This Wellington to Queenstown itinerary kicks off in New Zealand’s vibrant capital city, which is a great place to start a tour of New Zealand.
Starting out without a car in Wellington
You can get by in Wellington without a car, which means that if you’re arriving on a long haul flight, you can have the benefit of acclimatizing before getting behind the wheel.
Wellington is home to the uniquely designed parliament building of New Zealand, The Beehive.
There’s a popular cable car running from the center up to the Botanic Gardens, as well as a beautiful harborside area, including Oriental Bay, which is nice for a swim if you’re (very) brave and a stroll if you’re, well… normal. A short trip on public transit can take you to suburban attractions like Weta Studios (LOTR geeks rejoice), and beautiful natural areas like Red Rocks reserve on the coast.
Wellington to the Art Deco city of Napier
Heading north from Wellington, you’ll pass by Kaitoke Regional Park, within which Lord of the Rings fans will want to check out Rivendell, renamed as such after the scenes filmed there for Lord of the Rings.
You’ll continue over the winding mountain road that ascends Rimutaka Hill, and gives awesome views as you descend into the mostly agricultural region of the Wairarapa.
There are plenty of detours to sights and hikes you can take along the route, such as to the Putangirua Pinnacles and Cape Palliser, which are cool options if you have more time to spend in the area. If you want to make it to Napier today though, you’ll mostly be cruising through scenic farmland until the renowned art deco cities of Hastings and Napier.
Much more than just Art Deco! Wineries, coastal beauty and world class golfing
Aside from the world class art deco architecture, Cape Kidnappers is a popular nearby sight to explore, where you’ll also find one of New Zealand’s most famous golf courses.
On top of this, Napier situates you within one of New Zealand’s best known wine region’s – Hawke’s Bay – so there are a huge number of wineries to explore, for both meals and tastings.
Setting out from Napier, you’ll ascend to the alpine terrain of the Tongariro Plateau. You will want to add extra time if you want to explore Tongariro itself – or hike the famous Tongariro Crossing – before getting to the lakeside town of Taupo.
The Geothermal Capital
You’ll now be in geothermal country, where there are an abundance of hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Between Taupo and Rotorua, you’ll find multiple such places to explore, as well as the thunderous Huka Falls – a must see stop in the area.
Continuing to Rotorua, one of the most popular stops for visitors in all the North Island. Here, in addition to geothermal areas, you’ll find epic whitewater rafting, world class mountain biking a sublime redwood forest.
Heading to Auckland
Lord of the Rings geeks will also want to make the visit to Hobbiton, which is around an hour away on the route to Hobbiton. This route leads you to Auckland via the Waitomo Caves, which are awesome, but alternatively you can go via Hobbiton instead.