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The Ultimate Two Week New Zealand Itinerary

Do you want to make the most of your next trip to New Zealand but don’t have unlimited time to see everything? Spending two weeks in New Zealand will allow you to see a huge variety of landscapes, from beaches and volcanoes in the north to the snow-capped mountains and crisp lakes of the south. Check out my two week New Zealand itinerary — you might want to make some adjustments but hopefully it’ll help you plan your next trip!

Auckland (1 night)

Most tourists to New Zealand land in Auckland, by far the country’s biggest city. There is heaps to do, including hikes, beaches and nightlife. It kind of depends what you want out of a trip to New Zealand, but if you’re anything like me you’ll want to skip through the cities and out into the world-class landscapes nearby. So, if you only have two weeks in New Zealand I’d recommend spending one night in Auckland — have a look around the city, get your New Zealand bearings and then move on. If Auckland doesn’t appeal or if you’ve already been there, you should drive straight to the Coromandel (depending what time your flight arrives of course).

Coromandel Peninsula (1 – 2 nights)

From Auckland I’d next head to the Coromandel Peninsula, where you’ll find some of New Zealand’s top beaches. Cathedral Cove is the most famous, but Hot Water Beach (where you can dig a hole and bathe in hot water right on the beach) and New Chums Beach (where there’s an awesome viewpoint) are also highlights. There’s also a waterfall, some hikes and some nice small towns. If you leave Auckland early you should be able to see a lot in one day, meaning the next day you could head down to Rotorua (via Tauranga if you want to check out Mount Manganui, one of New Zealand’s top beaches / coastal viewpoints (I went there when I was a kid so no photos!).

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Cathedral CoveTwo week New Zealand itinerary: New Chums Beach

Rotorua (1-2 nights)

For surreal geothermal landscapes look no further than Rotorua. You’ll see bubbling hot pools and psychedelic lakes (some are free, some you’ll have to pay for) and there are lots of adventure activities if you’re into that kind of thing. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan you’ll also want to visit Hobbiton, which is in the nearby town of Matamata. If not, you could head down to hike the Tongariro Crossing (also a Lord of the Rings filming location) — it’s known as one of New Zealand’s (and the world’s) best day hikes.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: RotoruaMud pools at Hell's Gate, Rotorua, New ZealandTwo week New Zealand itinerary: HobbitonTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Tongariro Crossing

Waitomo (1 night)

The last spot on the North Island, Waitomo is home to caves full of glow worms. There are also some cool waterfalls in the area and it’s only a couple of hours from Auckland, meaning you can drive back the next day before your flight to the South Island.

Christchurch (1 night)

I’ve travelled around the South Island far more than the North Island — but the consensus is that you should spend more time in the south. The best option is to fly into Christchurch and then head for the Southern Alps as soon as you can. Christchurch is a nice enough city, but one night is enough if you’re short on time. You could explore the historic city centre, take the gondola above Banks Peninsula or do a coastal hike.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: ChristchurchTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Christchurch Gondola

Canterbury High Country / Mount Cook (2 nights)

From Christchurch drive inland and you’ll soon reach the stunning landscapes of the Southern Alps. The first night I’d consider sleeping in Fairlie or Lake Tekapo — on the way you can check out the Rakaia Gorge Track (3-4 hours, or you can just hike the first section which will take around an hour) and then on towards the Hakatere Conservation Park. The road through this area is beautiful and the Mount Sunday hike, another Lord of the Rings location, is easy and has some great views. When in Fairlie make sure to check out nearby Lake Opuha and try a pie from Fairlie Bakehouse — you’ll struggle to find nicer pies!.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Rakaia GorgeTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Hakatere Conservation ParkTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Ashburton LakesTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Lake Opuha

From Fairlie you’ll soon reach Lake Tekapo — there’s an old stone church by the lake as well as a nice hike (Tekapo Peninsula Walkway). If you spend the night in Lake Tekapo consider doing the star gazing tour at Mount John Observatory — it’s one of the best places in the world to do it. You can also drive up to Mount John during the day for some great views (and a coffee).

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Stone church Lake TekapoTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Tekapo Peninsula Walkway

From there you’ll want to head to Mount Cook National Park. The road to Mount Cook Village is one of the best mountain roads in New Zealand and there are some awesome short hikes in the area. If you’re fit you could do 3-4 of them — I’d try and do the Hooker Valley (3 hours), Kea Point (45 minutes), Tasman Glacier (1-2 hours) and the Red Tarns (2 hours). That’d be a tiring day, so maybe skip Kea Point and the Red Tarns if you have to. There are some accommodation options in Mount Cook Village (which are quite expensive) or you can camp at the Whitehorse Hill DOC (Department of Conservation) camp. Otherwise drive back the way you came and then take the detour to Twizel, Omarama or Otematata.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: The road to Mount Cook Two week New Zealand itinerary: Red Tarns Two week New Zealand itinerary: Tasman GlacierTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Mount Cook

Waitaki Valley / Oamaru

Most people recommend driving from Mount Cook straight to Queenstown, but then you’d miss out on Dunedin, New Zealand’s coolest city. The drive from Mount Cook (or Twizel etc) to Dunedin takes you through the Waitaki Valley. It’s a scenic drive and there are some nice places to stop, including the easy Benmore Peninsula Track and the Elephant Rocks.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Benmore Peninsula TrackTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Elephant Rocks

Soon enough you’ll be back on the East Coast. Oamaru, with its unrivalled (in New Zealand at least) Victorian architecture is must-see spot, as are the Moeraki Boulders just down the road. From there it’s a short drive to Dunedin.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Oamaru old townTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Moeraki Boulders

Dunedin (2 nights)

I’m assuming you’ll get into Dunedin in the late afternoon, so you could explore the centre city (have a drink at the Octagon and check out the train station etc) on the first day and then explore the city’s stunning surrounds on the second day.

The Otago Peninsula is a real highlight in Dunedin — there are heaps of viewpoints, beaches and hikes to explore. If you’re lucky you might spot some wildlife, including sea lions, albatross and penguins. The other side of the harbour is also nice (Heyward Point is one of my favourite “hidden” spots) and the suburban beaches of Saint Clair and Brighton are also cool to see. Dunedin also features a couple of waterfalls, interesting rock formations, the world’s steepest street and lots of cool cafes and bars to relax in if you’re feeling a bit lazy. If you want to get out of town and don’t feel like driving also consider the Taieri Gorge Railway.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Dunedin hikingTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Nicols Falls, DunedinTwo week New Zealand itinerary: The Octagon, DunedinTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Heyward Point, DunedinTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Sunset in Brighton, Dunedin

The Catlins (1 night or stay in Te Anau instead)

The Catlins, a beautiful stretch of coastline featuring waterfalls, beaches and viewpoints, is a short drive south of Dunedin. You could easily spend a few days in the Catlins, but you could see the highlights in a day. Check out a couple of waterfalls (Matai and Purakaunui are probably the best), Nugget Point Lighthouse, Cannibal / Surat Bay, Curio Bay and the amazing viewpoint above Tautuku Bay and then either spend the night in the Catlins (there are a few camping grounds and small hotels) or head to Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Florence Hill Lookout, the CatlinsTwo week New Zealand itinerary: McLean Falls, the Catlins

Milford Sound (1 night or head to Queenstown at the end of the day)

A day trip to Milford Sound should be on everyone’s two week New Zealand itinerary. There is heaps to see along the way, including the Mirror Lakes, waterfalls, Lake Marian and lots of other little scenic spots. Once you get to Milford Sound you can admire the scenery from the shore or take a cruise out to the edge of the ocean. If you want to do some of the hikes in the area (Key Summit, Lake Marian) it’s worth spending a night somewhere along the way. There are some camping grounds close to Milford Sound or you can stay in the lodge there.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: The Mirror Lakes, Milford SoundKey Summit -- the best day hike near Milford Sound, New ZealandTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Milford Sound

Queenstown and Wanaka (2-3 nights)

The last stop on this two week New Zealand itinerary is Queenstown, probably the most popular destination in the country. There are countless ways to fill your days in Queenstown, including hikes, scenic drives, adventure activities or just chilling out in town. The drive to Glenorchy and Paradise is a personal highlight — do the Glenorchy Walkway as well as it’s a great short walk.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Queenstown HillTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Glenorchy LagoonA beach at Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand

Wanaka is close to Queenstown — you can visit as a day trip from Queenstown or stay the night there. The obvious drawcard in Wanaka is Roys Peak, one of New Zealand’s most renowned day hikes. Time your hike so you get to the top when the sun is rising — it’s a special experience! From Queenstown you can fly back to Auckland and catch your flight home. Depending on what time your flight is it might be best to be back in Auckland the day before your flight.

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Roys Peak hikeTwo week New Zealand itinerary: That Wanaka TreeTwo week New Zealand itinerary: Glendhu Bay, Wanaka

Getting Around New Zealand

I highly recommend renting or buying a car in New Zealand — it means you’ll have the freedom to see exactly what you want. You can go for a campervan (which means you’ll save money on accommodation) or a car which are a lot cheaper. You can also take a tour or travel by bus.

Two Weeks in New Zealand

This two weeks in New Zealand itinerary hits some of the country’s top tourist spots, but there are so many other places to see. Explore my New Zealand posts and pencil in the places you’d like to visit — you can always skip other places or pass through them quickly. Most two week itineraries include the West Coast (South Island) and skip Dunedin and the Catlins — everyone has an opinion I guess and there is no right or wrong way to do it. If you want some help crafting your own New Zealand travel itinerary send me an email — you can also hire me as a private tour guide / driver from April next year!

Are you planning on spending two weeks in New Zealand? Which places are you most excited to visit? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
Key Summit -- the best day hike near Milford Sound, New Zealand
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  1. Kay
    December 28, 2018 at 1:41 am — Reply

    Hi ,
    Your itinerary is very inspiring and helpful because I am planning a trip to Nz and have only two weeks to do it before a fly to travel Australia for little more than 2 weeks.
    Need little help, I will have to depend on Intercity and budget travel because I do not drive. We are 3 people and traveling in June, coming from India.
    Should I start in south island and travel to Auckland and then fly onto Australia or would it be better to do top to bottom. my places of travel in Australia are Frazer island, Sydney and Melbourne.
    Places that I have shortlisted to travel in NZ are Ackl and Rotorua in NI and Queenstown, CHCH, Franz Jose , Abel Tasman, Mt.Cook-anything that is easy to do via bus travel.
    Please help me draft an itinerary that would be best without backtracking . My tarvel dates for NZ are from June first week for 2 weeks.

    Many thanks in advance.

    • January 4, 2019 at 3:40 am — Reply

      Hi Kay, I’d advise you to fly to Queenstown (you should be able to get a flight from Australia) and from there you can explore Queenstown / Wanaka / Milford Sound easily with buses. From Queenstown you could head to Mount Cook then over to the West Coast or Christchurch and then fly to Auckland from Christchurch. Due to you not driving you won’t be able to fit nearly as much in so that would probably be a good itinerary. It also depends what you want to do — if you really love hiking spend longer in Queenstown / Wanaka / Mount Cook as there are heaps of great trails around those places. Hope that helped — let me know if you need any help finding an affordable driver etc. Thanks!

  2. Alex
    March 12, 2019 at 7:36 am — Reply

    Hi Jon !
    Nice blog !
    I wonder how to organize my trip (17 days, end of March-mid April) as I would like to see more wild life, like Bay of Islands, Hauraki Gulf, Waitomo caves, Abel Tasman, Milford sound.
    Car/flights/car could be an option.

    Many thanks in advance !

    • March 20, 2019 at 10:42 am — Reply

      Hey Alex, 17 days should be plenty of time to see quite a bit of the country, I guess it depends on what you want to see though. Bay of Islands / a few other places in Northland are great (I just got back from there), Waitomo is cool as well and the Queenstown / Wanaka / Milford Sound area shouldn’t be missed. I’d probably spend the 1st week in the North Island (head straight for Northland / Coromandal and then see Waitomo / Rotorua after) then fly down to Queenstown and spend the rest of your time in that area / some of the West Coast / Dunedin and the Catlins. So many options! Let me know how the trip planning goes. Cheers!

  3. sarah
    April 10, 2019 at 8:06 pm — Reply

    Hi, great blog and fab ideas! Am thinking of doing 3 weeks in December. Do you think I have enough time to get down to Wellington and back up again and still do South Island? I understand Christmas day can be quite quiet if you are not at home with the family. Is there anywhere you would recommend that would be 1 open, and 2, have a bit of a lively Christmasy feel to it?

    Any suggestions very gratefully received.

    • April 11, 2019 at 6:25 am — Reply

      Hey Sarah, yeah you should be able to fit that into 3 weeks, might be a couple of long driving days in that though but it’s not so bad. For Christmas, I’m guessing hostels etc will probably put something on, or you could stay at a camping ground and there’ll be heaps of people around. Enjoy the trip and let me know how it goes!

  4. Woon See Michelle Seah
    May 17, 2019 at 1:34 pm — Reply

    Hi Jon,
    You blog is inspiring! Get so much info about NZ trip. Just got my tickets to NZ! Will land Auckland in the morning of 29 Jul and departing from Auckland again 11 Aug Night. Would like to cover from North to South..Can I ask for your recommended route?

    Thanks alot!


    • May 20, 2019 at 7:34 am — Reply

      Thanks! For that amount of time I’d probably try and fly straight down to Queenstown and spend 5-7 days in that area (+ Milford Sound and Mount Cook) then maybe head over to Dunedin (via the Catlins if coming from Milford Sound) then up to Christchurch (or skip Dunedin and head to Christchurch after Mount Cook). Fly Christchurch to Auckland then spend whatever time you have left around Rotorua, Tongiriro Crossing, Hobbiton etc. It depends on what you want to do though (hiking vs looking around cities etc) and how much time you’re willing to spend driving. Also, it’s winter and it gets dark at like 5 pm so you won’t be able to cover as much as you would in summer. Winter is a great time around Queenstown etc though but be careful on the roads as it snows a bit down there and can get quite icy. Enjoy the trip and let me know if you need any more tips!

  5. Kiara
    May 19, 2019 at 8:39 pm — Reply

    Hey, I love your blog. It is very concise and full of necessary information! I’m an exchange student coming to study in Wellington for a few months. I want to ask about details for renting a car as I’m 20 years old, which apparently has a very different insurance policy in New Zealand compared to 21 years of age. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for rental cars that have good pricing and an insurance policy. Also, is a car necessary for a week’s trip to different cities? Lastly, what are normal prices to hire drivers?

    • May 20, 2019 at 7:16 am — Reply

      Hey Kiara, thanks for reading! It seems like it’s a bit different if you’re under 25 (the excess is more) but it shouldn’t really change the price too much. It just means if you crash and it’s your fault you’ll have to pay quite a lot (so try not to crash I guess). For rental cars, if you go low season it should be pretty cheap. I hired one (through Jucy) in October last year and it was only around $20 per day. It kinda depends what you want to see — personally I’d fly down to Queenstown and rent a car for a week down there — you could see that whole area + places like Milford Sound and Mount Cook in a week. As for hiring drivers, I have no idea but it seems expensive. If you do the South Island you can maybe hire me (I’d be cheaper haha, been thinking of getting into this kinda thing so it’d be a good test-drive) but renting a car yourself (as long as you’re a confident driver) is definitely the best and cheapest option. Hope that helps — let me know how it goes!

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