Day 1: Arrive Auckland
On arrival at Auckland Airport you will be greeted with a private transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure and if time is permitting, a visit to the Auckland Museum, Auckland Zoo or Ambury Park is recommended.
Hotel: Hotel Grand Windsor
Day 2: Auckland to Waipoua (229km)
This morning make your way to the rental car city depot where you will collect your rental car for your exclusive use. Depart Auckland and head north via the rugged West Coast.
You may like to stop off at Muriwai Beach to marvel at the black sands and take time to visit the gannet colony. Muriwai is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular black sand surf beaches. At its southern end, Otakamiro Point is the site of one of this country’s few mainland gannet breeding colonies. The Takapu Refuge is an established breeding area for gannets. About 1,200 pairs of adult gannets nest here each summer and can be seen between August and March each year. Fur seals feed and rest at Oaia Island, 1.6km off the coast and can sometimes be seen during spring.
This evening enjoy the Twilight Encounter. A magical guided tour in to the mighty Waipoua Forest. Experience the affinity that early Maori had with the forest and the deep spiritual respect they hold for the giants still growing there. See Te Matua Ngahere – the Father of the Forest and the giant Tane Mahuta – the Lord of the Forest.
Hotel: The Heads Omapere
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
Day 3: Waipoua to Matakana (178km)
Travel on to the Matakana Coast, a place of stunning countryside, coastal landscapes, vineyards, beaches, artisan food products, sculpture tails and characterful villages.
Hotel: Sugar Loaf Lodge
Day 4: Matakana to Devonport, Auckland (70km)
Recommended today is optional sightseeing to Tiritiri Matangi from Gulf Harbour (Wed-Sun only). Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf is an open sanctuary with over 283,000 trees planted over 10 years and many rare and endangered birds have been translocated to the predator free island. These include Takahe, Saddleback, Kakariki, Kokako, Whitehead, Little Spotted Kiwi, Stitchbird, Teal, NZ Robin and Fernbird.
Hotel: The Peace & Plenty Inn
Day 5: Devonport – Miranda – Rotorua (260km)
Travel today via the Seabird Coast. The Miranda Shorebird Centre records 131 bird species including 43 waders. The extensive tidal flats and rare shell bank create a world renowned and accessible site for migratory and endemic waders. Continue through farmland, lake land and forest until the distinctive smell of sulphur and constant steam drifts lets you know you are in tempestuous, geothermal Rotorua. Visit Rainbow Springs Wildlife Park with its Kiwi Encounter, a breeding recovery programme for native New Zealand Kiwi. Enjoy a unique behind the scenes tour of a working Kiwi nursery and hatchery.
Hotel: The Springs B&B
Day 6: Rotorua
Day at leisure. A full day to enjoy the many sights and activities on offer in and around Rotorua.
Hotel: The Springs B&B
Day 7: Rotorua to Kapiti Coast (380km)
Today’s journey takes you to the west coast with its spectacular sea vistas, glorious sunsets, untouched native forest and dramatic hillscapes.
Hotel: Greenmantle Estate Boutique Lodge
Day 8: Kapiti Coast
Take the ferry to Kapiti Island, home to the Little Spotted Kiwi (now extinct on the mainland). Your evening guided Kiwi spotting walk provides the opportunity to engage with endangered New Zealand birds like Takahe, Kākā, Weka, Tīeke (Saddleback), Kereru, Kokako, Hihi, and Toutouwai (Robin). There is also the chance to get up close to some extraordinary New Zealand native flora and fauna. The lodge is remote with limited facilities but is welcoming with genuine Maori hospitality.
Hotel: Kapiti Island
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
Day 9: Kapiti Coast to Wellington (75km)
A short journey to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Nestled between harbor and hills, the city is compact, cultured and full of character. Just minutes from the city is Zealandia, a living ecosystem, home to some of New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife. Forty different species of native birds have been recorded in the sanctuary valley, twenty four of them endemic (found in no other country). Dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of kinds of invertebrates have made Zealandia their home.
Hotel: Booklovers B&B
Day 10: Wellington – Picton - Kaikoura
Drop your car off in Wellington and take the Interislander Ferry through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds to Picton. There will be plenty of seabirds to spot along the way. On arrival in Picton, collect another rental car and travel through Marlborough Wine Country before reaching Kaikoura.
Hotel: Manakau Lodge
Day 11: Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs (130km)
The unique marine geography of Kaikoura provides the perfect environment for the local Sperm Whales which cohabitate close to land whilst hunting deep sea squid. At any time of the year you are almost guaranteed to see whales, Dusky and common dolphins, seabirds, seals and small marine creatures.
Today’s Albatross Encounter brings you up close to a diverse array of seabirds including albatross, petrels, shearwaters, shags, terns and gulls. These species all occur naturally within a close proximity of the Kaikoura Peninsula. Kaikoura’s marine environment is home to more seabird species in a small area than anywhere else in the New Zealand. Later, continue on to Hanmer Springs, a beautiful and popular alpine resort, known for its thermal pools and spa.
Hotel: Cheltenham House
Day 12: Hanmer Springs to Oamaru (375km)
Travel south to Oamaru and enjoy an evening viewing of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. The best view is at nightfall when the penguins return from the day’s fishing, make their way onto the beach and cross into the Colony.
Hotel: Pen-y-Bryn Lodge
Day 13: Oamaru to Dunedin (112km)
Drive to Dunedin today. Enjoy a half day tour of the Otago Peninsula where you can see the Royal Albatross Colony, Hookers sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins and a pelagic tour of the harbour.
Hotel: Camp Estate
Day 14: Dunedin to Invercargill (205km)
The Southland region is rugged, remote and endowed with large tracts of native rainforest. It has abundant wildlife, is sparsely populated and is very scenic and unspoilt. Here, close to the rich Sub-Antarctic feeding grounds, can be found some of the world’s rarest marine animals – three penguin species, Hooker’s Sea Lions, Hector’s Dolphins, Elephant Seals, as well as New Zealand Fur Seals. Notable seabirds include: Mollyhawks, Shags, Gannets and millions of Titi (Sooty Shearwaters). Rocky platforms carved by the sea, secret coves and sweeping beaches of gleaming, wave-combed sand are all part of the exhilarating variety of coastal scenery.
Hotel: Beersheba Estate
Day 15: Invercargill – Bluff (149km)– Stewart Island
On arrival in Bluff, catch the ferry to Stewart Island (small additional charge payable direct for car storage in Bluff). The ultimate bird watching destination – Stewart Island is largely untouched by humans, providing an excellent habitat for native and endangered birds. The Stewart Island Brown Kiwi – or Tokoeka – is active during the day and night, with numbers estimated at 20,000. Residents on the island share their gardens with native birds and summer evenings resound with the melody of Kākā and cheeky Weka strut around Oban Township.
Hotel: Stewart Island Lodge
Day 16: Stewart Island
Today’s half day guided tour takes you to Ulva Island, an open bird sanctuary. Covered in unspoilt forest, the island is home to birds including the native Tui, Kaka, Rifleman and Fantail, as well as the endangered South Island Saddleback.
Hotel: Stewart Island Lodge
Day 17: Stewart Island – Bluff – Te Anau (180km)
This morning catch the ferry back to the mainland. Travel to Te Anau is via the Southern Scenic Route, a drive featuring a myriad of landscapes shaped by natural processes in New Zealand’s young but varied geological history.
Hotel: Dunluce B&B
Day 18: Te Anau – Manapouri (22km) – Doubtful Sound
Today’s Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise takes you into the wilderness of one of New Zealand’s most spectacular and pristine fiords. With stunning views of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains it is home to bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins. Dedicated nature guides provide specialist knowledge of the region’s history, flora and fauna and kayaking and exploring by tender craft is offered. Please note: As the overnight cruise does not operate over winter it will be replaced with a day cruise including lunch and additional night in Te Anau.
Overnight: Doubtful Sound Cruise
Day 19: Doubtful Sound – Manapouri – Wanaka (273km)
Travel today to scenic Lake Wanaka. A stop enroute in Queenstown is highly recommended. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has earned a reputation as the Southern Hemisphere’s premier lake and alpine resort and is described as the adventure capital of New Zealand. From Queenstown travel through the Kawarau Gorge and via Cromwell and Lake Dunstan to Wanaka.
An alternative route today is via the Crown Range Road which is New Zealand’s highest sealed highway. This route is shorter than the one via Cromwell however travel time may take longer due to the winding nature of the road (note this route is not recommended over winter).
Hotel: Maple Lodge
Day 20: Wanaka to Twizel (144km)
View braided river valleys, native beech forests and lush alpine meadows before reaching Twizel.
Hotel: Matuka Lodge
Day 21: Twizel to Christchurch (285km)
If time permits a detour to enjoy the views at Aoraki, Mt Cook is recommended before travelling across the patchwork farmlands that make up the Canterbury plains, to Christchurch.
Hotel: The Classic Villa
Day 22: Christchurch
Tour concludes with the return of your rental car to Christchurch Airport depot.
22 day Self Drive - from £4229