New Zealand in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary© Tourism New Zealand
New Zealand in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

New Zealand in 1 Week (7 Days): Road Trip Itinerary Both Islands!

© Tourism New Zealand
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Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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The Ultimate 1-Week New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary (Both Islands!)

We’ll just say it: you’ve got to be 10 kinds of crazy to try and see New Zealand in one week. Nevertheless, if one of your crazy streaks is your love of driving, then this is the road trip itinerary for you. If you want to see New Zealand in one week, then we suggest spending time on just one of the islands, the North Island or the South Island. We have itineraries for both of those – for the North Island in One Week here and the South Island in One Week here. Nevertheless, if you are adamant about seeing both islands in New Zealand in just seven days then check out the itinerary below for a sample of what you could be doing!

The itinerary below allows you to see New Zealand’s cultural side, volcanic side, rugged coastal landscapes, glaciers, mountains and adventure activities. We’ll also give you some advice on how to get around New Zealand in one week.

New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary for 1 Week (7 Days): Overview

  • Day 1 – Auckland to Rotorua
  • Day 2 – Rotorua to Taupo
  • Day 3 – Taupo to Wellington
  • Day 4 – Wellington to Punakaiki
  • Day 5 – Punakaiki to Wanaka (via Franz Josef and Fox Glacier)
  • Day 6 – Wanaka to Queenstown
  • Day 7 – Explore Queenstown or Milford Sound Day Trip

New Zealand in 1 Week (7 Days): Road Trip Itinerary Both Islands!© NZPocketGuide.com

Renting a Car or Campervan for 1 Week in New Zealand

Travelling for one week in New Zealand and looking for the perfect road trip itinerary? Renting a car or campervan is going to be the best way to squeeze everything you want into one week in New Zealand. This means no waiting around for buses and gives you the freedom to hit all the incredible New Zealand destinations listed below.

For a one-week car or campervan rental, consider the following:

  • Choose a rental company with a low or no one-way fee. The itinerary below means you will pick up a rental vehicle in Auckland and drop it off in Queenstown. Most car rental companies will charge a one-way fee for this.
  • Consider car relocation. See if there are any car relocation deals at your time of travel between Auckland and Queenstown for as little as NZ$1 a day! Power tip; you are more likely to find a car relocation deal if you do this itinerary in reverse, from Queenstown to Auckland. Find out more in our Car Relocation Guide.
  • Use a car rental company based at Auckland Airport. And make sure the premium location fee is fair (less than NZ$30) and they offer a free shuttle to their depot.

For a complete comparison of rental companies, check out The Best Car Rental Companies in Auckland and The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in Auckland.

Alternative Transport: 7-Day Bus Tours of New Zealand

For travellers who would rather let someone else sort out the logistics, escorted bus tours are available to take you around New Zealand with like-minded people. Some of the tour companies that offer 7-day tours of New Zealand (but more likely of just one island, as even they aren’t as crazy as you) are listed in The 10 Best 7-Day Tours of New Zealand. Plus, see How to Travel by Bus in New Zealand for more ways to experience the North Island without a car.

New Zealand in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary© Matt Crawford - Tourism New Zealand

Day 1 – Auckland to Rotorua

Drive time: 2 hrs 50 mins

Welcome to New Zealand and the start of an action-packed road trip! After picking up your rental vehicle, hit State Highway 2 toward Rotorua. On the way, Lord of the Rings nerds have the opportunity to stop in Matamata for a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. Then, you’ll reach New Zealand’s cultural heart and a hotbed for geothermal activity, Rotorua!

Things to Do in Rotorua

For more recommendations, check out the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.

Accommodation in Rotorua

Budget:

For more options, check out the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua.

Mid-range:

See more stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua.

Luxury:

More lavish finds are available in the 20 Best Luxury Accommodations in Rotorua.

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Day 2 – Rotorua to Taupo

Drive time: 1 hour

Not too far from Rotorua is Taupo on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake! Again, there really is a lot to do here. If you want to skydive and/or bungy jump on the North Island then Taupo is a great place to do it. Plus, there are plenty of options to get out on the lake, relax in hot pools, see raging waterfalls and more!

Things to Do in Taupo

For more inspiration, take a look at the 20 Best Things to Do in Taupo.

Accommodation in Taupo

Budget:

Check out more options over at the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Taupo.

Mid-range:

For more, check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Taupo.

Luxury:

Discover more upscale finds in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Taupo.

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Day 3 – Taupo to Wellington

Drive time: 4 hrs 45 mins

You have a long drive ahead of you today in order to have a substantial amount of time to enjoy the South Island. (We told you this one-week itinerary for New Zealand would be tough).

Nevertheless, the drive Taupo to Wellington allows you to marvel at the views of the North Island volcanoes as you travel down the Desert Road. Then, you will start passing through some of New Zealand’s quirkiest towns like Taihape, the Gumboot Capital of New Zealand, and Bulls, famous for its puns! Both locations are great places for a coffee break. You’ll then drive down the Kapiti Coast with lots of beaches dotted along the way until you reach the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington. You should have some time to do one of the following activities this evening.

Things to Do on the Road to Wellington

  • Stop by Ohakune for its walking and biking trails. Hire a bike and do the 2-hour Old Coach Road or hike in the Mangawhero Forest (1 hour)
  • Visit the National Army Museum in Waiouru
  • Stop by Taihape, see the giant gumboot and do the short walk to the Mt Stewart Reserve lookout
  • Do a quick detour to Palmerston North to check out the Wildbase Recovery Centre, the National Rugby Museum and Te Manawa Museum
  • Check out the quirky town of Bulls and spot all the bull-related puns of the town
  • Along the Kapiti Coast, stop by one of the beaches like Peka Peka Beach or Queen Elizabeth Park. Or take a tour to Kapiti Island to check out the native bird sanctuary.

Things to Do in Wellington

… And more as listed in the 25 Best Things to Do in Wellington.

Accommodation in Wellington

Budget:

Need more options? Head to the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Wellington.

Mid-range:

Check out The 50 Best Accommodations for all of your best options.

Luxury:

See more stays in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wellington.

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Day 4 – Wellington to Punakaiki

Drive time: 5 hrs 40 mins (plus, 3-hour ferry)

Take an early morning ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton, not only for the price but for the amazing sunrises seen as you sail into the Marlborough Sounds.

Once you hit Picton, you have no time to lose. Head toward the wild West Coast of the South Island. On the way, stop by Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park for some wonderful picture opportunities. Stop by Murchison for a coffee break before driving through the breathtaking Buller Gorge then you will soon hit the Great Coast Road, a scenic journey on the West Coast.

Tonight, you’ll have a well-deserved break in the quiet coastal village of Punakaiki.

Things to Do in Punakaiki

Learn about all of these activities and more in the 10 Best Things to Do in Punakaiki.

Accommodation in Punakaiki

Budget:

More details on these hostels can be found in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Punakaiki.

Mid-range:

Luxury:

New Zealand in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary© Legend Photography - Tourism NZ

Day 5 – Punakaiki to Wanaka (via Franz Josef and Fox Glacier)

Drive time: 5 hrs 20 mins

Set off early so that you get a chance to check out the glaciers in either Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, about 1 hr 30 mins into the journey today. (Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are about 30 minutes apart from each other). You have a huge choice of things to do in both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, so here are your options.

Things to Do in Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

Now continue on your journey through the stunning Haast Pass toward Lake Wanaka. We recommend you stop at Thunder Creek Falls just a minute’s walk from the road. Then, if you have time, walk to the Blue Pools of Haast. This is a 1-hour return walk through the forest to some of the clearest and bluest rivers you will ever see.

This evening you will have the time to relax by the beautiful Lake Wanaka.

Things to Do in Wanaka

Head to the 25 Best Things to Do in Wanaka for more ideas.

Accommodation in Wanaka

Budget:

More cheap stays can be found in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Wanaka.

Mid-range:

Check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Wanaka for more ideas.

Luxury:

More recommendations can be found in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wanaka.

New Zealand in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary© Shotover Jet - Tourism New Zealand

Day 6 – Wanaka to Queenstown

Drive time: 1 hour

Time to hit the “Adrenaline Capital of the World”! Take the Crown Range to be the best views on the way to Queenstown. Once there, you have so much to do! Take a look at The Complete Guide to Queenstown or the list below.

Things to Do in Queenstown

The possibilities are endless, as described in the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.

Accommodation in Queenstown

Budget:

Choose from more affordable stays in the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Queenstown.

Mid-range:

Browse all of the top stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Queenstown.

Luxury:

New Zealand in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary© Rob Suisted - Tourism New Zealand

Day 7 – Explore Queenstown (or Milford Sound Day Trip)

Depending on what time your flight is, you can squeeze in some short activities in Queenstown from the list above. However, if you have one more full day to spare then this is your chance to visit Milford Sound. We get it, Milford Sound is on almost everybody’s New Zealand bucket list, so this is a way to squeeze the experience into a one-week itinerary for New Zealand. Although you can drive there (8 hours return), we recommend taking a break from driving and taking one of the bus trips to and from Milford Sound with a cruise included.

On the other hand, if you want a break from the road, you have plenty more options for things to do in Queenstown listed above as well as some more inspiration in the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.

Depart from Queenstown

When your trip in New Zealand is all wrapped up, return your rental vehicle to the Queenstown depot then head onto your next adventure! Queenstown Airport is well-connected domestically to the rest of New Zealand, as well as internationally to Australia.

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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