With eight days, it's possible to hit New Zealand's highlights across both islands on a fast-paced trip, or you can slow it down and focus solely on one of its islands. Explore the length of the country from Auckland to Queenston, or cover glaciers, like Franz Josef, the Southern Alps, and Christchurch on the South Island. Alternatively, stick to the North Island for Wellingtong, Auckland, Middle-earth, and dormant volcanoes.

Itinerary #1: New Zealand Self-Drive Tour

This eight-day itinerary allows you to explore New Zealand on a self-drive tour from the North Island to the South Island and provides a classic route option. See Auckland's impressive skyline, cave tube in the glowworm caves of Waitomo, enjoy views of the Franz Josef Glacier on a helicopter tour, and experience adventure in Queenstown—bungee jump anyone?

Franz Josef Glacier
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Waitomo Adventure Tour & Drive to Rotorua Rotorua
Day 3 Day Trip to Matamata Rotorua
Day 4 Fly to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 5 Drive to Franz Joseph Glacier Region Franz Josef Glacier
Day 6 Franz Joseph Heli-Hike Tour Franz Josef Glacier
Day 7 Drive to Queenstown Queenstown
Day 8 Depart Queenstown  

Start in the bustling city of Auckland and explore the picturesque waterfront or stroll through the city's downtown area and grab a bite to eat before hiking to the summit of Mount Eden for impressive views of the city below. Drive to the Waikato region and embark on an adventure tour of the Waitomo Caves to see the bioluminescent glowworms in their natural habitat. Take a day trip to Hobbiton and relax in the thermal hot pools of Te Puia Geothermal Reserve before flying to Christchurch the following day. 

Explore the Botanical Gardens, Cathedral Square, and the Avon River, and then drive to the Franz Josef Glacier region. Go on a guided hike, mountain bike through the lush rainforest, or paddle through the glacial river. Rise early the next day and see the glacier from the vantage of a helicopter, and experience the excitement of a heli-hike tour. Afterward, indulge in the Glacier Hot Pools Spa before visiting Queenstown to participate in adventure-based activities such as zip lining, mountain biking, and bungee jumping. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Self-Drive New Zealand: Lakes, Mountains & Glaciers

Explore the natural beauty of the South Island on this self-drive eight-day itinerary beginning and ending in Christchurch. Seek "Lord of the Rings" sights and adventures in and around Queenston, visit Mount Cook, the country's tallest mountain, marvel at glaciers like Franz Josef, and cross the Southern Alps via the TranzAlpine Train.

Lake Tekapo with lupins
Lake Tekapo with lupins
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch City Christchurch
Day 2 Drive From Christchurch to Mount Cook Village Mount Cook Village
Day 3 Drive From Mount Cook Village to Queenstown Queenstown
Day 4 Explore Queenstown & Surrounds Queenstown
Day 5 Drive From Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef Glacier
Day 6 Cross the Southern Alps to Christchurch on the TranzAlpine Train Christchurch
Day 7 Christchurch Free Day with Dinner on Board the Christchurch Tram Christchurch
Day 8 Depart Christchurch  

Arrive in Christchurch and explore the sights on a double-decker hop-on/hop-off bus. Drive to Mount Cook Village via the Canterbury Plains, the quaint town of Geraldine, and cover the winding roads of Burkes Pass. Take in the breathtaking view of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki Mount Cook, and spend the evening in the village before driving to Queenstown the following day. Bungee jump from Kawarau Bridge, take in the sights of the Remarkables mountain range and ride the Skyline Queenstown Gondola for more astounding views.

Make your way to Mt Aspiring National Park via Wanaka and continue toward the Wild West Coast until you reach the regions of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Here you can take a helicopter ride or sink into the relaxing hot pools to soothe your body and get ready for more adventures. Then on Day 6, board the TranzAlpine Train at Greymouth Train Station and cross through Arthur's Pass National Park to arrive in Christchurch. Take a tour of Monteith's Brewery, go punting on the Avon River, or take a winery tour in Waipara before departing New Zealand. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: New Zealand North Island Road Trip: Auckland to Wellington

On this eight-day itinerary, you'll focus solely on the North Island, from Auckland to Wellington at the southern tip. Walk amid giant tree ferns in the rainforests of Waitakere Ranges, snap pics of Middle-earth, take a geothermal walk of Hell's Gate, hike dormant volcanoes in Tongariro National Park, and visit Martinborough wine country.

Wellington tram
Ride the Wellington Cable Car for alternate views of the city
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Evening Kayak & Barbecue Excursion Auckland
Day 2 Explore Urban Auckland & the Waitakere Ranges Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton Rotorua
Day 4 Rotorua Crater Walk Experience & Sulphur Spas Rotorua
Day 5 Drive to Tongariro National Park Tongariro National Park
Day 6 Ten Tunnel Rail Cart Tour & Whakapapa Village Tongariro National Park
Day 7 Drive to Wellington & Explore the Capital Wellington
Day 8 Depart Wellington  

Begin your trip in the metropolis of Auckland and enjoy the city's highlights, such as the Sky Tower and the Wynyard Quarter, or head to nearby Waiheke Island to see its beautiful beaches and wineries. Spend an afternoon immersed in the rainforests of the Waitakere Ranges and walk along native kauri trees to discover the best of New Zealand's nature. Depart Auckland and drive to Rotorua, stopping at Hobbiton, Waitomo Caves, and Te Pā Tū (formally called Tamaki Māori Village) to learn about Māori culture, history, and traditions through food and stories shared by locals.

On Day 4, take a walk on the wild side as you traverse through Waimangu, the world's youngest geothermal valley, which was created by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. The next day, embark on one of the many hiking trails in Tongariro National Park, then begin Day 6 in Taumarunui and board a rail cart to see the historic tracks of the abandoned railway. Visit Lauren's Lavender Farm on your return journey and continue toward Wellington the following day to ride its landmark cable car, shop for vintage clothes on Cuba Street, and experience a wealth of history at the Te Papa Museum. Learn more

Itinerary #4: A Taste of New Zealand: Queenstown, Wellington, Rotorua & Auckland

Another cross-country adventure, with only four stops, has you spending three nights in Queenstown, where you'll get to explore Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park. A quick flight to the North Island gets you to Wellington in time for museums, art galleries, and gardens before you're off to the Waiotapu geothermal area to see Lady Knox Geyser and enjoy a Māori cultural experience. Then it's glowworms in Waitomo and a swim at one of Auckland's beaches.

Enjoy a two-hour boat cruise across Milford Sound
A Taste of New Zealand: Queenstown, Wellington, Rotorua & Auckland
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Queenstown, Walter Peak Dinner & Farm Tour Queenstown
Day 2 Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Flight & Cruise Tour Queenstown
Day 3 Queenstown Free Day Queenstown
Day 4 Fly to Wellington, Visit Museums & Wellington Cable Car Wellington
Day 5 Drive to Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland Rotorua
Day 6 Polynesian Spa & Te Pā Tū Evening Māori Cultural Experience Rotorua
Day 7 Drive to Auckland via Waitomo Glowworm Caves Auckland
Day 8 Depart Auckland  

Commence your eight days in New Zealand in Queenstown, where you'll drink and dine at Colonel's Homestead Restaurant and then take a scenic cruise of Lake Wakatipu on the "TSS Earnslaw" steamship. Fly to Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park and enjoy the views from the sky, then spot wild penguins, seals, and dolphins in the fjord on a spectacular Milford Sound Nature Cruise. Then enjoy Queenstown at your own leisurely pace on Day 3 and ride the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere, the Skyline Gondola, or take a trip to the nearby towns of Wanaka and Arrowtown.

Fly to Wellington to check out the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum and ride the Wellington Cable Car to admire stunning city views from Kelburn Lookout. Drive from Wellington to Rotorua via Tongariro National Park, where you can see "Mount Doom" (Mount Ruapehu) from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Continue on a nature-inspired tour to visit the Craters of the Moon and the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area and observe the geysers, hot springs, sulfur ponds, and mud pools. Last, enjoy a stop at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves before departing from Auckland. Learn more

More Great 8-Day New Zealand itineraries

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


Map of 8 Days in New Zealand - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 8 Days in New Zealand - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas