NEW ZEALAND ITINERARY IDEAS
New Zealand consists of the North and South Islands, which cover an area almost the size of California. The two are connected by flights from main cities and a ferry service between Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South.
In order to plan your New Zealand itinerary you must first answer five questions:
- How much time do you have?
- How do you want to get around?
- Where do you want to go?
- What do you want to see and do there?
- What sort of accommodation do you want to use?
If you need a little help, Mr. Australia is an expert at preparing customized itineraries that fit your schedule, interests and budgets.
How much time do you have?
Once you allow a day to get there and a day to get back you can fly between the major tourist points of New Zealand and see the sights there in about 6 days. However, to properly see the country you should allow at least one week for each island that you visit. Allow more if you have special interests or wish to enjoy some free time and travel at a more leisurely pace.
How to get around
While self-driving is a great way to see New Zealand, visitors who prefer not to drive or are not comfortable driving on the left side of the road have other choices. These include flying, escorted tours, private-driver tours, tour coaches that follow the most popular routes on a daily basis or any combination of the above.
What sort of accommodation?
New Zealand offers a complete range of hotels categories as well as unique “lodges” that offer amazing deluxe and super-deluxe experiences in stunning locations.
Where to go, what to do
I would suggest the following areas and activities. However, this is just a short list of the many experiences and adventures that New Zealand has to offer. If there are any other areas that you would like to visit or things that you want to do, just tell me!
New Zealand’s largest city (and the arrival point of flights from North America) is a bustling metropolis of over a million people, in contrast to the pristine wilderness that the country is known for. Recommended activities include:
- Wilderness tours to volcanic black sand beaches and fern forests
- Whale and dolphin watching cruises
- Sailing on former America’s Cup racing yachts
Bay of Islands
New Zealand’s northernmost area is almost sub-tropical with small country towns, island studded bays, long sandy beaches and pockets of subtropical forest. It is also of significant historical importance as it was here that in 1840 the native Maori and European settlers signed the Treaty of Waitangi joining the two as one nation.
Recommended activities here include:
- Stays at boutique hotels and lodges
- A variety of day cruises, some including dolphin encounters
- Tours to 90 Mile Beach
- Golfing at spectacular Kauri Cliffs Lodge
This small town’s amazing subterranean caves and caverns make it a popular stop on the tourist route between Auckland and Rotorua. Two of Waitomo’s attractions are:
Glow Worm Caves: These caves and the glowing caterpillars that cling to the roof have drawn visitors for decades.
“Black Water” Experiences: Thrill seekers from around the world come for daily tours to “Middle Earth” that include caving tours, exploring underwater rivers, and much more.
Tourism is king in Rotorua, known for its amazing geo-thermal features (geysers, hot pools, etc.) and native Maori history and culture. We suggest the following:
- 4 x 4, small-group eco-tours that include the area’s amazing geo-thermal areas
- City tours that include the Thermal Reserve, The Agrodome or Rainbow Springs with their demonstrations of New Zealand agricultural life and skills, and more
- Maori “Hangi” dinner tour for a demonstration and a taste of Maori culture
Destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in the 1930’s, Napier is known as the “Art Deco city.” It is also the jumping-off point for exploring the Hawke’s Bay wine region.
New Zealand’s capitol city is known for its National Museum (Te Papa) and is the arrival and departure point for ferry service to the South Island.
This colorful town enjoys a thriving art scene and is the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Fantastic 3-day walking and ferry tours of the Park are available, as well as 1-day experiences that include sailing, hiking and kayaking.
Located on the east coast, the deep waters of the bay are home to an amazing array of sea and bird life. Day cruises allow visitors the chance to swim with dolphins or watch the sperm whales that live in the bay.
This “most English” of New Zealand’s cities is a charming start or finish point for South Island itineraries. Activities include:
- Strolling the downtown area or “punting” on the River Avon
- Day tours to Kaikoura (see above)
- Alpine day tours including Tranz Alpine Train
- The International Antarctic Center
Billed as “the adventure capitol of the world,” Queenstown offers other, less extreme activities as well. Activities include:
- Day or overnight visits to the Milford and Doubtful Sounds
- Scenic flights over Fiordland National Park
- Jet Boating at high speeds through narrow canyons
- “Dart River Safari” tours, including coach touring, relaxed jet boating and a nature walk
- Lord of the Rings film locations tours
- Lake cruises on the historic TSS Earnslaw to Walter’s Peak Farm for dinner & show.
- Tours of local wineries (NZ wines are fantastic)
- Gondola ascent to the Skyline facility for amazing mountain and lake views, hikes, bungee jumping and a Maori cultural show. Descent options include mountain bikes, a luge run or hang gliding. This is a good half-day activity.
The West Coast
Known as the “Glacier Coast,” the west coast of the South Island is an amazing drive with the ocean on one side and the Southern Alps on the other. The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are popular attractions here and can be visited on guided hikes or scenic flights.
The Tranz Alpine Train
Rated as one of the “Top 6 Scenic Rail Journeys in the World,” this train travels between Christchurch on the east coast and Greymouth on the west, threading its way through the Southern Alps in just over 3 hours. This should be part of any itinerary.
Mt. Cook (Aoraki) National Park
Conveniently located between Queenstown and Christchurch, this area offers views of New Zealand’s tallest peak, walking trails and the famous Hermitage Hotel.
Visit this charming university town and enjoy a wildlife tour that includes visits to the Royal Albatross Centre and "The Penguin Place."