This fun and fast-paced tour takes you across New Zealand's South and North Islands for a wide range of epic landscapes and distinct activities. Kick off the trip in Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world, and cruise through Milford Sound / Piopiotahi. Then, hit the highlights in Christchurch and Wellington before heading north through geothermal wonders and glowworm caves. Ride to the top of Auckland's Sky Tower in time for a sunset drink to finish the adventure.


  • Choose your adventure in adrenaline-fueled Queenstown (or hit the wineries)
  • Enjoy dinner on a tram while exploring Christchurch's charming streets
  • Sail through the stunning Marlborough Sounds as you travel between islands
  • Take a relaxing soak in four alkaline rock pools next to a lake in Rotorua 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Queenstown, Ride the Skyline Gondola Queenstown 
Day 2 Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Full-Day Adventure Queenstown
Day 3 Transfer to Christchurch, Explore Christchurch
Day 4 Free Day in Christchurch Christchurch
Day 5 Transfer to Wellington via Picton Wellington
Day 6 Explore Wellington, Visit the Te Papa Museum, Ride the Wellington Cable Car Wellington
Day 7 Transfer to Rotorua, Relax at a Polynesian Spa Rotorua
Day 8 Te Puia Tour & Māori Arts Experience Rotorua
Day 9 Transfer to Auckland, Explore Auckland
Day 10 All Blacks Rugby Experience, Ride the Sky Tower  Auckland
Day 11 Depart Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, Ride the Skyline Gondola

Sip a drink from the top of the highest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere

Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival in Queenstown on the South Island, you'll be met by your private driver and taken to your accommodation. From here, you'll have the rest of the day to enjoy the alpine environment at your own pace.

Known as New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown offers a wide range of adrenaline-inducing activities, like skiing, skydiving, river rafting, and bungee jumping, to name a few. For a more relaxing day, follow the Gibbston Valley wine trail to Michelin-star chef Josh Emett's restaurant, Rata. Or, ride a 100-year-old steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, followed by a leisurely walk or bike ride around Lake Wakatipu. At Wānaka, you can relive scenes from "The Lord of The Rings" by four-wheel drive.

In the early evening, hop aboard the Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere! As you rise over 1,400 feet (450 m) above Queenstown, sit back and enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, plus Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, and Coronet Peak. Stay a while and have a drink or meal at the restaurant and bar before heading back down.

Day 2: Milford Sound / Piopiotahi Full-Day Adventure

Discover the stunning scenery of the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi

Early this morning, you'll board a coach in Queenstown for the drive to Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, home of the iconic Mitre Peak (pictured here). Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling, the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi makes up a 10-mile-long (16 km) fjord that lies in the UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park, so there's plenty of scenery on today's agenda.

The coach will drop you off at the harbor, where you'll board a cruise to sail across the sound, surrounded by rainforest-covered terrain. You'll pass by rugged mountains and crashing waterfalls while spotting seals, Fiordland crested penguins, and dolphins. A picnic lunch is included in the tour. In the afternoon, return to Queenstown, where you'll have free time to check out the lively restaurant scene for dinner.

Day 3: Transfer to Christchurch, Explore

Keep an eye out for views of Aoraki / Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo on today's route

It's time to make your way to Christchurch! You'll be picked up from your accommodation and transferred to the Queenstown coach stop at the appointed time. Then, travel through ruggedly beautiful landscapes as you make your way over the Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country, with fantastic views of Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. Continue toward Lake Tekapo and take in the sights of the spectacular Southern Alps.

The journey continues through the diverse farmland of the Canterbury Plains before you reach Christchurch. Upon arrival, a private transfer will collect you from the coach stop and transfer you to your accommodation in town. You'll have the rest of the evening to explore on your own.

Day 4: Free Day in Christchurch

Charming streets are lined with outdoor eateries in Christchurch

Today, you'll have a free day to enjoy Christchurch, also known as "Garden City," at your own pace. Start by strolling through Hagley Park, the heart of Christchurch since the 1850s and now the most significant green space in the city. You can also visit Cathedral Square's central and unifying public area, a landmark and cultural magnet, for more than 150 years.

For a fun activity, consider paddling down the Avon River / Ōtākaro, where a guide will give you a tour via a flat-bottomed boat, similar to a gondola ride. You can also journey through Antarctica without leaving Christchurch at the Antarctic Centre. Experience snow and ice and learn about life in modern-day Antarctica. You'll also hang out with penguins. To continue the adventure, take the Zipline Tour at Christchurch Adventure Park. The zipline is dual-lined, allowing you to race others through the park.

In the early evening, visit Sumner Beach for a walk on the shore or a refreshing dip in the water. The best local swimming spots here are Taylor's Mistake and Corsair Bay. When night falls, take a trip to the Tram Restaurant and view the inner city and surroundings while enjoying a delicious dinner.

Day 5: Transfer to Wellington via Picton

Sail through Marlborough Sounds to reach the North Island

It's time to make your way to New Zealand's North Island! At the appointed time, you'll be picked up from your accommodation and transferred to the coach terminal for your transfer. The drive north to Picton first takes you through rolling farmland and North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. You then pass through Kaikōura, where the road hugs the shore for around 31 miles (50 km) and offers many chances to view the native wildlife, such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals.

To the east, check out the turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean; to the west, the towering Kaikōura Ranges. Next comes Blenheim, which sits at the heart of New Zealand's largest wine-producing region, Marlborough. A short drive from Blenheim to the busy port town of Picton, where the Interislander ferries arrive and depart. The town center is relatively small, with plenty of shops and cafés, and the waterfront area is a charming place to watch the activity of the ships.

On board, enjoy spectacular views and keep an eye out for dolphins and seabirds as you cross the strait into Wellington. You'll pass many interesting points, including Pencarrow Head, New Zealand's oldest lighthouse, and Red Rocks, home to a seal colony. You'll be met on arrival at the Wellington bus terminal and transferred to your hotel. 

Day 6: Explore Wellington, Visit the Te Papa Museum, Ride the Wellington Cable Car 

Ride the country's only running funicular for city views and access to the botanic gardens
Ride the country's only running funicular for city views and access to the botanic gardens

Today, discover New Zealand's quirky capital—a city with something for everyone. Not only a center of government but also of art, culture, food, fashion, and fun, you'll find plenty on offer here. You might want to start with a few hours at New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, which means "container of treasures" in the Māori language. This six-floor modern space offers art, history, and natural wonders of New Zealand's origins from one hundred million years ago.

Then, ride on New Zealand's only remaining funicular railway, the Wellington Cable Car. An iconic part of Wellington life for over 120 years, you'll be mixing with students, inner-city workers, and sightseers while enjoying great views of the city and harbor. Keep an eye out for the artistic LED installation in the tunnel. After a five-minute ride, reach the Kelburn Lookout—a fantastic spot for a few photographs—and the Cable Car Museum, which houses much of the original machinery. Stop for a quick break at the café nearby and take in the view.

From here, take a short walk to the Carter Observatory, where you can check out the multimedia exhibitions and astronomical artifacts before making your way through to the digital planetarium to explore the southern skies. If you have time and feel like stretching your legs, walk back to the city through the Wellington Botanic Gardens, with rotating exhibits and a beautiful rose garden.

Day 7: Transfer to Rotorua, Relax at a Polynesian Spa

Experience the otherworldly geothermal landscapes in Rotorua

This morning, you'll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the Wellington train station to meet your coach. The journey from Wellington to Rotorua takes you past the Kāpiti Coast and its seaside towns. You'll also catch glimpses of Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand's three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupō. The lake itself is actually a gigantic volcanic caldera formed during one of the world's largest-ever eruptions. As you get closer to Rotorua, look for signs of the region's geothermal activity, with steam rising from the roadside and hills.

Upon arrival, a driver will collect you from Rotorua's coach depot and transfer you to your accommodation. From here, you'll have a chance to relax at the Polynesian Spa on the shore of Lake Rotorua. The spa's main attraction is its four alkaline rock pools, each with temperatures ranging from 96.8°F to 107.6°F (36°C to 42°C). While soaking in the warm waters, take in views of the lake, native plants, wildlife, and a nearby grotto.

Day 8: Te Puia Tour & Māori Arts Experience

Observe the spouting Pohutu Geyser, with frequent eruptions throughout the day

Today, you'll have a full day to discover New Zealand's geothermal landscapes in Rotorua. The area is famed for its otherworldly green and orange sulfur pools, bubbling mud baths, and spurting geysers. You'll see all this at the Te Puia Springs, home to Pohutu Geyser, which erupts up to 20 times a day, shooting a plume of scalding water up to 100 feet (30 m) into the sky.

Next, visit the Kiwi Conservation Centre, a refuge for native birds, including New Zealand's national emblem, the flightless kiwi. Continue to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you'll learn about carving and weaving techniques from the artists. Rotorua is the heartland of Māori culture and an ideal place to explore this ancient culture.

Day 9: Transfer to Auckland, Explore

Hobbiton in Matamata
Take a detour to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata

It's time to make your way to Auckland today, and you'll do so by taking a journey through Middle-earth and the famous Waitomo Caves. Start your adventure with a Hobbiton Movie Set Tour from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" films. Here, you'll get to see 44 Hobbit holes and other film locations, including the Green Dragon Inn. Here, you can take photos of Bilbo's house and look across Hobbiton to the hills in the distance.

From here, travel to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to discover an ancient world over 30 million years old. Marvel at this incredible natural light display as you glide through the starry scape of the Glowworm Grotto. Experience a serene ambience like no other as you enter this galaxy of tiny living lights. You'll then drive north through Waikato dairy farms and over the Bombay Hills, arriving in Auckland, where you'll be transferred to your accommodation.

Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 10: All Blacks Rugby Experience, Ride the Sky Tower

Finish with a ride to the top of New Zealand's highest human-made structure

Today, you'll have a free day in Auckland! Rugby fans, for their part, can experience the excitement and emotion of New Zealand's national sport firsthand. With a guided tour, you'll discover the stories behind some of world rugby's most famous players, moments, and matches as you're led through state-of-the-art displays and hands-on activities. Experience the full force of the All Blacks, where you can try out your kicking, catching, line-out, and accuracy skills.

Head to the city center in the afternoon and visit the Sky Tower. At just over 1,000 feet (328 m), this is the tallest artificial structure in New Zealand and offers panoramic views of the Auckland landscape. Travel in a glass-fronted lift to one of three viewing platforms to experience 360-degree views of Tāmaki Makaurau, featuring ancient volcanoes and sunlit harbors. Consider taking a Sky Walk, an outside loop around the pergola just over 600 feet (192 m) above ground. If you're really bold, take a "sky jump" off the tower for a controlled free-fall to the base. Or, head inside the Sky Lounge for a sunset drink and stay for dinner in Auckland's 360-degree revolving restaurant.

Day 11: Depart Auckland

Fit in a light hike around Mount Eden this morning before your flight

The day has come to say farewell to New Zealand! Take the morning to enjoy Auckland, perhaps with a sunrise walk to Mount Eden. At the appointed time, you'll be collected from your accommodation and transferred to the airport to meet your departing flight. Safe travels!

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 11 days in New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.


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Map of A Taste of New Zealand - 11 Days
Map of A Taste of New Zealand - 11 Days