Across vast and gorgeous New Zealand, you can find everything from untamed wilderness to rich culture!
Nature lovers will find inspiration in towering mountains and mist-cloaked fjords, and serenity in beautiful beaches located on quiet bays. You’ll also come home having made new friends in small towns that have big doses of laid-back charm!
Planning on visiting New Zealand in the near future? Wonderful news – beginning May 1, fully vaccinated Canadian travelers will be able to travel to New Zealand without self-isolation on the provision of a negative pre-departure test.
YOUR TWO-WEEK NEW ZEALAND ITINERARY:
Two weeks is a great amount of time for a New Zealand itinerary to see all of the highlights it has to offer. Plus, it is easy to add on some extra days if you’re hoping for a nice long extended vacation!
Continue reading our New Zealand travel guide to learn about some of the best places to visit while on a two-week trip to New Zealand, covering both the north and south islands.
Getting Around New Zealand
Self-driving around New Zealand in a rental car is a really popular way to explore the country!
Roads are well-maintained and signposted, and spectacular scenery awaits you around every corner.
Driving in New Zealand is different from driving in other countries. For instance, in New Zealand, they drive on the left side of the road, and roads can be narrow and twisty. Also, the weather can be unpredictable and change quickly.
Rent a Motorhome or Campervan
Explore the beauty of New Zealand through an epic road trip on a motorhome or campervan rental! Motorhomes or campervans are the ultimate accommodation choice for flexibility on a driving holiday. A home on the road gives you the freedom to take each day as it comes, roaming the country and finding beautiful and remote places to park and camp.
For travel between the islands, simply hop on a ferry! Several passenger and vehicle ferries offer services between the North, South, and other islands.
New Zealand’s most famous and beautiful ferry route is between Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South Island. The journey between the two islands is commonly referred to as ‘crossing the Cook Strait.
New Zealand rail travel is a fantastic way to appreciate the landscapes that New Zealand has to offer! Rail journey offers spectacular scenery that you can’t see from the roads. It is a truly great way to soak in the beauty of New Zealand, from traveling through remote national parks, across spectacular volcanic landscapes, over braided river valleys and alpine passes and along rugged coastlines with steep mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Best Time To Visit
New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, so keep that in mind when picking a time to visit, since their seasons will be opposite of ours in Canada!
New Zealand in Summer – December to February
Traveling to New Zealand in summer has the advantage of the best overall weather. However, the biggest disadvantage is that it is the peak season for both local holidaymakers and international tourists. As a result, prices tend to be significantly higher, and accommodation in some areas can often be very difficult to obtain.
New Zealand in Autumn (Fall) – March to May
Autumn in New Zealand is a time of beautiful changes in colors, with beautiful brown, red and golden leaves. This is especially the case in Wanaka and the Otago region of New Zealand on the South Island, or Hawkes Bay on New Zealand’s North Island. For those on a self-drive holiday, travel any time after Easter. The number of tourists are much less at this time, so this is always one of the best times to travel to New Zealand.
New Zealand in Winter – June to August
Temperatures in the mountains are cold, but the winters are usually short and mild. During this time, there is little traffic on the roads, and any snow that falls is generally in the mountains, and not in the valleys. Winter is popular with groups of young skiers as well as families. During this time, especially during the school holidays, New Zealand is extremely busy!
New Zealand in Spring – September to November
Spring is a great time of year to travel in New Zealand. As the ski season is still coming to an end, the Southern Alps and mountains are still covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. For adventure seekers, this is a great time for white water rafting, as the mountain snows start melting. Spring is also the time when new flowers and leaves start appearing. Late spring is a surprisingly busy time in New Zealand as tourists come to enjoy the warmer weather but there are still fewer tourists than in the summer. SO it is a good time to visit if you want to avoid crowds!
Auckland Airport is New Zealand’s largest international airport; you will land at this airport to begin this itinerary.
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest center, is an exciting and scenic city. With towering skyscrapers, volcanic islands, and picturesque beaches, Auckland blends gorgeous scenery with the hustle and bustle of city living.
For adrenaline junkies, there’s everything from zip-lining to bungee jumping. Sports lovers will enjoy the city’s local rugby and cricket unions, as well as the national All Blacks rugby team. Foodies will appreciate Auckland’s dining options, which range from casual pubs to celebrity chef-owned fine dining establishments.
Take some time to explore the city itself; you could easily spend a couple of days here before starting off on your adventure, especially to get over the jet lag you will undoubtedly have!
There’s so much to do in Auckland! Here are just a few must-see highlights
- Go up the Skytower.
- Explore Auckland Museums like Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.
- Hike up Mount Eden the highest volcanic peak in mainland Auckland. It offers amazing views of the downtown area and harbour.
- Take a ferry out to one of the many areas surrounding islands such as Tiritiri Matangi Island, Waiheke Island, and Rangitoto Island.
- Go on a day trip to Hobbiton (read more about seeing Hobbiton and other Lord of the Rings locations on our Lord of the Rings filming locations blog).
Auckland to Whitianga
After exploring Auckland, make your way to the Coromandel Peninsula, a favorite holiday spot for Kiwis and travelers alike. It was formerly a gold-mining and timber town, but now there’s tons of fun stuff to do. On the other side of the peninsula, you’ll find Whitianga a vibrant beach town with plenty of things to see!
Stay overnight in Whitianga.
- Explore Coromandel.
- Explore the town a haven for artists, craftspeople and conservationists.
- Enjoy several good walks in the area.
- Hop on an hour-long train trip at Driving Creek.
- Go ziplining.
- Visit Cathedral Cove (a picturesque photo spot).
- Dig your own natural spa at Hot Water Beach.
Driving from Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula area will take around 2 hours and 40 minutes.
There’s also a ferry departing Auckland to the peninsula that takes about 2 hours.
Whitianga to Rotorua
Say goodbye to Whitianga and drive to the flourishing city of Tauranga, which is located along the edge of a lively harbor. Stop here for lunch. or try your hand at fishing, snorkelling, or dolphin watching. When you’re ready, continue your journey inland to Rotorua.
Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire and volcanic activity is visible everywhere you look! An incredible range of things to see and experience awaits you here.
Guided walking tours through a historic living Māori village give you up-close and personal insight and the history of the people who’ve inhabited this geothermal area for more than 200 years. Whether you’re after adventure, an eco-tour, a relaxing day at the spa, or want to explore our lakes, forests and geothermal areas, they have it!
- Explore Mount Maunganui near Tauranga for great surfing and beach walking.
- Experience the geothermal areas, enjoy taking a dip in hot pools or hike to natural hot pools that are too hot for swimming.
- Discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people.
- Get your adrenaline pumping and try one of Rotorua’s many adrenaline-fuelled adventure activities like bungee jumping, rafting, ziplining and more.
Traveling by car from Whitianga to Rotorua is about 3 hours.
If you don’t mind adding extra days, Consider adding a night in Tauranga to give yourself some extra time before traveling on to Rotorua.
Rotorua to Taupo
Enjoy a short journey from Rotorua to Taupo on this day. The short travel time is perfect because there is so much to do along the way!
The resort town of Taupō sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. This is a beautiful place and is a great destination for fishing, kayaking, and jet boating. A boat trip to the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay is a wonderful way to learn more about the Lake and its people. Taupo also has the largest commercialized skydive drop zone in the world.
- During the drive explore turn-offs to geothermal parks such as Craters of the Moon, Orakei Korako Cave and Wairakei Terraces.
- Discover geysers, silica terraces and craters of boiling mud.
- Spend time on New Zealand’s biggest lake, Lake Taupo.
- Skydive from 15,000 ft.
- Go on a Huka Falls jet boat ride.
- Experience the Mine Bay Maori carvings.
From Rotorua to Taupo, you only will have to drive about an hour!
Taupo to Napier
The journey from Taupo to Napier is such a scenic drive, from rugged hills and beautiful valleys to gentle plains and huge vistas. Stops along the way include the hot springs at Tarawera and the Waiarua Falls lookout.
In the twin cities of Napier and Hasting, you’ll find beautiful Art Deco architecture, the result of a 1931 earthquake that destroyed many of the original buildings. Visit the local MTG museum for the story of this fascinating history. Hawke’s Bay is also home to a plethora of vineyards, many within easy cycling distance of Napier. Other attractions are the gannet colony and the premier golf course at Cape Kidnappers.
- Explore beautiful cycling trails.
- Enjoy a wine tasting at one of the many vineyards.
- Experience Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony.
- Play on a world-class golf course.
- Relax in natural hot springs.
This drive from Taupo to Napier will take you just under two hours by car.
Napier to Wellington
You’ll pass through a number of charming provincial towns on your way to Wellington. One of New Zealand’s largest provincial cities, Palmerston North has a lovely historic heart. Many of the original stores from the 1920s and 1930s, have been restored and now function as quaint boutiques, cafes, and restaurants!
Continue along the Kapiti Coast, one of New Zealand’s most spectacular sections of coastline to Waikanae, a popular place for beach holidays. The wide Tasman Sea surf beach is great for swimming, relaxing and beach walks. The local nature reserve provides a unique opportunity to learn about the natural history of New Zealand.
Offshore from Waikanae is Kapiti Island, a nature reserve worth exploring! A car museum and a gourmet cheese factory are other attractions in this area. From here, it’s less than an hour’s drive to central Wellington, your last stop on the north island before heading to the south island!
- Browse quaint boutique shops.
- Walkthrough beautiful rose gardens.
- Explore the Rugby Museum in Manawatu.
- Have close encounters with rare birds on Kapiti Island.
- Take a helicopter tour to see the best views of the Kapiti Coast/
The drive from Napier to Wellington is a bit longer at four and a half hours!
Spend a day (or two) exploring New Zealand’s capital. Wellington is compact, cultured, and full of character. Located between the harbor and the hills, the downtown area is ideal for explorations on foot. Enjoy cafes, restaurants, museums and all kinds of shops. Dance, theatre, and musical performances are Wellington’s specialty.
- See New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa.
- Wander Wellington Botanical Garden.
- Movie buffs will love Wētā Workshop (read more about Wētā Workshop and other Lord of the Rings locations here).
- Grab food from Hannahs Laneway.
- Ride the Wellington Cable Car.
- Drive or hike up to the Mount Victoria Lookout and take in the views.
Wellington to Nelson
Say goodbye to the North Island, because today you’re heading to New Zealand’s South Island by ferry. Make sure your camera is ready because this ferry trip across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds is one of the most scenic in the world!
From Picton, continue west to Nelson. Along the way, take time to stop at Pelorus Bridge, where you can enjoy a forest walk or a swim. Havelock is the place for a seafood meal, especially Greenshell Mussels, a specialty here.
Nelson is home to a fascinating community of beach, nature, and art lovers. From here, you can organize an eco-adventure or become immersed in the local creative culture.
- Cook’s Lookout, Tory Channel and Red Rocks seal colony.
- Abel Tasman National Park.
- Art galleries and craft shops.
- Wineries and fresh seafood.
- Skydive over both the North and South Island’s
- Visit the top family-friendly attraction in Nelson, the Founders Heritage Park.
The ferry trip takes about three and a half hours plus there are almost two hours of driving to Nelson.
Nelson to Westport
The road to Westport is scenic and really interesting. Stop in Murchison for some great white-water rafting or visit the museum where you can learn about the massive earthquake that shook the area in 1929. In Lyell, you can pan for gold or walk to a pioneer cemetery.
Westport is a coal-mining town, but it’s also a hub for outdoor adventures. Visit the local mining museum, then put on your walking shoes to investigate the seal colony. Experience outdoor excitement with blackwater rafting, jet boating, caving, horse trekking and more!
- Cape Foulwind seal colony. Depending on the season, there can be up to 100 New Zealand fur seals in the area.
- Stunning coastal views.
- Outdoor activities.
- Explore old coal towns and see gold mining relics.
- Go on forest hikes and coastal walks.
- Browse the local arts and crafts galleries for products created by locals.
The drive from Nelson to Westport takes just over three hours.
Westport to Franz Josef Glaciers
Travel south through the gold-rush towns of Greymouth and Hokitika to the West Coast Glaciers! Along the way stop to see wild beaches and blustery seas in this rough and isolated region.
Visit Paparoa National Park, home to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, unique rocks that look like stacked pancakes! If you’re interested in some gold-rush history, don’t just pass through Shantytown. Take the time to explore its recreated 1900s pioneer town. Stop in Hokitika to see carvers sculpt pieces of Pounamu (jade) into beautiful jewelry!
Keep heading further south and eventually, you’ll reach the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. These are some of the most accessible glaciers in the world and there are many different ways to explore them from short hikes to flightseeing tours.
- Hike to see Ancient glaciers (or fly!).
- See the unique landmarks of Paparoa National Park like lush native forests, delicate cave formations and limestone canyons.
- Shantytown – a replica gold mining town.
- Monteith’s Brewery – one of NZ’s oldest.
- Walk the Point Elizabeth Track.
- The dramatic Hokitika Gorge.
The drive from Westport to Franz Josef Glacier takes roughly three hours and forty-five minutes.
Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka
Continue traveling south to the town of Haast, a settlement with a sprinkle of the Wild West. Haast is situated in the heart of Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area. There are national parks in basically every direction. Take a moment to explore the town before heading back on the road and experience the dramatic twists and turns of the Haast Pass, with its beautiful waterfalls and river landscapes.
On arrival in Wanaka, discover a lakeside town with a mix of fine living, family fun, and adventure. This quiet and cozy town has plenty of cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops to explore. Find unique attractions, like the 3D maze at Puzzling World and the boutique Paradiso Cinema.
- Have a drink at a world-class winery like Rippon Winery which also has amazing scenery to enjoy.
- Explore Mount Aspiring National Park.
- Head out mountain biking, climbing, hiking plus skiing and snowboarding in winter.
- Try out Wanaka’s unique attractions like Puzzling World which boasts illusion rooms, a great maze, large sculptures and a puzzle cafe!
- See the country’s most famous tree along the edge of Lake Wanaka.
Travel time today by car is 3 hours and 40 minutes!
Wanaka to Queenstown
The shortest route to Queenstown is over the Crown Range. It’s a challenging drive, but you will be rewarded with amazing views. Alternatively, you can take the route that runs beside the Clutha River, Lake Dunstan, and the Shotover River. The vineyards of the Gibbston area and bungee jumpers at the Kawarau River Bridge are interesting places to stop along the way.
The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting, sophisticated, and unbelievably scenic. It’s the perfect place to book almost any kind of adventure, including bungee, jet boating, horse trekking, rafting, and more. It’s also a destination for luxury experiences from gourmet food and wine to spa treatments and leisurely games of golf.
- Adventure activities of all kinds including jet boating, bungy jumping, white water rafting, skydiving and much more!
- Visit one of the many Wineries near Queenstown and indulge in wine tasting, delicious dining, and winery tours. There are 75 wineries only a 20-minute drive of Queenstown so there are tons of options.
- Explore the diversity of unique courses and variety of terrain. Queenstown boasts seven spectacular golf courses, including three championship courses and four experience courses.
- Unforgettable views.Queenstown’s mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys are just waiting for you to explore!
The drive this day is a quick hour and a half.
Milford Sound Day Trip
Milford Sound is one of the most well-known attractions of New Zealand. It’s an amazing 22km-long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak and dotted with tall waterfalls, vertical rock faces, and seals. Drive yourself or choose a tour, either way, look out for the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, the Mirror Lakes, and the rough-hewn Homer Tunnel that brings you into the Sound.
Milford Sound is breathtaking in any weather. The fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky, and waterfalls cascade downwards from as high as 1000 meters! These views are something you’ll never forget.
A cruise on Milford Sound is a must-do while in Fiordland; most boats offer an underwater observatory option. Or choose to explore at your own pace in a sea kayak. Whatever you decide both are great options!
Choose to spend the night in Te Anau, the perfect town to base yourself from to visit Milford Sound or choose to return to Queenstown.
- Visit The Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain.
- Take in the Mirror Lakes.
- Drive through Homer Tunnel.
- Enjoy walking and hiking trails.
- Go kayaking or head out on a scenic flight.
- Float along on a boat cruise either during the day or at night.
The drive (one way) to Milford Sound from Queenstown is just under four hours.
Note: If you choose to self-drive, give yourself plenty of time as conditions vary greatly on this route, particularly in winter.
Queenstown to Aoraki Mount Cook
Travel to Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain! Aoraki Mount Cook National Park attracts mountain climbers, hikers, and scenery lovers from all over. Heli-skiing, heli-hiking and aerial sightseeing provide amazing ways to explore the region. Or hike one of the many walking trails. From here, you can also take a boat trip to New Zealand’s largest glacier, the Tasman.
There are several interesting towns along the way including Omarama. This town is a magnet for gliding enthusiasts, who come here to soar in the skies and fish in the fast rivers. You could choose to spend a night here. After a long day of exploring, have a relaxing soak in a private hot tub filled with pure mountain water at Hot Tubs Omarama under the starry night sky.
In Twizel (another interesting town on the way to Aoraki Mount Cook), you can see the world’s rarest wading bird – the Black Stilt. Twizel is the perfect base for exploring Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin. From mountain climbing to heli-biking, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, horse trekking, hiking and more it’s all here! Twizel also has another Lord of the Rings filming location specifically the Pelennor Fields scenes. The filming location is on private land, but if you want to, you can book a guided tour! Read more about Lord of the Rings filming locations you can visit in New Zealand here.
- Walking and cycling trails.
- New Zealand’s highest mountain
- Dark Sky Reserve.
- Glider flying.
- Clay Cliffs.
- Omarama Hot Tubs.
- Mount Cook National Park.
- Salmon and trout fishing.
- Many different and exciting outdoor activities!
The drive from Queenstown to Aoraki Mount Cook is just over three hours.
Aoraki Mount Cook to Christchurch
The road to Christchurch takes you past the settlement of Lake Tekapo. With its shimmering turquoise lake and majestic mountain backdrop, this is a photographer’s dream. The Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue are must-sees in the area before continuing on to Christchurch.
As the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is packed with charming heritage, innovation, and outdoor activities. It is one of the world’s most unique destinations, combining urban regeneration and innovation with culture and thrilling activities.
The Canterbury Museum & Botanic Gardens, The Terrace & Riverside Market, Margaret Mahy Playground, and New Regent Street are some of the sights to be seen from Christchurch’s Heritage Tram. This is a must-do family-friendly activity, this is one of the city’s best-loved attractions, plus kids ride for free and it is a great way to get around!
Punting on the Avon River, street art trails, botanical gardens, and scenic heli-flights are just some of the things to do here. Spend the day discovering all this city has to offer (or choose to spend a few days here).
- Stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue.
- Ride on the Heritage tramway.
- Stargaze at Lake Tekapo, picturesque by day and dazzling by night, Lake Tekapo is a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve.
- Boutique shopping.
- Punting on the Avon River (Sightseeing rides in a small, flat-bottomed boat poled by a guide).
- Visit the world-famous Botanic Gardens.
- Dine at The Terrace an area along the Avon River with restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
This final drive on your New Zealand adventure will take you just over 4 hours.
There you have it! Two weeks in New Zealand – of course, with some flexibility to add days onto the trip to spend even more time exploring this amazing country!
LET US HELP FIND YOUR PERFECT DESTINATION
When you’re ready to plan your New Zealand adventure, be sure to contact one of our TierOne Travel Consultants. They are travel experts that have extensive experience in life-changing travel experiences and will be able to craft something incredible that is suited to your unique needs!
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