Queenstown Beach
Oceania,  Travel

New Zealand in 2 Weeks: How to see both Islands

As soon as I visited New Zealand it instantly became my second favourite country (behind Vietnam)- not bad considering I never felt the urge to visit before. Two weeks really isn’t enough time to do everything this incredible country has to offer, but despite what people say, it IS possible to squeeze in the top attractions of New Zealand in just 2 weeks. 

Firstly, it is worth noting that we would not have been able to squeeze this much in if we hadn’t picked up a rental car. I can’t imagine travelling around New Zealand any other way, to be honest. We used omega rental in both the north and the South Island and they were great. We picked up and dropped off both cars from the airports (Auckland and Queenstown), as they also offer an airport shuttle service. Doing this made it so much easier for us to really see nearly everything we wanted to in New Zealand in 2 weeks.

New Zealand’s North Island

Day 1: Auckland

You’ll start your 2 weeks in New Zealand exploring the north island. Firstly, fly into Auckland. Pick up a rental car from the airport and head into the city. If your flight arrives in the evening, I recommend getting an early night. You have a busy two weeks ahead!

Auckland - Mount Eden Crater
Auckland – Mount Eden Crater

Day 2: Waitomo Caves & Taupo

Up bright and early – before leaving Auckland, drive into the city and hike up to the top of Mount Eden. You’ll be able to see great views of Auckland, as well as the crater of the Volcano. Once you’re done here, start the drive to Taupo, stopping at Waitomo Glow Worm caves on the way. Once you get to Taupo, there is a good amount of thinhs to see and do. One great place is Huka Falls – it’s honestly beautiful!

Day 3: Taupo – Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Another must do in Taupo (especially for Lord of the Rings fans) is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (aka: Mordor and Mount Doom). You’ll have to wake up early for this pretty tough 20km hike, and pack warm clothes as it will be snowy at the highest points.

Day 4: Rotorua

This great little geothermal town is a must stop in the North Island. It smells a little off due to the all sulphur in the atmosphere but offers plenty of tourist attractions from mud pools, hot springs and Maori Culture, to the amazing Whakarewarewa redwood forest.

Rotorua - Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest
Rotorua – Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest

Day 5: Matamata – Hobbiton

Another stop for Lord of the Rings fans, you can take a day from Rotorua to Matamata, where you will find the Hobbiton movie set. Enjoy a tour exploring the movie set, and finish off your visit with a beer and a pie at the Green Dragon pub.

Day 6: Coromandel

Drive from Rotorua towards Coromandel. Once you get to the coast you will have a number of different hikes and activities you can do. We recommend spending the afternoon hiking to Cathedral Cove and back, enjoying the coastal views and the amazing weather. After this, head back to Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hole in the sand and sit inside it as it fills with hot water.

Coromandel - Cathedral Cove
Coromandel – Cathedral Cove

This evening you should head back to Auckland for one night, ready to fly to the South Island tomorrow.

New Zealand’s South Island

Day 7: Queenstown

This morning you will fly from Auckland to Queenstown for the next part of your 2 weeks in New Zealand. My first recommendation for the South Island – if you’re flying into Queenstown you should absolutely try and get a window seat – trust me, you won’t regret it! You can spend your first afternoon in Queenstown riding the Skyline (cable cart) up to the viewpoint. I highly recommend the luge – it’s great fun.

Queenstown
Queenstown

Day 8: Milford Sound

No trip to the South Island is complete without a trip to Milford Sound. If you’re planning a boat tour (which is definitely recommended) then you will need to book in advance. It’s also worth noting that Milford Sound is around a 4-hour drive from Queenstown.

Waterfalls at Milford Sound
Waterfalls at Milford Sound

Day 9: Wanaka

Today you’ll be leaving Queenstown and heading to Mount Cook Village – my favourite place in New Zealand! On the drive to Mount Cook, stop off in the cute lakeside town of Wanaka. Here you can stop for lunch and can also see the most photographed tree in New Zealand. If your time allows, there are also more Lord of the Rings hikes nearby that you can do. Mount Cook is truly beautiful, so the drive here won’t disappoint! It’s a very small town with limited accommodation options, so book in advance. If you’re stuck for options, YHA Mount Cook is great and really reasonably priced.

Wanaka - The famous tree!
Wanaka – The famous tree!

Day 10: Mount Cook Village

Spend the day in Mount Cook. Whether you fancy a helicopter ride up to Mount Cook, or prefer to spend the day hiking, the views will be amazing. Hooker Valley hike is a great way to spend your day – it’s around 3 hours, and fairly easy to do. At the end you will be able to see the icy Hooker Lake with great views of Mount Cook behind it.

YHA Mount Cook
YHA Mount Cook
Hooker Lake - Mount Cook
Hooker Lake – Mount Cook

Day 11: Driving Mount Cook – Kaikoura

Today will be mostly a driving day, but to be honest the driving was also one of my favourite things about New Zealand. I just couldn’t get bored of the views, no matter how hard I tried. Head north up to Kaikoura, just be careful of the winding roads!

Day 12: Kaikoura & Christchurch

A big bucket list tick off for today! Kaikoura is well known for various Sea-life related excursions – whether you choose to visit the Seals on the coast, Kayak with the dusky dolphins, or hop on board a boat to head out whale watching – there is absolutely no excuse not to take advantage of the options here! Once you’ve finished, why not visit the tiny town for fish and chips? Kaikoura really reminded me of a UK coastal town like Hastings or Dymchurch – just with better weather and more wildlife! When you’re ready, jump in the car and start heading back towards Christchurch.

Kaikoura Beach Front
Kaikoura Beach Front

Christchurch

When you’re in Christchurch you HAVE to stay at the Jailhouse Hostel – it’s a former prison that has been converted into a hostel. Each hostel dorm is a 2-bed cell – complete with cell door and bunk beds. Some of the cells have even been kept in their original condition, complete with the graffiti from former inmates.

Day 13: Lake Takepo

To be honest, Christchurch was my least favourite out of everywhere we visited in New Zealand. For a country that holds so much beauty and nature, I just felt like Christchurch was the complete opposite. We left Christchurch in the morning and headed back down to Lake Tekapo for a one-night stay on our way back to Queenstown.

Day 14: Lake Takepo & Queenstown

In the morning, make the most of what Lake Tekapo has to offer and pay a visit to the hot springs. These outdoor pools can be as hot as 38 degrees, and you will get an incredible view across Lake Tekapo as you sit and relax in the hot water. When you’re ready, start heading back to Queenstown ready to wave New Zealand goodbye.

Arrow Junction – Driving from Queenstown to Wanaka

I honestly wish we could have spent longer than 2 weeks in this amazing country, as there were things we missed out on that I’d have loved to have seen. If you aren’t restricted on time, I definitely recommend at least 3 weeks to do both islands justice, but if 2 weeks in New Zealand is all you have time for, you can definitely still have an incredible trip!

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