The Ultimate 2-Week New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary (Both Islands!)
You’ve probably heard enough times that two weeks is not enough time to see New Zealand but we’ll spare you the lecture. Two weeks is the time you have in New Zealand so let’s make the most of it! While seeing a lot of New Zealand in 14 days is doable, it does involve a lot of driving. Consider looking at how to spend two weeks on the North Island or two weeks on the South Island as alternatives. Nevertheless, if you want to hit both islands and see some major highlights, continue on down to the “New Zealand in two weeks” itinerary below including both islands!
Our two-week New Zealand itinerary incorporates a bit of everything you’d dream of for a New Zealand trip: volcanic landscapes, mountains, beaches, rugged coastal areas, wildlife and cultural experiences. We’ll also throw in a few tips on how to get around New Zealand in two weeks.
New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary for 2 Weeks (14 Days): Overview
- Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Hahei (Coromandel)
- Day 2 – Hahei to Waitomo (via Karangahake Gorge)
- Day 3 – Waitomo to Rotorua (via Hobbiton)
- Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo or Tongaririo National Park
- Day 5 – Explore Taupo or Tongariro National Park
- Day 6 – Taupo or Tongariro National Park to Wellington
- Day 7 – Wellington to Picton
- Day 8 – Picton to Nelson
- Day 9 – Explore Nelson or Abel Tasman Day Trip
- Day 10 – Nelson to Punakaiki (via Nelson Lakes)
- Day 11 – Punakaiki to Franz Josef
- Day 12 – Franz Josef to Wanaka
- Day 13 – Wanaka to Queenstown
- Day 14 – Explore Queenstown or Milford Sound Day Trip
How to Get Around New Zealand in 2 Weeks
We’re not going to beat around the bush there is going to be a lot of driving – A LOT. If you can handle it, then get yourself a rental vehicle and continue down to the itinerary below. Otherwise, if driving almost every day for two weeks does not quite sound like the trip you were imagining, then consider travelling around New Zealand by bus. Here are your options when it comes to travelling around New Zealand in two weeks.
Car or Campervan Rental
The itinerary below begins in Auckland and ends in Queenstown meaning that you should look for car rental companies with small or no “one-way” fees. Get started with planning your vehicle rental in New Zealand with The Guide to Renting a Car and The Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand.
By far the cheapest option for getting around New Zealand is by coach. Get one of the InterCity bus passes to hit all of the destinations listed below. For more information, see How to Travel by Bus in New Zealand.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tours
A hop-on hop-off bus is a flexible bus tour where you can hop off the bus at any point on the route and jump back on the bus at a later date. There are a few hop-on hop-off bus companies in New Zealand with itineraries for around 14 days, which you can discover for yourself in Hop-On Hop-Off Buses in New Zealand: Complete Guide + How Do They Work.
Escorted Bus Tours
All the logistics are sorted out for you, so all you need to do is enjoy. There are a number of bus tour companies offering 10-12-day tours around New Zealand following a similar itinerary to what is featured below, yet including accommodation, some meals and some activities. Check them out in The 10 Best 10-12-Day Tours of New Zealand.
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Hahei
Drive time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Landed in Auckland Airport, check! Rental vehicle picked up, check! Now it’s time to hit the road to Hahei in the Coromandel. We are guessing you are in New Zealand to see the natural landscapes rather than the cities, so leave Auckland behind and head to some of the most stunning beaches on the North Island.
Things to Do in Hahei
These are pretty relaxing and accessible activities/sights to see for your first day in New Zealand:
- Hike to the famous Cathedral Cove and its beach with white cliffs and a giant coastal arch
- Take a boat tour with Hahei Explorer to Cathedral Cove
- Explore beaches and islands with Cathedral Cove Kayaks
- Go to Hot Water Beach at low tide to dig yourself a hot pool in the sand.
For more ideas, head to the 22 Best Things to Do in The Coromandel.
Accommodation in Hahei
See more like this in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Coromandel.
For more mid-range stays, take a look at the 15 Best Hotels & Resorts in the Coromandel.
Day 2 – Hahei to Waitomo (via Karangahake Gorge)
Drive time: 3 hours
Your final destination today is Waitomo, famous for its glowworms and caving activities. Before you get there, don’t miss the Karangahake Gorge, halfway through the drive. There are a number of walking tracks in the area between 45 minutes to 4 hours going through a historic mining area taken back by the forest and the river. Walk through mining tunnels, through native forest, alongside mining relics and to magnificent waterfalls.
You’ll have the opportunity to explore the Waitomo caves tomorrow morning, but if you just can’t wait, here are some options:
Things to Do in Waitomo
- Explore the Waitomo caves with one of the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours
- Do a walking tour of the Ruakuri Cave or the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Do the Ruakuri Bush Walk at night to see glowworms
- Go on a caving adventure with Waitomo Adventures, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. (more info on Viator and Klook) or Cave World Waitomo.
Check out the 15 Best Things to Do in Waitomo for more recommendations.
Accommodation in Waitomo
Learn more in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Waitomo.
See more options in the 10 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Waitomo.
Day 3 – Waitomo to Rotorua (via Hobbiton)
Drive time: 1 hr 50 mins
If you want to do one of the caving activities in Waitomo or didn’t get to do one of the Waitomo activities yesterday, this morning would be a great time to do so! Join one of the caving operators in Waitomo, throw on a sexy wetsuit and tube/abseil/climb your way through the Waitomo Caves – compare all of your options in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.
Once the adventure is over, it’s time to hit the road to Rotorua. Depending on what you prefer, there are things to do along the way to Rotorua, such as Hobbiton in Matamata, or save some time for more things to do in Rotorua this evening.
Things to Do on the Road to Rotorua
- Stop by Otorohanga to see a kiwi bird in the kiwi house or quickly learn a bit of New Zealand history down the Ed Hillary Walkway
- See the Arapuni Swing Bridge, a huge suspension bridge crossing New Zealand’s longest river
- Do the Te Waihou Walkway to the Putaruru Blue Spring to see some of the purest and clearest water flowing in a stream
- Take a detour to Matamata to visit The Hobbiton Movie Set (more info on Viator and Klook). This will add an extra 30 minutes to your drive time.
Things to Do in Rotorua
If you get to Rotorua with time to spare, here are a few suggestions.
- Relax in a natural geothermal hot pool. There are paid options, such as the Polynesian Spa (more info on Klook or KKday), or go find some of the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua
- See an evening cultural performance at one of the Maori attractions
- Go for a bite to eat on Eat Streat and beyond
- See the forest decorated on the Redwoods Treewalk
- Have a race on the night Luge at Skyline Gondola.
For more recommendations, check out the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.
Accommodation in Rotorua
For more options, check out the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua.
See more stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua.
More lavish finds are available in the 20 Best Luxury Accommodations in Rotorua.
Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo or Tongariro National Park
Drive time: 1 hour to Taupo or 2 hr 15 mins to National Park Village
Today, spend some time doing awesome stuff in Rotorua before hitting the road. But why the crazy drive time? Well, if you are into hiking and landscapes, then we suggest that you pass through the town of Taupo and base yourself in the Tongariro National Park so that tomorrow morning, you can tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or another hike in the national park.
However, we know long hikes are not for everyone, so another option is to stay in Taupo which has a huge variety of activities on offer. Find out more about what there is to do in either Taupo or Tongariro National Park in tomorrow’s section. Before then, you have a day in Rotorua to enjoy before hitting the road!
Things to Do in Rotorua
- Geysers, steaming lakes, bubbling mud, silica terraces and so much more can be seen in one of the many geothermal parks of Rotorua
- Catch a Maori cultural performance (if you missed doing so yesterday)
- Do some adrenaline activities
Zorb your way in a giant hamster ball down a hill, go luging from the top of the Skyline Gondola, hike or mountain bike in the Redwood Forest, jet boat or do a freefall experience at the Velocity Valley, and so much more!
- See native New Zealand wildlife at Wingspan or National Kiwi Hatchery (more info on Viator and Klook).
Again, we have a lot more recommendations in the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.
Accommodation in Taupo
For those who decide to stay in Taupo, here are your best accommodation options:
Check out more options over at the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Taupo.
For more, check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Taupo.
Discover more upscale finds in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Taupo.
Accommodation in National Park Village
Get closer to the Tongariro Crossing by staying at one of these accommodations:
See more options in the 7 Best Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa.
Day 5 – Taupo or Tongariro National Park
Spend the whole day in Taupo or Tongariro National Park doing awesome activities. There’s no driving to do today other than to your chosen activity. Plus, you can stay in the same accommodation as last night.
Things to Do in Tongariro National Park
- Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, taking you over the volcanoes of the central North Island. The 6-8-hour hike is one-way and requires some planning in terms of transport and keeping safe; take a look at our Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to work out a plan
- Ski or snowboard at Whakapapa Ski Field in winter
- Choose from other hikes in Tongariro National Park, such as Tawhai Falls, Silica Rapids and Taranaki Falls
- Discover the birthplace of the Haka at the historical Opotaka.
For more ideas, check out the 15 Best Things to Do in the Tongariro National Park.
Things to Do in Taupo
- Take a trip out on New Zealand’s largest lake, whether it’s fishing, kayaking, sailing, cruising or parasailing
- Bungy jump over the Waikato River with Taupo Bungy
- Do a skydive with Taupo Tandem Skydive
- Go on a white water rafting trip on the Tongariro River with Tongariro River Rafting
- Walk along the Waikato River to a natural hot pool at Spa Park, then onto Huka Falls
- Sail to the Maori Rock Carvings with Sail Barbary (more info on Viator and Klook).
For more inspiration, take a look at the 20 Best Things to Do in Taupo.
Day 6 – Taupo or Tongariro National Park to Wellington
Drive time: 4 hours from National Park; 5 hours from Taupo
Your final destination today is the capital city of New Zealand! However, there’s plenty to do along the way to break up the 4-hour drive.
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.
Accommodation in Wellington
Need more options? Head to the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Wellington.
Check out The 50 Best Accommodations for all of your best options.
See more stays in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wellington.
Day 7 – Wellington to Picton
Ferry time: 3 hrs 30 mins
Today you have the treat of taking the ferry from the North Island to the South Island! We recommend a sunrise or sunset sailing for the best prices and the best light for a stunning journey across the Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds – see The Ferry Between the North Island and South Island: Full Guide.
Things to Do in Wellington
- Visit the Te Papa Museum to learn everything there is to know about New Zealand
- Go to Zealandia to see native New Zealand wildlife
- Do a self-guided Lord of the Rings tour or be guided by Xplor Tours
- Tour the city sights of Wellington from the Waterfront to Cuba Street to the Botanic Gardens to Mt Victoria. Find out more in our One Day in Wellington: City Walking Tour Itinerary…
… And more as listed in the 25 Best Things to Do in Wellington.
Things to Do in Picton
- Take the Beachcomber Cruises‘ mail boat cruise out onto the waters of the Marlborough Sounds
- Go dolphin swimming with E-Ko Tours (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Mountain bike the Link Pathway or Queen Charlotte Track
- Kayak around the harbour with Wilderness Guides
- Take a tour of the wine region and do some wine tasting with Sounds Connection.
Learn more about these activities, as well as many others, in the 20 Best Things to Do in Picton.
Accommodation in Picton
If everything goes to plan and you do not miss your ferry then these are some excellent accommodation options in Picton.
For more ideas, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Picton.
Check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Picton for more details on these accommodations and others.
Learn more about these stays in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Picton.
Day 8 – Picton to Nelson
Drive time: 1 hr 50 mins
Do one of the activities that you missed in Picton yesterday or hit the road to Nelson.
Stop by Havelock to take a boat cruise out into the Marlborough Sounds or join a kayaking tour with Pelorus Eco Adventures down the Pelorus River one of The Hobbit filming locations. For more inspiration, check out the 10 Best Things to Do in Havelock.
Then you will reach New Zealand’s sunniest city, Nelson, where you will have more opportunities to do some of the following activities…
Things to Do in Nelson
- Walk to the Centre of New Zealand found in the Botanic Reserve
- Step back in time and also try some craft beer at Founders Park
- See where the One Ring was made at the Jens Hansen Ringmaker store
- See native birds at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
- Treat yourself to local Nelson cuisine…
… And the list continues over in the 20 Best Things to Do in Nelson.
Accommodation in Nelson
There’s a lot more listed in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Nelson.
Check out more options in the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Nelson.
More indulgent options await in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Nelson.
Day 9 – Nelson or Abel Tasman Day Trip
Drive time: 0-1 hour
Nelson is the gateway to three national parks in the South Island. One of which is the Abel Tasman National Park, full of pristine golden sand beaches backed with lush forest. Tours operate from Nelson daily taking you into the Abel Tasman National Park, such as Wine, Art & Wilderness. Either drive to Kaiteriteri yourself (1 hour one way) for maximum flexibility or take one of the shuttle services.
In Kaiteriteri, you have a great deal of Abel Tasman options from kayaking tours, water taxis to hikes, or boat tours…
Things to Do in the Abel Tasman National Park
- Paddle a traditional Maori canoe with Waka Abel Tasman
- Skydive over beaches with Skydive Abel Tasman (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Do some beach-hopping by kayak with Wilson’s Abel Tasman
- Cruise Abel Tasman from Kaiteriteri with Wilson’s Abel Tasman
- Take a hiking a boat cruise of Abel Tasman from Nelson with Wine, Art & Wilderness.
Learn more about these activities and more in the 20 Best Things to Do in the Abel Tasman National Park.
Day 10 – Nelson to Punakaiki (via Nelson Lakes National Park)
Drive time: 3 hrs 45 mins
There’s a fair bit of driving to do today but the beautiful views of the Buller Gorge help pass the time quickly. There are a few quaint towns to stop by for a coffee, such as Murchison. However, to really make the most of the drive we suggest taking a 20-minute detour into the Nelson Lakes National Park to see the beautiful Lake Rotoroa or Lake Rotoiti. Both are very similar in terms of views and short walks available so take your pick!
Once you arrive in Punakaiki, you have plenty of experiences to choose from but don’t miss the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes for their impressive and bizarre rock formations.
Things to Do in Punakaiki
- Do the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes Walk
- Visit the Punakaiki Cavern
- Kayak on the Pororari River with Waka Puna
- Experience Barrytown Beach by horse wagon with Golden Sands Horse and Wagon Tours
- Sample the Paparoa Track, one of the New Zealand Great Walks.
Learn about all of these activities and more in the 10 Best Things to Do in Punakaiki.
Accommodation in Punakaiki
More details on these hostels can be found in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Punakaiki.
Day 11 – Punakaiki to Franz Josef
Drive time: 3 hours
Head to the West Coast’s Glacier Country where you’ll find some of the world’s most mesmerising glacier experiences. Franz Josef is your opportunity to walk on, crawl inside, fly over, skydive over or walk up to a glacier, as described in the 7 Ways to Take on New Zealand’s Glaciers. Nevertheless, there’s actually more to do here than glacier gallivanting! Check it out in the list below.
Things to Do in Franz Josef
- Do a heli-hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides
- Do one of New Zealand’s highest skydives over the glacier and the Southern Alps with Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Hike to the Franz Josef Terminal Face
- Relax in the Waiho Hot Tubs
- Kayak on the reflective waters of Lake Mapourika with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours (on Viator and Klook).
Get much more details over in the 25 Best Things to Do in Franz Josef.
Accommodation in Franz Josef
Discover more affordable stays in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Franz Josef.
Head to the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Franz Josef for more recommendations.
For more details, check out the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Franz Josef.
Day 12 – Franz Josef to Wanaka
Drive time: 3 hrs 40 mins
You’ve got a long drive ahead today but plenty of reasons to stretch your legs. You’ll be going through another super scenic road on the Haast Pass where we recommend you stop at Thunder Creek Falls just a minute’s walk from the road. Then don’t miss 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
- Hike up Roy’s Peak
- Climb a waterfall with Wild Wire Wanaka
- Visit Puzzling World and get lost in their giant maze
- Skydive over beautiful Lake Wanaka with Skydive Wanaka
- Cruise to a sanctuary island on Lake Wanka with Eco Wanaka Adventures.
Head to the 25 Best Things to Do in Wanaka for more ideas.
Accommodation in Wanaka
More cheap stays can be found in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Wanaka.
- Club Wyndham Wanaka, Trademark Collection by Wyndham
- Archway Motels & Chalets
- The Moorings Motel and Apartments
Check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Wanaka for more ideas.
More recommendations can be found in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wanaka.
Day 13 – 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
- Do a bungy jump; you have three to choose from in Queenstown
- Do a giant swing with Nevis Swing or Shotover Canyon Swing
- Experience the thrills of a jet boat ride
- Go skiing or snowboarding at The Remarkables in winter
- Hike Ben Lomond.
The possibilities are endless, as described in the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.
Accommodation in Queenstown
Choose from more affordable stays in the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Queenstown.
Browse all of the top stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Queenstown.
Day 14 – 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 two-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.
However, 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.
More New Zealand Itineraries for 2 Weeks / 14 Days
That’s the end of our New Zealand road trip itinerary for 2 weeks / 14 days on both islands. If this itinerary didn’t take you fancy, see our alternative two-week itineraries:
- North Island in 2 Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island in 2 Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Food Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Family Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.