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The Ultimate Two Week New Zealand Itinerary

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!

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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).

Where to Stay in Auckland: Four Points by Sheraton Auckland | Scenic Hotel Auckland | BK Hostel

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!).

Where to Stay in Coromandel Peninsula: La Dolce Vita | Beachside Resort Motel Whitianga | Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park

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.

Where to Stay in Rotorua: Prince’s Gate Hotel | Rydges Rotorua | Rotovegas Motel of Rotorua

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.

Where to Stay in Waitomo: Waitomo Caves Hotel | Kiwipaka Waitomo| Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park

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.

Where to Stay in Christchurch: OGB Suites| Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square | YHA Christchurch

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.

Where to Stay in Mount Cook / Lake Tekapo : Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge| Mackenzie Apartments| Lakefront Lodge Backpackers

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.

Where to Stay in Oamaru / Moeraki : Quarterdeck| Brydone Hotel Oamaru | Noah’s Boutique Accommodation Moeraki

Two week New Zealand itinerary: Oamaru old town

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.

Where to Stay in Dunedin: Wains Hotel | The Terminus | Central Backpackers Dunedin

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.

Where to Stay in The Catlins / Te Anau: The Whistling Frog Resort | Lakefront Lodge | Getaway Te Anau

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.

Alternatively, you can spend longer at Milford Sound and splash out on a Milford Sound Overnight Cruise.

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.

Where to Stay in Queenstown: Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa | Copthorne Hotel & Resort Lakefront Queenstown | Jucy Snooze Queenstown

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.

Where to Stay in Wanaka: Wanaka Homestead Lodge & Cottages | Clearbrook Motel & Serviced Apartments | Wanaka View Motel

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.


Thursday 17th of August 2023

I have only 13 days and I would like to see i little of the north more on the south flight in Auckland and flying out Auckland do you have any idea

Tiki Engel

Tuesday 15th of August 2023

Ok I will be I New Zealand from march 15 till 30 flight home I will try to squeeze the north and Monroe time in the south can you please be advised on that very hard because the time of driving and all hiking and activities

Jon Algie

Friday 8th of September 2023

Hey Tiki yeah it's tough to plan, in general though if you're into hiking and mountains etc spend a good amount of time in Queenstown, Wanaka and Fiordland. You could fly in and out of Queenstown and spend a week or so and see lots -- most things are pretty close too so not much driving (except Fiordland). You could also fly into Christchurch, see Mount Cook etc then Queenstown, Wanaka and Fiordland. Enjoy the trip!

Pavani Parupudi

Friday 28th of April 2023

HI Jon, This is Pavani. Very interested and inspired now after reading your blog about NZ. Want to visit from USA - Southwest - Houston, TX in December for a 2-week trip. How difficult and/or tiring is the drive across the country? Any approximate cost in $$ for the entire rental for 2 weeks? Any approximate cost per person from USA for December period for me to get an idea? Do USA citizens need visa to visit NZ?

Following one of the tourists' itineraries below, do you recommend flying in & out of Auckland? (Unless we get a better deal to fly-in to Auckland and fly-out of Queenstown)

12/18 - Auckland * Straight to Waitomo * Glow worm caves * Waterfall * Drive to Taupo- stay (2 nights)

12/19 - Auckland * Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike

12/20 - Rotorua * Drive to Rotorua * Rotorua * Waiotapu geothermal park * Hells gate geothermal park * Hells gate Spa * (1 night) in Rotorua

12/21 - Christchurch * Matamata Hobbiton tour * Fly to Christchurch from ROT or AKL * Check out Christchurch * Stay (1 night) in Christchurch

12/22 - Tekapo * Rakaia Gorge hike * Mount Sunday hike * Stay (3 nights) Lake Tekapo * Eat pie at Farlie bakehouse * Stay (2 nights) in Tekapo

12/23 - Tekapo * Lake Tekapo * Church of the Good Shepard * Mt John observatory * Tekapo springs spa

12/24 - Dunedin * Mount Cook national Park hiking * Hooker valley (3 hrs) * Tasman glacier (1-2 hrs) * Stay in Dunedin (2 nights)

12/25 - Dunedin * Drive to Dunedin * Benmore peninsula hike * Elephant rocks * Moeraki Boulders

12/26 * Check out Dunedin, hikes, wildlife

12/27 Wanaka -- Can I skip this and head directly to Queenstown to get an additional day there? * Wanaka ** Stay in Wanaka (1 night)

12/28 - Queenstown * Drive to Queenstown (Stay 2 nights)

12/29 Wednesday * Mirror lakes * Milford sound * Do Milford sound cruise maybe * Kayaking maybe

12/30 Thursday - will this give me enough time to fly from Queenstown back to Auckland to catch the flight back home to USA or will it be too tiring? * Fly to Auckland * Fly to USA-Home

Or should we extend 1-2 days to be more comfortable to reach back home after January 1st to avoid crazy expensive flights?

I am also a vegetarian can do fish occasionally. Would it be difficult to get around the country being an vegetarian? would love to explore local cuisines though!

Thanks a Bunch Pavani

Jon Algie

Wednesday 10th of May 2023

Hey Pavani, that itinerary looks pretty good, a bit rushed for some but if that's your style then it should be a good trip. If you can I'd add another day or two to Queenstown -- there's heaps to do there and it's one of the best places to relax for a day or two and eat some good food etc. Wanaka is great too but you can do it as a day trip from Queenstown easily. You could also add another day to Christchurch / Mount Cook region and you might not be able to do much the days of your flights depending on the times.

For food, you'll find vegetarian food in most places, but most of our "local" dishes include meat and seafood. Lots of good local seafood to try if you're into that. For the visa -- read this

Have an awesome trip, let me know if you need any more tips!

Sim Tien Pey

Tuesday 2nd of August 2022

Hey Jon, love your informative and impressive itinerary blog. We have 2 of us (young couple who never go oversea for such a long period), with WHV for 12 months time, starting from next Monday, no idea what would be the best route for us to minimise the cost and maximise our time. After reading your blog posts, I can tell that you love NZ very much.

Hope to receive some of your input or guidance! Thank you.

Jon Algie

Thursday 4th of August 2022

That's exciting! Are you coming to New Zealand for the whole time or just part of your trip? In New Zealand definitely focus on the South Island -- if you have lots of time you could stay a month or two in somewhere like Wanaka or Queenstown or Dunedin, and travel around a lot from there. So many options. Enjoy your travels!

Renee Haley

Monday 7th of June 2021

We are a group of 8, planning to travel to NZ in December 2022. Two in our group lived the Lord of the Rings. They are not interested in any of movie sets, filming, etc. The two girls want to do some hiking and exploring of ?caves featured in the films. We want to experience the north and south islands. My husband and I are retired, but the rest of our group are in their 20s. They don’t care for museums and we’re not interested in the usual opportunities to buy goods following a stop to see local craft makers. We’re quite undecided on whether we should go with a tour group (probably too structured for us) or drive ourselves and coordinate Viator daily or two-day adventures. We welcome your input.

Jon Algie

Friday 18th of June 2021

Hey Renee, sorry for the late reply! It's tough to plan trips for that many people, especially if you want to do different things. You're right about the group tour, probably too structured for a group like yours. I'd rent a van, or maybe even look into getting a driver. I guess if you had that, you could coordinatemthings a little easier as the driver would be able to drop people off / pick them up from different places etc. I might be doing these sort of tours by that point (had planned to do it in 2020!), so let me know if you want to discuss what that could look like. Good luck with the planning!