So if you only have two weeks in New Zealand, map out your route in advance because you WILL want to overstay in each destination. It’s so very tempting! So here are three suggestions for a New Zealand Itinerary for 2 weeks.
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New Zealand Travel Tips
Where should you focus on?
For obvious reasons, the longer you are in the country, the more you can see and widen your itinerary. For only two weeks in New Zealand, you really should focus on one island only.
There is plenty to see and things to do in New Zealand and you wouldn’t want to be travelling all day just to get from A to B. Just imagine all the hikes and sights you’d be missing out on! New Zealand really ought to be explored in depth.
The reason why most people – me included – recommend the South Island with such vehemence is its sheer beauty and diversity. While New Zealand is stunning anywhere, it’s much more concentrated in the South. However, there are tons of things to do in New Zealand’s North Island. So don’t discount it.
Picture gorgeous bays, animal colonies, rugged landscapes, grand glaciers and lush forests. Everything seems to be just bigger and wilder. That being said, fans of Lord of the Rings should focus on the North Island and in particular the area around Wellington.
How to Get Around
New Zealand is made for backpackers. There are many regular intercity buses available and if you book in advance for your 2 week New Zealand itinerary, you can get insane deals. Nakedbus sometimes offers them for as low as 2 NZD. There are hop on hop off bus tours available for different areas and durations.
One is the South Island tour. For the North Island, you can get on the Kiwi Experience and hit up Auckland, Rotorua, Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Hot Water Beach in your own time. Back to back, the tour takes 6 days to complete.
If you want to rent a car or van, it’s pretty easy. You can check out notice boards in hostels, backpackers are always reselling used cars. The most popular rental company is Jucy Cars. Alternatively, with Sixt you can save up to 10% on car rental worldwide.
Note that you will have to switch cars if you want to cross Cook Straits. You usually can’t take the rental car with you.
However, if you want to save some money, try relocation services. With those you have a set start and end point but you get to use a car over a set duration to drive around where you want.
If you really don’t have much time but want your days to be fully action packed with the best attractions and cool people to share it with, an organised tour is ideal. For 7 days, you can explore the best of the North. Check if there is a current 38% off deal here.
- 21 days: See the best of New Zealand, including Rglan, Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington and Abel Tasman. Book here.
- 16 days: Tour the South Island through Wellington and 7 other New Zealand destinations, such as Franz Josef and Queenstown. Check the itinerary here..
- 10 days: Start your New Zealand travels in Wellington and end in Christchurch, basically seeing the most beautiful spots in a little over a week this way. Book tour here.
What to Pack
If you are visiting New Zealand any other time than summer, pack warm clothes because it can get pretty cool. Winds can pick up quickly on the mountains, so having a wind and water proof outdoor jacket is key.
For colder days, wear a fleece beneath it- This way, you can dress up warm and take off a layer when you get too hot during your outdoor activities. In winter, remember to bring gloves, a scarf and woolly hat.
Should you want to do a hike around Franz Josef, you will be given equipment, such as boots, gloves and crampons for walking on the ice.
For going in a campervan, don’t forget to pack a sleeping bag, first aid kit, snacks and reusable water bottle. Hiking boots are essential for conquering the many trails.
Staying in hostels? You gotta bring your own lock or maybe even two. Some lockers are too small for your big backpack, so it’s a good idea to lock that one up as well.
When to Visit New Zealand
New Zealand is beautiful all year round. If you don’t mind the crowds, try summer (December to February), which is also high season. It’s then that most backpackers will arrive. But it’s also warm and nature is especially lush.
Autumn looks stunning with its many colours and like spring is shoulder season. Months March through May are actually the cheapest months to fly into New Zealand.
Off season – and thus cheapest – are June to August. Winter is the least busy time to travel New Zealand. Luckily, you can enjoy the powdery slopes, such as in Queenstown.
New Zealand Itinerary 2 Weeks Option 1: North Island
Auckland Day 1-4
Chances are you will arrive in Auckland when you fly to New Zealand’s North Island. You can easily spend four days in its metropolitan area. Visit its museums and galleries, including the Art Gallery and Military Museum.
Then, stroll through the botanical gardens surrounding the latter and step into the nightlife and dining scene in the Quay. There is always some event happening, so it’s worth it to check what’s on in Auckland.
For a nice outing, try the Coast to Coast walk along the shoreline, passing yachting harbours, small beaches and parks. Then, plan in one to two days for island hopping in Auckland bay. There are various tickets to be had and the best value is a day ticket.
Start early for Waiheke Island and then take an afternoon ferry to see the sun set over Auckland’s skyline from Devonport’s hill. Next day, you can set off for Rangitoto. You can easily take the ferry and explore on your own or join a day tour with a 4WD road-train.
Northland Day 5
Northeast of Auckland is a beautiful stretch of land. Rent a car and drive one most scenic Northland region. Some of the local New Zealand attractions include Whangarei Falls, Bay of Islands and Bream Head.
In the city of Whangarei, you have a selection of quaint cafes to enjoy the day, you can visit the Museum, Kiwi House & Heritage Park and learn more about Maori culture. To really get to know the area to its fullest, try the 4-day Bay of Islands Tour.
Alternatively, visit New Zealand’s largest Kauri tree, sandboard dunes and go on a wildlife cruise around the beautiful Bay of Islands with the Stray Journeys – Worsley Tour.
Tauranga Day 6-7
One of the most iconic New Zealand sights is Taurange and the Glow Worm Cave. It’s super enchanting like entering a cave with a brightly lit starry sky – but its underground. Did you know you can combine the glow worms with a kayak tour?
Rotorua Day 8-9
Rotorua is my favourite town in New Zealand and here’s why. For one, it’s one of those impressive places with constant thermal energy. Everywhere you go, there seems to be something bubbling and steaming, Granted, it doesn’t have the best of smells.
Rotten egg fumes aren’t all that pleasant but walk up and around Rotorua lake and you can easily be mesmerised by those dangerous little holes. Bubbles rise up, colours change and the lake turns all milky. It’s just sublime.
You can take advantage of this thermal energy through an extensive mud wellness program or by sitting in one of the hot streams. Locals do this a lot in the nearby Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park.
From there, you can walk for roughly 90 minutes to Huka Falls. The impressiveness of their height of 11 metres (35 feet) can only really be felt from below, on a rafting tour.
Rotorua offers a plethora of activities and pastimes. Bungee jump, walk around colourful thermal mud landscapes, or be witness to a haka in a traditional Maori village. I absolutely loved my visit at Whakarewarewa!
In case you only want to plan a one week New Zealand itinerary and visit both Tauranga and Rotorua, try a small group shore excursion. It includes a Polynesian Spa, visit Whakarewarewa valley and admire the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere.
Napier Day 10
Napier is often overlooked, mainly due to it being slightly out of the way on the way down to Wellington. It’s excessively charming, however, and boasts pastel coloured Art Deco buildings.
At first, it seems to be stuck in time and in some shops, you can even hear 20s music and buy flapper dresses. Apart from architecture walks and shopping sprees, Napier is known for its beach promenade.
During winter, the waters can be quite rough and the winds and spray will not make you want to stay too long. So head back inland for the prison museum. There are sightseeing tours around Napier and Hawkes Bay as well.
If you’re up for a more challenging city hike, conquer the mountain in the middle of the city. Here, you can find the botanical garden as well as a super pretty cemetery at the top. The view itself is not a big reason to get up here.
Wellington Day 10-14
The capital of New Zealand will surely entertain you. Everyone who is into films, especially Lord of the Rings, NEEDS to visit Weta Cave. This little production outlet will allow you a precious behind the scenes peak into film production.
Ranging from prop creation, animation over to revolutionising filming technologies. You can see actual props from Peter Jackson movies and even though the price is quite hefty compared to only spending 30 minutes here, it’s definitely worth it!
You can see two workshops in a day by combining the Weta Workshop with the Miniatures Stage Tour to an actual shooting stage of a TV series. (Check tickets here.)
To step into the real life sights of Lord of the Rings in the countryside around Wellington, get a local guide. They will also take you to the Embassy Movie Theatre, where the premiere was held. Such a tour will also take you up to Mount Victoria and the Green Belt. See availability here.
Should you be into the kiwi TV series, The Tribe, you will know what to do. I hunted down all the filming locations all over town and in Upper Hutt.
New Zealand Itinerary 2 Weeks Option 2: South Island
Wellington Day 1
You’ll most likely end up in Wellington and the capital city of New Zealand deserves your attention. (See section above in the South New Zealand itinerary.) Visit the main sights and then take a ferry from Wellington.
Abel Tasman National Park 2-3
The national park Abel Tasman offers amazing scenic sights, outdoor activities and camping opportunities. You can cruise to Totaranui and walk from Tonga to Medlands. Imagine golden sands with big fern trees in the distance, gentle hills and azure blue waves.
You can set up camp overnight and enjoy both sunset and sunrise. Alternatively, you can go on a full day cruise and a short walk up to Split Apple Rock. There are multiple tour options depending on how long you want to have your hike be. Check details here.
Franz Josef Day 5
You can hike Franz Josef all year round, though it is a lot more tricky and dangerous in winter. The easiest way is to hitch a helicopter ride and land right in the snow.
Then, you can sit back in a glacier hot pool and relax your cold muscles. (Get the ticket for a private pool experience here.)
Queenstown Day 6-7
Queenstown is one of the prettiest towns I have come across in New Zealand. During the day, you have to hit the slopes for winter sports or go on a hike. Glenorchy always makes for great photography spots.
But if you want the real romantic deal with epic views, make your way up to the Stratosfare Restaurant. From here, admire the sun setting over The Remarkables in Queenstown, the Lake and glittering town.
Then, take the gondola and descend onto the city lights. When I was there, everyone was super obsessed with the burgers at Fergburger. People said they were some of the best foodie places in New Zealand.
Take another day to recharge after a full week with your itinerary through New Zealand. In Queenstown, you can go shopping, dine and have a fun night out.
Milford Sound Day 8
Let’s be honest, most days at Milford Sound are overcast and sprinkled with rain. But even if you aren’t lucky enough to enjoy a day of blue skies and sunshine, it’s remarkable nonetheless. While you can go on a hike, the best way to see the grandeur of this scene is by nature cruise.
Tours usually last 2-3 hours and will take you to a waterfall right in the fjord and past Mitre Peak, which is over 1 km in height. Check the various cruise options here.
Wanaka & Tekapo Day 9
Queenstown makes a great base for day trips. Apart from Milford Sound, you should take a bus and head over to Wanaka as well as Tekapo. You can easily do that by yourself or on an organised tour, depending on your preferences.
Wanaka is famous for its tree that, during high water levels, seems to grow out of the lake. The entire lakeshore itself is picturesque, so pack your hiking shoes and walk along the east coast. Mossy pebbles, insanely blue waters and snow capped mountains in the distance will make your inner photographer rejoice.
Another idea is to take a water taxi and jet over to Mou Waho Island, which is a hidden island on which the rare, flightless Weka bird lives. Fun fact: Lake Wanaka has a total of five islands. At the end of the trip, you get to chill out at a sheltered beach. Check the tour here.
Dunedin Day 10-11
Dunedin might be quite small but it’s pretty and has tiny penguins! Wander the mains streets with the pastel coloured, colonial houses, stop by the statue of Robert Burns and then stroll through the botanical gardens.
On the next day, view the little blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins at Royal Albatross Centre on Otago Peninsula. They are some of the tiniest penguins in the world. If you were looking to go on a tour around Cadbury World, that is unfortunately no longer possible.
An alternative for foodies with a sweet tooth are the cafes/sweets shops Fudge Cottage, OCHO and Granny Annie’s. Sit down for a piece of cake and freshly brewed coffee.
Kaikoura Day 12
Kaikoura is not exciting but you have to leave the town anyway. Stroll south along the boardwalks and meet the cute and curious sea lions. Just don’t get too close or try to touch them! They are wild animals. If you take photos and slowly walk past them, it’s totally fine.
Apart from the seal colony in Kaikoura, whales come by here as well. On a whale watching tour, you will see North Canterbury and then hopefully see a pod of sperm whales from your boat. They come by 2-3 times a month all year round. Reserve a seat here.
Christchurch Day 13-14
Christchurch is like a phoenix, rising from the ashes after the terrible earthquakes wreaked havoc. Most of the city has been restored and there are regular events happening. Explore Christchurch with a hop on hop off vintage tram, oversee the surrounding mountains from a gondola and then punt on River Avon.
Akaroa isn’t far from Christchurch makes for a great day trip. It sits on a peninsula and hosts the International Antarctic Center. You can get a fully guided tour through a recreation of an Antarctic landscape and pretend to walk in Antarctica.
Tell me: Which of these hotspots was already on your 2 week itinerary for New Zealand?
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Ryan K Biddulph says
We spent 1 month in Opotiki Annemarie – around Taraunga and Rotorua – and the place bled magic. I loved it. 1 month in Paeka, then 3 weeks on the South Island, driving around and staying in Timaru, and Christchurch, and the place was a blast. Loved it!
Looks like you had an incredible experience! I have also been on some of the places in your list.
H Natalia, thank you. I had a blast indeed! Which places did you enjoy the most?
Carol Henshaw says
4 weeks at least needed to really experience NZ. If you are driving you may not be able to take a rental car over the Cook Strait. We had to leave the one we had in the South Island there (car rental offices at the ports) and pick up another on the other side. Also we had to avoid Kaikoura because of the earthquake.
Totally agree, Carol. 4 weeks are a great start but sadly holidays are limited, so splitting it into two parts with 2 weeks each is also a good idea. Thanks for the tip on car driving. I hadn’t thought of that. Will include now.