21 Day Taste of New Zealand Road Trip

img
whales
Queenstown Helicopter Transfer
OVERVIEW
ITINERARY
START PLANNING

21 Day Taste of New Zealand Road Trip

You have three flavour filled weeks to savour the very best of New Zealand's world-leading food and wine on this country-spanning luxury road trip. This tour can be adapted to suit your requirements - we can adjust how much self-drive or private driver you prefer, as well as spectacular train journeys and short domestic flights to move you around efficiently.

Duration: 21 Day

Starts: Auckland

Finishes: Queenstown

Drive Journey
  • Dedicated Travel Designer
  • Full In-Country Support
  • Specialist Guides on all selected experiences
  • Full Vehicle Selection
  • Domestic Flights and Transfers
  • Helicopter Transfer to Bay of Many Coves
Your Experiences:
  1. Exclusive Wine Tour Waiheke Island
  2. Tū Te Rā – Maori Summer Harvest Feast
  3. Full Day Eco Thermal Tour
  4. Exclusive Hawkes Bay Wine Tour
  5. Cruise & Walk Abel Tasman
  6. Tranz Alpine Rail Journey
  7. Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight – Fox & Franz
  8. Fly & Cruise Milford Sound
Your Locations:
  1. Auckland
  2. Waiheke Island
  3. Rotorua
  4. Hawkes Bay
  5. Wellington
  6. The Marlborough Sounds
  7. Nelson
  8. Kaikoura
  9. Christchurch
  10. Franz Josef
  11. Queenstown
VIEW ITINERARY

Day by day tour itinerary

Expand all
DAY 1
Welcome to Auckland

Arrive in New Zealand’s largest city, prettily perched on picturesque Auckland Harbour. You’ll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel for your first night in New Zealand. As the name belies, ‘The City of Sails’ – as Auckland is fondly known – is a stunning sea side city. The city centre surrounds a large harbour that bustles with life, both on water and on land. In the Auckland region, the North Island is geographically narrow and the city straddles a slim piece of land with coastline facing both the Pacific Ocean, and, on the wild West Coast, the Tasman Sea. Boutique shopping, pulsing, Pacific-inspired markets and a passionate cafe culture make this city a charming place to visit.

DAY 2
Ferry to Waiheke Island

This Gulf Island is much loved destination for exceptional food and wine experiences, in a stunning coastal location

Board a ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island, located in the Hauraki Gulf. On arrival you’ll be met by your hosts and transferred to your accommodation. Spend the next day at leisure exploring Waiheke Island, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf and home to a beguiling blend of forests, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. Discover the island’s unspoilt coastline, maybe heading to Cactus Beach, accessible only by kayak, or take a guided nature tour to learn more about the island’s wildlife.

DAY 3
Wine meets Art - Viewing and Tasting with Lunch

Join a local wine aficionado for exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Waiheke's premier wine producers.

Join a local wine aficionado for exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Waiheke’s premier wine producers…

Since the late 1970s, Waiheke’s benign climate has seen the growth of a flourishing wine industry. A “small is beautiful” philosophy yields low quantities of extremely high-quality fruit, which is made into internationally award-winning wines. At each vineyard, you’ll taste a selection of wines and enjoy an in-depth discussion with the winemaker.

For something a little more tactile, we can arrange a visit to a bronze crafting studio, a cobbler who creates individual pairs of shoes from scratch, a ceramic artist, or a tour of the spectacular sculpture park. As part of your tour, you can opt to break up the day with a scenic walk on one of Waiheke’s secluded beaches.

Waiheke Island Wine
DAY 4
Waiheke Island to Rotorua

Return to Auckland, fly to Rotorua

From Waiheke Island, make your way by ferry back to Auckland where you’ll transfer to the airport for your short flight to Rotorua. On arrival, collect your hire car and drive to your accommodation.

Rotorua is surrounded by steaming lakes, bubbling hot pools and bursting geysers, host to some of the world’s most incredible natural forces. A heartland of Maori culture, the local people have embraced this turbulent land.

This evening experience an authentic Maori Summer Feast Tū Te Rā. This four-hour evening is a feast of knowledge as well as divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within our forest Pā (sanctuary), its tawa trees and crackling bonfires.

Kai horotai (morsels) welcome guests with seasonal favourites that may include crispy pork and candied apple encased in kawakawa leaves, pāua (abalone), pickled pikopiko (native fern frond), smoked fish, ika mata (ceviche) and chilled kawakawa tea.

Within the forest-formed amphitheatre attention shifts to stories relayed through haka, song and drama, before torch light guides manuhiri (guests) to an al fresco dining space with three-course feast.

The famous hāngī shares a table with Māori fusion dishes developed and curated by celebrated Māori chefs, prepared by our own ringawera (hot hands). We serve dinner al fresco on warmer nights and in our wharekai (dining room) if the weather is inclement.

Tamaki Brothers
DAY 5
Full Day Eco Thermal Tour

Visit Wai O Tapu and Waimamgu Volcanic Valley

In this tour you will visit Rotorua’s most natural and popular geothermal parks: Wai O Tapu and Waimamgu Volcanic Valley. You will see volcanoes, geysers, New Zealand’s largest boiling mud pool mud pools and hot springs. The two parks offer a variety of thermal activity: at Wai O Tapu, the colourful hot springs are the key features along with the famous Lady Knox geyser; at Waimangu Volcanic Valley, you will learn about the history and legends of the great eruption of Mt Tarawera which blew open this now spectacular, bush covered, geothermal park. To bring the story alive, you will visit The Buried Village, which is the site of a former Maori village, destroyed during the Tarawera volcanic eruption.

Wai-o-tapu
DAY 6
Rotorua to Hawkes Bay

Stop at Huka Falls enroute to Hawkes Bay Wine Country

Depart Rotorua this morning and drive east to picturesque Hawkes Bay, one of New Zealand’s renowned wine-producing regions.  Huka Falls is five minutes’ drive by car or bus from Taupo town centre, along a beautiful forest-clad road that passes the world-famous luxury resort, Huka Lodge.

Once you leave the lakeside resort of Taupo and cross a forest clad plateau, crossing the Mohaka River before descending down the Esk Valley to the Pacific Ocean which provides a stunning backdrop to the Hawke’s Bay. Hawkes Bay appears as an open embrace to the south by the dramatic Cape Kidnappers and  to the north by the Mahia Peninsula. You’ll stay in Napier rebuilt due to a large earthquake in the 1930’s and is now a showpiece Art Deco City.

  • img

    2 nights at McHardy Lodge

  • img

    Approximate Distance: 217 km

  • img

    Total Driving Time: 3 hours

DAY 7
Taste the best of Hawkes Bay Wine Country

Dine al fresco at a vineyard restaurant

If you thought New Zealand was all about Sauvignon Blanc, you are missing out on some of the best wines we have to offer. Wines from Hawke’s Bay have scored more 90+ ratings in Wine Spectator than any other New Zealand District!

Hawke’s Bay is home to the oldest winery in New Zealand. The story began with a group of French missionaries who sailed to New Zealand in 1838, with little more than their faith and a few vines. Today, Hawke’s Bay is the second-largest viticultural region in New Zealand, producing local and international award-winning wines.

Today your private guide will take you to the best of these cellar doors, dine al fresco at one of the many winery restaurants.

DAY 8
Fly to Wellington

New Zealand's capital city has plenty to offer the travel loving 'Foodie'

A short flight from Napier brings you to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Situated at the southern end of the North Island, Wellington, New Zealand, was recently named “the coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet.

Wellington’s inner heart beats with an amazing cultural offering all of its own. As New Zealand’s capital, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the city is all political banter and suits. However, this microcosm of creatives is actually a place where artistry, quirkiness and creative risk taking are celebrated within one of the richest arts environs in the southern hemisphere. Best of all, you can walk anywhere in the inner city in around twenty minutes, tops. On any given night, you’ll find something happening, whether it’s a poetry reading, a new art showing, book launch, gig or interpretive theatre piece.

For foodies, Wellington is a city brimming with colourful eateries, vibrant markets and tasty laneways. World-renowned for excellent coffee and award-winning restaurants, this is one city that has it all.

DAY 9
Head to the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sounds

Helicopter Transfer to the Bay of Many Coves

Arrive in style to the Bay of Many Coves – with a scenic helicopter transfer allowing you to view from above the myriad coves that make up ‘the Sounds’. In the heart of the Queen Charlotte Sounds, nestled into the hillside where virgin native bush extends from hilltops to water’s edge you will find the Bay of Many Coves Resort. The Sounds offers tranquility and birdsong like no other part of New Zealand is able –  due to the predator free nature of this area. This property is boat access only – so the only other visitors will be boaties and the few other guests staying at the property, in the luxury of private villas. From here it is possible to hike sections of  the Queen Charlotte Track or to enjoyed the sheltered bays from the water.

DAY 10
Free day to explore the tranquil marlborough Sounds

Today whether you are seeking world-class cuisine, breath-taking scenery, adventure, or simply a sense of renewal, you will find it here.

  • Take one of several tracks leading out from the Resort that lead you through 52 hectares of private bush, alive with native birds. Venture from the Bay of Many Coves Resort to the Queen Charlotte Track, or let us arrange a boat pick up from any of the entry and exit points along this magnificent walkway.
  • The Marlborough Sounds is famous for fishing – and if you would like to try than we can arrange a Fishing charter for you within the inner-Sounds (catch and release blue cod) or an extreme outer-Sounds fishing expedition.
DAY 11
Water taxi to Picton, collect car and travel to Nelson

Home to the Abel Tasman, and an abundant region with many flavours to enjoy

Nelson Tasman has long been a magnet for creative people. With one of the largest numbers of working artists and galleries in the country, you’ll find an array of craftspeople living in the region; traditional, contemporary and Māori. Visit their studios, explore the craft markets, taste the delicious locally made artisan products and find something extraordinary to take home with you.
  • img

    2 nights at Pihopa Retreat

  • img

    Approximate Distance: 175 km

  • img

    Total Driving Time: 2 hours

Nelson
DAY 12
Cruise and Walk the Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and its world-famous coast track.

Today you have a choice of a full Scenic Cruise or a cruise and walk from Kaiteriteri along the stunning Abel Tasman coastline. Abel Tasman National Park is our country’s smallest national park. It protects 23,000 hectares of the most natural stretch of easily accessible coastline in New Zealand. The coastline is characterised by islands just offshore, sheltered waters, estuaries and golden, sandy beaches.

Lie on a beach, or even go for a swim if the weather is warm. The park is sheltered from ocean swells, and enjoys a mild climate.

  • img

    Approximate Distance: 52 kms to Kaiteriteri

  • img

    Total Driving Time: 1 hour

DAY 13
Travel to Kaikoura

Stop for lunch at Cloudy Bay Vineyard

A short drive away from Nelson is Marlborough the birthplace of the explosion of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc into the world of wine. Look no further than Cloudy Bay Vineyards – (now owned by luxury brand LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), for a chance to sample or simply sit and soak up the sunshine with a al fresco lunch.

Then travel through the vineyard braided countryside towards the East Coast and the often named ‘Serengeti of the seas’ at Kaikoura. Few places in the world can boast of such natural wonders as those offered by land and sea in Kaikoura. Situated midway between Christchurch and Picton on the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Kaikoura is overlooked by majestic mountains, which are snow-capped for many months of the year. This unique combination of ocean and mountains offers stunning coastal alpine scenery and a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including Whale watching, Dolphin and Seal swimming, walks, and much more.

DAY 14
Explore the Kaikoura Peninsula

Whether relaxing at the lodge or enjoying this maritime Serengeti by boat or from the air, there is so much to see and do

As previously mentioned, National Geographic has dubbed  Kaikoura “A maritime Serengeti” and “a Sea World without Walls”. As a consequence, there is a lot to see and do, both on land and at sea, and from the skies above. Whale watching is very popular and without doubt one of our clients favourite activities is to swim with the local seals, we can arrange this for you.

While there are many things to do in the wider Kaikoura district, at the Lodge and within its environs there is plenty to do if a guest is so inclined.

One can try one’s skill at country and mountain biking with the Lodge’s mountain bikes (and helmets). A variety of walks can be taken from the Lodge, from short to long, beach to bush, with a picnic basket if desired, including a botanical tour of the local native bush. An ocean fishing trip can be arranged, which can include the opportunity to catch a crayfish.

 

DAY 15
Travel to Christchurch

Stop in at Pegasus Bay Winery for lunch enroute to Christchurch

Leaving Kaikoura and the coast behind you’ll wind your way inland past more excellent viticulture. It is worth stopping to enjoy a meal at one of the winery restaurants or perhaps come away with an outstanding riesling or Pinot Noir for which the Waipara region is known to excel at.

You’ll soon arrive at New Zealand’s second-largest city and the gateway to the South Island, Christchurch sits on the very edge of the Canterbury Plains and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The city itself has bounced back after a series of major earthquakes..

Swanky new office buildings of steel and glass neighbour the neo-gothic Arts Centre, the picturesque Antigua Boat Sheds and the under-reconstruction Christ Church Cathedral. Dozens of new restaurants and bars line the Avon River, while fantastic boutique stores hide down super cool laneway precincts. Christchurch is a city transformed, and just waiting to be rediscovered.

  • img

    1 night at The George

  • img

    Approximate Distance: 180 km

  • img

    Total Driving Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

DAY 16
Tranz Alpine Rail Journey onto Franz Josef Glacier

Traverse the Main Divide and take a drive alongside a rainforest to Glacier Country

Today travel to Greymouth via the TranzAlpine, one of the world’s great train journeys covering 223 kilometres (139 miles) one-way, taking just under 5 hours. You’ll traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains, to the backdrop of the mighty Southern Alps – the journey of a lifetime.

When the ancient forests and mountain passes give way to coastal views, you’ll arrive at Greymouth – and after a couple of hours drive you’ll soon be nearing glacier country. Nestled in a rainforest clearing, Franz Josef Glacier lies at the heart of the Westland National Park. Welcome to one of the most diverse and beautiful areas of New Zealand.

 

DAY 17
Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight – Fox & Franz

Exploring these majestic rivers of frozen ice is a must. Located near the Main Divide the views of the Southern Alps are second to none.

Fly over Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier on a spectacular helicopter tour that includes a landing right on the snow. Seeing both glaciers on a single helicopter flight offers an incredible perspective and understanding of New Zealand’s massive ice sheets, and you touch down on one of the glaciers to snap up-close photographs of the frozen terrain.

  • Spectacular aerial views of Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
  • The live pilot commentary points out landmarks and unique features below
  • Walkout onto the snow after an exciting glacier landing
  • Bring home photographs of the glaciers and the stunning Southern Alps
DAY 18
Travel over the Haast Pass to Queenstown

The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting, sophisticated, and fantastically scenic.

Be transported to the South Island’s most iconic resort town of Queenstown today on one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenic drives. The views are impressive all the way, and once over the Haast Pass they change dramatically. There’s beauty around every bend, with breathtaking lakes and rivers and views of mountain peaks rising epically into the skyline.

DAY 19
Return Scenic Flight and Cruise the Beautiful Milford Sound

Take off from Queenstown, and fly above the rugged backcountry of Central Otago

Witness what nature has created over the years, as you journey over two remarkable National Parks; Mt Aspiring and World Heritage listed Fiordland National Park. Upon landing at Milford Sound Airport you will be surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery in the world and you’ll board your Mitre Peak Cruises vessel and begin your voyage cruising the length of the 16km fiord out to Tasman Sea. Complete your journey with a scenic flight over the Southern Alps back to Queenstown.

DAY 20
Free day to Enjoy Queenstown

Relax and savour all that Queenstown has on offer

Today  take it all in with  one of many optional wine tasting tours and scenic lakeside rambles, or splash out on an optional Picnic on a Peak helicopter flight, including a leisurely champagne luncheon in the wilderness. Recently added to the tasty tours on offer is a Gin Tasting by Helicopter. Join this world’s first tour, showcasing world class gins, unique tour and tasting experiences and a 15 minute scenic helicopter flight. Today is for enjoying and exploring or relaxing at Azur Lodge.

DAY 21
Farewell from Queenstown

Return to Queenstown airport for your onward journey

With 21 days visiting New Zealand, you will have made enduring memories and fondness of your time in New Zealand. Stay in touch and let us create more South Pacific dream trips.

Michelle Srzich - Travel Designer
Michelle, OUR ABSOLUTE NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL DESIGNER SAYS: “My love of travel is often centred around where the best food and wine is - so it is my absolute pleasure to design this trip around the best that New Zealand has to offer. With 3 weeks to enjoy, the pace of travel is easy going as well as including the must see and do experiences.”

Ready to find out more? Talk to one of our friendly travel designers about his tour. We guarantee you it will be the experience of a lifetime!

ENQUIRE

Make this itinerary yours

Like what you see? Contact us today to find out more about our exclusive itineraries. Each Absolute New Zealand tour is tailored to who you are and what you want to do.

    21 Day Taste of New Zealand Road Trip

    img
    Absolute Chaffeur
    img
    Drive Journey
    ENQUIRE
    img
    Itinerary map
    VIEW LARGER MAP
    Share this tour
    • img
    • img
    • img
    Journey planning

    Our team has access to New Zealand's most unique accommodation, superb activities, and flight specials. Contact us for a personalised New Zealand experience.

    Other tours you may like

    Curious about travel?

    Inspiring travel itineraries and expert advice delivered to your inbox.

    START PLANNING
    img