With nine days in New Zealand, you can explore the highlights of the North and South Islands, including Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, on a classic road trip. Or, take your time exploring the coastlines of the North Island, driving from the northernmost point of Cape Reinga to the glowworm caves in Waikato. If you're all about "Lord of the Rings" scenery and adrenaline-pumping activities, a South Island itinerary takes you from remote Fiordland to action-packed Queenstown.

Itinerary #1: New Zealand Ultimate North to South Island Road Trip

Perfect for first-time travelers to New Zealand, this ultimate nine-day itinerary covers both the North and South Islands. Explore Auckland, Rotorua, and Wellington before taking a ferry across the Cook Straight to Picton. Wrap up your adventure with a drive along the Kaikoura Coast to Christchurch. 

A winding road in the Marlborough Sounds
A winding road in the Marlborough Sounds
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Explore Auckland, Waiheke Island Tour Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton Rotorua
Day 4 Explore Rotorua, Forest Canopy Tour, Te Pā Tū Māori Cultural Experience Rotorua
Day 5 Drive to Wellington, Zealandia by Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour Wellington
Day 6 Scenic Ferry to Picton Picton
Day 7 Drive to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 8 Explore Christchurch City Christchurch
Day 9 Depart New Zealand  

Starting in Auckland, take in your surroundings and the stunning views as you wander Viaduct Harbour, hike up Mount Eden, and dine at the 360-revolving Sky Tower restaurant. After getting your bearings and exploring "The City of Sails," travel by ferry to Waiheke Island. Renowned for its picturesque vineyards and laid-back culture, it's the perfect taste of what's to come.

Next, drive through the rolling green hills that characterize the North Island, stopping at Hobbiton and the country's cultural heart, Rotorua. After an evening discovering New Zealand's rarest native animals at the Zealandia Wildlife Eco-Sanctuary in Wellington, you'll ferry through Marlborough Sounds to Picton on the South Island. The last days of your adventure take you along the Kaikoura Coast, stopping for a whale watch tour before continuing to Christchurch. Indulge one last time in fresh New Zealand cuisine on board the Christchurch Restaurant Tram before departing for home. Learn more

Itinerary #2: New Zealand North Island Explorer

Explore remote coastlines and discover New Zealand's fascinating culture on this strictly North Island nine-day itinerary. From the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the spiritual Cape Reinga to the local's secret Snell's Beach, this itinerary is perfect for those looking to dive into Māori history in between adventure-filled days at the beach.

Māori house
Māori house in Rotorua
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Drive to Paihia Paihia
Day 3 Bay of Islands, Waitangi Treaty Grounds & Hole in the Rock Cruise Paihia
Day 4 Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour Paihia
Day 5 Drive to Snells Beach Snells Beach
Day 6 Drive to Rotorua, Te Pā Tū Evening Māori Cultural Experience Rotorua
Day 7 Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland & Polynesian Spa Rotorua
Day 8 Glowworm Cave Explorer Tour, Drive to Auckland Auckland
Day 9 Depart Auckland  

This adrenaline-filled New Zealand itinerary starts in Auckland. Get your heart pumping with a bungee jump off the Sky Tower, or take it easy with a stroll along Waitemata Harbour. Next, continue north to Paihia and the Bay of Islands to discover the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and cruise among 140 islands to the Hole in the Rock, keeping an eye out for marine life like dolphins and whales.

Continuing north, you'll soon reach the very top of the North Island at Cape Reinga and test your sandboarding skills on the massive dunes at Te Paki Stream. Next, a scenic road trip takes you to Snells Beach, where you'll get a chance to swim with Bottle-nosed dolphins if you're lucky. After a culturally rich two days in Rotorua, delighting in Māori fusion dishes using the traditional hāngī method and witnessing Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, you'll make your final stop in the limestone caves of Waikato, lit by 30,000 glowworms. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: New Zealand South Island Adventure

Starting and finishing in Christchurch, this nine-day New Zealand itinerary explores the best of the South Island. You'll stargaze below Mount Cook, stay three nights in Queenstown, and cruise Doubtful Sound before driving up the spectacular West Coast.

Tranquil landscape at Doubtful Sound, South Island of New Zealand
Tranquil Doubtful Sound
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch, Dinner-in-Motion on a Restaurant Tram Christchurch
Day 2 Drive to Mount Cook Village & Stargazing Workshop Mount Cook Village
Day 3 Drive to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise & BBQ Dinner Queenstown
Day 4 Explore Queenstown at Leisure Queenstown
Day 5 Wilderness Cruise at the Remote Doubtful Sound Queenstown
Day 6 Drive to the West Coast, Glacier Hot Pools Franz Josef Glacier
Day 7 Heli-Hike to the Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef Glacier
Day 8 Take the TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch  Christchurch
Day 9 Depart Christchurch  

Jump right into the South Island's fascinating culture with a Dinner-in-Motion in Christchurch, and see how Kiwis connect nature and the city seamlessly. Next, head toward the Southern Alps, visit Lake Tekapo's striking blue waters and spend your evening pondering the Milky Way in Mount Cook Village in a unique stargazing workshop to know the southern night sky better.

Next, drive through the dramatic Southern Alps until you reach the gem of the South Island, Queenstown. Tucked between a massive lake and towering mountains, Queenstown is the perfect place to tick off a bucket-list adrenaline activity or settle in for a "Lord of the Rings" tour. After a day trip to Doubtful Sound, deep in Fiordland, you'll begin your return up the West Coast. Pass by Mount Aspiring National Park and follow an expert guide navigating ice crevasses on a Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike, before hopping on a scenic train back to Christchurch. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Unwind in New Zealand's Winterless North

Spend nine days on this slower-paced North Island itinerary featuring North Island's north: Northland and Auckland Council regions. After exploring Auckland's coastlines, you'll spend three nights in Paihia, the gateway to the Bay of Islands. After stops in the enchanting Waipoua Forest and Mangawhai Village, you'll return to Auckland feeling rejuvenated by Mother Nature's finest.

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga
Lighthouse at Cape Reinga
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Enjoy a Free Day in Auckland Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Paihia, Explore the Bay of Islands Paihia
Day 4 Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour Paihia
Day 5 Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Helicopter Flight Over the Bay of Islands Paihia
Day 6 Drive to Waipoua, Twilight Tour of the Waipoua Forest Waipoua
Day 7 Drive to Mangawhai Mangawhai
Day 8 Drive to Auckland, Dinner at the Sky Tower Orbit Restaurant Auckland
Day 9 Depart Auckland  

Begin with two days of exploring Auckland. See the sprawling city from above at the Sky Tower and ferry to Waiheke Island for a full day of winery-hopping. You'll then travel north to the Bay of Islands, known for its mix of Māori culture and isolated beaches. On an epic day trip north, you'll explore the very top of the North Island at Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide dramatically.

Once back in the Bay of Islands, experience the region from above on a scenic helicopter flight, then head to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to see firsthand where New Zealand's founding treaty was signed. Next, wave goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and discover the giant kauri trees that have been overlooking New Zealand for over a thousand years. Before arriving back in Auckland to say your goodbyes, spend a night at Mangawhai, enjoying a day between the sea and the artsy village. Learn more

More Great New Zealand Itineraries

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


Map of 9 Days in New Zealand - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 9 Days in New Zealand - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas