Get a taste of New Zealand's rich food, wine, and natural wonders on this 20-day adventure. Travel from Auckland to Christchurch, stopping to enjoy food tours and cooking classes, feast on barbecue at a Queenstown farm, and visit Kumeu's world-famous vineyards. Natural highlights include captivating glowworm caves, Rotorua's geothermal landscapes, and the mighty Franz Josef Glacier. You'll also take an overnight cruise across the serene waters of Doubtful Sound.


  • Enjoy Kumeu vineyard tastings and food tours in Wellington
  • Visit Franz Josef Glacier and cruise Doubtful Sound
  • Go whale watching and take a cooking class in Kaikoura
  • Discover the Te Anau Glowworm Caves and Rotorua's geothermal wonders
  • Feast on barbecue like a Kiwi at a local farm near Queenstown

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland & Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Country to Coast Wine & Wildlife Tour Auckland
Day 3 Pick Up Rental Car & Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton Rotorua
Day 4 Explore Rotorua, See Kiwis, Māori Culture Experience & Hāngī Feast Rotorua
Day 5 Drive to Wellington Wellington
Day 6 Wellington Food Tour & Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Visit Wellington
Day 7 Coffee, Chocolate, Cheese & Craft Beer Tour Wellington
Day 8 Ferry to Picton & Drive to Blenheim Blenheim
Day 9 Drive to Kaikōura, Half-Day Cooking Class Kaikōura
Day 10 Kaikōura Whale Watching Tour & Drive to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 11 Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook Aoraki / Mount Cook
Day 12 Tasman Glacier Lake Cruise, Explore Aoraki / Mount Cook Aoraki / Mount Cook
Day 13 Drive to Te Anau via Kaka Point & Visit Glowworm Caves Te Anau
Day 14 Drive to Manapouri & Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise Doubtful Sound
Day 15 Drive to Queenstown & Ride the Skyline Gondola Queenstown
Day 16 "The Lord of the Rings" Filming Locations, Country Farm Dinner Queenstown
Day 17 Drive to Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef Glacier
Day 18 Explore Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef Glacier
Day 19 Transfer to Christchurch via Greymouth Christchurch
Day 20 Depart New Zealand  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland & Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise

Auckland's beautiful setting between the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean
Enjoy an Auckland Harbour dinner cruise as you arrive in New Zealand

Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival at Auckland's airport, your driver will transfer you to your hotel. Take some time to relax before heading out to explore New Zealand's largest city, which sits on a narrow strip of land surrounded by the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. With two bustling harbors, it's not hard to see why Auckland is nicknamed the "City of Sails." 

For supreme views of Auckland, scale the 1,075-foot-tall (328 m) Sky Tower with its dizzying observation deck, or make your way to Mount Eden, one of the city's 48 volcanic cones. Stroll around the flower-filled Wintergardens and learn about the city's Polynesian and European roots at the Auckland Museum

Tonight you'll enjoy a memorable dining experience on the water as you sail around Auckland's Waitematā Harbour. Watch the city twinkle after the sun dips below the horizon. You'll be treated to a drink and canapés as you set off toward Westhaven Marina, followed by the main course. Finish the evening with a tasty dessert as you sail back to central Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

Day 2: Country to Coast Wine & Wildlife Tour

Bush and Beach - Great Tastes Half Day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch
Watch the wildlife at Muriwai Gannet Colony, overlooking the Tasman Sea

Today you'll head northwest to Kumeū wine country, Auckland's heritage wine region. Your first stop is the award-winning Soljans Estate Winery, which uses traditional and modern techniques to produce rich varieties. Take a tour and tasting session, then have lunch at their on-site restaurant, which showcases fresh seasonal produce from around the region.

Continue to the surf-fringed coast. Here, you'll visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony—one of the world's few mainland nesting sites. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Tasman Sea, you'll enjoy breathtaking views of the beach and ocean beyond. Afterward, savor a final tasting at West Brook Winery, one of New Zealand's oldest vineyards.

Day 3: Pick Up Rental Car & Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton

Tour the Hobbiton set and hear exciting stories about "The Lord of the Rings" movies

At this point in the trip, pick up a rental car for a self-drive adventure to Rotorua (two to three hours). If you choose to drive, the route takes you through the stunning Waikato region, where you'll turn inland to Matamata, home of the Hobbiton movie set. "The Lord of the Rings" fans will love touring the set on the 12-acre (5 ha) Alexander family sheep farm in the hilly Waikato region. Start with a short bus ride from The Shire's Rest to the filming location, followed by a walking tour. Your guide will show you all the intricate sets and tell stories about filming the movies.

Soak up the atmosphere of Middle-earth on this two-hour trip, visiting the Shire's Hobbit holes and the Mill, with plenty of photo opportunities along the way. You'll stop at the Green Dragon Inn for a complimentary Southfarthing ale, cider, or ginger beer before taking the bus back to The Shire's Rest.

Afterward, journey south, making a pit stop at the township of Tirau, where you can pause for a selfie with the town's beloved tin sheepdog statue. Continue to Rotorua, known for its geothermal landscapes and Māori culture. Check into your hotel and rest ahead of tomorrow's adventure.

Day 4: Explore Rotorua, See Kiwis, Māori Culture Experience & Hāngī Feast

Rotorua's geothermal attractions
Marvel at Rotorua's geothermal attractions

Discover New Zealand's geothermal wonders today in Rotorua. The area is famed for its otherworldly green and orange sulfur pools, bubbling mud baths, and spurting geysers. You'll witness this all at Te Puia Springs, home to Pohutu Geyser, which erupts up to 20 times a day, shooting a plume of scalding water up to 100 feet (30 m) into the sky. There's also a chance to indulge in an optional mud bath and experience the sulfur spas used by the Māori people for over 800 years.

Next, you'll visit the Kiwi Conservation Centre, a refuge for native birds, including New Zealand's national emblem, the flightless kiwi. Move on to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you'll learn about carving and weaving techniques from the artists. Rotorua is a revered Māori region and the ideal place to immerse yourself in this ancient culture.

Tonight, you'll explore the region's traditional heritage at Te Pā Tū (Tamaki Māori Village). You'll be welcomed with an opening ceremony and appetizers, followed by stories, songs, and dance performances in the forest amphitheater. Themes change according to the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) but tell the stories and traditions of the local people. Follow your Māori guide by torchlight to your three-course hākari (feast). Select from a table of hāngī dishes (meat, fish, and vegetables) and other local specialties from Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. Hāngī is a Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven.

Day 5: Drive to Wellington

Watch out for landmarks such as Mount Ngauruhoe en route to Wellington

Drive south today for about five hours to New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Along the way, you'll pass treasures such as New Zealand's largest lake, Taupō, where you can pause to visit the nearby Huka Falls. Continue south, skirting past Tongariro National Park, one of the country's three world heritage sites. Look out for the peaks of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngauruhoe; the latter served as the setting for Mount Doom in "The Lord of the Rings."

Nicknamed "Windy Wellington" for the fierce gusts that come off the Cook Strait, the city sits at the southern tip of the North Island. Settle into your hotel and wander Wellington's compact city center with its museums, galleries, craft-beer joints, and striking Beehive parliament building. Down at the teeming waterfront, you'll get views of the hillsides with their brightly-colored wooden houses.

Day 6: Wellington Food Tour & Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Visit

Explore the flavors of New Zealand's capital, Wellington

Get a taste of Wellington today on a food tour with a local. Start with a trip to a coffee roastery, where you'll learn about the entire roasting process and enjoy a tasting session. Next is the Wellington Chocolate Factory at Hannah's Laneway, where you'll sample artisan chocolates. Sweet treats continue at Fix & Fogg, including their signature peanut butter. Lunch is served at either Neapolitan-style Pizza Pomodoro on weekdays or award-winning Shepherd on the weekends. After lunch, stop at Denzien Urban Distillery for gin tasting before returning to the city center.

End the day with a trip to Zealandia. Located just outside of Wellington, the 555-acre (225 ha) reserve has been restored to its natural state with no mammalian predators, so it's a haven for some of the country's rarest animals. These include native birds, reptiles, and insects rereleased into the park.

Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition, followed by a guided, torch-lit walk through the New Zealand bush. You may spot tuatara (endemic reptile) hunting for food, Maud Island frogs, parrots, and glowworms lighting up the night. Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwis in a wild environment; over 100 live freely inside the protected valley. Look out for these flightless birds foraging on the forest floor.

Day 7: Coffee, Chocolate, Cheese & Craft Beer Tour

Taste craft beer on a Wellington food tour
Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

More foodie adventures await today, beginning with a trip to the historic township of Petone at the northern end of Wellington Harbour. Stop in at Ripe, a specialty coffee roaster on the foreshore, where you'll learn about the coffee-making process from shrub to cup. Get involved in roasting and then sit back and enjoy a tasting session. 

Next is Zany Zeus dairy factory, where you'll try a range of cheeses, yogurts, and organic ice creams. Follow up with a visit to the nearby Chocolate Story, where a chocolatier will lead a tasting and chocolate-making session. Have lunch at La Bella Italia in Petone, which offers a range of cured meats served with pizza bread and a glass of fine Italian wine.

After lunch, head to the seaside suburb of Lyall Bay, home of Parrot Brewery, a favorite local spot. Sip a range of award-winning craft beers and chat with the brewers. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Wellington for a final night in the capital.

Day 8: Ferry to Picton & Drive to Blenheim

Take the Interislander ferry to Picton to explore New Zealand's South Island

Say goodbye to the North Island this morning and make the three-hour ferry journey to Picton, described as one of the world's most beautiful ferry rides. Along the way, you'll see New Zealand's oldest lighthouse on Pencarrow Head and the seal colony at Red Rocks. Look out for dolphins and sea birds when you pass the Cook Strait, with the South Island's Kaikōura Ranges looming in the distance.

Disembark and then make the 30-minute drive south to Blenheim, located in the heart of Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine-producing region. You'll travel past fields grooved with vines and marvel at the magnificent dry hills of Marlborough in the distance.

Day 9: Drive to Kaikōura, Half-Day Cooking Class

Take a cooking class with Hapuku Kitchen Seasonal Feast

This morning, drive 80 miles (128 km) down the east coast to Kaikōura. The small town is known for its incredible marine life, which thrives thanks to a 2-mile (3 km) ocean-floor canyon named the Hikorangi Trench. Currents hitting the canyon stir up nutrients that animals such as sperm whales and dolphins feed on. Wander along the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway for ocean and fur seal views and try the crayfish—a Māori explorer named the town after its excellent crayfish (kai means food, koura means crayfish).

Spend the afternoon taking a cooking class with the Hapuku Kitchen Seasonal Feast. Sip a coffee with your host while you discuss the day's menu, and then enjoy a guided forage in the garden for fruit, vegetables, and herbs. The chef will teach you how to transform these raw ingredients into delicious dishes, which you'll dine on, accompanied by wine and beer from top Canterbury and Marlborough vineyards and breweries.

Day 10: Kaikōura Whale Watching Tour & Drive to Christchurch

Spot whales on a boat trip in Kaikōura

Today you'll sail the South Pacific Ocean with a tour on a catamaran designed for whale watching. As you cruise, you'll look for giant sperm whales, but you'll also likely see fur seals and dolphins leaping through the waves while albatross swoop overhead. Seasonal sightings may include southern right, pilot, or blue whales and migrating humpbacks if you're lucky. After your whale watching trip, continue driving south for 2.5 hours to Christchurch (112 mi / 180 km)

Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore the country's second-largest metropolis, known as the "Garden City," for its green spaces. Christchurch's English heritage is evident along the Avon River / Ōtākaro, where guides dressed in Edwardian costume will take you on punting trips past landmarks like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens.

Day 11: Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook

Head west today to reach Aoraki / Mount Cook

Drive four hours west this morning to Aoraki / Mount Cook village, which sits at the base of its namesake mountain. New Zealand's highest peak measures 12,315 feet (3,754 m) and is known by the Māori title Aoraki, which means "Cloud Piercer." The mountain is one of over 20 peaks in the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village will be your base for exploring the park's glacial wonders through trekking, lake trips, or heli-hikes.

Day 12: Tasman Glacier Lake Cruise, Explore Aoraki / Mount Cook

Sail the icy waters of Tasman Glacier Lake

Today you'll witness Aoraki / Mount Cook's 500-year-old icebergs up close and cruise around Tasman Glacier Lake. As you weave around floating icebergs in a specially-designed boat, you'll see the country's largest glacier, Haupapa / Tasman Glacier. A guide will point out key landmarks as you slice through the water, surrounded by towering ice cliffs.

Spend the rest of the day as you please. Embark upon one of the scenic hikes from Aoraki / Mount Cook; popular trails include Bowen Bush for an easy forest hike or the more challenging two-hour Red Tarns Track, which leads to a panoramic viewpoint of Aoraki / Mount Cook. For a more thrilling adventure, book an optional Tasman Glacier heli-hike, where you'll set foot on New Zealand's longest glacier, covering 39 square miles (101 square km).

Day 13: Drive to Te Anau via Kaka Point & Visit Glowworm Caves

Cruise across Lake Te Anau to enter the glowworm caves

Today you'll drive five hours south to Te Anau, the entrance to UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park. Take a brief detour to Kaka Point for heart-stopping views of torrid waves crashing against the cliffs. Finally, arrive in the lakeside town of Te Anau, which is surrounded by white-topped mountain peaks. This is the starting point of three famous New Zealand hiking trails: Milford, Routeburn, and Kepler.

Check into your hotel before your tour of the Te Anau Glowworm Caves, which starts with a cruise across Lake Te Anau onboard the luxury catamaran: Luminosa. You'll disembark at the lake's western side and enter the caves through Cavern House, taking time to peruse displays that tell the story of this 12,000-year-old underground cave network. Next, your guide will lead you along a limestone pathway, pointing out whirlpools, elaborate rock formations, and an impressive underground waterfall. Board a small boat to glide through the darkness, surrounded by the blue-white pinpricks of thousands of glowworms clinging to the cave walls and ceiling.

Day 14: Drive to Manapouri & Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

Take an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound 

This morning starts with a 20-minute drive alongside Lake Te Anau to Manapouri, the gateway to Doubtful Sound. Here you'll begin your overnight cruise of New Zealand's deepest fjord, at 1,381 feet (421 m), and the second longest at 25 miles (40 km). You'll take a short boat ride across the lake, followed by a coach over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove to board the Fiordland Navigator. Settle into your private en-suite cabin or quad-share bunk room, then soak up the scenery from the viewing deck.

As you sail across the teal fjord, your captain will provide commentary on the area and its history, pointing out landmarks like Browne Falls, which crashes 2,030 feet (619 m) into the sound. Look out for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and Fiordland penguins. Eventually, you'll anchor in a sheltered cove to explore the shoreline by kayak or Stabicraft (an aluminum boat). The day ends with a three-course buffet dinner and stargazing on the upper deck.

Day 15: Drive to Queenstown & Ride the Skyline Gondola

Ride the gondola to Bob's Peak for views over Queenstown

Spend a final morning on Doubtful Sound before you return to Manapouri and drive north two hours to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital. The town is the birthplace of AJ Hackett Bungy, the world's first commercial bungee-jumping company. Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and backed by the majestic Remarkables Range, Queenstown offers plenty more high-octane activities, including sky diving and whitewater rafting, as well as hiking and cycling paths.

Take a ride on the Skyline Gondola, one of the steepest cable car lifts in the Southern Hemisphere. You'll climb over 1,400 feet (450 m) to Bob's Peak for views of the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, and sparkling Lake Wakatipu. After admiring the vistas, ride the peak's two hilltop luge tracks, then catch the gondola back down the mountain, or opt to hike or even mountain bike.

Day 16: "The Lord of the Rings" Filming Locations, Country Farm Dinner

Enjoy a gourmet barbecue at Walter Peak High Country Farm

This morning is yours to explore Queenstown at your own pace. Cruise Lake Wakatipu or head out for a dose of adrenaline on a jet boat ride or bungee jump. If you want to venture farther afield, check out nearby Arrowtown or brave the steep, winding trip to Macetown to learn more about New Zealand's 19th-century gold rush. If you love wine, take a tasting tour of the region's best boutique vineyards. The excursion crosses through Gibbston, Bannockburn, and Cromwell.

This afternoon, take a scenic drive through some iconic locations from "The Lord of the Rings" movies. Head along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the small town of Glenorchy, with views of the Remarkables Range. From Glenorchy, you'll pass through the beech forests of Paradise, located on the park's outskirts, before heading up the Dart Valley and back. You'll see film locations like Isengard, Lothlorien, Ithilien Camp, and the Seat of Seeing as you drive.

This evening, step aboard the TSS Earnslaw steamship for a ride on Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you'll have a barbecue dinner of New Zealand's signature dishes. Sit down to dinner featuring rotisserie-cooked meats, seasonal vegetables, and salads. Finish with dessert, New Zealand cheeses, and demonstrations about high country life on the farm. After the meal, join a singalong with the ship's pianist and watch the lights of Queenstown come into focus.

Day 17: Drive to Franz Josef Glacier

Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Drive five hours north this morning to Franz Josef Glacier. On the way, cross the Crown Range, following the highest sealed road in New Zealand. Stop at the alpine town of Wānaka, known for its gnarled tree that protrudes from its glassy lake. Skirt the shore of Lake Wānaka and Lake Hāwea to the small town of Makarora. Here, you can stop at the blue pools for an hourlong walk through a beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole.

Continue through the remote seaside settlement of Haast, then head up the wild West Coast—a 373-mile (600 km) stretch of bush and native rainforest. You'll pass Fox Glacier before arriving at your final destination: Franz Josef / Waiau. This cute town on the Waiho River is planted among rainforests and mountains, famed for the 7-mile-long (12 km) Franz Josef Glacier.

Day 18: Explore Franz Josef Glacier

View of the glacier from a helicopter
Perhaps take in views of the glacier from a helicopter

Start today by visiting the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre to plan one of the area's many hikes. Some of the most popular trails include the Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk and Sentinel Rock Walk, which offer staggering views of Franz Josef Glacier. Then there's the Terrace Walk, which takes you through the forest and past historic gold mining operations.

To experience Franz Josef Glacier firsthand, take a heli-hike. You'll fly over all three of the glacier's icefalls, landing for a two-hour guided trek through this otherworldly landscape. A guide will take you through ice caves and spot frozen pinnacles, explaining the geology and history of the glacier. You'll receive a waterproof jacket, over trousers, glacier boots, ice crampons, and wool socks for the trip.

Day 19: Transfer to Christchurch via Greymouth

Ride the TranzAlpine train through Arthur's Pass

This morning, drive two hours north through the former gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its pounamu (greenstone), this seaside town has a fascinating history dating back to the 1860s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea views, or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. Carry on 30 minutes to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey—the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot before boarding your train to Christchurch.

The TranzAlpine is considered one of the world's most spectacular train journeys, taking you from the east side of the South Island to the west through Arthur's Pass National Park. Soak up the views on the ride, which range from lush beech forest to deep river valleys and the peaks of the Southern Alps. Finally, you'll descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains to Christchurch. A driver will be waiting at the train station to take you to your hotel.

Day 20: Depart New Zealand

Say goodbye to Christchurch as you catch your onward flight

This morning your New Zealand adventure ends. Your driver will drop you at the airport in Christchurch in time for your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Auckland to Christchurch Road Trip: Food, Wine & Nature Trail - 20 Days
Map of Auckland to Christchurch Road Trip: Food, Wine & Nature Trail - 20 Days