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New Zealand road trip itinerary

Our recommended itineraries, including the must-see sites, stays and activities across New Zealand's North and South Islands.

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We’ve got three hand-curated New Zealand road trip itineraries ranging from one to two weeks for the ultimate New Zealand holiday.

From mountains to the coast, skydiving to kayaking and wine tasting to movie locations, these itineraries pack it all into easy-to-navigate trips for first-timers in New Zealand.

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Searching for trips of just the North or South Island?

Recommended New Zealand itineraries based on length

1-week New Zealand itinerary: Auckland to Milford Sound

Itinerary overview

    • Distance: 2,258km
    • Highlights and attractions: Hobbiton Movie Set, Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Queenstown, Milford Sound
    • Landscape: Mountains, glaciers, coastal, lakes
    • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized/sedan (recommended for winter)

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 228km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours and 50 minutes

Auckland to Rotorua
Day 2

Distance: 82km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour

Rotorua to Taupo
Day 3

Distance: 371km

Approx. drive time: 4 hours and 40 minutes

Taupo to Wellington
Day 4

Distance: 431km

Approx. drive time: 7 hours and 50 minutes (includes 3-hour ferry from North to South Island)

Wellington to Punakaiki
Day 5

Distance: 503km

Approx. drive time: 6.5 hours

Punakaiki to Wanaka
Day 6

Distance: 68km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour

Wanaka to Queenstown
Day 7

Distance: 575km

Approx. drive time: 7.5 hours (if driving yourself)

Milford Sound

Accommodation recommendations

Wellington: Travelodge Hotel Wellington
Wellington: Travelodge Hotel Wellington

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Wanaka: Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka
Wanaka: Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka

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Queenstown: DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown
Queenstown: DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown

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10-day New Zealand itinerary: Auckland to Milford Sound

Itinerary overview

  • Distance: 2,418km
  • Highlights and attractions: Bay of Islands, Hobbiton Movie Set, Mount Cook, Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound
  • Landscape: Islands, coastal, mountains, glaciers, lakes
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized/sedan (recommended for winter)

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 455km

Approx. drive time: 6 hours

Auckland
Day 2

Distance: 250km

Approx. drive time: 2.5 hours

Auckland to Rotorua
Day 3

Distance: 82km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour

Rotorua to Taupo
Day 4

Distance: 141km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours

Taupo to Napier
Day 5

Distance: 321km

Approx. drive time: 4 hours

Napier to Wellington
Day 6

Distance: 439km

Approx. drive time: 8 hours and 15 minutes

Wellington to Christchurch
Day 7

Distance: 380km

Approx. drive time: 4 hours and 50 minutes

Christchurch to Franz Josef
Day 8

Distance: 350km

Approx. drive time: 4 hours and 40 minutes

Franz Josef to Queenstown
Day 9

Distance: 0km

Approx. drive time: 0

Queenstown
Day 10

Distance: 575km

Approx. drive time: 7.5 hours (if driving yourself)

Queenstown to Milford Sound

Accommodation recommendations

Wellington: Travelodge Hotel Wellington
Wellington: Travelodge Hotel Wellington

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Queenstown: DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown
Queenstown: DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown

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Christchurch: Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch
Christchurch: Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch

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Franz Josef: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

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2-week New Zealand itinerary

Itinerary overview

  • Distance: 2,814km
  • Highlights and attractions: Coromandel Peninsula, Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Hobbiton Movie Set, Tongariro National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown, Milford Sound
  • Landscape: Coastal, mountains, lakes, glaciers, islands
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized/sedan (recommended for winter)

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 168km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Auckland to Hahei

Day 2

Distance: 237km

Approx. drive time: 2.5 hours

Hahei to Waitomo

Day 3

Distance: 178km

Approx. drive time: 2.5 hours

Waitomo to Rotorua

Day 4

Distance: 88km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour

Rotorua to Taupo

Day 5

Distance: 60km (if not taking the shuttle)

Approx. drive time: 50 minutes

Taupo (Tongariro National Park)

Day 6

Distance: 331km (372km from Taupo)

Approx. drive time: 4 hours (4 hours and 45 minutes from Taupo)

Tongariro National Park (Taupo) to Wellington

Day 7

Distance: 210km

Approx. drive time: 5 hours and 20 minutes

Wellington to Nelson

Day 8

Distance: 131km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Nelson (Abel Tasman National Park)

Day 9

Distance: 265km

Approx. drive time: 3.5 hours

Nelson to Punakaiki

Day 10

Distance: 217km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours and 50 minutes

Punakaiki to Franz Josef

Day 11

Distance: 286km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours and 40 minutes

Franz Josef to Wanaka

Days 12 and 13

Distance: 68km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour

Wanaka to Queenstown

Day 14

Distance: 575km (if not doing the tour)

Approx. drive time: 7.5 hours

Milford Sound

Accommodation recommendations

Wellington: Travelodge Hotel Wellington
Wellington: Travelodge Hotel Wellington

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Wanaka: Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka
Wanaka: Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka

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Queenstown: DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown
Queenstown: DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown

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Franz Josef: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

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Coromandel: Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park
Coromandel: Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park

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Waitomo: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park
Waitomo: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park

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Other popular driving routes in New Zealand

North Island: Manawatu Scenic Route (Mangaweka to Ashurst)

  • How long is the drive? 94 km
  • How long do I need? One to two days including stops for hikes
  • Must-sees along the way: Rangiwahia Hut Track, Pohangina Valley, Manawatu River

The route from Mangaweka to Ashurst on New Zealand's North Island takes you past ancient native bushland, gorges, gardens and natural swimming spots. You can be as lazy or as active as you like on this journey. Soak up the views from the car window or park up to tackle hikes like the hilly Rangiwahia Hut Track.


South Island: The Great Alpine Highway (Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur's Pass)

  • How long is the drive? 245 km
  • How long do I need? Three days
  • Must-sees along the way: Christchurch, Arthur's Pass National Park, Greymouth

This 245-kilometre route snakes its way from coast to coast on New Zealand's South Island, taking you through national parks, past mirror-like lakes and via extensive forests.

Take a break to go punting on the Avon River in Canterbury and don't miss Arthur's Pass National Park, a mesh of shingle-filled riverbeds and vast beech forests.


North Island: The Forgotten World Highway (Taumarunui to Stratford)

  • How long is the drive? 150 km
  • How long do I need? Three days
  • Must-sees along the way: Taumarunui, Mount Damper Falls, Whangamomona, Stratford

On the map, the line of this road looks like it's been drawn with a shaky hand. It stretches for 150 kilometres between Taumarunui and Stratford in the heart of New Zealand's North Island.

Die-hard road trippers will love the fact that this route follows the colonial bridle paths of the 19th century. It's rugged, twisty and often described as a "natural roller-coaster" of a road.


Need a car? Book a ride now

New Zealand overview

  • Weather: Weather varies across the two islands with the north of the North Island experiencing a subtropical climate and the South Island having proper winters that reach as cold as -10°C inland. Most of the population and sites are along the coasts which means that temperatures are mild (15°C average for the North Island and 9°C for the South Island). There is a lot of sunshine and moderate rainfall.
  • Best time to visit: Opt to travel around New Zealand during summer. (December to February) for sightseeing as the weather is warm.
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized/sedan (recommended for winter)

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