⚡️⚡️⚡️
With energy prices rising, switch to a cheaper plan
💡
Compare Prices Now
⚡️⚡️⚡️

New Zealand road trip itinerary

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

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

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.

Searching for trips of just the North or South Island?


3-day Rotorua to Gisborne itinerary

Itinerary overview

  • Distance: 774km, round trip
  • Highlights and attractions: Tauranga Bridge, National Arboretum, sunrise and wine tasting in Gisborne, Tolaga Bay Wharf, East Cape Lighthouse, White Island
  • Landscape: Winding hillsides, lakes, coastal and forest views
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy to large car
DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 270km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours 45 minutes

Rotorua to Gisborne
Day 2

Distance: 305km

Approx. drive time: 5 hours 15 minutes

Gisborne to Te Kaha
Day 3

Distance: 199km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Te Kaha to Rotorua

Accommodation recommendations


4-day Cape Reinga itinerary

Itinerary overview

    • Distance: 951km, round trip
    • Highlights and attractions: Piroa Falls, Waipu Caves, Bay of Islands, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, 90 Mile Beach, Cape Reinga lighthouse, Te Paki Sand Dunes, Waipoua Kauri Forest, Kauri Museum
    • Landscape: Long coastlines, ancient kauri forests, giant sand dunes, white sand beaches
    • Recommended vehicle type: Economy, large car or 4WD for beach driving

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 245km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours 55 minutes

Auckland to Paihia
Day 2

Distance: 92km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Paihia to Karikari Peninsula
Day 3

Distance: 261km

Approx. drive time: 4 hours

Karikari Peninsula to Cape Reinga to Kaitaia
Day 4

Distance: 353km

Approx. drive time: 5 hours 35 minutes

Kaitaia to Auckland

4-day Auckland to Wellington itinerary

Itinerary overview

    • Distance: 867km
    • Highlights and attractions: Hobbiton, hot springs at Rotorua, sunset at Lake Taupo, Waipunga Falls, wine tasting around Hawkes Bay, Pukaha National Wildlife Centre
    • Landscape: Rolling farmlands, dairy pastures, wineries, geothermal landmarks and mountain passes
    • Recommended vehicle type: Economy to large car

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 266km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours 40 minutes

Auckland to Rotorua
Day 2

Distance: 87km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Rotorua to Taupo
Day 3

Distance: 141km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Taupo to Napier
Day 4

Distance: 373km

Approx. drive time: 5 hours

Napier to Wellington

Accommodation recommendations


5-day Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula itinerary

Itinerary overview

    • Distance: 647km, round trip
    • Highlights and attractions: Fletcher Bay, Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, Opoutere, Whiritoa, Karangahake Gorge
    • Landscape: Remote beaches, river valleys, harbourside towns, native forests
    • Recommended vehicle type: Economy to large car

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 168km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours 25 minutes

Auckland to Coromandel
Day 2

Distance: 146km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours 40 minutes

Coromandel to Matarangi
Day 3

Distance: 70km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Matarangi to Hahei
Day 4

Distance: 67km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Hahei to Whangamata
Day 5

Distance: 196km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Whangamata to Auckland

Accommodation recommendations

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

10-day North Island loop itinerary

Itinerary overview

    • Distance: 1,797km
    • Highlights and attractions: Coromandel Peninsula, Opoutere, Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Martinborough wine tasting, Cape Palliser, Wellington, Tawhiti Museum, Waitomo Caves
    • Landscape: Thermal parks, remote beaches, pine forests, winelands and lakes
    • Recommended vehicle type: Economy to large car

DayItinerary
Day 1

Distance: 217km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours

Auckland to Whitianga
Day 2

Distance: 174km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Whitianga to Tauranga
Day 3

Distance: 83km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Tauranga to Rotorua
Day 4

Distance: 83km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Rotorua to Taupo
Day 5

Distance: 141km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours

Taupo to Napier
Day 6

Distance: 274km

Approx. drive time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Napier to Martinborough
Day 7

Distance: 81km

Approx. drive time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Martinborough to Wellington
Day 8

Distance: 361km

Approx. drive time: 4 hours 40 minutes

Wellington to New Plymouth
Day 9

Distance: 180km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours 25 minutes

New Plymouth to Waitomo
Day 10

Distance: 203km

Approx. drive time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Waitomo to Auckland

Accommodation recommendations


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


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


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)

Car hire deals in New Zealand

Deal

Campervan hire from $5 per day

Available on select routes, dates and locations in Australia, including Darwin, Alice Springs, Cairns and Brisbane and New Zealand.
Deal

Up to 20% off Australia and New Zealand car hire

Expires 30 Sep 2022
Available until 30 September 2022 on 2+ days rentals when you book 21 days in advance. Destinations include Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Auckland and more. T&Cs apply.
Deal

Up to 15% off New Zealand car-hire rentals

Expires 20 Jul 2022
Available on rentals made by Auto Club Members in New Zealand. Visit site for more details. T&Cs apply.
Code

Up to 15% off New Zealand car hires

Expires 30 Aug 2022
Available on select dates in 2022 when you spend a minimum of $250 required. T&Cs apply.
Deal

Up to 15% off New Zealand car hires

Expires 14 Dec 2022
Available on rentals until 14 December 2022 on participating locations including Auckland and Wellington. Minimum of 5 days rental required. T&Cs apply.

Find your ride to take on New Zealand

Search for your campervan in New Zealand

Loading search form...

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.
Go to site