21-Day Budget Itinerary for New Zealand
A destination that many of us have to travel tens of thousands of kilometres to get to, New Zealand is a country you’re going to want to spend as much time in as possible to experience it to its fullest. Three weeks or 21 days is our recommended minimum timeframe to travel both of New Zealand’s main islands. Additionally, as we know that New Zealand isn’t the cheapest country to travel to, we’ve whipped up this New Zealand budget and backpacking itinerary for three weeks.
This budget itinerary covers exciting destinations, free and cheap activities, budget accommodation and how to get around. The 21-day budget itinerary for New Zealand is pretty flexible too, starting in Auckland and ending in Christchurch. You can travel the itinerary from end to beginning or create a loop by taking a flight between Christchurch and Auckland.
New Zealand Budget and Backpacking Itinerary for 3 Weeks: Overview
- Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Auckland Central
- Day 2 – Explore Auckland
- Day 3 – Auckland to Waitomo
- Day 4 – Waitomo to Rotorua
- Day 5 – Explore Rotorua
- Day 6 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park
- Day 7 – Explore Tongariro National Park
- Day 8 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington
- Day 9 – Wellington to Picton
- Day 10 – Explore Picton
- Day 11 – Picton to Westport
- Day 12 – Westport to Greymouth
- Day 13 – Greymouth to Franz Josef
- Day 14 – Explore Franz Josef
- Day 15 – Franz Josef to Makarora
- Day 16 – Makarora to Queenstown
- Day 17 – Explore Queenstown or Milford Sound
- Day 18 – Queenstown to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
- Day 19 – Explore Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
- Day 20 – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch
- Day 21 – Christchurch to Christchurch Airport.
How to Get Around New Zealand in 3 Weeks on a Budget
Most backpackers experience New Zealand by travelling around the country, rather than staying in one place. In 21 days, you have just enough time to visit both the North and South Islands. The best ways to get around are as follows:
Rent a Car or Campervan
For complete freedom to visit all of the stops we recommend in this budget three-week itinerary, rent a car or campervan. As this itinerary starts in Auckland and ends in Christchurch, we recommend choosing a rental company that has a depot in both cities – there are many. Start planning using The Guide to Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand and The Best Backpacker Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.
Use the National Bus Service
InterCity offers the cheapest way to get between the destinations mentioned in this budget itinerary. Find out more about the passes available in What’s the Difference Between InterCity Backpacker Bus Passes?
Do an Escorted Bus Tour
While bus tours won’t follow the below itinerary exactly, they’ll have their own set itineraries around the country hitting most of the destinations mentioned. Check out tour companies that travel the whole country in The 15 Best Bus Tours in New Zealand.
Do a Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Like a bus tour, hop-on hop-off buses follow a set itinerary around the country but give you the flexibility to stay in some destinations longer to catch the next bus. They tend to be cheaper than escorted bus tours. Find out more in What is a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus?
Taking the Ferry
This itinerary includes the ferry journey between Wellington and Picton. Learn more in The Ferry Between the North Island and South Island.
The below itinerary begins in Auckland and ends in Christchurch. Both cities have international airports and are well-connected with domestic flights. If you’re leaving from Auckland, you will need to consider booking a domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland.
For more transport methods for backpackers, check out the 6 Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand.
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Auckland Central
Travel time: 40 minutes
Welcome to Aotearoa/New Zealand! Because this country is far from where most of you are coming from, chances are you’ll be tired and jet-lagged. With that in mind, we recommend either picking up your car rental if it’s at the airport or using one of the affordable bus and shuttle options to get to Auckland Central where you can take it easy while getting accustomed to the new time zone.
Check in at your budget accommodation in Auckland and start exploring the city centre attractions, like the Sky Tower (more info on Viator and Klook), the Auckland Museum (on Viator and Klook) or the bushwalks in the Auckland Domain. It’s best to keep active if it’s still daylight to help with the jet lag. Check out more tips in 10 Simple Ways to Get Over Jet Lag.
Budget Accommodation in Auckland
Day 2 – Explore Auckland
It’s day two of getting your body in tune with New Zealand’s time zone, as well as a day to explore some of Auckland‘s highlights. If you’re looking for free or ultra-cheap things to do in the city, check out the list below. Otherwise, we highly recommend a ferry trip to one of Auckland’s outer islands, whether it’s the volcanic island of Rangitoto or the bird sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Auckland
- See Auckland from the top of the Sky Tower (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Watch a free movie at Silo Park (in summer)
- Climb Mt Eden for amazing views
- Take a cheap ferry to Devonport or Rangitoto Island
- Walk among New Zealand bush… in the Auckland Domain.
Find out more about each activity and much more in 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Auckland.
Day 3 – Auckland to Waitomo
Travel time: 2 h 20 mins
Ready to hit the road and see some glowworms? Set off in the morning to Waitomo, which will give you time to do a cave tour once you arrive. If you need to pick up supplies or want to grab a bite to eat, take a quick detour to Hamilton city. It’s also worth a stop by the quirky town of Otorohanga which is the self-proclaimed Kiwiana Capital of the World!
You have a wide array of tours available to experience in the famous glowworm caves of Waitomo: walking cave tours, underground tubing, boat tours, caving tours and free walks. Check out tour options in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Waitomo
- Take a road trip to see free sights like Marokopa Falls, Mangapohue Natural Bridge and more
- Do the Ruakuri Bushwalk
- Learn something new at the Waitomo Museum of Caves
- Visit Otorohanga and do the Ed Hillary Walkway
- Dig your own hot pool at Kawhia Beach.
For more suggestions, head to the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo.
Budget Accommodation in Waitomo
- Juno Hall Backpackers
- Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Waitomo Village Chalets
- Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge
- Waitomo Orchard Estate B&B
For more listings, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Waitomo.
Day 4 – Waitomo to Rotorua
Travel time: 1 h 55 mins
Start your day off with any of the activities you might have missed in Waitomo then it’s less than two hours’ drive to Rotorua.
If you’re a Middle-earth enthusiast, take a 15-minute detour to the Hobbiton Movie Set for their film set tour. Check out Viator or Klook to book your tickets or head to How to Get the Best Hobbiton Discount for tips on how to save money.
Otherwise, a scenic 5-minute detour to the Putaruru Blue Spring/Te Waihou Walkway is well worth it to see a vividly blue transparent stream along a three-hour return walkway.
Once you reach Rotorua, you can get started by checking out the free geothermal Kuirau Park in the city centre or scouting out the free hot pools around the city. Check-in at your accommodation from the recommendations listed below.
Budget Accommodation in Rotorua
- Rock Solid Backpackers
- Holdens Bay Holiday Park
- BKs Rotorua
- Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park
- Rotorua Downtown Backpackers
Day 5 – Explore Rotorua
You have the whole day to experience Rotorua along with its free and affordable attractions (more of that in the list below). If you have some budget to spare, however, we recommend experiencing the Maori culture and a traditional hangi meal at Te Pa Tu (formerly Tamaki Maori Village – more info on Viator and Klook), Mitai Maori Village or Whakarewarewa: The Living Maori Village (on Viator and Klook). You’ll also find a lot more recommendations for things to do between Zorb, Velocity Valley and more, in the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua
- Relax in one of the free thermal pools
- Check out one of the surrounding walks, such as the Blue Lake Walk or the Tarawera Trail
- Check out the free geothermal park, Kuirau Park
- Visit the National Bird of Prey Centre, Wingspan
- Walk or cycle in the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest.
For more ideas, just head to the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.
Day 6 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park
Travel time: 2 h 10 mins
Next on this 21-day budget itinerary is the Tongariro National Park, but not without a few stops along the way. If you have the budget, it’s well worth stopping by the amazing geothermal parks between Rotorua and Taupo. You have Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu Volcanic Valley (on Viator and Klook) and Orakei Korako.
Stop by Taupo for its cosy cafes using The Food Guide to Taupo or Cheap Eats in Taupo. Additionally, check out the powerful rapids of Huka Falls, soak in the free hot pools at Otumuheke Stream, or try the Hole in One Challenge on the lakeside. For more options, head to the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Taupo.
If you are not enthused by the already suggested stops, then you might like the 2-hour walk around Lake Rotopounamu. The walk is an excellent example of New Zealand’s lush native forest and a picturesque lake that shines green when the sun reflects off it. What’s more, it’s free!
Your final destination today is Whakapapa Village or National Park Village, depending on where you can get accommodation. The villages in the heart of the Tongariro National Park are 10 minutes’ drive apart.
Budget Accommodation in Whakapapa and National Park Villages
- Skotel Alpine Resort
- Manowhenua Lodge
- National Park Backpackers
- Howard’s Mountain Lodge
- The Crossing Lodge
Find out more about these accommodations in the 7 Best Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa.
Day 7 – Explore Tongariro National Park
If the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is on your list of must-dos, you’re in the best place for it as you wake up in the closest villages to the hiking trail. Shuttles will transport you to the day hike, which you can organise using Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport: A Practical Guide. Note that the Tongariro Crossing is not safe to do in winter.
For those of you who would rather not do a 19.4km (12-mile) hike, there’s a myriad of short walks in Whakapapa to take advantage of. Taranaki Falls is a good one, boasting views of the volcanic cone of Mt Ngauruhoe on a clear day, as well as featuring a waterfall plunging off an old lava flow. More waterfall delights await on the Tawhai Falls, while the Ridge Track offers more excellent volcano views.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Whakapapa and National Park
- Hike the Tongariro Crossing
- Check out the stunning Taranaki Falls
- Do short walks like Tawhai Falls and the Ridge Track
- See the creamy-white terraces of the Silica Rapids Walk
- Check out the exhibitions at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre.
Learn about the walks and more in the 13 Walks Around National Park Village & Whakapapa Village.
Day 8 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington
Travel time: 4 h 30 mins
This might be the longest drive you’ll experience on the North Island but there are plenty of quirky towns that beg to be stopped at along the way.
Next, there’s the National Army Museum in Waiouru and a giant gumboot sculpture in Taihape. You’ll pass through Bulls, whose many shops and services feature puns about bulls – because, why not? Check out the giant windmill in Foxton, grab a bite to eat in Levin, and stretch your legs on the beaches and sand dunes of Queen Elizabeth Park in Paraparaumu.
Once you arrive in Wellington, check in at your budget accommodation and, if you have any energy left, perhaps take a stroll to the Te Papa Museum. New Zealand’s national museum is free-entry and open until 6 pm, so is always an easy visit when you first arrive. For more ideas on what to do, check out the list below.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Wellington
- Visit the Te Papa Museum
- Check out the views from Mt Victoria
- Take the Cable Car to the Botanic Garden
- People-watch and check out the art on the Wellington Waterfront
- See the seals on the Red Rocks Walkway.
Find out more about each activity and much more in 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wellington.
Budget Accommodation in Wellington
- The Marion Hostel
- Microtel by Wyndham Wellington
- The Dwellington
- Trinity Hotel
- Capital View Motor Inn
Day 9 – Wellington to Picton
Travel time: 3 hours
Depending on what time your ferry sailing is, you might have time to check out some of the Wellington attractions that you missed yesterday. Then, it’s onto the Cook Strait ferry.
The ferry trip isn’t just a means of getting between New Zealand’s two main islands but it’s a scenic cruise, starting at the Wellington Harbour and taking you through the Marlborough Sounds. Learn more about the journey and prices in our guide to The Ferry Between the North Island and South Island.
Before you race off down the South Island, we recommend staying a day in Picton. Picton makes an excellent base to explore the Marlborough wine region on various wine tours, as well as scenic boat trips to explore the Queen Charlotte Sound, which hosts an array of wildlife such as seals and dolphins. The area also has historical significance as a landing place for the first Maori and British explorers of the South Island. Check out our top recommendations for more paid activities in the 12 Best Things to Do in Picton. Otherwise, we go through some of the budget-friendly activities in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Picton.
Budget Accommodation in Picton
- Tombstone Backpackers
- Harbour View Motel
- Picton Accommodation Gateway Motel
- Waikawa Bay Holiday Park
- Sequoia Lodge & Backpackers
Day 10 – Explore Picton
You have the whole day to explore the (usually) sunny top of the South Island. Aside from the wine and boat tours that we mentioned yesterday, there’s also an array of free and affordable activities that your wallet will thank you for.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Picton
- Do a short walk in the Victoria Domain or the Tirohanga Track
- Visit the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
- Check out the Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum
- Hit the Picton mountain bike trails
- Check out the views from Karaka Point.
For more activities and information on each, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Picton.
Day 11 – Picton to Westport
Travel time: 3 h 45 mins
From Picton, drive through the wine country of Marlborough, stopping by St Arnaud, which is a small alpine village on the edge of the Nelson Lakes National Park. Enjoy epic views from the shores of Lake Rotoiti, as well as short bushwalks to enjoy.
Refreshments can be found in Murchison, as well as scenic white water rafting if that’s on our bucket list. Then, from Murchison to Westport, you have the stunning Buller Gorge to enjoy. Stop by the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge for bushwalks, a jet boat tour and, yes, a long swingbridge (note this is a paid attraction). Make sure to pull over at the Kilkenny Lookout to soak in the river and mountain scenery.
Your final destination is the town of Westport. If you have time, Denniston (30 minutes north of Westport) is well worth checking out for awesome views of the South Island, as well as its collection of preserved mining relics, railways lines and coal bins.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Westport
- Hike to a waterfall on the Charming Creek Walkway
- Take a trip to the historical site of Denniston
- Ride the Nile River Rainforest Train
- See seals on the Cape Foulwind Walkway
- Check out the Coaltown Museum.
For more details on each activity and others, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Westport.
Budget Accommodation in Westport
- Bazil’s Backpackers
- Tripinn Hostel
- Westport Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels
- Havenlee Homestay
- The Westport Hotel
Day 12 – Westport to Greymouth
Travel time: 1 h 30 mins
There’s plenty to see between Westport and Greymouth, so let’s get started! If you didn’t stop by there yesterday, check out the Cape Foulwind Walkway.
As you head further south, enjoy the views on the Great Coast Road. You’ll reach Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park, where you can walk the 20-minute Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk, as well as other tracks like the Pororari River Track or the Punakaiki Cavern.
In Barrytown, craft yourself a unique souvenir, either at Barrytown Knifemaking or the Skeleton Crew Carving Studio.
For more activities near Greymouth, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Greymouth or the quick list below.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Greymouth
- Check out the historical Brunner Mine Site
- See mining relics in the forest of the Woods Creek Track
- Lap up the coastal scenery of the Point Elizabeth Walkway
- Browse the jade art and more at Left Bank Art Gallery
- Spend the day at Moana and Lake Brunner.
For more details on each activity and more, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Greymouth.
Budget Accommodation in Greymouth
- Apostles View Motel
- Noah’s Ark Backpackers
- Greymouth Seaside TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Scenicland Motels
- Brunnerton Lodge
Day 13 – Greymouth to Franz Josef
Travel time: 2 h 15 mins
Yep, there’s a lot of ground to cover on the West Coast but at least you can stop by the town of Hokitika. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to visit greenstone carving studios, check out glowworms at the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell and put your toes in the sand. A popular attraction is Hokitika Gorge, which is a 45-minute detour for its milky blue waters and dramatic river gorge scenery. However, you will be seeing a similar attraction later in this itinerary if you don’t want the extra drive here. Find out about more activities in the area in the 10 Awesome Things to Do in Hokitika.
Just past Hokitika is the affordable West Coast Treetop Walk. Alternatively, there’s a 10-minute detour to the Okarito Lagoon and its extremely rare white herons visible on walks ranging from 20 minutes to 3 h 30 mins.
We’ll talk more about the activities in Franz Josef tomorrow. For now, check-in at your budget accommodation.
Budget Accommodation in Franz Josef
- Rainforest Retreat
- Franz Josef Montrose
- Alpine Glacier Motel
- Glow Worm Accommodation
- Franz Josef TOP 10 Holiday Park
Day 14 – Explore Franz Josef
Heli-hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier is on the bucket list for many travellers, even those on a budget. If it’s also yours, keep your fingers crossed for good weather. Otherwise, reschedule for tomorrow morning or wait to do a glacier hike in Aoraki Mt Cook which comes later in this itinerary. Find out more about heli-hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier on Viator and KKday.
Admittedly, glacier heli-hiking is often the most expensive activity travellers do in New Zealand, so if you’d rather save your cash, then there’s an array of breathtaking walks in the area – even walks to view the glacier.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Franz Josef
- See the glacier on the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
- Watch rare birds at the Okarito Lagoon
- Check out the glowworms on the Terrace Walk
- See kiwi birds at the West Coast Wildlife Centre
- Hike the challenging but remarkable Roberts Point Track.
For more free and cheap activities, head over to the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Franz Josef.
Day 15 – Franz Josef to Makarora
Travel time: 2 h 50 mins
There’s something amazing to see every 20 minutes or so on this road trip, so let’s get started!
Stop for refreshments in Haast, then continue down the Haast Pass with its array of short walks to Roaring Billy Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls, Haast Pass Lookout and the Blue Pools of Haast. The latter is a one-hour return walk to a vibrant blue river with a swingbridge crossing (much like Hokitika Gorge, which we were talking about earlier). For more things to do around the Haast area, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Haast.
At the end of Haast Pass is the tiny settlement of Makarora which makes a good stopover before your journey to Queenstown tomorrow. It has a couple of budget stays with million-dollar views. Book early to reserve your spot. Otherwise, stay in Wanaka, where you can find more details in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Wanaka.
Budget Accommodation in Makarora
For more details on each accommodation, check out the 5 Best Budget Accommodations in Haast.
Day 16 – Makarora to Queenstown
Travel time: 1 h 50 mins
Enjoy views of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka as you make your way to Queenstown, stopping by Wanaka to take a photo of #ThatWanakaTree. You can check out more things to do in the town in our 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wanaka.
We then recommend a scenic drive through the Crown Range, where highlights include the Cardrona Bra Fence and horse riding with The Cardrona. If you fancy stretching your legs, the Rock Peak Track offers excellent views.
Once you get to Queenstown, you can easily get carried away with jet boat rides, skydiving, bungy jumps, ziplining, white water rafting, canyon swinging and other adventures in the “Adrenaline Capital of New Zealand”. Be choosy and plan ahead to stick to your budget, using our 20 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.
There’s plenty of budget accommodation but still, book early for a spot at this busy tourist destination.
Budget Accommodation in Queenstown
- Absoloot Hostel QT
- Adventure Queenstown Hostel
- Queenstown TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Melbourne Lodge
- Driftaway Queenstown
Day 17 – Explore Queenstown or Milford Sound
Time to start checking things off your Queenstown bucket list, of which we have many suggestions in the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.
If you’re on a tight budget, however, you can still have a blast between the walking trails, gardens and eateries. Check out a full list of recommendations to help you stick to your budget in the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown
- Hike up Queenstown Hill
- Play disc golf in the Queenstown Gardens
- Enjoy an affordable cruise with Southern Discoveries (on Viator and Klook)
- Scout out the Queenstown cheap eats
- Go ice skating at the Queenstown Ice Arena.
For more information on each activity and more ideas, check out 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown.
Day Trip to Milford Sound
On the other hand, this day is a great opportunity to see the “Eighth Wonder of the World” Milford Sound.
Because you have done A LOT of driving at this point, you might want to take a bus tour to Milford Sound with a cruise in the fiord included. Bus tours include plenty of stops at short walks and cafes along the way, so you won’t miss out too much compared to driving yourself. Check out recommended tours in the 10 Best Milford Sound Tours from Queenstown & Te Anau.
Day 18 – Queenstown to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Travel time: 3 h 10 mins
Get ready to have your mind blown with magnificent scenery on your way to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. It starts when leaving Queenstown, stopping by the historic Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge and perhaps even giving bungy jumping a try. You’ll then continue along the Gibbston Valley, its wineries and the Goldfields Mining Centre with the Goldfields Jet.
At the end of the Gibbston Valley is Cromwell, where you can stop for refreshments including fresh fruit that the town is renowned for. Then, head north to one of the most beautiful roads in New Zealand, Lindis Pass.
On the other side of Lindis Pass is Omarama. Take a 30-minute detour to the Clay Cliffs for its otherworldly formations of pinnacles and narrow ravines. Then, Twizel offers plenty of cafes, the Twizel River Trail and your last convenience store stop before Aoraki Mt Cook.
It’s a super scenic journey alongside the vibrant blue waters of Lake Pukaki on your way to Aoraki Mt Cook Village where you’ll find the following budget accommodation.
Budget Accommodation in Aoraki Mt Cook
- Mt Cook Lodge & Motel
- Glentanner Park Centre
- Twizel Holiday Park
- High Country Lodge, Motels & Backpackers
For more details on each accommodation, check out the 5 Best Budget Accommodations in Mt Cook.
Day 19 – Explore Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Hikes, hikes and more hikes: these are the best ways to soak in the scenery of New Zealand’s highest mountains and longest glacier without spending a dime. Check out our top recommended walks in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Mt Cook. If you have the budget, however, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is another excellent place for glacier heli-hiking, scenic flights, glacier lake tours and more – check out these paid activities in the 11 Unmissable Things to Do in Mt Cook.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Aoraki Mt Cook
- Hike the Hooker Valley Track
- Visit the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park Visitor Centre
- Check out the views from the Red Tarns Track
- Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre
- Do some stargazing!
For more details, hikes and experiences, see the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Mt Cook.
Day 20 – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch
Travel time: 4 hours
While this is the longest drive on our itinerary so far, there are plenty of reasons to take it easy. After one hour into your trip, you’ll reach Lake Tekapo with its scenic lookout from the Church of the Good Shepherd and soothing hot pools complex.
After driving over Burkes Pass, you’ll reach Fairlie where it’s mandatory to get a pie from the Fairlie Bakehouse. The next significant town is Geraldine, known for its canyoning, whitewater rafting and alpaca farm tours – check out more in the 10 Excellent Things to Do in Geraldine.
Cruise on through the Canterbury Plains with farmland as far as the eye can see until you reach Ashburton, giving you another excuse to get refreshments and perhaps explore the Ashburton Domain. Take a photo of the giant fish sculpture in Rakaia before making the final stint to Christchurch.
Check-in and relax at your Christchurch accommodation.
Budget Accommodation in Christchurch
- The Bealey Quarter
- Southwark Hotel & Apartments
- BreakFree on Cashel
- Tasman Holiday Parks – Christchurch
- Hotel Give
Day 21 – Christchurch to Christchurch Airport
Travel time: 15 minutes
For your last day in New Zealand, try to fit in a couple of attractions in Christchurch before heading to the airport.
Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city, also known as the “Garden City” so it would almost be a crime to not visit its gorgeous outdoor displays such as the Botanic Gardens or Mona Vale. Check out the 10 Beautiful Gardens & Parks in Christchurch for more information.
Learn more about the city and how it dealt with the 2010/11 earthquakes at Quake City or the free-entry Canterbury Museum. For those who want to explore a little further, Sumner and New Brighton Beaches are popular go-to’s, while taking the ferry to Quail Island from Lyttelton offers some unusual surprises.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch
- Explore the Botanic Gardens
- Visit the Canterbury Museum
- Check out Sumner or New Brighton Beach
- Take the ferry to Quail Island
- See the warplanes at the Air Force Museum.
For more inspiration, check out the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Christchurch.
Remember to give yourself plenty of time to return your rental vehicle at Christchurch Airport before your flight. There are connecting flights between Christchurch and Auckland if you are flying out of Auckland, otherwise, many international flights leave from Christchurch.
More About a New Zealand Budget Itinerary for 3 Weeks/21 Days
That’s it for our New Zealand budget and backpacking itinerary for 21 days. If that wasn’t the itinerary you were looking for, check out these alternative 21-day itineraries:
- New Zealand in 3 Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand Family Itinerary: 3 Weeks
- New Zealand Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 3 Weeks
- New Zealand Food Itinerary: 3 Weeks
- New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: 3 Weeks
- How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
Finally, get advice on planning more of your backpacking or budget trip to New Zealand with The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget and NZ Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost?