North & South
- 2 Weeks
From the top of the north to halfway down the south, here's a quick-fire taste of New Zealand's best.
Kick things off in Auckland: it's NZ's biggest city, with awesome restaurants and bars, galleries and boutiques, beaches and bays. Not an urbanite? Hoof it a few hours north to the salt-licked Bay of Islands for a couple of days of R&R.
Set your bearings southwards to Rotorua, a unique geothermal hotspot: geysers, mud pools, volcanic vents and Māori culture make for an experience that fires all the senses. Further south, invigorating Taupo has the ragged craters and Emerald Lakes of Tongariro National Park nearby. Get into some tramping, mountain biking or skydiving, then boot it down to Wellington, a hip little city with an irrepressible arts scene.
Across Cook Strait, see what all the fuss is about in the world-famous Marlborough Wine Region. If you're not a wine fan, the hypnotically hushed inlets, ranges and waterways of the Marlborough Sounds are nearby. Swinging further south, cruise into Christchurch to enjoy southern hospitality in a city of rapid reinvention.
- 4 Weeks
Classy cities, geothermal eruptions, fantastic wine, Māori culture, glaciers, extreme activities, isolated beaches and forests: just a few of our favourite NZ things.
Aka the 'City of Sails', Auckland is a South Pacific melting pot. Spend a few days shopping, eating and drinking: this is NZ at its most cosmopolitan. Make sure you get out onto the harbour on a ferry or a yacht, and find a day to explore the beaches and wineries on Waiheke Island. Truck north to the Bay of Islands for a dose of aquatic adventure (dolphins, sailing, sunning yourself on deck), then scoot back southeast to check out the forests and holiday beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula. Further south in Rotorua, get a nose full of eggy gas, confront a 10m geyser, giggle at volcanic mud bubbles and experience a Māori cultural performance.
Meander down to Napier on the East Coast, NZ’s attractive art-deco city. While you’re here, don’t miss the bottled offerings of the Hawke’s Bay Wine Country (…ohh, the chardonnay). Down in Wellington, the coffee’s hot, the beer’s cold and wind from the politicians generates its own low-pressure system. This is NZ's arts capital: catch a live band, buskers, a gallery opening or some theatre.
Swan over to the South Island for a couple of weeks to experience the best the south has to offer. Start with a tour through the sauvignon blanc heartland of the Marlborough Wine Region, then chill for a few days between the mountains and the whales offshore in laid-back Kaikoura. Next stop is the southern capital Christchurch, swiftly rebuilding after the earthquakes. Follow the coast road south to the wildlife-rich Otago Peninsula, jutting abstractly away from the Victorian facades of Scottish-flavoured and student-filled Dunedin. Catch some live music while you’re in town.
Head inland via SH8 to bungy- and ski-obsessed Queenstown. Don't miss a detour over to Fiordland for a jaw-dropping road trip and boat cruise around Milford Sound, before returning to Queenstown for your flight back to Auckland.
- 10 Days
Is there another 1.4-million-strong city with access to two oceans and vibrant Polynesian culture? Immerse yourself in city and seaside, then swing north and south of Auckland to majestic forests and caves.
Allow at least three days in Auckland for its stellar bars and restaurants, museums and beaches. Admire Māori and South Pacific Islander exhibits at Auckland Museum, then wander across the Domain to K Rd for lunch. Visit Auckland Art Gallery and the iconic Sky Tower, then Ponsonby for dinner and drinks.
Ferry over to Rangitoto Island's tramping trails, then chug into Devonport for a meal. Admire tall timber in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park and wild surf at Karekare and Piha, then hit the Britomart restaurants. Breakfast in Mt Eden, climb Maungawhau, then ferry-hop to Waiheke Island for wineries and beaches.
For your final few days, take your pick of activities beyond the big smoke. Driving a northerly loop out of Auckland takes you snorkelling at Goat Island Marine Reserve, sailing the Bay of Islands, ocean gazing at Cape Reinga and ogling kauri trees at Waipoua Forest. Leave a couple of days to delve south to Waitomo Caves, surf at Raglan or beach yourself at Whitianga.
- 2 Weeks
Three-quarters of New Zealanders live on the North Island – time to find out why!
Begin in Auckland, NZ's biggest city. Eat streets abound: try Ponsonby Rd in Ponsonby, K Rd in Newton and New North Rd in Kingsland. Hike up One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie) to burn off resultant calories, and don't miss the Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum.
Venture south through geothermal Rotorua – home to some truly amazing volcanic sights – then cruise over to the sunny East Coast. By the seaside and encircled by the chardonnay vines of Hawke's Bay Wine Country, art-deco Napier is a hit with architecture buffs. Heading south, follow SH2 into the sheepy/winey region of Wairarapa, before driving over the Rimutaka Range into hip, art-obsessed Wellington.
Looping back northwest to Auckland, pick and choose your pit stops: the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North, some crafty glass in Whanganui or the epic Mt Taranaki, rising like Olympus behind New Plymouth. Go underground at Waitomo Caves or surf the point breaks near Raglan.
- 10 Days
We know, a whole bunch of you are here for one thing only: South Island snow!
Fly into Christchurch and spend a day acclimatising at lively bars and restaurants. Intermediate skier or better? Your next stop is Mt Hutt for 365 skiable hectares. As you push south, detour to admire views of snowy Aoraki/Mt Cook before continuing to Queenstown, offering world-class skiing, great restaurants and a kickin’ nocturnal scene. Coronet Peak is the area’s oldest ski field, with treeless slopes, consistent gradients and excellent skiing for all levels (great for snowboarders, too). The visually remarkable Remarkables are more family friendly.
Need a break from snow? Drive around Lake Wakatipu to gorgeous Glenorchy; or lose an afternoon in the fab wineries of Gibbston Valley. Alternatively, Queenstown’s extreme activities are still on offer in winter: bungy jumping, jetboating, mountain biking and more.
Get back on the slopes in Wanaka (Queenstown’s low-key little brother). Nearby ski fields include Treble Cone, Cardrona and Snow Farm New Zealand, NZ’s only commercial Nordic (cross-country) ski area.
- 3 Weeks
Take a long loop through the best of the South Island.
Winging into Christchurch, you'll find a vibrant city rebuilding post-earthquakes. Grab a coffee (try C1 or Supreme Supreme) and check out the excellent Canterbury Museum.
City saturated? Visit the geologically/culturally eccentric Banks Peninsula, then head north for a wildlife encounter in Kaikoura. Continue through to the famous Marlborough Wine Region, and lose a day on the whisper-still waterways of the Marlborough Sounds.
Detour west through artsy Nelson to Abel Tasman National Park and ecofriendly Golden Bay (more paintbrushes than people). Dawdle south along the West Coast; allow time to stare awestruck at the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and embark on a guided tramp or helihike at Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier. From here, track inland through to hip/hippie Wanaka and adventure sport and ski hub Queenstown. From here, venture southwest to Manapouri for a mesmerising day cruise to Doubtful Sound before wending east to the overgrown deep-south Catlins for a couple of days of waterfalls, wave-lashed coves and penguin-spotting.
Back up the east coast, wheel through Dunedin to surprisingly hip Oamaru, before rolling back into Christchurch.