For those who like a trip to include thrills, food, and natural wonders, this eight-day itinerary should check off all the boxes. New Zealand is known for its hospitality, and you'll experience the very best of it at a mountaintop farm, a lakeside spa, and a multicourse Māori feast. Along the way, you'll get to see a fjord from a plane, glowworms from a boat, and Wellington's cityscape from a century-old funicular railway.


  • Enjoy a lakeside barbecue at Walter Peak High Country Farm
  • See a geyser erupt at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
  • Experience a traditional Māori feast at Te Pa Tu
  • Float through a limestone cave filled with thousands of glowworms 

Brief Itinerary

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  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, Walter Peak Dinner & Farm Tour

Views over Queenstown
Views over Queenstown

Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival at Queenstown Airport, you'll be met by your private driver and delivered to your accommodation at your first and only stop on the South Island, Queenstown. Sitting between The Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu, this city is a popular destination for thrill-seekers.

Today, take it a little easy by enjoying an afternoon of sightseeing and dining at Walter Peak High Country Farm. You'll start with a gourmet barbecue lunch at Colonel's Homestead Restaurant, then hop on the historic "TSS Earnslaw" steamship for a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu, disembarking at the rural working farm. There, you'll have the opportunity to see demonstrations of the farm dogs at work and visit alpacas, sheep, and Scottish Highland cows.

Day 2: Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Flight & Cruise Tour

Stirling Falls, Milford Sound
Stirling Falls, Milford Sound / Piopiotahi

Today, you'll explore the stunning Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park from the air and on the water. First, take a 40-minute flight from Queenstown to the fjord, where you'll enjoy a bird's-eye view of the spectacular Southern Alps. Then, head to the Southern Discoveries Visitor Centre to board a Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Nature Cruise for a leisurely, two-hour boat tour across the entire length of the fjord on a small catamaran.

If you're lucky, you'll spot some of the area's wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and penguins, while aboard! Learn more about the animals that call the fjord home by listening to the tour's specialist nature guide and about the vessel itself by stepping into the wheelhouse to speak with the skipper. Eventually, you'll have to return to Queenstown, but the return flight follows a different route, so you'll enjoy the dramatic scenery from a new angle on your way back. 

Day 3: Queenstown Free Day

Aerial view of Queenstown with a paraglider in the sky
Queenstown from the air
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Although celebrated as New Zealand's "adventure capital," Queenstown offers activities to match any pace. During your free day in the city, you might want to relax and take in the sights by hopping aboard the Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. As you rise to over 1,400 feet (450 m) above Queenstown, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak, and magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

If you want to go farther afield, spend time on the Gibbston Valley wine trail and end with a meal at Michelin-star chef Josh Emett's restaurant, Rata. Check out nearby Arrowtown or brave the steep, winding trip to Macetown to learn more about New Zealand's 19th-century gold rush. Head over the hill to resort town Wānaka, or re-live scenes from "The Lord of The Rings" by four-wheel drive. And, of course, Queenstown has adrenaline-inducing activities in spades: head out on the Shotover Jet Boat, dive off the Nevis Bungy, or free fall on the canyon swing. 

For a bit more structure in your free day, consider taking a tasting tour through the region's best boutique vineyards. The excursion crosses through Gibbston, Bannockburn, and Cromwell, three sub-regions known for their excellent cool-climate wines, which are generally more acidic and lighter than other varieties. Pick your favorite wine to pair with lunch at a fourth vineyard, and take a walk through historic Old Cromwell to end your journey among some of the most picturesque vineyards in New Zealand.

Day 4: Fly to Wellington, Visit Museums & Wellington Cable Car

View of Wellington Cable Car
Wellington Cable Car

Today, you'll fly to Wellington on New Zealand's North Island, where you'll be picked up and transferred to your accommodation in town. Once you're settled in, check out the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, whose permanent collections range from Māori taonga to seventeenth-century English furniture to a rare specimen of a colossal squid. Or visit the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata, a waterfront gallery housing portraits featuring important New Zealanders or created by Kiwi artists.

See the city from a new angle by taking a trip on the Wellington Cable Car. Beginning operation in 1902, the funicular has taken countless passengers along a five-minute trip from the city center to the top of Kelburn Hill. Once at the Kelburn Lookout, you can enjoy stunning views of the hills and harbor surrounding Wellington, visit the Cable Car Museum, or head to Space Place at Carter Observatory. If you feel like stretching your legs, walk back to the city through the beautiful Wellington Botanic Garden.

Day 5: Drive to Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Colorful hot springs at Wai-O-Tapu

Make sure to pick up your rental car and fill the tank this morning because the self-drive portion of your trip has begun! The drive from Wellington to Rotorua skirts the Kapiti Coast and passes many of New Zealand's volcanic gems. When you reach Tongariro National Park, look for Mount Ruapehu, an 8,202-foot (2,500 m) active volcano that served as Mount Doom in the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Consider a detour to Lake Taupō, the largest lake in New Zealand, formed by a volcanic eruption.

As you continue to Rotorua, the area's geothermic activity will start to stand out. Stop at a geothermal reserve like Craters of the Moon, Waiotapu geothermal area, or Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley. During your visit, you can observe hot springs, geysers, mud pools, and more. The thrills don't end when Rotorua starts, though—steam rises from the roads and hills all around the city.

No matter how you get into town, your next stop should be Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a traveler-friendly way to experience one of the largest, most colorful geothermal systems in New Zealand. Walk along the trails and observe fascinating volcanic formations, like sulfur ponds and geysers. Here, timing is everything—get to the reserve by 10:15 to see Lady Knox Geyser erupt to heights as tall as 33 to 66 feet (10 to 20 m).

Day 6: Polynesian Spa & Te Pā Tū Evening Māori Cultural Experience

Rotorua's dramatic geysers 

Today, experience Rotorua's geothermal features in a new way as you relax at the Polynesian Spa on the shore of Lake Rotorua. The spa's main attraction is four alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures ranging from 97°F to 108°F (36°C to 42°C). While soaking in the warm water, you'll be able to take in views of the lake, native plants and wildlife, and a nearby grotto.

In the evening, you'll have a chance to experience the rich Māori culture that defines this region of New Zealand. Te Pā Tū (formally called Tamaki Māori Village), New Zealand's most awarded cultural attraction, invites manuhiri (guests) to a knowledge-sharing event centered around a three-course feast. During the four-hour celebration, you'll learn about Māori history, traditions, and culture through food, performance, and stories.

During the summer months, November to April, Te Pā Tū features the Tū Te Rā, or Summer Harvest Celebration, while in the winter, May to November, it hosts Tū Te Ihi, or Winter Matariki Celebration. In either season, your evening will start with an opening ceremony followed by kai horotai (seasonal canapés). The celebration continues with the sharing of stories, songs, and dances in the forest amphitheater before a torchlit walk to the three-course feast featuring local, seasonal ingredients cooked with the traditional hāngī (underground steam) method.

Day 7: Drive to Auckland via Waitomo Glowworm Caves

A glowworm cave in Waitomo
A glowworm cave in Waitomo

The drive today takes you out of the volcanic Rotorua Lakes District and into the limestone-cave-studded region of Waitomo. Along the way, you'll follow the Waikato River, New Zealand's longest river, and you may want to take a detour at Tirau, a village famous for its corrugated iron sculptures. Once you've arrived in Waitomo, take a gentle boat tour through a limestone cave to view over 30,000 glowworms in their natural habitat. Afterward, you can visit the Spirit Cave, where you can walk through an ancient riverbed and spot stalactites, stalagmites, and fossils of giant birds.

As you continue north to Auckland, the most populous area in New Zealand, you may want to visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House along the way to visit and learn about some of New Zealand's native birds, including, of course, the kiwi. 

Day 8: Depart Auckland

Panoramic view of Auckland at sunset
Sunset over Auckland

Enjoy one last morning in New Zealand by exploring the port city of Auckland. Before you drive to the airport and drop the rental car off, watch the yachts float by in Waitematā Harbour or take a swim at one of the beaches, like Mission Bay. Or, after a week of exploring the country's natural landmarks, consider a change of pace and head to the Auckland CBD, the busy center of the city. Eventually, it will be time to drive back to the airport to depart with memories of Kiwi hospitality, stunning scenery, and incredible food in tow.

More Great New Zealand Itineraries 

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other New Zealand itineraries, explore different ways to spend eight days in New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.


Map of A Taste of New Zealand: Queenstown, Wellington, Rotorua & Auckland  - 8 Days
Map of A Taste of New Zealand: Queenstown, Wellington, Rotorua & Auckland - 8 Days