Begin your New Zealand trip in Auckland and make the short journey to Coromandel and on to Raglan for pristine beaches, rainforests and the chance to go sea kayaking around the coast. Next, travel to the hot springs of Rotorua, making sure to explore the region’s Maori culture, before visiting Lake Taupo’s cave art. Finish your North Island experience in cultural Wellington, before hopping across the Cook Strait to Kaikoura for whale-watching and spectacular views of the Kaikoura Seaward Range. From Christchurch, you can travel to Lake Tekapo for stargazing, before getting your adrenaline pumping in adventure capital Queenstown and its smaller sister Wanaka. Finally, visit the vast Franz Josef Glacier before ending your trip in Christchurch.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Queenstown, Lake Tekapo, Rotorua, Coromandel, Kaikoura, Wanaka, Auckland, Franz Josef Glacier, Lake Taupo, Christchurch, Raglan, Wellington
Activity Activity Nature & Wildlife, Active, Solo Travel
Physical Level Physical Level Mild

Suggested itinerary

Explore scenic Auckland

Explore scenic Auckland

Day 1 in Auckland

Forget the city’s high-rise centre; the beauty of Auckland is the scenery surrounding it. From surf beaches to the islands of Hauraki Gulf, volcanic peaks to fertile farmland, it’s no surprise that the greater Auckland region features high in lists of the world’s most liveable places. This is the perfect introduction to New Zealand.

Taste adventure in the Coromandel

Taste adventure in the Coromandel

Day 2 in Coromandel

Visible across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland, the Coromandel offers pristine beaches, thick rainforest and plenty of adventure. Head to secluded Cathedral Cove for a picnic and swim, sea kayak around the coast or try canyoning at the 300m high Sleeping God Canyon.

Don't miss

Soak in Coromandel’s Hot Water Beach

Soak in Coromandel’s Hot Water Beach

Visit Hot Water Beach either side of low-tide and you’ll find hot water bubbling through the sand. Dig your own spa pool and dive in.

Go surfing in Raglan

Go surfing in Raglan

Day 3 in Raglan

The surfing town of Raglan on the Waikato coast is the perfect place to spend a few days lazing by the sea. Look for the black sand Ngarunui beach and the impossibly long surf breaks at Manu Bay, then spend evening enjoying its beach bars and restaurants.

Explore Maori history Rotorua

Explore Maori history Rotorua

Day 4–5 in Rotorua

An eggy scent hangs over sulphuric Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island, which is home to spectacular geothermal springs, mud pools and geysers. However, it’s not just the landscapes that attract visitors – 34% of Rotorua’s population is Maori, and cultural performances and banquets are worth seeing.

Don't miss

Dip your toes in the (very) hot springs of Rotorua

Dip your toes in the (very) hot springs of Rotorua

Unwind by the heavenly thermal pools at Rotorua, including the colourful Champagne Pool at Waiotapu and Waimangu Cauldron, otherwise known as Frying Pan Lake – where temperatures can reach a steamy 60C. For pools to swim in, try those at Waikite Valley.

Experience life in Tolkein's Middle-earth

Experience life in Tolkein's Middle-earth

Take a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set, used for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series, complete with a pint (and optional dress-up) in the Green Dragon inn. For avid fans, visit on the 22nd September for the Hobbit Day festivities and feasts.

See Waitomo Caves eerie glowworms

See Waitomo Caves eerie glowworms

Take a 15-minute boat ride through Waitomo Caves to experience glowworm grotto, a hall filled with thousands of glowworms emitting a soft, illuminating light. Not to be missed.

Get on the water at Lake Taupo

Get on the water at Lake Taupo

Day 6–7 in Lake Taupo

Vast Lake Taupo is as big as Singapore and was created 2,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption so huge it would have been seen from China. Today, visitors come for the magnificent Huka Falls, Maori rock carvings and watersports. Lake Taupo is also an excellent base for exploring nearby Tongariro National Park, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike and skiing at Whakapapa.

Don't miss

Kayak around Lake Taupo

Kayak around Lake Taupo

Enjoy a relaxing paddle in the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo and explore the mysterious Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be viewed from the water. The surrounding forests are also great for hiking and just north of Taupo you'll find the spectacular Huka Falls.

Tackle the 21km Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tackle the 21km Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Go on a day-hike across the eery volcanic landscape of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Sprinkled with emerald lakes and soda springs, the 21km trail, which takes around seven hours to complete, winds around active volcanoes and features panoramic views across the harsh rocky terrain.

Visit cultural Wellington

Visit cultural Wellington

Day 8–9 in Wellington

Creative Wellington has a claim to be New Zealand’s most cultural city. From art galleries to theatre, craft beer to coffee, Wellington is a compact city packing a powerful punch. If you’re still looking for outdoor activities, try mountain biking or sea-water kayaking, or take a walk on the Makara Peak track for views across the west coast beach.

Don't miss

Enjoy panoramic views from Mount Victoria

Enjoy panoramic views from Mount Victoria

Venture to the top of Mount Victoria and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. The Mount Victoria Lookout is a relatively easy walk from the city centre, along woodland trails that were used in The Lord of the Rings.

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Day 10 in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is the place to see wildlife in New Zealand. This small town on the south island is home to whales, dolphins, seals, penguins and sea birds who come for the nutrient-rich waters that are perfect for feeding in. Set against the might of the Seaward Kaikoura mountain range, this is a stunningly beautiful stop.

See regeneration in action in Christchurch

See regeneration in action in Christchurch

Day 11 in Christchurch

Most travellers use Christchurch as a base for exploring the south island, but there is plenty to see in this upwardly-mobile city. Hit by a series of earthquakes between 2010-13 that destroyed many of its buildings, Christchurch is now an intriguing mix of cutting-edge architecture and historic buildings.

Stargaze at Lake Tekapo

Stargaze at Lake Tekapo

Day 12 in Lake Tekapo

A highland lake in the middle of New Zealand’s south island, Lake Tekapo is best known for its incredibly clear skies that are perfect for stargazing. However, visitors also come for hiking, boating, mountain biking and windsurfing on the water.

Don't miss

Lupin spotting at Lake Tekapo

Lupin spotting at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo’s sparkling emerald waters offer stunning views of the Southern Alps year-round, but flower-lovers should aim to visit between mid November-December for the thousands of lupins which decorate the waterfront.

Queenstown – the adventure capital of the world

Queenstown – the adventure capital of the world

Day 13–14 in Queenstown

The self-described ‘adventure capital of the world’, Queenstown is a playground for adrenaline junkies. Famously the birthplace of bungy jumping, you can also try zip lining, heli-skiing and any other number of activities that will get your pulse racing. However, if you’re after something less strenuous, it’s worth noting that Queenstown also has excellent vineyards and an exciting food scene.

Don't miss

Skydive high above the Glenorchy mountain range

Skydive high above the Glenorchy mountain range

The blue lakes and snow-capped mountains in and around Glenorchy are so stunning that they were used as locations for The Lord of the Rings films, and, for those who dare, skydiving is an incredible way to take in this amazing scenery.

More adventure, fewer visitors in Wanaka

More adventure, fewer visitors in Wanaka

Day 15–16 in Wanaka

Laidback Wanaka has a claim to be Queenstown’s cooler sibling. Offering similar adventure activities, but a less hectic, frenzied centre, Wanaka is an excellent place to get your day-time adventure thrills before an evening relaxing in quirky bars and modern restaurants.

Don't miss

Mountain biking in Wanaka

Mountain biking in Wanaka

The Deans Bank 11km track through the Otago landscape offers fantastic mountain biking for intermediate-advanced riders, with views of the Clutha River and Southern Alps.

Visit the sparkling ice Franz Josef

Visit the sparkling ice Franz Josef

Day 17–18 in Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef’s icy mass once flowed all the way into the sea, but after decades of global warming, the glacier has retreated inland and is now only accessible by helicopter. Try hiking trails, glacier experiences and adventure sports.

Journey through Arthurs Pass to Christchurch

Journey through Arthurs Pass to Christchurch

Day 19–20 in Christchurch

On the way back to Christchurch, you'll traverse the South Island on the stunning TranzAlpine train crossing. Travelling across the Southern Alps through Arthur’s Pass, this is considered as one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. Along the way you’ll see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River and see miles of native beech forest.

Where to stay

Classic

Haka Hotel Newmarket

Hake Hotel Newmarket is Auckland’s first 3-star rated hybrid hotel. Take your pick from their range of chic accommodation options including private rooms, studios with outside decks and innovative hotel-standard bunk rooms.

Superior

Rainforest Retreat

Rainforest Retreat is a unique destination with varied options to suit the budgets and needs of all travellers. Immerse yourself in the spectacular mountains and bush of New Zealand’s West Coast.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from NZ$6,499pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

Learn more

Contact us now and we'll connect you with a specialist tour operator with more information on how to tailor and book this itinerary.

Other itineraries you might like

Why Horizon Guides?

Impartial guidebooks

Impartial guidebooks

Our travel guides are written by the leading experts in their destinations. We never take payment for positive coverage so you can count on us for impartial travel advice.

Expert itineraries

Expert itineraries

Suggested itineraries and routes to help you scratch beneath the surface, avoid the tourist traps, and plan an authentic, responsible and enjoyable journey.

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

Get friendly, expert travel advice and custom itineraries from some of the world’s best tour operators, with no spam, pressure or commitment to book.

Loading...