Beware: this itinerary is not for someone that likes to spend significant amount of time in one single city or place but this itinerary will definitely allow you to see a lot of New Zealand. Rent a car or a camper van and start your adventure.
Day 1: Auckland
Land in Auckland and if you land at night, use it as a day to regroup before starting your adventure. However, if you end up getting there in the morning and have some time, go explore the city. Here are some things to do:
- Climb Mt. Eden
- It has a gorgeous view of the city and the hike isn’t too bad.
- Visit Sky Tower
- You can’t miss this place and if you are feeling a bit adventurous you can bungy jump from it. Otherwise, you can enjoy a dinner or a drink at one of its 20 bars or restaurants.
- Explore Ponsonby
- Visit this adorable neighborhood filled with boutiques, AMAZING restaurants, and bars
- One specific restaurant I ate at and loved was The Blue Breeze Inn. It was really good Chinese food with amazing steamed buns. Their drinks were also really good- it had an almost tiki bar vibe to it. Definitely worth a visit. FYI: Auckland had some bomb ethnic food (specifically, Asian and Indian cuisine)
Day 2: Hobbiton, Rotorua
Rent a car and drive through the North Island countryside to get to Hobbiton, home of The Lord of the Rings set.
- Hobbiton Set Tour:
- There is a tour that leaves every 20 minutes or so, I did not prebook my tickets in advance but they recommend it. We didn’t have any trouble getting on a tour
- This tour lasts about two-hours and involves walking
- At the end of the tour you will be taken to the Green Dragon Inn to enjoy a beer or a nice Apple Cider
- Visit Rotorua and experience the Maori Culture
- Visit Wai O Tapo to experience some amazing thermals, the colors are gorgeous. Wai O Tapo isn’t too far from Hobbiton and all of this can be done in a day.
- Stick around here for the night so you can get to Waitomo Caves the next day
Day 3: Waitomo Caves
- Visit the Waitomo Caves
- Enjoy the Glowworms by gliding through the water on a boat or through a cave and canopy tour that lets you go above and below ground.
- Drive back to Auckland and spend the night there
Day 4: Waiheke Island
- Get to the ferry terminal downtown to get on a ferry to Waiheke Island- it is a 45-minute ride
- When you arrive on Waiheke Island you can get the bus pass that takes you around the island and to the numerous wineries- it was pretty affordable for the day and can be bought when you arrive on the Island
- I chose to walk to some and take the bus to the rest
- Mudbrick Winery
- This winery has beautiful panoramic views and the most amazing restaurant. It is walkable from the ferry terminal
- Cable Bay Winery
- This winery also has a restaurant and amazing outdoor area to relax. I did my tasting inside in the winery and their Sauvignon Blanc unsurprisingly was amazing (it is New Zealand after all). They also had an awesome rose. It was about a 10-minute walk from Mudbrick to Cable Bay.
- Hop on the bus and go to the other side of the island to visit this winery. There was a stop near the library close to Cable Bay.
- They had some really interesting reds I had never tried. It had a bit of a french influence to the wine and the people working there were extremely friendly.
- Te Motu
- Te Motu is right behind Tantalus and it is much smaller winery with a nice outdoor tasting area. It seems to be a favorite amongst people I spoke with from Waiheke but I definitely liked Tantalus a bit more.
- Back to Auckland
- Take the bus back to the ferry terminal, check when the last ferry leaves and take the Ferry back to Auckland
- Note: Go kayaking if wine isn’t your thing
Day 5: Marlborough
- Fly from Auckland to Marlborough and rent a car there and drive to Blenheim (it is the closest area to the wineries)
- I stayed at Marlborough Vitners and it was just the perfect hotel after a day of visiting wineries
- The rooms are spacious and it has a beautiful view of vineyards
- Cloudy Bay
- This place had great sauvignon blancs and a very good pinot noir. They also ship their wine so you don’t have to worry about taking it back!
- Allan Scott
- Another great winery with a cute little restaurant, the food was delicious
- they were also selling beer made in wine barrels, it was super interesting especially because wine isn’t a huge thing in the area
- Brancott Estate
- I did not end up making it to this winery, because well…too much wine but heard great things about it
- Visit the Marlborough Sounds
- Again, if wine isn’t your thing, visit the Marlborough Sounds, it’s absolutely gorgeous
- Arbour– this is definitely a fancier meal but the ingredients are extremely fresh
- Twelve Trees– mentioned above and located at Allan Scott Winery
- Raizada Indian Restaurant- so at a certain point, I needed something more spicy so I stopped by this restaurant and the food was EXTREMELY TASTY. Would recommend going here if you are looking for something casual.
Day 6: Wanaka to Te Anau
- Drive from Marlborough to Wanaka and spend the day there
- If you have some time, definitely stop by Mount Aspiring National Park and do one of the hikes there, if you’re looking for something small, do the small pools hike
- Enjoy the town and walk around
- The views are absolutely amazing, it is definitely worth the drive and visit
- Go Kayaking or go peddle boating
- Visit their food truck park for a snack
- Visit one of the lakeside restaurants or bars
- Drive to Te Anau at night
Day 7: Milford Sound
- Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound- it takes about two-hours
- check the weather to make sure the tunnel is open to get to Milford Sound (when I went, it was snowing like crazy but we made it after waiting a while)
- Kayak through the Milford Sound
- Use Roscoe’s Milford Kayaking for a great experience. Beware of the wind, if the wind is going to opposite direction, your kayaking experience will be cancelled with a full refund.
- Otherwise, use Southern Discoveries Boat Cruise and Kayak
- You get a boat ride around Milford Sound, the ability to kayak for a while, and visit their under water discovery center. It just really depends what your preference is (kayak 10+ miles or do many different things).
- Drive to Queenstown from Milford Sound -> This is not the shortest drive
Day 8: Queenstown
- Eat at Atlas Bar and enjoy the night life in Queenstown (See Previous Blog Post about Five Things to do in Queenstown for more detail)
Day 9: Queenstown -> see previous blog post about Queenstown for details
- AJ Hackett Bungy Jump at Kawarau Bridge
- Tiki Trail Hike
- Dinner at Rata
Day 10: Christchurch
- Drive to Christ Church
- Explore the City
- Sleep and head out the next day or later the same day
NOTE: if you are not a wine person, swap out Marlborough with Franz Josef Glacier. You can go on a heli-hike and enjoy the relaxing glacier pools in the area