A New Zealand Self Driving holiday is one of the best ways to see the country at your own pace. But with such an abundance of beautiful places, choosing where to go can be a little trying! So we’ve put together the 10 destinations that should be on your itinerary. Trust us, we know what we’re doing.
1. Bay of Islands. A sub-tropical paradise known for its pristine beaches, atolls and friendly marine life, the Bay of Islands is a natural adventure playground. Go swimming with dolphins, dive to an ancient shipwreck, explore the rainforest or simply relax on a white sandy beach.
2. Waiheke Island. A 35 minute ferry ride from central Auckland, Waiheke is known for its vineyards, boutique craft scene and beautiful beaches. Explore its many scenic coves, and go for a swim in crystal clear water. Make time to visit the Sunday Craft Market and be sure to take a tour of the vineyards before you leave.
3. Coromandel Peninsula. Home to rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and towering rock formations, the Coromandel Peninsula is an ideal holiday destination. Visit the renowned Cathedral Cove, so named for its cavernous ‘cave’ in the centre of the beach. Explore the rainforests fringed with New Zealand native Pohutukawa and dig yourself a homemade hot tub in the thermal sands of Hot Water Beach.
4. Hobbiton film set. This one’s for the Lord of the Rings fans, but is well worth the detour even if you're not a fan of Hobbits! Set into the hillsides of lush Waikato farmland, Hobbiton is fully intact and has been left as is since filming completed. Wander through the Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn and see the Party Tree. We recommend a guided tour to hear interesting behind-the-scenes stories.
5. Rotorua. Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. It is also known as the culture capital of New Zealand and is home to several Maori tribes. A visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs. Before you leave, wander through Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.
6. Tongariro National Park. Volcanoes, emerald lakes, alpine meadows and hot springs make up the diverse landscape within the Tongariro National Park. The park’s most celebrated activity is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - a full day trek that traverses the slopes of all three mountains. The park also offers a multitude of shorter walks to waterfalls, rivers, lava fields and other volcanic features.
7. Hawkes Bay. . With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is the perfect mix of gourmet food, award winning wine and spectacular scenery. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. Those into architecture can hop aboard a 1930’s car and take in the city’s prominent Art Deco landmarks or hire a bike and cycle the trails. Grab your sunscreen and head down to one of the golden sandy beaches that form the larger Hawke's Bay and be sure to try the diverse range of produce from the region's many orchards, cheese, honey, or chocolate tours.
8. Abel Tasman National Park. Renowned for its spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife, Abel Tasman National Park is a tiny coastal paradise with limestone cliffs, clear blue waters and the highest number of sunshine hours in the country. Apart from lying on the beach (highest sunshine hours in the country!) make time to kayak picture perfect bays, take a wildlife tour, visit Cleopatra's Pool or hike one of the many coastal tracks.
9. Milford Sound. A two hour drive from Te Anau, Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in New Zealand. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, Milford is one of the most photographed locations in the country. Sheer cliffs graze the sky, while waterfalls tumble on every side. Seals are frequent visitors, and (if you're lucky) dolphins can often be seen. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord.
10. Queenstown. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, Queenstown is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders. Follow a trail of vines through Gibbston Valley as you sample the region’s best wine or cruise to Walter Peak station for dinner on board a 100 year old steamship - the TSS Earnslaw. Also celebrated as the adventure capital of New Zealand, this alpine town is known for adrenaline inducing activities such as the shotover jet, nevis bungy, canyon swing, zipline, luge or white water rafting.
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