Day 1: Arrive Christchurch, New Zealand
Collect your rental car at the airport on arrival into Christchurch, the gateway to New Zealand’s South Island and Canterbury region. Once settled into your accommodation, enjoy some time to explore this elegant garden city.
Day 2: Christchurch to Omarama via Mt Cook National Park
Begin your journey south as you cross the Canterbury Plains into Mackenzie Country. View the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog Memorial at Lake Tekapo. Visit Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, a World Heritage listed site covering over 70,000 hectares of breathtaking alpine scenery before travelling on to Omarama.
Approx. 430km (6 hrs)
Day 3: Omarama to Queenstown
Today you will head over the Lindis Pass to the township of Cromwell before continuing on to Arrowtown, set beneath the rugged Crown Range. This historic village located beside the Arrow River, was once a haven for the gold prospectors of the 1860s and features a fascinating collection of mining cottages with an atmosphere straight out of last century. Later this afternoon, travel to Queenstown, regarded as New Zealand’s premier holiday destination. Tonight, ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for a buffet dinner where the views are unsurpassed.
Approx. 170km (2 hrs 15 mins)
Day 4: Queenstown
Today is a free day to experience this magnificent resort town. Queenstown boasts an incredible array of adventure and leisure activities. You will be spoilt for choice. Experience the thrills of riding on the world-famous Shotover Jet Boat, perhaps cruise Lake Wakatipu on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, take a 4WD tour to the gold mining area of Skippers Canyon or for the adventurous, try white water rafting. Alternatively, browse in the many shops and galleries. Tonight, try one of the award-winning restaurants in town.
Day 5: Spectacular Doubtful Sound Wilderness Experience
After an early breakfast, skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu and travel through lush farmland to Te Anau. A short drive brings you to Manapouri, where you enjoy a leisurely cruise across this picturesque lake to West Arm. This is followed by a trip on New Zealand's most expensive road, travelling over Wilmot Pass and pausing along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and to view Doubtful Sound glistening far below. In Doubtful Sound, you will board the spacious purpose-built catamaran ‘Patea Explorer’, for a three-hour cruise through this pristine fiord. During the cruise, knowledgeable and friendly nature guides will share with you their passion for the region through their commentary. They will answer questions, point out landmarks and provide you with information about the varied wildlife you may encounter like dolphins, fur seals and the rare Fiordland crested penguin. As the majesty of Doubtful Sound unfolds before you, you will be struck by its silence ... a silence broken only by birdsong or the rushing of a distant waterfall. Its beauty and vastness will take your breath away.
Day 6: Queenstown to Franz Josef
Leave Queenstown early this morning and take some time to stop at Lake Wanaka, before heading north. View the untouched wilderness and pristine lakes of the Mt Aspiring and Westland Tai Poutiri National Parks before arriving on the rugged and wild West Coast, home to the twin glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef.
Approx. 350km (4 hrs 40 mins)
Day 7: Franz Josef to Punakaiki
Before your departure this morning, take the opportunity to experience an optional scenic flight over this remarkable region. At Hokitika, stop to visit one of the many pounamu (jade) factories. Pounamu is considered a treasure in Maori culture and is seen as a sign of status and power. Continue on to Punakaiki where you can marvel at the bizarre limestone landscapes of the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.
Approx. 220km (3 hrs)
Day 8: Punakaiki to Nelson
Skirt the west coastline before heading inland to Murchison. Travel north through the Nelson Lakes region before arriving at Nelson, a city of charm based on a harbour that is the busiest fishing port in New Zealand. This afternoon visit the World of Wearable Art and Classic Car Museum.
Approx. 265km (3 hrs 45 mins)
Day 9: Abel Tasman National Park
Take the coach from Nelson to Kaiteriteri to board the 9.30am Vista Cruise departure. Cruise the length of the spectacular Abel Tasman coastline to Totaranui, viewing the fascinating seal colony at Tonga Island Marine Reserve along the way. You will return to the golden expanse of Anchorage Beach to walk (approx. 11.5km) along the easiest section of the coast track, with spectacular views over Tasman Bay. The track winds through sunny kanuka forest with hidden fern grottos and crystal mountain streams. At Marahau you will rejoin your coach for the trip back to Nelson.
Day 10: Nelson to Wellington
A short drive brings you to the picturesque fishing village of Picton. Board the Interislander ferry and cruise through the spectacular Queen Charlotte Sound into Cook Strait. Enjoy stunning views of New Zealand’s capital city as you arrive into Wellington Harbour. Once you have checked in to your hotel, enjoy some time to explore this vibrant city. Situated on the Wellington waterfront, a visit to Te Papa is highly recommended.
Approx. 92km by ferry, 134km by road (5 hrs 10 mins)
Day 11: Wellington to Rotorua
Leaving the city behind, travel through rolling farmland as you enter the Tongariro National Park, dominated by the volcanic cone of Mt Ruapehu. Follow the Desert Road to the popular lakeside resort of Taupo, located on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake. Stop to view the mighty Huka Falls and travel past massive pine forests to reach Rotorua, the centre of Maori culture and famous for its geysers, boiling mud pools and steaming craters.
Approx. 450km (5 hrs 40 mins)
Day 12: Rotorua Sightseeing
Today begins with a visit to the Agrodome to see a unique New Zealand farm show. This is followed by a visit to Te Puia, home to Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here you will witness all of nature’s thermal wonders including silica terraces and the famous Pohutu Geyser. Enjoy some free time this afternoon to enjoy the great range of leisure activities and wildlife parks before visiting Tamaki Maori Village for an evening of fun and culture. You will experience a traditionally prepared hangi followed by a cultural performance featuring Maori songs, chants and dance including the stirring haka.
Day 13: Rotorua to Pauanui
Cross the Mamaku Ranges into the Waikato region, well known for its dairy farming, world-famous horse studs and champion rugby team! At Matamata, you will join a Hobbiton Movie Set tour. Enjoy a visit to the set used in
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Following your tour continue on to Pauanui, a favourite New Zealand holiday beach resort for your overnight stay.
Approx. 190km (2 hrs 30 mins)
Day 14: Pauanui to Auckland
Take time to explore the Coromandel Peninsula this morning, renowned for its natural beauty, green pastures, misty rainforests and pristine golden beaches. Travel onwards to your final destination of Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’. Enjoy a trip to the summit of the magnificent Sky Tower this afternoon, at 328m the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, for superb city and harbour views.
Approx. 150km (2 hrs)
Day 15: Auckland, New Zealand - Conclude your Self-Drive
Return your rental car and enjoy a free day to explore Auckland.
Day 16: Auckland, New Zealand - Begin your Cruise
Cruise departs 06:00 PM
Day 17: Tauranga (Rotorua), New Zealand
Arrives 07:00 AM - Departs 05:00 PM
The curved shoreline of the Bay of Plenty—known in Maori as Te Moana-a-Toi—is home to incredible surfing, white-sand beaches and New Zealand's only active marine volcano. Tauranga, with 130,000 residents, is the largest city on the Bay of Plenty and fifth largest in New Zealand. The city offers visitors a number of water-focused activities, like sailing and kayaking, as well as drier alternatives such as shopping and people-watching at a café in the Historic Village.
Tauranga is also a great jumping-off point for exploring nearby beaches and Te Puke, the kiwifruit capital of the world, as well as a wealth of Maori cultural sites. The world-famous geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, nicknamed Sulfur City, has been a major Polynesian spa resort town since visitors first arrived in the late 1800s. In Maori, roto means lake and rua means two, but Rotorua actually comprises 18 lakes plus an incredible redwood forest.
For the best views, take the gondola up to Skyline Rotorua, a recreation complex atop Mount Ngongotaha. Other day trips you should consider are a boat ride through the incomparable glowworm caves of Waitomo or an unforgettable tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata—a must for all Tolkien fans.
Day 18: Napier, New Zealand
Arrives 12:00 PM - Departs 05:00 PM
The Southern Hemisphere's answer to Miami Beach—at least when it comes to Art Deco architecture—Napier has a perfect mix of natural and manmade beauty. The historic district, which was mostly constructed in the 1930s after a massive earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed the city in 1931, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. As a delicious bonus, there's a thriving food and wine scene, too. Surrounded by the rolling vineyards of the Hawke's Bay wine region and edged by pristine waters, Napier has attracted a host of culinary innovators that has put it on the foodie map over the past two decades. Nature lovers, too, are drawn by this North Island city's scenic splendor and abundant wildlife. Down the coast, colonies of Australasian gannets thrive at Cape Kidnappers. Within the city, Norfolk Island pines line the seafront Marine Parade, a half dozen parks and gardens bloom from September to March (spring and summer Down Under), there are forested hiking trails and active pursuits range from cycling to golf. It's easy to enjoy yourself while soaking up Hawke's Bay's spectacular landscape.
Day 19: Wellington, New Zealand
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 05:00 PM
New Zealand's cool little capital is located at the southern tip of the North Island, meaning it's blessed with a beautiful waterfront, fresh seafood and unpredictable weather. So famously tempestuous is Windy Welly that visitors quickly learn not to go outside without an umbrella and will spend more time than usual talking about the weather. Politics is a hot topic too, with government workers buzzing about the Beehive, as the distinctive Parliament building is colloquially known.
Wellington is also known for culture and cuisine. Learn about Maori history and Kiwiana at Te Papa, the national museum, go behind the scenes of the Lord of the Rings movies made in Wellywood and wash down a plate of chilled bluff oysters with a crisp sauvignon blanc at a Cuba Street restaurant. Gourmands are spoiled for choice with the city's many coffee micro-roasteries, craft breweries, innovative chefs and artisanal markets. Fortunately for your waistline, it’s also a terrific city for walking, hiking and cycling, with a compact historic core hugged by green hills and dotted with impossibly perched houses. They say you can't beat Wellington on a good day—but visitors will soon discover that even if it's wet and windy, it's always a good day to be in Wellington.
Day 20: Akaroa (Christchurch), New Zealand
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 07:00 PM
With a distinctly continental flair, which stands out against the country's Maori roots and British colonial history, Akaroa is New Zealand's only town to have originally been established by the French and is the oldest European settlement on the South Island. French settlers first arrived in 1840 only to discover that the British had been granted dominion of the country after the Treaty of Waitangi, but the French remained and left their mark. The long harbour of Akaroa sits along the Banks Peninsula, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Christchurch, sheltered by the crater of an extinct volcano. The bays surrounding the village have an especially high degree of biodiversity, including the largest colony of little penguins on New Zealand's mainland and the only natural habitat of Hector's dolphin, the smallest and rarest of that mammal family. The region's volcanic history also makes for dramatic geological formations, bucolic high-country farms and dazzling blue waterfronts. Should you stay within the picturesque town, you can stroll the historic rues, marveling at the colonial architecture, enjoying the French-inspired and Kiwi-made cheeses and wine, and soaking up the stunning scenery.
Day 21: Port Chalmers (Dunedin), New Zealand
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 05:00 PM
Much of New Zealand feels like England, by way of Polynesia. There are a few exceptions, though, such as the town of Akaroa, a former French settlement, and the distinctly Scottish city of Dunedin, named after the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh. After Dunedin was founded in 1848, city surveyor Charles Kettle attempted to impose Edinburgh's New Town grid plan on the growing city. But the Otago Peninsula's hilly landscape proved challenging—for evidence, note that Dunedin has one of the world's steepest streets (Baldwin Street). The volcanic remnants around the harbour make for a dramatic backdrop.
Dunedin's prominence during the gold rush in the late 19th century resulted in many grand Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Thanks to the beautiful University of Otago (the country's oldest), there's a large student population to keep the city vibrant and modern. Dunedin's heritage is always proudly on display: The magnificent Dunedin Railway Station and Larnach Castle have been restored to their full glory, and the fascinating Toitu Otago Settlers Museum provides a glimpse into the lives of early residents. Outside the city, the Otago Peninsula is lined with scenic beaches and home to rare birdlife like the royal albatross and yellow-eyed penguin.
Day 22: Cruising Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Every year, visitors flock to New Zealand in search of landscapes straight out of Middle Earth. They find what they're looking for in Fiordland National Park, on the southwestern coast of the South Island. This stunning 12,000-square-kilometre (4,633-square-mile) park encompasses mountains, lakes, fjords and rainforests. The area was once the home of Maori hunters, later European whalers established small settlements here. But mostly, this region has seen a notable lack of human activity—the steep peaks and wet landscape deterred all but the hardiest people. That changed around the end of the 19th century when travellers discovered the beautiful scenery of Fiordland. The national park was formally established in 1952. Countless plant and animal species find a haven here. Among the park's rare birds is the flightless takahe, thought for decades to be extinct until it was spotted in the area in 1948. The natural wonders continue offshore: seals, dolphins and whales frequent these waters.
Day 23: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 24: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 25: Melbourne, Australia
Arrives 08:00 AM - Departs 05:00 PM
Melbourne is consistently voted one of the world's most livable cities—and for good reason. This is Australia’s cosmopolitan heart with cutting-edge art and architecture, historic galleries, attractions and museums, plus a dizzying range of restaurants, bistros, markets and bars. It's renowned for its sporting culture, home to the esteemed Melbourne Cricket Ground and Australian rules football teams.
The famous laneways of Melbourne bustle with hidden bars and eateries, while myriad beaches and parks allow for the ultimate outdoor lifestyle and active things to do. It’s a melting pot of cultures and a city of gourmands who demand excellent food and find it everywhere—from modern Australian cuisine and delicious Asian fusion fare to low-key cafés serving the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.
If you want to leave the city, Melbourne is the gateway to Victoria's world-class wineries and spectacular coastline sights. Visit the famous penguins at nearby Phillip Island or feast on local produce in the picture-perfect Yarra Valley. Wherever you go in and around Melbourne, you’ll be sure to understand why so many choose to call this beautiful corner of the world home.
Day 26: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 27: Port Arthur, Australia
Arrives 07:00 AM - Departs 05:00 PM
The very small town of Port Arthur offers a fascinating introduction into the history and culture of Tasmania—indeed, of Australia as a whole. About a 100-kilometre (62-mile) drive southeast of Hobart, Tasmania's capital, Port Arthur is best known for its past as a penal colony. The Port Arthur convict settlement, which spreads over 40 hectares (100 acres), operated from the 1830s until 1877. Today its stone buildings make up one of several UNESCO-designated Australian Convict Sites on Tasmania. The whalers, miners, farmers and bushrangers who once lived in this region have given way to artists, foodies and rock climbers. The dramatic landscape ties it all together, infusing the identity of the people as well as the incredible food, drink and culture scene, for which Tasmania has become renowned. From the towering sea cliffs around Port Arthur to Hobart's historic Salamanca Place, southeast Tasmania holds much appeal for adventurous travelers. Add in artisan wineries and distilleries and possibly one of the world's strangest museums, and you have a destination that’s easy to fall in love with.
Day 28: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Arrives 09:00 PM - Departs 05:00 PM
Tasmania, once the butt of many jokes, is finally cool. The little Australian island is home to stunning landscapes, old-growth forests and exceptional local produce. Lording over all this goodness is Hobart, the island’s creative capital. Although its remoteness might once have made it feel provincial, the city has truly come into its own in recent years. It’s got one of the world’s best museums of contemporary art, vibrant markets, a cosmopolitan dining scene and eclectic music festivals. It’s also achingly beautiful, with a natural harbour setting and rugged Mount Wellington looming in the background.
The city is compact enough to easily explore on foot. Start at the sandstone area of Salamanca Place with its hip galleries, artist studios and bustling cafés and bars, and then roam the quaint streets of Battery Point, one of Hobart’s oldest neighborhoods. Immerse yourself in nature at the gorgeous Botanical Gardens or head out of town to learn more about Tasmania’s dark, but fascinating past. Fuel up on the freshest seafood straight from the Southern Ocean down at the waterfront or feast on gourmet Tassie produce at one of the many excellent restaurants in town. Whatever you choose to do, we promise you won’t be bored.
Day 29: Day at sea
Enjoy on-board activities.
Day 30: Sydney, Australia
Arrives 07:00 AM
If you want a snapshot of Australia's appeal, look no further than Sydney: The idyllic lifestyle, friendly locals and drop-dead natural beauty of this approachable metropolis and its attractions explain why the country tops so many travelers' wish lists. But Sydney is more than just the embodiment of classic antipodean cool, the city is in a constant state of evolution. A list of what to do in Sydney might start with the white-hot nightlife, with its new cocktail bars and idiosyncratic mixology dens. Inventive restaurants helmed by high-caliber chefs are dishing up everything from posh pan-Asian to Argentine street food, while the famous dining temples that put Sydney on the gastronomic map are still going strong too.
The famed harbour is among the top sights, home to twin icons the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it is the stepping-off point for some of the city's best cultural attractions and sightseeing. In one day, you can sail around the harbour, get a behind-the-scenes tour of the opera house and climb the bridge, with time to spare for people-watching over a flat white at a waterfront café.
Speaking of water, when you plan what to do in Sydney, you will want to include the iconic beaches, where surfers, office workers and tourists alike converge on some of the most gorgeous shoreline scenery anywhere. Bondi, Bronte and Clovelly are all within easy reach of the Central Business District, as is Manly, a charming seaside town located a short ferry ride from Circular Quay. Beyond the city you'll discover UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the chance to encounter Australia's cuddliest wildlife, a perfect way to round out your envy-inducing Sydney photo collection.