Explore New Zealand and Australia's highlights on this two-week self-drive adventure. Start in New Zealand, where you'll wander geothermal landscapes and discover Maori culture on the North Island, then enjoy gondola rides, scenic hikes, and stargazing on the South Island. Jet to Australia next to experience its UNESCO wonders; you'll snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and tour mighty Uluru, watching the sun rise and set over this Indigenous landmark.


  • Discover geothermal landscapes and Maori culture in Rotorua 
  • Ride the Skyline Gondola and take a steamship cruise in Queenstown
  • Visit Lake Tekapo for stargazing and Mount Cook National Park for hikes
  • Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and explore the Daintree Rainforest
  • Enjoy sunrise and sunset views of UNESCO-listed Uluru

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland (New Zealand), Sky Tower Dinner  Auckland
Day 2 Drive to Rotorua via Tauranga, Visit Hell's Gate Rotorua
Day 3 Mount Tarawera Experience, Polynesian Spa Day & Te Pa Tu Māori Feast Rotorua
Day 4 Fly to Queenstown, Walter Peak Farm & Gourmet Barbecue Queenstown
Day 5 Queenstown Gondola & Luge, Drive to Wānaka & Lake Wānaka Cruise Wānaka
Day 6 Drive to Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook Walks & Stargazing Experience Lake Tekapo
Day 7 Drive to Christchurch & Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 8 Fly to Cairns (Australia) Cairns
Day 9 Great Barrier Reef Cruise Cairns
Day 10 Drive to Cape Tribulation, Visit Daintree Rainforest Cape Tribulation
Day 11 Transfer to Uluru & Field of Light Dinner Uluru
Day 12 Sunrise Uluru Tour, Visit Kata Tjuta & Tali Wiru Dinner Uluru
Day 13 Transfer to Sydney, Explore  Sydney
Day 14 Depart Australia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland (New Zealand), Sky Tower Dinner

Get to know New Zealand's largest city, Auckland

Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival at the airport, pick up your rental car and transfer 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 the best views of Auckland, make your way to Mount Eden's summit, 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 dinner with a view, scaling the 1,075-foot-tall (328 m) Sky Tower for a meal at Orbit 360° Dining, which rotates once every hour for panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. The restaurant focuses on local and seasonal produce, with meat and seafood dishes highlighting New Zealand's cuisine in a three-course set menu.

Day 2: Drive to Rotorua via Tauranga, Visit Hell's Gate

Witness otherworldly geothermal scenery in Rotorua

Kick off your road trip this morning with a picturesque three-hour journey south to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty region. This historic harborside city connects to the vibrant beach town of Mount Maunganui, known for its hot pools and an extinct volcano that shadows the town. Stretch your legs with a walk on one of the coastal trails; options include the 40-minute hike to Mount Maunganui's 761-foot (232 m) summit and McLaren Falls Park, which features waterfalls and native trees. 

Next, drive an hour south to Rotorua, famed for its otherworldly green and orange sulfur pools, bubbling mud baths, and spurting geysers. You'll witness this all at Hell's Gate, a geothermal reserve and spa where you can enjoy a guided or self-guided walk through the eerie landscape and then indulge in a mud bath and sulfur spa used by the Māori people for over 800 years.

Day 3: Mount Tarawera Experience, Polynesian Spa Day & Te Pa Tu Māori Feast

Learn about how Mount Tarawera has affected the surrounding landscape

Experience the striking landscapes of Mount Tarawera today. Famous for its eruption on June 10, 1886, Mount Tarawera created the world's youngest geothermal valley, Waimangu, while destroying the legendary Pink and White Terraces. Learn about the unique topography and history of the area on a guided walk, which includes an optional trip into the heart of the volcanic crater. 

Next, relax on the tranquil shores of Lake Rotorua at the Polynesian Spa. Soak in 27 mineral pools fed by two natural springs whose waters are thought to nourish the skin and relieve aches and pains. The Māori people have used these alkaline and acidic pools for generations. Hop from pools that range in temperature from 97°F (36°C) to 108°F (42°C), surrounded by peaceful New Zealand scenery, including waterfalls and a cave. 

Tonight, you'll immerse yourself in the region's heritage at Te Pa Tu (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 specialties from Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. Hāngī is a Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in an umu (pit oven).

Day 4: Fly to Queenstown, Walter Peak Farm & Gourmet Barbecue

Fly to the South Island to New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown

Say goodbye to the North Island today and fly two hours south to New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown. a beautiful backdrop of The Remarkables.

You'll board the TSS Earnslaw steamship this evening to cruise Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak High Country Farm. You'll enjoy a barbecue dinner of New Zealand's signature dishes, sitting down to a meal featuring rotisserie-cooked meats, seasonal vegetables, and salads. Finish with dessert and demonstrations about high country life on the farm. After the dinner, join a singalong with the ship's pianist and watch the lights of Queenstown come into focus.

Day 5: Queenstown Gondola & Luge, Drive to Wānaka & Lake Wānaka Cruise

Drive to Wānaka, where you'll find New Zealand's most famous tree
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Start the day with 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 Lake Wakatipu. After admiring the views, ride the peak's two hilltop luge tracks. The gondola will take you back down the mountain, or you can opt to hike or even mountain bike. 

This afternoon, make the 1.5-hour drive along New Zealand's highest sealed road, the Crown Range, to the lakeside town of Wānaka. Known for its crooked tree protruding from the lake, Wānaka is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and the perfect place for a trek with alpine, glacier, and mountain views.

Next, cruise across Lake Wānaka to Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. The island was once home to shipbuilders but is now a scientific reserve and haven for native wildlife. Marvel at the island's Arethusa Pool, a lake with a tiny island, and views of Wānaka's surrounding glacial mountains and valleys before sailing back to shore. 

Day 6: Drive to Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook Walks & Stargazing Experience

Head north to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park for epic views

Drive 2.5 hours north this morning to Lake Tekapo, which lies at the base of the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. This beautiful park is named after New Zealand's highest peak, which measures 12,218 feet (3,724 m), and is known by the Māori title Aoraki, which means "Cloud Piercer." The mountain is one of over 20 peaks in the UNESCO-listed national park. 

Hike one of the area's scenic trails to explore this iconic landscape. The one-hour Haupapa / Tasman Glacier View Track is a popular short walk leading to the glacier lake, dotted with floating icebergs, and the source of the Tasman River. The Hooker Valley Trail takes you across swing bridges to an alpine memorial and Terminal Lake at the bottom of the Hooker Glacier for a longer trek. 

End the day with a visit to the Mount John Observatory above Lake Tekapo Village to learn about the southern sky. Using telescopes and the naked eye, your guide will point out the Milky Way Galaxy, Southern Cross, Alpha-Centauri, and Sirius—one of the brightest visible stars. Search for neighboring galaxies and spot star clusters and planets glittering in the pollution-free sky. 

Day 7: Drive to Christchurch, Historic Tram Dinner

Enjoy a punting trip on Christchurch's Avon River / Ōtākaro

Continue your road trip today, descending three hours through Burkes Pass into rich farmland and valleys across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest metropolis. Known as the "Garden City" for its green spaces, Christchurch's English roots are 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.

This evening, dine in one of Christchurch's heritage-era trams, which date back to 1882. You'll feast on a multicourse dinner while driving a loop around the city, passing famous sights like Cathedral Square and New Regent Street in your historic tram car. 

Day 8: Fly to Cairns (Australia)

Fly to Cairns, a jumping-off point for Great Barrier Reef trips

Your New Zealand adventure ends today; drop your rental car at Christchurch Airport and fly eight hours to tropical Cairns in Australia, where you'll pick up your next rental car and head to your hotel. This exotic paradise lies on the shores of Trinity Bay and is the gateway to some of Australia's remarkable natural attractions. The most famous is the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's leading popular diving sites. 

Day 9: Great Barrier Reef Cruise

Discover an underwater world full of marine life

Take to the water today to explore the Great Barrier Reef, which covers 133,000 square miles (344,000 sq km) and is visible from space. The UNESCO site is home to over 2,900 individual reefs and an array of marine life, including 130 varieties of sharks and rays and over 1,500 fish species.

Board the Wavepiercer catamaran for a high-speed journey to a reef on the outer edge of Australia's continental shelf. Choose to dive, snorkel, or stay dry and explore the reef from the comfort of a semi-sub, which sits just 3 feet (1 m) underwater. Accompanied by a marine biologist, you'll learn about the reef's ecosystem and a mind-boggling variety of marine life, then tuck into a delicious buffet lunch on board.

Day 10: Drive to Cape Tribulation, Visit the Daintree Rainforest

Drive up the Captain Cook Highway to tropical Cape Tribulation

Drive up the coast today along the Captain Cook Highway. Stop to admire golden-sand beaches, ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, or enjoy a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Continue north through Palm Cove to the resort town of Port Douglas, where you can stroll on Four Mile Beach and grab lunch before continuing your drive.

Journey north on the Captain Cook Highway to Daintree National Park, where age-old rainforest sprawls down to white-sand beaches lapped by reef-rich waters. Cross the Daintree River by cable ferry, then follow the road to Cape Tribulation, famed for its vast, rugged sands. Here, you can take an optional horse-riding tour through Daintree, one of the oldest living rainforests in the world, along riverbeds to Myall Beach, where you can canter along the water's edge.

Day 11: Transfer to Uluru, Field of Light Dinner

Watch the sunset over mighty Uluru

Head south again down the beach-studded coast to Cairns, where you'll board a three-hour flight to Uluru, deep into the heart of Australia's Red Centre desert plains in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru is the country's most recognized natural wonder, home to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara tribes, the area's traditional landowners. This World Heritage Site offers natural springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings.

Upon landing, you'll board a shuttle bus to your hotel and settle in. Then head out for an exclusive evening dining experience that combines the award-winning Sounds of Silence dinner under the outback sky with the Field of Light art installation. The trip takes place in a remote desert location with views of Uluru, where you'll listen to the sounds of a lone didgeridoo as the sun sets and snack on canapés and chilled sparkling wine.

As darkness falls, enjoy a menu that features bush tucker flavors with a view of the 50,000 colored glass spheres coming to life. Listen to the resident star talker decode the southern night sky, then introduce the Field of Light art installation from the dune top viewing area before returning to your hotel.

Day 12: Sunrise Uluru Tour, Visit Kata Tjuta & Tali Wiru Dinner

Visit the domes of Kata Tjuta and walk the Walpa Gorge Trail

Rise early to watch the sunrise illuminate the red-hued landscape, accompanied by an open-air Aussie breakfast of bacon and egg rolls, tea, and coffee with homemade damper bread. Your guide will teach you about the region's natural history, pointing out animal tracks in the sand. Once the sun is fully up, take a guided tour at the base of Uluru, stopping at the Mutitjulu waterhole and spotting Indigenous rock paintings. 

Next, you'll continue to the 36 Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) domes in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. On the way, take in views of the southern side of Kata Tjuta while you listen to your guide's overview of the national park. Then, you'll arrive at the base of Walpa Gorge, known for its unusual rock formations. The walking trail through Walpa Gorge follows the creek between two of the Olgas' tallest domes and will take you into a world of rare plant species and evergreen shrubs.

End the day with a tali wiru (beautiful sky in the local Anangu language) dining experience. This open-air restaurant showcases magnificent views of Uluru. Relax with Champagne and canapés around a firepit while watching the sunset, then stroll to the top of a dune for a four-course dinner with premium Australian wine. After dinner, a storyteller will captivate you with celestial creation stories.

Day 13: Transfer to Sydney, Explore

Get to know Sydney's iconic landmarks, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Leave the Red Centre this morning and fly three hours east to Sydney, a city known for its prime waterfront location, harbor, and opera house. The city also has a world-class culinary and nightlife scene and is surrounded by dozens of pristine beaches, including the famous Bondi Beach. Check into your hotel and then head out to explore Sydney independently.

Enjoy a drink at a waterfront bar in Sydney Harbour to soak up skyline views, or wander cobblestone laneways in the The Rocks. For an adrenaline-pumping adventure, embark upon the Sydney Bridge Climb. Led by a guide, you'll undertake a journey bringing you 439 feet (134 m) above sea level to the top of this engineering marvel. You'll be treated to 360-degree city views, looking east to the Sydney Opera House and west to the Blue Mountains.

As the sun goes down, perhaps board a sunset dinner cruise to sail around Sydney Harbour, passing key landmarks with plenty of stellar photo opportunities. Alternatively, book a table at one of Sydney's 5-star restaurants before enjoying the city's buzzing nightlife.

Day 14: Depart Australia

Say goodbye to Sydney as you catch your onward flight

Today your adventure in New Zealand and Australia comes to an end. You'll be transferred to the airport in time for your onward flight—safe travels!

More Great Australia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these other Australia itineraries, explore different ways to spend two weeks in Australia and New Zealand, or learn about the best time to visit Australia.


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Map of New Zealand & Australia Road Trip Highlights - 14 Days
Map of New Zealand & Australia Road Trip Highlights - 14 Days