Aotearoa New Zealand - 8th Wonder of the World
See and experience some of the planet's most astonishing scenery with this two-week New Zealand itinerary.14 days
Our New Zealand road trip itinerary kicks off in the North Island with Tairāwhiti Gisborne, the first New Zealand city to see the light of the new day.
With exceptionally high sunshine hours and glorious beaches, Tairāwhiti Gisborne has legendary breaks for surfers and welcoming wineries for pleasure seekers. It also has a strong cultural heritage, expressed through a range of exciting and authentic Māori tourism experiences.
Things to see and do in and around Tairāwhiti Gisborne
- Be the first to see the sunrise at the summit of Maunga Hikurangi, the sacred mountain of Ngāti Porou. Learn about the significance of this spiritual place and its powerful carvings on a tour with Ngāti Porou Tourism
- Discover wild stingrays and marine life on the Reef Ecology tour at Tatapouri with local tourism operator Dive Tatapouri, just 15 minutes from Gisborne
- While Gisborne is associated with world-class Chardonnay, the region is home to a full range of grape varieties. You can try them all at cellar door wine tasting experiences
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Napier is known as the Art Déco Capital of the World. Located on the sun-drenched coast of Hawke's Bay, it's also the gateway to incredible food and wine experiences on the rural plains and foothills behind the city.
Things to see and do in and around Napier
- Kick up your heels at Napier's Art Deco Festival. Ninety years ago, the city was rebuilt following a devastating earthquake. As a result, it's full of Art Deco, Stripped Classical and Spanish Mission architecture. If you're not visiting during the festival, you can explore the streets on a walking tour or vintage car tour with the Art Deco Trust
- Mission Estate Vineyard was established in 1851, making Hawke's Bay the oldest wine region in the country. Today there are 200+ vineyards, more than 35 cellar doors and several vineyard restaurants to enjoy. One of the best ways to explore is by bike on the wineries cycle trail
- Between September and April, the largest mainland gannet colony in the world at Cape Kidnappers is bustling with activity. More than 20,000 birds nest here and you can find them with a tractor ride adventure along the beach or an overland safari on top of the cliffs through the largest privately-owned conservation area in New Zealand
- If you're visiting on a weekend, don't miss Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market, where the region's ﬁnest growers and artisan producers sell their wares. The market is in Hastings on Sunday mornings and has a pop-up in Napier on Saturdays. Every other day of the week you can buy olive oil, fig preserves, chocolate, real fruit ice cream and much more by visiting local producers
Spend a leisurely day driving through the Central Hawke's Bay on your way to the Wairarapa wine region. The lush rural landscapes and grand historic homesteads are really special.
Things to see and do in Central Hawke's Bay
- Visit Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu (the longest place name in the world). This location is south of Pōrangahau, a small coastal community close to beautiful Pōrangahau Beach. This detour will add 1 hour, 15 minutes driving time to your day
- Play at being aristocratic while visiting historic Oruawharo Homestead, where they serve high tea in grand style. Bookings essential.
- Who knew the Tui Brewery building from those legendary TV ads was a real place? Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka offers visitors the opportunity to watch brewers in action
- Fifteen minutes north of Masterton at Mt Bruce is the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, home to some of New Zealand's rarest wildlife
Things to see and do in and around Martinborough
- Enjoy visiting wineries and excellent restaurants in and around historic Martinborough. The 20 cellar doors are conveniently close together, so you can hire a bike or stroll between locations. Wairarapa is known for pinot noir, but also produces outstanding aromatics, chardonnay and syrah
- Accessed from Cape Palliser Road, Putangirua Pinnacles are incredible natural formations that are definitely qualify as a world wonder. For rock formations of the man-made variety, Stonehenge Aotearoa is built on the same scale as Stonehenge in England and is located just outside Carterton
- Drive to Cape Palliser, where a climb up 253 steps to the classic red and white striped lighthouse is rewarded with stunning coastal views. There's another splendid lighthouse at Castlepoint, an hour's drive from Masterton
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Wellington is New Zealand's political capital; a compact and cultured metropolis loved for its huge harbour and hill views, excellent restaurants, characterful cafes, exceptional craft beer and cool cocktail lounges. For city explorations you can walk. Your car will come in handy for adventures beyond the CBD.
Things to see and do in Wellington
- The iconic Beehive, packed full of busy politicians, can be visited on a guided tour. You'll learn about parliamentary processes and New Zealand's history
- Wellington is home to Te Papa, New Zealand's innovative national museum. A big drawcard is 'Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibition', which runs until April 2022. It uses giant sculptures to tell the story of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I through the eyes and words of eight courageous Kiwis. Extraordinary natural science treasures on display at Te Papa include the biggest colossal squid ever caught
- Experience the magic behind blockbuster special-effects films - including The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movie series - at Weta Workshop. The Weta Cave Workshop Tour is the ultimate way to see how movie makers use miniatures and other physical effects to make fantasy real
- Rare spotted kiwi can often be seen on night tours at Zealandia, a unique nature reserve that's also home to tuatara, giant wētā and kereru. This fully-fenced predator-free sanctuary is only minutes from downtown Wellington. To get there, catch the historic cable car to Kelburn, then follow the signs to Zealandia
Wedged between towering mountains and the soulful Tasman sea, the West Coast is all about astounding natural wonders, including the Oparara Arches, Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Hokitika Gorge and Ōkārito Lagoon.
The drive from Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier takes you into glacier country, where the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers carve a path from high in the Southern Alps down into native rainforest.
Things to see and do in and around Franz Josef Glacier
- Just south of Hokitika, there's a unique opportunity to walk within the tree canopy and see rainforest from above on West Coast Treetop Walk's 45-minute Rainforest Canopy Tour
- Walk through sun-lit ice tunnels on the two most accessible glaciers in the world, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. A great option to explore the glaciers is to book a Glacier Heli-Hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, which won a Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Award in 2019
- The West Coast Wildlife Centre is working to save the world's rarest kiwi, the Rowi. Visiting the centre supports conservation and lets you see young kiwi in a natural bush setting. You'll also find out about the centre's hatching and incubation programme
- On a clear day the peaks of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are reflected in the calm waters of Lake Matheson, a short drive from Fox Glacier. Follow a trail around the lake, then visit the Lake Matheson café
Today's drive takes you through the Haast World Heritage Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, then along the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park.
On the way, look for the Blue Pools Track, 12km north of Makarora. This easy one-hour return walk takes you through towering forest to the clearest, bluest pools you've ever seen.
Stop in Wanaka for beautiful mountain scenery and the chance to fuel up in one of the many lakeside cafés. Check out the famous Wanaka Tree before heading up the Cardrona Valley, where you'll find a classic historic pub. The alpine drive over the Crown Range to Queenstown is so high, you can look down on planes coming into land at Queenstown Airport.
Things to see and do in and around Queenstown
- Queenstown is New Zealand's home of adventure and the range of adrenaline-inducing activities on offer is immense. Two of the adventures - jet boating and bungy jumping - were invented in New Zealand. Go jet boating on the Shotover River, then (if you dare) take a leap at the original Kawarau Bridge Bungy
- The majestic landscape of the Queenstown region makes for memorable walking and cycling. There are short walks around the edge of the lake and steeper day hikes, as well as multi-day Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Great Walks. Alternatively, hire a bike and explore the 130km network of cycle trails
- A number of Hollywood movies were filmed around Queenstown, including the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. See legendary movie locations on a 4WD adventure with Nomad Safaris. Or live like a movie star and take a helicopter trip for an unforgettable view of the Southern Alps
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The road from Queenstown to Kingston is spectacular, with views across the lake to farms at the foot of towering mountains. Take extra care on a winding part of the road, known as the Devil's Staircase.
The Te Anau Milford Highway to Fiordland National Park is one of the most scenic drives in the world. This national park has achieved World Heritage status for its real-life representation of the planet's evolutionary history. The road goes through the Homer Tunnel, which was started during the Great Depression and finally opened in 1953. After visiting Milford Sound, return to Te Anau for the evening.
Things to see and do in and around Fiordland National Park
- The panorama of Milford Sound is one of the most famous views of New Zealand. To appreciate the scale and grandeur of the fiords, we recommend you explore Milford Sound on a boat cruise or by kayak
- Doubtful Sound offers a true wilderness experience, only easily accessible by boat from Manapouri. You can visit for a day or stay overnight on the Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise, a winner of the 2019 Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards
- Fiordland offers some of the greatest hiking in the world. While Milford Track is the most famous of the region's walks, there are many other superb hiking experiences, including guided options
- From Te Anau you can discover Te Anau Glowworm Caves. After a short boat cruise across Lake Te Anau, you'll glide silently through caves that are naturally lit by thousands of glowworms
- Every evening at 6pm, and at other times during the day, Fiordland Cinema in Te Anau screens Ata Whenua - Shadowland. This spectacular half-hour movie was filmed from the air, so it provides a stunning view of Fiordland
The drive from Te Anau to Invercargill through rural Southland provides an enchanting view of country life. Farm activity and scenery change with the seasons.
Alternatively, take the Southern Scenic Route, via Tuatapere and Riverton, to Invercargill. Estimated driving time is 2 hours, 15 minutes.
This stretch of the Southern Scenic Route follows the wild southern coastline. Riverton, 30km out of Invercargill, is a popular Southland beach resort and fondly named the 'Riviera of the South'.
Things to see and do in and around Invercargill
- Invercargill has some of New Zealand's best seafood, delivered straight from the ocean. The oysters, blue cod and crayfish are sensational
- Also look for the legendary Southland cheese roll at cafés, a simple-but-delicious Southern snack
- If you enjoyed story of The Little Yellow Digger, you'll love Dig This! Described as a heavy equipment playground, this uniquely New Zealand attraction gives you the chance to operate bulldozers, diggers and loaders in a giant gravel pit
- Bill Richardson Transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca are private museums with a valuable range of classic cars and motorcycles. Both museums have more than 300 vehicles on display, as well as a range of art and engineering exhibits that tell local stories
- Just 25km from Invercargill, Bluff is the most southern town on New Zealand's mainland. Visit the Stirling Point signpost to see how far you are from the tip of New Zealand (1,401km to be exact) and other major cities around the world
Drop your rental car at Invercargill airport and take a twenty-minute flight to Stewart Island. Flights operate three times a day and are operated by Stewart Island Flights. Alternatively, drive to Bluff and take a one-hour ferry trip. Real Journeys operates a ferry three times a day. Advance reservations for both flights and ferries are recommended.
While only 30km from the South Island, Stewart Island is a world apart. The golden sand beaches, fern-filled forests are dramatic seascapes are captivating. As well as scenery, this island has an abundance of birdlife and a welcoming local culture. The Sunday night pub quiz at the South Seas Hotel is legendary and a great way to meet the locals, as Prince Harry discovered when he visited in 2015.
Things to see and do on Stewart Island
- In 2019 Stewart Island was recognised as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, so it's one of the best places in New Zealand to observe the heavens. In certain conditions, it's possible to see Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights. The Māori name for Stewart Island is Rakiura (The Land of Glowing Skies), which describes the aurora effect of millions of stars and oscillating ribbons of pink, red and green
- Seeing kiwi in the wild is a rare and special thing, even for Kiwis (New Zealanders). Stewart Island is the only place where you can take a guided tour at night to spot southern tokoeka kiwi in the wild
- A boat cruise to predator-free Ulva Island is an incredible experience. Walking tracks lead you through the lush forest, which is twittering with birdlife. There are beautiful beaches here, too
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Auckland is an energetic, multi-cultural city that's framed by harbours and dotted with ancient volcanic cones. The inner-city is anchored by new luxury boutique hotels and Commercial Bay - a stunning retail, commercial and hospitality hub at the harbour's edge. A short walk west is Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter, where you'll find the coolest restaurants and sleekest super-yachts.
Things to see and do in and around Auckland
- This summer you can watch America's Cup sailing from one of the many vantage points around the city or take a closer look at the PRADA Cup Village on Hobson Wharf, open daily from 15 December to 21 March. To get out on the water, try sailing on a former America's Cup yacht or find a dinner cruise
- Cetaceans are frequently seen in Auckland's waters and an Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari is a great way to meet them and learn more the Hauraki Gulf. On the land, Bush and Beach take guided tours to the black sand beaches and rainforest reserves west of the city
- Waiheke Island, known as the 'island of wine', is just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland's CBD. A vineyard tour will introduce you to the island's famous cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec. You can also get some thrills at Waiheke's Ecozip Adventures, which has with ziplines for people of all abilities and levels of daring
Things to see and do on the way to the Bay of Islands
- Tutukaka is handy to the Poor Knights Islands, a legendary place for diving. Explore the marine reserve on a dive trip or boat cruise with options for kayaking, cave explorations, snorkelling, swimming and sea-mammal spotting. The islands are known for spectacular drop offs, walls, caves, arches and tunnels
- Continue north along the coast to the pretty beach-town of Matapouri, then drive inland towards Hikurangi. Pause at Kawakaka to see the Hundertwasser-designed public toilets. A new cultural, arts and environmental centre celebrating the town's connection with Friedensreich Hundertwasser is located behind the famous loos
The subtropical Bay of Islands region includes the towns of Paihia, Opua, Russell and Kerikeri. It also extends into Te Rawhiti Inlet, where idyllic sanctuary islands await day trippers and boaties. There's a lot of Māori culture and early European settlement history to discover here - pā sites, the Treaty House, historic buildings and other places of significance.
Things to see and do in and around the Bay of Islands
- The Bay of Islands is literally a bay of 144 islands and the best way to see them is by boat. Set off on a Bay of Islands cruise and enjoy the maritime scenery as you journey to Cape Brett to visit the famous Hole in the Rock. Keep an eye out for dolphins on the way
- Learn about New Zealand's founding document at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Māori Chiefs and the British Crown in 1840
- Catch the ferry from Paihia to explore the charming town of Russell, New Zealand's first capital. Pause for refreshments at the Duke of Marlborough, which was granted the first-ever liquor license in New Zealand
- Kerikeri Mission Station includes Kemp House, built in 1821, and the Stone Store, New Zealand's oldest stone building. While you're here, take time to explore Kororipo Pā and the enchanting forest walk to Wharepuke Waterfall
- Kerikeri is known for its orchards, wineries and art galleries. Grab a bite to eat in a café and indulge in delicious handmade chocolates or limoncello at the Makana Chocolate Factory. There are two weekend markets for buying locally-grown fruit produce and artisan foods
Cape Reinga is a full day trip, so a guided bus tour makes a lot of sense. Plus it means you can drive the length of 90-mile beach by coach, which is not recommended in a private car.
Visiting Cape Reinga is a significant New Zealand experience. Instagram shots at the iconic Cape Reinga Lighthouse are a goal, but taking time to absorb the significance of the site is just as important.
- See two oceans collide, as the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a spectacular swirl of currents
- Discover Te Rerenga Wairua (place of leaping) where Māori spirits begin their journey back to their Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki
- For thrills, sand board down the mighty Te Paki Sand Dunes, then enjoy limitless sea and sand views on the drive along Ninety Mile Beach
Things to see and do in and around Hokianga
- Stop for coffee at the Boat Shed Café in Rawene, which is perched over the water, then visit historic Clendon House for a glimpse of life 150 years ago
- Call into Opononi or Ōmāpere and enjoy the view across the harbour to the mighty North Head dunes
- Stop in Waipoua Forest to see Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the Forest), the largest living kauri tree in New Zealand. Further south, the Trounson Kauri Park also has some fine specimens