I think New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world! This is what heaven must look like. New Zealand is a typically outdoor country, meaning you have to like hiking, mountain biking, jumping out of a helicopter or plane, kayaking et cetera. If you are into shopping and old culture cities, New Zealand might not be the country for you.
We started our journey from Auckland (Northern Island). A big part of the journey consisted of narrow and bendy mountain roads. Usually I’m not easily impressed, but during the entire roadtrip a few times a day a ‘WOW’ slipped out of my mouth. Most of the times the roadtrip was more beautiful than the destination itself. Please find below our itinerary, which is hopefully of use to you. I hope you will enjoy the trip as much as I did! I can really recommend the below itinerary and activities mentioned. It covers many of the countries’ highlights and offers you a great experience and view of what the country has to offer. Ooh, don’t forget to bring your wind- and rain jacket. Since you can experience four seasons in a day, I advice you to wear layered clothing.
Day 1: Auckland
Arrival in Auckland. Stay at Freemans Backpackers which is a small, cosy and clean hostel.
Day 2: Bay of Islands
Drive towards Bay of Islands and stay at Top 10 Russell Holiday Park.
Day 3: Bay of Islands / Hokianga
At Bay of Islands, take some walks along the beautiful bays for stunning views and pictures.
Drive further towards Whirinaki and to Hokianga. Stay at Okopako Lodge (this was one of my favorite places to stay in NZ). This is an eco-farm and as you can see offers panoramic views of the countryside. If you like, you can stay at these lovely creative caravans. Moreover, fresh organic products, homemade bread and farmhouse meals are available.
Day 4: Whaipoua Forest / Auckland
From Hokianga it’s a short drive to the forest (max 2 hours). Its’ a nice drive through the different forests and stop for a walk to witness the massive kauri trees. Drive further towards Auckland.
Day 5: Auckland
There is plenty of stuff to do in Auckland. You can walk the Coast to Coast Walkway or do the City Heritage Walk. Or if you are into cycling, cycle along the boardwalk, waterfront and along the coast. Also the region offers nice biking trails. Not so much into activity? You can visit art galleries, go to the spa or take a wine tour :).
Day 6: Hot Water Beach – Coromandel
Drive towards Hot Water Beach and stay at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park in the Backpackers Lodge. We didn’t find Hot Water Beach that impressive, so we relaxed at the Holiday Park.
Day 7: Hot Water Beach – Coromandel
I recommend you to drive to the neighboring town of Hahei. From there you can take a very scenic hike to the most famous Cathedral Cove on the beach.
Day 8: Rotorua
Drive towards Rotorua. The sulphure (rotten eggs) smell is something you have to get used to, but the countless geothermal attractions are very impressive. Start with a visit to the public Kaurui Park before heading towards the famous and well-known Wai-O-Tapu Park to witness the colorful geothermal activities.
Day 9: Rotorua
It seems that Rotorua hosts some of the best mountain biking trails. You can also learn about Maori culture in this town.
Day 10: Ohakune / Tongariro National Park
Drive towards Ohakune and stay at Station Lodge.
Day 11: Ohakune / Tongariro National Park
From this lodge you have a very nice view on Mount Ruapheu. Of course the Tongariro National Park is a must do when you are here. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most spectacular hikings on the Northern Island. We were very lucky with the weather, it was sunny and dry. The crossing can be quite dangerous when it rains and it’s not advisable to hike under bad weather conditions.
Day 12: Wellington
Drive towards Wellington.
Day 13: Wellington
Make sure to visit the Te Papa museum – Museum of New Zealand. Really worth it.
Day 14: We took the ferry to the Southern Island and headed to Nelson
Day 15: Nelson / Abel Tasman Park
Stay at Tasman Bay Backpackers. The Abel Tasman Park is known for its scenic ‘Coastal Track’, a hiking route along nice beaches and through the forests. Also kayaking is a popular activity to do. Transport from one place to the other is mainly by sea-taxi.
Day 16: Hokitika
When you drive from Nelson to Hokitika, take the scenic coastal route Highway 6 towards Punakaiki. It’s a nice break to pay a visit to the Pancake Rocks and do the Blowholes Walk.
Once at Hokitika, stay at Birdsong hostel. In the hostel you have nice ocean views from the communal lounge and it’s just a short stroll to the beach and glow-worms area at night.
Day 17: Fox Glacier
Drive towards Fox Glacier. If you are interested in glaciers, definitely take a walk on this amazing piece of nature.
Day 18: Queenstown
Drive towards Queenstown and stay in Little Paradise Lodge. Beautifully located with a view on Lake Wakatipu and a garden and hostel which consists of all handmade, natural, beautiful crafts. It’s one of the most unique gardens / hostels I have ever seen.
Day 19: Queenstown
If you are into extreme outdoor sports, please make the most of it while you are in Queenstown!
Day 20: Te Anau
Drive to Te Anau and stay at Bob’s and Maxine’s.
Day 21: Te Anau
Te Anau is the perfect town to base yourself from to visit the Fiordland Park (Milford Sound). We took a boat trip to view the beautiful nature of the fjords. Moreover, Fiordland Park seems to be a hiking paradise.
Day 22: Dunedin
Drive to Dunedin.
Day 23: Dunedin
Dunedin is a typical university town with a Scottish appearance. It has a historic train station from where you can explore a unique journey, called the Otago Central Rail Trail. This is a journey into the region’s heartland of mountains, dry, rocky landscapes, farmland, river gorges, tunnels and townships. It’s approximately 150 kilometers and ideal for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Day 24: Dunedin
Explore the peninsula (also called Otago Peninsula) to view the scenery.
Day 25: Mount Cook
Drive towards Mount Cook and stay at Mount Cook YHA.
Day 26: Mount Cook
Mount Cook and the surrounding area with the beautiful Lake Pukaki, offers the most beautiful hiking routes. You can stay here for a few days and explore the different hiking (and a bit of climbing) routes.
Day 27: Mount Cook
I took a helicopter tour which took me above the glaciers and included a snowlanding on a remote part of the glacier.
Day 28: Christchurch
On the way from Mount Cook towards Christchurch you pass by Lake Tekapo, a scenic area! Christchurch is New Zealand’s second-largest city and was still in the build up phase (when I visited it) after the earthquake. They have done a very nice job in the town center: numerous containers with glass on the side function as a bank, restaurant or retail store in all kinds of colours. They are even piled up. It looks very trendy. You can always go to the Botanical Gardens, take the TranzAlpine Train or the Gondola for a nice view.