New Zealand… fjords, volcanoes, black sand beaches, glaciers, fireflies, hot springs and breathtaking scenery. This New Zealand itinerary puts you on a road trip in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Along the way you can hike, test your wits and bungee jump, go wine tasting and more.
- Step 1:
- Day 1: Arrive in Auckland
- Day 2: Auckland
- Day 3: Waitomo Caves
- Day 4: Hobbiton
- Day 5: Rotorua
- Day 6: Taupo
- Day 7: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
First Day: Arrive in Auckland
Arrive in Auckland and check into hotel. Chances are you’re battling jet lag of some sort. If you have the energy, you can go out and see the city.
Second Day: Auckland
There are many different ways to spend your time in Auckland. You can stay in town to see the sights, or leave the city to explore the nearby coast and islands.
Here are some of the top experiences in and around Auckland
Rangitoto Island. The island is a dormant volcano visible from Auckland. Take a ferry here, or, for more adventure, take a kayak tour around the island.
Visit the West Coast beaches. Just a short drive west of Auckland is the Tasman Sea. It is here that you can spend some time exploring the gorgeous black sand at Karekare and Piha beaches.
Cruise ship Hauraki Gulf. Take a short ferry ride to the Hauraki Gulf and you may spot whales and dolphins along the way.
skyscrapers. There are many places in New Zealand where you can strap a rubber band around your ankle and jump from a height, and the Sky Tower is one of them.
Walk along the coast to the Coastal Walkway. The Coast to Coast Walkway is an 8-mile hiking trail through Auckland, passing Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, Auckland Territory, shopping and restaurants. This is a great way for adults who want to see the city. However, Taylor and Kara are not big fans of the event.
Waiheke Island. Just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, you can sample wine and explore vineyards on this island.
Third Day: Glowworms and Waitomo Caves
Total driving distance: 300 km
Total journey time: 4 hours
Start early and head to Waitomo. It takes two and a half hours to drive from Auckland to Waitomo Caves.
Watching glowworms in Waitomo Caves is one of New Zealand’s most unique experiences.
With the rowboat, you drift silently into a dark cave. Above your head will be thousands of little fireflies, twinkling like stars in the night sky. These tiny fireflies are the larvae of adult insects that use bioluminescence to produce light that lures prey into their “webs.”
There are several ways to visit Waitomo Caves. We did a relaxing rowing boat tour into the grotto. The ultimate experience is black water rafting, white water rafting in caves.
Continue to Matamata (1.5 hours, 103 km) after the Waitomo Caves. Matamata was the filming location for The Hobbiton, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Live in Matamata or nearby.
Fourth Day: Hobbiton
Total driving distance: 67 km
Total travel time: 1 hour
Hobbiton is a fairy tale world of colorful kid-sized houses and a restaurant/salon called the Green Dragon. It was built as a filming location for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, but the homes have attracted so much interest that Hobbiton remains open to tourism.
Don’t miss it if you’re traveling with kids or if you’re a fan of LoTR and The Hobbit movies.
It takes approximately 2 hours to visit the property. You’ll wander the 12 acres, learn about the history behind the movie set, and end with a pint of beer at the Green Dragon Restaurant.
We were told morning is the best time to take pictures. However, you can opt to join the tour and lunch combo, which is a basic tour plus lunch with the Green Dragon. The tour lasts 3 hours.
You can also take a dinner tour that takes you through the Shire at dusk, ending with dinner at the Green Dragon Restaurant. The tour lasts 4 hours and is only offered a few days a week.
Learn more about the tour and book tickets in advance on the official website.
After Hobbiton, head to Rotorua.
Fifth Day: Rotorua
Total driving distance: 82 km
Total travel time: 1 km
We used to joke that Rotorua was the smelliest city in New Zealand. Rotorua is in a geothermal area, and with bubbling hot springs, the whole city smells of rotten eggs.
Here are the top experiences in Rotorua
Learn about Maori culture. Visit a Maori village, watch traditional Maori performances and taste traditional Maori food.
Tipya. Watch the eruption of Pohutu Geyser, the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere, and take a Maori-led tour of the geothermal area.
Walk among the redwoods of Whakarewarewa Forest. Just outside of Rotorua is a forest of California redwoods. You can also view the canopies of these giant trees on the Redwoods Tree Walk.
Go white water rafting. Rafting on the Kaituna River, home to the world’s tallest commercial rafting waterfall, the 7-meter-high Tutea Falls.
Explore Wai-o-tapu Geothermal Valley. This part of New Zealand is similar to Yellowstone National Park, with bubbling mud pots, geysers and wet, hard, colorful landscapes. It is located south of Rotorua, on the way to Taupo.
End the day with a drive to Taupo. Consider leaving Wai-o-Tapu until later in the day, as it is between Rotorua and Taupo.
Sixth Day: Taupo
Total driving distance: 130 km
Total travel time: 1.5 hours
Taupo, the adventure capital of the North Island, is very similar to Queenstown in the South Island. Here you can go bungee jumping, jet boating, kayaking, hiking, paragliding and skydiving.
We opted for mountain biking because we already spent a fortune in Queenstown. From the town of Taupo, we mountain biked through more redwood forests to Huka Falls.
Drive to Turangi and check into the hotel.
Seventh Day: Crossing the Tongariro Alps
Total driving distance: 66 km
Total travel time: 1 hour
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been called the best day hike in the world. This hike will take you through volcanic terrain, past ancient lava fields, close to several huge craters, and even past recently erupted smoking volcanoes.
It’s 12 miles long and because this is a point-to-point hike, you’ll need to arrange transportation to the start or end of the hike. We parked at the Ketetahi car park and took the shuttle to the start of the Mangatepopo trek.
>Return to the previous screen and continue to step 2<