The Wakitipu Trail in Queenstown

self drive touring north to south

This touring plan is an example and guide for building a great self drive package to visit New Zealand


Monday 22 February 2016

Arrive at Auckland International Airport. After completing Immigration and Customs formalities please make your way to the rental car desks to coeelct your car.

The remainder of your day is at leisure.

➢ I recommend staying in Auckland’s CBD. Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanted holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping – you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland. Auckland’s blend of islands, Polynesian culture, glistening harbours and modern city environment creates an unbelievable lifestyle ranked amongst the best in the world. It is thought that the Maori people settled in the Auckland region about 650 years ago. The volcanoes that are all across Auckland became Maori settlements and if you visit such places as Mount Eden and One Tree Hill you will find traces of these settlements. European settlement in Auckland can be traced to 1840. New Zealand’s first governor was Captain William Hobson and he chose Auckland originally as the capital of New Zealand and named the city in honour of his patron and former commander, Lord Auckland. Auckland’s population is approximately 1.5 million, making it by far the largest city in New Zealand, with one third of the country’s entire population.


Suggestions for Sightseeing today: Auckland Harbour Experience – Harbour Sailing Cruise With Lunch Sky Tower – Total Tower Experience (including Sky Deck) Today is a great day to do a harbour sailing cruise and a visit to the Sky Tower. At 328 metres, the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometres in every direction. Glass-fronted elevators take visitors up to the observation levels in only 40 seconds, travelling at 18 kilometres per hour along the way.

Check out the Viaduct Harbour and view city sights while enjoying lunch and learning about the area’s history, the America’s Cup and the super yachts in the marina. A typical cruise is approximately 1 ½ hours


Sightseeing today: Waitomo Caves Ltd – Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visit – 45 minutes Begin your journey to Rotorua, stopping at Waitomo on the way. Beginning in Auckland, you will journey along part of the Thermal Explorer Highway, through the lush Waikato region with the stunning Waitomo Caves and on to the geothermal city of Rotorua.

➢ The drive from Auckland to Waitomo is approximately 196 km The first part of your journey will take you through Auckland’s southern suburbs where you will soon admire the views of lush, rolling farmland and the ever present Waikato River. Waikato, the Maori word for ‘flowing water’, also refers to the river which runs through the region. The Waikato River is the longest in New Zealand and provides much of the life-force to the region, especially the vast agricultural landscapes, and generates a large proportion of New Zealand’s clean, green energy through hydro-power. Just before you reach Waitomo your driver will come to Otorohanga, home to the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park – well worth a visit as you are guaranteed to see Kiwis in their nocturnal house. You can also enjoy a walk through a native forest aviary. The town’s main street features a Kiwiana Display Gallery, murals, sculptures and beautiful flower baskets. From here it is only a short drive to Waitomo Caves, a subterranean wonderland of limestone caves and grottos filled with glow worms, stalagmites and stalactites. Here you will join your Waitomo Caves tour guide at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre, 39 Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo Caves Village to commence a guided tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Deep underground in the heart of the Waikato are a series of unique caves that will take your breath away. Inside these ancient limestone caves live tiny insects whose iridescent light has amazed visitors for over 100 years. The guide leads you through the caves to a small boat which is then towed across the water to where hundreds of tiny lights flicker on the cave roof above, creating a starry sky within the underground night. Your tour concludes approximately 45 minutes after commencement, back at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre.

➢ The drive from Waitomo to Rotorua is approximately 136 km and will take around 1 ½ hours. Your driver/guide will head north where you will pass Otorohonga again where you may like to stop if you did not do so on your way to Waitomo, you can discuss with your driver if you would like to stop here as this may depend of your travelling time to Rotorua and how long you spent in Waitomo. At about half way to Rotorua you will be passing through the small rural town of Putaruru. This area has a history of farming and timber growing and within a 20 kilometre radius of the town there are 20 rivers stocked with rainbow and brown trout. ➢ Please refer to your NZ Handy Atlas, map number 95 for Rotorua’s CBD New Zealand’s tourism icon, Rotorua is the ancestral home of the Maori Te Arawa tribe who settled here more than 600 years ago and their presence offers the visitor numerous cultural experiences. Rotorua is one place where the turbulent forces that formed New Zealand are most evident. This city, on the Volcanic Plateau, has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity and sits squarely on the Pacific Rim of Fire. See evidence of the awe-inspiring power of nature at its most temperamental at one of the geothermal parks within the Rotorua region. Geysers, hot mud pools and steaming craters are testament to the incredible earthen forces on display. Geological records show ceaseless activity on this area for millennia, the most recent major eruption being at Tarawera in 1886. The legacy of this volcanic activity is apparent as soon as you enter Rotorua with steam emitting from cracks, crevices and culverts in parks, gardens and pathways and the distinctive smell of sulphur surrounding you. Geothermal activity also provides the source of Rotorua’s fame as nature’s spa of the South Pacific. Relax in pools of natural mineral water, wrap yourself in healing mud or treat yourself to a massage under warm thermal waters. Rotorua provides many opportunities to come face to face with the spirit of Maori culture. Try a hangi feast – cooked in the steaming ground, or take a tour of an authentic pre-European Maori village. Rotorua has many attractions to get the adrenalin flowing: everything from skydiving and luging to zorbing and one of New Zealand’s best mountain bike circuits. It is also a big trout fishing area with fishing on the lakes and tributary rivers (fishing permits are required for trout fishing) or if you’re unlucky there, you can view some of the huge trout at Rainbow and Fairy Springs, which also has a nocturnal kiwi house and kiwi breeding centre. Your driver will drop you off at your accommodation. Lunch and dinner is provided by your accommodation today. Your driver will discuss with you what time to pick you up for tomorrow’s sightseeing. Once your driver/guide has returned you to your accommodation, there will be no further services with your driver/guide for today.


Suggested Sightseeing today: Te Puia,  Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland

This morning drive to Te Puia New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, Hemo Road, Rotorua. Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley has inspired the local Maori people for centuries – book on a cultural tour, the guides will recount stories handed down from their ancestors as you explore this unique geothermal reserve with its boiling mud and sulphur pools and the 30 metre (100 ft) Pohutu Geyser, which erupts up to 20 times a day. At 10.15am a traditional welcome marks the start of 45 minutes of song and dance inside the sacred meeting house. Not far from Te Puia is Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where I grew up and went to primary school. An easy drive out of town if you want to see more geothermal wonders. Thousands of years in the making, Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Park is a wonderland of stunning geothermal activity. Walk at your own pace and view a wide range of features including the world famous Champagne Pool, huge volcanic craters, steaming ground, naturally coloured hot and cold pools, New Zealand’s largest bubbling mud pool, Sinter Terrace formations and the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts daily at 10:15am.

Consider booking a scenic flight to and from the Tarawera volcano take in expansive views of our stunning Lakes District, National Parks and a view of Mount Tarawera from above.

Located next to Rainbow Springs is the Skyline Rotorua complex (phone (+64) 7 347 0027). Here you can take gondola rides nearly 500 metres above the city, up the side of Mount Ngongotaha, luge ridge, Skyswing and SkyVue cinema.

Always worth visiting is the Rotorua Museum (phone (+64) 7 350 1814), which is housed in the historic Bath House building, located in the Government Gardens. Rotorua Museum opened in the South Wing of the Bath House in 1969 and Rotorua Art Gallery opened in the North wing in 1977. In 1988 the two operations combined to become Rotorua Museum of Art and History.

A visit to the Agrodome  , allows you to experience the world of a New Zealand farmer. The famous ‘Sheep Show’ involves audience participation and plenty of fantastic photo opportunities. There is an Organic Farm Tour option, live demonstrations and chances to hand feed the animals. Please note – opening hours and suggested sightseeing options are subject to change.


The road to Turangi will keep you entertained with its unusual volcanic geography as well as large tracts of plantation pine forest.

➢  The drive is approximately 131 km If you have not had the chance to visit some of the thermal wonderlands that abound in the area, then take time on the trip to Turangi to do so if you wish. At Wairakei you can visit the magnificent Wairakei Terraces, a manmade creation of cascading silica terraces in blues, pinks and whites, fed by the steaming multi-hued waters of the Alum lakes that in turn have been created by a spectacular manmade geyser of superheated waters. The Terraces are reminiscent of the magnificent pink and white terraces that were destroyed in 1886 when Mt Tarawera suddenly erupted splitting the mountain in two. Take a leisurely one hour guided or self governed tour of the Wairakei Terraces Walkway, and enjoy the stories and history of New Zealand conveyed to you through the impressive carved features throughout the walkway. Other features include the ‘Te Kiri o Hinekai’ Stream and Honeymoon Pool, famous for its therapeutic and healing powers, a soothing footbath, blue alum pools, red mud pools, geyser, animal park and carving house featuring carvers at work. Huka Falls is New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction.

I highly reccoment a stop at the thundering Huka Falls which provides a fantastic photo opportunity – more than 220,000 litres of water tumbles over the cliff face per second! Also located in Wairakei Tourist Park there is an Information Centre located by the falls and several viewing platforms that provide excellent vantage points. The resort town of Taupo sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake, which is well stocked with sizeable trout. You’ll find everything a traveller could wish for, including an excellent choice of restaurants and plenty of outdoor adventure activities. The Lake Taupo region in New Zealand’s volcanic heartland is rich in Maori tradition. It also has some of the country’s finest untouched, uncrowded and unique landscapes. The lake itself was the result of the most violent volcanic eruption the world has seen in the past 5000 years – the ash affected the sunsets as far away as Europe and China. Today, what remains is a lake the size of Singapore and the largest fresh water lake in Australasia. The township of Taupo is set on the banks of this impressive formation and is a major holiday destination, both in summer and winter months. At the southern end of the lake, Tongariro World Heritage National Park contains three magnificent volcanoes – Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe (which stars as the scary ‘Mt Doom’ in the movie “Lord of the Rings”). Heading south from here you will follow the eastern shores of Lake Taupo with plenty of lovely picnic areas along the way. This then brings you to Turangi, a resort town that services the booming ski industry in the winter months. Turangi is a small town on the west bank of the Tongariro River. It was built to accommodate workers associated with the Tongariro hydro-electric power development project and their families. The town was designed to remain as a small service centre for the exotic forest plantations south of Lake Taupo. It is well known for its trout fishing. Your driver will discuss with you what time to pick you up for tomorrow’s sightseeing.