2 Weeks in New Zealand: South & North Island Itinerary
Spending 2 weeks in New Zealand? Doing a New Zealand road trip? This 2 week New Zealand itinerary will show you the best places to visit in both North Island and South Island.
New Zealand is a place of natural beauty that compares to no other. Ever since I saw Lord of the Rings movie it’s a place I knew I just had to visit at least once in life.
Fast forward 10+ years, I finally had the opportunity to visit New Zealand on a 2 week road trip and the scenery in New Zealand is even better than what I had imagined.
New Zealand has so much to offer: beautiful lupines, turquoise lakes, snowcapped towering peaks, incredible hiking trails, cute farm animals, and amazing food. The good news is that you can see all of this in 2 weeks in New Zealand.
If you are like me and this is your first time visiting New Zealand, you must have a lot of questions!
Is 2 weeks enough in New Zealand?
What’s there to do in New Zealand?
Do I need to drive in New Zealand?
When should I go in New Zealand?
Do I need to hike in New Zealand?
These were all the questions I had once so I can help you answer them in this New Zealand itinerary!
This 2 week New Zealand itinerary will show you some of the best places in New Zealand (both North Island and South Island). You can also customize this itinerary regardless of your interest.
This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Overview of 2 Week New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
New Zealand is a large country and there are so much you can do. The itinerary below is what I would recommend for 2 weeks in New Zealand if you like to hike as well as enjoy some relaxing touristy activities.
Day 1: <South Island> Fly into Christchurch
Day 2 – 4: Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Day 5 – 6: Wanaka
Day 7 – 8: Te Anau and Milford Sound
Day 9-10: Queenstown
Day 11 – 13: <North Island> Rotorua and Tongariro National Park
Day 14: Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, Auckland
Day 15: Auckland, Departure from New Zealand
Places I did not visit on my New Zealand road trip but would recommend for your reference:
Arthur’s Pass National Park: The highest pass over the Southern Alps situated between Canterbury and the West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand.
Abel Tasman National Park: A beautiful coastal National Park on the North side of the South Island in New Zealand. I wish I had done Abel Tasman NP as the view looks incredible and there is a golden sand beach you can visit. One of the Great Walks of New Zealand is in Abel Tasman NP.
Islands and Beaches in the North Island: Since I only had 5 days in the North Island, I didn’t really get to see much besides Rotorua, Waitomo, and Tongariro National Park. But North Island is known for its various islands and beaches.
New Zealand Visa Requirement (Even if You Don’t Need a Visa, Read This!)
Most NZeTA requests are processed within 72 hours and it costs NZD $17 on the free app or NZD $23 if completed online.
You do not need an NZeTA if you are a New Zealand citizen, Australian citizen, or you already have a valid visa or New Zealand, including a Permanent Resident Visa. If you are transiting through New Zealand for less than 24 hours (and not leave the airport), you also do not need NZeTA.
What’s the Best Time to Visit New Zealand
New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, so its summer months is from December to February and its winter is from June to August.
Since there is both North Island and South Island in New Zealand, the weather can vary between the different areas of New Zealand.
The far north has subtropical weather, with hot and humid summer and mild winter. The more south you go in New Zealand, the cooler the temperature. In fact it can snow on the South Island of New Zealand in the winter!
You can see the general weather trends in Auckland (North Island) and Queenstown (South Island) in the two charts below.
The most popular time to visit New Zealand is in the summer, from December to February.
Christmas and New Years is when you can expect most international tourists to visit New Zealand. It is also when hotel and flight prices are the highest and the most crowded time.
When visiting New Zealand in the summer (December and January), you can expect beautiful lupines to be blooming (although they are considered invasive and the New Zealand government is trying to get rid of them), warm and mostly sunny weather and great hiking conditions.
However summer is also when seasonal allergy is bad in New Zealand.
If you are especially allergic to tree and grass pollens, you may want to bring hardcore allergy pills and nasal spray (I had never had allergy that bad before I visited New Zealand in December).
If you would like to avoid crowd but still have relatively nice weather, the shoulder fall season between February and March is a good time to visit New Zealand.
Since it snows on the South Island, if you are interested in snow sports, then winter (June to August) is a good time to visit New Zealand.
How to Get Around New Zealand
This 2 week New Zealand itinerary requires you to have a car or a camper van to get around New Zealand because this itinerary covers a lot of hiking trails that tour groups simply do not go to.
However if you are not into hiking and want to stick to the cities or touristy groups, you can certain get around cities with Uber and tours.
Renting a car in New Zealand
It is very easy to rent a car in New Zealand for your self-drive roadtrip.
With a rental car, you have complete flexibility to explore any areas you want! This is the best option for most travelers who want to stay in hotels but drive around during the day.
Renting a camper van/ motorhome in New Zealand
If you want an awesome experience in New Zealand and you don’t care to stay in hotels or Airbnbs, then renting a camper van or motorhome may be the best options for you.
Camper Vans generally sleep 2-4 people and motorhomes can fit up to 6 people. They cost between NZD $100 – NZD $300 a day.
However keep in mind that camper vans and motorhomes can be quite large with high fuel cost (and low mileage) and you might be THAT person that blocks traffic on single lane roads. But if you want the experience of waking up next to a lake or flower field then you should definitely consider renting a camper van or motorhome.
But if you like a proper shower and bathroom and maybe even heater then you might not want to rent a camper van.
Using Uber and tours in New Zealand
If you are mostly staying in large cities then you can certain take Uber around town and book tours and day trips to take you to touristy spots.
Detailed 2 Week New Zealand Itinerary (South Island & North Island)
Below is our detailed itinerary to spend 2 weeks in New Zealand.
This sample 2 week New Zealand itinerary will start in the South Island for around 10 days then fly up to North Island for another 4 days.
You certainly do not need to follow this and customize your own New Zealand itinerary based on your interest, since this itinerary involves a lot of hikes.
Day 1 in New Zealand: Arriving into Christchurch
If you are visiting the South Island of New Zealand you will either fly into Queenstown or Christchurch.
It really doesn’t matter which city you fly into because you can do this New Zealand road trip itinerary in reverse and fly out from the other city. We simply flew into Christchurch because it was slightly cheaper (not by much though).
Christchurch is one of the largest cities in the South Island as well as the entire New Zealand. Unfortunately Christchurch suffered a devastating earth quake in 2011 so most of the buildings you see in Christchurch are now either new or very short.
Best Things to do in Christchurch:
There are a number of things you can do in Christchurch so depending on when you actually fly in and how tired you are, some of the things you can consider:
185 Empty Chairs: an unofficial memorial for the 185 individuals who died during the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens: a really nice botanic garden in the Christchurch city center.
What to eat in Christchurch
We only spent a day in Christchurch since we landed around noon but really enjoyed the lunch and dinner places we went:
Where to stay in Christchurch
Day 2 in New Zealand: Lakes & Mt. Cook
On Day 2 you will be visiting a couple of the most famous lakes in New Zealand on your way to Mt. Cook.
Located about 3 hours drive away from Christchurch, Lake Tekapo is probably in every postcard you can find of New Zealand.
Famous for its turquoise colored water, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Mount John Observatory, Lake Tekapo is also one of the best places to see the stars in the world.
Due to its location in the Dark Sky Reserve, on a clear night you will find all the photographers taking night shots near Lake Tekapo.
Many tour buses also visit Lake Tekapo during the day so expect a lot of people when you are there (unless you go really early).
During spring and early summer there are a lot of lupine fields near the lake so it’s extremely beautiful.
Lake Pukaki is another beautiful lake about 20 minutes from Lake Tekapo on the drive to Mt. Cook.
Lake Pukaki is not as famous as Lake Tekapo for no good reason. I actually personally find Lake Pukaki more beautiful than Lake Pukaki.
The lake is much more blue and bigger than Lake Tekapo, with a direct view of Mt. Cook on a clear day. There are also almost nobody at the lake making it the perfect place to relax away from people.
There is a visitor center at Lake Pukaki that has parking and a nice view but there are also a few view points along the drive.
Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park
Housing the tallest mountain of New Zealand, Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park is known for the snow capped mountain, dramatic landscape, and amazing hikes.
One of the most famous hikes in New Zealand, Hooker Valley Track, is in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and attracts many tourists everyday.
The reason Hooker Valley is so famous and popular is due to its amazing landscape with minimal effort. The hike is 1.5 hour each way through valleys, swing bridges along the lake to a glacier fed lake and the hike is pretty flat and easy. If you are hiking this, expects crowds.
There is another famous hike at Mount Cook called Mueller Hut Track. It’s a very strenuous 6-8 hour hike with an amazing view from the top. Many people hike up to stay at the Mueller Hut but you don’t have to.
If you don’t want to hike so far up there is an option to hike half way to Sealy Tarn, which is much easier and still has amazing view.
Where to Stay in Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park
Where to Eat in Mt. Cook Village
Day 3: Mueller Hut Track or Sealy Tarns Hike
Day 4: Hooker Valley Track & Wanaka
Start your day bright and early as we will be doing some more hikes today in Mount Cook and drive 2 hours to the town of Wanaka.
Hooker Valley Track
Length: 3 hours round trip (5km)
If you are staying in Mount Cook, the trail head starts at White Horse Hill Camp ground, about 15 min drive from all the hotels in Mount Cook Village. This is the same trail head as Mueller Hut hike and Sealy Tarn Hike.
The Hooker Valley Track has varying landscape throughout the hike. On a clear day you will see many families and old people on the trail. I suggest you either go super early or later during the day to avoid most of the crowds.
Hooker Valley will be your last activity in Mount Cook NP.
Other things to do at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Even if you are not a big hiker there are still plenty of easier tracks and other non hiking things to do in Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park.
Tasman Glacier: a short 1 hour walk to see the Tasman Lake, the longest glacier in Aoraki/ Mount Cook NP. Best done in the summer when the lake is not frozen. You can kayak or take a boat trip on the Tasman Lake during the warmer months.
Stargazing in the International Dark Reserve: Aoraki/ Mount Cook NP, just like Lake Tekapo sits inside the International Dark Reserve. You can simply step outside of your hotel at night to see the stars.
If you want a guided tour then there is the Big Sky Stargazing tour. The tour includes planetarium show, viewing points and telescope, and insights and explanations from the guides. However I have heard about mixed views of this tour.
If you are a casual stargazer then this might be for you, but if you are a hardcore photographer then you might want to consider just staying around Lake Tekapo and take photos near Lake Tekapo yourself.
Drive to Wanaka from Mount Cook
One of the most scenic drives in the South Island of New Zealand is the drive between Mount Cook and Wanaka. After you leave the Mount Cook area you will again pass by Lake Pukaki.
After that you will pass by a couple of towns and eventually reach the beautiful Lindis Pass, a pass that goes through mountain valleys.
The drive can be narrow and windy as you traverse between the mountains but the view is amazing. During spring and early summer the drive is lined by lupines on the side of the road with mountain peaks surrounding you.
There is a popular hike on Lindis Pass that takes you to an amazing view point. But the hike looked very steep from the highway and we didn’t have time to stop.
Wanaka, a resort town about 2 hours drive from Aoraki/ Mount Cook NP (5 hours drive from Christchurch) is an ideal destination for those who want to explore New Zealand’s natural beauty a bit more.
There are a lot of great hiking trails near Wanaka and lake activities (including #ThatWanakaTree). Wanaka is also not too far from Mount Aspiring National Park (my favorite national park in New Zealand), Lake Hawea, Haast Pass and the Blue Pools.
Since you will be arriving in the afternoon in Wanaka, I suggest you take it chill and walk around the town of Wanaka or pay a visit to the Lake.
Where to Stay in Wanaka
What to Eat in Wanaka
Wanaka actually has a lot of great food options! I will list some of my favorite places:
The Doughbin: award winning pies, literally. Get the vegetable, chicken Leek and Bacon pie
Patagonia Chocolate: my favorite Gelato place in New Zealand. Tons of different flavors and sundaes. I really liked the chocolate (always trust it if it’s in the name). There are multiples stores in Queenstown also.
Big Fig: a nice “healthy” spot with make-your-own-bowl style food. I loved the pork as well as some of the sides.
Food Trucks ( Brownston Street ): Who would’ve thought there are food trucks in Wanaka? Not far from our motel are a number of food trucks selling acai bowls, dumplings, Pizza and tacos. We tried the pizza from Francesca’s Pizzas Food truck and the tacos from Burrito Craft, both were pretty good!
Day 5: Lake Wanaka & Roy’s Peak
Lake Wanaka is beautiful to visit any time of the day. There is a famous lone tree on the side of the Lake Wanaka about 1 mile from the town center of Wanaka.
Many photographers go at either sunrise or sunset for the photo of the tree. This tree is so famous that it has its own hastag #thatwanakatree
Roy’s Peak Hike
Length: 6 hours round trip (16km/ 10 miles)
Elevation: ~1,600 meters (5,200 ft)
Difficulty: Cardio Intense & very steep
After reading a lot of articles and reviews I came to 4 conclusions about Roy’s Peak Hike before I went myself:
- Parking lot at Roy’s Peak fill up very early because it’s THAT popular
- This hike is hard. Roy’s Peak is pretty strenuous so make sure you are relatively fit
- The Roy’s Peak hike is boring
- There is a line to take that Instagram photo at Roy’s Peak
After actually going to Roy’s Peak all of the above are pretty spot on.
Roy’s Peak Hike is a strenuous 6-7 hour round trip hike. The hike is extremely boring because it’s literally a dirt trail going up the mountain with a million switchbacks on the same side of the mountain.
The viewpoint is not on the summit and there is always a line.
Most people hike Roy’s peak early in the morning but by 4pm this trail pretty much becomes empty. Summer sunset tome is 9:30pm so you still have plenty of day light.
If you go around morning time you will end up waiting in that Instagram line for 30 minutes or more, so go later!
Day 6 in New Zealand: Rob Roy Glacier Hike & the Blue Pools
Rob Roy Glacier Hike
Length: 5km each way (3 hours roundtrip)
Elevation: ~500m (~1600 ft)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Wanaka is very close to Mount Aspiring National Park and the Rob Roy Glacier Hike is situated in Mount Aspiring National Park, one of my favorite national parks in New Zealand.
The trail head to Rob Roy Glacier track is about an hour drive from Wanaka (you will pass Roy’s Peak on the drive there).
There are 9 “ditches” or fords you will pass when you are about 20 minutes from Rob Roy Glacier trail head.
The first ford on the drive to Rob Roy Glacier hike is the biggest and you won’t be able to drive through it with a sedan if there is heavy rain which increases water level in these fords.
It’s best to drive a SUV or truck to access Rob Roy (although I had a sedan in early summer and it was fine).
The Rob Roy glacier track is a 3 hour round trip moderately difficult track to see a live glacier and waterfalls. The track is mostly in a beech forest long Rob Roy Stream with a good amount of steepness (not as steep as Roy’s Peak but still tiring).
There are two view points at Rob Roy’s Glacier track, the Lower Lookout and the Upper Lookout. I personally think the Lower Lookout point is unimpressive as you don’t really see much.
The Upper Lookout is about an hour more hike but the view is amazing since the glacier is right in your face.
If you venture off just a little bit you can avoid all the people and enjoy the view yourself. This hike is not as popular or crowded as Roy’s Peak even tho it’s a much better hike.
Blue Pools Walk
The Blue Pools Walk is about an hour drive from Wanaka. Blue Pools a nice walk across Makarora River on Haast Highway on the east side of Mount Aspiring National Park.
The walk is about 20 minutes through the beech forest across a nice swing bridge.
The blue colored water from Makarora River can be seen from the bridge and you can even go down to the shores. If you want to venture more there is a hike down to Young Valley from the Blue Pools.
If you are not into hiking then Blue Pools walk is perfect since it’s so short and the view is nice. But if you’ve already done a bit of hiking around New Zealand then you may not care for it.
Unfortunately when I was there it was cloudy and rainy so the colors of the water were not that amazing, but I can imagine how vibrant it would be on a sunny day.
On your drive between Wanaka and the Blue Pools you will pass two lakes: Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Both lakes are beautiful and popular. In the summer there are people fishing, swimming and boating in Lake Hawea.
There is a look out point at Lake Hawea you can stop and take some photos.
If you want to see Lake Hawea from above you can do Isthmus Peak Hike, a very similar hike to Roy’s Peak except less people. On Isthmus Peak you can see both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea instead of just Lake Wanaka as from Roy’s peak.
Other Hikes Near Wanaka
There are so many hikes near Wanaka; Roy’s peak and Rob Roy Glacier track are just two of the most popular ones.
I suggest you download the app Wanaka Tracks App which is the official app developed by the Lake Wanaka tourism board. The app lists all the hikes in the Wanaka region.
The most note worthy ones include Mount Iron Walk, Aspiring Hut Hike, Outlet Walk, etc. If you are looking for hiking trails near Wanaka be sure to check out this app.
Day 7: Te Anau, Drive to Milford Sound, Key Summit Hike
You can have some flexibility as to how you want to arrange your itinerary today. If you want to do more hikes near Wanaka then you can do that first then drive to Te Anau and skip Key Summit Hike.
Personally I was ready for a change of scenery and a shorter hike with an amazing view (the famous hikes near Wanaka are all relatively long).
Driving From Wanaka to Queenstown
In order to get to Te Anau from Wanaka you have to sort of pass by Queenstown first (you won’t get to Queenstown town center but you will drive near the Queenstown airport).
It’s about an hour drive between Wanaka and Queenstown and this part of the drive is super scenic!
The drive from Wanaka to Queenstown is mostly between mountain passes once again with a couple of amazing look out points at the top of the mountain.
When we were there we saw double rainbows because it had just rained. After the lookout points the drive gets extremely windy in the end, with 15km hairpin turns. But this is great practice for your upcoming drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown.
Te Anau is a small town about 2 hours drive from Queenstown. It’s also the last town before you enter Fiordland National Park and the last place to gas up the car. There are many restaurants, hotels and activities in Te Anau.
Other things to do in Te Anau include Te Anau Glowworm Cave, Bird Sanctuary, kayaking and boating on Lake Te Anau.
Many hikers use Te Anau as a base for their multi day hikes because a number of New Zealand’s Great Walks have trail heads near Te Anau, such as the Milford Sound Track, Kepler Track and Routeburn Track.
Where to Stay in Te Anau
There are plenty of lodging options in Te Anau such as hotels, motels, lodges, holiday parks and budget options.
Where to Eat in Te Anau
Even though the town of Te Anau is small, there is actually a lot of restaurants. Some of good ones include:
La Toscana: very popular Italian restaurant in the Te Anau town center. When I was there around 8pm two days before Christmas it was 1+ hour wait.
Ristorante Pizzeria Pardiso Da Toni: Another popular Italian restaurant known for their pizza.
Radhas Indian Restaurant: Really good Indian restaurant! I was impressed by the food given I eat a lot of Indian food in New York.
Drive to Milford Sound From Te Anau
Milford Sound is about 2 hours from Te Anau but this drive on highway 94 is the true definition of “it’s about the journey not the destination”.
Key Summit Track
Distance: 3.5km one way (3 hours round trip)
Elevation: ~1200ft to climb from The Divide to Summit (~365m)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Day 8 in New Zealand: Milford Sound & Lake Marian Track
Yesterday was just a teaser of what to come today, a full day to explore Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park.
Milford Sound is the most popular attraction in the South Island of New Zealand if not the entire country. Even though Milford Sound weather is mostly rain you can still visit this natural wonder all times of the year.
Many people take a day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound for the cruise but I personally think it’s better to drive yourself from Te Anau to Milford Sound since a day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound is literally 8 hours sitting in a bus.
The Drive to Milford Sound is Amazing
As the most popular activity in Milford Sound, a sightseeing cruise shows you the peaks, waterfalls and wild lives of Milford Sound. During rainy days there are many temporary waterfalls form on the walls of Milford Sound.
Generally Milford Sound sightseeing cruises last about an hour and half.
Lake Marian Track
Length: 3 hours round trip (3km one way)
Eleavtion Gain: ~420m (~1377ft)
Lake Marian Track is a not-so-hidden gem in Milford Sound. Many hikers now make it a mission to go to Lake Marian, which is reflected by the super packed parking lot.
When I got there around 2pm the parking lots (there are two) were pretty much full. I got pretty lucky that I was able to get a parking spot but the car behind me wasn’t so lucky.
Even though Lake Marian Track is not very long by distance, it takes a while because the trail is full of big rocks so you really need to pay attention to where you step on.
I would not recommend hiking Lake Marian Track on a rainy day because the rocks can get pretty slippery.
Furthermore, the trail markers are not very clear on Lake Marian Track. So if you are hiking it go when there is day light and pay attention to the trail markers (I only saw them on the way back, got lost on the hike there…)
Day 9-10 in New Zealand: Queenstown
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and I had heard so much about Queenstown even before I was planning my New Zealand itinerary.
Everyone was telling me how amazing Queenstown is. So why is Queenstown so famous?
Queenstown is beautiful there is no doubt about that. Situated by Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the Southern alps, Queenstown has all sorts of adventure activities one can do and you can literally spend a week in Queenstown and not get bored.
Driving From Te Anau to Queenstown
The drive between Te Anau and Queenstown is about 2 hours and to be honest most of the drive is pretty boring and uneventful.
When you are about 30 minutes from Queenstown you start to see the beautiful views of the lake and the mountains.
Starting with the town of Kingston, you will begin driving along the right side of Lake Wakatipu. There are a couple of view points along the drive, with the most famous one being Devil’s Staircase.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Queenstown is a big city so there are MANY places you can stay, ranging from luxury to budget.
Where to Eat in Queenstown
There are so many restaurants and amazing food in Queenstown. I’ll just highlight a few that I really liked.
Fergburger: You simply cannot go to Queenstown and not eat at Fergburger. Fergburger is probably the most famous restaurant in Queenstown and for good reason. Honestly I was skeptical by all the hype and assumed the worst.
But the burger is actually REALLY good (I’ve eaten plenty of good burgers consider I live in NYC). The line however is pretty long and there is very limited seating.
You can call them to place a phone order and just go pick it up to avoid waiting in that ridiculous line. I liked the Ferg Deluxe and the Chief Wiggum (pork belly) burger. Fergburger also has a bakery next door with great pies and ice cream.
Captains Restaurant: Great sea food and very popular. The sea food platter looks amazing and the fish and lamb rack is good.
Caribe Latin Kitchen: Tacos and Quesadilla, so good!
Patagonia Chocolate: Ok I talked about them back in Wanaka but I really like them and went there everyday.
Things to do in Queenstown
Since Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, of course there are plenty of adventurous activities (as well as non-adventurous activities) in Queenstown.
Queenstown Skyline Gondola
One of the most popular attractions in Queenstown, the Skyline Gondola takes you to the peak of Bob’s Peak for a panoramic view of Queenstown.
There is a restaurant there as well. If you want to do stargazing tours in Queenstown, the tour will take you up Bob’s Peak at night. The gondola closes at 9pm so only those with stargazing tours or restaurant reservation are allowed up there at night.
The Luge is a fun family friendly activity at Skyline Gondola. You ride in a luge cart and go down the hill as fast as you want. I didn’t think I was going to like it but it was actually really fun and I ended up going back 3 times.
Ben Lomond Hike
You can hike from the bottom of the Gondola all the way up to the summit of Ben Lomond. However the easier way is to take the Gondola up to Bob’s Peak and start the trail from there.
You can mountain bike from the top of the Gondola.
Zipline in Queenstown
Bungy Jumping in Queenstown
Queenstown is the capital of Bungy Jumping and where they first commercialized bungy jumping in the world.
There are 2 places you can Bungy Jump in Queenstown, one is next to Bob’s Peak and another one is in Kawarau. You can also go out of town to Nevis Bungy above the Nevis River.
Skydiving in Queenstown
Dart River Funyaks
I was looking for a full day activity since most of the jetboating activities are pretty short.
Dark River Funyak has about an hour of jet boating on Dart River near Glenorchy and then you have to kayak half way back down to Paradise. It was super fun but it was also pretty tiring, but I’m glad we got to do it because the experience was amazing.
Take a Helicopter Ride
The view is unreal and something you cannot get anywhere else. However these helicopter rides can be quite pricey.
Relax in Onsen Hot Pools
One of the most popular hotsprings spa in Queenstown is making its rounds on Social media and that’s the Onsen Hot Pools.
You will need to make reservation way before during peak summer season to avoid disappointment. But honestly I found some other pretty cool hot springs places in Rotorua in the North Island.
Lake Wakatipu Cruise
Not into adventures? Don’t worry, there are very relaxing activities in Queenstown as well.
One of the most popular relaxing things to do in Queenstown is to take a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu. Some of the cruises also include lunch, so just sit back and relax.
Take a Day Trip to Milford Sound
As mentioned earlier, many people opt to take a full day trip to Milford Sound for the scenic cruise. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown.
Visit Arrowtown or Glenorchy
There are some cute small towns near Queenstown and the most popular ones are Arrowtown and Glenorchy. I find that there really isn’t much to do in Glenorchy but the drive itself is quite nice.
Day 11 in New Zealand: Travel to Rotorua in North Island
It’s now time to leave South Island and start your adventure to North Island. It actually takes like 5-6 hours to get to Rotorua in the North Island because there is no direct flight from Queenstown.
You will need to fly to Auckland then transfer to Rotorua even though the flight from Auckland to Rotorua is only 40 minutes.
When you fly out of Queenstown, make sure to pay for a window seat.
The plane flies over the Southern Alps and on my flight I was able to see Roy’s Peak (Wanaka) and Mount Cook from my window seat! It was such an amazing view I would totally do it again even though I hate flying.
Drive to Tongariro National Park
After you land in Rotorua, pick up your rental car and start driving to Tongariro National Park. It takes about 2-3 hours to drive from Rotorua Airport to Tongariro National Park.
The reason I am not staying in Rotorua is because if you want to hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing the next day, you should start as early as possible before it gets too crowded.
It’s best to stay as close to the Tongariro shuttle pick up point as possible that’s why I am suggesting staying in Tongariro National Park the night before the hike.
Where to Stay and Eat in Tongariro National Park
There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance such as the Schnapps Bar and Spiral Bar & Restaurant. One is known for its pizza and the other restaurant is known for its baby back ribs and dessert.
Day 12 in New Zealand: Hiking Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The only reason we stopped by Rotorua is actually to hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing, labeled the best day hike in New Zealand and one of the best day hikes in the world.
If you are a fan of the Lord of the rings, you would know Mount Doom and this hike takes you very close to Mount Doom.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a strenuous 8-10 hour hike traversing across the volcanic landscape in Tongariro National Park.
The hike takes you to South Crater, Red Crater Summit (amazing view of Mount Doom and the rest Crater), the Emerald Lakes, Blue Lake, etc.
I didn’t think the hike was that difficult but it was just very long. However by this hike we had already done 6 other day hikes in New Zealand so everything just became much easier. Even though I didn’t think it was that hard doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The hike is considered an alpine hike so that means you will experience alpine weather and sometimes weather can change very quickly and become severe. Every week someone needs to get rescued off Tongariro Alpine crossing and there have been a number of death last year on this hike.
Even when I was there someone had to get airlifted by rescue helicopter so make sure you are well prepared (layers of clothes, food, 2-3L of water, hiking shoes, hiking poles, sunscreen, etc).
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a one way hike, this means you need a shuttle bus to either take you to the starting parking lot (while you park your own car at the ending parking lot) or the shuttle bus will pick you up from the ending parking lot. You need to book the shuttle bus way in advance.
Day 13: Explore Taupo and Rotorua
After a strenuous day of hiking, it’s time to relax and do some sightseeing activities in Taupo and Rotorua.
Taupo is a big resort town about an hour from Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Many people stay in Taupo before the hike. There is a nice lake in Taupo and you can do boating and other water activities at Lake Taupo.
Many visitors stop by Huka Falls in Taupo. Parking lot get filled very quickly but the falls is nice to see from the viewing platform.
Rotorua: Wai-O-Tapo Thermal Wonderland
Relax in a Hot Spring in Rotorua
Since the entire area of Rotorua is in an active geothermal area, there are a ton of hot springs. Some of the most famous ones include Polynesian Spa and Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
I went to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools and paid for a 45 minute private hot pool. It was really amazing and reminded me of Japan! The are a few different public pools one can use as well.
Where to Stay and Eat in Rotorua
Pretty much directly across from Novotel Rotorua is a pedestrian street with tons of restaurants. The most popular ones include: Atticus Finch (tapas), Indian Star Restaurant, Pizzeria Imperfetto, El Mexicano Zapata.
I ate at a Szechuan Chinese restaurant called Sichuan Cuisine and it’s honestly one of the best Sichuan restaurants I’ve been to.
Day 14: Black Water Rafting Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton Movie Set
Before we left New Zealand we knew we wanted to see the glowworms and Hobbiton Movie Set. Fortunately we found a tour that would take us from Rotorua to the Waitomo caves and Hobbiton before dropping us off in Auckland for our flight the next day.
Glowworm Cave Tour
We found out that there is an adventure tour called Black Water Rafting operated by the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company in Waitomo.
Black Water Rafting is basically going into an underground river with a black tube and do all sorts of adventure activities while seeing the glowworms.
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
After Black Water Rafting we were driven to the Hobbiton Movie Set. You need a tour in order to see Hobbiton and the guides are all very good.
During the Hobbiton tour I learned so many about the back stories of the movie set and filming of the Hobbit. If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies then you must stop by Hobbiton.
Last Day in New Zealand: Auckland and Flying Out
Auckland is your last stop on your New Zealand road trip (so sad!!!) and I left Auckland last because almost all international flights have to leave from Auckland (some leave from Queenstown also but more leave from Auckland).
Things to do in Auckland
Mount Eden: offers some of the best views of Auckland. It’s about 3 miles from Auckland city center.
Viaduct Harbour: walk around the Viaduct harbour and stop by some nice restaurants and bars.
Sky Tower: Walking distance from the harbour, the sky tower is a top attraction in Auckland. There are also many restaurants and bars near by.
Check out Queen St and Britomart: both have a lot of shops but I personally liked the Britomart area more because the shops are more high end.
We didn’t actually spend too much time in Auckland since we were pretty tired after 2 weeks in New Zealand and mostly just walked around city center and ate.
Auckland is also pretty spread out so it’s definitely a good idea to take a sightseeing tour if you want to see the best of the city.
Two restaurants I really liked in Auckland city center are Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar near Sky Tower and Baduzzi near the harbor.
Is 2 Weeks Enough for New Zealand?
New Zealand is a large country and 2 weeks is a good amount of time to see some of the highlights of New Zealand in both South Island and North Island.
However 2 weeks is a pretty limited amount of time, so you really are just scratching the surface of this beautiful place. If you want to explore in depth (by in depth I mean do all the famous hikes, visit all the well known tourist spots), you will need at least a month or 2 to visit each of the islands in New Zealand if not more.
But not everyone has the luxury of time to travel for 2+ months in New Zealand, so if you only have 10 days or 2 weeks in New Zealand, you can still see a lot with my New Zealand itinerary.
2 weeks in New Zealand is great if you try to stick to one to two types of activities (like hiking and biking, or beach and winery, or touristy spots without hiking), but if you want to cover everything, then you will need more time.
Tips To Plan Your New Zealand Road Trip
I will write a much more detailed post on how to plan your New Zealand road trip but for now, here are some tips:
Rent a Car in New Zealand: You simply cannot get around New Zealand very easily without a car. Use Discover Cars to find the cheapest car.
Get Used to driving on the other side: New Zealand follows the UK driving practice so you will be driving on the left side of the road. Make sure to pay special attention to that wind shield wiper when you drive because even those are on the other side of the steering wheel.
Bring a wide angle lens, a zoom lens and a tripod with you to New Zealand: mountains are big and waterfalls are tall, you need wide angle lens. New Zealand is known for its clear sky so bring a tripod with you to take some stunning starry night photos.
Bring seasonal allergy pills with you: if you are prone to hay fever and you are visiting New Zealand in spring and summer season, you should be prepared. I literally was suffering for 2 weeks and I had such a bad case of hay fever. There are plenty of pharmacies everywhere but I found that their pills were not strong enough.
Bring rain jacket with you: I made the mistake of not bringing one and ended up having to buy one when I was in New Zealand. Rain is common and sudden so always be prepared.
Book Accommodations Months in advance: during the popular holiday season, accommodations tend to book up very fast. Make sure to book your hotels in New Zealand at least a few months in advance to avoid disappointment.
Bring layers with you: New Zealand weather changes very fast especially if you plan to hike. You can see 4 seasons in one day sometimes so make sure to always be prepared during your hikes.
Use Sunscreen Religiously! There is a hole in the ozone layer above New Zealand so the sun is deadly strong in New Zealand. You may not realize this but within one day you can get severely burned. Everyone I saw on hiking trails was using the Nivea Sunscreen (SPF50+). I literally re-applied my sunscreen like every 30 minutes because I was so paranoid about getting sunburned and guess what? No sun burn! Bring a hat with you too!
Final Thoughts on 2 Weeks New Zealand Itinerary
Ok that was a long itinerary I admit and I do hope it’s helpful to help you plan your New Zealand self drive trip. If you are a nature person and likes hiking, then you would be amazed by New Zealand.
There are a total of 10 Great Walks in New Zealand which are the multi-day hikes. This itinerary only focused on day hikes since I can’t be bothered to carry things while hiking (except my camera) but I do wish I had done at least one of the Great Walks.
South Island has some of the best hikes I’ve seen in the world so I do recommend spending a little more time in the South Island.
Most people say 2 weeks in South Island is a good amount of time to see everything. But honestly no matter what you do in New Zealand you will fall in love with this beautiful country.
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