Queenstown to Auckland, East Coast Discovery

14 DAYS

2265 km

Highlights

  • Beaches and Mountains
  • Whale watching
  • World-class wineries

Proximity

CAR-FREE TRAVEL OPTIONS

Includes a ferry across the Cook Strait.

Discover New Zealand with this 14-day journey, which combines the country's most popular destinations with plenty of hidden gems.

From thrilling adventure to stunning attractions, you'll encounter unique wildlife, explore secluded beaches, savour world-class wine and enjoy exciting nightlife as you travel from Queenstown to Auckland on this epic tour of New Zealand.

Day 1: Queenstown to Wanaka

Wanaka
Walking in Wanaka, Wanaka

By Lake Wanaka Tourism

Wanaka

WANAKA

The most tranquil of the South Island lakes.

Highlights

  • Stunning walking and hiking trails
  • Mountain biking trails
  • Mount Aspiring National Park

Proximity

  • By car: 1 h 30 min | 112 km via SH6
  • By bus: 1 h 50 min | by Intercity

The alpine resort of Queenstown is a destination for luxury, stunning scenery and almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating, horse trekking and rafting. Take time to experience all this beautiful place has to offer with a wine tour, skydive or a round of golf at one of the country's marquee golf courses.

As you continue on to Wanaka, you'll have the opportunity to visit the charming village of Arrowtown. Explore the shops and cafes, pan for gold, visit galleries or wander through the historic Chinese miners' village.

Wanaka contains an appealing mix of fine living and unique attractions, like the Wildwire waterfall climb and quirky Cinema Paradiso.

Day 2: Wanaka to Aoraki Mount Cook

Christchurch - Canterbury
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Fraser Clements

Highlights

  • Hooker Valley
  • Explore Tasman Glacier
  • Stargazing in the Dark Sky Reserve

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 30 min | 209 km via Sh6 & SH8
  • By bus: 3 h 30 min | by Great Sights

AORAKI MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK

Explore New Zealand's highest mountain and longest glacier.

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Enjoy the golden tussock and snow-capped mountain landscape as you travel from Wanaka to New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook. Along the way, you'll pass Omarama, a favourite spot with gliders. This area’s unique geography assists in the formation of the famous Northwest Arch, a thermal that can take glider pilots to 10,000 metres. 

In Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, you'll find ample hiking and climbing activities to enjoy. This is also the home of New Zealand's longest glacier, scenic flights, short hikes and boat tours through the terminal lake are all ways to explore this spectacular feature.

Day 3: Mount Cook to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo

Christchurch - Canterbury
Christchurch, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Julian Apse

Christchurch - Canterbury

CHRISTCHURCH - CANTERBURY

From the alps to the ocean.

Highlights

  • Christchurch Botanical Gardens
  • Cycling around Lake Tekapo
  • Heritage buildings and art culture

Proximity

  • By car: 4 h 10 min | 332 km via SH1 & SH8
  • By bus: 4 h 50 min | by Intercity

Today you'll leave the alpine landscape behind and head across the patchwork Canterbury Plains to Christchurch. If you have time stop in Lake Tekapo and explore the beautiful turquoise lake. Fishing, kayaking, bike riding, horse trekking and skiing are some of the things you can do in this area. The Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue make great photo opportunities.

Fast changing and funky, Christchurch is the South Island's largest city. Favourite activities include punting down the Avon River, biking in the Port Hills, visiting Sumner Beach, or a day trip out to the French colonial settlement of Akaroa.

Day 4: Christchurch to Kaikoura

Christchurch - Canterbury
Seal watching, Christchurch - Canterbury

By ChristchurchNZ

Highlights

  • Dolphins, seals and whales
  • Kaikoura Peninsula walkway
  • Delicious seafood

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h | 202 km - SH7
    2 h 45 min | 181 km - SH1
  • By : SH1 route is only open Fri - Mon, 7am - 6pm
  • By bus: 3 h 40 min | by Intercity

TOP EXPERIENCES IN KAIKOURA

Get up close to marine wildlife in this coastal town.

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Leave Christchurch and travel through the surf towns of Waikuku, Leithfield and Amberley. Stop for lunch in Waipara – a region known for its vineyards (Pinot Noir is the speciality here) and olive groves.

Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish. A whale watching tour can take you to see Minke, Humpback and Southern Right whales, mixing it with dolphins and orcas. You can also walk to see fur seal colonies and spy on big seabirds such as mollymawks, albatross and petrels.

Day 5: Kaikoura to Blenheim

Marlborough
Winery, Marlborough

By Mike Heydon

Marlborough

MARLBOROUGH

Valleys of vines and sheltered waterways.

Highlights

  • Home of Sauvignon Blanc
  • Marlborough Sounds waterways
  • Queen Charlotte Track

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 35 min | 153 km via SH1
  • By : SH1 route is only open 7am - 8.30pm
  • By bus: 2 h 25 min | to Blenheim by Intercity

From Kaikoura follow the Pacific Coast north, across the Wairau Plains, to Blenheim the heart of wine-growing Marlborough.

With more than 20 wineries within an easy drive of town, Blenheim is a great place for a wine tour. Be sure to try the local Sauvignon Blanc for which this region is famous. You’ll also find a pleasing selection of cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops and golf courses. Alternatively, explore the waterways and islands of the Marlborough Sounds by boat, kayak, bike, or on foot.

Day 6: Picton to Wellington

Wellington
Mount Victoria, Wellington

By Julian Apse

Wellington

WELLINGTON

A mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine

Highlights

  • Panoramic views from Mount Victoria
  • Lively cafes, bars and restaurants
  • Fascinating museums and galleries

Proximity

The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the South Island base for the ferry that will take you on to Wellington. Picton is home to an array of different attractions to keep you entertained, including museums, interesting walks and an aquarium.

Passage across Cook Strait travels through the Marlborough Sounds and is one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world. Highlights include the Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel and Cook’s Lookout.

In Wellington, you'll find a vibrant funky city packed with things to do. It's the place to enjoy museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants and craft beer.

Day 7: Wellington to Masterton

Wairarapa
Toast Martinborough, Wairarapa

By Mike Heydon - Jet Photography

Wairarapa

WAIRARAPA

Vineyards, antiques and boutique stores.

Highlights

  • Cycle the vines
  • Museums and galleries
  • Colonial heritage

Proximity

  • By car: 1 h 30 min | 98 km via SH2
  • By train: 1 h 50 min | by Metlink Rail

After soaking up the lively vibe of Wellington, you'll enjoy the more relaxed pace of Wairarapa countryside. This region is home to an interesting group of small historic towns each with its own distinct personality. 

Featherston is the gateway to a wild stretch of wetland that surrounds Lake Wairarapa. A short journey from here, you'll find Martinborough, known for its many boutique vineyards and delicious Pinot Noir. Further north Greytown and Carterton are great places for antique and souvenir shopping. Masterton is the biggest population centre in the area. Learn more about the region's history with a visit to the Wool Shed and Arotoi Museum.

Day 8: Masterton to Napier

Hawke's Bay
Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui, Hawke's Bay

By Tourism Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay

HAWKE'S BAY

Discover wineries, wildlife and Art Deco design

Highlights

  • Cape Kidnappers gannet colony
  • Heritage architecture
  • Winery tours

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 50 min | 229 km vis SH2
  • By bus: 4 h 15 min | by Intercity

Not far from Masterton, you'll come to the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the only white kiwi bird in captivity. Other residents include rare tuatara and takahe.

In 1931, a devastating earthquake nearly levelled the city of Napier. It was rebuilt in the style of the times and is now considered the Art Deco capital of the world. The vineyards of Hawke’s Bay are all within easy reach of Napier. Another attraction is the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

Day 9: Napier to Gisborne

Eastland
Te Ara ki Hikurangi walkway, Eastland

By Troy Baker

Eastland

EASTLAND

Maori culture, delicious wine and surf beaches.

Highlights

  • Watch the sunrise on Mount Hikurangi
  • Horse trekking
  • Walking and hiking trails

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h | 214 km via SH2
  • By bus: 4 h | by Intercity

There are two routes from Napier to Gisborne. On the inland route, you can visit Hackfalls Arboretum, one of the largest private collections of trees in New Zealand. The coastal route takes you past Morere Hot Springs and the fabulous beaches of Mahia Peninsula. Alternatively, take a detour to Lake Waikaremoana, the gateway to Te Urewera wilderness area and a great place for horse trekking, kayaking or hiking. 

Gisborne is a sunny city with a reputation for good wine and fantastic surf beaches. There are more than 20 vineyards in the area – the emphasis is on Chardonnay.

Day 10: Gisborne to Whakatane

Bay of Plenty
White Island, Bay of Plenty

By Tourism New Zealand

Bay of Plenty

BAY OF PLENTY

Spectacular beaches and an active volcano.

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 10 min | 165 km via SH30
  • By bus: 5 h 30 min | via Rotorua by Intercity

EXPLORE WHITE ISLAND

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

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From Gisborne, you'll travel through the stunning Waioeka Gorge to Opotiki. Take your time and enjoy the forest and river scenery along the way. Not far from Opotiki, you'll find Ohope, a friendly coastal town with kilometres of uninterrupted beach for swimming, walking, surfing and fishing. Local Maori culture is strong in this region, so look for carved meeting houses and unique churches.

Whakatane is one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand with a great mix of activities including a museum, observatory and numerous Maori historical sites. Just offshore is White Island, a spectacular active volcano that you can visit by boat or helicopter.

Day 11: Whakatane to Rotorua

Rotorua
Kerosene Creek, Rotorua

By Fraser Clements

Rotorua

ROTORUA

Mud pools, adventure and unique Maori culture.

Highlights

  • Hot pools & geothermal spectacles
  • Thrilling adventure
  • Maori cultural experiences

Proximity

  • By car: 1 h 15 min | 86 km via SH30
  • By bus: 2 h | by Intercity

It’s a short trip from here to Rotorua, the geothermal heart of New Zealand. 

Situated directly on the ring of fire, Rotorua is a town alive with volcanic activity. Explore the region's fascinating geothermal areas from bubbling mud to erupting geysers. Learn more about the region's history and culture with a visit to one of Rotorua's Maori Villages. The city is also a hub for adventure, so if thrills are what you're after there's plenty to choose from with top mountain biking trails and a growing range of quirky and bizarre adventure activities such as the OGO, shweeb or luge

Day 12: Rotorua to Whitianga via Tauranga

The Coromandel
Cathedral Cove, The Coromandel

By Tourism New Zealand

Christchurch - Canterbury

COROMANDEL

White sand coastline and abundant marine life.

Highlights

  • Cathedral Cove & hot water beach
  • Art galleries and craft shops
  • Snorkelling & diving

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h 10 min | 208 km via SH28
  • By bus: 8 h 5 min | via Thames by Intercity

The road from Rotorua to Tauranga climbs up and over the Mamaku Range, delivering fabulous views. In Tauranga, you'll find a thriving café culture and boat charters offering big game fishing, snorkelling or dolphin watching. Or simply take a stroll along Mount Maunganui beach.

Continue your journey up the coast to Whitianga, a lovely seaside town and a great place from which to explore two of the Coromandel's must-do attractions. Hot Water Beach hides geothermally heated water beneath the sand. At low tide, you can dig your own spa. Another highlight is the walk to spectacular Cathedral Cove, beginning at Hahei.

Day 13: Whitianga to Auckland

Auckland
Mount Eden, Auckland

By Elle Gillard

Auckland

AUCKLAND

Vibrant city style and spectacular landscapes.

Highlights

  • Explore Auckland's volcanic cones
  • Diverse eatery precincts
  • Do a Skywalk or Skyjump

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 40 min | 208 km via SH1, SH2 & SH25
  • By bus: 3 hr 30 min | by Intercity
  • By ferry: 2 h | to Coromandel Town by Fullers

Your first stop today is the historic township of Thames. Founded during the Coromandel gold rush, this is a great place to learn the region's gold mining history. Nearby Miranda offers relaxing hot springs and a bird sanctuary that is well worth a visit before continuing your journey north to Auckland.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city is situated between two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. Spend your time here enjoying the city's harbour, museums, galleries, and adventure activities.

Day 14: Spend the day in Auckland

Auckland
Waiheke Island, Auckland

By Tourism New Zealand

Highlights

  • Waiheke Island wineries
  • Black sand beaches
  • Museums and art galleries

Proximity

WAIHEKE ISLAND

Explore the 'Island of Wine'.

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Spend the last day of your New Zealand journey exploring Auckland and its surrounds.

Auckland region is blessed with many beaches and forest parks, so if hiking, biking, surfing, kayaking, fishing or lounging on the beach are on your agenda, you're in the right place. Visit Waiheke Island's vineyards or climb the extinct volcano of Rangitoto, both are easily accessible by ferry from downtown. Alternatively, explore the inner city with its range of boutique and designer stores and delicious eateries.

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

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