If you're short on time but ready to explore New Zealand, this action-packed itinerary ticks off the best of the North and South Islands in just six days. Witness the volcanic wonders of Rotorua, venture to the real Middle-earth, eat around Auckland, cruise the magical fjords of Milford Sound, feast with a local Maori tribe, and get your thrills in Queenstown. In between it all, every turn offers breathtaking landscapes and incredible scenery that leave you wanting more.


  • Explore the capital, Auckland, as you like
  • Witness bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers, and natural hot springs in Rotorua
  • Venture to the real Middle-earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Learn about Maori history, traditions, and culture with a feast in the forest
  • Fly and cruise around magical Milford Sound

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland & Free Day Auckland
Day 2 Transfer to Rotorua, Hobbiton Tour & Māori Cultural Experience Rotorua
Day 3 Explore Rotorua's Geothermal Wonders Rotorua
Day 4 Fly to Queenstown, Evening Onsen Queenstown
Day 5 Fly-Cruise-Fly to Milford Sound Queenstown
Day 6 Free Day in Queenstown & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland & Free Day

Auckland City skyline

Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand's self-proclaimed "City of Sails." Perched on the edge of a large natural harbor, the country's largest urban metropolis offers the best of both worlds. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests, and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city-savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of more than 800 regional national parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls, and native forests.

Your first day in New Zealand is yours to explore however you like. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for gourmet food and wine experiences. Walk (if you're that way inclined) to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf, or head up the famous Sky Tower, standing at just over 1,000 feet tall (328 m). End your day at Auckland's coolest restaurants, bars, and boutiques on Ponsonby Road.

Day 2: Transfer to Rotorua, Hobbiton Tour & Māori Cultural Experience

Hobbiton Movie Set
The Hobbiton movie set

Today you'll transfer three hours south to Rotorua, New Zealand's famous geothermal city. Wind down the window and brace yourself for the strong smell of sulfur—that's when you know you've arrived. 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. Beyond geothermal fun, Rotorua is home to several prominent Māori tribes and adrenaline-pumping attractions such as static skydiving and a giant swing reaching 80 miles (130 km) per hour.

Start your adventure in the real Middle-earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set. Located in the heart of the Waikato region, step into the lush pastures of the Shire, as seen in the "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies. Fall in love with the Alexander family sheep farm, just as acclaimed director Sir Peter Jackson did, as you journey through the unequivocal beauty of the land, with the mighty Kaimai Ranges towering in the distance. Your guide will escort you around the set, showing intricate details, pointing out the most famous locations, and explaining how the movie magic was made.

This evening, New Zealand's most awarded cultural attraction invites you to feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pa (village), a magical space blanketed by towering tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheater. Te Pā Tū (formally called Tamaki Māori Village) shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across four hours of celebration and food. Upon arrival, share seasonal kai horotai (delicacies) such as roasted tuna (native eel), creamy paua (abalone) on rewena (bread) crostini, and foraged greens.

Day 3: Explore Rotorua's Geothermal Wonders

The colorful hot springs of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Get set for a big day in Rotorua. Start at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a spectacular showcase of New Zealand's most colorful and unique geothermal elements sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity. Explore the out-of-this-world landscape, including the famous mud pool, the largest in New Zealand. Arrive at 10:15 am to hear the history and see the beauty of the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts daily to heights of 33 to 66 feet (10 to 20 m).

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Now you've witnessed the volcanic power, it's time to dive in. Experience the healing properties of thermal mud and acidic sulfur water at the Hell's Gate Experience. Dive into the warm mud to open and clear your pores, then follow it with a deeply cleansing sulfur spa that will gently exfoliate your skin.

End the day in a "big kanu." Grab a paddle and gently float along the calm waters of Lake Rotoiti in search of magical glowworms. Setting off at dusk, glide past native New Zealand bushland while you hear about local myths and legends, and witness an enchanting sunset over the lake. Paddle into a hidden cave to find a glistening constellation of glowworms scattered across the walls like a galaxy of stars. When your canoe reemerges from the darkness, the sun will have disappeared, giving way to starlit waters as you paddle back to shore beneath the milky way.

Day 4: Fly to Queenstown, Evening Onsen

Views over Queenstown

Make the three-hour transfer back to Auckland from Rotorua, and take an afternoon flight to gorgeous Queenstown. Known as the world's adventure capital, this small lakeside town with humble Gold Rush roots is now famous for its huge range of adrenaline-pumping adventures and outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking. But there's more to Queenstown than extreme sports. Soak in natural hot water pools, spend the day tasting Central Otago wines, or take a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu aboard the TSS Earnslaw steamship.

This evening will be a memorable one as you soak up the night sky while immersed in an Onsen hot pool. Set high into a cliff-side, each private pool overlooks the magnificent Shotover River Canyon. Here the experience is all about unwinding and soaking up Queenstown's spectacular scenery, enjoying the pure waters and the fresh mountain air as your mind and body surrender to the deep warmth and gentle massage of the private pools. The natural pools are usually between 100°F (38°C) on a hot day to 104°F (40°C) during a snow-storm.

Day 5: Fly-Cruise-Fly to Milford Sound

The world-famous Milford Sound
The world-famous Milford Sound

Any trip to New Zealand should include a visit to the spectacular world-famous Milford Sound. If you're short on time but ready for the adventure, the Fly-Cruise-Fly option from Queenstown takes you to the heart of the Fiordland region and back in half a day. Your scenic flight from Queenstown will soar over the rugged backcountry of Central Otago, alpine lakes, lush rainforest, rugged snow-capped mountains, and glacially carved valleys of Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.

Once at Milford Sound, board an intimate and immersive two-hour cruise and simply relax while taking in Mitre Peak, cascading waterfalls, towering cliffs, and native animals. Passengers often spot seals basking in the sun, dolphins leaping, and sometimes the rare Fiordland crested penguins.

Day 6: Free Day in Queenstown & Depart

Take in Queenstown from above 

Queenstown is packed with amazing things to do, so choose your adventure for your last day in New Zealand. Ride a scenic gondola to the Skyline Complex and take in spectacular 220-degree panoramic views of Coronet Peak, the Remarkables mountain range, and across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks. Taste your way around the world's southernmost wine-producing region, Central Otago. 

Get your heart racing when you leap from Kawarau Bridge, the original home of bungee jumping. Zip around Queenstown's beautiful Kawarau and Shotover Gorges on a high-speed jet boat, or slow the pace slightly with white water rafting. If it's winter, venture up the mountains to spend the day skiing, or lace up your hiking boots and hit a trail in summer. Reward yourself with the world-famous Fergburger—just look for the queues in town. Transfer to the Queenstown airport and wave goodbye to magnificent New Zealand.

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Map of New Zealand's North & South Islands: Culture, Nature & Adventure – 6 Days
Map of New Zealand's North & South Islands: Culture, Nature & Adventure – 6 Days