Eleven days is plenty of time to visit New Zealand's highlights, from cities and culture to mountains and adventure sports. Focus on just one island to get an in-depth look, or cover both islands for an exciting and diverse overview. Highlights of the North Island include the Hobbiton Movie Set, the geothermal attractions of Rotorua, and lively Auckland and Wellington. The South Island delivers grand mountains, lakes, and of course, Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Itinerary #1: New Zealand Scenic Self-Drive Tour: Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Canterbury & Otago 

This self-drive tour covers the North and South islands, ideal for travelers who want to see a lot in 11 days while maintaining control of their schedule. You'll explore New Zealand's largest, most diverse city, Auckland, and slowly make your way down to Queenstown, surrounded by The Remarkables. Check out must-visit spots, including geothermal Rotorua, whale watching at Kaikoura, and a helicopter tour to Mount Cook.

The road to Aoraki / Mount Cook on the South Island
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Explore Auckland
Day 2 Drive to Rotorua via Waitomo, Visit Redwoods Nightlights Rotorua
Day 3 Day Trip to Matamata, Hobbiton Tour, Visit Te Puia & the Polynesian Spa Rotorua
Day 4 Drive to Wellington, Night Wildlife Tour at Zealandia Wellington
Day 5 Ferry to Picton, Drive to Kaikoura Kaikoura
Day 6 Whale Watching Excursion, Drive to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 7 Drive to Mount Cook Village, Helicopter Over Mount Cook Mount Cook 
Day 8 Drive to Queenstown, Gondola & Luge Ride at Skyline Queenstown Queenstown 
Day 9 Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Boat & Plane Tour Queenstown 
Day 10 Explore Queenstown & Mount Aspiring Jet Boat Tour Queenstown 
Day 11 Depart New Zealand  

Beginning in Auckland, head south to central North Island to check out Rotorua's geothermal wonders, Māori culture, and the spectacular glowworm caves at Waitomo. Movie lovers won't want to miss the Hobbiton Movie Set at Matamata, where parts of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" films were made. Continue south to the capital city Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island. Learn about native conservation efforts with a night tour of the fenced Zealandia ecosanctuary before hopping over the Cook Strait on a ferry to Picton, at the top of the South Island.

Follow the coastal road down to Kaikoura, a famous whale watching town, and on to Christchurch, the South Island's big smoke. Cut inland to Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, which you'll see on a helicopter tour. Drive to Queenstown, renowned for its adventure sports, and spend your last couple of days in the country at beautiful Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, and enjoy a thrilling jet boat tour from Queenstown. Learn more

Itinerary #2: North Island Road Trip: Auckland, Bay of Islands, Rotorua, Napier & Wellington

This 11-day road trip focuses on the North Island, allowing you time to get to know this diverse area with a lot of natural and cultural diversity. Starting in Auckland, you'll travel north to the Bay of Islands to learn about New Zealand history in a beautiful subtropical setting before ending up at the bottom of the island, in the capital Wellington, via highlights such as Art Deco Napier and geothermal Rotorua.

The powerful current of Huka Falls on the Waikato River
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Free Day in Auckland Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Paihia, Hole in the Rock Cruise Paihia
Day 4 Discover the Bay of Islands & Township of Russell Paihia
Day 5 Drive Back to Auckland, Visit the Sky Tower Auckland
Day 6 Drive to Rotorua, Forest Canopy Tour Rotorua
Day 7 Explore Rotorua's Geothermal Wonders Rotorua
Day 8 Drive to Napier, Half-Day Hawke's Bay Wine Tour Napier
Day 9 Take a Gannet Safari at Cape Kidnappers Napier
Day 10 Drive to Wellington, Weta Cave Workshop Tour & Miniature Effects Tour Wellington
Day 11 Depart Wellington  

After a free day in Auckland to get your bearings, drive north to the Bay of Islands, on the east coast of Northland. This subtropical area is rich in natural beauty and New Zealand history, especially Waitangi and Russel. Head back through Auckland on the way to Rotorua, taking time to visit the prominent Sky Tower, where you can go bungee jumping or enjoy the sweeping views from the observation deck. In Rotorua, explore the forests and geothermal attractions, including a canopy tour.

Continue east to Napier, a coastal city in Hawkes Bay that's full of Art Deco architecture. It's also the North Island's largest wine-producing region, so make the most of that at a winery tour. Visit an enormous gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers before heading south to Wellington. On your last full day, "The Lord of the Rings" fans and movie enthusiasts, in general, will love touring Weta Cave, a special effects studio involved in those films, and many others. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Explore New Zealand's North Island: Auckland to Wellington

This 11-day tour of the North Island is ideal for active, outdoor-loving travelers as it includes one of the country's most famous and popular day hikes: the Tongariro Alpine Circuit. Besides this otherworldly physical challenge, you'll check out glowworm caves, geothermal attractions, and wine country.

View of Mount Maunganui from Mount Mauao, Tauranga
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Explore Auckland
Day 2 Transfer to Tauranga, Glowworm Kayak Tour Tauranga
Day 3 Transfer to Rotorua, Hobbiton Movie Set Tour Rotorua
Day 4 Visit the Geothermal Wonders of Wai-O-Tapu Rotorua
Day 5 Transfer to Ohakune via Tongariro National Park Ohakune
Day 6 Transfer to Martinborough & Wine Country Martinborough
Days 7-9 Transfer to Wellington, LOTR Tours, Cable Cars & Museums Wellington
Day 10 Transfer to Auckland, Free Day in the City Auckland
Day 11 Depart Auckland  

Start with some free time in Auckland before heading east to the coastal city of Tauranga, known for its superb beaches and coastline. Take a kayaking tour, then transfer to Rotorua to check out the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. From Rotorua, learn about moviemaking history at the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, where parts of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies were filmed.

Lace up your hiking boots on Day 5 as you'll get the chance to hike the Tongariro Alpine Circuit in the Tongariro National Park, New Zealand's oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire views of three active volcanoes: Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe. After this dynamic adventure, head south again to the wine country around Martinborough and on to Wellington. Make the most of the capital's attractions, including the fantastic Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. Transfer to Auckland to depart. Learn more

Itinerary #4: New Zealand North Island Highlights: Culture, Wine & Wildlife

Lovers of good food and drink (especially wine!) will enjoy this 11-day North Island tour focusing on culture, wine, and wildlife. Visit wineries around Auckland, Hawkes Bay, and Wairarapa while enjoying some of the North Island's most beautiful landscapes. 

Te Mata Peak, Hawkes Bay
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Explore Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Kumeu Wine Country Tour Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton Rotorua
Day 4 Explore Rotorua Rotorua
Day 5 Drive to Napier, Progressive Winery Dinner Napier
Day 6 Art Deco Architecture, Vineyards & Wildlife on Hawke's Bay Napier
Day 7 Drive to Martinborough Martinborough
Day 8 Drive to Wellington Wellington
Day 9 Explore Wellington, The Lord of the Rings Tour & Zealandia Wellington
Day 10 Take the Northern Explorer Train to Auckland Auckland
Day 11 Depart Auckland  

Spend your first day at leisure in Auckland, checking out the central city, before diving into your first winery experience around Kumeu in northwestern Auckland. Wildlife enthusiasts will also love checking out the Muriwai Gannet Colony on the nearby coast. Drive south through the Waikato to Rotorua, stopping en route at Matamata for a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. Enjoy a free day in Rotorua: perhaps you'd like to focus on Māori culture at the Mitai Māori Village, or explore the hot springs, boiling mud pools, and steaming geysers around the town.

Then on Day 5, drive east to Napier, the center of the Hawkes Bay wine-producing region. In the evening, indulge in a progressive winery dinner, a three-course dinner in which you'll sample a range of local food and drink. Watch the sunset from the top of Te Mata Peak, and don't leave Napier before taking an Art Deco tour. Continue south to Martinborough, in the wine-producing Wairarapa region, to sample more wine before ending up in Wellington. After a couple of days exploring the capital, sit back and relax as you take the daylong train journey on the Northern Explorer back to Auckland. Learn more

Itinerary #5: New Zealand by Rail: Scenic South to North Island Adventure

If you prefer the slower pace of travel that rail allows, it's possible to get around New Zealand by train. A collection of scenic, tourist-oriented rail journeys connect Auckland in the north to the West Coast in the south. This 11-day itinerary starts in Queenstown and joins the rail network in Greymouth, traveling through the South Island before hopping over to the North Island. Gaps in the rail network are filled by private vehicles and a ferry.

On the Coastal Pacific train through Canterbury, South Island
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Queenstown, Transfer to Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef Glacier
Day 2 Explore Hokitika & Scenic Train to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 3 Discover Christchurch by Tram & Cruise Christchurch
Day 4 Take the Coastal Pacific Train to Picton Picton
Day 5 Interislander Ferry to Wellington Wellington
Day 6 Explore Wellington: Te Papa Museum & Zealandia Wellington
Day 7 Take the Northern Explorer Train to Auckland Auckland
Day 8 Transfer to Rotorua, Glowworm Caves & Te Pa Tu Māori Feast  Rotorua
Day 9 Return to Auckland via Hobbiton Auckland
Day 10 Explore Auckland, Ascend the Sky Tower Auckland
Day 11 Depart New Zealand  

Arrive in Queenstown, a pretty town on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by The Remarkables mountain range. Take the scenic route through the Haast Pass to Franz Josef, one of two low-altitude glaciers on the southern West Coast, and continue up to Hokitika, a small town with significant gold rush history, before boarding your first train in Greymouth. Traverse the Southern Alps on the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch. Check out the South Island's largest city before following the coastline of Canterbury up to Picton aboard the Coastal Pacific.

Cruise through the Marlborough Sounds and across the Cook Strait to Wellington, where you'll visit top museums and wildlife sanctuaries. Early on Day 7, board the Northern Explorer train, which cuts a path through the central North Island, past the mountains of the Tongariro National Park and the dramatic King Country, before arriving in Auckland in the evening. From Auckland, check out more North Island highlights around Rotorua and the Waikato region by car. Learn more

More Great 11-Day New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other 11-day New Zealand itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of 11 Days in New Zealand - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 11 Days in New Zealand - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas