Fifteen days in New Zealand allows you to explore the highlights of the North and South islands, including Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, and Queenstown. Take a gastronomy and wine-inspired tour through the country's wine regions of Waiheke Island, Hawke's Bay, and Marlborough. Or concentrate on the hot spots of the South Island alone on a dedicated ski holiday. If you're looking to add another country to your list, spend six nights in Australia's Sydney and Melbourne on a multicountry adventure.

Itinerary #1: New Zealand North & South Island Road Trip Highlights

Perfect for first-time visitors, you'll embark on a cross-country adventure to cover all the highlights on this road trip itinerary from Auckland on the North Island to Queenstown in the South. Take a day trip to Waiheke Island, learn all about Māori culture in Rotorua, go whale watching in Christchurch, and enjoy a cruise along Milford Sound.

Waiheke Island vineyard, New Zealand
Waiheke Island vineyard, New Zealand
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Waiheke Island Explorer Auckland
Day 3 Hobbiton Tour & Drive to Rotorua  Rotorua
Day 4 Te Puia & Māori Arts Tour & Cultural Experience  Rotorua
Day 5 Free Day in Wellington Wellington
Day 6 Wellington & Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour Wellington
Day 7 Interislander Ferry to Picton Picton
Day 8 Free Day in Kaikōura Kaikōura
Day 9 Kaikōura Whale Watching Tour  Christchurch
Day 10 Explore Christchurch Christchurch
Day 11 Free Day in Mount Cook Village Mount Cook Village
Day 12 Skyline Queenstown Gondola & Luge Queenstown 
Day 13 Free Day in Queenstown & TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner Queenstown
Day 14 Milford Sound Tour  Queenstown
Day 15 Depart Queenstown  

Land in Auckland and spend two nights exploring the country's biggest city. Travel to the top of the Sky Tower for impressive views of the metropolis, then hop on a ferry to Waiheke Island for a day of wine tasting. Continue south toward Rotorua, stopping at Hobbiton in the Waikato region. Visit the Mitai Māori Village to learn about the First Nations Māori culture before spending a full day exploring Wellington. Take the ferry to Picton to begin the South Island part of your adventure. Jump in a Catamaran with Whale Watch Kaikōura and look out for sperm whales, dolphins, and fur seals.

See the Botanical Gardens and the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch on Day 10 before driving to Mount Cook Village to see New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki. Drive to Queenstown for three nights in the country's adventure capital, where you can ride the Skyline Gondola, go white-water rafting, or head off on a hike to enjoy views of The Remarkables mountain range. Board the TSS Earnslaw steamship to the Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you'll enjoy a barbecue dinner. On your last full day, you'll spend it in Fiordland National Park, cruising along Milford Sound before departing New Zealand from Queenstown. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Highlights of New Zealand: From North to South

Another classic itinerary highlighting popular destinations on both islands, this trip adds another stop, Raglan, on the North Island and bypasses Wellington and Picton but emphasizes Wānaka and the fascinating Te Ann Glowworm Caves.

Go surfing at Ngarunui beach in Raglan, Waikato
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Kayak to Rangitoto Island Auckland
Day 3 Transfer to Raglan, Swim & Surf Raglan
Day 4 Explore Rotorua's Geothermal Attractions Rotorua
Day 5 Jet-Boat Waikato River & Whakarewarewa Forest Rotorua
Day 6 Fly to Christchurch Christchurch
Days 7-8 Fly to Mount Cook & Tekapo Mount Cook / Tekapo region
Days 9-10 Wine Tasting & Adventure in Wānaka Wānaka
Day 11 Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound Te Anau
Day 12 Visit the Te Anau Glowworm Caves Te Anau
Days 13-14 Adventure-Seeking in Queenstown Queenstown
Day 15 Depart  

Arrive in Auckland and head straight to Mount Eden to take in the views of your new destination and enjoy dinner on Ponsonby Road. The following day, kayak to Rangitoto Island via Waitemata Harbor and spot blue penguins and local fauna as you glide through the water. On Day 3, you'll surf, kayak, paddleboard, or swim in Raglan before transferring to Rotorua to see the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal region or the Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Unleash your adventurous side on a jet-boat ride on the Waikato River, then soak in the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools before flying to Christchurch on Day 6.

Spend a day in the South Island city before traveling to Aoraki / Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo to immerse yourself in nature and wildlife. Days 9 and 10 involve wine-tasting in Rippon Valley, an optional excursion to Rob Roy Glacier, and a kayak tour on Lake Wānaka. The next day, drive to Milford Sound via Te Anau to experience the dramatic landscape of the fjord. Head to Queenstown for your final two days to ride the Skyline Gondola, bungee jump over the Nevis River, or luxuriate in the relaxing thermal springs at Onsen Hot Pools. Learn more

Itinerary #3: New Zealand North & South Islands Food & Wine Road Trip

Gastronomy-forward travelers will rejoice in this road trip of the North and South Islands on a 15-day fast-paced expedition to some of the country's best food and wine spots. Tour the wineries on Waiheke Island, indulge in a Māori feast in Rotorua, sample some of Hawke's Bay's finest vintages, and enjoy dinner on a historic tram in Christchurch.

Vineyard in the Rippon Valley, South Island New Zealand
Vineyard in South Island, New Zealand
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Explore & Auckland Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Drive to Waiheke Island, Waiheke Island Wine Tour Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua, Guided Tour, Te Pā Tū Māori Feast & Performance Rotorua
Day 4 Drive to Napier, Explore Napier
Day 5 Hawke's Bay Half-Day Wine Tour, Art Deco Evening Walking Tour Napier
Day 6 Drive to Martinborough, Self-Guided Wine Tour Martinborough
Day 7 Drive to Wellington, Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Wellington
Day 8 Free Day in Wellington Wellington
Day 9 Ferry to the South Island, Drive to Blenheim, Explore Blenheim
Day 10 Drive to Christchurch, Explore, Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 11 Drive to Lake Tekapo, Tekapo Springs Excursion, Big Sky Stargazing Adventure Lake Tekapo
Day 12 Drive to Wānaka, Hiking & Explore Wānaka
Day 13 Drive to Queenstown, Explore, Farm Tour & Dinner Queenstown
Day 14 Milford Sound Full-Day Adventure Queenstown
Day 15 Return Rental Car, Depart Queenstown  

Commence this culinary quest with a dinner cruise in Auckland, then sail to Waiheke Island to tour world-class wineries such as Mudbrick Vineyard, The Goldie Room, and Te Whau Vineyard. Learn about traditional Māori culture and traditions, and enjoy a freshly prepared three-course feast at Te Pā Tū on Day 3. The next day, you'll travel to Napier for two nights via the breathtaking Ahimanawa Range and enjoy a variety of red wine and cheese platter samples at Ngatarawa Vineyard in Hawke's Bay. Day 6 involves a self-guided wine tour at the Martinborough Wine Center before you carry on to Wellington.

Visit the Te Papa Museum, ride the Wellington Cable Car, and take a tour of Wētā Workshop to see props and costumes from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." Journey across Cook Strait to the South Island on Day 9 and make your way to the Marlborough wine region for more wine-tasting and culinary treats. Follow the Kaikōura Coast to Christchurch, where you'll enjoy a spectacular dinner on a historic colonial-style tram. Soak in the Tekapo Springs and experience a night of stargazing before relishing one last feast at the Walter Peak High Country Farm in Queenstown. Learn more

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Itinerary #4: New Zealand North & South Island Road Trip

This 15-day thrill-seeking itinerary allows you to explore New Zealand on a self-drive tour. Hit the hot spots such as Auckland and Rotorua, enjoy hiking opportunities in Tongariro National Park, and embark on an incredible journey on the TranzAlpine Scenic Train in Christchurch. Adventure-seekers will enjoy flying above the active volcano of White Island and seeing the geothermal wonders in Lake Taupō, while nature enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to Zealandia, a wildlife sanctuary in the capital city.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Scenic flight, Wine Tasting & Harbor Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua & White Island Helicopter Flight Rotorua
Day 4 Explore Rotorua & Māori Feast Rotorua
Day 5 Drive to Taupō Taupo
Day 6 Hike Tongariro National Park Tongariro National Park
Day 7 Drive to Wellington, Visit Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Wellington
Day 8 Fly to Queenstown, Explore & Onsen Hot Pool Session Queenstown 
Day 9 Milford Sound Day Trip Queenstown
Day 10 Visit Arrowtown, Drive to Wānaka Wānaka
Day 11 Drive to Lake Tekapo, Soak in Tekapo Springs Lake Tekapo
Day 12 Braemar Station Backcountry Tour & Dark Sky Experience Lake Tekapo
Day 13 Drive to Christchurch, Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 14 TranzAlpine Scenic Train Day Trip Christchurch
Day 15 Depart Christchurch  

Start in the metropolis of Auckland and bungee jump from the Sky Tower for a thrill, or keep it down to earth with a stroll around Waitemata Harbour. Day trip to Man O' War Bay on Waiheke Island to sample wine produced across more than 150 acres of vineyards. Then in Rotorua, a helicopter will take you over Hell's Gate Thermal Valley and White Island's active volcano. Continue the thrill-seeking at Velocity Valley Adventure Park or ride the Skyline Luge for impressive views over the city. Satisfy your appetite with a hākari (feast) at Te Pā Tū, then drive to the town of Taupō on Day 5.

The next day, go hiking in Tongariro National Park, marvel at Taranaki Falls and see Mount Ngauruhoe, renowned for being the inspiration behind "Mount Doom" in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. On a fleeting visit to Wellington, ride the Cable Car or venture to the Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary. Fly to Queenstown on Day 8 to cruise through stunning Milford Sound, then visit historic Arrowtown and Wānaka on your way to Lake Tekapo. Head on a scenic 4WD tour around Braemar Station in the Mackenzie Country before journeying on a small part of the TranzAlpine Scenic Train from Christchurch. Learn more

Itinerary #5: New Zealand's South Island Ski Safari

This ski safari centered around the South Island's best ski slopes and mountain peaks is perfect for snow-seekers. You'll get to hit the slopes at Mt Hutt, world-class Cardrona and Treble Cone, and The Remarkables ski fields, hike around Mt Somers in Methven, and soak tired muscles in the soothing waters of Tekapo Springs.

The Remarkables Ski Resort on New Zealand's South Island
The Remarkables Ski Resort on New Zealand's South Island
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch Christchurch
Day 2 Drive to Methven, Hike Around Mt Somers Methven
Day 3 Mt Hutt Ski Area Methven
Day 4 Mt Hutt Ski Area Methven
Day 5 Drive to Lake Tekapo, Soak in Tekapo Springs Lake Tekapo
Day 6 Roundhill Ski Area Lake Tekapo
Day 7 Roundhill Ski Area Lake Tekapo
Day 8 Drive to Wānaka Wānaka
Day 9 Cardrona or Treble Cone Ski Fields Wānaka
Day 10 Cardrona or Treble Cone Ski Fields Wānaka
Day 11 Drive to Queenstown Queenstown
Day 12 Remarkables Ski Field Queenstown
Day 13 Coronet Ski Field Queenstown
Day 14 Free Day in Queenstown Queenstown
Day 15 Depart Queenstown  

Spend a night in Christchurch, taking in the sights of Hagley Park, Cathedral Square, and the Botanical Gardens. Drive to the village of Methven to hit the ski slopes of Mt Hutt Ski Area. Alternatively, head off on a hike along the Sharplin Falls trail or the Sidewinder Track. Savor the views of Mount John and Lake Tekapo as you relax in the Tekapo Springs Hot Pools before another ski excursion at Roundhill Ski Area. Go hiking in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park or soar into the skies with Mount Cook Ski Planes & Helicopters before making your way to Wānaka.

Get a dual-mountain pass to enjoy the skiing and snowboarding opportunities at Cardrona and Treble Cone over two days. Continue to Queenstown for the next four nights, stopping at beloved wineries such as Chard Farm, Gibbston Valley, and Two Paddocks. You might consider taking your New Zealand adventure to new heights and thrill to bungee jumping from the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, then spend the next two days at The Remarkables and Coronet Ski Fields. Relish the breathtaking mountain views, sip on hot chocolate, and immerse yourself in the delights of the après-ski. Learn more

Itinerary #6: Ultimate New Zealand & Australia Adventure

If you're looking to experience multiple countries in one trip, consider this New Zealand and Australia adventure, which includes three nights in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, before flying to Queenstown. You'll see many highlights of each country, including the Sydney Opera House and the Blue Mountains in Australia, and Milford Sound and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand. 

Māori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo
Māori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Sydney Opera House Tour Sydney
Day 2 Blue Mountains Hiking Tour Sydney
Day 3 Free Day in Sydney Sydney
Day 4 Train to Melbourne Melbourne
Day 5 Great Ocean Road Adventure Melbourne
Day 6 Free Day in Melbourne Melbourne
Day 7 Fly to Queenstown, Ride the Skyline Gondola Queenstown 
Day 8 Free Day in Queenstown Queenstown 
Day 9 Cruise Milford Sound Queenstown 
Day 10 Fly to Rotorua, Explore on Your Own Rotorua
Day 11 Free Day in Rotorua Rotorua
Day 12 Drive to Taupo, Lake Taupō Cruise to the Māori Rock Carvings Taupo
Day 13 Drive to Waitomo, Explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Drive to Auckland Auckland
Day 14 Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari Auckland
Day 15 Depart Auckland  

Unlike the rest of the itineraries, this one begins in an entirely different country. Land in Sydney and start your six days in Australia at Sydney Harbour and the iconic Opera House. Drive inland to the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to sights such as the Three Sisters rock formations and Govett's Leap. Board a train to Melbourne to explore a section of the famous Great Ocean Road, then take a full day to wander Queen Victoria Market and Chinatown, or glide along the Yarra River on a scenic cruise. Fly to Queenstown on Day 7 to begin the New Zealand portion of your trip.

Ride the Skyline Gondola to a height of 1,400 feet (450 m) for a stunning vantage point of Walter Peak, Coronet Peak, and Lake Wakatipu. Depart the city and visit vineyards in Gibbston, Bannockburn, and Cromwell before transferring to Rotorua on the North Island. Visit the Night Market and soak in the thermal rock pools at the Polynesian Spa. Then on Day 12, you'll kayak to see the Māori rock carvings on a 90-minute cruise on Lake Taupō before checking out the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. On your last day, you'll venture to Auckland's Viaduct Basin to embark on a whale and dolphin-watching safari. Learn more

More Great 15-day New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other 15-day New Zealand itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of 15 Days in New Zealand - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 15 Days in New Zealand - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas