Auckland to Christchurch, West Coast Discovery

14 DAYS

3189 km

Puntos destacados

  • Geothermal Rotorua
  • Adventurous Queenstown
  • Milford Sound

Proximidad

CAR-FREE TRAVEL OPTIONS

Includes one ferry journey across Cook Strait

Discover vibrant cities, secluded beaches and rugged wilderness on this 14-day journey from Auckland to Christchurch via the West Coast.

This journey takes you from New Zealand's largest city through beautiful beach towns, volcanic landscapes and our cool little capital to the South Island. Here you'll discover delicious wine, lush rainforests and ancient glaciers as you travel down the West Coast and through stunning alpine resorts, before ending your journey in the innovative city of Christchurch.

Day 1: Auckland to Whitianga

Coromandel
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

By Andy Belcher

Coromandel

COROMANDEL

Pristine beaches and dramatic coastlines

Puntos destacados

  • Cathedral Cove
  • Snorkel Orua sea cave
  • Hot Water Beach

Proximidad

  • By car: 2 h 35 min | 169 km via SH1, SH2 & SH25
  • By bus: 4 hr 35 min | by Intercity or NakedBus

Auckland, New Zealand's largest centre is an exciting and scenic city. Take some time to explore before making your way to the Coromandel Peninsula, a favourite holiday spot for Kiwi's and visitors alike. Formerly a gold-mining and timber town, Coromandel township is now a haven for artists, craftspeople and conservationists. There are several good walks in the area and a railway enthusiast has created an hour-long train trip at Driving Creek.

On the other side of the peninsula, you'll find Whitianga a vibrant beach town with plenty to do. Two must-see sites in this area are Cathedral Cove (a picturesque photo spot) and Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own natural spa.

Day 2: Whitianga to Rotorua

Rotorua
Kerosene Creek, Rotorua

By Fraser Clements

Rotorua

ROTORUA

Mud pools, adventure and unique Maori culture

Puntos destacados

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

Proximidad

  • By car: 2 h 55 min | 210 km via SH25 & SH5
  • By bus: No direct bus service - see car-free options

Take your leave from Whitianga and drive to the prosperous city of Tauranga, which sprawls along the edge of an attractive harbour. Stop here for lunch or try a spot of fishing, snorkelling or dolphin watching. Nearby, Mount Maunganui is great for surfing and beach walking. When you're ready, continue your journey inland to Rotorua.

Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire and volcanic activity is visible everywhere you look. Explore the geothermal areas and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people. Or try one of Rotorua's many adrenaline-fuelled adventure activities.

Car-free option

Consider adding a night in Tauranga before travelling on to Rotorua.

Day 3: Rotorua to Taupo

Lake Taupo
Skydiving above the Central Plateau, Lake Taupo

By Taupo Tandem Skydiving

Lake Taupo

TAUPO

Teeming with outdoor activities and water sports

Puntos destacados

  • Skydive from 15,000ft
  • Hukafalls jet boat ride
  • Mine Bay Maori carvings

Proximidad

It's a short journey from Rotorua to Taupo today, but there is plenty to keep you entertained along the way. Like Rotorua, this area is alive with geothermal activity and you'll find turn-offs to geothermal parks such as Craters of the Moon, Orakei Korako Cave and Wairakei Terraces en route. Discover geysers, silica terraces and craters of boiling mud.

The resort town of Taupo sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. This is a great destination for fishing, kayaking and jet boating. A boat trip to the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay is a wonderful way to learn more about the Lake and its people.

Taupo also has the largest commercialised skydive drop zone in the world.

Day 4: Taupo to Napier

Hawke's Bay
Haumoana River, Hawke's Bay

By Richard Brimer

Hawke's Bay

HAWKE'S BAY

Discover wineries, wildlife and Art Deco design

Puntos destacados

  • Beautiful cycling trails
  • Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony
  • World-class golf course

Proximidad

The journey from Taupo to Napier is lined with fantastic scenery, from rugged hills and beautiful valleys to gentle plains and huge vistas. Stops along the way include the hot springs at Tarawera and the Waiarua Falls lookout.

In the twin cities of Napier and Hasting, you'll find beautiful Art Deco architecture, the result of a 1931 earthquake which destroyed many of the original buildings. Visit the local MTG museum for the story of this fascinating history. Hawke's Bay is also home to a plethora of vineyards, many within easy cycling distance of Napier. Other attractions are the gannet colony and the premier golf course at Cape Kidnappers.

Day 5: Napier to Wellington

Wellington
Cuba Street, Wellington

By Jerry Aurum

Wellington

WELLINGTON

A mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine

Puntos destacados

  • Boutique shops
  • Rugby Museum in Manawatu
  • Kapiti Island

Proximidad

  • By car: 4 h 30 min | 322 km via SH2
  • By bus: 5 h 25 min | via Kapiti Coast by Intercity

You'll pass through a number of charming provincial towns on your way south to Wellington today. One of New Zealand’s largest provincial cities, Palmerston North has an attractive historic heart. Many of the original stores from the 1920s and 1930s, have been restored and now function as boutiques, cafes and restaurants. The rose gardens and the town's Rugby Museum may also catch your interest.

Continue along the Kapiti Coast. Offshore from Waikanae is Kapiti Island, a nature reserve for close encounters with rare birds. A car museum and a gourmet cheese factory are other attractions in this area. From here, it's less than an hour's drive to central Wellington.

Day 6: Spend the day in Wellington

Wellington
Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

By Two Bearded Men

Puntos destacados

  • New Zealand's national museum Te Papa
  • Wellington Botanical Garden
  • Weta Workshop

Proximidad

  • By bus: Wellington public transport by Metlink
  • By : Visit the local iSITE for more activities

TOP EXPERIENCES IN WELLINGTON

Wellington is renowned for its vibrant creative culture.

Read more

Spend a day exploring our country's capital. Wellington is compact, cultured and full of character. Nestled between the harbour and the hills, the downtown area is ideal for explorations on foot. Enjoy cafes, restaurants, museums (including Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum) and all kinds of shops. Dance, theatre and musical performances are a Wellington speciality.

Day 7: Wellington to Nelson

Nelson
Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

By Fraser Clements

Nelson

NELSON

National parks, local artists & world-class wine

Puntos destacados

  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Art galleries and craft shops
  • Wineries and fresh seafood

Proximidad

  • By ferry: 3 h 30 min | to Picton by a Cook Strait Ferry
  • By car: 1 h 50 min | 107 km via Linkwater & SH6
  • By bus: 2 h 15 min | by Intercity via Blenheim

Today you'll cross from the North Island to the South Island by ferry. The passage across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds is one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world. Highlights include Cook’s Lookout, Tory Channel and Red Rocks seal colony. 

From Picton, continue west to Nelson. Along the way, take time to stop at Pelorus Bridge, where you can enjoy a forest walk or a swim. Havelock is the place for a seafood meal – particularly Greenshell Mussels, which are a speciality here.

Nelson is home to a fascinating community of beach, nature and art lovers. From here, you can organise yourself an eco-adventure or become immersed in the local creative culture.

Day 8: Nelson to Westport

West Coast
Cape Foulwind Walkway, West Coast

By Miles Holden

West Coast

WEST COAST

Rugged natural beauty and unique experiences

Puntos destacados

  • Cape Foulwind seal colony
  • Stunning coastal views
  • Rafting and jet boating

Proximidad

  • By car: 3 h 10 min | 222 km via SH6
  • By bus: 3 h 40 min | by Intercity

The road to Westport is scenic and interesting. Stop in Murchison for some great white-water rafting or visit the district museum where you can learn about the massive earthquake that shook the region in 1929. In Lyell, you can pan for gold or walk to a pioneer cemetery. Continue past a dramatic rock overhang at Hawks Crag and through the dark, forbidding Buller Gorge to Westport.

Westport is known as a coal-mining town, but it’s also a base for outdoor adventures. Visit the local mining museum, then strap on your walking shoes to investigate the seal colony. Blackwater rafting, jet boating, horse trekking and rafting are other opportunities for outdoor excitement.

Day 9: Westport to Franz Josef Glacier

West Coast
Fox Glacier e Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast

By Fraser Clements

Puntos destacados

  • Ancient glaciers
  • World Heritage area
  • Pounamu carving

Proximidad

WEST COAST GLACIERS

Explore a place where the ice age is still underway.

Read more

Today you'll you travel south through the gold-rush towns of Greymouth and Hokitika to the West Coast Glaciers. Along the way, wild beaches and tempestuous seas will give you a feeling for this rugged and isolated region.

Visit Paparoa National Park, home to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks - a rocky outcrop that looks like stacked pancakes. For some gold-rush history, you can't go past Shantytown, or stop in Hokitika to see carvers sculpt pieces of Pounamu (jade) into beautiful jewellery. 

Further south, you'll reach the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. These are some of the most accessible glaciers in the world and there are plenty of ways to explore them from short hikes to flightseeing tours.

Day 10: Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka

Wanaka
Winetasting at Rippon Vineyard, Wanaka

By Matt Crawford

Wanaka

WANAKA

The most tranquil of the South Island lakes

Puntos destacados

  • World-class wineries
  • Mount Aspiring National Park
  • Mountain biking & climbing

Proximidad

Continue your journey south to the settlement of Haast, a town with a touch of the Wild West. Here helicopters fly hunters into the rugged ranges and local pubs make a feature of stuffed animal trophies. Take a moment to refresh before you take on the dramatic twists and turns of the Haast Pass, with its picturesque waterfalls and river scenery.

On arrival in Wanaka, you'll find a lakeside town with an appealing mix of fine living, family fun and adventure. This tranquil town has plenty of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops for you to explore. You’ll also find unique attractions, like the 3D maze at Puzzling World and the boutique Paradiso Cinema.

Day 11: Wanaka to Queenstown

Queenstown
Queenstown Skyline, Queenstown

By Skyline

Queenstown

QUEENSTOWN

Home of the ultimate adventure bucket list

Puntos destacados

  • Adventure activities of all kinds
  • Delicious food and winery tours
  • Marquee golf courses

Proximidad

The shortest route to Queenstown is over the Crown Range. It’s a challenging drive, but the views are amazing. Alternatively, take the route that runs beside the Clutha River, Lake Dunstan and the Shotover River. The vineyards of the Gibbston area and bungy jumpers at the Kawarau River Bridge are interesting distractions along the way.

The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting, sophisticated and fantastically scenic. It’s the place to source almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating, horse trekking and rafting. It’s also a destination for luxury experiences – gourmet food and wine, spa treatments and leisurely games of golf.

Day 12: Milford Sound day trip

New Zealand
Rock-hopping, Milford Sound, New Zealand

By Chris Sisarich

Puntos destacados

  • Walking and hiking trails
  • Kayaking or scenic flights
  • Boat cruises day and night

Proximidad

  • By car: 3 h 45 min | 287 km (one way) via SH6 & SH94
  • By : Driving times may vary during winter
  • By bus: Visit the local iSITE for scenic tour options

EXPLORE MILFORD SOUND

Decorated with waterfalls and alive with unique wildlife.

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Milford Sound is an amazing 22km-long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak and dotted with tall waterfalls, vertical rock faces and seals. Drive yourself or choose a tour, either way, look out for the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, the Mirror Lakes and the rough-hewn Homer Tunnel that brings you into the Sound. 

A cruise on Milford Sound will be an essential part of your time in Fiordland; most boats offer an underwater observatory option. Alternatively, explore at your own pace in a sea kayak

Spend the night in Te Anau or return to Queenstown.

Caution: If you choose to self-drive, be sure to give yourself plenty of time as conditions varying greatly on this route, particularly in winter.

Day 13: Queenstown to Aoraki Mount Cook

Christchurch - Canterbury
Lake Pukaki, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Miles Holden

Puntos destacados

  • Walking and cycling trails
  • New Zealand's highest mountain
  • Dark Sky Reserve

Proximidad

  • By car: 3 h 15 min | 264 km via Sh6 & SH8
  • By bus: 5 h | by GreatSights

AORAKI MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK

Explore New Zealand's highest mountain.

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Today you will travel to Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain.

There are several interesting towns along the way including Omarama. This town is a magnet for gliding enthusiasts due to the thermal that can take glider pilots to 10,000 metres. In Twizel, you can see the world's rarest wading bird – the Black Stilt.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park attracts mountain climbers, hikers and scenery lovers from all over. Heli-skiing, heli-hiking and aerial sightseeing provide amazing ways to explore the region. Or hike one of the many walking trails. From here, you can also take a boat trip to New Zealand's largest glacier, the Tasman.

Day 14: Aoraki Mount Cook to Christchurch

Christchurch - Canterbury
Christchurch city, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Julian Apse

Christchurch - Canterbury

CHRISTCHURCH - CANTERBURY

Stretching from alps to ocean

Puntos destacados

  • Heritage tramway
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Boutique shopping

Proximidad

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

The road to Christchurch takes you past the settlement of Lake Tekapo. With its shimmering turquoise lake and majestic mountain backdrop, this is a photographer's dream. Be sure to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue before continuing on to Christchurch.

As the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is packed with charming heritage, innovation and outdoor activities. Punting on the Avon River, heritage tram rides, street art trails, botanical gardens and scenic heli-flights are just some of the things to do here. Spend the afternoon discovering all this city has to offer.

Driving in New Zealand

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

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