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New Zealand is a stunning country with a remarkable cultural history and incredible natural wonders, from sprawling alpine vistas and caves illuminated by glowworms to geothermal springs. This hotspot for adventurous travelers and outdoor lovers guarantees new experiences and unforgettable sights. With two islands to explore and friendly locals to guide you along the way, your trip to New Zealand will be perfect, whether you want to hike, relax on the beach, sample local wines at a winery or bungee jump. If you’re getting ready to plan your vacation, here are some sample New Zealand itineraries to help you get started!
- Celina Rios
- From USA
It’s always tricky to figure out how much time to spend in a new country. New Zealand isn’t a huge country, but it can still take some time to navigate. A week is really only enough time to explore one of the country’s two main islands but in three weeks you’ll see nearly all of the country’s best sights and can take your time. In our opinion, the best New Zealand itinerary will be around ten days. In ten days you can get really into the parts of the country that appeal to you, whether that means hiking, hunting for sets from the Lord of the Rings, or going all-in on adventure sports.
New Zealand itineraries for a single week may be a little cramped, but you’ll still get to see a lot of the country’s best sights. For just a week, it’s best to choose one island and explore it. Our New Zealand travel itinerary involves a week on the South Island, home to some truly stunning natural scenes and a mecca for outdoorsy travelers.
Start your trip in Christchurch. From there you can climb the Sugarloaf at Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve. You can choose from several different trails and difficulties which will reward you with some gorgeous views. Road trip to the stunning turquoise shores of Lake Tekapo before heading to the nearby Mount Cook National Park where you will find glaciers, mountain scenes, and even icebergs floating in Hooker Lake.
Drive to Queenstown with a stop-off in Wanaka if you’re in the mood for some beautiful hiking trails that will take you up above the clouds. Spend the last few days of your trip in Queenstown, where you can participate in all kinds of adventure activities from skydiving to bungee jumping. Make sure to leave a day to enjoy a cruise around Milford Sound before you pack up and head home.
If you’re more interested in checking out the North Island, this New Zealand trip itinerary is for you! Start your trip in Auckland with a walking tour of this pedestrian-friendly city. Enjoy a day trip to Waitakere Ranges. From rugged shores to vibrant waterfalls, this area is a real highlight. If you’re a surfer, be sure to stop at Piha Beach!
Rent a car and head to Rotorua, but be sure to stop at the otherworldly Waitomo Glowworm Caves on your way and, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you can also visit Hobbiton, the movie set used for the Shire. Once you reach Rotorua, you’ll want to set up there for a few days while you visit the many incredible natural wonders nearby, from geothermal geysers to redwood forests!
Stop off at Waimangu Volcanic Valley for some interesting sights on your way to Taupo, from which you can do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike, often called the best hike on the North Island. The rugged landscape looks like something from a different planet.
Take a day off to relax in Taupo before heading to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city and your final destination. But don’t worry, there’s plenty to keep you occupied!
For our selected itinerary recommendations, check out our 10 days in New Zealand guide.
From Auckland to Queenstown, two-week New Zealand itineraries can cover a lot of ground. You can make your way from the top of the North Island, starting in Auckland and follow a similar trail to the ten-day itinerary above. On your way out of Auckland, visit the Coromandel Peninsula where you can explore Cathedral Cove and dig your own jacuzzi in the sand at Hot Water Beach.
Spend a day in Rotorua with a stopover in a Maori village to get to know New Zealand’s traditional culture before heading to Wellington. After a day in town, hop on a ferry to the South Island and enjoy some local wine or go for a swim with dolphins.
Head South to Franz Josef Glacier, where you can take a helicopter ride to undisturbed ice or kayak in the mirror-like Lake Mapourika. After a day in these stunning mountains, your next stop is Queenstown for two days of all the adventure activities you can handle, with some time for a relaxing cruise in Doubtful Sound.
Spend one of the last nights on your New Zealand vacation itinerary in a mountain chalet near Mount Cook, home to the world’s largest buttercup flower in addition to the stunning alpine views, before finishing your trip in Christchurch.
Three-week New Zealand itineraries really allow you to see it all. You can do a similar itinerary to the two week trip above, leaving time to linger in the places you love, or add on additional destinations here or there. Hike around Punakaiki as you travel between Franz Josef and Christchurch or spend a few days hiking around Mt Ruapehu and tackle the aforementioned Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Visit New Zealand’s mild-weathered “winterless north” and hop on a ship in the Bay of Islands.
An itinerary of this length gives you plenty of time to explore both islands in depth. Whether you want to learn about New Zealand’s Maori history and colonial period, immerse yourself in non-stop nature, or get your adrenaline pumping with adventure sports (or all of the above!), you can certainly find the time to fit it in.
If you like any of these itineraries or would like to create your own, connect with our travel expert in New Zealand to plan the best New Zealand itinerary for your upcoming vacation. If you’d like to explore New Zealand in a group, you can also check out our New Zealand tours page.