If you talk to most people about visiting New Zealand, they will tell you that you will need more than 2 weeks to visit both islands. We knew that this would probably be the only time we would ever come to New Zealand so we tried to fit in what we could for our “short” amount of time there. If you choose to follow this itinerary for your own adventure, expect to feel a little rushed. With most of the highlights of New Zealand being spread out around the country, also expect to spend much of your time on the road.
Week 1: South Island
Arrive in Christchurch. Stretch your legs and walk around the city, grab a cup of coffee. Head to Lake Tekapo in evening. Try your hand in astrophotography in this Dark Sky Reserve area.
In the morning, explore the surrounding area of Lake Tekapo. See the church of the Good Shepherd or go up to the Mt. John Observatory and have a bite at their cafe while enjoying the views. Afterwards, head towards Mt.Cook National Park with a stop at Lake Pukaki. In Mt. Cook National Park visit the information center near the Hermitage Hotel for information on the many hikes and activities offered there. Do one of those hikes or an activity this afternoon.
Try another hike or one of those activities if you didn’t get a chance to the previous day. Afterwards, head to Queenstown. Along the way, stop at High Country Salmon Farm for some fresh salmon bites or feed the salmon. Drive through Lindis Pass, with a stop to take a picture of the view, then continue driving to Cromwell. In Cromwell, pick up some fresh fruit from the many orchards or stop by one of the vineyards for a wine sampling on the way to Queenstown. In Queenstown, try the Gondola going up to the top to get a good view of the city and take the luge down. Walk around the city center up to the waterfront. For dinner you can try a burger at Fergberger if the line isn’t too long or try any one of the many restaurants and cafes along the waterfront. If you wanna stay up late, visit Below Zero Ice Bar where everything is made of ice. Don’t stay up too late…
Hopefully you didn’t stay up too late the night before. This day is a full day of driving. wake up early, eat breakfast and then drive to Te Anau. Here, take a break to refuel your car and your body. Then start driving again towards Milford Sound. The drive there is beautiful and you will want to stop along the way many times, so allow extra time getting there. Once there, book your cruise or activity at the information center. At the end of the day, head back to Queenstown.
Head to Wanaka! If you have the time and energy, hike up to Roy’s Peak, Rob Roy’s Glacier in Mt Aspiring National Park, or explore this cute town and grab a bite to eat at a cute cafe with views of the lake. Take a picture of “that Wanaka tree”. If there is still light, stop at the Gates of Haast, the Blue Pools or one of the waterfalls on the way: Fantail Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Roaring Billy Falls. Stay in Haast for the night.
From Haast make your way over to Glacier Country. We chose Franz Josef. Book in advance one of their activities: the Heli-hike or the glacier valley hike and then visit the hot pools. Afterwards, head to Hokitika and stay there for the night. Visit the Glow Worm Dell at night.
Another long day of driving. This morning head to Hokitika Gorge. Then head to Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks. Drive towards Cape Foulwind and see the fur seal lion colony from above. Drive to Nelson.
Explore Nelson in the morning or wake up early and arrange a short cruise or kayak adventure out to Abel Tasman park for half the day. In the evening, catch a plane to Auckland.
Week 2: North Island
Unfortunately we did not include a day to Rotorua, the geothermal area and the Maori cultural village, but you could substitute one of the days in Auckland for a day in Rotorua.
Head to Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. Head to Taumarunui.Visit Lauren’s Lavender Farm.
Visit Nevalea Alpaca Farm. Head to Matamata to visit Hobbiton. After, head to Auckland.
Hike around Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. Visit the Arataki Visitor Center for advice and information on trails, roads, waterfalls, and other places of interest.
Visit the city of Auckland. Visit the zoo or stroll along the streets at one of the shopping districts like Ponsonby, Britomart, Silo Park, or Viaduct Harbour. Head to the Sky Tower a get a view of the city from the top.
Visit Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium and book in advance the Penguin Discovery Experience. Afterwards you can take a ferry to one of the islands like Waiheke or go to Mission Bay and lay out on the beach.
Visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum and try to catch the Maori Cultural performance, visit the Auckland Art Museum, and the Auckland Botanical Gardens. Return your rental car and catch your flight home in the evening.