If your clients have limited time in New Zealand, it’s generally best for them to follow a day-by-day itinerary. Visitors who have more time can stop for longer at each place and add interesting diversions along the way. A popular option for visitors wanting to see the whole country is to arrive in Auckland, travel south by road and finish in Christchurch before travelling back to Auckland by air.

Don’t miss a thing

Lucky enough to be spending several weeks in New Zealand? Take your time and explore with an itinerary that winds its way around both the North and South Islands.

Minimum Length: Four weeks

The journey starts in New Zealand’s biggest city before heading north on the Twin Coast Discovery Highway to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Explore New Zealand history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, catch the ferry across to historic Russell and relax on golden-sand beaches. You’ll find more great beaches on the way to Cape Reinga – the northernmost point of mainland New Zealand.

Heading south along the west coast of Northland takes you through the tranquil Hokianga region, rich with history, and along the Kauri Coast back to Auckland. Soak up the hustle and bustle of multicultural Auckland and then head south to Hamilton, in the heart of Waikato. From here, take a detour to the famous Waitomo Caves and its underground adventures. Passing back through Hamilton, head north to the beach resort of Whitianga in The Coromandel, where you can take your pick from snorkelling, diving and other water activities. Further east, in the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is a buzzing coastal city.

It’s an easy drive from here to Rotorua. Set in a geothermal wonderland, this is also a hot-spot for Māori culture. Further south is the lakeside resort of Taupo, offering outdoor adventures galore – including great trout fishing. When you’ve had your fill of adrenaline highs, drive through the mountains to the Art Deco town of Napier. Take a tour of the architectural highlights and explore the region’s famous vineyards before travelling south to Wellington. New Zealand’s much-loved capital city is packed full of galleries, theatres and cafés. Now say goodbye to the North Island and catch the ferry to Picton.

On arrival in Picton, pause to explore the idyllic Marlborough Sounds before heading to the wineries of Blenheim. Then drive through to Nelson and soak up the creative local culture before heading to Greymouth, mid-way point of a breathtaking drive down the West Coast to Franz Josef. Here, the highlights are truly stupendous: the ice-white Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers nestled amongst lush rainforest. Leave the West Coast behind and cross through the Haast Pass to the lakeside resort of Wanaka, gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. A little further south is Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and bursting with activities such as bungy jumping and jet boating. Travel west to Te Anau, a perfect base for exploring Fiordland, and journey to Milford Sound to see the magical fiords on a scenic boat cruise.

The next leg of the trip takes you to Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, and Bluff, the jumping-off point to Stewart Island. Continue on via the main state highway or the scenic route through the forest-clad Catlins to Dunedin. Encounter wildlife, from albatrosses to penguins and seals, and take a guided tour to see the historic architecture of this southern city. Head north to Oamaru to see more historic architecture – and a famous penguin encounter. Inland, via the Waitaki Valley, is the Mackenzie region with its stunning blue lakes and mountain scenery, including New Zealand’s highest peak; Aoraki/Mount Cook. Out of the mountains, on the Canterbury Plains, Methven is a centre of outdoor activities including wintertime skiing. Further north are the spa town of Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura*, where marine wildlife abounds. Drive south via the wine region of Waipara to finish your ultimate New Zealand adventure in the city of Christchurch.

Highlights

  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga
  • Waitomo Caves
  • White-sand beaches
  • Māori culture
  • Art Deco architecture
  • Wine tasting
  • Historic cities
  • Wildlife experiences

Beyond the Gateways

Auckland City in the North Island and Christchurch City in the South Island are the gateways to New Zealand for many visitors arriving by air.

North Island – Auckland

Short drive Northland Whangarei 165 km from Auckland; 2 hr, 20 min Paihia (Bay of Islands) 236 km from Auckland; 3 hr, 20 min The Coromandel Thames 114 km from Auckland; 1 hr, 40 min Whitianga 187 km from Auckland; 2 hr, 20 min Bay of Plenty Katikati 170 km from Auckland; 2 hr, 30 min Tauranga 205 km from Auckland; 2 hr, 55 min Waikato/Waitomo Hamilton 126 km from Auckland; 1 hr, 50 min Waitomo Village 200 km from Auckland; 2 hr, 50 min

Half Day Northland Kaitaia 320 km from Auckland; 5 hr, 35 min Bay of Plenty Whakatane 298 km from Auckland; 4 hr, 15 min Taupo Taupo 278 km from Auckland; 4 hr Turangi 353 km from Auckland; 5 hr, 5 min Ohakune 380 km from Auckland; 5 hr, 25 min Rotorua Rotorua 234 km from Auckland; 3 hr, 20 min Lake Rotoma 271 km from Auckland; 4 hr Ruapehu Whakapapa Village 345 km from Auckland; 4 hr, 55 min

Allow a Day Eastland Gisborne 499 km from Auckland; 7 hr, 10 min Opotiki 355 km from Auckland; 5 hr, 10 min Wairoa 435 km from Auckland; 6 hr, 15 min Hawke’s Bay Napier 421 km from Auckland; 6 hr Hastings 441 km from Auckland; 6 hr, 20 min Taranaki New Plymouth 357 km from Auckland; 5 hr, 5 min Hawera 417 km from Auckland; 6 hr, 5 min Stratford 387 km from Auckland; 5 hr, 35 min Whanganui Whanganui 457 km from Auckland; 6 hr, 30 min Manawatu Palmerston North 537 km from Auckland; 7 hr, 40 min Feilding 501 km from Auckland; 7 hr, 15 min

Further Afield Wellington Wellington 658 km from Auckland; 9 hr, 25 min Upper Hutt 640 km from Auckland; 9 hr, 15 min Wairarapa Masterton 646 km from Auckland; 9 hr, 15 min Greytown 653 km from Auckland; 9 hr, 30 min Martinborough 684 km from Auckland; 9 hr, 55 min

South Island – Christchurch

Short Drive Canterbury Akaroa 84 km from Christchurch; 1 hr, 10 min Methven 123 km from Christchurch; 1 hr, 45 min Arthur’s Pass 150 km from Christchurch; 2 hr, 10 min Timaru 163 km from Christchurch; 2 hr, 15 min Waipara 66 km from Christchurch; 1 hr Hanmer Springs 135 km from Christchurch; 1 hr, 55 min Kaikoura* 183 km from Christchurch; 2 hr, 35 min Mt Cook & Mackenzie Fairlie 184 km from Christchurch; 2 hr, 35 min

Half Day Mt Cook & Mackenzie Tekapo 226 km from Christchurch; 3 hr, 15 min Mt Cook Village 331 km from Christchurch; 4 hr, 45 min Dunedin & Coastal Otago Oamaru 247 km from Christchurch; 3 hr, 30 min Dunedin 362 km from Christchurch; 5 hr, 10 min West Coast Greymouth 258 km from Christchurch; 3 hr, 40 min Hokitika 267 km from Christchurch; 3 hr, 50 min Franz Josef 395 km from Christchurch; 5 hr, 40 min Marlborough Blenheim* 308 km from Christchurch; 4 hr, 25 min Picton* 336 km from Christchurch; 4 hr, 50 min

Allow a Day Central Otago Cromwell 410 km from Christchurch; 5 hr, 50 min Alexandra 455 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 30 min] Nelson Nelson 424 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 5 min Motueka 423 km from Christchurch; 6 hr Takaka 482 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 50 min Queenstown Queenstown 486 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 55 min Arrowtown 464 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 40 min Glenorchy 529 km from Christchurch; 7 hr, 40 min Wanaka Wanaka 424 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 5 min Hawea 466 km from Christchurch; 6 hr, 30 min

Further Afield Southland & Stewart Island Invercargill 579 km from Christchurch; 8 hr, 15 min Bluff 609 km from Christchurch; 8 hr, 40 min Fiordland Te Anau 652 km from Christchurch; 9 hr, 20 min Manapouri 653 km from Christchurch; 9 hr, 15 min Milford Sound 773 km from Christchurch; 11 hr, 5 min

Essential Experiences

Less time to spare, but still want to experience iconic sights and activities you’ve heard so much about?

Minimum Length: Two weeks

Tick off the essential New Zealand highlights in this fast-paced journey around the North and South Islands. Your clients will discover fascinating culture galore and enough unforgettable landscapes to fill their camera’s memory card to the brim.

Highlights

  • Waitomo Caves
  • Māori culture
  • Wildlife experiences
  • Wine tasting
  • Historic cities
  • Milford Sound
  • Glaciers

Scenic Highlights

This journey around the very best of New Zealand’s famous scenery offers plenty of opportunities for hiking.

Minimum Length: Two weeks

Does the natural beauty of wild landscapes send your clients weak at the knees? Then they should prepare to get very wobbly indeed on this journey around the very best of New Zealand’s famous scenery. Along the way they’ll find plenty of opportunities to get in amongst it; hiking, boating or encountering rare native wildlife and activities they’ve heard so much about.

Highlights

  • Bay of Islands
  • Waitomo Caves
  • Geysers and mud pools
  • Lake Taupo
  • Wildlife experiences
  • Mount Cook
  • Glaciers and national parks

 

*Note: Kaikoura is still accessible by the inland road from either north or south, as well as on a limited basis on State Highway 1 from Christchurch as repairs continue – check with the latest updated from the New Zealand Transport Authority when planning your trip, as travel times have also increased.