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The Full Monty - Auckland to Queenstown in 12 nights

  • Auckland to Tauranga
  • Tauranga to Napier
  • Napier to Palmerston North
  • Palmerston North to Wellington
  • Wellington to Blenheim
  • Blenheim to Nelson
  • Nelson to Kaikoura
  • Kaikoura to Christchurch
  • Christchurch to Timaru
  • Timaru to Dunedin
  • Dunedin to Invercargill
  • Invercargill to Queenstown

Distance: 2300 km
Download: Auckland to Queenstown self-drive itinerary

Day 1. Auckland to Tauranga

Pick up your campervan or car in Auckland today. If you are collecting a campervan allow at least one hour for pick up and time to familiarise yourself with your vehicle before you leave the branch.

Depart this morning and follow State Highway 1 and State Highway 2 to Glasgow Street in Tauranga.

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings films, why not take a tour to Hobbiton to see where the films were made. Walk along the rolling hills of Middle Earth, where Frodo and his friends undertook the ultimate journey to destroy the One Ring, and have a meal in a recreation of one of their taverns. With a diverse range of locations, including everything from mountains to farmlands, even if you are not a fan of the films, you will still find something to love about New Zealand’s beauty and this tour.

Climb to the summit of Mount Maunganui, also known as Mauao, to see the spectacular sites of the Bay of Plenty coastline, Pacific Ocean and the town of Tauranga. The mountain is very special to the locals, with mythic tales surrounding how the mountain came to be. The summit is 232 km high and will take roughly 40 minutes to reach it, so don’t forget water. Whilst there, the Mount Maunganui Main Beach has been crowned one of the best beaches in New Zealand, and is perfect for cooling off after your climb up the mountain.

Distance: 205 km, 2 hours 40 minutes

Stay: Silverbirch Holiday Park

Day 2. Tauranga to Napier

Depart this morning and take Takitimu Drive to State Highway 29 in Tauriko. Continue on State Highway 29 to Tapapa. Take State Highway 1 and Thermal Explorer Highway to Thackeray Street in Napier.

Napier is home to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, showcasing marine life from international and New Zealand waters. A particular highlight is the 1.5 million litre Oceanarium, where you can explore from the unique perspective of the underwater viewing tunnel.

Just 30 minutes south of Napier is Te Mata Peak. Standing at 400 metres above sea level, from the top of the mountain you can see picturesque views of Ruahine, Kaweka, Caper Kidnappers and Maungaharuru Ranges. The climb is challenging, but completely worth it to enjoy the stunning views of New Zealand from up high.

Distance: 290 km, 3 hours 30 minutes

Stay: Napier Beach Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels

Day 3. Napier to Palmerston North

Depart this morning and take the State Highway 50 from Kennedy Road. Follow to State Highway 2 in Takapau. Continue on State Highway 2 to State Highway 3 in Palmerston North.

A favourite amongst locals, the New Zealand Rugby Museum is a place to learn about the heroics of the All Blacks (New Zealand’s national rugby team), and have a go at honing your own rugby skills. With relics from as early as the 1870s, trace New Zealand’s rugby history, and see how integral the sport is to the country. The interactive “Have a Go” area is popular with children and adults alike, as it allows you to test your skills.

If you’re a connoisseur of cars and racing, a visit to the Robertson Holden International Speedway will be of interest. Seating 15,000 people, the speedway hosts hundreds of competitors on what is considered to be one of the best circuits in the southern hemisphere. With a variety of vehicles from the Sprintcars to the Solo motorcycles, it is sure to be a fun evening.

Distance: 180 km, 2 hours 20 minutes

Stay: Palmerston North Holiday Park

Day 4. Palmerston North to Wellington

Depart this morning and take State Highway 56 and State Highway 57 to State Highway 1 in Levin. Follow State Highway 1 to Murphy Street in Wellington.

The Great War Exhibition is of notoriety in Palmerston North, for its recreations and accuracy in its depictions. Walk through The Great Hall of Wellington, which depicts year by year what happened in World War I with the ANZACs. Currently under development, the Trench Experience will immerse visitors in the war experience, with recreations of the sights and smells.

Visit Kelburn Hill, situated 119 metres above Wellington, via a cable car. Enjoy the views as your car climbs up the hill to the lookouts above. Spend time enjoying the panoramic views of the city and harbour Te Whanganui-a-Tara. You can decide to take a cable car back, or enjoy a walk through the Botanic Gardens to return to the city.

Distance: 145 km, 2 hours

Stay: Wellington Caravan Park

Day 5. Wellington to Blenheim

Depart this morning and drive to Waterloo Quay and Aotea Quay to Pipitea. Take the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry. The tickets can be bought online for both passengers and vehicles. From Picton, take the State Highway 1 to Blenheim.

The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre was opened to provide a proper appreciation and education about historic aircrafts. Some of the exhibitions involve filmmakers and craft makers coming together to rebuild aircrafts, including some from director Peter Jackson’s personal collection. The recreations create a vivid and lifelike picture of the aircrafts and the people who flew them.

Blenheim is in the Marlborough region, making it the perfect place to spend the day on a wine tour. With delicious foods and wines sampled throughout the day, there is no doubt that you will expand your taste buds and learn a lot about the local produce.

Distance: 130 km, 4 hours 10 minutes (including the ferry)

Stay: Blenheim TOP10 Holiday Park

Day 6. Blenheim to Nelson

Depart this morning and take State Highway 1. At the second roundabout, take the first exit onto State Highway 6. At the roundabout, take the first exit onto Trafalgar Street in Nelson.

For something that you would have never seen anything like before, visit the World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum. Each year, thousands of visitors come to this unique attraction which contains one of Australasia’s largest collections of classic cars. Alongside the cars, you can see over 60 pieces of competition-winning wearable art, something you cannot see at many museums.

The Nelson Lakes National Park is home to the beginning of the Southern Alps. This natural wonder will leave you mesmerised, and you can enjoy the national park in your own time. Whether you want a more challenging hike through the alpine, or an easy lakeside walk, you must take some time to take in and enjoy the wonderment of this feature.

Distance: 115 km, 1 hour 30 minutes

Stay: Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park & Motel

Day 7. Nelson to Kaikoura

Depart this morning and follow State Highway 6 to State Highway 1 in W End in Kaikoura.

Explore the area through the Ohau Stream Walk. The short walk will take you alongside the Ohau stream to a small waterfall. During the winter months, seal pups swim up from the ocean and will playfully swim in the water.

Kaikoura is famous for their spectacular whale watching, where the magnificent Sperm Whales are drawn by the deep sea trenches. Get up and as close as you can on a scuba-diving tour, where you can not only experience the whales but the vivacious and vibrant marine life.

Distance: 245 km, 3 hours 10 minutes

Stay: Kaikoura TOP10 Holiday Park

Day 8. Kaikoura to Christchurch

Depart this morning and follow State Highway 1 to Edgeware Road in Saint Albans. Take Manchester Street to Hereford Street in Christchurch Central.

The Air Force museum of Christchurch is the national museum for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Located on a former airbase, the museum has over 30 historic aircrafts and exhibitions. A particular highlight is the Mosquito Flight Simulator, where you can fly through the French countryside during 1944, based upon the real life Amiens Prison Raid.

Quake City is a multi-sensory experience, as run by the Canterbury Museum. See the active liquefaction of a volcano, and be captivated by the stories of emergency services teams during Canterbury’s major earthquakes.

Distance: 180 km, 2 hours 30 minutes

Stay: Amber Kiwi Holiday Park

Day 9. Christchurch to Timaru

Depart this morning and follow State Highway 1 to State Highway 78 in Timaru Central.

Learn about the local Maori culture at the Te Ana Maori Rock Art tours, where a guide will take you through how the rock art is formed and you will see the original rock art paintings. You will hear stories about the ancestors who lived here thousands of years ago, and what they did to preserve their paintings for today.

To continue this educational experience, the South Canterbury Museum has an extensive collection focussing on the heritage and people of the area. Learn about the Maori people and the European settlement, as well as the natural histories which is a must-see and learn of this area.

Distance: 165 km, 2 hours 10 minutes

Stay: Timaru Top 10 Holiday Park

Day 10. Timaru to Dunedin

Depart this morning and head south east on Stafford Street towards George Street. Continue onto King Street. Continue onto State Highway 1 and follow to Dunedin.

Visit the Dunedin Chinese Garden, which celebrates the Chinese population of Dunedin, as many of the families arriving in the 1860s during the gold rush and are therefore paramount to the local history. Walk around and enjoy the beautifully crafted gardens and buildings and have a go at the Chinese puzzles. Afterwards indulge in an authentic Chinese Tea Shop, where you can sample teas, dumplings and buns.

For your very own Willy Wonka experience, visit Cadbury World in Dunedin. The tour will take you through to the Cadbury World Sensory Lab, where you will have the opportunity to discover and try the different stages of the chocolate making process. At the end, you will even get to make your own creation – definitely worth a visit for the chocolate lovers.

Distance: 197 km, 2 hours 30 minutes

Stay: Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels

Day 11. Dunedin to Invercargill

Depart this morning and follow State Highway 1 to Gorge Road in Clinton. Follow Old Coach Road to State Highway 1 in Mataura. Turn left onto State Highway 1, and follow signs for Route 1/ Invercargill.

Visit the E Hayes Motorworks Collection, and see the ‘World’s Fastest Indian’ in person. Housed in a hardware store, the collection showcases vintage motorcycles, engines, equipment and memorabilia. At the centre is the ‘World’s Fastest Indian’, the very same motorcycle in which Burt Munro claimed his world records for his explorations and achievements in speed.

Spend the day at Queens Park, which is no average park. From golf, to playgrounds, to animals, there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy or try. Take a picnic on a nice day, and enjoy the peace away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Distance: 205 km, 2 hours 30 minutes

Stay: Invercargill Top 10 Holiday Park

Day 12. Invercargill to Queenstown

Depart this morning and head south west on State Highway 1 towards Deveron Street. At the roundabout, take the third exit onto State Highway 6. At the next roundabout, take the second exit to remain on State Highway 6. At the next roundabout, take the first exit onto State Highway 6A. At the final roundabout, take the first exit onto Ballarat Street in Queenstown.

Queenstown is one of the bungy-jumping capitals of the world, drawing adrenaline-seekers from every corner to bungy jump from great heights into some of the most beautiful gorges in New Zealand. Take up the challenge as it is an experience that you will definitely not forget, with nearly all places providing photographic evidence of your brave accomplishments.

If the weather permits, skiing in New Zealand is something you must do before you leave. A ski area like Treble Cone has long, uncrowded slopes, providing great skiing and unparalleled views. If you are a beginner, they have a free ski lift and protected slope to get your practise out on!

Allow 60 minutes to return your campervan.

Distance: 190 km, 2 hours 20 minutes

Stay: Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde


Disclaimer

DriveNow's suggested itineraries are made available to assist travellers create and build personalised journey plans. DriveNow does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of these itineraries and they are provided as is and as advisory only. You acknowledge that any reliance on or use of any itinerary shall be at your sole risk and discretion.

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