Mountains high, forests deep

The 45-day New Zealand Traverse self drive is like no other. Taking you well and truly off the beaten track, this trip features multi-day, lodge-based hikes on some of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks tracks, including the Abel Tasman, the Routeburn, and the one-day Tongariro Crossing, described by National Geographic magazine as one of the best day hikes in the world. Other highlights include glacier heli-hiking, wildlife encounters, winery cycling, and an unforgettable overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. You can practically call yourself a Kiwi after this trip.

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Based on 2 ppl, double occupancy. Prices vary depending on season. Request Your Date for exact pricing and a range of activity add-ons.

Length45 days | 44 nights
DestinationAuckland to Christchurch

Classic Stays
Modern, well-appointed properties that provide a comfortable, convenient base from which to explore. Perfect for the region, they’re typically within easy access to cafes and other amenities.

Premier Stays
Quality lodgings in superb settings, from stylish lakeside lodges to restful alpine retreats. Note that in a few cases, Classic Stays are used on a trip classified overall as Premier to allow access to stunning, remote locations where Premier Stays are not available.

Luxe Stays
Exclusive, indulgent hideaways with exceptional facilities and service. The best in New Zealand (and perhaps the world). Note that in a few cases, Premier Stays are used on a trip classified overall as Luxe to allow access to stunning, remote locations where Luxe Stays are not available.

Special Stays
Some tours feature overnight cruises and multiple-day hikes, with stays in private lodges or Department of Conservation huts, for special wilderness experiences.


You’re comfortable on tracks with gently undulating terrain and can move comfortably and freely. Suitable for families with young children. Note, activity add-ons may change rating.

You enjoy walking/light hiking, can handle a hill or two, and appreciate life-affirming soft adventures that dip a toe outside your comfort zone.

You’ve got a bit of Kiwi in you and are ready to hit the hills and push yourself a little. Some of these trips include multi-day hikes that get you further into the wild. It’s not all Bear Grylls, though. You’re happy to enjoy a rewarding glass of pinot at day’s end.

This is an overall guide. Our trips include a range of activities across the spectrum. Request a Detailed Itinerary for more details on fitness levels needed for individual activities.

StyleSelf Drive

Small Group
Scheduled, guided adventures with just the right number of like-minded travellers to share in the laughs and make new friends.

Guided, professionally crafted trips with your own group and your choice of travel dates.

Self Drive
Self-guided, stress-free road trips with all the elements sorted for you. Our professionally crafted itineraries and booking team, your dates and travel companions.

Guided or self-guided, this is your personal New Zealand dream made manifest. A fully customized experience based on your passions, finessed with our professional planning.

Walking & Hiking,

Daily Brief

Click on the orange icons to read about lodging along the way (not available on mobile). C=Classic, P=Premier, L=Luxe, S=Special Stays. Note accommodation may vary based on departure date. For hotel links and more information, Request a Detailed Itinerary above.

Welcome to New Zealand! You will be transferred to your accommodation in central Auckland, where a Black Sheep team member will meet you to take you through your tour documentation and explain the rental car collection process. The remainder of the day is free to recover from your journey and to explore the city.


Drive to the remote and scenic Northland region, home to the beautiful Bay of Islands. Accommodation for the next three nights is in the peaceful seaside town of Paihia, gateway to the Bay. Your notes will point you to worthwhile stops along the way.


Today, consider a sailing cruise amongst the islands, go marine-life-spotting and explore intriguing coastline via launch, swim with resident bottle-nosed dolphins (in season) or take a scenic flight and visit the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s northern most point and a sacred place to Maori. Your Travel Shepherd can advise on optional activities and pricing.


Visit the charming historic hamlet of Russell across the bay. View some of New Zealand’s oldest buildings and enjoy its waterfront cafes. Back in Paihia, take an optional tour of the culturally significant Waitangi Treaty Grounds, view a Maori cultural performance and learn about early Maori and colonial settlement in this cradle of New Zealand as a nation.


Depart the Bay and travel west to the scenic Hokianga Harbour. Along the way, visit historic Kerikeri and guide yourself on waterfall walks or amongst arborial giants in the Puketi Forest before settling into your lodge overlooking the Waipoua Forest, home to Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest living kauri tree.


After a leisurely morning around the lodge, explore the outer Hokianga area with its pristine beaches and giant sand dunes. Tonight, join a guided twilight tour of Waipoua Forest to experience the affinity that early Maori had with the forest and the deep spiritual respect they hold for the giants still growing there.


Bid Northland farewell and return to Auckland with an optional scenic stop along the way. Just north of the city, on the ruggedly beautiful west coast, is one of New Zealand's largest gannet colonies. Detour for a close-up view of these wonderful birds as they court, breed, and nest.


Depart Auckland and head for the lush and peaceful Coromandel Peninsula. Take a self-guided hike along the coast to a secluded cove featuring beautiful sandstone formations. Your lodging for the next two nights is nestled in native bush just minutes’ walk from a beautiful white-sand beach.


Explore the peninsula today: stand beneath the world’s largest ferns, visit a unique rainforest railway, follow a snorkel trail in a marine reserve, experience the phenomenon of Hot Water Beach, or swim at beautiful sheltered bays.


Head south via the historic gold mining town of Waihi to Rotorua, a cultural centre for Maoridom and an active volcanic region. Maori culture, spa rejuvenation and adventure activities, including some of the country’s best mountain bike trails, are on offer here.


Explore some of the regions dynamic geothermal features with an array of optional activities, including visiting colourful geothermal valleys, flying over the volcanic rift of Mt Tarawera, and more. Other options such as walks, kayaking, golf, fishing, biking and more are available.


Depart Rotorua and journey south to Tongariro via Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Consider calling in to the mighty Huka Falls on route, then carry on to Tongariro National Park and your accommodation at the stately Chateau Tongariro.


Today, take one of New Zealand’s most scenic day hikes: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Walk in a majestic landscape dotted with volcanic craters, scoured volcanic rocks, mountain springs, and brightly coloured emerald lakes. Return to your lodge for a well-earned rest and reflect on your day.


Depart Tongariro and descend from the volcanic plateau to the plains of bountiful Hawkes Bay. This is the country’s oldest wine region, renowned for award winning wines and fresh local produce. Settle in for your two-night stay in the city of Napier, world-famous for its Art Deco architecture.


Spend the day exploring the region. Drive to the top of Te Mata Peak for stunning views of the area, hire a bike and follow the network of cycling or wine trails, take an Art Deco walking tour, or visit the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony. Details are included in your self-drive packet.


Journey south through forestry and sheep farms, vineyards and market gardens along the Wairarapa’s wide river valleys. Deviate to charming Martinborough for an included pedal and picnic amongst the vines on your way to Wellington, New Zealand’s picturesque capital city.


The day is free to explore Wellington’s many attractions. View the extensive displays at Te Papa, New Zealand’s impressive national museum; tour Parliament; ride the historic cable car to the Botanic Gardens; or stroll through the nature preserve of Zealandia. Dine at one of many amazing restaurants recommended in your notes.


The morning is free to explore Wellington further before dropping your car at Wellington Airport and flying to sun-drenched Nelson in the South Island (note, flight is additional). You will be transferred on arrival to your centrally located hotel.


Today is the start of an unforgettable, three-day Abel Tasman National Park hiking and sea kayaking adventure. Coach from Nelson to the launching point of your scenic cruise into the park. Land at a beautiful crescent beach for your walk through native forest to your lodge overlooking the breathtaking expanse of Awaroa Inlet.


Wake to breakfast overlooking the gardens and the ever-changing views of the inlet. Walk with your guide to the golden expanse of Onetahuti Beach then paddle to Torrent Bay, through Tonga Island Marine Reserve, exploring hidden inlets along the way.


Wake up to morning light on the bay and perhaps a coffee on the deck before a hearty home-cooked breakfast to set you up for another day of scenic paddling. Depart the Abel Tasman and return to the Airport to pick up your rental car for the South Island portion of your self-drive tour.


Nelson has it all. Great weather, a lively arts and crafts community, excellent cafes, wineries, craft breweries, beaches, mountains and three national parks nearby. We recommend a drive through the Ruby Coast area which offers vineyards, artisan food producers, artists and delightful cafes.


Journey east to Picton, the departure point for water taxis into the Marlborough Sounds. Explore this charming seaside town or visit the renowned Marlborough wine region before your pre-hike briefing this evening.


A water taxi takes you to Ship Cove where your walk begins. This historic reserve was a favourite anchorage for Captain Cook during his explorations in the 1770s. Experience virgin beech forest at its best plus stunning views of the Queen Charlotte Sound as you begin the first leg of your journey.


Today’s coastal walk takes you around the inlet through regenerating native bush. Enjoy the call of bellbirds, tuis and other native birds as you hike from bay to bay on your way to your evening’s resting place at Punga Cove.


It’s a challenging day on the ridgeline, but you’re rewarded by truly grand vistas around every corner. Those who feel like a day’s rest can opt for an optional boat ride around the bays of the Queen Charlotte Sound to your destination.


Farewell your lodge and ascend to the ridgeline once again, enjoying stunning views. Open farmland and a lush native bush section is the finale before you rendezvous with your private water taxi for your transfer back to Picton for a well-earned rest.


Journey south to the picturesque alpine village of Hanmer Springs, the South Island's thermal spa resort. Enjoy an array of therapeutic pools interconnected with thermal streams set amidst alpine scenery or indulge in a spa treatment at your luxury lodge. Hanmer also has a great variety of mountain bike and walking trails, a golf course, and more.


Continue your journey through the Canterbury region to your luxury lodge situated near the highest pass in the Southern Alps. The lodge, sited on its own 4,000-acre high-country sheep station and nature reserve, is a wonderful base from which to explore the area’s unique features.


Immerse yourself in high-country ecology with the lodge’s guided activities and exploring its network of mountain, river, forest, and farm trails. Enjoy a restful evening stargazing beneath the southern sky, browsing in the lodge’s well-stocked library or just enjoying the mountain views whilst savouring memories of your four-course dinner.


Witness a dramatic change in scenery as you descend from Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast. Upon reaching the coast, it’s a spectacular drive to New Zealand's glacier region. View Franz Josef Glacier, then travel to the sister village of Fox and settle into your alpine accommodation set on the edge of old-growth rainforest.


This morning, take a half-day heli-hike on the glacier, exploring ice pinnacles and crevasses, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Spend the rest of the day exploring the region with glacier, lake and rainforest walking and cycling tracks.


It’s a spectacular drive through the Mt Aspiring National Park to Queenstown. Your notes will identify scenic stops and hidden walks along the way. Pause in Wanaka then drive over the awesome Crown Range. In Queenstown, settle into your hotel overlooking Lake Wakatipu before hitting this vibrant town.


There’s no better place than Queenstown to fulfill that bucket list. To get you in the spirit of a little derring do, we’ve included a thrilling ride on the iconic Shotover Jet through the scenic Shotover River Canyon. The rest of the day is free to enjoy as you choose before your pre-hike briefing this afternoon.


Today is the start of your 3-day hike on the renowned Routeburn Track, a New Zealand Great Walk. Coach from Queenstown to the Divide on the scenic Milford Road and begin your gradual climb on a well-formed track. Take an optional ascent to Key Summit and pass waterfalls and alpine lakes on your way to your lodge set in the Lake Mackenzie basin.


Climb through ancient forest draped in moss and lichen and ascend above the treeline for vistas of the Darran Mountains and the Hollyford Valley, which cuts through Fiordland to the distant Tasman Sea. After lunch at the Harris Saddle, walk around Lake Harris and descend into the upper basins of the Routeburn Valley to the beautifully located Routeburn Falls Lodge where you will be treated to a special dinner.


Descend to the alpine pastures of the Routeburn Flats. The track shadows the river as it roars through a magnificent gorge. Your guides will find the deepest green pool for you to picnic beside. From here it is a gentle walk through the beech forest to the trail end. A coach will take you back to Queenstown to settle back into your hotel.


Travel from Queenstown to Te Anau, the starting point for your Doubtful Sound overnight experience. Coach to nearby Lake Manapouri and cross its crystal waters, joining another coach for your ride over Wilmot Pass to the fiord. Board your vessel and cruise the length of the fiord, watching for wildlife with your onboard nature guide. Return to a sheltered cove to anchor for the night and absorb the overwhelming beauty all around.


This morning, wake to a hearty breakfast as you cruise back to land, rare witness to a Doubtful Sound dawn. Return to Te Anau and settle into your hotel for a relaxing afternoon in this peaceful lakeside town. Your notes will identify lakeside walks and other options.


This morning, journey to the university town of Dunedin. We recommend the scenic route via the remote and beautiful Catlins region, an area undiscovered by the touring masses. Wilderness beaches, waterfalls, marshland, lakes and rivers provide non-stop scenery on this route, as well as the chance to view seals, sealions, Hector’s Dolphins, penguins, a petrified forest and more.


Spend the day exploring the Otago Peninsula, home to a number of rare sub-Antarctic animal species. Your tour includes a visit to the Royal Albatross breeding colony and a tour to view rare hoiho (yellow-eyed) penguins. Hike the labyrinth of trails that overlook the peninsula and consider a visit to iconic Larnach Castle with commanding views back to the city.


Head north along the coast, passing the geologically intriguing Moeraki Boulders, before turning inland toward Aoraki Mt Cook. The alpine setting is spectacular. Once settled into your lodging in Mt Cook Village, head out and explore


Hiking opportunities abound here and we recommend exploring on foot, watching for unique alpine flora and fauna. Included today is a fascinating boat excursion on Tasman Glacier's terminal lake. Your guide offers a wealth of knowledge as you pass alongside icebergs to view the dynamic glacier face. This area has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand, perfect for an included stargazing outing tonight.


Drive to Christchurch with optional scenic stops along the way. On arrival, head out to see the city sights. Hire a punt on the Avon, visit the Canterbury Museum, stroll through the Botanical Gardens, or tour the inspiring art installations that mask the city's post-quake rebuild. Enjoy your final dinner in one of the city's great restaurants.


Depending on your flight schedule, spend a leisurely morning in the city before dropping your rental car off at Christchurch Airport and awaiting your flight home. Next door is the worthwhile International Antarctic Centre should you wish to squeeze in one last activity before your reluctant departure.

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If you already have a dream in mind, our Travel Shepherds await the challenge of bringing it to fruition. Request a Custom Quote based on your interests.

Trip Inclusions

Of course, a successful road trip is more than just your hands on the wheel and the wind in your hair. See below for the inclusions in your Self Drive journey—inclusions that take the stress out of your trip, so all you have to do is worry about that hairdo.


All accommodation during your tour

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Waipoua twilight encounter
Tongariro Crossing
Winery cycle tour
Abel Tasman 3 day / 2 night guided hike & kayak
Queen Charlotte Track 4 day / 3 night independent hike
Fox Glacier heli-hike
Shotover Jet boat ride
Routeburn Track 3 day / 2 night guided hike
Doubtful Sound overnight cruise
Otago Peninsula wildlife encounter
Tasman Glacier boat expedition
Big Sky stargazing at Aoraki Mt Cook

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Included meals as outlined in your itinerary. Meal inclusions may change based on hotel availability.

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Compact automatic rental car (Toyota Corolla or similar) with no-excess insurance and unlimited kilometres
Arrival transfer in Auckland
Arrival transfer in Nelson
Water taxi trips as detailed

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Professional office staff to help plan every aspect of your trip
Detailed pre-trip information
Meet and greet by a Black Sheep team member upon arrival (Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown only)
Detailed Self Drive touring pack delivered on arrival
Background support from Black Sheep HQ
Flight assistance available

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Gear & Amenities

Stainless steel water bottle & holder
NZ road atlas
Trip notes with detailed itinerary, directions, insider tips, dining and activity recommendations, and more

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New Zealand Traverse
Self Guided
Self Drive