Kombi Diaries: Auckland to Glenorchy Journey


1851 km


  • Auckland & Wellington
  • West Coast
  • Southern Lakes


Hit the road and take in some of New Zealand's top destinations. From city buzz to wild beaches, serene lakes to remote valleys, you're in for an unforgettable trip as you head south through the country. 

Driving in New Zealand can be very different to driving at home. Before you set out on this road trip of a lifetime, make sure you are familiar with driving in New Zealand.

Day 1: Spend the day in Auckland

The Coromandel
Cathedral Cove, The Coromandel

By Alistair Guthrie

The Coromandel


Pristine beaches and dramatic coastlines


  • Explore the world famous Cathedral Cove
  • Snorkel Orua sea cave
  • Dig your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach


Your road trip starts in Auckland, the City of Sails. There's plenty of good shopping to be done around the central city - from Britomart by the waterfront to K' Rd, and in nearby Mt Eden and Ponsonby. 

A visit to Auckland wouldn't be complete without heading out to Piha, a black sand beach on the west coast. Pack a picnic, take a surfing lesson or just hike through the native bush in the surrounding hills. 

Day 2: Auckland - Taupo

Bay of Plenty
Sunrise on Mt Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

By Bay of Plenty Tourism


  • Mount Maunganui - voted NZ's best beach
  • Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail
  • Evening kayaking with glowworms


  • By car: 3 hrs 30 mins
  • By : Coromandel to Tauranga

Make your way south from Auckland towards Lake Taupo, in the central North Island. On your way into town, stop off at the Huka Falls. This is the country's most visited attraction - more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second!

If you're into sailing or water-skiing, Taupo is the place to be. Or take a boat tour to Mine Bay, where you can see giant hand-carved Maori rock carvings only accessible from the water.


Day 3: Taupo - Wellington

Bay of Plenty
White Island, Bay of Plenty

By Tourism New Zealand


  • By car: 1 hr 10 mins
  • By : Tauranga to Whakatane


  • White Island volcanic tours
  • Maori historical sites
  • Dolphin and seal nature tours


Learn more about New Zealand's only active marine volcano.

More about White Island

The drive to Wellington includes travelling along the long, straight Desert Road, with great views of Tongariro National Park’s volcanoes, before giving way to rivers and valleys. The last stretch of the route follows the Kapiti Coast, which leads into Wellington. 

You're spoiled for choice when it comes to museums (Te Papa, City and Sea, Pataka) and art galleries. Wellington also prides itself on its culinary offerings, and positively pulses with outstanding cafes, bars, and restaurants (Cuba St and Courtenay Place are good starting points). And don't miss a trip up the iconic cable car. 

Day 4: Wellington - Blenheim

Tolaga Bay, Eastland

By Tourism Eastland Inc





  • Friendly coastal towns
  • Tikitiki's ornate Maori church
  • 600m Tolaga Bay wharf


  • By car: Whakatane to Gisborne via Te Araroa
  • By car: 4 hr 45 mins 373km

Our most famous ferry route transports you (and your vehicle) between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. With any luck, you'll spot dolphins, whales and fur seals along the way. To find out more about crossing the Cook Strait see Bluebridge or Interislander. 

From Picton it's a short drive to Blenheim - a great place for food and wine lovers. There are plenty of eateries and artisan food outlets, as well as dozens of wineries a stone's thrown from town. 

Day 5: Blenheim - Christchurch

Hawke's Bay
Lake Waikaremoana, Hawke's Bay

By Tourism Eastland



A region rich in Maori culture and stunning coasts


  • Te Urewera wilderness area
  • Morere Hot Springs
  • Onepoto Caves


Head south along the coast and take a break in Kaikoura - here, it's all about experiencing the bounty of the sea. Tuck into a plate of crayfish and take a whale-watching tour (as well as whales, seals and dolphins live off the coast year-round). 

In Christchurch, explore the city on foot, by tram or relax in a punt as you float down the Avon River on a punt. There are lots of pop-up restaurants and bars livening up the area, as well as boutique stores and galleries.

Day 6: Christchurch - Hokitika

Hawke's Bay
Cape Kidnappers, Hawke's Bay

By Tourism Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay


Discover wineries, wildlife and Art Deco design


  • Cape Kidnappers gannet colony
  • Heritage architecture
  • Winery tours


Crossing the width of the South Island today takes you through Arthur's Pass, climbing to more than 900 metres then descending through forests, riverbeds and gorges. If you're feeling adventurous, go hiking or mountaineering in Arthur's Pass National Park. You might spot the kea, an inquisitive alpine parrot, along the way.

Historic Hokitika, on the west coast, has a rich gold mining history and today specialises in pounamu (greenstone) jewellery and art. Enjoy a picnic along the beach or on the shores of one of the nearby lakes. 

Day 7: Hokitika - Fox Glacier



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One of the premiere attractions on the West Coast are Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. The temperate climate at this low altitude means they are among the most convenient to visit in the world. You can walk to the terminal face, or hike through the bush to a viewing point. Another option is to join a guided tour - a glacier walk or a heli flight.

Day 8: Fox Glacier - Wanaka



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Make your way down the coast and through Mt Aspiring National Park (stop and stretch your legs along the way; there are lots of short walks scattered throughout).

Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. Relax in or around town and enjoy the local flavours. There's everything from informal cafes to fine dining, as well as boutique wineries and breweries. Or simply pack a picnic and soak up the scenery.

Day 9: Wanaka - Glenorchy



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There are two ways to drive between Wanaka and Queenstown - via Cromwell, or over the Crown Range Road. While the latter takes longer and is more challenging, it's notable for its views, frequent encounters with kea, and being the highest main road in New Zealand. South of Wanaka, the historic Cardrona Hotel is a popular stop for a drink or a meal.

There are lots of picturesque stops, at spots along Lake Hayes or Lake Wakatipu. Detour to historic Arrowtown if you're interested in settler heritage. 

Follow the lake's edge all the way to Glenorchy, a rustic town surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains and beech forests. Hike through the valleys, explore on horseback, or go jet boating on the Dart River.

Driving in New Zealand

Important things you need to know about driving in New Zealand.

View the route below

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