Two Weeks in New Zealand: Itinerary, Where to Go & What to See

Looking to spend two weeks in New Zealand? Hang onto your hat. You’re in for a wild ride.

New Zealand is truly one of the world’s must-visit destinations. The country’s home to some of the most pristine & interesting natural scenes on the planet. From the deep fjords of Milford Sound on South Island to the geothermal pools of Rotorua on North Island, New Zealand’s got it all.

There’s one problem: How do you pinpoint what to do in New Zealand in two weeks?

Well, my friends, let’s get your New Zealand road trip questions answered. Plan your visit with this complete 2-week New Zealand itinerary for first-time visitors…

Where to go in New Zealand in 2 weeks

Let’s not sugar-coat it: Carving out just 2 weeks in New Zealand won’t be easy.

While New Zealand may not take up much space on a world map, it’s filled with an inordinate number of stunning places to visit. Far greater than its small stature would predict, to be sure.

In this two-week New Zealand road trip itinerary, we aim for breadth & diversity over depth.

Lake Wakatipu

We’ve included a sweeping array of destinations on both North Island and South Island. We’ve also thrown together quick ideas on what to do in each.

It’s more ambitious than most of our other country itineraries. But, with all the amazing things you’re about to see, you’ll thank us later!

The most convenient way to tackle this trip to New Zealand is by rental car. (Or, if you really want to get adventurous why not travel around New Zealand in a campervan?)

Public transportation in New Zealand is efficient and is a great way of getting around. But to maximize your sightseeing on a time-crunch, having your own wheels to scoot around is best.

Got more time on your hands to visit New Zealand? You might want to consider spending two weeks on each island.

Let’s get your perfect New Zealand itinerary started…

Auckland

2 days

As the largest city & cultural hub of New Zealand, Auckland is a must for any New Zealand trip plan. Auckland is one of the most liveable & likeable cities in the world. Roaming the city streets, you’ll kick-start your kinship right away.

Waterfront

While many NZ itineraries will recommend just one day in Auckland, we’d prefer at least two.

It’ll give you an extra day to take in the best things to see & do in Auckland at a more relaxed pace. Or you can take an extra day to tackle one of the best day trips from Auckland.

What to do in Auckland

Sky Tower

Looking for the best panoramas of Auckland CBD? Scoot up to the observation deck on the 328-metre-high Sky Tower.

Sky Tower

Feeling extra adventurous? Supercharge your visit with along the observation deck’s glass-bottomed SkyWalk.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

The popular Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki features over 15,000 works of art from local & international artists.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki

The museum & art gallery is must-visit in Auckland even if you only have a passing interest in art.

Viaduct Harbour

Located on the Auckland waterfront, Viaduct Harbour is one of best places to unwind after a day of sightseeing in Auckland.

Viaduct Harbour

The restaurant & bar selection at Viaduct Harbour is as fantastic. The views onto the Auckland skyline are equally impressive.

Waiheke Island

Add an extra day to your Auckland visit to tack on an unforgettable day trip to Waiheke Island. The island is just 40-minutes from the city centre by ferry.

Waiheke Island Day Trip

Waiheke Island is famous for its beaches and being home to some of Auckland’s best wineries. Beach-goers would do well to start with Oneroa Beach. It’s one of the best beaches near Auckland. Oenophiles will love Mudbrick, one of the most popular wineries on Waiheke Island.

Looking for something more adventurous on your day trip to Waiheke Island? Zip over to the island’s east end and check out Stony Batter Historical Reserve. The reserve offers one of the best walks in Auckland.

Where to stay in Auckland

If you’re spending only a couple days in Auckland, the areas in & around Auckland CBD are the best place to start your accommodations search.

The best places to stay in Auckland include:

  • Best Nest Apartments in Viaduct: These fully self-catering apartments sit among the better budget choices in central Auckland. They’re located in Viaduct Harbour.
  • CityLife Auckland: This top-notch aparthotel is located on buzzy Queen Street. It offers everything from doubles to 3-bedroom apartments. You’ll also find extras like a fitness centre, indoor pool, restaurant, and a bar here.
  • Four Points by Sheraton Auckland: This mid-range hotel offers modern rooms. There’s also a host of great amenities here including an on-site restaurant and a terrace.
  • Hotel Grand Windsor MGallery by Sofitel: This awesome 5-star hotel is one of the top luxury picks in Auckland. It blends early-20th century Art Deco decor with a stately elegance. The central location is fantastic, too.

Matamata

En route to Rotorua

Fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Break up the 3-hour trip between Auckland and Rotorua in Matamata.

The small farming town of Matamata wouldn’t likely crack a spot on a New Zealand road trip without its star attraction: Hobbiton. This top tourist attraction is a reconstruction of the original film set from Lord of the Rings.

Hobbiton in Matamata

Even if you didn’t love the films, visiting Hobbiton is bound to be a fantastical experience you’ll never forget!

Tours of Hobbiton last about two hours. Since they’re super popular, it’s a good idea to book a Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour before you embark. Tours include a walk through The Shire and the Hobbit Holes. You’ll also get a complimentary drink at the Green Dragon Inn.

Getting to Matamata

From Auckland, it’s about 2 hours by car to Matamata via Hwy 1 & Hwy 27.

Rotorua

2 days

With its mysterious forests, natural hot springs & geothermal mud pools, Rotorua is an enigma. It’s not only one of the most interesting destinations in New Zealand. Rotorua is one of the world’s most distinctive travel destinations.

Champagne Pool in Rotorua

Whether you’re a nature lover or want to add a dash of relaxation to your New Zealand adventure, there’s a ton of interesting things to see & do in Rotorua

To get the most out of your visit to NZ’s geothermal wonderland, spend at least two days in Rotorua. It’ll give you enough time to catch a few of the city’s main sights without leaving you in a complete rush. To experience Rotorua at a more relaxed pace, add in an extra day.

What to do in Rotorua

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Located outside of the city, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is one interesting slice of nature. This popular thermal park is Rotorua’s most colourful geothermal area.

Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Exploring Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, you’ll discover the bright hues of the bubbling Champagne Pool and Devil’s Bath. Time your visit to Wai-O-Tapu to see the Lady Knox Geyser in action. It’s coaxed to erupt every morning at 10:15am, shooting its waters 20 metres in the air.

Redwoods Treewalk

This 700-metre-long Redwoods Treewalk spans across 27 century-old redwood trees. On the trek, you’ll meander over a series of 28 suspension bridges.

Redwoods Treewalk

The Redwoods Treewalk offers a bird’s-eye perspective of the primordial forest. Visit at night for the extra mysterious and captivating Redwoods Nightlights experience.

Tamaki Māori Village

The Rotorua area is a hub for Maori culture in New Zealand. See it action & learn more about Maori traditions at Tamaki Māori Village.

Tamaki Maori Village

At this Maori cultural village, yu can even learn the haka dance, made famous by NZ’s world-renowned All Blacks rugby team.

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

Relaxation in order during your time in Rotorua? Have a soak at the geothermal hot pools at the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

The hot pools at this popular hot spring park are fed by the Te Manaroa Spring. It’s said to be purest source of geothermal mineral water in New Zealand.

Where to stay in Rotorua

Thanks to the city’s compact size, figuring out where to stay in Rotorua isn’t too challenging. There’s a good selection of accommodations in the centre of town. Staying anywhere in this area will put you close to many of the top Rotorua attractions at your fingertips. Here are a few recommendations…

  • Silver Fern Rotorua Accommodation & Spa: Relax in your own spa tub in one of these well-equipped apartment-style suites located in the heart of town. 
  • Quest Rotorua Central Apartment Hotel: Another great choice in central Rotorua, this property features clean & spacious self-catering apartments. It’s located a kilometre from the shores of Lake Rotorua. Upgrade to an executive suite for your own private balcony and spa pool.
  • Arista of Rotorua: This property is a fantastic choice for families. Most of the fully-serviced apartments here offer a hot tub and private patio. It’s perfect for indulging in relaxation during your stay in Rotorua.
  • Regal Palms Resort: Want the star treatment? Book yourself into one of the suites or apartments at this incredible urban resort. Amenities here include a BBQ area, heated outdoor pool, mini-gold course, and day spa.

Getting to Rotorua

Via Hwy 5, it’s a one-hour drive to Rotorua from Matamata. If you choose not to stop in Matamata en route, the trip from Auckland to Rotorua is 228 kilometres. The journey along Hwy 1 & Hwy 5 takes just under 3 hours.

Taupo

En route to Wellington

Taupo is yet another Kiwi town with a penchant for natural beauty and adrenaline-pumping activities. It’s nestled on the northeastern shores of Lake Taupo about an hour south of Rotorua.

Taupo

On a time-crunched trip in New Zealand won’t give you the leisure to explore all the top things to see & do in Taupo. But the town offers a great place for to stretch your legs during your ride to Wellington.

The highlight of any trip to Taupo is Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. On route to Wellington, you’ll crawl along its eastern shore. Along the way, be sure to stop for breathtaking views of the area.

RELATED: Top Walks & Hikes in Taupo

On a clear day, you can even catch glimpses of the volcanic landscapes of Tongariro National Park in the distance. Tongariro National Park is only about 40 to 50 kilometres south of the southern shores of Lake Taupo.

Tongariro National Park

Spending more than one day in Taupo? Don’t miss a chance to experience the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This 19.4-kilometre trek is one of the best hikes in New Zealand. It’s even among the most acclaimed hiking trails in the world!

Getting to Taupo

From Rotorua, it’s a short one-hour drive south on Hwy 1 to Taupo.

Wellington

2 days

If you’re like many travellers, don’t be surprised when you instantly fall in love with Wellington, the pint-sized capital of New Zealand.

Wellington Cable Car

Wellington might be the coolest world city you’ve never thought of visiting. The Kiwi capital is jam-packed with hip restaurants & cafés, radical street art, and museums. It also occupies a blissful natural setting between sea and mountains. You’ll discover an endless array of interesting things to see & do in Wellington.

Aim to spend at least two days in Wellington. It’ll let you savour the Kiwi capital more leisurely.

What to do in Wellington

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

One of the biggest & best museums in New Zealand, The Museum of New Zealand Papa Tongarewa showcases the cultural history of the country. The museum’s massive collection spreads out over six storeys.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa Tongarewa also includes a large collection of Maori art.

Wellington Cable Car

Built in the late-19th century, the Wellington Cable Car funicular climbs from Lambton Quay to Kelburn. The upper terminus is located alongside the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

Wellington Cable Car

The gardens are a worthwhile destination in their own right. The Wellington Botanic Gardens showcase 25 hectares of native bush & flora. Up top, you’ll also find the trailheads for a few of the best walks in Wellington.

Cuba Street

Cuba Street is the most famous street in downtown Wellington. And, as its name hints, it’s as lively & spirited as its namesake country.

Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street

There’s a whole host of things to check out on Cuba Street. Walking along the street, you’ll enjoy art galleries, the bucket fountain, and restaurants & bars.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the popular Wellington Street Market also takes place on Cuba Street.

Weta Cave Workshop

Movie buffs with more than 24 hours in Wellington will love visiting the Weta Cave Workshop. Peter Jackson’s now-famous movie studio is located just outside of Wellington.

Weta Cave Workshop

With the release of The Lord of the Rings, Weta Cave brought the NZ film industry to worldwide acclaim. It’s one of the reasons Wellington now sports the fitting nickname, “Wellywood.”

Where to stay in Wellington

Although it’s the capital of New Zealand and one of its biggest cities, figuring out where to stay in Wellington is hardly difficult. For a first-time visit, stick to the areas in & around the Wellington CBD and Wellington Harbour. They provide the most convenient base for exploring the city. Here are a few hotels to start your search…

  • QT Wellington: This popular art hotel sits at the harbourfront. It’s a fantastic choice for travellers looking to add a dash of hip style to their stay in Wellington. There’s some great amenities here, too. Your reservation includes access to a fitness centre and an indoor swimming pool.
  • Double Tree by Hilton Wellington: This stylish & modern mid-range hotel is less than a half a kilometre from the waterfront. It’s an excellent choice for both solo travellers & families visiting Wellington.
  • Ohtel: This luxurious hotel is situated harbourside in Oriental Bay. It fuses award-winning service with its chic boutique-style rooms.
  • Softitel Wellington: This 5-star hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in Wellington. Guests will love its stylish contemporary rooms. In your quarters, you’ll enjoy dazzling views over the city’s most luscious greenspaces.

Getting to Wellington

If you decide to stop in Taupo, it’ll be about 4 hours and 45 minutes via State Hwy 1 to get to Wellington. From Rotorua, add an extra hour to the journey.

Nelson

1 day

Nelson is the first city of substance on your road trip between North Island and South Island. Stopping in Nelson breaks up the long journey between Wellington and Franz Josef. And thanks to its handsome location on Tasman Bay, culinary scene, and penchant for the arts, it’s a mighty fine one.

Nelson is most known as the gateway to the spellbinding Abel Tasman National Park. It’s also close to the wineries & vineyards of the Marlborough wine region.

Nelson

Unfortunately, with a tighter visit to New Zealand, you won’t have much time to explore the Nelson Tasman area.

Aim to spend at least one day in Nelson. It’ll give you time to recharge for the long travel day ahead.

If you’ve got time to spend an extra day or two in Nelson Tasman, go for it. You’ll love the opportunity to experience the wilderness of Abel Tasman National Park. You can also fit in a quick wine tour in nearby Marlborough.

What to do in Nelson

Nelson Market

In Nelson on a Saturday? You’ll find just about anything you’re craving at Nelson Market.

Nelson Market

This popular market takes place in Montgomery Square and offers everything from fresh produce to artisan products.

Miyazu Gardens

Need a break from the city bustle? Pop into Miyazu Gardens. This lovely Japanese garden is one of the most interesting places to visit in Nelson Tasman.

Miyazu Gardens

Spend an afternoon in Miyazu Gardens frolicking among the ponds, bridges, cherry trees, and picture-perfect greenery. Keep on the lookout for its famous 30-year-old bonsai tree.

Tahunanui Beach Reserve

A 10-minute drive from the centre of Nelson, Tahunanui Beach Reserve is a famous escape for locals to get their water-sports fix.

Tahunanui Beach

Even if you don’t want to dip into the sea (or you’re visiting out of swimming season), Tanunanui Beach Reserve is a great place to hang out. You’ll enjoy incredible sea views and an array of restaurants, cafés, and bars.

Where to stay in Nelson

Thanks to its compact centre, figuring out where to stay in Nelson is a cinch. Narrow your accommodations search to the centre of town, starting with these few top hotels…

  • Delorenzo Studio Apartments: Looking for a home-away-from-home in Nelson? These self-catering studios & suites are the perfect choice. They’re located 250 metres from the city centre of Nelson.
  • Palazzo Motor Lodge: For road-trippers, the self-catering suites & apartments at this popular motel are a fantastic option. They’re situated just 350 metres from the CBD.
  • Harbourside Lodge: Perched beside the Port Nelson Marina, these lodgings offer both studios & apartments. The higher-end suites feature private balconies with sea views.
  • The Sails Nelson: This modern luxury accommodation is mere steps from the harbour. It features studios & suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. Best of all, it’s less than half a kilometre from the city centre.

Getting to Nelson

The distance between Wellington and Nelson is 237 kilometres. About half of the journey, though, will be spent on the almost 4-hour ferry ride to Picton, the South Island ferry terminus.

From Picton, it’s approximately another 2 hours to Nelson. From Wellington to Nelson, budget for approximately 6 hours of travel time total.

Franz Josef

2 days

From Nelson, it’s about a 6-hour drive along New Zealand’s stunning West Coast to the next stop on your NZ itinerary: Franz Josef.

This small town—named, oddly enough, after an Austrian emperor—is famous for its namesake Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is located five kilometres away from town.

Franz Josef Glacier

Considering the long drive, spend at least two days in Franz Josef. It’ll allow you one full day to experience some of the top things to see & do in Franz Josef including a hike to the glacier itself.

What to do in Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier

If you’ve made the trip all the way here, don’t skip out on the town’s main attraction, Franz Josef Glacier.

Franz Josef Glacier

A regular hike will get you within 750 metres from the glacier. To get onto the Franz Josef Glacier itself, you’ll need to book yourself onto a heli-hike or guided ice walk.

Tartare Tunnels

The town’s famous Tartare Tunnels are 45 minutes by foot from town. Visit the Tartare Tunnels to dazzle at the hundreds of glowworms shining on the ceilings & walls.

Glacier Hot Pools

For the ultimate in relaxation (or when the weather’s amiss), go for a a soak at the popular Glacier Hot Pools spa. Splurge on a private pool for incredible views of the Franz Josef rainforest.

Where to stay in Franz Josef

Considering the town’s size, there’s a wide array of choices for where to stay in Franz Josef. Here are a few options to start your search…

  • Punga Grove: These delightful apartments are set in a green oasis at the heart of the village. They charm guests with luxurious amenities from luxury spa baths & terraces to gas log fireplaces & in-floor heating.
  • Aspen Court Franz Josef: This popular motel is nestled in the rainforest. It offers guests spacious quiet contemporary rooms with kitchenettes. The Glacier Hot Pools are a one-minute walk away.
  • Franz Josef Oasis: This motel is located 10 minutes by car from the glacier. It boasts spacious rooms and impressive views of Westland National Park.

Getting to Franz Josef

From Nelson, the drive to Franz Josef, along beautiful Hwy 6, is just shy six hours. Along the way, you may want to stop for a break to check out some of the top tourist attractions in Greymouth. It’s one of the coolest towns along NZ’s West Coast.

Wanaka

En route to Queenstown

Break up the drive between Franz Josef and Queenstown with a stop in Wanaka. Located on the southern tip of Lake Wanaka, the lakeside town is a must-visit New Zealand South Island destination.

Lake Wanaka

On a time-crunched itinerary, you won’t have much time to explore outdoor-adventure-obsessed Wanaka. But you’ll appreciate spending a hour or two stretching your legs here. At the least, fit in a little sightseeing and grab a bite to eat at one of Wanaka’s tasty local restaurants.

The top things to see & do in Wanaka are plentiful. Among the most popular are the Roy’s Peak hiking trail and That Wanaka Tree. Growing out of Lake Wanaka, That Wanaka Tree is one of the most Instagrammed sights on South Island.

Getting to Wanaka

By car, Wanaka is about 3 hours and 45 minutes from Franz Josef via the ultra-scenic Hwy 6.

Queenstown

3 days

Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is royalty in New Zealand South Island travel plans.

Queenstown, New Zealand

With just shy of 16,000 people, the town punches well above its weight in what it offers for visitors. Queenstown has an enviable geographic location. It’s surrounded by crystalline lakes, rivers, and mountains in every direction. All that natural goodness leaves Queenstown with a reputation as an outdoor-activity powerhouse.

Aim to spend at least 3 days in Queenstown on your NZ trip. There are a ton of amazing things to see & do in Queenstown. Plenty of great day-tripping opportunities also await further afoot from town.

What to do in Queenstown

Lake Wakapitu

Even if you’ve only got one day in Queenstown, be sure to spend much of it in awe of Lake Wakatipu.

Lake Wakatipu

The snaking Lake Wakapitu is a favourite recreation spot for tourists & locals alike. There’s plenty to see & do at Lake Wakatipu on- and off-shore, including hiking & cycling trails.

Ben Lomond Track

Got limited time in New Zealand’s adventure capital for hiking? Find a way to fit in the Ben Lomond Track.

View from Ben Lomond

The Ben Lomond Track is one of the best walks in Queenstown. The hike starts at the upper Skyline Gondola station. It climbs about a kilometre to the summit of the 1,748-metre-high Ben Lomond. As you’d imagine, the views from the top are nothing short of epic.

Queenstown Hill Walk

This 3-hour-return Queenstown Hill Walk ascends 500 metres to the summit of Te Tapu-nui. It’s one of the more accessible Queenstown walks, and one of the closest to the city centre.

View from Queenstown Hill

At the top of Queenstown Hill, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views over the town, the lake, and The Remarkables mountain range.

Shotover Jet Boat Ride

Want to get your adrenaline pumping while visiting Queenstown? You don’t need to strap yourself to a bungy cord. Instead, carve out time for this speedy Shotover Jet Boat Ride.

Shotover Jet Boat Ride

The Shotover Jet Boat Ride propels you through the Shotover River Canyons at breakneck speed.

Gibbston Valley Winery

While visiting Queenstown, don’t miss out on the opportunity to do at least one wine tour. Among the best Queenstown wineries for first-time visitors is the Gibbston Valley Winery.

Gibbston Valley Winery

It’s easily accessible. The winery is just 30 minutes from central Queenstown by car. It offers a great selection of food paired with the winery’s exquisite wines.

Where to stay in Queenstown

The most difficult part in nailing down where to stay in Queenstown is availability. Queenstown is one of the most popular New Zealand travel destinations. And the sometimes sky-high accommodations prices reflect that. They’re especially inflated in the downtown area during high season. Here are a few places to start your search…

  • Copthorne Hotel & Resort Lakefront: Located near centre of town, this 4-star resort overlooks Lake Wakapitu and The Remarkables mountain range. Chill out to lake & mountain views with an evening nightcap at the on-site Impressions Cocktail Bar & Restaurant.
  • Queenstown House Boutique Bed & Breakfast and Apartments: This B&B offers cozy & homy accommodations in its modern rooms & suites. There’s also plenty of extras. Enjoy the in-room continental breakfast, books, movies, and board games.
  • Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa: This luxury hotel presents a dash of European sophistication in NZ’s adventure capital. It throws together elegant rooms with a fantastic host of amenities. Relax at the hip 1789 Wine & Jazz Lounge, Left Bank Café, and at the soothing So Spa.
  • Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel: This charming luxury boutique hotel delivers the perfect urban escape. The property is surrounded by greenery and mountain views just five minutes from the centre of town.

Getting to Queenstown

From Wanaka, it’s just over an hour to Queenstown by car. If you decide not to stop along the route from Franz Josef, the drive is about 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Milford Sound (Piopiotahi)

Day trip from Queenstown

Experiencing Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) will truly be one of the highlights of your trip to New Zealand.

This stunning (quasi) fjord flashes views of the 1,620-metre-height Mitre Peak (Rahotu). It’s one of NZ South Island’s finest slices of nature and numbers among the world’s most iconic natural destinations!

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is best experienced on the multi-day Milford Track hike. Starting at Lake Te Anau, this New Zealand Great Walk roams through Fiordland National Park. The track ends at Milford Sound itself.

If you’re tight for time, Milford Sound is also one of the best day trips from Queenstown. You’ll need to get crafty with your plans though—and loosen your travel budget a bit.

The easiest way to fit it all in without an overnight stay is on an organized tour from Queenstown.

Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

1 day

Getting a glimpse of Aoraki/Mount Cook is a must if you find yourself roaming about South Island. Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. And it doesn’t disappoint!

Aoraki Mount Cook

While you won’t get to experience the breadth of its majesty on a time-crunch, spend at least one day in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village. The town centre for Mount Cook National Park is a great place to split the Queenstown to Christchurch drive. During your quick stay, you’ll get to dazzle at some of the finest alpine scenery in New Zealand.

What to do in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

Hooker Valley Track

With limited time in the area, the short & easy Hooker Valley Track day hike is one of the best ways to get your Aoraki scenery fix.

Hooker Valley Track

The 5-kilometre track treks to the spectacular Hooker Lake nestled within the Southern Alps. The trailhead is about 2.5 kilometres north of the village. It’s about a 10-minute drive.

Where to stay in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

In New Zealand’s geography and among travellers, Mount Cook stands tall. But despite its stature, accommodations in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village are limited. Some options to get your search started include…

  • YHA Mount Cook: This guesthouse & hostel is the top choice in the area for travellers on a budget. It features both private rooms and dorms with shared facilities.
  • Mount Cook Alpine Lodge: As the name implies, these lovely accommodations boast an alpine feel. The Hooker Valley Track is 10 minutes away by foot. These lodgings are a fantastic choice for a time-crunched itinerary.
  • Aoraki Court Motel: This popular motel is located within the national park. The units here charm guests with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. The village is a short 3-minute walk away.

Getting to Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

From Queenstown, it’s about a 3-hour drive to Mount Cook Village. The drive follow Hwy 8 and Hwy 80 along the shores of beautiful Lake Pukaki. On the drive, you’ll also pass the gorgeous Kawarau Gorge.

Christchurch

1 day

Christchurch is the second-largest city in New Zealand and the biggest on South Island. The city is as good a bookend to this epic journey as any.

Aerial View Christchurch

To be sure, Christchurch not as popular a travel destination as other cities & towns in New Zealand. Even so, there’s a handful of interesting things to see & do in Christchurch and in the Canterbury region around it.

Aim to spend at least one day in Christchurch to end off your itinerary.

What to do in Christchurch

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

The lovely 21-hectare Christchurch Botanic Gardens were founded in 1863 in celebration of Prince Albert’s wedding day.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens bloom over an array of separate gardens. There are also several conservatories, loaded of native New Zealand flora species.

Canterbury Museum

The most popular museum in Christchurch, the Canterbury Museum has operated since 1867. The museum details the natural history of the Canterbury region, including Maori artefacts. It’s most famous, though, for hosting the world’s largest collection of artefacts from Antarctica.

Canterbury Museum

The Canterbury Museum is located within the grounds of the botanical gardens.

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

The Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū is home to one of New Zealand’s largest art collections. The building was refurbished after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. It stands as one of Christchurch’s most impressive modern architecture examples.

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu

The rotating exhibitions at the Christchurch Art Gallery span both local New Zealand & international artists.

Port Hills

Rolling between Christchurch and Lyttelton, the Port Hills are the perfect escape from the city. The area is chock-loaded with some of Christchurch’s best hiking & walking trails. You’ll also find several mountain biking paths and nature reserves around the area.

Port Hills

The Port Hills area is also home to the Christchurch Gondola. Ride the one-kilometre-long route to the top of Mount Cavendish for incredible panoramas over Christchurch, Lyttelton, and the Canterbury Plains.

Where to stay in Christchurch

Although its the second-largest city in New Zealand, figuring out where to stay in Christchurch isn’t too difficult. For most travellers, the areas in & around the downtown the best base for exploring the city. Here a few places to stay to start your search…

  • Focus Motel: Eyeing a budget stay in Christchurch? There’s hardly a better option than this tidy city centre option.
  • White Suites Inner City Luxury Apartments: The units at the this property are bright & spacious. They’re also fully self-catering, including a kitchenette and laundry facilities.
  • Sudima Christchurch: This brand-new 5-star boutique hotel is the top luxury accommodation pick in Christchurch. Besides the delightful modern rooms, the hotel has a luxurious day spa for your relaxation pleasure.

Getting to Christchurch

From Mount Cook to Christchurch, it’s an approximately 4-hour drive via Hwy 8 and Hwy 1. Along the way, break up the journey with a stop at beautiful Lake Tekapo. Check out its famous lakeside Church of the Good Shepherd, a Heritage New Zealand site.

When to visit New Zealand

The best time to visit New Zealand is in the summer months between December and February. During the peak tourist months from December to February, the weather in New Zealand is at its absolute best. The crowds and accommodation prices, however, are also at their peak.

To escape the crowds, an alternative is to visit in the late spring and early autumn shoulder seasons. In November and March, the weather is still pleasant, but the tourist numbers will be more manageable.

Autumn Road

Of course, since New Zealand is a year-round destination, there’s no reason to avoid travelling here at any time of year.

Winter sports enthusiasts might want to visit New Zealand in winter. You’ll get to experience some of the best skiing in the southern hemisphere.

Likewise, visiting New Zealand in autumn will etch the region’s best fall colours into your travel plans. Visiting New Zealand in spring you’ll see the country ablaze with colourful fruit tree & flower blossoms.

Other places to visit on your 2-week New Zealand itinerary

Able to squeeze in a few more days onto your New Zealand 2-week itinerary? Check out these other great places to visit in New Zealand…

Coromandel Peninsula

On a clear day, the Coromandel Peninsula gleams over the gulf to the east of Auckland’s city limits. But these two NZ destinations couldn’t be further apart in their vibes.

The Coromandel is well-known for its dense native forests and picture-perfect white-sand beaches. It’s among the New Zealand’s loveliest secrets for international visitors. (And a not-so-secret secret for locals.)

Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve

Tight for time on your visit to the Coromandel Peninsula? Head straight for Cathedral Cove.

Located within one of the finest marine reserves in New Zealand, Cathedral Cove is a regional favourite. It’s a must-visit for experiencing laid-back seaside vibe of the peninsula

Also be sure to hunt down the unique experience of Hot Water Beach. It’s located just south of Cathedral Cove. At Hot Water Beach, you can dig your own private white-sand hot tub two hours before and after low tide.

Hikers will also love visiting The Coromandel. There’s a barrage of great hiking trails on the Coromandel Peninsula. Top choices include the Coromandel Coastal Walkway, Karangahake Gorge, and The Pinnacles. Cyclists can also enjoy a leisurely ride along the popular Hauraki Rail Trail.

Waitomo

Got extra time while roaming around the Rotorua or Taupo areas? Venture due west to Waitomo. While the small town of Waitomo won’t likely pop out on a map, its star attraction is the perfect addition to your New Zealand trip.

The town of Waitomo is most famous for what lies beneath than above. Of all the things to see & do in Waitomo none is more fascinating than the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. It’s one of New Zealand’s most interesting attractions and among the world’s most unique places to visit.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

As you descend into the Waitomo Caves, a surreal scene unfolds before your eyes. The caves’ ceilings and walls are lined with thousands of glow worms. Their tender glow lights up the dark caves like stars twinkling in the sky.

The most interesting way to explore the caves is on its famous Black Water Rafting Tour. For even more adventure, you can go zip-lining through the darkness.

There’s plenty to do above ground in Waitomo, too. The area is home to several awesome hiking trails. The popular Ruakuri Bush Walk, one of the best short walks in New Zealand, departs not far from the caves.

Mount Aspiring National Park

Located in the Southern Alps north of Wanaka, Mount Aspiring National Park is a breathtaking slice of Kiwi wilderness. Roaming throughout this amazing national park for nature lovers. You’ll discover glaciers nestled between mountains and valleys filled peppered with native forests.

Matukituki River in Mount Aspiring National Park

If you decide to visit Mount Aspiring National Park, don’t rush it. Go all-in on a multi-day hiking adventure. On it, you’ll get in tune with some of New Zealand’s most pristine nature scenes.

Te Anau

Don’t want to rush your visit to Milford Sound? Spend a night or two in the Fiordland town of Te Anau.

Perched on the south tip of Lake Te Anau, the small town is the gateway to the pristine wilderness of Fiordland National Park. The park is one of New Zealand’s most impressive natural destinations.

Lake Te Anau

Visiting Te Anau to explore the famous walking tracks & waterways of Milford Sound is only the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other interesting things to see & do in Te Anau.

Most popular for visitors is to take to the hiking trails in & around Te Anau. Walking adventures here include the Milford Track, Routeburn Track and Kepler Track.

Lake Tekapo

Want to break up the ride between Wanaka or Mt Cook and Christchurch? Stopover in the village of Lake Tekapo.

The small town is located in the heart of South Island’s beautiful Mackenzie Country on the shores of Lake Tekapo. It’s a fantastic place to chill out to some of the country’s most impressive natural scenery.

Lake Tekapo

If you’ve got a few days to spare, the Lake Tekapo area teems with great hiking trails. There’s even a hot springs resort and dark sky preserve.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is famous in New Zealand for its seaside pleasures. The town is nestled along a small peninsula on the east coast of South Island in Canterbury Region.

Kaikoura is a popular stopover on the ride between Christchurch and Marlborough. Most travellers though, visit Kaikoura as a day trip from Christchurch.

Seashore Panorama in Kaikoura

Of all the best things to see & do in Kaikoura, none compels more than experiencing its marine life in action. The town is celebrated for its dolphin- and whale-watching tours. It’s also home to several lovely coastal walks including the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway.

Treksplorer

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