New Zealand Highway Journey Itinerary: 2-4 Weeks (Up to date 2023)

Car driving down a road with golden fields on either side, leading towards snow-capped mountains on the South Island of New Zealand
Posted: 5/8/2023 | Could eighth, 2023

With its snow-capped mountains, historic glaciers, rolling verdant hills, extremely pleasant locals, and plentiful world-class wine, New Zealand is as great as you’ve heard. Actually, take what you’ve heard and instances it by ten. New Zealand will merely blow your thoughts whenever you go to.

Folks suppose as a result of it’s a small nation, you are able to do all of it in two weeks. That’s not true. There’s rather a lot to do right here. From the north island to the south island, you want numerous time right here to do all of it. You’ll be able to fill months with actions. New Zealand could also be small but it surely punches above its weight with issues to do.

However what in case you don’t have months? What do you do then? What route do you are taking? What island must you begin with? The place do you go?

Or what in case you do? Then what? The place do you start planning that sort of journey?

I get these questions in my inbox on a regular basis. Having traveled all around the nation a number of instances, I do know the complexities of attempting to determine how one can get to these distant cities and out-of-the-way parks and glaciers.

Whereas buses and trains can take you most locations, one of the simplest ways to see the nation is by taking a highway journey. With your individual set of wheels, you’ll be capable to get deep into the pure landscapes that make this nation so well-known. New Zealand is a highway journey nation. It’s one of the simplest ways to discover.

Under are my recommended itineraries that may assist you plan your New Zealand highway journey for max effectivity. Whether or not you may have two weeks, one month, and even longer, these will be sure that you see the highlights and get off the overwhelmed path.

Be aware: Two weeks is the minimal beneficial time for a New Zealand highway journey. There’s a lot to see and do right here, but you continue to don’t wish to be rushed or spend all of your time within the automobile. When you solely have two weeks, deal with one island.

If you wish to be taught extra about Maori tradition, see the Waitomo glow worms, spend time in New Zealand’s important cities, and luxuriate in enjoyable actions like mendacity on the seashore and sitting in scorching springs, highway journey the North Island.

If you wish to spend your time mountain climbing glaciers, doing journey actions, and absorbing the epic landscapes of New Zealand, head to the South Island on your highway journey.

With one month, you’ll be able to mix the next two-week itineraries to actually be capable to take pleasure in all that each islands have to supply. Greater than a month? There’s nothing you’ll be able to’t do!



Selecting the Proper Automobile

A car, campervan, and Jeep on the road in the rainforests of New Zealand.
Earlier than you even plan your route, you want a technique to get round. Highway-tripping New Zealand by campervan could be very well-liked, particularly among the many extra budget-conscious traveler, as they function each lodging and transportation. There are 5 important rental businesses:

Costs fluctuate rather a lot. Your each day fee will change relying on the place you choose up the car in case you are dropping it off at a unique place, how lengthy you’re renting it for, how far prematurely you e book, and whenever you e book (within the excessive season, costs appear to double!).

If residing out of a van for just a few weeks doesn’t sound like your thought of a enjoyable time, merely lease a traditional automobile and e book lodging alongside the best way. To e book a automobile, take a look at Uncover Vehicles, which searches rental businesses huge and small to search out the very best offers.

New Zealand Highway Journey Itinerary: A Two-Week North Island Route

Days 1–2: Auckland

The skyline of Auckland, New Zealand at night
Auckland is the most important and most populous metropolis in New Zealand and, opposite to well-liked perception, it isn’t the capital (that’s Wellington). Since most flights land right here, spend a few days recovering out of your (possible) lengthy journey.

Spend a while hanging out on the Auckland Area, go snorkel on Goat Island, and in case you love wine like I do, take a wine tour on Waiheke Island.

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Auckland, take a look at my information to town!

The place to Keep: The Albion – This historic lodging started as a “pub lodge” within the nineteenth century. At the moment there’s nonetheless a pleasant outdated tavern within the lodge. The rooms are snug and the place is quiet.

Days 3-4: Bay of Islands

Lighthouse on the coast in the Bay of Island, New Zealand
Head to the Bay of Islands on the northern tip of the North Island for just a few days. With mile after mile of seashore and rocky shoreline surrounding the bay (which comprises 144 islands), this space has among the greatest alternatives for dolphin and whale watching, kayaking, swimming, and boating. The Bay of Islands can be residence to what I believe are among the greatest seashores within the nation.

When you’re right here you’ll be able to go to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (one of the vital necessary historic websites within the nation), discover Cape Reinga (the northernmost level of New Zealand), and see wild dolphins on a boat tour.

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Bay of Islands, take a look at my full information!

The place to Keep: Haka Lodge – Situated in Paihia, Haka Lodge has numerous widespread areas, a big kitchen, and nice views over the harbor. The whole lot is tremendous clear and the beds are snug. It’s a great place to fulfill folks.

Day 5: Hobbiton

A Hobbit home in Hobbiton, New Zealand from the Lord of the Rings set
Visiting the Hobbiton film set featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit motion pictures is well one in every of New Zealand’s most well-known actions and a should for followers of the movies and books. Even in case you’re not a superfan, it’s fascinating to see the film magic and go behind the scenes on this distinctive setting.

To see Hobbiton, you’ll need to take a tour that begins with a drive by the proprietor’s 505-hectare (1,250-acre) sheep farm, providing epic views over the Kaimai Vary. From right here, you’ll be able to discover Bag Finish, wander across the hobbit holes, and go to the Inexperienced Dragon Inn. Excursions begin at 89 NZD.

The place to Keep: Cosy Nation Keep B&B – It is a cute bed-and-breakfast situated in Matamata only a few miles from Hobbiton. The hosts are unbelievable, there’s complimentary breakfast, and the property is quiet and tranquil, with roaming cats and goats for added ambiance.

Days 6–7: Rotorua

Maori warriors doing a performance in New Zealand
It’s only one hour from Hobbiton to Rotorua, one of the vital well-liked vacationer locations on the North Island. The identify comes from the unique Maori “Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe,” that means “second lake,” because it was the second lake that Maori chief Ihenga found within the space.

The Maori have been the unique inhabitants of New Zealand, having arrived from Polynesia between 1320 and 1350. That is the very best space to find out about Maori historical past and tradition. Don’t miss seeing a Maori cultural present when you’re right here (the Te Pa Tu Maori Cultural Expertise is the one I attended).

The area can be identified for its geothermal exercise, and the dynamic panorama makes for thrilling nature walks, journeys to smelly sulfuric geysers, and soaks in luxurious spas with water from the new springs.

The place to Keep: Rock Strong Backpackers – It is a centrally situated hostel with an expansive array of amenities, together with a cinema, a bar, a communal kitchen, and even a rock-climbing wall.

Day 8: Waitomo

Silhouettes of people staring up at the starry blue lights of glowworms in the caves of Waitomo, New Zealand
Waitomo is thought for its worms — glowworms, that’s (spoiler alert: they’re truly fly larvae that emit a bioluminescent glow). Positively one of many coolest locations I visited in New Zealand, the Waitomo glowworm cave could also be very touristy but it surely’s merely breathtaking and in contrast to something you’ve ever seen.

For an entire listing of issues to do in Waitomo, take a look at my information in town.

The place to Keep: Juno Corridor – Near the glowworm caves, Juno Corridor has a swimming pool and tennis court docket on-site. There’s a big kitchen in addition to an outside grill for barbecuing.

Days 9-10: Taupo

Red sailboat in front of a Maori rock carving on Lake Taupo in New Zealand
Taupo sits on the shores of Lake Taupo and is a part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, an space that has had excessive volcanic exercise for the previous two million years. Taupo has tons of unimaginable hikes, a lot of boating excursions, charming native markets, and beautiful nature. Consider it like a quieter model of Queenstown (the South Island’s journey capita)l.

It’s additionally one in every of the very best locations to go skydiving in New Zealand due to the views and clear skies (although I didn’t do that whereas I used to be there).

I cherished the small-town really feel of Taupo, sitting by the lake, and having the ability to take action many hikes. I may have stayed right here for weeks.

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Taupo, take a look at my information!

The place to Keep: Finlay Jack’s has an enormous kitchen, a giant widespread room, a spacious patio with BBQs, enjoyable and welcoming employees, bike leases, and a brilliant pleasant hostel canine. The whole lot within the hostel is up to date, with new, fashionable pod-style beds so you will get an incredible night time’s sleep. Briefly, all the things a backpacker or price range traveler would need from a hostel.

Day 11: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The emerald green lakes against the stark volcanic landscape of Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a hike in New Zealand
Trekking by this otherworldly, red-colored setting of volcanoes and sulfur was one of many highlights of my time in New Zealand. One of many Nice Walks of New Zealand and sometimes thought-about among the finest day hikes on the earth, that is an epic 19-kilometer (12-mile) trek that takes a full day to finish (most individuals take 6-9 hours, relying in your health stage).

As you wind your approach by Tongariro Nationwide Park, you’ll stroll by volcanic terrain (together with the place Mordor in Lord of the Rings was filmed), previous excessive peaks and sulfur lakes, and finish the day in a dense forest. It’s simple in components (the start and finish) and steep in others (particularly the portion after “Mount Doom”), so that you’ll get a great mixture of problem ranges.

You’ll want to deliver water, sunscreen, a hat, bathroom paper, and a sweater or jacket (the climate can change quickly). Anticipate to pay round 40 NZD per particular person for a round-trip shuttle to and from the path or 280 NZD for a full-day guided hike.

The place to Keep: Nationwide Park Alpine Lodge – Situated in Nationwide Park Village (the very best place to remain if doing the trek), this lodge options budget-friendly non-public rooms, a communal kitchen and customary space (with a comfortable fire for chilly nights!), and a useful employees.

In any other case, you’ll be able to keep in Taupo, which is the place folks normally base themselves after they do that trek.

Days 12–14: Wellington

The red cable car ascending its track with the skyline of Wellington, New Zealand in the background
Wellington is my favourite metropolis in all the nation. It’s an artsy, eclectic place, boasting tons of cultural actions, an unimaginable nightlife, among the greatest meals within the nation, tons of murals, world-class artwork reveals, insightful museums, and a ravishing harbor (which is greatest seen from Mount Victoria, which overlooks all the metropolis).

You’ll want to go to Te Papa (New Zealand’s nationwide museum), trip the cable automobile to the Cable Automobile Museum, and tour Weta Workshop (an Academy Award–profitable props and particular results studio).

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Wellington, take a look at my detailed information to town.

The place to Keep: The Dwellington – Greater than half the Dwellington is widespread house, with a video games room, a cinema room (with comfortable seats!), residing rooms, outside patios, and even tennis and squash courts. The employees additionally actually goes out of their technique to be sure to really feel welcome.

When you’ve solely obtained two weeks and are ending your highway journey in Wellington, you’ll be able to fly out of the airport right here to wherever you’ll want to go subsequent. If in case you have extra time, you’ll take the automobile ferry (round 3.5 hours) to Picton on the South Island to proceed your journey (wherein case, observe the next two-week South Island itinerary, however in reverse).

New Zealand Highway Journey Itinerary: A Two-Week South Island Route

When you select the South Island on your two-week highway journey, begin in Queenstown. Even when your worldwide flight lands in Auckland on the North Island, you’ll be able to simply get an affordable flight to Queenstown. Queenstown additionally has direct flights to many main cities in Australia in case your journey to New Zealand is an element of a bigger journey in Oceania.

Days 1-3: Queenstown

Aerial view of Queenstown, New Zealand, showing the city on the water with mountains in the background
Queenstown is a small, picturesque city overlooking Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the gorgeous peaks of the Remarkables mountain vary. It has a feisty and outdoorsy power to it, with slim streets and pedestrian lanes stuffed with outlets and eating places.

Often called “the journey capital of New Zealand” (it’s the launching pad for each type of journey exercise you’ll be able to consider), Queenstown lives as much as the hype. Despite the fact that it has turn into massively well-liked, I can not categorical my love of Queenstown sufficient. I like sitting by the lake, watching the sundown with a bottle of wine, and mountain climbing the close by trails.

Discover close by vineyards, benefit from the waters of Lake Wakatipu, bungy bounce, zipline, rafting, or skydiving. There’s rather a lot to do right here.

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Queenstown, take a look at my detailed metropolis information.

The place to Keep: Nomads Queenstown – Most rooms have balconies, the showers have prodigious water strain, and the pillows are thick. There are actions each night time and a free dinner and quiz night time on Sunday. General, this can be a good spot to remain.

Days 4-6: Fiordland

A  ship set against the sheer cliffs of Milford Sound in New Zealand
The Fiordland area is likely one of the nation’s most scenic and distant (and as such, additionally residence to quite a few Lord of the Rings movie places). Given its gigantic mountains, deep lakes, swelling rivers, untamed forests, and resplendent fjords (lengthy, slim inlets banked by steep cliffs, created by glaciers), the federal government has largely made the land off-limits to guard these pure assets.

Milford Sound is a tremendous fjord that’s greatest identified for the towering Mitre Peak and its surrounding rainforest. You’ll be able to stroll the wooded path alongside the sandy shore for excellent views of the height, or take the Chasm Stroll on the Cleddau River to get near highly effective waterfalls.

The fjord itself is residence to seal and penguin colonies. You’ll be able to usually see pods of dolphins frolicking within the waters too. Discover by boat and take a look at the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory to see uncommon black coral and different underwater life. Southern Discoveries is the one firm doing cruises that embody the Underwater Observatory. Cruises begin from 129 NZD.

Whereas much less well-known than Milford, Uncertain Sound is the deepest and second-largest fjord within the nation. You’ll be able to solely get to Uncertain by way of boat. A wilderness cruise of Uncertain Sound prices 199 NZD.

The place to Keep: Milford Sound Lodge – That is fairly actually the one place to remain inside about 50 kilometers (31 miles). It’s not low-cost, however the views are unmatched, the complimentary breakfast is scrumptious, and the up to date rooms are cozy but fashionable. In any other case, when you have a automobile, you’ll be able to keep within the closest city, Te Anau the place you’ll discover cheaper lodging.

Days 7-8: Wanaka

Famous tree in the water of Lake Wanaka, with snow-capped mountains in the background in the town of Wanaka, New Zealand
Wanaka is a ski and summer time resort city framed by snowcapped mountains. As close by Queenstown has turn into overcrowded in recent times, journey to Wanaka has exploded and this sleepy however actually cool little city has turn into well-liked with backpackers and outside fanatics, particularly skiers and boaters. There’s not a ton to do right here past having fun with the outside. Most individuals come right here for just a few nights to hike, chill out, and transfer on.

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Wanaka, take a look at my detailed metropolis information.

The place to Keep: Mountain View Backpackers – This hostel has an enormous outside house with a grill, house to lie within the solar, and a giant desk to congregate round (there have been many gratifying nights spent consuming wine open air).

Day 9: Franz Josef Glacier

People hiking on a glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand
Franz Josef is a tiny city that’s primarily used as a jumping-off level for seeing the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier.

Mountaineering the glaciers right here is an unforgettable expertise. Sadly, as a result of they’ve receded and are melting shortly attributable to local weather change, the caves and walks have been shut down. Now, the one technique to trek on the glaciers is by way of heli-hike (an epic half-day or full-day helicopter/mountain climbing expertise). These are costly (500 NZD), however the helicopter trip, trekking, and expertise as a complete are definitely worth the worth in my view.

Conversely, you’ll be able to simply hike to the glacier face and take pictures from a distance. There are tons of viewing factors (and also you’ll see pictures of simply how far the glaciers have receded in through the years).

The place to Keep: Chateau Backpacker & Motels – Only a ten-minute drive from the glacier, this lodging gives free home made soup each night time, free breakfast (home made waffles and pancakes!), two communal kitchens, and a scorching tub.

Days 10–11: Abel Tasman Nationwide Park

Sandy beach and bright blue waters of Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand
Drive simply six hours north of glacial Franz Josef and also you’ll be in beachy Abel Tasman Nationwide Park. With its turquoise water, dense jungles, and heat temperatures, this park makes you are feeling such as you’re within the tropics slightly than New Zealand. It covers over 23,876 hectares (59,000 acres), that means there are numerous single and multi-day hikes (together with the 3-5-day Abel Tasman Coast Monitor, one of many Nice Walks of New Zealand).

The easiest way to see the park is by kayak, so you’ll be able to discover the little coves and seashores that basically make the world particular. Full-day leases begin at round 85 NZD, or you’ll be able to be a part of a guided kayaking tour beginning at 130 NZD. You can even take a scenic cruise across the park for 79 NZD.

The place to Keep: Marahau Seaside Camp – Presents each dormitories and small non-public cottages, a communal kitchen, and a seasonal restaurant. There are additionally tent and campervan websites if you wish to get monetary savings.

From right here, choose your final cease: both drive onwards to Christchurch and finish there or take the ferry over the Wellington (an journey in and of itself!) and finish there. Both approach, you’ll be capable to catch an affordable and fast flight again to Auckland on your worldwide flight residence.

When you’re heading to Christchurch, maintain studying. When you’d like to go to Wellington, scroll again up and observe the information within the North Island itinerary part.

Days 12-14: Christchurch

Gondolas set against a backdrop of lakes and mountains in Christchurch, New Zealand
Although severely broken by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 (over 185 folks have been killed and three,000 buildings have been broken), Christchurch has rebounded and advanced right into a brand-new metropolis. This revival has instilled a newfound sense of hope and vibrancy, and led to extra funky bars and markets, and new eating places, outlets, and reveals. The locals have labored arduous to rebuild, and there’s a neighborhood spirit right here that basically shines. I like the place Christchurch goes.

Whereas there’s not rather a lot “to do” per se, the vibe right here is actually relaxed, and it’s price not speeding by in case you aren’t brief on time. You’ll want to trip the gondola, go to the Canterbury Museum, and tour Quake Metropolis (a novel and interactive museum that recounts private tales from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes).

For an inventory of extra issues to do in Christchurch, take a look at my metropolis information.

The place to Keep: Urbanz – That is an superior hostel situated in downtown Christchurch with pleasant employees and an enormous kitchen. There’s additionally a hostel bar, a pool desk, quick Wi-Fi, laundry, motion pictures, and comfortable couches, in addition to a parking zone.

If you’ll want to get again to Queenstown, it’s a 6 hour drive from right here. Alternatively, you’ll be able to fly to Auckland. The flight is simply over an hour and tickets will be discovered for as little as 65 NZD in case you e book prematurely.

New Zealand Highway Journey Itinerary: One Month

Snow-capped mountains in the background of a green valley in New Zealand
You’ve obtained longer to discover New Zealand, nice! You’ll possible fly into Auckland, and make your approach south by the North after which South Island following the above itineraries. You’ll be able to take your time, linger longer, go to extra locations, and shift your plans in case you really feel pulled in a sure course.

Once more, these are simply beneficial itineraries — I encourage you to adapt as wanted!

Issues to Bear in mind When Highway-Tripping New Zealand

That can assist you take advantage of your highway journey, please keep in mind the next guidelines:

  • Visitors flows on the left right here (not the proper, like within the US or Canada).
  • You have to all the time park your automobile within the course that site visitors goes (or danger a advantageous).
  • There are many pull-off factors for taking pictures — use them as a substitute of stopping at a random spot alongside the facet of the highway, which will be fairly harmful given how tight the roads are right here.
  • Roads listed here are winding, so do not forget that it would take longer than you anticipate to cowl a specific distance.
  • So long as your present and legitimate driver’s license is in English, you don’t want an Worldwide Driver’s Allow.
  • When you’re touring by campervan, use the CamperMate app to search out close by campsites, fuel stations, and dump stations.


New Zealand is an unforgettable nation, loaded with epic landscapes, pleasant Kiwis, and a wealthy tradition. Resulting from its distant location, visiting is normally a once-in-a-lifetime journey for many vacationers. Taking a highway journey is one of the simplest ways to take advantage of your time right here, tailoring your itinerary to your individual preferences and New Zealand bucket listing.

Want a rental automobile on your epic journey? use the widget under to search out the very best offers!

Guide Your Journey to New Zealand: Logistical Ideas and Tips

Guide Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to discover a low-cost flight. They’re my favourite search engine as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is left unturned!

Guide Your Lodging
You’ll be able to e book your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve the most important stock and greatest offers. If you wish to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use as they persistently return the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and low-cost inns.

When you’re on the lookout for particular locations to remain, here’s a full listing of my favourite hostels in New Zealand.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you towards sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes unsuitable. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many instances previously. My favourite corporations that supply the very best service and worth are:

On the lookout for the Finest Firms to Save Cash With?
Try my useful resource web page for the very best corporations to make use of whenever you journey. I listing all those I exploit to economize once I’m on the highway. They are going to prevent cash whenever you journey too.

Need Extra Data on New Zealand?
You’ll want to go to our sturdy vacation spot information on New Zealand for much more planning suggestions!

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