Overview

Leaving the City of Sails, Auckland, journey south on the 9 Day North Island Southbound Highlights Self Drive tour through the North Island to eccentric Wellington, capital city of New Zealand.

On the way south, stop at Rotorua to experience Maori culture, then make your way to the vineyards and Art Deco architecture of Napier. Wander at a laidback pace, immersing yourself in the atmosphere of each destination.

Auckland - Rotorua - Napier - Wellington

Map of 9 Day North Island Southbound Highlights Self Drive
View itinerary for day 1
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View itinerary for day 8
View itinerary for day 9
Welcome to Auckland City
Explore Auckland City
Auckland to Rotorua
Explore Rotorua
Rotorua to Napier
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay
Napier to Wellington City via Masterton
Wellington City
Depart Wellington

Day 1

Welcome to Auckland City

Day 2

Explore Auckland City

Day 3

Auckland to Rotorua

Travel Time: 2 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 220 kms

Day 4

Explore Rotorua

Day 5

Rotorua to Napier

Travel Time: 2 hrs 25 mins

Distance: 210 kms

Day 6

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

Day 7

Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

Travel Time: 4 hrs 10 mins

Distance: 322 kms

Day 8

Wellington City

Day 9

Depart Wellington

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland City
Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Sailing Cruise with lunch

Collect your rental car

Explore Auckland City
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.

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Great Tastes Half day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

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.

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mitai Maori Village

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.

Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of 222,000 litres of water spilling down the narrow 11 metre drop.

For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. For the truly enthused, ride along on a Grape Escape winery tour to make the most of the local yield. Those into architecture can hop aboard a 1930’s car and take in the city’s prominent Art Deco landmarks. Hire a bike and cycle the trails or grab your sunscreen and head down to one of the golden sandy beaches that form the larger Hawke's Bay. Try a diverse range of produce and take an orchard, cheese, honey, or chocolate tour. End on a high with a tractor ride to view the largest mainland gannet colony in the world, located at Cape Kidnappers.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.

Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.

Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour

Choose to explore more of Wellington's sights before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Day 1, Welcome to Auckland City

Welcome to Auckland City

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland City
Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Sailing Cruise with lunch

Day 2, Explore Auckland City

Explore Auckland City

Collect your rental car

Explore Auckland City
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.

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Great Tastes Half day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

Day 3, Auckland to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua

Travel Time: 2 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 220 kms

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Day 4, Explore Rotorua

Explore 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.

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mitai Maori Village

Day 5, Rotorua to Napier

Rotorua to Napier

Travel Time: 2 hrs 25 mins

Distance: 210 kms

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.

Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of 222,000 litres of water spilling down the narrow 11 metre drop.

For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

Day 6, Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. For the truly enthused, ride along on a Grape Escape winery tour to make the most of the local yield. Those into architecture can hop aboard a 1930’s car and take in the city’s prominent Art Deco landmarks. Hire a bike and cycle the trails or grab your sunscreen and head down to one of the golden sandy beaches that form the larger Hawke's Bay. Try a diverse range of produce and take an orchard, cheese, honey, or chocolate tour. End on a high with a tractor ride to view the largest mainland gannet colony in the world, located at Cape Kidnappers.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

Day 7, Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

Travel Time: 4 hrs 10 mins

Distance: 322 kms

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.

Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

Day 8, Wellington City

Wellington City

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.

Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour

Day 9, Depart Wellington

Depart Wellington

Choose to explore more of Wellington's sights before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Additional Information

Pricing

Cost per Person

 Twin/Double
Motel Accommodation from NZ$1,783 per person

* PLEASE NOTE*

Price is based on two adults sharing a rental car and accommodation (twin/double-share).

Prices are estimates only, and are subject to availability and exchange rates when booking, seasonal or holiday price surcharges (such as Christmas/New Year and Easter); as well as special events that may be on. Please forward a request and we will be happy to forward a quote.

Payment

  • Deposit: 20% of the package cost or NZ$250 per person (whichever is the greater) at time of booking
  • Full Payment: 45 Days before travel
  • Airfares (if applicable): Paid in full at the time of booking

Cancellation Charges

  • Cancellation Fees up to 100% can apply after booking. Extra deposits or full payment may be requested to cover these charges prior to booking
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Includes

Includes:

 8 nights accommodation

  • 2 Nights Auckland
  • 2 Nights Rotorua
  • 2 Nights Napier
  • 2 Nights Wellington

8 days rental car hire

  • Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible.
  • Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation. unlimited kms,airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers.

Private airport transfers

Options

Travel Insurance

If you are going overseas, then travel insurance is a necssity. Compare rates and polices online and get a free travel insurance quote.

Accommodation

There is a choice of accommodation available on all packages, which depending on locations, includes motels, 3 star hotels, 4 star hotels, boutique lodges & hotels and luxury lodges and hotels. We are happy to quote on alternate accommodation requests.

Airfares

International flights can be included from Australia for all Australian resident

Optional Extras

Harbour Sailing Cruise with lunch, Auckland

The Pride of Auckland Company operates its fleet of large purpose-built sailboats on the sheltered waters of the Waitemata Harbour. Enjoy the view from the deck of a 50ft sailing monohull yacht. Take in the Auckland landscape as you enjoy your picnic lunch and see the harbour bridge from below as you try your hand steering the helm. Relax and settle in for unforgettable 90 minute experience.

Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

The only bridge climb in New Zealand, this spectacular AJ Hackett walking tour is the ultimate way to experience the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Custom engineered walkways provide a safe and enjoyable experience - meaning this activity is suitable for all ages. As you're guided along the curving archways you'll be greeted with a 360 degree, panoramic view of the sparkling Waitemata harbour. See the best of the city from above and learn all about the secrets of the bridge!

Great Tastes Half day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch, Auckland

Today you'll be leaving the city and heading northwest to Kumeu Wine Country, Auckland's Heritage Wine Region. Enjoy lunch at a contemporary vineyard, sample world-renowned wines and marvel at the rugged surf-fringed coastline nearby. Your first stop is award-winning Soljans Estate Winery. Utilising both traditional and modern techniques, Soljans produce varied and richly flavoured wines. Built with sunshine in mind and a distinct Mediterranean-style, the onsite restaurant showcases fresh seasonal produce from around the region.

Continuing on, you’ll visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony - one of the few mainland nesting sites in the world. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Tasman sea you’ll have breathtaking views of the beach and ocean beyond. Next is Matua Valley Wines - the first winery in new Zealand to produce a sauvignon blanc. Your final tasting is at West Brook Winery, one of New Zealand's oldest. These wines reflect true varietal character and their unique regional origins.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Matamata

Become immersed in The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata - in the heart the lush Waikato farming region, your two hour tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films.

Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter, Rotorua

At Rainbow Springs you’ll have the chance to see some of New Zealand’s native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand’s living dinosaur can also be seen here.

Go behind the scenes with New Zealand’s national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.

Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees.

In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it.

Mitai Maori Village, Rotorua

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. See warriors in traditional dress and glowworms in their natural habitat. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance.

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures, Napier

On this unique four hour eco-adventure you will get to experience one of the largest and most accessible mainland gannet colonies in the world. You’ll be pulled on a trailer from the back of a vintage tractor along the beach to the Black Reef Colony - where you’ll have the chance to see the birds in their natural habitat. Depending on the season, visitors can witness new-born chicks through to four month old gannets preparing for their first ever flight, which will take them all the way to Australia.Continuing on to the Cape, you'll break for 90 minutes which enables visitors the chance to picnic, swim or enjoy a scenic walk to the Plateau Colony.

Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour, Napier

The Grape Escape Half day wine tour visits some of the Hawke's Bay's famous wineries and is designed for casual imbibers and wine aficionados. Meet like- minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantastic wines. Taste great wines made with passion and learn of the areas unique growing conditions. Take home great tasting wines and memories. Visit 4 – 5 local wineries and taste Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Also try some of New Zealand's finest cheeses matched with wine. Walk amongst the vines and learn about Terroir.

Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour, Wellington

On this half-day tour explore key Lord of the Rings filming locations all within an hour of central Wellington. Highlights include the outskirts of the Shire, the Gardens of Isengard, the River Anduin and the sites of Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith. Stroll where the hobbits raced to the Buckleberry Ferry and see where the infamous 'get off the road' scene was shot. You'll also stop and overlook the site of the Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment.

Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour, Wellington

Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley – just 10 minutes from the central city.

Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost.

Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley – so your chances of seeing one is very good.

Highlights

Auckland - Rotorua - Napier - Wellington

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9 Day North Island Southbound Highlights Self Drive

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