A land of verdant subtropical forests, shimmering lakes, plunging fjords and soaring mountain peaks, New Zealand's landscapes are truly spectacular. This tailor-made fly-drive takes in the best of them, beginning with the sub-tropical Bay of Islands and the gold-sand good looks of Coromandel before sweeping south through volcanic Rotorua on your way to Wellington. Then, after a ferry hop across the Cook Strait, you'll pair Abel Tasman's secluded bays and Kaikoura's wildlife-rich waters with a TranzAlpine rail journey to the remote West Coast. Round things off with the creaking ice flows of Fox Glacier before a spectacular drive south to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital.
Days 1-2: UK/AucklandWith included airport lounge access leaving you suitably relaxed, you'll depart on your flight to New Zealand, arriving on day three.
Day 3: Auckland
Arriving into the Auckland, a private transfer will bring you to your downtown hotel. Ideally located in the City of Sails' historic centre, you'll be perfectly placed to explore its many highlights, from the buzzing waterfront to the eclectic suburbs of Ponsonby and Mt Eden, packed full of chic restaurants, hip bars and, on the weekend, artisanal markets. Alternatively, head out from the harbour to visit such island idylls as Waiheke, home to a golden beaches and sprawling vineyards.
Days 4-5: Bay of Islands
Collect your hire car for the drive north to Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, a scenic route that brings you along sweeping coastal stretches to the country's subtropical north. The following day, we recommend an optional fully guided two-hour night walk in the Puketi Forest. At twilight, listen to the bird song changing as night descends, see the bats flying overhead and observe the nocturnal wildlife of the forest. If you're lucky, you might even spot a kiwi.
Day 6: Hokianga
Heading further into the wilds of Northland, today's drive sees you to your beachfront hotel, nestled on the waters edge in Hokianga. This is a region steeped in Maori culture, it's rugged beauty encapsulated by rolling dunes and ancient kauri forests. There's plenty here to fill your time, with harbour cruises and fishing charters vying for attention with a thriving artistic scene that's shaped the region's unique character since hippies arrived here in the late sixties. Everything here moves at a slower pace – if that's possible in New Zealand – and simply heading out for a stroll among the harbour's spindling inlets is a real joy.
Stay: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga (Superior)
Days 7-8: Coramandel
Heading to Coramandel, you'll look forward to a two-night stay at a bijoux lodge. It features just four luxury suites, all of which host pretty views across onto the sea; it's the ideal spot to relax on your journey south, preferably with a glass of fine New Zealand wine. If you do feel like exploring, however, there's a whole host of wilderness attractions on the doorstep, from the scenic Hauraki Rail Trail cycle route to the plunging rapids of Karangahake Gorge and Owharoa Falls.
Stay: Brenton Lodge (Deluxe)
Days 9-10: Rotorua
Just a short drive south, Rotorua is New Zealand's most famous geothermal region, full of geysers, hot springs and volcanic mineral pools. With a full day free, we recommend an optional Whirinaki Rainforest eco-cultural walk. Join a local Maori guide to commence a full day exploration of Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park, one of the world’s last great remaining temperate rainforests. Hike over a dramatic canyon, through giant ancient tree species and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch beside a waterfall, before following the clear waters of a river as it winds through dense forest comprising of species dating back to the Jurassic era. Finish with an optional soak in one of Rotorua's famous natural hot springs.
Day 11: Wellington
Drive to Rotorua airport, return your hire car and board a flight to New Zealand's capital, Wellington. On arrival you'll be met and transferred to your hotel before a free afternoon to explore this cosmopolitan harbour city. Perhaps begin with a ride on the Wellington cable car for views across it's pretty harbour setting before taking in the exhibits at Te Papa, New Zealand's superb national museum.
Days 12-13: Abel Tasman
Transfer to Wellington harbour to board the ferry to Picton at the northern tip of the South Island, sailing in Premium Plus class. Then, collecting your hire car, you'll drive west to Abel Tasman National Park and the seclusion of your luxury accommodation. Nestled between pristine waterways, verdant wetlands and ancient forests, Awaroa Lodge is so remote, it's not reachable by road. And that's all part of the allure, as you drop off your hire car to make the final part of the journey either on foot, by water taxi (included) or, if you feel like splashing out, by air. Then, with a full day to explore the national park, you'll have a choice of optional excursions that range from kayaking and hiking to sailing adventures and scenic flights.
Stay: Awaroa Lodge (Deluxe)
Days 14-15: Kaikoura
Depart Abel Tasman this morning and head to the eastern coastal town of Kaikoura, New Zealand's whale and dolphin-watching capital. Here, you'll check into the outstanding Hapuku Lodge whose collection of 'treehouse' rooms peer out from the forest canopy to sweeping views of Seaward Mountains and Mangamaunu Bay. With a full day to explore, we recommend an optional Whale Watch excursion, boarding a Whale Watch Kaikoura vessel at 'The Whaleway Station' to go in search of fur seals, dusky dolphins and the endangered wandering albatross. And, depending on the season, you might catch a glimpse of migratory humpbacks (June and July) or orcas (December to March).
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This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
Sign up to our weekly Trip Finder email and get a selection of the best trips to feed your Wanderlust