If you have three weeks to explore then this epic New Zealand itinerary is a good option to consider.
Start in Auckland
Start out in the largest city in the country – Auckland. Talk to people from other parts of the country and you wouldn’t expect much of the place, but the fact of the matter is Auckland is a stunningly beautiful city and can match any on the planet for stunning harbor views. If you have time, head west of the city to the Waitakere ranges and the scenic volcanic-sand beaches of Piha and/or Muriwai.
Geothermal Rotorua & Taupo
From Auckland head south to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, where you’ll find spas, hot pools, bubbling mud and geysers – as well as some of the most thrilling whitewater rafting in the country.
Just down the road is Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, all of which drains over the thunderous Huka Falls, just out of town.
New Zealand’s Capital
Wellington, said to be the world’s coolest capital city, sits at the southern end of the North Island, and is the next major stop after Napier. Its an awesome stop for a few nights, with a number of capital city attractions and a really beautiful harbour.
Chances are you’ll love the ferry journey from the North Island to the south. Although the Cook Strait can be a little unsettled at times (if you’re concerned, its generally cheap to fly instead), its a ferry scenic trip, especially as you make your way through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton.
Nelson & Abel Tasman
From Picton, the itinerary shoots across to Nelson for a couple of nights, enabling you to explore Abel Tasman National Park. Here you’ll find golden sand beaches, and the best sea kayaking in the country. Consider adding time here for a multi night kayaking trip, or to hike the Abel Tasman coast track.
Whale watching, dolphin swimming, or just soaking up the scenic beauty
The road south to Kaikoura was finally repaired early 2018 after an earthquake took the road out in a big way! Kaikoura is in a stunning mountains-to-ocean kind of setting, and is famous for whalewatching. It’s also a top spot to swim with dolphins and check out Albatrosses.
From Kaikoura, you’ll be bound for the West Coast, but not before stopping by the popular holiday resort of Hanmer Springs. The hot springs are smack bang in the town centre, and there are a bunch of other cool local activities to check out too.
The wild west
The West Coast is a place of wild beauty, and you’ll probably already have a sense of that by the time you arrive at the beautiful rock formations in Punakaiki.
A few hours south will bring you to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers – both awesome spots of soaking green rainforest, dramatic slopes and of course, the glaciers themselves.
Wanaka & Queenstown
Make your way out of the West Coast into the typically drier climate of Otago, where you’ll find the lakeside towns of Wanaka and Queenstown – the latter being New Zealand’s adventure capital. Both are amazing places to chill for a few days, before shipping out to the superb glacier-cut fiord of Milford Sound.
Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo
The home stretch is among the finest routes in the country, leading you through Otago and southern Canterbury, stopping by Mt Cook – the highest in the country – and the rich blue of Lake Tekapo.
From there, continue to the Canterbury plains, making your way across this vast stretch of patchwork farmland to the city of Christchurch.