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 | Might eighth, 2023

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

Individuals assume 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 so much to do right here. From the north island to the south island, you want loads of time right here to do all of it. You possibly can fill months with actions. New Zealand could also be small nevertheless it 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’re 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 type of journey?

I get these questions in my inbox on a regular basis. Having traveled all around the nation a number of occasions, I do know the complexities of making an attempt to determine tips on how to 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 street journey. With your individual set of wheels, you’ll be capable of get deep into the pure landscapes that make this nation so well-known. New Zealand is a street journey nation. It’s one of the simplest ways to discover.

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

Notice: Two weeks is the minimal beneficial time for a New Zealand street journey. There’s a lot to see and do right here, but you continue to don’t need to be rushed or spend all of your time within the automotive. In the event you solely have two weeks, concentrate on one island.

If you wish to be taught extra about Maori tradition, see the Waitomo glow worms, spend time in New Zealand’s foremost cities, and revel in enjoyable actions like mendacity on the seaside and sitting in sizzling springs, street 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 street journey.

With one month, you’ll be able to mix the next two-week itineraries to essentially be capable of get pleasure from 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 option to get round. Highway-tripping New Zealand by campervan could be very standard, particularly among the many extra budget-conscious traveler, as they function each lodging and transportation. There are 5 foremost rental companies:

Costs range so much. Your every day price will change relying on the place you decide up the car in case you are dropping it off at a unique place, how lengthy you might be renting it for, how far upfront you ebook, and if you ebook (within the excessive season, costs appear to double!).

If dwelling out of a van for a couple of weeks doesn’t sound like your concept of a enjoyable time, merely hire a traditional automotive and ebook lodging alongside the best way. To ebook a automotive, try Uncover Automobiles, which searches rental companies large and small to search out the most effective 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 biggest and most populous metropolis in New Zealand and, opposite to standard perception, it’s not the capital (that’s Wellington). Since most flights land right here, spend a few days recovering out of your (doubtless) 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 a listing of extra issues to do in Auckland, try my information to town!

The place to Keep: The Albion – This historic lodging started as a “pub resort” within the nineteenth century. Right now there’s nonetheless a pleasant previous tavern within the resort. 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 a couple of days. With mile after mile of seaside and rocky shoreline surrounding the bay (which comprises 144 islands), this space has a number of the greatest alternatives for dolphin and whale watching, kayaking, swimming, and boating. The Bay of Islands can also be house to what I believe are a number of 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 essential historic websites within the nation), discover Cape Reinga (the northernmost level of New Zealand), and see wild dolphins on a boat tour.

For a listing of extra issues to do in Bay of Islands, try my full information!

The place to Keep: Haka Lodge – Situated in Paihia, Haka Lodge has loads of widespread areas, a big kitchen, and nice views over the harbor. Every little thing is tremendous clear and the beds are snug. It’s an excellent 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 films is well certainly one 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 attention-grabbing 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 means of 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 – This can be a cute bed-and-breakfast positioned in Matamata just some miles from Hobbiton. The hosts are incredible, there’s complimentary breakfast, and the property is quiet and tranquil, with roaming cats and goats for added environment.

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 standard vacationer locations on the North Island. The title comes from the unique Maori “Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe,” which means “second lake,” because it was the second lake that Maori chief Ihenga found within the space.

The Maori had been the unique inhabitants of New Zealand, having arrived from Polynesia between 1320 and 1350. That is the most effective 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 also be recognized 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 Stable Backpackers – This can be a centrally positioned hostel with an expansive array of services, 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 understood for its worms — glowworms, that’s (spoiler alert: they’re truly fly larvae that emit a bioluminescent glow). Undoubtedly one of many coolest locations I visited in New Zealand, the Waitomo glowworm cave could also be very touristy nevertheless it’s merely breathtaking and in contrast to something you’ve ever seen.

For an entire checklist of issues to do in Waitomo, try my information in town.

The place to Keep: Juno Corridor – Near the glowworm caves, Juno Corridor has a swimming pool and tennis courtroom on-site. There’s a big kitchen in addition to an out of doors 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 number of boating excursions, charming native markets, and gorgeous nature. Consider it like a quieter model of Queenstown (the South Island’s journey capita)l.

It’s additionally certainly one of the most effective locations to go skydiving in New Zealand because of 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 might have stayed right here for weeks.

For a listing of extra issues to do in Taupo, try my information!

The place to Keep: Finlay Jack’s has an enormous kitchen, an enormous widespread room, a spacious patio with BBQs, enjoyable and welcoming employees, bike leases, and a brilliant pleasant hostel canine. Every little thing within the hostel is up to date, with new, trendy pod-style beds so you may get an important evening’s sleep. In brief, every thing 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 means of this otherworldly, red-colored surroundings of volcanoes and sulfur was one of many highlights of my time in New Zealand. One of many Nice Walks of New Zealand and infrequently thought-about top-of-the-line 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 degree).

As you wind your approach by means of Tongariro Nationwide Park, you’ll stroll by means of 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 straightforward in elements (the start and finish) and steep in others (particularly the portion after “Mount Doom”), so that you’ll get an excellent mixture of problem ranges.

Be sure you carry water, sunscreen, a hat, rest room 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 most effective place to remain if doing the trek), this lodge options budget-friendly non-public rooms, a communal kitchen and customary space (with a comfy hearth 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, a number of the greatest meals within the nation, tons of murals, world-class artwork reveals, insightful museums, and a lovely harbor (which is greatest seen from Mount Victoria, which overlooks all the metropolis).

Be sure you go to Te Papa (New Zealand’s nationwide museum), trip the cable automotive to the Cable Automotive Museum, and tour Weta Workshop (an Academy Award–profitable props and particular results studio).

For a listing of extra issues to do in Wellington, try my detailed information to town.

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

In the event you’ve solely received two weeks and are ending your street journey in Wellington, you’ll be able to fly out of the airport right here to wherever it’s good to go subsequent. In case you have extra time, you’ll take the automotive ferry (round 3.5 hours) to Picton on the South Island to proceed your journey (during which case, comply with the next two-week South Island itinerary, however in reverse).

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

In the event you select the South Island on your two-week street 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 a component 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 attractive peaks of the Remarkables mountain vary. It has a feisty and outdoorsy vitality to it, with slender streets and pedestrian lanes full of retailers and eating places.

Often known as “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. Though it has grow to be vastly standard, I can’t 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 so much to do right here.

For a listing of extra issues to do in Queenstown, try 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 evening and a free dinner and quiz evening on Sunday. General, this can be a excellent spot to remain.

Days 4-6: Fiordland

A  ship set against the sheer cliffs of Milford Sound in New Zealand
The Fiordland area is among the nation’s most scenic and distant (and as such, additionally house to quite a few Lord of the Rings movie areas). Given its gigantic mountains, deep lakes, swelling rivers, untamed forests, and resplendent fjords (lengthy, slender 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 an incredible fjord that’s greatest recognized for the towering Mitre Peak and its surrounding rainforest. You possibly can stroll the wooded path alongside the sandy shore for good views of the height, or take the Chasm Stroll on the Cleddau River to get near highly effective waterfalls.

The fjord itself is house to seal and penguin colonies. You possibly can 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 embrace 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 possibly can solely get to Uncertain through 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 trendy. In any other case, when you have a automotive, 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 grow to be overcrowded lately, journey to Wanaka has exploded and this sleepy however actually cool little city has grow to be standard 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 a couple of nights to hike, loosen up, and transfer on.

For a listing of extra issues to do in Wanaka, try my detailed metropolis information.

The place to Keep: Mountain View Backpackers – This hostel has an enormous outside area with a grill, area to lie within the solar, and an enormous desk to congregate round (there have been many pleasurable nights spent ingesting wine outdoor).

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 as a consequence of local weather change, the caves and walks have been shut down. Now, the one option to trek on the glaciers is through 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 photographs from a distance. There are tons of viewing factors (and also you’ll see photographs 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 evening, free breakfast (home made waffles and pancakes!), two communal kitchens, and a sizzling 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 quite than New Zealand. It covers over 23,876 hectares (59,000 acres), which means there are loads of single and multi-day hikes (together with the 3-5-day Abel Tasman Coast Observe, one of many Nice Walks of New Zealand).

One of the best ways to see the park is by kayak, so you’ll be able to discover the little coves and seashores that basically make the realm 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 may also take a scenic cruise across the park for 79 NZD.

The place to Keep: Marahau Seaside Camp – Affords 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, decide 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 of catch an affordable and fast flight again to Auckland on your worldwide flight house.

In the event you’re heading to Christchurch, hold studying. In the event you’d like to go to Wellington, scroll again up and comply with 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 had been killed and three,000 buildings had 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, retailers, and reveals. The locals have labored laborious to rebuild, and there’s a group spirit right here that basically shines. I like the place Christchurch goes.

Whereas there’s not so much “to do” per se, the vibe right here is absolutely relaxed, and it’s value not speeding by means of in case you aren’t quick on time. Be sure you 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 a listing of extra issues to do in Christchurch, try my metropolis information.

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

If it’s good 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 ebook upfront.

New Zealand Highway Journey Itinerary: One Month

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

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

Issues to Keep in mind When Highway-Tripping New Zealand

That will help you profit from your street journey, please keep in mind the next guidelines:

  • Visitors flows on the left right here (not the correct, like within the US or Canada).
  • You have to at all times park your automotive within the route that visitors goes (or threat a nice).
  • There are many pull-off factors for taking photographs — use them as a substitute of stopping at a random spot alongside the aspect of the street, which will be fairly harmful given how tight the roads are right here.
  • Roads listed below are winding, so keep in mind that it would take longer than you count on to cowl a selected distance.
  • So long as your present and legitimate driver’s license is in English, you don’t want an Worldwide Driver’s Allow.
  • In the event you’re touring by campervan, use the CamperMate app to search out close by campsites, gasoline stations, and dump stations.


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

Want a rental automotive on your epic journey? use the widget beneath to search out the most effective offers!

Guide Your Journey to New Zealand: Logistical Ideas and Methods

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 at all times know no stone is left unturned!

Guide Your Lodging
You possibly can ebook your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve the largest stock and greatest offers. If you wish to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use as they constantly return the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low cost motels.

In the event you’re searching for particular locations to remain, here’s a full checklist of my favourite hostels in New Zealand.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you in opposition to sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes improper. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions up to now. My favourite firms that provide the most effective service and worth are:

In search of the Finest Firms to Save Cash With?
Try my useful resource web page for the most effective firms to make use of if you journey. I checklist all those I exploit to save cash once I’m on the street. They are going to prevent cash if you journey too.

Need Extra Info on New Zealand?
Be sure you go to our sturdy vacation spot information on New Zealand for much more planning ideas!



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