Itinerary #1: Highlights of New Zealand - Queenstown to Auckland
This traditional trip allows you to spend two days in each city to get the most out of each destination. Go adventuring from Queenstown to Auckland, enjoying the beautiful sights Te Anau, Wellington, and more along the way.
|Day 1||Arrive in Queenstown||Queenstown|
|Days 2-3||Explore Te Anau & Fiordland National Park||Te Anau|
|Days 4-5||Fly to Wellington - Explore||Wellington|
|Days 6-7||Fly to Rotorua - Explore||Rotorua|
|Day 8||Hobbiton Tour - Drive to Auckland||Auckland|
|Day 9||Auckland Free Day||Auckland|
|Day 10||Depart Auckland|
Your trip kicks off in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. In addition to skydiving, river rafting, and bungee jumping, you can take advantage of other outdoor activities without such an adrenaline rush. Board the Steamship TSS Earnslaw around Lake Wakatipu, ride the Skyline Complex gondola, soak in the onsen pools, and enjoy some regional wine tasting.
Next, head to Te Anau, which is the gateway to Fiordland National Park. For the next two days, there is plenty to discover. First, board a cruise on the fjord to Milford Sound (or go on a kayaking tour). Take in the beautiful sights, and keep an eye out for native wildlife—dolphins and fur seals are known to populate the area. Then, visit the illuminated glowworm caves. Boat through limestone passages with sculpted rock and head deep into the grotto caves to see thousands of glowworms light up in the darkness.
Hop a flight to Wellington to do some sightseeing on days four and five. Ride the Cable Car and head out on the City to Sea Walkway for views of Cook Strait and the Kaikoura Ranges. Then, go to the Mount Victoria Lookout for panoramic views of the city. Bookmark a visit to Te Papa National Museum, as well, which focuses on interactive visitor experiences, and educates on New Zealand’s geology and indigenous Maori people.
Fly to Rotorua, the geothermal city, next. Pick up your rental vehicle, so you can get around to explore over the next two days—all the way to Auckland. Take the Skyline Gondola, and if you are feeling adventurous, the Skyline Luge, visit the Polynesian Spa for some pampering, and go to the Agrodome to learn about New Zealand farming culture. Bookmark Hells Gate and Hamurana Springs to experience the geothermal highlights. At night, schedule time to visit the Mitai Maori Cultural Experience to view the indigenous people canoeing and entertaining in an authentic setting.
Drive 1 hour to Matamata to experience the Middle Earth landscapes—made famous by The Lord of the Rings films. Visit the Hobbiton movie set on a sheep farm, with views of the Kaimai Ranges. Then, drive 2 hours to Auckland. Wake up and enjoy your last day in New Zealand’s “Big Little City.” Ascend the Sky Tower for incredible views, visit the fish market at Wynyard Quarter, and stroll notable neighborhoods like Ponsonby, Britomart, and historic Devonport. Take in your final sunset at Mt Eden, with gorgeous views of the Hauraki Gulf, followed by a nearby wine bar visit to toast to your last night. Learn more
Itinerary #2: Best of New Zealand’s South Island
This South Island adventure takes you through the most scenic regions in this part of New Zealand. Visit Christchurch, go wine tasting in Wanaka, visit the glowworm caves in Te Anau, and conclude with a free day in the small town of Clyde.
|Day 1||Christchurch - Historical Tours, Ziplining, and Beaches||Christchurch|
|Day 2||Akaroa - Hiking and Swimming with Dolphins||Akaroa|
|Day 3||Lake Tekapo - Hiking, Hot Pools, and Stargazing||Lake Tekapo|
|Day 4||Mt. Cook National Park - Walking Tours||Mt. Cook Village|
|Days 5-6||Wanaka - Town Tour and Hiking in Mt. Aspiring National Park||Wanaka|
|Days 7-8||Te Anau - Fiordland National Park and Guided Tours of the Sounds||Te Anau|
|Day 9||Clyde - Town Exploration and Wine Tasting||Clyde|
|Day 10||Queenstown - Goodbye New Zealand!|
Your trip launches out of Christchurch, known as the “Garden City.” Stroll Hagley Park and Cathedral Square, then go punting on a flatboat along the Avon River. Visit the Antarctic Centre for a unique wildlife tour, then go ziplining at Christchurch Adventure Park. Stroll the beautiful beaches, and then board the Tram Restaurant for a mobile dining experience. Next, head to the Banks Peninsula to timeless Akaroa. Visit thRoyal Albatross Centre e to see the little blue penguins and swim with Hector’s dolphins. Take a scenic walk along the Banks Track, and visit the local galleries, craft stores, and cafés.
Then, head to Lake Tekapo, a small town known for its rare UNESCO World Heritage Starlight Reserve. First, though, hike Mt. John Summit, swim in Willow Bay Beach, and soak in the Alpine Springs, Spa and Winter Park. Take a flight above Aoraki/Mt Cook mountains and glaciers, and at nightfall, head to Mt. John Summit and Observatory to view the starry skies above the Mackenzie Basin. Wake up and head out on a series of walking tours in Aoraki/Mt Cook. Walks range from less than 1 hour to 4 hours, so choose your track(s) depending on your preferences. Take in the stunning peaks, glaciers, lakes, and valleys that make this mountain famous.
The next two days take you to Wanaka, known for its diverse attractions, array of activities, and beautiful landscapes. Go for a hike in Mt. Aspiring National Park—in the winter you can go skiing—and then enjoy some wine tasting from the Central Otago region. Visit Wild Wire Via Ferrata to plunge into the heart of a waterfall, rent bikes and kayaks, and visit Basecamp, an indoor rock-climbing center. For a day trip excursion, consider Rob Roy Glacier or Mou Waho Island.
Spend two days in Te Anau, where hikers can get their first fixes of the area via the Kepler Track and the Routeburn Track. Cruise along Lake Te Anau to visit the unique glowworm caves that ignite as you drift in the darkness. A boat tour of Milford Sound invites you to experience the beauty of the fjords up-close, where waterfalls tumble off cliffs and mountains straight into the sea. You can also opt to experience Doubtful Sound via catamaran, where native flora and fauna are abundant.
End the trip in the small town of Clyde, which was born out of the Gold Rush of the 1860s. Visit the museums, stroll the gardens and cafés, go fishing, and shop for souvenirs. You can also enjoy a bit more wine tasting in Clyde to close out your tour of the South Island, before departing out of Queenstown tomorrow. Learn more
Itinerary #3: North Island Family Adventure
This North Island family vacation includes plenty of adventure for your all-ages pack. Start out with some sightseeing in Auckland, eventually making your way to Wellington, with lots of fun along the way.
|Day 1||Arrival in Auckland & Self-Guided Tour||Auckland|
|Day 2||Auckland Exploration & Kelly Tarlton's Excursion||Auckland|
|Day 3||Drive to Coromandel Peninsula, Beach & Cove Tour||Coromandel|
|Day 4||Coromandel - Hot Water Beach & Karangahake Gorge||Coromandel|
|Day 5||Drive to Rotorua & Wai-O-Tapu Tour||Rotorua|
|Day 6||Rotorua - Waimangu Volcanic Valley & Hot Springs||Rotorua|
|Day 7||Drive to Taupō & Explore the Sights||Taupo|
|Day 8||Drive to Wellington & Tour Te Papa National Museum||Wellington|
|Day 9||Wellington - Scenic Walk, Cable Cars, & Botanic Gardens||Wellington|
|Day 10||Depart From New Zealand|
Touch down and explore Auckland on your first day in New Zealand. Visit the trendy neighborhoods of Ponsonby, Parnell, Newmarket, and Britomart. Head to the top of Mt Eden for beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, stroll Albert Park and the nearby Modern Art Museum and check out the scene at Mission Bay, which is especially busy in the summertime. Wake up and visit Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter to get up-close with penguin colonies playing in real snow, and walk through an underwater glass shark tunnel. Return to Auckland for more afternoon exploration (check out historic Devonport and ascend the Sky Tower), or plan a visit to Waiheke Island’s beaches and vineyards.
Pick up your rental car and head to the scenic coast of Coromandel. Visit Cathedral Cove for beautiful views and some swimming, then walk the track from Hahei Beach to Gemstone Bay. Make stops at Whangapoua and New Chums Beach, too. In the morning, make your way to Hot Water Beach for a dip in the enriched waters. Then, head to Karangahake Gorge’s historic walkway born from the Gold Rush, and seek out trails by Waitawhetea Gorge, as well.
Drive to Rotorua to explore the geothermal activity all around. Wai-O-Tapu is the most colorful of the attractions. Bookmark the excavated Buried Village and Hells Gate Geothermal Park, as well, both of which provide a taste of local scenery and indigenous Maori culture. Rainbow Springs Nature Park provides and informative Kiwi Encounter to close out the day. Next, visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which is an eco-focused adventure through craters via walking tracks or hiking paths. Ride the Skyline Gondola or go on a luge ride, then relax at the Polynesian Spa. Close out the tour of Rotorua at Hamurana Springs, among the crisp waters and redwood trees.
The North Island’s adventure capital of Taupo is next. This is a great place for skydiving and bungee jumping. Go jet boating along rushing Huka Falls or take a helicopter ride above the beautiful scene. Visit the Volcanic Activity Centre to learn about local geological mysteries, and stop at family-friendly Huka Prawn Park to learn all about the crustaceans. For more geothermal experiences, visit Wairakei Terraces, Craters of the Moon, and Taupo Debrretts Hot Springs Spa.
Head to Wellington next, home to Te Papa National Museum. Learn about native geology and the indigenous people. Then, stroll the Beehive, Parliament House, and Parliamentary Library to learn about the New Zealand government. Continue exploring Wellington via Cable Car, then take the City to Sea Walkway for water and mountain views. Mt Victoria Lookout has panoramic views of the harbor, while the Botanic Gardens is great for a family picnic among vibrant scenery. Enjoy a nice dinner in town before catching your departure flight home tomorrow. Learn more
Itinerary #4: New Zealand: ‘Middle Earth’ Family Tour of the North Island
Embark on a fun family tour through Middle Earth in the North Island. The Lord of the Rings highlights include a trip to Matamata to visit the Hobbiton set, a flight above Tongariro National Park to view movie landscapes, and a day trip out of Wellington to visit scenic sites.
|Day 1||Arrival in Auckland & Self-Guided Tour||Auckland|
|Day 2||Auckland - Coast & Rainforest Full-Day Tour||Auckland|
|Day 3||Explore Matamata & Hobbiton Movie Set Tour||Waitomo|
|Day 4||Waitomo Adventures Lost World Tour||Waitomo|
|Day 5||Drive to Whakapapa Village & Volcano Tour||Whakapapa|
|Day 6||Whakapapa Flight Excursion & Scenic Walks||Whakapapa|
|Day 7||Drive to Wellington||Wellington|
|Day 8||Wellington - Middle Earth Film Locations Half-Day Tour||Wellington|
|Day 9||Wellington - Self-Guided City Tour||Wellington|
|Day 10||Departure From Wellington|
Auckland is the first stop on this family adventure. Stroll the local museums on foot, or take a drive through one or more than 800 regional national parks to tour the beaches, waterfalls, and native forest landscapes. Wake up and head out on a full-day excursion. Stop at the Arataki Visitor Centre, which is the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. Take in the panoramic views of the ocean and sea, and learn about the indigenous Maori culture. Walk the regenerating rainforest with a guide—and enjoy a picnic lunch here among the kauri trees—then, explore the waterfalls and coastal beaches, and learn about native birdlife.
The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) portion of your trip begins today. Drive to the green hills of Matamata. In the heart of the Waikato farming region, tour a picturesque sheep farm of the actual Hobbiton set, and visit scene-specific nooks. Make a stop in Cambridge, then continue to Otorohanga for a visit to the Kiwi House. In the morning, embark on the Waitomo Adventures Lost World Tour for 4 hours. Visit the glowworm caves, rivers, flowstone formations, and massive caverns, and ascend through the craggy upper levels of the Spider Hole.
Next, travel south to Tongariro National Park and visit three, active volcanoes—Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe. Embark on several walking tracks and the renowned Tongariro Crossing. Enjoy the night in Whakapapa Village on your own. In the morning, fly over the national park to see the volcanoes and iconic lakes from a unique perspective. Keep a close watch for several LOTR landscapes along the way. Enjoy more scenic walks around Whakapapa Village, ranging from just 15 minutes to 5 hours.
The final stop is Wellington. Join a small tour to view LOTR filming locations, including Rivendell, River Anduin, and the Gardens of Isengard. Return to the city to visit Mount Victoria, and get immersed in more LOTR adventures through Buckland Forest. Do some sightseeing in Wellington on your last day. Make a stop in Te Papa National Museum, go shopping on Cuba St, and visit the parliamentary Beehive. For good food and drink, make the 1-hour drive to Martinborough. Enjoy one more LOTR activity with a tour of Weta Workshop and take a trip to Zealandia’s fully-fenced eco-sanctuary to mingle with native wildlife, before heading home the next day. Learn more
Itinerary #5: New Zealand: Fjords: Glaciers, & Mountains Self-Drive Tour
Take an outdoor adventure through New Zealand’s best natural destinations. Tour Christchurch by bus, explore three glaciers, cruise along gorgeous Milford Sound, and ride the TranzAlpine Scenic Train.
|Day 1||Arrival in Christchurch & Hop On Hop Off City Tour||Christchurch|
|Day 2||Christchurch - Self-Guided Tour||Christchurch|
|Day 3||Mt Cook National Park Glacier & Valley Tours||Mount Cook Village|
|Day 4||Scenic Drive to Te Anau & Visit Glowworm Caves||Te Anau|
|Day 5||Milford Sound Nature Cruise Day Trip||Te Anau|
|Day 6||Drive to Queenstown & Walter Peak Dinner Cruise||Queenstown|
|Day 7||Queenstown Exploration||Queenstown|
|Day 8||Visit Wanaka & Tour Franz Joseph Glacier||Franz Josef Glacier|
|Day 9||Trains to Greymouth & Christchurch||Christchurch|
|Day 10||Departure From Christchurch|
Kick off the trip in Christchurch with an exciting hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the Garden City. Learn about the town’s past and present, and then take a tram to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and check out the Transitional Cathedral made of cardboard. Enjoy more of Christchurch on a self-guided tour. Go punting on the Avon River (a flat-bottom boat ride), take a scenic gondola for panoramas of the city, visit the Time Tunnel, and stroll the Antarctic Centre for a unique wildlife exhibit.
Drive through Tekapo to Aoraki/Mt Cook. Take in the stunning lakes and peaks all around. Head out on the Glacier Explorers Tour to see how glaciers terminate into lakes and view the towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs around stunning Tasman Glacier. Take a 4x4 tour around the glacier, and make plenty of photo-worthy stops. Take the scenic drive to Te Anau through Twizel, Omarama, and Lindi Pass. Head from the Mackenzie Basin to Central Otago, and stop in Bendigo Reserve. Drive through Cromwell at the head of Kawarau Gorge, and past historic Kawarau Bridge—famous for Queenstown’s adventurers—until reaching The Remarkables mountain range.
Once you hit Te Anau, it’s time to embark on a catamaran tour along the lake to the Cavern House, filled with rock formations and whirlpools—and thousands of glowworms lighting your way. The next day is spent cruising through famous Milford Sound, and on walks through tunnels with views of majestic peaks. Learn all about the history of the sound and enjoy a picnic lunch. Keep a close watch for penguins, seals, dolphins, and more.
In Queenstown, pass through the deer capital of Mossburn, and then visit the Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw. The steamship excursion includes a tour of beautiful lakeside gardens and a farm-fresh gourmet barbecue dinner. Enjoy some onboard entertainment or simply enjoy the fresh air as Queenstown draws near. Explore more of Queenstown in whatever capacity suits you. Go jetboating, and then enjoy award-winning dining and wine tasting.
Visit Wanaka and stop at Blue Pools to discover a glacier-fed swimming hole. Then, make your way the duo or nearby glaciers: Franz Josef and Fox. Head out on the Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight excursion for an exciting adventure. Wake up and drive north through Hokitika, a gold-mining region known for its rich history. Board the TranzAlpine train from Greymouth, which skirts along stunning Arthur’s Pass National Park. Your final destination is back in Christchurch to enjoy your last night in New Zealand prior to departure. Learn more
More Great 10-Day New Zealand Itineraries
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