Five days may seem short, but allows for an eventful adventure through New Zealand. Since there is not much time, it is ideal to travel within the South Island or the North Island—which budgets for a successful road trip with a few scenic stops. Anchoring the itinerary in a major city like Auckland allows for day trips to go kiwi spotting, wine tasting, and island hopping (if you’re not on the open road). Explore geothermal Rotorua, Aoraki/Mount Cook, the Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, and so much more in the five trip plans that follow.

Itinerary #1: South Island Adventure - Christchurch to Queenstown

On a quick, South Island road trip, enjoy plenty of fun in a short amount of time. In Christchurch, visit the Antarctic Centre, see the sights, go punting, and descend on a zipline. Then, take a few scenic walks around magnificent Aoraki/Mount Cook, followed visits to the small town of Clyde and the adventure capital of Queenstown.

Aoraki/Mount Cook
Aoraki/Mount Cook
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Christchurch and Self-Guided Tour Christchurch
Day 2 Visit Mt. Cook National Park Mount Cook Village
Day 3 Travel to Clyde Clyde
Day 4 Travel to Queenstown Queenstown
Day 5 Depart From Queenstown  

On your first day, explore the “Garden City” of Christchurch. Stroll Hagley Park, visit Cathedral Square, and go punting (similar to a flat-bottom gondola) on the Avon River. Then, visit Antarctic Centre for a realistic experience of the weather, wildlife, and a simulated 4D cruise. Go on a Zipline Tour at Christchurch Adventure Park or visit Sumner Beach and take a dip. For dinner, board the Tram Restaurant for a delicious, mobile experience.

Wake up and travel to Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest peak in the country at 13,316 feet high. Depending on your preference and fitness level, embark on a number of scenic walks to explore the glacial landscapes, blue lakes, and stunning peaks. Walks range from 30 minutes to 8 hours in length. Next, head to Clyde, an early Gold Rush-influenced town that remains intact from its 1860s heritage. Stroll the museums and scenic gardens, enjoy the cafés and local fare, and go fishing or shopping. If you’re into wine, Central Otago is known for its pinot noir, and there are plenty of wineries to visit to enjoy a tasting or two.

The adrenaline capital of Queenstown is next. There's much to do here, depending on your mood. Board a scenic cruise along Lake Wakatipu, take a gondola ride via the Skyline Complex, visit an onsen hot pool for a soak, or go bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge. In the morning, enjoy more of Queenstown, before it is time to drop off your rental car and catch your return flight back home. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Ultimate Auckland Tour

This Auckland-only adventure takes you through much more than this popular city, alone. In addition to sightseeing, fresh eats, art galleries, and shopping, take three, exciting day trips—go kiwi spotting from day to night, enjoy the best wines on Waiheke Island, and explore the volcanic landscapes and archaeological sites of Rangitoto Island.

Go kiwi spotting from Auckland
Go kiwi spotting from Auckland
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Auckland and Self-Guided Tour Auckland
Day 2 Auckland - All-Day Kiwi Spotting Excursion Auckland
Day 3 Auckland - Wine Tour on Waiheke Island Auckland
Day 4 Auckland - Rangitoto Island Day Trip Auckland
Day 5 Departure From Auckland  

Land in the “Big Little City,” where your five-day Auckland adventure is anchored. Stroll the trendy streets, visit the Newmarket and Wynyard Quarter for fresh eats, visit galleries in historic Devonport, and shop and dine in Britomart. Take a walk around the educational Auckland National Museum to learn the city’s history, and if you’re feeling daring, commit to the SkyWalk around the outside of the Sky Tower.

Next, embark on an all-day-into-night excursion in nature to spot kiwi on a group tour. Enjoy a picnic dinner on the beach at sunset and continue the tour at nightfall. The nocturnal perspective is a whole different experience, compared to what happens in the daylight hours. Wake up and take another day trip to Waiheke Island on a ferry ride. Visit three vineyards and enjoy plenty of pours, followed by further island exploration with your all-day bus pass.

The island portion of the adventure continues to Rangitoto, which requires another (short) ferry ride from Auckland. Choose between a guided tour and self-exploration. Stroll the volcanic island’s lava tunnels, hike toward amazing views, and visit historical and archaeological sites, like a former prisoners’ camp from the early 1900s. Bring a bathing suit, so you can take a dip at your leisure, before cruising back to Auckland. Enjoy a good dinner and a final night on the town. In the morning, you may have some more time to explore the city, prior to your departure flight home. Learn more

Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Itinerary #3: Discover Auckland and Rotorua

This two-city trip allows you to explore a duo of entirely different towns. Start in Auckland. Stroll the popular streets and embark on a whale and dolphin watching tour. Then, head to Rotorua to explore several geothermal destinations, learn about indigenous Maori culture, and take a biking tour of the Redwoods Forest. The finale includes a stop at the Polynesian Spa for a relaxing soak.

Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua
Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Auckland and Self-Guided Tour Auckland
Day 2 Auckland - City Exploration and Whale & Dolphin Watching Tour Auckland
Day 3 Travel to Rotorua and Wai-O-Tapu Tour Rotorua
Day 4 Rotorua - Redwoods Forest Mountain Bike Tour Rotorua
Day 5 Polynesian Spa and Travel Back to Auckland Auckland

Land in Auckland, and embark on a self-guided tour. Explore the popular streets like Ponsonby and Parnell, go shopping and dining in Britomart, and enjoy the beach along Mission Bay. Next, head out on a 4.5-hour whale and dolphin watching excursion to Viaduct Harbour. Then, continue exploring more of Auckland. Visit Mt. Eden, the highest point in the city, stroll Albert Park, and the neighboring Modern Art Museum, and take the glass-fronted lifts to the top of the Sky Tower for incredible city views.

Next, drive south on SH1 to Rotorua, known as the geothermal city. Stop at Wai-O-Tapu to experience the geothermal activity and the Buried Village, which was excavated after the Mount Tarawera eruption. Ride above the town on the Skyline Gondola, and go luging for the ultimate adrenaline rush. Stroll Hells Gate Geothermal Park to check out the mud pools and geysers, and take in the beauty of Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Even still, you can embark on the Kiwi Encounter to spot the native birds and spend the night at the Mitai Maori Cultural Experience to get to know the indigenous culture.

In the morning, get fitted for your gear and mountain bike for your cycling tour through the Redwoods Forest. With more than 87 miles of tracks that cater to all skill levels, there is plenty to discover on this 3-4-hour tour. Then, continue exploring the landmarks of Rotorua—Whakarewa Forest, Blue Lake and Green Lake, Paradise Valley Springs, and Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. On your final day, treat yourself to some well-deserved pampering at the Polynesian Spa. Enjoy a relaxing, pre-flight soak in the mineral pools, and then head back toward the airport in Auckland. If there’s time, make a final stop at the Waitomo glowworm caves or the green hills of Matamata. Learn more

Itinerary #4: North Island City & Sea Trip

This North Island adventure balances both the city and the sea. In Auckland, visit the galleries and museums, and enjoy a delicious welcome dinner cruise. Then, head to the Bay of Islands with a few fun stops along the way. Enjoy the beach, swim with—and spot—dolphins, and learn all about the Maori. Visit seaside towns on your way to exploring Waipou Forest, and spend your final night on Kawau Bay, in the heart of wine country.

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Auckland & Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Travel to Bay of Islands Paihia
Day 3 Bay of Islands - Dolphin Cruise & Waitangi Guided Tour Paihia
Day 4 Visit Waipoua Forest & Travel to Matakana Mahurangi
Day 5 Depart From Auckland  

Upon arrival in Auckland, take some time to explore the City of Sails. Stroll the museums and galleries, and then board an evening cruise for dinner. Sail along the Waitemata Harbour and watch the city come alive with lights. Cruise through Westhaven Marina and Auckland Harbour and enjoy a three-course meal catered by a renowned, local restaurant.

Pick up your rental car and make the trip to the Bay of Islands. The drive takes 3.5 hours, but you can make a few stops along the way—in bohemian Puhoi, salty-aired Whangarei, and Kawakawa, home to the Hundertwasser toilets. Arrive in Paihia, directly across the way from Te Ti Beach, and enjoy the evening on your own. Wake up and head to the beach to swim with dolphins on an ocean safari, or head out on the Dolphin Seeker boat to legendary Hole in the Rock, rich with Maori history, and spot dolphins along the way. Take a drive to Rainbow Warrior to view a sunken ship, and wander around the whaling port of Russell. Consider joining a Waitangi Treaty Grounds guided tour, too, where you can enjoy a cultural performance and visit the local museum—all about the Maori.

Next, head west from Bay of Islands to Hokianga and visit the small, seaside towns of Omapere and Opononi. Then, make your way into the Waipoua Forest. Take a few short walks and spot the iconic Tane Mahuta tree. Visit Matakohe Kauri Museum, and drive toward Matakana. Stay on the Mahurangi East Peninsula overlooking Kawau Bay in the heart of wine country, and enjoy the scenery on your final night in New Zealand. In the morning, drive 1 hour back to Auckland to drop off your rental car and board your flight home—with beautiful memories of your time in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Learn more

Itinerary #5: South Island Wildlife & Active Outdoors

This versatile vacation through the South Island takes you from the city to the volcanos to the springs. Enjoy the popular pit stops around Christchurch, explore wildlife on the Banks Peninsula and visit beautiful Akaroa, then get out an adventure in Hanmer Springs—enjoy some soaking, hiking, and biking, depending on your preference.

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival & Tour Christchurch Christchurch
Day 2 Banks Peninsula Exploration Akaroa
Day 3 Discover Akaroa on Scenic Walks Akaroa
Day 4 Thermal Pools, Biking, & Hiking in Hanmer Springs Hanmer Springs
Day 5 Departure From Christchurch  

Once you touch down, head to Christchurch to explore the city. There is plenty to see and do, from ziplining adventures to Antarctic Centre exploration. Go punting, a flat-bottom boat ride, along the Avon River and stroll scenic and central Hagley Park. Ride the Tram Restaurant for a unique dinner adventure.

Wake up and head to the Banks Peninsula—the highlight is Akaroa, which is nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. Explore the village, swim with the tiny Hector’s dolphins, and then visit the Royal Albatross Centre to visit the little blue penguins and their artificial nesting sites. Then, enjoy more of Akaroa on your own time. Circle back to any sights or activities you may have missed yesterday, or embark on a walk along the Banks Track, where the views over the caldera are definitely worth a stroll.

Next is a trip to Hanmer Springs, with its changing colors, depending on the season. Visit the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa—there are more than a dozen pools to plunge into—and consider an evening dip under the stars, since it’s open until 9 pm. Take a walk to Conical Hill, a day hike to Mt Isobel, or explore New Zealand High Country and Hanmer Forest Park via mountain bike. Head back to Christchurch in the morning and board your flight home. Learn more

More Great 5-Day New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your New Zealand trip? Check out these other 5-day New Zealand itineraries, ranging from active, to cultural, to luxury, or family-friendly trips.

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.


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