Itinerary #1: South Island Self-Drive - Southern Alps & Wildlife
This quick, eventful road trip takes you through the South Island and the Southern Alps. Enjoy the highlights of busy Christchurch, the history and landscapes of the Otago Peninsula, and the rare wildlife settled along The Caitlins.
|Day 1||Arrival in Christchurch & Self-Guided Exploration||Christchurch|
|Day 2||Drive to Oamaru, Wildlife & Culture Tour||Oamaru|
|Day 3||Drive to Dunedin & City Tour||Dunedin|
|Day 4||Visit Larnach Castle, Royal Albatross Center, & Pilot Beach||Dunedin|
|Day 5||Drive to The Catlins & Island Tour||Papatowai|
|Day 6||Drive to Queenstown & Fly Cruise Fly Tour||Queenstown|
|Day 7||Depart From Queenstown|
Touch down and head into your South Island exploration in Christchurch. Stroll Hagley Park and Cathedral Square, go punting on the Avon River and journey through Antarctica the Antarctic Centre. For a thrill, go ziplining at the Christchurch Adventure Park and enjoy local cheese and espresso at the surrounding cafés. Head south on SH1 to Oamaru next, and discover the Moeraki Boulders. View blue penguins, drive along Danseys Pass, and check the Steampunk HQ progressive art movement.
Next, explore Dunedin, a university city with Scottish roots. Tour The Octagon, St Paul's Cathedral, the University of Otago, and more. Visit the historic train stations and talk a walk down famously steep Baldwin Street. If you enjoy sweets, embark on the Cadbury factory tour, and for beer lovers, get an inside look at Speights. Enjoy more of the Otago Peninsula. Visit Larnach Castle—New Zealand's only castle. Then, head to Royal Albatross Centre to view the breeding colony, along with Pilot Beach, to visit the fur seals, sea lions, and little blue penguins.
Drive south on SH1 toward The Caitlins, where some of the world's rarest marine animals reside—there are several breeds of dolphins, penguins, seals, and native seabirds all around. Some of the most notable stops include Nugget Point, Surat Bay, Florence Hill Lookout, and Cathedral Cove. Next, drive to Gore to reach Queenstown for some adventuring. The Gold Rush-inspired town of the 1860s hosts the Fly Cruise Fly excursion, along with tours of Milford Sound into Fiordland National Park, the Skyline Complex, plenty of wine tours, and even some onsen hot pools. Go bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge and skydiving over The Remarkables before heading out on your departure flight the next day. Learn more
Itinerary #2: Discover Auckland, Rotorua, & Napier
This three-region tour of New Zealand hits a trio of different destinations. Start in Auckland to scout out the kiwi and go sightseeing. Then, visit the best geothermal sites around Rotorua. The tour concludes in colorful Napier, with its Art Deco vibes and scenic lookouts.
|Day 1||Arrival in Auckland & Kiwi Spotting Tour||Auckland|
|Day 2||Auckland - Self-Guided City Tour||Auckland|
|Day 3||Drive to Rotorua & Wai-O-Tapu Tour||Rotorua|
|Day 4||Rotorua - Mountain Biking in Redwoods Forest||Rotorua|
|Day 5||Drive to Napier & City Tour||Napier|
|Day 6||Napier - Scenic Walks & Mountain Views||Napier|
|Day 7||Departure From Auckland|
In Auckland, jump into your first adventure immediately—a kiwi spotting tour that runs from day to night. Enjoy a picnic dinner at sunset over the beach, and along with bird scouting during the day, go out on a nocturnal wildlife tour to spot the kiwi and other native species. In the morning, head to Waiheke Island on a day trip. Explore the vineyards and tranquil waters all around. Or, do some sightseeing around Auckland, instead. Visit areas like Devonport, Ponsonby, Parnell, Newmarket, Britomart, and Wynyard Quarter, and stroll the local museums and parks. Ride to the top of the Sky Tower, too, and take in the panoramic city views.
Wake up and drive to the geothermal city of Rotorua. View the volcanic activity at Wai-O-Tapu and discover the excavations at Buried Village, and see the steaming geysers and mud pools along Hells Gate. Ride the Skyline Gondola over the town, or go on a luge ride for an added thrill. For some pampering, relax in the Polynesian Spa, and at night, engulf yourself in the Mitai Maori Cultural Experience. Next, go on a mountain biking tour of the Redwoods Forest that caters to all skill levels. Visit notable spots like Whakarewa Forest, Paradise Valley Springs, and Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. End the exploration at Rotorua Museum—the grounds of a former, famous spa house.
Art Deco-inspired Napier, which sits along Hawke's Bay, is next on the itinerary. Visit Hastings Spanish Mansion, stroll Havelock North, and take in the lush landscapes in the surrounding parks and gardens. Visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand, too, which is home to the country's largest marine display of sharks, kiwis, piranhas, and more. Discover more of Napier on a few outdoor adventures. Bluff Hill Walkway provides incredible views, Marine Parade runs along the seafront, and Te Mata Peak treats you to final views as far as Mt. Ruapehu—so long as the day is clear—before heading back to Auckland for your departure tomorrow. Learn more
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.
Itinerary #3: New Zealand's North Island
The North Island adventure takes you through several areas in just one week. Enjoy the cafés and famous museum in Wellington, some wine tasting in Martinborough, and several notable filming sites from The Lord of the Rings, to start. Then, spend two days exploring Tongariro National Park, followed by a visit to geothermal Rotorua before closing out in Auckland.
|Day 1||Arrive in Wellington||Wellington|
|Day 2||Martinborough, Cape Palliser & Putangirua Pinnacles||Martinborough|
|Day 3||Hike Tongariro National Park||Tongariro region|
|Day 4||Fly over Tongariro National Park||Tongariro region|
|Day 5||Visit Matamata and The Shire||Rotorua|
|Day 6||Explore Rotorua and Wai-O-Tapu||Auckland|
|Day 7||Depart Auckland|
The trip begins in Wellington, where you can enjoy the competitive food scene offerings and the famed Te Papa National Museum. Wake up and hit the road to Martinborough, which is home to 35 vineyards. Enjoy the wine, along with lunch, and climb the 250 steps to the top of the local lighthouse for stunning water views. If you're a fan of "The Lord of the Rings" (LOTR), enjoy a stop at Putangirua Pinnacles, known for their appearance as a Middle-earth backdrop.
In the morning, visit the country's oldest national park, Tongariro National Park, along with its three sleeping volcanoes. Go tramping on Tongariro Alpine Crossing, where routes range from 30 minutes to nine hours. Or, embark on a half-day rafting excursion along the Tongariro River. Enjoy another day in the park where you can either trek or take a scenic flight overhead for all-encompassing views of the landscape, bubbling mud pools, mountains, lakes, and more.
Rotorua is next on the agenda, with a stop in Matamata along the way—also familiar to LOTR fans. Take in the views all the way to the Kaimai Ranges, including a tour of the "Hobbiton" set and an education on how it was created. Immerse yourself in the volcanic activity of Rotorua. Wai-O-Tapu is one of the town's geothermal highlights. Then, drive around 4 hours to Auckland. Spend the rest of the day exploring the Big Little City. Ride to the top of the Sky Tower for incredible views and enjoy a fantastic farewell dinner in Britomart. Pending your flight departure, enjoy more of Auckland, from Mount Eden to Wynyard Quarter, before flying out. Learn more
Itinerary #4: South Island Exploration - Christchurch to Queenstown
There's much to do on this one-week South Island tour. Go sightseeing and adventuring in Christchurch, explore the wildlife of Akaroa, and go hiking and stargazing in Tekapo. Take a few scenic walks around Aoraki/Mt Cook and hike Mt Aspiring National Park in Wanaka. Go wine tasting in Wanaka too, or in Queenstown, where you can also seek out a few adrenaline rushes.
|Day 1||Arrival in Christchurch & Self-Guided Tour||Christchurch|
|Day 2||Akaroa Wildlife Tour||Akaroa|
|Day 3||Tour Tekapo & Stargazing Excursion||Lake Tekapo|
|Day 4||Mt Cook National Park Walks||Mount Cook Village|
|Day 5||Wanaka Wine Tasting & Mt Aspiring National Park||Wanaka|
|Day 6||Queenstown Touring & Adventuring||Queenstown|
|Day 7||Departure From Queenstown|
Start off by exploring bustling Christchurch. Go punting on a flat gondola along the Avon River, hang out with penguins at the Antarctic Centre, zipline at the Christchurch Adventure Park, and enjoy a unique experience aboard the mobile Tram Restaurant. Next, head to the Banks Peninsula, where Akaroa is the highlight. Visit Hector’s dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world, as well as the little blue penguins at the Royal Albatross Centre. Take a scenic walk along the Banks Track, too, where the views over the caldera are not to be missed.
Then, head to Tekapo. Start the day with a 2-hour hike to Mt. John Summit (or visit by car), and take in the breathtaking 360° views, followed by a refreshing dip in the Willow Bay Beach glacier lake. Continue the therapeutic soaking in the Alpine Springs, Spa and Winter Park public hot pools, and maybe even book a massage at the health spa. Then, take a scenic flight around Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland National Parks to discover the peaks and glaciers. The eventful day concludes with a stargazing tour from Mt. John Summit and Observatory, where Mackenzie Basin is void of light pollution. Continue the outdoor exploration with a collection of walks through Aoraki/Mt Cook. Depending on your preference and skill level, excursions around the many peaks, lakes, valleys, and glaciers range from less than 1 hour to 8 hours.
Wanaka is the next stop, with its diverse attractions, from lakes and mountains to wine tasting. Enjoy a hike through Mt. Aspiring National Park, and in the winter, go skiing nearby. Sip some vino from the Central Otago region, and then take a trip to Puzzling World with its mazes and illusion rooms.
The last leg of the trip takes you to Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of the world. In addition to skydiving and bungee jumping, you can do a bit of wine tasting, soak in the onsen hot pools, visit the Skyline Complex, and take a scenic cruise around Lake Wakatipu—all before your departure tomorrow. Learn more
Itinerary #5: Ultimate New Zealand - From South to North
This North and South Island excursion covers many of New Zealand's top highlights. Go sightseeing in Christchurch, soak in Hanmer Springs, go whale watching, and take a scenic ferry from Picton over to Wellington, home to museums and parliamentary features. Take in Taupo and Huka Falls, enjoy Rotorua's volcanic landscapes and Maori culture, and much more.
|Day 1||Arrival in Christchurch & Hop On Hop Off City Tour||Christchurch|
|Day 2||Drive to Kaikoura, Hanmer Springs, & Whale Watching||Kaikoura|
|Day 3||Drive to Picton & Ferry to Wellington||Wellington|
|Day 4||Drive to Taupo & Jet Boating Excursion||Taupo|
|Day 5||Drive to Rotorua, Floatplane Tour, & Visit Mitai Maori Village||Rotorua|
|Day 6||Drive to Matamata, Movie Set Tour, & Drive to Auckland||Auckland|
|Day 7||Auckland Harbour Cruise & Departure|
A hop-on, hop-off bus tour is the perfect way to kick off this trip and explore the best of Christchurch. Learn the history of the town and learn about its modern progression. Next, drive to Kaikoura, passing through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's wine region. Take a detour in Hanmer Springs for a soak in the hot pools. Then, embark on a whale watching excursion to get up-close and personal with sperm whales, along with humpbacks, dolphins, seals, and more.
Follow the coast to Picton and stop to see the fur seals on Ohau Point. Drive past the Kaikoura Ranges on one side and the vineyards of Marlborough—stop for lunch and a tasting, if you'd like. Take the Interislander Ferry to Wellington next, which includes incredible views along Marlborough Sounds and through Cook Strait. Pass Pencarrow Head, Red Rocks, and Oterangi Bay, too.
Then, cruise into Wellington. Stroll Te Papa National Museum, jump on the Wellington Cable Car, wander Cuba St, visit the parliamentary Beehive, and tour Weta Workshop. Or, enjoy a night tour of Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary with more than 40 types of endangered and native birds, including the kiwi. Then, take the scenic drive along the Kapiti Coast to Taupo, with small-town stops along the way. Spot the notable peaks around Tongariro National Park and jet boat around Huka Falls. Stop by Craters of the Moon, a geothermal reserve, or you can go bungee jumping, sailing, skydiving, fishing, and more.
Head to Rotorua, famous for its bubbling mud pools and Maori culture. Visit Wai-O-Tapu's geothermal sites, take a scenic flight over Mt. Tarawera—or a four-wheel-drive excursion and hiking journey. The night belongs to Mitai Maori Village to learn all about the Indigenous people and their customs over dinner and a cultural performance. Drive through Waikato next and over to Matamata to explore the lush hills and movie sets known best for their cameos in "The Lord of the Rings" films. Arrive in Auckland at night, and spend your final day cruising the harbor. Learn all about the history of the city, and take in final views of New Zealand before catching your flight home later in the day. Learn more
More Great New Zealand Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Take a look at these other New Zealand itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.