Home » Package Tours » 21 Day North and South Islands, with Bay of Islands

21 Day North and South Islands, with Bay of Islands

book now


With these tours we present some of our most popular and compelling self-drive itineraries. Experience the benefits of self driving but enjoy the convenience and security of us pre-booking your chosen type of accommodation and rental car. Just enjoy the travelling without having to worry about where you are going to stay. 

Any of our itineraries can be modified as well as adding extra days in any of the locations. If you require something completely different, please advise and we will be happy to put something together. 

During your trip you can call us anytime to make amendments to your tour, book extra activity or simply ask for some advice. We will be happy to help you anytime of the day or night.


  • 20 nights accommodation in 3.5 to 5 star B&Bs / motels / hotels 
  • Rental vehicle of your choice including airport and ferry port collection charges, unlimited kms & additional driver fees 
  • Rental car insurance included – Excess reduced to zero 
  • Comprehensive travel itinerary, maps and vouchers 
  • 24/7 nationwide roadside accident assistance 
  • Doubtful Sound wilderness cruise 
  •  Te Puia cultural and geothermal experience, includes a 45min cultural performance + Exploration of 60 hectares of geothermal wonder, including the world-famous Pohutu Geyser
  • Interislander ferry crossing
  • Free after hours assistance for amendments or additional bookings with you assigned consultant. 
  • 15% Goods and Services Tax

Other Information


  • These tours depart daily. Please click on the “Prices and Dates” tab for accommodation and rental car options.


  • Daily departures / 365 days of the year 
  • Tours can start and finish on any day of the week 
  • Mix, match and join individual tours together to create a tailor made itinerary 

Plan and Book Ahead 
Preplanning and pre-booking your New Zealand vacation before you depart is essential. Limited accommodation in certain areas during the high season could mean that a town’s accommodation can be booked out well in advance. Without pre-booking, you may find that the you pay a higher rate upon check-in or waste a lot of time travelling between accommodation providers trying to find a suitable option. 
We know the best places and with our discounted rates you are guaranteed of receiving well chosen accommodation options at the best possible price. Pre-planning will ensure you make the most of your valuable holiday time. Acrossnz is well-versed with all areas of New Zealand and is totally experienced at arranging well planned self drive itineraries. Feel free to ask the advice of Acrossnz when planning your self drive adventure to make sure you maximize your holiday experience. 

Book early: New Zealand has very limited availability in the summer months and often books out well in advance. It is recommended to book early to avoid disappointment. 

Create Your Own Self Drive Holiday 
Along with choosing one of our prearranged itineraries you can construct your own ‘a la carte’ holiday by booking the rental vehicle from this link and selecting your accommodation from our accommodation link. If you choose to book your accommodation through our link we will happily assist with knowledge on your accommodation choices or amendment your itinerary to ensure your holiday is just what you want. 

Camper Vans & Motor Homes 
Perhaps you prefer to follow one of the itineraries we have created in a Motor Home? Just book the Motor Home with us and we will be happy to provide you for the full itinerary as well as assisting you with camping ground bookings. Click here to choose some of the cheapest options in NZ.

Arrive Auckland - Travel to Bay of Islands - Bay of Islands - Bay of Islands - Bay of Islands - Auckland - Travel to Rotorua - Rotorua - Travel to Tongariro - Travel to Wellington - Wellington to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) - Punakaiki to the Glaciers - At the Glaciers - Glaciers - Wanaka - Wanaka to Fiordland National Park - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Doubtful Sound - Te Anau - Queenstown - Day in Queenstown - Day in Queenstown - Queenstown to Mount Cook - Mount Cook - Christchurch - Depart New Zealand


Arrive Auckland - Travel to Bay of Islands

Auckland to Paihia 
Driving distance: 219 km / 136 miles 
Driving: Approx 3h22m 

Arrive at Auckland, international Airport, pick up your rental vehicle and start your journey

The excitement of leaving Auckland via the magnificent Harbour Bridge and SH1 is quickly replaced by calm, scenic travelling options. Taking the east coast – take the exit to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the Gulf Harbour marina; visit the beach at Orewa; the thermal springs at Waiwera or taste some of the dairy delicacies at Puhoi before heading through native forests and farms – via pretty Warkworth and the Mahurangi River – towards Whangarei. En route distractions could be the beach Pakiri (great for surfing and horse treks), Kaiwaka if your fondness is for Dutch cheese; or the stunning vistas at Mangawhai Heads, Langs Beach and Waipu Cove. Subtropical Whangarei has a beautiful harbour and all the attractions of a popular small town – fine dining, shopping and gallery options. 

Before the scenery and allure of the Bay of Islands totally absorbs you, make time to visit Kawakawa for – as improbable as it sounds – the famous public toilet designed by Austrian artist Frederick Hundertwasser! The winding road via Opua and Paihia now leads to the breath-taking Bay of Islands.

Driving along the west coast through Waipoua Forest you’ll come across the magnificent Tane Mahuta, the tallest kauri tree in an area that was once covered in kauri. Hokianga. Exit the forest and you come to the Hokianga Harbour with its huge white sand dunes and quiet beach communities. 
If you travel back to Auckland, you should travel north via one coast, and back the other way. 


Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands lies in the heart of the Northland, 4 hrs north of Auckland, on the coast line; warm, friendly and relentlessly beautiful, the Bay cradles 144 islands ready for exploration. Cruise around the bay and weigh up your options: swim with the dolphins, big game fishing, exploring the Maritime and Historic Park, relaxing in the resort towns of Paihia or Russell, or learning about New Zealand’s early identity at Waitangi. 

Paihia  is the main township of the bay of Islands (BOI) and demands relaxation – rolling green hills meet sparkling blue waters which in turn lead you to the beautiful beaches. If sun-bathing and café hopping is just too slow, then there’s always sky diving, paragliding, fly trapezing, water or jet skiing and of course – swimming with dolphins (- this is the warmest water in NZ to swim with the dolphins). 

Another interesting historic town is Russell, the location of the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand and the one-time capital city (in 1840). 
Nearby Kerikeri has a similar very early history and historic sites which include Mission House, the oldest wooden structure still standing in New Zealand, and The Stone Store whose construction began 19 April 1832 making it the oldest stone building in the country.

Waitangi is an extremely important place in New Zealand’s history and the Waitangi Meeting House commemorates this. In 1840 a treaty was signed between Maori and the British Crown and the resulting ‘Treaty of Waitangi’ became the founding document of modern day Aotearoa/New Zealand. The Waitangi Meeting House has displays, demonstrations and performances at regular intervals, be sure not to miss the striking waka – a carved wooden Maori war canoe.


Bay of Islands

Full day relaxing in and around the region. 

As described on Day 3, Paihia and surrounds are home to some significant early New Zealand happenings. 

Take today to explore and discover what every visitor to this region finds. An absolute treasure trove of goodies from self indulging in numerous activities, to shopping and delicious cafe fare, to learning about the local Maori and Pakeha historical buildings, culture and events.

Or it could be a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep, in readiness for more adventuring.


Bay of Islands - Auckland

Paihia to Auckland 
Driving distance: 219 km / 136 miles
Driving: Approx 3h22m

You can take a pleasant journey on the main highway to Auckland or you can go via Waipoua Forest on the west coast. This way will take you through the astounding Hokianga Harbour, giant native kauri forest, Kaipara Harbour and fresh water lakes.

Take time to stop and visit the Matakohe Kauri Museum. The museum contains stunning Kauri displays and tells the story of early pioneering days in the region.

Following on towards Auckland you can divert via Orewa, which will take you on a scenic coastal route with some seaside rest stops. 


Travel to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua 
Driving distance: 235 km / 146 miles 
Driving: Approx 3h21m 

Travelling south on SH1 or SH2, the buzz of the city gives way to country scenes. Ahead of you are 3.5 hrs of vineyards, a historic battle site and coal-mining town, thermal springs and Matamata – the home of the Hobbiton. You may also choose to travel via Waitomo Caves (add 3 hrs to your driving time). Onto SH5, the route travels through the volcanic terrain of the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park and leads to Rotorua.



Famed for its geothermal activity, Rotorua is utterly unique – peer into an active volcano and watch the belly of the earth bubble and roar as it leeches sulphurous steam trying to find its way out through thermal pools and geysers. 

Steeped in Maori history and culture, and picturesque to boot, Rotorua offers a profusion of opportunities for the long or short-term visitor. The thermal activity in Rotorua is fascinating – as is the local constant companion, the smell of sulphur! There are many geysers to view although the Pohutu Geyser in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley at Te Puia is arguably Rotorua’s favourite geyser known for its 30 metre high steam spurts! Whakarewarewa Thermal Village is where the rich Maori history and culture of the region is detailed through song, dance and storytelling. However there is more to Rotorua than hiss and steam. 

A visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing a few of the 16 magnificent lakes in this region – such as Lake Rotorua, Lake Tarawera or the beautiful Green (Rotokakahi) and Blue (Tikitapu) Lakes – perhaps even catch a trout for dinner? Popular water sports are kayaking, jet boating, water skiing, fishing (note that Green Lake is closed to public) and white water rafting (especially at the Kaituna River). Nearby Mount Tarawera is known for its devastating volcanic eruption of 1886 which, in destroying three whole villages, also buried The Pink and White Terraces, a geological phenomenon considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. Opportunities for families – attractions and actions – abound. 

For the adrenaline junkies why not try hurtling downhill in a plastic bubble, racing through space, body flying or bungy jumping 43 metres! But worry not, there’s always horse riding, orienteering and walks through the lovely Whakarewarewa (Redwood) Forest.



Geothermal Experiece | Te Puia

Travel to Tongariro

Rotorua to Ohakune 
Driving distance: 209 km / 130 miles 
Driving: Approx 3h1m 

Whether you drive on SH30, then SH1 or follow SH5 south towards Taupo, a riveting journey is guaranteed. Traversing this active geothermal area, the volcanic terrain is fascinating and has huge geological appeal. En route look out for the tremendous and unique thermal valleys. Wai-O-Tapu has been active for over 150,000 years and has some remarkable features such as the deep cauldron-like craters bubbling frantically with mud and the coloured pools. Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the world’s newest geothermal system and features both a scenic reserve and a wildlife refuge – walks, cruises and bus trips are available. The more secluded Waikite Valley Thermal Pools are equally worth a diversion. 

Other interesting places to visit include the hydro power station at Atiamuri and the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station further south. . For a natural, perhaps ‘raw’, experience of the pure energy of water, make time to visit both the stunning Aratiatia rapids and the Huka Falls where water hurtles down at a rate of more than 220, 000 litres per second. 

Travelling around the largest lake in New Zealand, the wonderful Lake Taupo, and past Turangi, known as the trout capital of the world, SH1 then SH47 leads directly to the volcanic Tongariro National Park.


Travel to Wellington

Tongariro National Park to Wellington via SH1
Travel distance: Approx 340KM   
Travel time: 5 hours; via SH2 Approx 6 hours

Heading south from Tongariro National Park on SH4 past the Makatote viaduct and then SH49, there’s a picnic opportunity in the Karioi State Forest before Waiouru which is in the heart of army territory – if the military is of interest, the museum is worth a visit. Heading south through broken country past Taihape there is now a choice of directions. SH54, SH3 to SH2 travels south through a gorge, past antique-filled Woodville, Masterton and Victorian Greytown – a great place to take refreshment break and browse haute couture made by New  Zealand’s top fashion designer, Trelise Cooper – before the route leads to Wellington, 1 & ½ hours away. 

Alternatively, SH1 southbound reveals some unusual gems at Foxton such as the full-sized windmill in the main street or its wonderful Flax stripping museum. The glorious Kapiti Coast has many lovely beaches en route for a quick splash or snack, there are potteries at Te Horo and Waikanae, a superb lookout over Kapiti Island’s rare bird sanctuary; and two great vintage museums: the Southward (Motor) museum at Paraparaumu and the Tramway museum at Paekakariki. SH1 becomes more urban as it finally leads to the country’s capital.


Wellington to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks)

Wellington to Punakaiki 
Driving distance: 404 km / 251 miles By Road and Sea 
Driving: Approx 4h51m 
Sailing: Approx 3h20m 

When travelling between islands a ferry journey is required.

Travelling west, through the scenic Queen Charlotte Road, your drive is slow and pleasant as the road follows the narrow path around the Marlborough Sounds to Havelock; a beautifull short hike to Pelorus bridge. Stop at Buller Gorge to cross the Buller swingbridge, onto Westport and its wide seal colony and a coffee break at Cape Foulwind; Punakaiki is now only 45 minutes away. Check the tidal time at the Info Centre (on the main highway) although the the rocks and blow holes are impressive even in low tide.
In summer, if arrived early enough in the afternoon, you can hire a kayak on the Punakaiki river.
Several short walks are avaialble nearby – at the Paparoa N.P. Further information will be given with the full itinerary.



Interislander Ferry Crossing

Punakaiki to the Glaciers

Punakaiki to Franz Josef 
Driving distance: 224 km / 139 miles 
Driving: Approx 3h14m 

Following the coastline south from Punakaiki, SH6 is not only breath-takingly beautiful and utterly unique, it is also dotted with many wonders and fun opportunities. Try knife-making at Barrytown ; gold-panning at Shantytown, the restored town from the gold-rush era; and glass-blowing at Hokitika. Okarito is known for its white herons; whilst the many lakes and beaches invite rest and reflection before arriving at the stunning Glaciers.


At the Glaciers

Standing face-to-face with a gigantic wall of blue ice is a humbling once-in-a-lifetime experience – and is possible for even the most conservative of adventurers at the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers. Both beautiful and dramatic, these unique glaciers flow from the Southern Alps mountain range into lush rainforest and are still advancing and retreating today. Walks to (or onto) the ice can be guided or independent; 

Magnificent scenic flights are available; And the ultimate experience – Heli Hike – a helicopter flight to the peak of the glacier, followed by a 2.5 hrs guided walk on the top of the glacier with a flight back down.


Glaciers - Wanaka

Franz Josef to Wanaka 
Driving distance: 285 km / 177 miles 
Driving: Approx 4h8m 

Today you are heading south on the rugged and sparsely populated West Coast Road (SH6), before turning inland through the scenic and glorious Haast Pass. Mount Aspiring National Park beckons, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea vie for attention and Wanaka is simply beautiful for yout to enjoy.

Visit Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World on your left hand side on entering town, enjoy a walk around the lake or on a warm day – a dip in the lake – this is one of the best swimmable lakes in NZ, or conquor the walk to Rob Roy glacier via the beautiful Matukituki valley – approx 5 hrs return.

On a rainy day you can always enjoy the cute unique little cinema Paradiso in town.


Wanaka to Fiordland National Park

Wanaka to Te Anau 
Driving distance: 230 km / 143 miles 
Driving: Approx 3h20m

By now you will be used to driving and seeing some pretty awesome New Zealand scenery. Today is another chance for you to leave one stunning destination to alight at another equally if not more beautiful spot.

Todays drive is more about the destination of Fiordland National Park and Te Anau as Fiordland is described as the sightseeing and walking capital of the world. The promise of its dramatic scenery, and as the main base of filming for “Lord of the Rings” will incentivise you no end.

There are cruises, scenic flights available and with cascading waterfalls, sheer fiords and pristine forest its like you have stepped in to another world where nature beckons you in, and you are happy to stay.


Te Anau - Milford Sound

Te Anau to Milford Sound 
Driving distance: 116 km / 72 miles 
Driving: Approx 1h41m (although you should allocate 4 hrs) 

They say that life is about the journey not just the destination and where better to reflect upon this than on the magnificent Milford Road? One of New Zealand’s stunning scenic highways, the beauty of this route is utterly breath-taking and sure to wet your appetite for the unforgettable experience of visiting the Milford Sound. A cruise on Milford Sound will be an essential component of your day, or you can get up close and personal in a sea kayak (there is a tour also suitable for the inexperienced). 

Tall waterfalls, vertical rock faces and seals are some of the things you’ll remember. The underwater observatory is an option with most cruises.Of note is that the Milford Road has no fuel stops/petrol stations and in places can be narrow and winding. 

Even though the road is 120KM – DO allow yourself 4 hrs for the drive there.


Doubtful Sound

Dramatic scenery unveils in front of you whilst cruising on the Doubtful Sound, known also as ‘the Sound of Silence’; there is a cloistered serenity within Doubtful Sound that contrasts with Milford Sound. The fiord is rich in flora and fauna and outstanding Waterfalls; at times sighting of local wildlife as dolphins (Doubtful Sound is home to one of the southernmost population of bottlenose dolphins), fur seals and penguins (Fiordland crested and blue). Leaving from Manapouri this is a full day adventure. Duration of this adventure is 7hrs 15mins – 8hrs. You can replace your day cruise with a once-in-a-lifetime option of an overnight cruise or a full-on adventure sea kayak (day or overnight trips).



Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

Te Anau - Queenstown

Te Anau to Queenstown 
Driving distance: 174 km / 108 miles
Driving: Approx 2h32m 

An impressive journey, both SH94/ SH6 and the gravel track (via Mavora Lakes) promise unparalleled scenery and endless photo opportunities. Make time to wave at the deer at Mossburn and at your own reflection in Lake Wakatipu before approaching the Remarkables mountains and entering Queenstown. 


Day in Queenstown

An adventure playground extraordinaire, Queenstown is both beautiful and bountiful: even the mountain range framing the town is called “The Remarkables”. Add to this Lake Wakatipu and lush forestation, its no wonder Hollywood film-makers frequently visit. Home to the first commercial bungy jumping enterprise, Queenstown is known for its many adrenaline-filled activities. Nearby Skipper’s Canyon and Arthur’s point commemorate the discovery of gold in the area. 

A stunningly beautiful and compact town, walking around Queenstown from eatery to entertainment, from parties to performances is all too easy – and being the unofficial adrenaline capital of New Zealand, you might want to pace out your days! Mountain skiing is immensely popular at Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone; with cross country skiing at the Waiorau Snow Farm (near Cardrona). Other adventure possibilities include jet boating, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, paragliding, canyon-swinging, sky diving, river surfing and fly fishing!

If a calmer pace suits you, Queenstown has a great shopping and commercial scene and there is an equally vibrant night-life. Take in Queenstown’s incredible scenery over a leisurely lunch and a locally produced Pinot noir from, apparently, the world’s southernmost wine region! Bars are a-plenty, whilst there is a constant buzz of street (and indoor) entertainment and live music. Queenstown is home to the coal fired steamship, the TSS Earnslaw; hosts an annual International Jazz  Festival and a Winter Festival and also makes a great base for exploring the inland lakes (Lake Hawea, Lake Wakatipu, and Lake Wanaka).


Day in Queenstown

Another day to explore and enjoy this beautiful spot.

Today you might like to take a leisurely ride on the Skyline Gondola up to Bob’s Peak. From the top you can take in the views of Queenstown while lunching at the restuarant or if you are feeling adventurous ride the Luge run, guaranteed to remind you what its like to take life by the horns and ride it!

You could also take a day trip out on the lake or go for a walk on some of the many tracks nearby. If you’re the adventuruous type you are spolit for choice of all the activities on offer. Grab a brochure and make your picks according to how game you are.

There’s so much to do and see we advise you get your camera out, and snap away to your hearts content some of the gorgeous scenery, people and happenings, Then you can keep the memories of your trip to Queenstown alive forever.


Queenstown to Mount Cook

Queenstown to Mt Cook Village 
Driving distance: 262 km / 163 miles 
Driving: Approx 3h48m 

Through the Kawarau Gorge with its historic gold mines, then past the stone fruit growing area of Cromwell, OR over the Crown Range – New Zealand’s highest sealed road at 2200 meters – a route for the bold, the views from the Crown Range are without comparison. Both routes meet at Lindis Pass; crossing the spectacular Mackenzie Country bound by the Southern Alps to the glacial lakes and into the Mount Cook National Park.


Mount Cook - Christchurch

Mt Cook Village to Christchurch 
Driving distance: 332 km / 206 miles 
Driving: Approx 4h50m 

Leaving behind the peaks of Mount Cook National Park and heading towards Christchurch, via Lake Tekapo with its tiny stone Church of the Good Shepherd, crystal clear lake and distant snow capped mountains; the vast and barren Mackenzie Country – famously moody and scenic; Geraldine is a delightful town with some unusual museums; the Rakaia river and Glentunnel are a reminder of New Zealand’s mining history; and finally – the plains of Canterbury leading you into Christchurch.Through the Kawarau Gorge with its historic gold mines, then past the stone fruit growing area of Cromwell, OR over the Crown Range – New Zealand’s highest sealed road at 2200 meters – a route for the bold, the views from the Crown Range are without comparison.Both routes meet at Lindis Pass; crossing the spectacular Mackenzie Country bound by the Southern Alps to the glacial lakes and into the Mount Cook National Park.


Depart New Zealand

Must all good things come to an end? This one has…

Drop your car off at Christchurch airport before your flight back home.

Have a good flight back home :-)

Vehicle Quality Hotels Bed & Breakfast Superior Hotels Exclusive
NZ $6,071.00NZ $8,271.00NZ $7,671.00NZ $11,671.00
NZ $6,134.00NZ $8,334.00NZ $7,734.00NZ $11,734.00
NZ $6,386.00NZ $8,586.00NZ $7,986.00NZ $11,986.00
Full Size
NZ $6,449.00NZ $8,649.00NZ $8,049.00NZ $12,049.00
Permium Wagon AWD
NZ $6,743.00NZ $8,943.00NZ $8,343.00NZ $12,343.00
Intermediate 4WD
NZ $6,701.00NZ $8,901.00NZ $8,301.00NZ $12,301.00
Full Size 4WD
NZ $7,310.00NZ $9,510.00NZ $8,910.00NZ $12,910.00
8 Seater People Mover
NZ $7,037.00NZ $9,237.00NZ $8,637.00NZ $12,637.00
12 Seater Van
NZ $7,289.00NZ $9,489.00NZ $8,889.00NZ $12,889.00

Pricing Details
Pricing is based on 2 people. Option of  Double Room (1 bed) or Twin Room (2 beds) For single travellers or larger groups vacationing together please contact us for a customized quation to ensure you receive the best price. For different rooming configurations (eg triple share or special needs)  please contact us.

Children Costs
Children under 5 travel for free (max 2  excluding certain activities)  Children aged 5-14 at time of travel are an added extra (max 2)

Price Includes 
4 nights accommodation; 5 days rental vehicle of choice; All Inclusive rate hire including unlimited kilometres, loss damage waiver (LDW, provides Accident Damages Cover which is subject to excesses that can be reduced); airport concession fee recovery; accident excess reduction insurance; local sales tax (GST),ferry terminal fee recovery; Te Puia Experience; Interislander Ferry crossing; Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

Price Excludes
Flights to New Zealand and airport taxes

Prices are in New Zealand dollars and include 15% GST (local sales tax) Click here for an online currency converter to convert prices to your own currency (approximate only)

All prices are based on travel between October 1st through to March 31st. For prices outside these dates, please contact us directly

    Travel Details

    Pre & Post Tour Accommodation

    Contact Details

    I have read and accept Acrossnz Terms & Conditions

    Please ensure you have included all of the relevant information, including your email address, so that we can provide you with a comprehensive, and prompt reply.