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Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Wilderness Highlights of New Zealand

23-day tailor-made self-drive from £8,490 pp incl. flights


Short description

Discover the spectacular landscapes of New Zealand, from creaking glaciers to volcanic pools and snow-dusted mountains


  • Take to the open road to explore New Zealand's stunning natural world
  • Stay at boutique lodges chosen for their unique wilderness locations
  • Ride across the Southern Alps aboard the TranzAlpine Express
  • Choose between optional excursions, ranging from whale-watching cruises to glacier heli-hikes

In Brief

  • 1 Night Auckland
  • 2 Nights Bay of Islands
  • 1 Night Hokianga
  • 2 Nights Coromandel
  • 2 Nights Rotorua
  • 1 Night Wellington
  • 2 Nights Abel Tasman
  • 2 Nights Kaikoura
  • 1 Night Christchurch
  • 1 Night Franz Josef Glacier
  • 2 Nights Lake Moeraki
  • 2 Nights Queenstown


Recommended for:
Activity adventure | History & culture | Natural world | Self-drive

A land of verdant subtropical forests, shimmering lakes, plunging fjords and soaring mountain peaks, New Zealand's landscapes are truly spectacular. This tailor-made fly-drive takes in the best of them, beginning with the sub-tropical Bay of Islands and the gold-sand good looks of Coromandel before sweeping south through volcanic Rotorua on your way to Wellington. Then, after a ferry hop across the Cook Strait, you'll pair Abel Tasman's secluded bays and Kaikoura's wildlife-rich waters with a TranzAlpine rail journey to the remote West Coast. Round things off with the creaking ice flows of Fox Glacier before a spectacular drive south to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital.

Day by day itinerary

Days 1-2

With included airport lounge access leaving you suitably relaxed, you'll depart on your flight to New Zealand, arriving on day three.

Day 3

Arriving into the Auckland, a private transfer will bring you to your downtown hotel. Ideally located in the City of Sails' historic centre, you'll be perfectly placed to explore its many highlights, from the buzzing waterfront to the eclectic suburbs of Ponsonby and Mt Eden, packed full of chic restaurants, hip bars and, on the weekend, artisanal markets. Alternatively, head out from the harbour to visit such island idylls as Waiheke, home to a golden beaches and sprawling vineyards.

Stay: Heritage Auckland (Superior)

Days 4-5
Bay of Islands

Collect your hire car for the drive north to Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, a scenic route that brings you along sweeping coastal stretches to the country's subtropical north. The following day, we recommend an optional fully guided two-hour night walk in the Puketi Forest. At twilight, listen to the bird song changing as night descends, see the bats flying overhead and observe the nocturnal wildlife of the forest. If you're lucky, you might even spot a kiwi.

Stay: The Sanctuary @ Bay of Islands (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 6

Heading further into the wilds of Northland, today's drive sees you to your beachfront hotel, nestled on the waters edge in Hokianga. This is a region steeped in Maori culture, it's rugged beauty encapsulated by rolling dunes and ancient kauri forests. There's plenty here to fill your time, with harbour cruises and fishing charters vying for attention with a thriving artistic scene that's shaped the region's unique character since hippies arrived here in the late sixties. Everything here moves at a slower pace – if that's possible in New Zealand – and simply heading out for a stroll among the harbour's spindling inlets is a real joy. 

Stay: The Heads Hokianga (Superior)

Meals: B

Days 7-8

Heading to Coromandel, you'll look forward to a two-night stay at a bijoux lodge. It features just four luxury suites, all of which host pretty views across onto the sea; it's the ideal spot to relax on your journey south, preferably with a glass of fine New Zealand wine. If you do feel like exploring, however, there's a whole host of wilderness attractions on the doorstep, from the scenic Hauraki Rail Trail cycle route to the plunging rapids of Karangahake Gorge and Owharoa Falls.

Stay: Beachfront Resort, Whitianga (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Days 9-10

Just a short drive south, Rotorua is New Zealand's most famous geothermal region, full of geysers, hot springs and volcanic mineral pools. With a full day free, we recommend an optional Whirinaki Rainforest eco-cultural walk. Join a local Maori guide to commence a full day exploration of Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park, one of the world’s last great remaining temperate rainforests. Hike over a dramatic canyon, through giant ancient tree species and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch beside a waterfall, before following the clear waters of a river as it winds through dense forest comprising of species dating back to the Jurassic era. Finish with an optional soak in one of Rotorua's famous natural hot springs.

Stay: Koura Lodge, Rotorua (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 11

Drive to Rotorua airport, return your hire car and board a flight to New Zealand's capital, Wellington. On arrival you'll be met and transferred to your hotel before a free afternoon to explore this cosmopolitan harbour city. Perhaps begin with a ride on the Wellington cable car for views across it's pretty harbour setting before taking in the exhibits at Te Papa, New Zealand's superb national museum.

Stay: QT Museum Wellington (Superior)

Meals: B

Days 12-13
Abel Tasman

Transfer to Wellington harbour to board the ferry to Picton at the northern tip of the South Island, sailing in Premium Plus class. Then, collecting your hire car, you'll drive west to Abel Tasman National Park and the seclusion of your luxury accommodation. Nestled between pristine waterways, verdant wetlands and ancient forests, Awaroa Lodge is so remote, it's not reachable by road. And that's all part of the allure, as you drop off your hire car to make the final part of the journey either on foot, by water taxi (included) or, if you feel like splashing out, by air. Then, with a full day to explore the national park, you'll have a choice of optional excursions that range from kayaking and hiking to sailing adventures and scenic flights.

Stay: Awaroa Lodge (Deluxe)

Meals: B D

Days 14-15

Depart Abel Tasman this morning and head to the eastern coastal town of Kaikoura, New Zealand's whale and dolphin-watching capital. Here, you'll check into the outstanding Hapuku Lodge whose collection of 'treehouse' rooms peer out from the forest canopy to sweeping views of Seaward Mountains and Mangamaunu Bay. With a full day to explore, we recommend an optional Whale Watch excursion, boarding a Whale Watch Kaikoura vessel at 'The Whaleway Station' to go in search of fur seals, dusky dolphins and the endangered wandering albatross. And, depending on the season, you might catch a glimpse of migratory humpbacks (June and July) or orcas (December to March).

Stay: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses, Kaikoura (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Day 16

Depart Kaikoura for the short drive to Christchurch, where you'll drop off your hire car. With its rattling trams and winding waterways, complete with Cambridge-style punts, it's New Zealand's most 'English' city. On the comeback trail following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Christchurch is undergoing a spectacular transformation, with exciting new buildings and businesses opening at a frantic rate. Your luxury boutique hotel is perfectly placed for you to experience the best of it. And, with a seriously impressive one-to-one staff-to-guest ration, when you're not out exploring you can expect the very highest levels of service coupled with a restaurant that ranks as one of the city's best.

Stay: The George, Christchurch (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Day 17
Franz Josef

A private transfer will bring you to Christchurch railway station where you'll board the TranzAlpine Train to Greymouth. This spectacular four-hour journey is rightly considered to be one of the world's great rail experiences, passing through the patchwork farmlands of the Canterbury Plains before a series of viaducts and tunnels see you across the snow-capped Southern Alps, finally arriving into Greymouth were you'll collect your hire car for the drive south to Te Waonui Forest Retreat. Hidden amid the coastal rainforest, this luxury lodge pairs fine dining and spa indulgences with spectacular mountain views and doorstep access to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers.

Stay: Te Waonui Forest Retreat (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Days 18-19
Lake Moeraki

This morning, you'll choose between an optional helicopter flight over Fox Glacier or a guided hike on the Fox Trail Terminal Face Walk. Although you'll not walk on the glacier itself, you will see how this incredible force of nature has shaped the environment while enjoying views of the ice wall looming above. After your chosen tour, drive along west coast to your accommodation on the shores of Lake Moeraki. The following day you'll enjoy an included half-day nature walk with lunch. Take the chance for a gentle walk along a beautiful yet rarely visited piece of coast where you'll find rock pools, islands and coastal caves and, if you're lucky, perhaps catch a glimpse of the world's smallest marine dolphin. 

Stay: Wilderness Lodge, Lake Moeraki (Deluxe)

Meals: B D

Days 20-21

Continue south to Queenstown in the heart of the Southern Alps, the final stop on your New Zealand holiday. For your final full day, we recommend an optional Lakeshore Forest & Bird Walk. This half-day walk combines the best of native flora and fauna with magnificent lake and mountain views. In its own microclimate, the flora is protected from the elements, so the species are much larger than elsewhere. Native birds are readily seen and heard in and around the edges of the forest and your guide will introduce you to an array of edible and medicinal plants used by Maori and European settlers. Other options include a thrilling jet boat trip along the Dart River followed by a guided walk with lunch through the Mount Aspiring National Park, or a guided day hike along the famous Routeburn Track, passing primeval forests, grand alpine meadows, meandering streams and majestic snowy mountains.

Stay: The Dairy Private Hotel, Queenstown (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Days 22-23

Return your hire car to Queenstown airport and board flight home, arriving in the UK on day 23.

Meals: B



Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.

Accommodation rating: Superior

23-day tailor-made self-drive
from £8,490 pp incl. flights



  • Complimentary UK airport lounge access
  • Return international flights between London, Auckland and Queenstown
  • 19 nights accommodation staying in 4* (Superior) hotels on a mix of B&B, half & full-board basis
  • 19 days medium car hire with GPS
  • Interislander ferry based on premium plus
  • Return private transfers in Christchurch
  • TranzAlpine train journey
  • Half-day guided nature walk at Lake Moeraki

Terms & Conditions

Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.

Meet our experts

Speak to a tailor-made specialist on 020 7590 0614

Meet the team

Adjust your itinerary with our recommended extensions

Tall Ship Sailing

On-the-day excursion

Whether it’s climbing the rigging, manning the helm or simply taking time out with a fresh scone, sailing on a tall ship is a delightful experience

Twin Glaciers by Helicopter

Twin Glaciers by Helicopter

On-the-day excursion

Take in both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier from up high before zooming in with a snow landing

Abel Tasman Discovery

Abel Tasman Discovery

On-the-day excursion

Enjoy the best of both worlds as you explore the Abel Tasman National Park on a cruise and choice of walking trails

Stewart Island

Stewart Island

Three-day extension

Discover the unique wildlife and coastal geography of Stewart Island between catamaran cruises, scenic walks and island conservancy visits

Tongariro Crossing


Three-day extension

Explore the dramatic volcanology of the Tongariro region on sunset walks, white water rafts and its famed Alpine Crossing, returning each night to a comfortable suite for log cabin warmth

Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0614 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

Learn why Wexas is the leader in creating luxury holidays. What is tailor-made travel?

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Every step of the way

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