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Ultimate New Zealand Explorer

Fly Drive New Zealand Holidays in 2017 / 2018

This 21 day ultimate explorer self-drive package is exclusive to Barrhead Travel. Travel the length of New Zealand experiencing wonderful scenery, unique adventures and of course the friendly kiwi hospitality. This itinerary visits Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Picton. Kaikoura, Christchurch, Mt Cook, Dunedin, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Wanaka, Franz Josef Glacier and more. An ideal and complete package that can be customised indefinitely to suit you.

Book any of our fly drive New Zealand holidays and you’ll soon be jetting off to enjoy your amazing holiday itinerary.

ItineraryCollapse All
Days 1 & 2: Fly from the UK to New Zealand

Depart UK on indirect flight to New Zealand.

Day 3: Auckland

Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation. On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation. Your tour documentation pack and support Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities - along with relevant brochures and information. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support - details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.

Day 4: Auckland

Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture, humming with life. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour - try your hand at sailing an America’s Cup yacht - or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience. Walk (if you're that way inclined) to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and lose yourself in one of the 800 regional national parks on offer or grab a book and relax on a deserted beach. Head up the Sky Tower, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) and have a meal in the 360 degree revolving restaurant. Scale the outermost perimeter of the Harbour Bridge - or test your stomach and bungy off both. To end your day, catch a cab to Ponsonby Road and sample some upmarket culinary delights.

Day 5: Auckland to Rotorua

Collect your rental car .This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.GPS navigation system Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton. The drive south from Auckland on State Highway 1 quickly takes you into rolling green farmland and the rich dairy pasture of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of great Auckland and its here you turn inland to central Waikato. This is hobbit country and the route takes you to the town of Matamata where you can still visit the film locations made famous in the Lord of the Rings trilogy at Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Discover the real Middle-earth on the most picturesque private farmland, where you can visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films in a fascinating 2 hour guided tour. Your tour starts with a drive through the picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges. Your guide will escort you through the twelve acre site recounting fascinating details of how the Hobbiton Movie set was created. The Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, Mill and other structures created for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films can be viewed and you will see how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-Earth.

Matamata to Rotorua

Just south of Matamata is the township of Tirau, home to the largest tin sheep and sheepdog, but it also offers a surprising number of bric a brac, art, craft and antique stores if you feel like browsing.

Arriving into the City of Rotorua the regions geothermal activity becomes evident as you see steam rising from the roadside and surrounding hills.

Day 6: Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs. Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill. Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

Day 7: Rotorua to Wellington

The drive from Rotorua to Wellington takes you via the township of Taupo and New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo. Just north of the town are the Huka Falls and a short detour to view is advised. An easy walking track from the car park will lead you to a viewing platform, but if you want to get even closer, the thrilling Huka Jet boat ride will do just that. Craters of the Moon is a nearby geothermal reserve with well-formed walking tracks around its many boiling pools and steaming vents. Heading into town the lake comes into view. Lake Taupo is a gigantic volcanic caldera (collapsed crater) formed during one of the world’s largest eruptions – estimated to have taken place 1800 year ago. Follow the lake shore south and you pass Turangi, a mecca for fly fishing. You then ascend onto the central plateau into the high country Rangipo Desert.

Skirting Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites you may be lucky enough to see the peaks of the still volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Tongariro. The third visible peak is Mt Ngauruhoe and it may look familiar to you, as it was used to depict Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. A little further along this vast landscape you’ll reach the military town of Waiouru, the Army Museum here holds an incredible collection of New Zealand military memorabilia and history on its servicemen. Descending from the mountain region you pass through rich farmland and the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving on the Kapiti Coast.
The coastal seaside towns of Paraparaumu, Paekakariki and Plimmerton are worth a short detour before arriving into the capital city of Wellington. Plan to take most of the day for this drive. Wellington City is New Zealand's capital. It sits on a wonderful deep natural harbour and is surrounded by bush clad hills. The city centre itself is quite compact (approximately 2 square kilometres) so exploring on foot is relatively easy. From your city centre accommodation you can easily stroll the cafes and restaurants around Courtenay Place and if you arrive early enough New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, is also close by.

Day 8: Wellington City

New Zealand's capital, Wellington, sits on a large natural harbour at the bottom of the North Island. This proximity to Cook Strait which separates the two islands is responsible for the nickname "Windy Wellington" due to the strong winds whipped up in the Strait that occasionally batter the city. Despite the sometimes wild weather Wellington is a beautiful city to explore. 


The mix of modern high rise, colonial historic and wonderful timber villas that cling to the hillsides give the city a true diversity and a fitting mix for a capital with a rich history. Parliament’s executive offices are an iconic Wellington landmark and the nickname "The Beehive" is very apt. Wellington is also home to a selection of great museums such as Te Papa - New Zealand's national museum (not to be missed), The National Library and the Museum of Wellington City and Sea.

For great views of the city and the harbour take the Cable Car from Lambton Quay up into the hills of Kelburn, 130 metres above the city. The ride finishes at the botanic gardens, a 26 hectare park with rose gardens, exotic trees and native forest displays.

Day 9: Interislander ferry Wellington to Kaikoura

The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Leaving Wellington Harbour you pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph). From the Cook Strait spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many sea birds are often seen. Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds. This region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays is a remarkable photographic opportunity. At the end of Queen Charlotte Sound the cruise comes to an end in the picturesque town of Picton.


Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

Picton to Kaikoura From Picton you head south on state Highway 1 towards Blenheim which sits right at the heart of the New Zealand's largest wine producing region, Marlborough. Ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce, the best way to do this is to take a guided wine tour with Sounds Connection Wine Tours.
Crossing the ‘dry hills’ of the Marlborough ranges you head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometres and offers many chances to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. To the east is the turquoise of the South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is a bustling little place with many cafes, restaurants and shops but the main reason for visiting here is the wildlife.

Day 10: Kaikoura

Kaikoura is renowned for its wildlife and this is the main draw card for visitors. The seas along the coast offer a plentiful food supply for whales, seals and dolphins and these magnificent animals can be observed all year round. Seals are the easiest animals to view with a colony at the tip of the peninsular and many basking along the coast road. Whale Watch Kaikoura run a 4 hour excursion by boat to view the marine wildlife and you will have around a 95% chance of spotting a whale. If you don't enjoy the sea then Wings over Whales can also take you wildlife spotting on a 30 minute scenic flight. Another great local activity is to swim with the resident seal population and Seal Swim Kaikoura operate both land based and boat based trips. Of course there are many other great reasons to visit Kaikoura; the township has a charming atmosphere with lots of small shops, cafes and restaurants and not to be missed is a crayfish meal - the town’s signature dish. Historic Fyffe House located on Kaikoura Peninsula provides a fascinating insight into the original settlers lives.  Further along the peninsula you can enjoy hiking, quad biking, mountain biking and golf to mention just a few activities. It’s definitely the scenery that steals the show in Kaikoura, with some of the best coastal views in the country.

Day 11: Kaikoura to Christchurch

The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch continues to follow the spectacular coastline before heading inland and through North Canterbury’s major wine region, the Waipara Valley. You are also introduced you to the South Island’s most numerous inhabitant, the sheep. A great detour to take is the side trip to Hanmer Springs for a relaxing dip in the thermal pools.


Arriving into Christchurch City puts you close to the airport and the International Antarctic Centre and a visit is highly recommended. Here you can get as close to experiencing life on the frozen continent without actually visiting plus see New Zealand little blue penguins and ride in a Haaglund Tracked vehicle.

Day 12: Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Today you head into the heart of the South Island. Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route, Geraldine offers an ideal stop before you head into the Mackenzie Country. Ascending Burkes Pass, you'll enter New Zealand's high country. The picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, is the first of the large Southern Lakes on your journey. Enjoy the magnificent views from the lake shore or for an even better view take a scenic flight. On arriving at Lake Pukaki, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of Mt Cook, towering over the lake. Continue along the lake as it guides you to your destination, Mt. Cook Village. There are many ways to enjoy Mt Cook National Park, by ski plane or helicopter with a glacier landing, kayaking on a glacial lake or by walking one of the many tracks. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre is a must see.

Day 13: Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

As you leave Mt Cook National Park, you'll travel past Twizel, the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes. Heading down the Waitaki valley, from Omarama, you follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. The town of Oamaru is most famous for its white stone buildings, constructed with the local 'Oamaru Stone'. From the harbour, you can see blue penguins come ashore at dusk as they return from their day at sea. Further south the Moeraki Boulders are a unique geological feature and worth the short detour to the beach to view. Arriving into Dunedin, you can appreciate the city's Edwardian and Scottish heritage through its fine buildings particularly around the Octagon.

Day 14: Otago Peninsula Wildlife

Enjoy a scenic Otago Peninsula tour by bus seeing various species of wading birds in their natural habitats. Experience a guided tour at the Royal Albatross This premier package includes the full Otago Harbour and Taiaroa Head wildlife cruise, scenic Otago Peninsula bus tour, and guided tours of the Royal Albatross Colony, the Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve and a visit to wading bird habitats. Also includes either a tour of Larnach Castle, one of Dunedin’s great landmarks or a visit to the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre with its absorbing display of local sealife.

Day 15: Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te Anau takes you through classic Southland farmland scenery but if you want to spend the whole day exploring a little off the beaten path than taking the Southern Scenic Route. This will bring you through The Catlins area, following the incredible Otago coastline to Invercargill. After passing through the fishing towns of Riverton and Colac Bay, you'll head north to Manapouri. From here, you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound. A short drive further, brings you to your lake side destination of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and the world famous Milford Sound.

Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Your Te Anau Glowworm Cave adventure begins with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the new luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. Upon arrival there is time to view informative displays at Cavern House before the friendly guides invite you to accompany them underground in small groups. As you explore by path and small boat, your senses will be overwhelmed. Observe how the rushing water sculpts the rock formations, before gliding through silent darkness to the glowworm grotto. The delicate incandescence of thousands of tiny glowworms is a magical sight.

Day 16: Te Anau to Milford Sound

The road to Milford Sound has countless photo opportunities and short walks. The Mirror Lakes create perfectly clear reflections of the surrounding mountains and glacier formed meadows.  Further along the road The Chasm Walk includes two walking bridges over the dramatic Cleddau River, while the surrounding ancient native beech forest creates a fascinating landscape. You'll pass through the Homer Tunnel, an incredible feat of engineering at 1219 metres long. Milford Sound is the only sound accessible by road, making it very popular to visit. Coming into the village you'll be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak which rises spectacularly from the waters up to the sky. Real Journey cruises can take you out into the sound where you'll receive a wealth of information on how this magnificent area has been formed and experience first-hand the multitude of waterfalls that line the fiord.

Day 17: Te Anau to Queenstown

Crossing the rolling tussock lands you pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. Continue north through Southland countryside towards Lake Wakatipu. The road now hugs the lake edge and the Remarkable mountain range towers over you as you approach Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Day 18: Queenstown to Wanaka

Leaving Queenstown you head over New Zealand's highest sealed road, Crown Range Road before dropping into Wanaka.

Day 19: Wanaka

The alpine village of Wanaka sits on the shores of the third largest lake in the Southern Lakes Region and surrounded by golden tussock covered mountains.  Being a self-proclaimed “Lifestyle Reserve” Wanaka draws visitors seeking adventure, spectacular scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.  During winter snow sports enthusiasts flock to the ski fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona and year round there’s endless walking and biking trails to enjoy.  For those seeking an adrenaline rush why not try sky diving, rock climbing, jet boating or take a scenic flight over Lake Wanaka and the surrounding countryside in a vintage Tigermoth aeroplane.   When you’re not out exploring the natural wonders, the compact town centre offers a wonderful array of cafes and restaurants to enjoy. A real gem in Wanaka’s crown is the nearby Mt Aspiring National Park.  The park is a walker’s paradise and offers a wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys.

Day 20: Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier

The route follows the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before you enter the village of Makarora, the gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park.  The Blue Pools, just outside Makarora, are a wonderful 30 minute walk through pristine native beech forest. Descending into Mt. Aspiring National Park and towards the Haast Pass, crashing rivers and waterfalls are around every corner. Crossing the Haast River you are now truly on the wild West Coast, a 600 kilometre stretch of bush, rainforest and podocarp forest. First Fox Glacier welcomes you to the glacier region and Franz Josef township is just a further 45 minutes. A great way to experience the glaciers is with a scenic flight or glacier hike.

Day 21: Explore Franz Josef Glacier

The glacier is the main attraction in Franz Josef and what makes it such a unique feature is that this 12km glacier flows down through lush temperate rainforest, finishing just 300 meters above sea level. You can walk along the valley floor to the glacier’s terminal face without a guide, but you must take a licensed tour to get any closer than 100 metres of the glacier. Franz Josef Glacier Guides have a great choice of guided interpretive walks to and onto the glacier, including the new Ice Explorer  tour and a Heli-hike option where you fly onto the glacier to explore the ice flows, caves and crevasses. Other scenic flights with short glacier landings are available with The Helicopter Line. The township, although small, has a lively atmosphere during its busy seasons and there is plenty of choice for dining out and to help you wind down from the day's adventures a soak in the glacier hot pools is well recommended.

Day 22: Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

The drive north from Franz Josef takes you through the historic gold mining region of Ross and the town of Hokitika, renowned for its pounamu (greenstone) its also a great place to explore the craft stores. You'll then arrive at the West Coast's largest town, Greymouth, which is also the starting point for the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building.

Tranz Alpine Scenic train Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the Tranz Alpine scenic train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel from the Tasman Sea through Arthur's Pass National Park to the Pacific Ocean.

From the comfort of your carriage you will rise from the lush rain forest of the West Coast to the spectacular mountains of the Southern Alps. Traveling through gorges and the river valley of the Waimakariri River you'll descend to the farmland of the Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private transfer Christchurch train station to your accommodation
A private transfer will meet you on arrival into Christchurch train station and drive you to your Christchurch accommodation.

Day 23: Fly Back to the UK

You will be collected from your accommodation and a private transfer will deliver you to Christchurch airport in time for your departing flight.

Day 24: Arrive UK

Arrive UK

24 Nights from £4,499 pp
Price Includes

Please Note all of our trips can be tailor-made to suit your requirements

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0800 484 0325
What's Included:
  • Private train station transfers
  • Private airport transfers
  • Interislander ferry crossing
  • Tranz Alpine Train from Greymouth to Christchurch
  • Sail an Americas Cup Yacht
  • Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Mitai Maori Village Concert & Buffet Dinner
  • Zealandia Wildife Sanctuary Night Tour
  • Whale Watch Kaikoura tour
  • And Much More...



This tour can be customised to suit you precisely

Tailor-Make Your Holiday

You can swap out any part of this itinerary, add activities, tours or extend your stay and even upgrade your accommodation to build your dream holiday.

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