Experience New Zealand on a Self Drive Holiday

Posted on 01-Jul-2013 by Administrator

As nature's wonderland, New Zealand really does lend itself to touring by road, from the far North all the way to the Deep South. For all those who wish to take in the delights of New Zealand's country side by road, we at Odyssey Travels are pleased to offer a selection of self-drive options to experience the real New Zealand. Each route includes a selection of handpicked destinations, as well as the 'must see' regions and 'must do' activities in New Zealand. Watch the New Zealand scenery change from mile to mile from rugged mountains, to high plateau to blue oceans. It’s a fantastic journey that will take you to remote but incredibly accessible locations, and has the power to make you fall in love with this magical country!

Route 1: Auckland to Wellington via Rotoura and Napier (North Island)

Situated on a narrow isthmus between two beautiful harbours, Auckland the 'city of sails' is New Zealand's largest city with a population of over 1 million. Auckland's blend of landscape, Polynesian culture, glistening harbours and modern city environment creates an unbelievable lifestyle ranked amongst the best in the world. Not only is Auckland close to the beaches but it is also close to over twelve different Islands. There are 48 volcanic cones and more than 50 islands in the Auckland region. Kick off with the urban and marine pleasures of Auckland, then move on to the tranquil bays of the Coromandel Coast. The warm sunny climate, with its generous and evenly distributed rainfall is ideal and there are beautiful parklands and garden reserves throughout. Over the ranges you’ll find a series of surf beaches that just doesn’t stop. After the sunny city of Tauranga, head inland to the geothermal parks of Rotorua.

From New Zealand's largest metropolis, Auckland, venture through the centre of the North Island to Hamilton, a city loved for its gardens. On reaching Rotorua, don't be surprised by an odourful welcome; the city is a hotbed of geothermal activity which leaves a smell of sulphur in the air. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, beautiful coloured hot springs and terrace formations created by mineral water. Rotorua also has a large Maori population whose cultural activities are interesting. You can get a glimpse into the history and culture of New Zealand's native people through activities, attractions and tours.

Driving on to Napier, you'll enter one of the world's most well-preserved Art Deco cities (Napier was rebuilt almost entirely in the Art Deco style of the time, following a devastating earthquake in 1931). As well as beautiful buildings, the city offers excellent local food and wine. This region is said to be one of the warmest regions in the country with warm summers and mild winters. There are many activities from adventure seeking, wine tasting to just browsing around the local art deco shopping areas that you can opt for. The vineyards of Gisborne, Napier and Hastings should be investigated before you drive on to the heritage and cultural attractions of Wellington.


Make your way to Wellington. Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand lies at the southern end of the North Island is a complete contrast to the sprawling urban mass that constitutes Auckland. On the shores of a magnificent harbour and surrounded by the rugged beauty of green hills, it’s one of the most scenic cities. Wellington is a visitor-friendly, upbeat, compact city, which can claim to be the world’s southernmost capital. Some of the best views are obtained from the hilltops especially from Mt Victoria lookout, which can be conveniently reached by a short taxi ride. A special blend of heritage buildings, museums and galleries, fine food and live entertainment are found here. Public buildings of interest are the Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery, Parliament buildings and the Alexander Turnbull library. The newest attraction in the capital is New Zealand's National Museum named 'Te Papa' (our place) it contains a wealth of information on New Zealand's past, present and future, many interactive exhibits, multi-media databases and fascinating collections. A must see while in Wellington.

Route 2: Auckland to Bay of Islands and Port Reinga (North Island)
The best way to get acquainted with Auckland and view its natural beauty, twin harbours, and extensive parklands is to drive up the prominent volcanic cones. You can drive to the extinct volcanic cone of Mt Eden, from where you have a beautiful view over the city. Be sure to visit Parnell’s historic shopping enclave as well as the Auckland Domain and Museum. Take a ferry ride to Devonport or the inner gulf islands. Stroll among the exciting waterfront bars and cafés at the Viaduct Basin or visit the Maritime Museum and Kelly Tarltons Underwater World. Beyond the city boundaries there are endless sightseeing possibilities including the wilderness reserves of Waitakere and Hunua, and the wild, unspoiled beaches of Piha and Muriwai. You may also choose to stroll along the harbour or through the downtown shopping malls.

Bay of Islands
Heading north to the Bay of Islands normally takes around 3 ½ hours but plan to take a little longer. You’ll find sheltered coves, magnificent white-sand beaches and 144 islands dotted through the region making it an ideal maritime playground. The township of Puhoi, New Zealand’s only Bohemian settlement, the art stores and cafes of Warkworth, the harbour side in Whangarei and the unique township of Kawakawa are all worth exploring. Arriving into the sub tropical Bay of Islands you are greeted with bush clad hillsides dropping to golden sand beaches. Take a short ferry ride over to Russell to enjoy the charm and tranquility of this village.  There are various cruises you can take to see the Bay including a visit to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock.  A visit to the Bay of Islands wouldn't be complete without a cruise amongst the islands or even a trip to swim with the dolphins. You can go sailing, ride in a fast boat, and swim with the dolphins or even take a scenic flight over the area.

Cape Reinga

The Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet here and the surging tides make this section of coastline a very lively place. In Maori mythology the Cape holds a special place. The Maori name of Te Rerenga Wairua literally translates to 'the leaping off place of spirits'. Other highlights include the Te Paki Quicksand Stream, thrilling sand tobogganing on boogie boards down the giant Te Paki Sand Dunes and travelling down the vast Ninety Mile Beach.

Route 3:  Christchurch to Queenstown via Franz Joseph and Lake Wanaka & Milford Sound via Te Anau (South Island)
The South Island's largest city, Christchurch is exceptionally beautiful with its stunning parks and gardens, the Avon River meandering through the city centre and its dramatic harbour within the flooded crater of an extinct volcano. Take a punt ride, enjoy walks around the city, visit the Arts Centre boutique craft shops, experience life on the southern continent at the International Antarctic Centre and be entertained at the Court Theatre or brilliant Art Gallery. One of the best ways to see some of the city centre sights and attractions is by the famous historic trams. A 30 minute loop allows hop-on, hop-off at museums, art galleries, gardens and shops.

Franz Joseph
Travelling south down the coastal road you’ll venture through Hokitika. Here there’s a nocturnal Kiwi display and a chance to view the indigenous Kokopu (a prehistoric fish) or glow worm grotto. Travel down to Franz Joseph or Fox Glaciers. Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers (only 45 minutes apart) these fantastic rivers of ice were formed during the last ice age.  You can view the glaciers by guided tours or by scenic flights. There is an abundance of native walks for all levels of fitness.

Lake Wanaka

Crossing the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in the country, you arrive into the alpine town of Wanaka. The route follows the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before you enter the township of Makarora, the gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park and the Blue Pools here are a wonderful 30 minute walk through pristine native beech forest. Descending into Mt. Aspiring National Park and towards the Haast Pass, crashing rivers and waterfalls are around every corner. Crossing the Haast River you are now truly on the wild West Coast, a 600 kilometre stretch of bush, rainforest and podocarp forest.

Milford Road
The Milford Road, 119km long, is the most accessible way to experience the scenic grandeur of Milford Sound. As you approach, the landscape intensifies and steep mountain faces covered with thick vegetation edge the road. Take your time to savor the unspoiled landscape of Fiordland National Park - a precious World Heritage Area.

Milford Sound
Finally, as you reach the end of the road, spectacular Milford Sound reveals itself. The famed Mitre Peak dominates, rising more than five thousand feet above the tranquil waters of the sound. To fully enjoy Milford Sound's splendor, board one of the cruising boats and get up close to the giant cliffs, cascading waterfalls and native fur seals. If you'd like to extend your visit, take an overnight cruise on which you can enjoy kayaking, wildlife spotting and simply relaxing in this magical place. No matter what time of the year you decide to visit, your memories of the journey are bound to be special.

Te Anau
Crossing the rolling tussock lands you pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. On the southern shore of Lake Wakatipu sits Kingston, home to classic steam train, The Kingston Flyer. Dramatic, rugged and remote the Fiordland Region of Te Anau contains the Fiordland National Park that covers more than 1.25 million hectares. Access is by just a few roads and walking tracks – not surprising that the Takahe, one of New Zealand’s intriguing flightless birds remained hidden here and thought to be extinct for more than 50 years, before being re-discovered in 1948. Some captive Takahe (part of the species management program) can be seen at the wildlife enclosure on the shores of Lake Te Anau. Following the lake north, the remarkable mountain range towers over you as you approach the adventure capital of Queenstown.

This alpine town offers an amazing range of attractions including canyon jet boat rides, mountain biking, bungee jumping, helicopter flights, horse treks and 4WD expeditions. It is advisable not to self drive as the roads can be treacherous. The activity here seem endless - wilderness safaris, historic steamer lake cruises, gondola cableway, superb golf courses and gardens as well as uncovering gold-mining artifacts in the quaint town of Arrowtown. Make the most of your day enjoying the spectacular surroundings.  Evening take the gondola trip to the top of Bob’s Peak and enjoy a Maori concert followed by a sumptuous buffet dinner. 

Route 4:  Round trip Christchurch to Kaikoura, Nelson, Marlborough Sounds & Punakaiki (South Island)


Consider an early morning balloon flight the ideal way to experience stunning views across the plains to the Southern Alps and Pegasus Bay. Spend the day visiting galleries and gardens or take a nature cruise on nearby Lyttelton Harbour. Beyond the harbour you will find the intriguing volcanic land form of Banks Peninsula with its many sheltered bays and settlements including picturesque Akaroa where you can enjoy lunch in the village and swim with dolphins in the sheltered waters.

Enjoy whale watch excursion and head north through the wine growing region of Waipara and through the rolling grazing country of North Canterbury towards Kaikoura. Travel 2 1/2 hours to Kaikoura, set amongst spectacular coastal scenery. Internationally known for its eco-tourism, Kaikoura is the place to see whales, swim with seals or dolphins, dive, head out fishing or surf. Meet the amazing giants of the sea on a whale watch tour, a truly unforgettable encounter, before continuing your journey north. Depending on the season, you may also see migrating Hump Back whales, Pilot whales, Blue whales & Southern Right whales. Kaikoura also attracts the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including 13 species of Albatross, 14 varieties of Petrel & 7 types of Shearwater. Enjoy more of the splendid coast line watching for dolphins and seals along the way, before heading into Marlborough's renowned wine growing region. 

Marlborough Sounds
Let your passion for food & wine lure you to Marlborough. Enjoy the good life on this exquisitely pretty plain framed by mountains. For centuries, Marlborough has offered safe harbour to travelers. First to Maori traders and war parties; then to European explorers, such as Captain James Cook and Dumont D’Urville; and now to visitors seeking new landscapes and rejuvenating experiences. If you arrive in the region by sea or air, the intricate detail of the Marlborough Sounds engages your interest immediately. Maori legend describes the entire South Island as Maui’s waka (canoe), wrecked on a reef during a fishing expedition. The shattered bow of the canoe became the Sounds. Marlborough basks in year-round sunshine, providing perfect conditions for walking, mountain biking, sea kayaking and vineyard explorations. Passengers on cruises or guided sea kayaking trips in Queen Charlotte Sound see dolphins, seals, and whales, king shags and blue penguins playing in their natural environment. The five dolphin species found in the sound include the rare Hector’s, Dusky and bottlenose varieties.

There are more than 350 working artists and craftspeople living in Nelson, including traditional and contemporary Maori artists. Their work is often inspired by the region’s exceptionally beautiful geography – coastal, forest and valley landscapes provide places to wander and dream. You will visit the renowned World of Wearable Arts & Classic Cars Museum. Here you will find a collection of eclectic outfits specifically designed for past Wearable Arts Fashion shows, as well as a collection of vintage cars that will make any enthusiast green with envy!  Further afield there are the arts and crafts of the Motueka and Takaka areas, or you may like to choose one of the activities available in the Abel Tasman National Park.  There are guided or independent kayak trips available which can include a mix of kayaking and walking.


Drive from the sheltered haven of Tasman Bay, travel south through the inland Nelson Lakes region before heading west to the dramatic and rugged scenery of the 'coast road'. Winding its way between the bush clad slopes, studded with Nikau Palms and the surf of the Tasman Sea this has to be one of New Zealand's most beautiful drives. Nowhere is the effect on the landscape more spectacular and profound than at Punakaiki. These rocks really are remarkable pieces of natural sculpture, a series of stratified limestone stacks which, over many thousands of years, have been eroded to give the effect of giant piles of neatly stacked pancakes. Another prominent feature are the blowholes that, at high tide or in heavy weather, regularly throw up columns of dazzling spray high out of the blowholes – best witnessed after wonderful westerly storms when the sun is reasserting itself in the face of fantastic cloud formations on the horizon.

Self Drive Vehicle Options You Can Opt for:
Rental cars
Rental cars come in all sizes. If you need something small for getting around town then sub-compact and compact rental cars are ideal. For the open road you might appreciate the extra room and power of full size cars and wagons. And if you need room for the whole family there is a range of 4WD and minivan options available - the choice is yours!

A campervan means maximum flexibility. With a campervan, of course, accommodation is part of the package so you’ll only need to pay for a site at a camping ground or find a freedom camping spot. For a group of people travelling together, camper is a particularly cheap option.

About Odyssey Travels
Odyssey Travels is a leading IATA accredited Travel Company, established in 1992. We specialize in planning customized holidays in India and abroad for our clients which includes air ticketing, worldwide hotel reservations, inclusive tours, sightseeing activities, visa assistance & travel insurance services. For further information or to make a booking contact 020-66442929 or visit http://www.odysseytravels.net/

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