A New Zealand vacation is one to last a lifetime. No matter how short or long your stay, the country’s jaw-dropping natural beauty, as well as its generous spirit of manaakitanga (a culture of hospitality unique to New Zealand), will leave their mark on your heart, perhaps leading you back for several visits to the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Not sure where to go to spend the perfect week, fortnight, or longer trip to New Zealand? Don’t miss a thing with our itinerary suggestions.
The Kiwi Express: New Zealand in One Week and Change
One week isn’t really enough time to properly enjoy New Zealand, particularly if you’re coming all the way from North America. Nine days allows just enough time to cover the essentials, for which we recommend the following itinerary. Spend a couple of nights in Auckland, where the relaxed pace of life and perfect blend of indoor and outdoor activities give you time to shake off any jetlag. Then head to the bubbling mud pits and spouting geysers of Rotorua. Again, this is a two night stop. Explore Te Whakarewarewa thermal reserve, Te Puia Rotorua, or even the Agrodome for a sheep herding demonstration. One evening should be dedicated to taking in a traditional Maori concert and hangi feast before moving on to Queenstown. Take it from personal experience, two nights here is not enough! Schedule three or four. A day trip to Milford Sound is a must, but it will eat up an entire day, so allow at least one more for getting the most out of New Zealand’s adrenaline capital. Consider jetboating, zip-lining, a scenic helicopter ride, boating, or simply enjoying the mountain landscape. Round off the trip with at least one night in Christchurch. This rejuvenated city is now home to an exciting mix of small bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes, ever-changing art installations, and long-standing highlights such as the Canterbury Museum and International Antarctic Centre.
Two Perfect Weeks in New Zealand
With two weeks in New Zealand, add two nights in wonderful Wellington after Rotorua. Allow some time to explore the fantastic Te Papa Tongerewa Museum of New Zealand, consider a visit to Hobbiton, or take a trip along the Seal Coast to meet some of the region’s cutest inhabitants. Then fly to Queenstown as per the one week plan, but extend the South Island adventure with two nights in Glacier Country, choosing between Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Franz Josef is better developed, with an established tour route (visitors are still required to book a guided heli-tour) plus more accommodation, dining, and sightseeing options in town. Fox is a touch on the wilder side, so tour routes can change according to conditions. It’s also the only accessible glacier in New Zealand with views of Mounts Cook and Tasman. One might recommend Franz Josef to families and those in search of creature comforts, while Fox is more suited to active nature lovers with a sense of adventure. Either is a great choice, however, as the two glaciers are evenly matched for natural ‘wow factor.’ From here, it’s a relatively quick trip back to Christchurch, though consider booking a KiwiRail Scenic Journey to really bring the Southern Alps to life.
The Best of New Zealand with Three Weeks or More
A three or four week trip through New Zealand gives you time to add in some less famous, but no less impressive regions and cities.
Bay of Islands (2 nights)
Beyond its gorgeous subtropical climate, the Bay of Islands plays a key role in New Zealand’s history. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed here in 1840 between the British Crown and the North Island’s Maori chiefs, establishing the nation we now know. Mix in some beautiful islands and dolphin spotting opportunities, and you have a New Zealand highlight for history buffs and nature lovers alike.
Bay of Plenty (As long as you’d like)
Once you catch a glimpse of the Bay of Plenty from the top of Mount Manganui, you might not want to leave. A favourite vacation spot for Aucklanders, the Bay of Plenty isn’t so much a “must-see” highlight as a “must-experience” spot to slow things down on some of New Zealand’s best beaches. Goway’s Long Stay and Live Like a Local options will help you leave the tourist brochure images behind and see what makes life in this country so great.
Napier (At least 1 day, more for foodies)
Art Deco fans take note. There’s much to love in Napier, where the style dominated rebuild efforts after a devastating 1931 earthquake. The Hawkes Bay region is also famous for some of New Zealand’s best food and wine.
Nelson, Wineries, and Abel Tasman National Park (2 or 3 days)
Nelson is the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, a car-free oasis for the diverse wildlife that inhabits the northern tip of the South Island. It’s an all day trip, but it’s also one of the best wilderness experiences you can have in this part of the world. You might also want a day to head in the opposite direction, visiting the local wineries of the Marlborough region, known for its Sauvignon Blancs.
Kaikoura (1 day)
Whale watchers, this one’s for you. Kaikoura is one of the world’s best spots to see these magnificent creatures, while the surrounding coast supports large colonies of seals, dolphins, marine birds, and more.
Dunedin (2 days)
In South Otago, explore New Zealand’s most haunted town – or its most Scottish, which in some ways might be the same thing. The university town of Dunedin enchants as you explore Larnach Castle, embark on a wildlife cruise of the Otago Peninsula, or just enjoy the youthful energy of the country’s southernmost city.
Air New Zealand operates daily services from Vancouver to Auckland, with connections across both the North and South Islands. From December 2019, Air Canada will also operate a seasonal service from Vancouver to Auckland.