Auckland to Queenstown via the East Coast

12 Days
2260km
1405mi

Route

Auckland Central to Central Queenstown

Highlights

  • 6 Wine regions
  • Whale watching
  • Beaches & mountains

Best time of year

All year

This intrepid road trip takes you to some of the lesser-travelled parts of New Zealand, as well as our most popular visitor destinations. Starting in our largest city, Auckland, you'll make your way to the Coromandel Peninsula, famous for its beaches, and down to geothermally active Rotorua. Gisborne is a land of Chardonnay and amazing surf breaks, while Napier serves up beautiful red wines and art deco architecture.

Wellington is known as the world's coolest little capital. It boasts exciting nightlife and diverse cuisine scene, along with unique wildlife experiences and cultural activities. Take the ferry across to the South Island and you're in Marlborough, the home of Sauvignon Blanc. Make your way down the coast and encounter whales, dolphins and seals in Kaikoura.

Next you're in funky Christchurch and on to picturesque Lake Tekapo. Your journey winds up in the beautiful lakeside towns of Wanaka and Queenstown, where you can enjoy adventurous pursuits or just relax and indulge.

Info

Swimming with dusky dolphins, Kaikoura

Photo by Rob Suisted

Day 8 / 12

Picton - Blenheim - Kaikoura

1 hr

54 mins

157 km

98 mi

Marlborough

The short drive to Blenheim takes you across the Wairau Plains past vineyards and wineries. Blenheim is the heart of wine-growing Marlborough, with more than 20 wineries within an easy drive of town. Be sure to try the Sauvignon Blanc for which this region is famous. You’ll also find a pleasing selection of cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops and golf courses.

State Highway 1 takes you through the coastal foothills, and then out into the picturesque Awatere Valley. In the township of Seddon you’ll find authentic New Zealand crafts. The Lake Grassmere saltworks is an interesting stop - the ponds turn coral pink in late summer. After the small town of Ward, the road turns toward the awesome beauty of the Pacific Coast.

Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish. A whale watch 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.

Picton

Start in Picton

The heart of the Marlborough Sounds, this picturesque port town is home to great cafes, restaurants, galleries and specialty shops.

Acercate a las enormes ballenas con un paseo en barco en Kaikoura.

End in Kaikoura

The picturesque coastal town of Kaikoura is the perfect place for marine life encounters, coastal walks, and tucking into a plate of crayfish.

Time & distance calculator