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14 Days North and South Islands road tour

Holiday Planning Guide - 14 Days North and South Islands road tour. Experience New Zealand with a two week Drive NZ planned road tour

 

North South Island Road Tour Map

 

Day Location Distances Travel Time
1 Auckland at leisure - -
2 Auckland to Whitianga 205kms 3hrs 20mins
3 Whitianga to Rotorua 200kms 3hrs 10mins
4 Rotorua to Taupo 80kms 1hrs 20mins
5 Taupo to Wellington 380kms 5hrs 10mins
6 Wellington to Picton Ferry book 3hrs 30mins
7 Picton to Blenheim 28kms 25mins
8 Blenheim to Nelson 116kms 1hr 45mins
9 Nelson to Franz Josef 469kms 7hrs 45mins
10 Franz Josef to Wanaka 287kms 5hrs 55mins
11 Wanaka to Queenstown 117kms 1hr 50mins
12 Queenstown to Christchurch 486kms 7hrs 15mins
13 Christchurch to Taupo 688kms Plus Ferry 9hrs 45mins
14 Taupo to Auckland 279kms 4hrs 5mins

 

 

You’ve got two weeks to explore all of New Zealand, so why not make the most of it with the Drive New Zealand Rental Cars two week North and South Island Road Trip.

 

 

Day 1: Auckland

Get Yourself Some Wheels

The first thing you are going to need for your two week road trip is safe, reliable and budget friendly car hire in Auckland. Luckily, Drive NZ comes to the rescue with Auckland car rental. Just minutes from the Airport, they will sort you out with whatever sized car you need, at the right price.

Go Sightseeing around Auckland Landmarks, Museums and Parks

Being New Zealand’s main city, Auckland is full of tourist sites, landmarks, historic museums and parks to explore. Military buffs can check out the World War II era caves and gun emplacements at North Head and Bastion Point along with the Devonport Naval Museum and MOTAT II. Auckland War Memorial Museum has a full history of New Zealand, with Maori artifacts, historical Auckland, polynesian history and more. The New Zealand Maritime Museum displays New Zealand’s long maritime museum, while The Museum of Transport and Technology (There are two sites in Western Springs) has great displays of machinery, vehicles and more.

 

Once you are tired of museums go for a walk in the many parks nearby including One Tree Hill, Western Springs, Auckland Domain & Winter Garden and the Parnell Rose Gardens.

Enjoy some Fun Auckland Activities

Auckland is full of fun activities, including theme parks such as Rainbows End in Manukau, craziness in a former mental hospital with Spookers and Asylum Paintball in Kingseat and loads of chances to test your fear of heights with the Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb and Bungy, Skytower Skywalk (or if that's too scary, try out the casino below) and Sky Screamer vertical bungy.

 

If Zoos are more you think make sure you visit Auckland Zoo in Western Springs or Kelly Tarltons Underwater World near Mission bay, and amazing underwater aquarium and antarctic exhibit.

 

Arty types will enjoy the Auckland Art Gallery and theatre at the Civic.

Wine and Dine in Auckland’s Cafes and Restaurants

Decades ago many immigrants from former Yugoslavia moved to Auckland, bringing with them the skills and craftsmanship of fine winemaking. You’ll find amazing wineries a short drive (or ferry) away in Kumeu, Matakana & Waiheke Island. Remember to take a sober driver with you, so you can enjoy some of the best wine in the upper North Island. Top wineries include the Kumeu River Winery along with Stoney Ridge (and home to some great parties too) and Mudbrick in Waiheke.

 

Auckland is also home to some pretty amazing food, with the top 50 restaurants being ranked in Metro magazine every year. Treat yourself to a great feed at Bracu, Cibo, or Clooney. For those on more of a budget, make sure you grab a feed at the fish and chips shop in Mission Bay, or grab a great burger at one of the many Burger Fuel stores, or Ponsonby Favourite - Murder Burger!

Party the Nights Away in Clubs, Pubs and Nightclubs

Auckland has an awesome music and party scene, whether its live music, DJs and nightclubs, irish bars, backpackers spots or something in between - you’ll find something in Auckland. Get underground upstairs at Rakinos, drink from teapots with the hipsters at Cassette #9, confuse yourself with the signage at Racket or hang with the Ponsonby set at Golden Dawn. Backpackers love Globe, while the waterfront area is popular every weekend if top 40 is more your scene.

Day 2: Whitianga

Its a 205 km drive from Auckland to Whitianga which should take you about three and a half hours.

Relax on the Beach

Its easy to lose count of all the great beaches nearby, some of the best include Buffalo Beach, Flaxmill Bay, Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach. If you feel like driving a little further make sure you visit Hahei, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. Remember to bring a picnic with you and don’t forget to take all your rubbish with you, keep our beaches beautiful.

Activities on the Water

There are loads of activities for those who enjoy playtime on the water including PADI Diving, Banana Boats, Seafari Windsurfing, Cave Cruisers and Glass Bottom Boats.

Food & Drink

Food is plentiful in the Coromandel, and Whitianga provides lots of options for the travelling foodie. Wild Hogs is great for fast food including burgers and pizza, Squids is perfect for seafood lovers, Cafe Nina provides the late breakfast and early lunch and Tuatua is the place to go for Tapas.

Day 3: Rotorua

 

Its an easy 200 km drive from Rotorua to Whitianga that should take you just over three hours on the open road with a hire car.

Geothermal Wonderland

Rotorua is full of thermal areas, from boiling mud, geysers and hot pools, its the number one reason people visit the area. Te Puia is a geyser which erupts up to 20 times a day, while Wai-o-Tapu and Waimangu are must visit attractions for bubbling mud, beautiful coloured lakes and more. Swim in the hot pools at the Blue Baths & Polynesian Spa or hit the slides at the Wet’n’Wild water park. Make sure you also check out Kerosene Creek, hidden about 20 minutes down the road on the way to Taupo, its a great hidden local secret hot pool.

Museums, Maori History and Culture

Rotorua Museum is located in the heart of the city and is one of the prettiest buildings in town with its Tudor architecture, the exhibits inside aren’t half bad either. The Buried Village shows you what life was like before a volcanic eruption destroyed the village, preserving everything as it stood on the day.

Other Activities

Rotorua is full of fun things to do including Skyline Skyrides with its gondola up the mountain, restaurant with the best views in town and high speed luging to get back down. Nearby you can roll down the hill in a giant inflatable ball, known locally as the Zorb, the more adventurous can try it in pairs or full of water. You can tour the area in a World War II era American DUKW landing craft with Rotorua Duck Tours or if you are a 4WD nut hit the hills with Off Road NZ and the Land Rover Experience. Rock climbers can scale The Wall, while trout fans only have to check out the local fishing stores dotted all over the city for the latest news on local spots on the rivers and lakes (just remember to get your licence before hand).

Have a Drink

Strangely enough Rotorua seems to be the home of a fair few imported and craft beer places. Make sure you visit Brew, Rotorua’s very own microbrewery for some real local beer including pale ales and more. Pub food and live music is always on at the Pig and Whistle right next to the courthouse, while you can get a wide range of imported Belgian beer on tap and bottled at the creatively named Belgian Beer Bar.

Finding a Bed

Hotels, Motels and Backpackers are available everywhere on the “strip” as Fenton street is known by the locals, with rooms and beds available to suit any budget. If you are stuck pop into the local Visitor Information Centre at the start of the street near the lake.

Day 4: Taupo & The Central Plateau

 

Its about 80km from Rotorua to Taupo with a rented car, which should take just over an hour, a little longer if you stop off at the hot pools at Kerosene Creek.

Enjoy the Lake and Rivers

Still have your fishing gear after Rotorua? Theres great fly fishing to be found in the Tongariro river. River Rafting tours are available at most tour agencies, with Rafting NZ and Tongariro River Rafting being favourites.If you’ve got a great shot don’t forget to try your luck with the Hole in One by the lake. If speed is more your thing try jetboating near Huka Falls, or Bungy Jumping.

Further Afield

If you want to drive further out of Taupo, Gravity Canyon is home to some crazy airborne activities including a flying fox that hits 160 kph at top speed! Driving south will take you to the desert road, along with the New Zealand Defense Force base and Waiouru Army Museum.

Hit the Slopes

Just a short drive from Taupo and you are near the ski fields and mountains of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. These ski fields are some of the best in New Zealand and well worth the drive to see, or if skiing isn’t your thing make sure you try out the Tongariro Crossing, easily one of the most beautiful full day walks in the entire country, if not the world. You might even spot the craters of Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings on the way!.

Food Time

A days exploring just isn’t complete without a good feed and Taupo doesn’t disappoint. Grab a deep fried Mars bar from the local fish and chip shops or if you are feeling classier try out the local restaurants and cafes. If you are still near the ski fields make sure you visit the Powder Keg and Matterhorn, who not only serve top notch burgers and nachos, but also host touring DJs and musicians. Other favourites include Replete, Cypress Tree, Eruption and Pimentos.

Day 5 & 6: Wellington & Picton

 

Its around 380km from Taupo to Wellington in your hire car and the trip should take around 5 hours, assuming you don’t end up stuck in traffic on arrival in Wellington. Pay attention to your map as Wellington City is full of one way streets.

Cafe Culture

Wellington’s has the best coffee and cafe scene in New Zealand, and a trip isn’t complete without checking out Cuba Street. Grab a short white or black, kick back and watch the world go by as you enjoy the creations of New Zealand’s best baristas. Later on at night Wellington comes alive with pubs, clubs and bars on Cuba Street and Courtenay Place.

Movie Madness

Film buffs and Lord of the Rings fans will love Wellywood, home of Weta Workshop and Weta Studios, The Embassy Theatre and loads of film sets, locations and props dotted around the city. There are plenty of guided tours available as well.

History and Culture

A trip to Wellington isn’t complete without visiting Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. Walk through the city streets until you find the Wellington Cable Car and Cable Car Museum. Film buffs will love the New Zealand Film Archive. While culture fans will enjoy the Wellington Art Gallery and National Library of New Zealand.

Nature

Nature buffs will love the bird sanctuary, tuataras and kiwis at Zealandia a few kilometers drive out of town.

Accommodation

Wellington is full of hotels for visiting politicians, but a personal favourite has to be the Museum Hotel, with its massive art collection and tastefully decorated rooms, you’ll be amazed who you will run into in its hallways, from All Blacks to movie stars. Those on more of a budget should check out Wellywood Backpackers, The Cambridge Hotel & Backpackers or Worldwide Backpackers.

Crossing The Cook Strait & Picton

Next up is the Interislander Ferry or Bluebridge Ferry to cross the Cook Strait. Make sure you book your tickets a day or two in advance as these can sometimes sell out. Expect the crossing to last about 3 and a half hours, with a reasonable wait before boarding as well. There isn’t a lot to do in Picton as its more of a stopping off point before exploring the South Island or Marlborough Sounds. If you have time check out the Eco World Aquarium, Edwin Fox Maritime Museum or Picton Museum.

Day 7 & 8: Blenheim & Nelson

 

Its a short drive from Picton to Blenheim at under 30 minutes in a rental car, while Blenheim to Nelson is 115 km and should take you an hour and three quarters.

Wine Tasting in Marlborough

Next you’ll head off to Blenheim a short 30km, half an hour drive which will have barely any traffic compared to the busy roads in the North Island. Blenheim is fairly quiet itself, but close enough to the wineries of the Marlborough Region to keep it interesting. Spend the day touring some of New Zealand’s top wineries including Brancott Estate, Cloudy Bay, Drylands Winery, Wither Hills and far more that the region is famous for.

Blenheim Accommodation

There is a wide range of motels and hotels dotted around the region, while budget accommodation can be found at Peppertree Lodge.

Drive to Nelson

Nelson is only a short 116 km drive in your hire car from Blenheim taking you past Kaikoura, home of some of the best Whale Watching experiences in New Zealand. Non stop, the journey should take no more than two hours.

Adventure Activities

Nelson is home to some great adventure activities including Happy Valley Adventures, Cable Bay Kayaks and Simply Wild, ideal for anyone who likes some rough rivers, flying foxes, mountain biking or wilderness adventures.

Accommodation in Nelson

Nelson is described as one of the most livable cities in New Zealand, and is home to great accommodation for travellers of all budgets. Great hostels include Paradiso Backpackers, Nelson Beach Hostel and Tasman Bay Backpackers.

Day 9: Franz Josef Glacier

 

One place you can’t miss while driving down the West Coast of New Zealand is the Franz Josef Glacier - a 6 hour and 290 km journey from Wanaka in your hired vehicle.

Sightseeing

Theres one sight that you simply have to see which is the Franz Josef Glacier itself, a 12 km long glacier that starts in the Southern Alps and finishes in New Zealand Native rain forest. The best way to explore is with a helicopter tour that can book booked in the town.

Food & Drink

For good West Coast food you can’t miss Speights Landing Bar & Restaurant, for the sort of stuff a real “Southern Man” would eat. Guzzis provide great pizza, while Priya serves up excellent Indian.

Accommodation

Chateau Franz Backpackers is a great place to crash with its very own spa pool, while Glow Worm Cottages has a little bit more privacy.

Day 10 & 11: Wanaka & Queenstown

 

Its just under 300 km from Franz Josef to Wanaka, but due to the winding roads it will take your hire car just under six hours, so be careful. Wanaka to Queenstown is a short two hour ride at around 120 km.

Sightseeing

The area is full of picturesque movie locations that need to be seen to be believed. Make sure you try the Skyline Gondola for an aerial view of Queenstown. Drive further out into Arrowtown to check out the old Chinese Settlement from the gold rush days. Military buffs will love the Warbirds & Wheels museum, and if you are there in time Warbirds Over Wanaka.

Winter Sports

The mountain ranges such as the Remarkables deserve their namesake and along with Cardrona are great places for skiing and snowboarding. Snow Farm New Zealand provides cross country skiing and Coronet Peak is the oldest ski field in the region.

Food & Drink

Beer lovers have to check out the local brewery at Wanaka Beerworks for locally brewed lager, black beer and pilsner. Gibbston Valley Wines are a must visit for wine lovers wanting locally grown wine.

Accommodation

There is plenty of accommodation in the area, with thousands of tourists in the area, but in peak season book ahead. Make sure you check out Bumbles Backpackers in Queenstown and Base in Wanaka.

Day 12: Christchurch

 

The trip from Queenstown to Christchurch should take you and your hired car around 7 hours and is just under 500 km.

 

Right now its in the process of being rebuilt, stronger than ever (There's even a mall made out of shipping containers - Re:Start). Its one of the older cities in New Zealand so expect to see some very British style buildings and gardens as you drive around, you’ll also find it great to cycle and walk if you get the chance.

Sightseeing

Make sure you check out New Zealand’s only official Wizard at Cathedral Square. Art & history lovers are best to check out the Art Gallery. Movie buffs can venture out into the Canterbury plains and see Lord of the Rings film sets used for Edoras.

Activities

Christchurch is the international launchpad for many countries into Antarctica, and you can check out the goings on at the International Antarctic Centre. Wildlife lovers check out Orana Park Wildlife Sanctuary

Food & Drink

Food lovers are best to check out the top food market in New Zealand at the Christchurch Farmers Market. Craft beer can be found at Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn and Cassels & Sons Brewery. Bodhi Tree is getting a strong reputation for, strangely enough Burmese Food. Winnie Bagoes is of course the best place to get a Pizza in town.

Christchurch Accommodation

Theres plenty of great accommodation in Christchurch, but in this case theres one place that you absolutely must stay - Jailhouse Accommodation, an 1870s era prison that closed down in the late 90s. Where else can you stay you spent the night in jail without getting arrested!

Day 13: Taupo

Get ready for a long journey today, with the trip taking your rental car from Christchurch to Taupo taking around 9 hours on the road, as well as the time you spend on the Cook Strait crossing.

 

Catch up on anything you missed in the central region of New Zealand. Stop off along the way at the Waiouru Army Museum and check out a piece of NZ history including our Victoria Cross medals on display, or jump on top of a tank for some great holiday photos!

Day 14: Return to Auckland

Its the final stretch, with the trip from Taupo back to Auckland taking around four hours to cover the 280 km distance.

 

Once you are back in Auckland, catch up on any sights that you missed on day one or two, before dropping your car back off at Drive NZ Rental Cars once you are finished with your Auckland Car Rental.