Eager to explore the vast beauty of New Zealand without driving? This two-week itinerary uses convenient transfers, buses, and flights to ensure you experience the country's top highlights, from cities to countryside. Start in Auckland and travel south to the wonders of Rotorua before flying to the South Island. Take a dramatic bus trip from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, then continue to Queenstown and Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier. Finally, ride the TranzAlpine Scenic Train back to the city.


  • Explore the best of New Zealand without renting a car
  • Feel the geothermal powers of Rotorua and connect with Maori culture
  • Soak in hot pools at Lake Tekapo and experience the night sky 
  • Get your thrills in Queenstown with bungee jumping and jet boats
  • See the Franz Josef Glacier with a helicopter flight and snow landing

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Morning Auckland City Revealed, Waiheke Island EcoZip Adventure Tour Auckland
Day 3 Transfer to Rotorua via Hobbiton & Waitomo Glowworm Caves Rotorua
Day 4 Hell's Gate Experience, Redwoods Treewalk, Māori Feast & Performance Rotorua
Day 5 Fly to Christchurch, Punting on the Avon, Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 6 Discover Christchurch Morning Tour, Free Time Christchurch
Day 7 Bus to Lake Tekapo, Tekapo Springs Hot Pools, Dark Sky Project Experience Lake Tekapo
Day 8 Bus to Queenstown, Kawarau Bungee Jump, Skyline Gondola, Dinner at Rātā Queenstown
Day 9 Shotover River Canyon Jet Boat Ride, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner Queenstown
Day 10 Full-Day Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Adventure Queenstown
Day 11 Shuttle Bus to Franz Josef / Waiau, Visit Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef 
Day 12 Twin Glacier 30-Minute Helicopter Flight, Lake Mapourika Scenic Cruise Franz Josef 
Day 13 Transfer to Greymouth, TranzAlpine Scenic Train to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 14 Depart Christchurch  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland, Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise

Auckland's skyline is easy to identify thanks to its distinctive Sky Tower

Kia ora! Welcome to New Zealand's North Island! Begin your adventure in Auckland, where a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. This city is an urban paradise, squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and is a playground for adventure-seekers. Relax at your hotel while adjusting to the time change, or shake off jet lag by bungee jumping off the Sky Tower. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie or not, the Sky Tower, with its panoramic views, is an excellent place to begin exploring New Zealand's metropolis. 

Known as the "City of Sails," Auckland boasts more than 500,000 sailboats and yachts in various sizes, anchored and moored at various marinas. What better way to experience the city on your first night than with a sunset cruise? Set sail from Waitemata Harbour as the sun begins to dip into the water. Then enjoy drinks with canapés as you glide toward Westhaven Marina. During dinner, you'll watch the city twinkle after the sun dips below the horizon. Finish the evening with a tasty dessert as you sail back to central Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

Day 2: Morning Auckland City Revealed, Waiheke Island EcoZip Adventure Tour

Waiheke Island
The natural beauty of Waiheke Island

Experience the best sights of Auckland this morning with a local. Your city adventure is designed to share Auckland's history and landmarks and see how Aucklanders live and play. Travel up Queen Street, through Auckland's central business district, past Auckland University, and by the inner city park, the Domain. Continue to the Ponsonby neighborhood before crossing the Harbour Bridge to Auckland's North Shore. Stroll along a beautiful white sand beach and enjoy a coffee before summiting Mount Victoria for panoramic views of Auckland and historic Devonport

After, board a ferry from downtown Auckland and enjoy a 40-minute cruise through the Hauraki Gulf to Waiheke Island, New Zealand's famous wine island. On arrival at Matiatia Ferry Terminal, a scenic coach transfer will be waiting to take you to EcoZip. Get ready for serious thrills as you strap into a harness and ride three giant flying-fox ziplines across the lush island landscape and through ancient forest canopies. After, you'll enjoy a guided walk through a tract of centuries-old native forest before returning to the ferry and cruising back to Auckland.

Day 3: Transfer to Rotorua via Hobbiton & Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Hobbiton in Matamata
Visit the Hobbit holes found at the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata

Today, you'll journey south to Rotorua, New Zealand's famous geothermal city, turning the three-hour journey into a full-day adventure. Board a luxury vehicle and drive through the lush farmland of the Waikato and King Country regions. Hear about the region's history from your local driver guide as you pass sites of interest, including Rangiriri, the location of a major battle in the Māori Land Wars in 1863. Your first stop is at the small town of Waitomo, where you'll enjoy a 45-minute guided tour through the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Glide through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto, an ancient world 30 million years in the making, and experience a serene ambience like no other under this galaxy of tiny living lights. Enjoy lunch, then continue to the rural township of Matamata, where J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth and the Hobbiton Movie Set have taken over a private farm. Here, you can explore Bilbo's house and drop into the Green Dragon Inn to sip ale, cider, or ginger beer.

Finally, you'll arrive in Rotorua in the early evening. This area is one of the world's most active volcanic regions, and you'll find bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers, and signs pointing to natural hot springs. Settle into your hotel and enjoy a quiet evening.

Day 4: Hell's Gate Experience, Redwoods Treewalk, Māori Feast & Performance

Maori culture
Connect with Māori culture this evening

Kick-start your Rotorua adventures at the otherworldly Hell's Gate. This geothermal park and spa is the perfect place to experience the natural powers of this region. Join a guided or self-guided geothermal walk to explore the 50-acre (20 ha) property. Then, soak in geothermal mud and acidic sulfur waters and experience the healing properties that local Māori have used for over 800 years. The warm mud will open and clear your pores before exfoliating your ski during a deeply cleansing sulfur spa treatment.

If you have time, squeeze in a walk through Rotorua's majestic Redwood forest. The ecologically friendly Redwoods Treewalk is suspended from majestic 100-year-old trees with suspension bridges and platforms connecting the ancient forest. This evening, New Zealand's most awarded cultural attraction invites you to feast on song, drama, tradition, and seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest pa (village), a space of towering tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheater. Te Pā Tū shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across four hours.

Day 5: Fly to Christchurch, Punting on the Avon, Historic Tram Dinner

Punt the Avon
Punt along the Avon River / Ōtākaro and past the Botanical Gardens
Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

This morning a private driver will transfer you to Rotorua airport for your two-hour flight to New Zealand's South Island. You'll land in Christchurch, the country's second-largest metropolis. The city is known for its green spaces like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens—it's nicknamed the Garden City, after all—so a stroll through one is always a good idea. Start with an authentic punt ride along the Avon River / Ōtākaro. A punter dressed in Edwardian garb will guide you quietly past trailing willows, woodlands, and leafy banks of the Botanic Gardens or through the city center.

Tonight, you'll enjoy an elegant dinner in a historic colonial-style tram that makes the rounds of central Christchurch's top attractions. Sit back and relax as you take in the views of the Botanic Gardens, the Canterbury Museum, and the Avon River / Ōtākaro from your window-side table. Professional waitstaff serve a welcome drink upon arrival, followed by a gourmet four-course meal. 

Day 6: Discover Christchurch Morning Tour, Free Time

Discover Christchurch Morning Tour
Discover Christchurch and its surrounds this morning

After breakfast, a guide will meet you for a tour of downtown Christchurch. Together, you'll pass by the Botanic Gardens, Museum and Art Centre, the Avon River / Ōtākaro, the Bridge of Remembrance, the container mall, and the inner-city highlights. After, you'll cruise to Mona Vale, a historic homestead and gardens outside the city, and then past the historic Sign of the Takahe building—which has spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains, and the Southern Alps. Journey over the Port Hills to the Port of Lyttleton and on to seaside Sumner and Cave Rock / Tuawera before returning to the city.

The rest of the day is yours to explore. Use your afternoon to rest up, or consider venturing to the Heathcote Valley, 15 minutes from the heart of Christchurch. Here, you can ride the Christchurch Gondola for half a mile into the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano that exploded six million years ago. Soak up 360-degree views of the city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains, and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Choose from a number of nature walks, or visit the Time Tunnel, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.

Day 7: Bus to Lake Tekapo, Tekapo Springs Hot Pools, Dark Sky Project Experience 

Dark Sky Project Summit Experience
Experience the night sky from the Dark Sky Project Summit Experience

Today, you head into the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route by bus. Pass through the Beautiful Valley, ascend Burkes Pass, and finally reach the picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, a journey of almost four hours. This is New Zealand's highest large lake and its incredible turquoise color astounds many visitors. The amazing color of the water is created by the fine rock particles that are suspended in the glacier-fed waters and reflect the light. Check into your accommodation and go for a walk by the lake.

Spend the afternoon relaxing at Tekapo Springs, with its thermal pools, sauna rooms, and views of Mount John and Lake Tekapo. Dip into various pools, which range in temperature from 96°F (36°C) to 104°F (40°C) and are equipped with massage jets and fountains. After dark, travel to Mount John Observatory for the Dark Sky Project Summit Experience. Learn about the southern sky using telescopes, and even just your eyes, as your guide will point out the Milky Way galaxy, Southern Cross, Alpha-Centauri, and Sirius—one of the brightest visible stars.

Day 8: Bus to Queenstown, Kawarau Bungee Jump, Skyline Gondola, Dinner at Rātā

Skyline Gondola
Take in views like this from the top of the Skyline Gondola

Wave goodbye to the spectacular Lake Tekapo when you board a bus destined for Queenstown, the world's adventure capital. If you're an adrenaline seeker, drop your bags and set out for the Kawarau Bridge Bungee Jump. Get your heart racing at the home of the first commercial bungee jump. If you're up for the adventure and ready to take the plunge, this is the place to do it, and you'll have the option of leaping alone or in tandem. Instead, you could ride the Skyline Gondola, one of the steepest cable cars in the Southern Hemisphere. You'll climb over 1,400 feet (450 m) to Bob's Peak.

Up here, you'll enjoy top views of the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, and sparkling Lake Wakatipu. After, ride the two hilltop luge tracks, then take the cable car or a mountain bike back to town. Later, you should make a reservation at Rātā, an award-winning restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett. The menu takes inspiration from the southern landscape and everything that epitomizes New Zealand. This relaxed eatery combines slow-cooked food with wines from New Zealand's local Otago region.

Day 9: Shotover River Canyon Jet Boat Ride, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner

Shotover Jet
Ride the "Big Red" Shotover Jet Boat along the Shotover River 

Lean into the thrills of Queenstown and kick off your day with an exhilarating ride through the Shotover River Canyon in a high-speed jet boat that seems to defy gravity. Take a ride on "Big Red" through the dramatic canyon walls of the upper Shotover River. You'll gasp in amazement as your jet navigates 46 miles (75 km) of rapids and narrow twists and turns. Spend the rest of the day exploring Queenstown as you wish.

Later on, get ready for a leisurely cruise across beautiful Lake Wakatipu. At the appointed time, the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship will take you to the lakeside gardens of Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet dinner by the water. Soak up the alpine scenery at the homestead and watch as chefs prepare a seasonal bounty of succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Enjoy desserts and New Zealand cheese before the return cruise, complete with a singalong from the ship's pianist.

Day 10: Full-Day Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Adventure

Return to Queenstown by air
Marvel at the beauty of the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi fjord-like landscape

Today, you'll experience the world-famous Milford Sound / Piopiotahi from the air and the water. But first, you'll see it from your glass-roofed bus, where you can gaze up at the rocky mountains as you travel along Milford Road. Be mesmerized by the reflective Mirror Lakes, and quench your thirst with pristine glacial water at Monkey Creek. Travel through Homer Tunnel, carved out of solid rock. Marvel at The Chasm, a series of uniquely shaped rocks and potholes formed by the Cleddau River rushing into a dark, narrow abyss. Finally, descend through the Cleddau Valley.

Next, board a small boutique boat to enjoy views of Mitre Peak and towering cliffs. Cruise past rugged cliffs covered in magnificent native rainforest, with powerful waterfalls that tumble down into the fjord. Keep a look out for seals, dolphins, and penguins in the waters below. The return journey to Queenstown is equally rewarding. Board a 45-minute scenic flight and soar over the glacially carved valleys of Milford Sound / Piopiotahi and Fiordland National Park. Closer to Queenstown, enjoy a bird's-eye view of the rugged Central Otago region.

Day 11: Shuttle Bus to Franz Josef / Waiau, Visit Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef
Follow a track to see the Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere

This morning, you'll leave Queenstown behind when a shuttle bus collects you for the five-hour drive past picturesque mountain peaks and crystal-clear blue lakes on your way to the West Coast. Cutting across the Haast Pass to the other side of the Southern Alps, you'll see the landscape of this remote and unspoiled region change dramatically as you reach the village of Franz Josef / Waiau, your base for exploration of the area.

Franz Josef / Waiau, a small town settled on the Waiho River among rainforests and the mountains of the Southern Alps, is known for the 7-mile-long (12 km) Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere. The terminal face, or endpoint of the glacier, is just 3 miles (5 km) from the town, making it an easy stop while you're in town. If you have time this afternoon, take a Glacier Valley Shuttle from town to the road end. From here, you can walk to a viewing platform to see the glacier or embark on a short hike in the area before returning the same way to town.

Day 12: Twin Glacier 30-Minute Helicopter Flight, Lake Mapourika Scenic Cruise

View of the glacier from a helicopter
View not one but two glaciers from a helicopter today

Today, you'll take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers, including the famous Franz Josef Glacier, a majestic 7.5-mile-long (12 km) glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. This steep glacier is known for its sparkling ice and picturesque views. Land at the head of either Fox or Franz Josef Glacier and see the incredible sight of this frozen river of ice as it winds its way through ancient valleys carved from the mountainside.

This afternoon, take a cruise on Lake Mapourika, the largest lake in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Viewing platforms on this purpose-built boat allows you to get up close with some of Westland's native birdlife and lush ancient rainforest. A local guide will provide commentary as you cruise through the UNESCO-listed landscape, following in the footsteps of the first pioneers to visit the glacier region in the early 1900s. Enjoy a tour through the beautiful mirrored estuaries of the Okatarito Kiwi Sanctuary, home to NZ's rare kiwi bird.

Day 13: Transfer to Greymouth, TranzAlpine Scenic Train to Christchurch

Hokitika Scenic Tours Transfer
Enjoy the scenery on one of the world's greatest train journeys

This morning, you'll be collected from your accommodation and transferred to the Greymouth Train Station in time for the afternoon TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch. The two-hour drive north takes you through Hokitika, where you can't miss the spectacular Hokitika Gorge. Considered one of the world's greatest train journeys, the TranzAlpine covers 139 miles (223 km) over five hours, crossing from coast to coast via Arthur's Pass National Park and the Great Divide, an indomitable spine of mountains that partitions New Zealand's South Island.

From the comfort of your carriage, see lush beech forest, deep river valleys, and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Enjoy a moving feast of local flavors and wines as you pass through the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city. In Christchurch, a private driver will meet you at the train station and transfer you to your accommodation. Take yourself out for a final special dinner to celebrate your two weeks in New Zealand.

Day 14: Depart Christchurch

Cut a lap of downtown Christchurch, then head to the airport

It's your final morning in New Zealand! If you have time before departure, go for a final wander around Christchurch and reflect on a brilliant two weeks exploring the South Island. When the time is right, drive to Christchurch airport with enough time to return the rental car before your flight home or onward. Safe travels!

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Map of New Zealand North to South Highlights - 14 Days
Map of New Zealand North to South Highlights - 14 Days