If you’ve got just 11 days to cover both islands, then this New Zealand itinerary is a nice option for you to consider.
Start and finish is at New Zealand’s two best connected airports,
Auckland: NZ’s largest city
Auckland is set on narrow isthmus with beautiful harbours on either side. It sits on volcanic terrain, and there are a large number of long-extinct volcanoes dotted around the city. Be sure to make the short hike up Mt Eden. Another cool volcanic option is a daytrip to Rangitoto Island.
Rotorua is a major destination, with numerous geothermal attractions, from mud spas to bubbling hot pools. There are beautiful lakes in the vicinity, as well as some of New Zealand’s most exciting whitewater rafting.
Lake Taupo: Largest lake in NZ
Continue to Lake Taupo, being sure to stop by the magnificent Huka Falls, before pushing on to the volcanic Plateau of Tongariro. If you have time and energy, consider the internationally renowned Tongariro Crossing day hike.
The volcanoes of Tongariro to the Capital – Wellington
From Tongariro, the route south toward the capital of Wellington passes though Wanganui. Check out Pipiriki and Whanganui National Park. Consider a canoe journey (either as a daytrip or multi-day) and a visit to the mysterious Bridge to Nowhere.
Windy Wellington is New Zealand’s compact but beautiful capital city. There are a number of cool attractions here, including Te Papa museum.
To the South Island
Chances are you’ll love the scenic ferry journey across the Cook Strait to Picton. That’s especially once you’re off the sometimes rough seas between the islands, and heading through the scenic Marlborough Sounds instead. From Picton, make your way across to Nelson, where you’ll want to explore the golden sands and beautiful coastline of Abel Tasman National Park.
From Nelson, head for the West Coast, specifically small locality of Punakaiki, where dense rainforest extends to the ocean at the Pancake Rocks.
Arthur’s Pass & Christchurch
From Punakaiki, you’ll pass through Greymouth before making your way up the alpine heights of Arthur’s Pass. Stop by Castle Hill before descending to the Canterbury Plains and continuing to Christchurch.