Explore the myths and legends of the Maori and J.R.R. Tolkien on this tailor-made adventure through New Zealand
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- Take in New Zealand's mountain vistas on ultra-scenic drives
- Experience the volcanic wonders of Rotorua
- Spot whales in Kaikoura
- Showcase New Zealand's historic cities
- Stay in boutique properties throughout
- 1 Night Auckland
- 2 Nights Bay of Islands
- 1 Night Auckland
- 2 Nights Rotorua
- 2 Nights Wellington
- 2 Nights Kaikoura
- 1 Night Christchurch
- 2 Nights Mount Cook
- 2 Nights Queenstown
Activity adventure | Food & wine | History & culture | Natural world | Self-drive
New Zealand is a country of legend and myth, a cultural melting pot with a rich and vibrant history. Maori heritage remains at the heart of this island nation known as Aotearoa - "the Land of the Long White Cloud". In recent times New Zealand has also become known for another legend, one born out of the sublime storytelling of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tale The Lord of the Rings and, more recently, The Hobbit. This tailor-made self-drive takes you on a journey through New Zealand's fascinating history and breathtaking landscapes to the heart of Middle Earth as you visit some of the country's cultural hotspots as well as a series of film locations that really show off New Zealand at its absolute best.
Day by day itinerary
Begin your holiday in style with included airport lounge access before your flight to Auckland, arriving on day three.
Arrive in the 'City of Sails' where you'll be met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure to discover the myriad attractions of New Zealand's largest city. There's the buzz of the waterfront and the chic suburbs of Ponsonby and Mt Eden to explore. Or, you might prefer to hop on a ferry for a trip out to the islands and beaches of Waiheke Island.
Stay: Heritage Auckland (Superior)
Bay of Islands
After breakfast on day two, collect your hire car and drive north to the Bay of Islands. On arrival, check into your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at your leisure. An optional day pass to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which includes a guided tour and cultural performance, is a great way to learn about the region's fascinating Maori heritage and the events that shaped New Zealand. The pass is valid for two days. Alternatively, head out on a Discover KeriKeri tour, visiting Ake Ake vineyard and uncovering some of the town's best-kept secrets; visit the Stone Store at the edge of the inlet to see how early settlers lived and finish up with a tour of the Makana Chocolate Factory to watch hand-made truffles and toffees being made.
Stay: Tiki Tiki Ora, Bay of Islands (Superior)
Return to Auckland for an overnight stay, breaking your journey to Rotorua and giving you more time explore the City of Sails. The culinary scene here is outstanding, with everything from farmers' markets to fine-dining restaurants showcasing the abundant produce of the Hauraki Gulf. Alternatively, consider a trip to the top of the Auckland Sky Tower for views across the city, harbour and islands beyond.
Stay: Heritage Auckland (Superior)
Drive from Auckland to Rotorua for a two night stay. We recommend an optional excursion to the Hobbiton movie set from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. A Hobbiton Movie Set Tours vehicle will pick you up from your Rotorua hotel at 1.30pm for your transfer to The Shire's Rest, the departure point of your tour. This essential stop for every Tolkien fan starts with a drive through a 1,250 acre working sheep farm. The Hobbit Holes, Green Dragon Inn – where you can enjoy a specially brewed beverage – and other structures created for the films will show you how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle Earth. The tour guide will escort you through the ten-acre site while recounting fascinating stories of how the set was created. On your second day in Rotorua, perhaps enjoy a private guide for an optional Kia Ora Guided Walk taking in some of the town's most important historic sites.
Stay: Regent of Rotorua (Superior)
Today's drive is long but scenic as you head south to Wellington at the southern tip of the North Island. On arrival, check into your hotel where you'll spend the next two nights. The following day we recommend an optional WETA Workshop - 'There and Back Again' tour which visits the multi Academy Award-winning company behind Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong and The Hobbit. Filled with props, models and weaponry, this tour gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how these movies were made.
Stay: QT Museum Wellington (Superior)
This morning you'll make your way to Wellington Harbour where you'll board the Interislander Ferry for your journey to Picton on New Zealand's South Island. On arrival, collect your hire car and continue south to Kaikoura on the east coast. The following day is free for optional touring. Perhaps join a whale wildlife cruise, looking out for whales, seals, pods of dusky dolphins and the endangered wandering albatross.
Stay: Manakau Lodge, Kaikoura (Superior)
Head south to Christchurch for punts on the River Avon and lazing strolls through flower-filled gardens. Once you've check into your award-winning boutique hotel, you'll have a full day to explore the city and see its continuing recovery from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Stay: The Classic Villa, Christchurch (Superior)
Depart Christchurch and drive inland through some of the South Island's most breathtaking landscapes to Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. Check into your hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure, enjoying the views of this spectacular region. The following day choose from three recommended optional excursions. Experience the beauty of the Southern Alps on a guided half-day Hooker Valley walk, a spectacular 4.5km return trek along a well maintained path taking in the poignant Alpine Memorial and majestic views of Mount Cook's south face. Alternatively, board a Glacier Explorer's Cruise to the Tasman Glacier, the largest in New Zealand, or perhaps join a Big Sky Stargazing tour. Using state-of-the-art telescopes, high powered binoculars and the expert knowledge of your astronomy guides you'll experience the beauty of the southern sky.
Stay: The Hermitage, Mt. Cook (Superior)
Continue south to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital. You'll have two free days to explore the town and surrounding region, with everything from hiking and cycling to and skydiving among the available options. Or, simply relax and soak up the views before your final journey into Middle Earth, an optional Safari of the Scenes full-day tour. A must for all Lord of the Rings fans, you'll takes in some of the films best-known locations combined with a thrilling off-road adventure through the wilds of the Southern Alps. Alternatively, consider a Real Journeys Nature Cruise instead, sailing along the shores of Lake Wakitipu to Te Anau to board the Milford Mariner for a cruise on beautiful Milford Sound. You'll have plenty of time to enjoy the region's waterfalls, rainforests, mountains and wildlife before returning to Queenstown by fixed wing plane.
Stay: Queenstown Park Hotel (Superior)
Return your car to Queenstown airport where you'll board your flight home, arriving the next day.
Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.
19-day tailor-made self-drive from £3,365 pp incl. flights
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