14-Day Budget Itinerary for New Zealand
Two weeks to explore both islands of New Zealand is a trip for only the most determined traveller. Landscapes and experiences are diverse across the country, which is the main reason to hit both islands. If you think you are up for the challenge, we have spruced up an exciting New Zealand budget and backpacking itinerary for two weeks!
How far can you get in 14 days? Well, visiting both islands is doable but can be exhausting. Honestly, we recommend just travelling around one of the islands if you only have two weeks. Check out our North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks or South Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks for alternative itineraries.
New Zealand Budget and Backpacking Itinerary for 2 Weeks: Overview
- Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Waitomo
- Day 2 – Waitomo to Rotorua
- Day 3 – Explore Rotorua
- Day 4 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park
- Day 5 – Explore Tongariro National Park
- Day 6 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington
- Day 7 – Wellington to Westport
- Day 8 – Westport to Greymouth
- Day 9 – Greymouth to Franz Josef
- Day 10 – Explore Franz Josef
- Day 11 – Franz Josef to Makarora
- Day 12 – Makarora to Queenstown
- Day 13 – Explore Queenstown or Milford Sound
- Day 14 – Queenstown Airport.
How to Get Around New Zealand in 2 Weeks on a Budget
The best way to make the most of New Zealand in two weeks is to hit the road. The country is extremely diverse, which can only be experienced by travelling around, of which you have a few ways to do so:
Rent a Car or Campervan
For complete freedom to visit all of the stops we recommend in this budget 14-day itinerary, rent a car or campervan. As this itinerary starts in Auckland and ends in Queenstown, we recommend choosing a rental company that has a depot in both cities. Start planning using The Guide to Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand or 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 14-day budget itinerary. The main disadvantage of using this service for the below itinerary, however, is that you may find the bus schedule too restrictive. 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 some of the destinations mentioned. Check out tour companies that travel the whole country in The Best National Bus Tours in New Zealand.
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 Queenstown. 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 Queenstown to Auckland.
For more transport methods for backpackers, check out the 6 Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand.
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Waitomo
Travel time: 2 h 10 mins
Welcome to New Zealand! As you want to do both the North Island and South Island in two weeks, you have no time to waste in hitting the road. You’ll have to do the best you can with the jet lag, following our tips in 10 Simple Ways to Get Over Jet Lag. Pick up your rental vehicle from the Auckland Airport or catch the bus to Waitomo and its epic glowworm caves.
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. However, since this is a budget itinerary, here are some free ways to experience the glowworms and cave scenery:
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 recommendations, 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 2 – Waitomo to Rotorua
Travel time: 1 h 55 mins
Start your day off with any of the cave tours you might have missed yesterday. Then, it’s off to Rotorua.
If you’re a Middle-earth, ahem, nerd, 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 get in cheaper.
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 3 – Explore Rotorua
You have the whole day in Rotorua to experience it your way. While we have some free and affordable activity suggestions below, a highly recommended activity for those with the budget to spare is a Maori culture tour and 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 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 4 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park
Travel time: 2 h 10 mins
Next on this 14-day budget itinerary for New Zealand is the Tongariro National Park, but not without a few stops along the way. If your budget allows, it’s well worth stopping by the amazing geothermal parks between Rotorua and Taupo. You have Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu Volcanic Valley (more info on Viator and Klook) and Orakei Korako.
In Taupo, check out its cosy cafes using The Food Guide to Taupo or Cheap Eats in Taupo. Additionally, see 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 12 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Taupo.
And if all else fails, you can rely on the pleasant (and free) 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.
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 5 – Explore Tongariro National Park
If the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is on your must-do list, 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 without a guide.
For those of you who would rather not do a 19.4 km (12 mi) hike or are travelling in winter, 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. For a longer hike, Tama Lakes has views that rival the Tongariro Crossing.
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 6 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington
Travel time: 4 h 30 mins
This might be the longest drive on the itinerary but there are plenty of quirky towns to keep things interesting and give an insight into the Kiwi culture.
Next, there’s the National Army Museum in Waiouru and a giant gumboot sculpture in Taihape. What’s not to love?
You’ll pass through Bulls, whose many shops and services feature puns about, well, bulls. 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 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 in Wellington, 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
- Scout out the Cheap Eats in Wellington.
Find out more about each activity and more in the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wellington.
Budget Accommodation in Whanganui
- Whanganui River TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Riverside Motel
- Riverview Motel
- Whanganui Seaside Holiday Park
- Braemar House
For more information on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Whanganui.
Day 7 – Wellington to Westport
Travel time: 3 hours ferry, 3 h 45 mins drive
Since we are going to whisk you away to Westport once you arrive on the South Island, we suggest you book an early morning ferry. Don’t complain; these sailings tend to be cheaper. Enjoy a ferry journey that isn’t just a means of getting between New Zealand’s two main islands but a scenic cruise through the Marlborough Sounds. Learn more about the journey and prices in our guide to The Ferry Between the North Island and South Island.
From Picton, drive through the wine region of Marlborough and onto the Nelson Lakes National Park where a stop on the shores of Lake Rotoiti is a must. Soak in the mountains and lake scenery, as well as short bushwalks.
Murchison offers refreshments, as well as a scenic white water rafting trip, should that be on your 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, which offers interesting mining attractions along walks that are engulfed in wilderness. Check out the list below for affordable recommendations. More importantly, Westport has places to stay for the night.
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 8 – Westport to Greymouth
Travel time: 1 h 30 mins
Don’t worry, the drive between Westport and Greymouth isn’t too long but there are still some awesome natural landscapes to admire. It starts with the Cape Foulwind Walkway, a must-visit for its dramatic coastal scenery and seal colony.
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 9 – Greymouth to Franz Josef
Travel time: 2 h 15 mins
As you continue travelling down the west coast, 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 after 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 3h30mins.
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 10 – Explore Franz Josef
Heli-hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier is on the bucket list for many travellers, even those who are on a budget. If it’s also on yours, keep your fingers crossed for good weather. Otherwise, you can always reschedule for tomorrow morning. Find out more about heli-hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier on Viator and KKday.
Admittedly, glacier heli-hiking is the most expensive activity travellers do in New Zealand. 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 experiences, head over to the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Franz Josef.
Day 11 – Franz Josef to Makarora
Travel time: 2 h 50 mins
After stopping for refreshments in Haast, 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 lodges with million-dollar views. Book early! Otherwise, stay in Wanaka using 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 12 – Makarora to Queenstown
Travel time: 1 h 50 mins
Enjoy views of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka as you make your way to Queenstown. Stop by Wanaka to take a photo of #ThatWanakaTree. 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 in Queenstown but be sure to book early for a bed 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 13 – Explore Queenstown or Milford Sound
If you’re on a tighter budget, however, you can still have a blast between Queenstown’s 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 (more info 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
An alternative thing to do from Queenstown is visit 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 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 14 – Queenstown Airport
Goodbye from New Zealand!
More About a New Zealand Budget Itinerary for 2 Weeks/14 Days
That’s it for our New Zealand budget and backpacking itinerary for 14 days. If that wasn’t the itinerary you were looking for, check out these alternative 14-day itineraries:
- North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- South Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand in 2 Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand Family Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Foodie Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: 2 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?