New Zealand or Aotearoa in Maori, 'land of the long white cloud', is a country of extremes. From the high mountain peaks of Aoraki/Mt Cook to glaciers and fiords, volcanoes and rainforests, New Zealand offers you some of the world's best scenic driving. Home to a host of iconic sights, fascinating Maori culture, interesting towns and dramatic panoramas, our journey explores all of New Zealand's highlights as well as discovering some hidden treasures as we detour off the beaten track.
Whether you choose to travel by classic car or modern 4x4, this rally that stretches from the farthest north of Northland to deepest parts of Southland will be a special motoring experience, and will certainly appeal to those with a spirit of adventure. Provisionally set at 30 days, we may extend the tour by up to four days, depending on our findings after the route survey and the feedback we receive from you, the customer.
We start in the garden city of Christchurch, with its traditional English-style parks and gardens, which you can enjoy to their full extent if you arrive a few days early. The cafes and bars along the banks of the Avon River also make for an extremely pleasant outing. Indeed, why not take a punt through the city lapping up the atmosphere and settling into the relaxed pace of the South Island. We have a small preamble to the main event on Day One; this is to show you the volcanic Banks Peninsula, a true gem of the South Island.
Heading north on Day Two, our first exciting halt is the whale-watching centre of Kaikoura. From here we make our way to the natural thermal springs of Hanmer, where you can immerse yourself and luxuriate in total relaxation. Northwards again we cross New Zealand's largest sheep station, Molesworth, holding more than 100,000 head of stock at any one time. This is 'pure NZ' and your first introduction to the real backcountry. You can make your first visit to the renowned Marlborough vineyards before we cross the Cook Strait.
Onwards to the North Island we visit the world famous Len Southward Motor Museum prior to crossing the volcanic Central Plateau. We overnight in Auckland, the City of Sails. Continuing past ancient Kauri forests and wide sandy beaches we reach Cape Reinga, our most northerly destination. Our return from the far north involves driving down Ninety Mile Beach, which in fact measures only 90 kilometres!
On the journey south again from Auckland we visit Rotorua, a ferment of geothermal activity with its obnoxious sulphur smells, bubbling mud pools and giant geysers. I know of another wonderful backcountry road through the largest man-made forest in the country, Kaingaroa, over the Ikawhenua range, past Lake Waikaremoana and into the vineyards of Hawke's Bay where we will overnight. We aim to keep you away from the main highway on our journey back to the South Island, travelling instead on lightly trafficked secondary roads.
We return to the majestic south, exploring the inlets and bays of Marlborough, before an exclusive water taxi into Awaroa Bay where we stay in the luxury lodge only accessible on foot or by boat. Now we begin our jaunt southwest to the coast and its unpredictable weather. As we arrive at Westport your first contact with nature is the aptly named Cape Foulwind with its extensive seal colony. A little further down the coast we come to Punakaiki and the pancake rocks-a strange geological phenomenon. Down the west coast, we pass by spectacular coastline and alpine vistas until we cross the mountainous spine of the Southern Alps to arrive in Queenstown. Milford Sound is our next port of call; the road is a fascinating mix of ancient rainforest, glacier and fiord. The serenity and majesty of Milford Sound is world famous and therefore is on our list of 'must-sees'. We pass through Invercargill;,made famous by Bert Munro and his Indian motorcycle, on the way to the Deep South where we can explore the coves and inlets of the Catlins coastline. Dunedin is a Scottish-styled university city, which has an immense albatross colony on its eastern peninsula. Day 29 has another of our wonderful backcountry routes across central Otago and its many disused gold mines. We then make our way back into the mountains to arrive at a five-star hotel nestled underneath Mount Sefton. The home run keeps us close to the foothills of the Southern Alps, crossing the Rakaia Gorge before the simple, flat Canterbury plains and our journey's end in Christchurch.