Thirteen days in New Zealand is enough time to fit in a taste of both islands, or you can focus on one for a more immersive experience. Foodies can enjoy local flavors on the South Island, nature lovers can appreciate the abundance of outdoor activities on the North Island, and intrepid travelers can find a daily adrenaline rush on a road trip of the North and South Islands. Meanwhile, first-timers can experience city culture, natural wonders, and active adventures on a classic tour that covers both islands.

Itinerary #1: New Zealand's Ultimate Tour

If it's your first time in New Zealand, this North and South island ultimate itinerary—packed with outdoor adventures, urban exploration, rejuvenating experiences, and wildlife—is for you. You'll visit the country's capital and natural wonders, including Milford Sound, learn about Māori culture in Te Puia, and enjoy the serenity of starry skies at Lake Tekapo.

Experience New Zealand's pristine waterways on a boat tour
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Auckland City Tour Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua via Waitomo & Hobbiton Rotorua
Day 4 Rotorua Tour & Māori Cultural Experience Rotorua
Day 5 Fly to Wellington Wellington
Day 6 Explore Wellington Wellington
Day 7 Fly to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 8 Day Trip to Akaroa Christchurch
Day 9 Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park Aoraki / Mount Cook
Day 10 Drive to Queenstown Queenstown
Day 11 Day Trip to Milford Sound Queenstown
Day 12 Free Day in Queenstown Queenstown
Day 13 Depart Queenstown  

Spend your first two days getting acquainted with Auckland before hitting the road to Rotorua. Take a boat ride through Glowworm Grotto and a tour of the Hobbiton movie set en route, and relax with a geothermal spa treatment on arrival. Learn about Māori arts at Te Puia on Day 4, and experience a cultural performance and traditional feast in the evening. Fly to Wellington, where you can explore via cable car, take in the sights from the City to Sea Walkway, and join a tour that offers views from Mount Victoria

Start your South Island adventures with a flight to Christchurch, where you'll enjoy green spaces in the city and wineries in nearby Waipara. Visit Akaroa, and take a harbor cruise to spot penguins and dolphins. On Day 9, head for Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, with a stop at Lake Tekapo. Experience the dark sky reserve at night, then check out Tasman Glacier on Day 10 before leaving for Queenstown. Enjoy scenes of waterfalls and steep mountain faces on a boat ride in Milford Sound, and celebrate your journey with an adrenaline adventure, such as bungee jumping or white water rafting. Learn more

Itinerary #2: North Island: Adventure, Culture & Relaxation

This 13-day adventure suits those who want to focus on the North Island and the variety of cultural and water-related activities here. Experience the geothermal spas at Lake Rotorua and Hell's Gate. Go whitewater rafting at Tutea Falls and kayaking to Lake McLaren. Feel the rush of Huka Falls on a jet boat tour, and then enjoy a slower pace while learning to paddle a Māori canoe on the Waitangi River. 

Catch the sunset at Tongariro National Park
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Harbor Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Free Day in Auckland, Tour Rangitoto Island Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton Rotorua
Day 4 Te Puia Tour & Māori Arts, Polynesian Spa  Rotorua
Day 5 The Ultimate Squeeze, Hell's Gate Experience  Rotorua
Day 6 Drive to Taupo, Whitewater Rafting Taupō
Day 7 Hukafalls Jet, Whakapapa Village & Tongariro Hiking Taupō
Day 8 Drive to Tauranga, Mount Maunganui Hike, Glowworm Tour Tauranga
Day 9 Drive to Whitianga, Hahei & Cathedral Cove Whitianga
Day 10 Drive to Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds Paihia
Day 11 Paddle a Māori War Canoe, Hole in the Rock Cruise Paihia
Day 12 Drive to Auckland, Sky Tower Dinner Auckland
Day 13 Depart Auckland  

Start your North Island adventure exploring urban life in Auckland and the volcanic fields of nearby Rangitoto Island. On Day 3, hit the road to Rotorua, where you'll have a few days to experience outdoor and cultural experiences, including geothermal spa treatments at the Polynesian Spa, Māori arts and culture at Mitai Māori Village, and a jet boat ride and hike at Tutukau Gorge. On Day 6, continue to Taupō for a white water rafting tour that takes you over 13 drops, including Tutea Falls, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world.

Take a jet boat tour to Huka Falls before continuing to Tauranga, where you can hike Mount Maunganui and then kayak at sunset to a canyon lit by glowworms. Drive to Whitianga on Day 9, stopping by Hot Water Beach for a hot pool soak and then Cathedral Cove for a view of the limestone caves and arches. Continue your road trip to Pahia with a bird-watching break in Miranda en route. Join guides from the Ngapuhi tribe for a paddling lesson on the Waitangi River before wrapping up your North Island journey back in Auckland with an elevated dinner at Orbit in the Sky Tower. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: North & South Islands Road Trip: Auckland to Queenstown

This Auckland to Queenstown itinerary is filled with outdoor experiences on both islands, ideal for those seeking adrenaline-packed activities and views of New Zealand's beauty from above. You'll bungee jump in Auckland, fly over Ōkataina Caldera, sky dive in Wānaka, and soar over Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier. There are also guided hikes and fjord boat tours to bring you back to Earth and closer to New Zealand's natural wonders.

Stroll along Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Harbor Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Drive to Coromandel, Visit Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre Coromandel
Day 3 Cathedral Cove Cruise, Hiking Around the Coromandel Peninsula Coromandel
Day 4 Drive to Taupō, Visit Hobbiton, Bungee Jumping & Sunset Guided Walk Taupō 
Day 5 Lake Taupō Cruise, Visit Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave Taupō 
Day 6 Drive to Rotorua, Explore Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland Rotorua
Day 7 Transfer to Christchurch via Waitomo & Auckland Christchurch
Day 8 Drive to Mount Cook Village, Enjoy Hiking & Stargazing on Aoraki / Mount Cook Mount Cook 
Day 9 Drive to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner Queenstown 
Day 10 Milford Sound Sightseeing Flight & Nature Cruise Queenstown 
Day 11 Drive to Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier via Wānaka, Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight Franz Josef
Day 12 Scenic Drive & Train Ride to Christchurch, Optional Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 13 Depart Christchurch  

Kick off this adrenaline-filled journey with a bungee jump in Auckland, then explore the Coromandel Peninsula on Days 2 and 3 with a boat tour to Cathedral Cove and a stroll to Shakespeare Cliff Lookout for a panoramic view. Spend the next two days enjoying Taupō's geological wonders as you hike Craters of the Moon and stunning Tongariro National Park, then bungee jump near Waikato River. Check out Rotorua's geothermal activity and otherworldly landscapes, capping off Day 6 with a plane tour over Ōkataina Caldera.

Fly to Christchurch and see the city sites from atop a double-decker bus before heading to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, where you'll hike and stargaze in the alpine wilderness. Bungee jump from Kawarau Bridge en route to Queenstown on Day 9 and cruise pristine Milford Sound fjord on Day 10, keeping an eye out for penguins. Continue to Wānaka, where you can skydive and then enjoy a scenic flight over Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier before taking in views of gorges and valleys on the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch. Learn more

Itinerary #4: South Island Food & Nature Adventure

This South Island-focused tour is perfect for travelers that want to indulge in the local flavors and natural beauty of the South Island. With a number of romantic activities—including an overnight on a boat at Doubtful Sound, a sunrise hot air balloon experience in Queenstown, and stargazing at Wilderness Lodge—it's especially suited to couples.

Enjoy a scenic drive to Mount Cook National Park
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch, Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 2 Drive to Mount Cook Village, Glacier Explorers Boat Trip Mount Cook Village
Day 3 Drive to Dunedin, Speights Brewery Tour & Dinner Dunedin
Day 4 Explore Dunedin & the Otago Peninsula Dunedin
Day 5 Drive to Te Anau & Visit Te Anau Glowworm Caves Te Anau
Day 6 Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise Doubtful Sound
Day 7 Drive to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner Queenstown 
Day 8 Sunrise Balloon Adventure, Jet Boat Tour & Onsen Evening Session  Queenstown
Day 9 Milford Sound Flight & Nature Cruise, Transfer to Lake Moeraki Lake Moeraki
Day 10 Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki Guided Nature Activities Lake Moeraki
Day 11 Drive to Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier, Trekking & Heli-Hike Franz Josef Glacier
Day 12 Drive to Christchurch  Christchurch
Day 13 Depart New Zealand  

Before you hit the road, see some of Christchurch's sites on a punting tour followed by a multicourse dinner on a historic tram. Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park on Day 2 and board a boat for the chance to glide alongside icebergs on Tasman Glacier Lake. Continue to Dunedin for a beer tasting and dinner at Speights Brewery, stopping for a photo op at Moeraki Boulders en route. Explore the farmers' markets, museums, and wildlife of Otago Peninsula on Day 4, then cruise Lake Te Anau and check out the glowworm caves there.

On Day 6, experience wildlife scouting, a three-course dinner, and stargazing aboard an overnight boat on Doubtful Sound fjord. Then spend a couple of days in Queenstown where you can visit vineyards, go sky diving, take a romantic hot air balloon ride complete with a champagne breakfast, and soak in the hot pools at Onsen. Next, immerse in the great outdoors at Wilderness Lodge with a rainforest walk, kayak safari, and stargazing. Finally, celebrate your epic South Island journey with a heli-hike at Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier before heading back to Christchurch via scenic Arthur's Pass. Learn more

More Great 13-Day New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other 13-day New Zealand itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of 13 Days in New Zealand - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 13 Days in New Zealand - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas