lodging in Mt Cook village, you will have the chance to grab your camera and investigate your surroundings.
Day 30: Mt Cook
Hiking opportunities abound here. Watch for unique alpine flora and fauna such as the large mountain buttercup, the Mt. Cook lily, and the mischievous mountain parrot, the kea. In season, consider an optional guided boat trip on the Tasman Glacier's terminal lake, viewing icebergs and the impressive glacier face. Far from the city lights, this area has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand – perfect for star gazing on a clear night.
Day 31: Mt Cook to Christchurch
Take a leisurely drive to Christchurch with scenic stops along the way, including the startlingly-blue Lake Tekapo and a lush native forest of stately podocarps. Enjoy your final night in New Zealand, reveling in your journey.
Day 32: Homeward Bound
Depending on your flight schedule, have a relaxed morning in the Garden City before dropping your rental car at Christchurch airport and traveling home or to your next destination, wondering what could possibly be left on your bucket list.