A 14D3N Itinerary for Your Next New Zealand Road Trip

Trade Crowds for Fjords: Explore New Zealand’s Natural Beauty on a (14D13N) Road Trip

Discover Aotearoa New Zealand!

Going on a road trip across New Zealand is a life-changing experience. It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, home to stunning natural vistas that will take your breath away.  From sun-soaked beaches and green pastures to hissing geysers and picture-perfect alpine villages, you’ll have no shortage of iconic spots to explore

With so many destinations on the docket, planning your dream road trip might seem a little tricky at first. That’s why we’ve put together an epic itinerary that’ll take you through some of the prettiest nature destinations that New Zealand has to offer. 

One of the best times to visit this magnificent country is between March and November every year when the weather is cool and the peak season crowds are blissfully out of sight, and out of mind. So fuel up, start your engines, and get ready for a journey you’ll never forget.

If you’re seeking the ultimate New Zealand adventure, here’s where to find it! Get ready to discover a wild and beautiful land filled with unique experiences, friendly people, and destinations that will take your breath away.

Visit Newzealand.com for all the information you need to plan your next trip to New Zealand, including information about visa requirements, flight tickets, and travel advice. There’s always more to find in Aotearoa New Zealand!


A 14D13N itinerary for your next New Zealand road trip!

Day 1 & 2- Arriving in Auckland

Getting a ride

new zealand road trip

Auckland City | Image credit: DmitriPichugin via Canva Pro

Your New Zealand road trip begins by flying into Auckland, a major city on New Zealand’s North Island. Think of the first day as a time to gear up, and the first step is to find a rental car or campervan and stock up on some food. Here are a couple of tips for renting a car in New Zealand. 

Firstly, despite all the rugged terrain, there’s no actual need for a 4×4. An ordinary car will serve your purposes perfectly fine. Besides that, New Zealand is also an extremely popular destination for camping. There are plenty of affordable (or free) camping sites scattered across the country and most car rental places will also have motorhomes and campervans for rent. Of course, as a visitor to New Zealand, you will be legally required to park and stay the night at DOC-approved campsites.

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai Beach | Image credit: Jimmy Wang via Canva Pro

Now that you’re all set, spend your second day exploring Auckland before setting off on the road. Make your way around the city during the day first. There are several cool places to check out, like the iconic Sky Tower and Weta Workshop Unleashed. In the evening, make your way to Muriwai Beach.

This rugged stretch of coast is just 40 minutes from Auckland, but you’ll still be left in awe by its beauty. Huge waves constantly crash against the rocks along the shore, and it’s also an amazing place to enjoy the sunset.

Also read: New Zealand Takes the Crown as World’s Most Beautiful Country

Day 3 – Rotorua

Rotorua is one of the unique places you’ll come across on this New Zealand road trip. Locals sometimes joke that you can smell it before you see it. This little town is famous for its sulphur pools and bubbling geothermal springs, so there’s no escaping that rich mineral aroma. Don’t skip this location though, because the geothermal reserves of Rotorua are a sight to behold.

Of the many reserves in Rotorua, we’d recommend checking the following two for sheer uniqueness and natural beauty.

Hell’s Gate

new zealand road trip

Image credit: Andrew and Annemarie | Wikimedia Commons

Visit Hell’s Gate for the first time, and you’ll quickly see how it earned that moniker. Also known as  Tikitere, it is Rotorua’s most active geothermal area. The reserve is filled with bubbling sulphurous hot springs, volcanic mud pools, and steaming fumaroles. It’s a region of the planet where the Earth’s crust is very thin, allowing natural heat from below to literally boil over onto the surface.

Make sure not to stray off the designated paths while exploring Hell’s Gate for your safety. Some of the pools here can reach a whooping 145℃ in temperature. For over 800 years, the Māori people of New Zealand have used this unique mud and acidic waters to treat aches, pains, and battle scars.

Wai-O-Tapu Reserve

Image credit: Tokyoahead | Wikimedia Commons

Wai-O-Tapu Reserve is another geothermal hotspot in New Zealand, also known as the Thermal Wonderland. The thermal activity here presents itself in a dazzling array of colorful natural pools, lined with steaming geysers. Keep an eye out for the Artist’s Palette, a large pool that is brilliantly coloured in shades of blue, yellow, orange, and green. The intensity of the colours shifts with water levels, wind direction, and even sunlight, creating a mesmerising sight.

new zealand road trip

Image credit: tobiasjo via Canva Pro

Besides that, there’s also the adjoining Champagne Pool, painted in shades of green, orange, and metallic outlines, bubbling with carbon dioxide.

Image credit: Takver | Wikimedia Commons

Finally, don’t forget to visit Devil’s Bath, another pool filled with water that’s colored bright, acid green. You won’t believe it until you see it!

Day 4 – Taupo

On day five, it’s time continue your New Zealand road trip and head to the bustling town of Taupo. The drive from Rotorua to Taupo is also known as the Thermal Explorer Highway; a route that’s dotted with geysers, mud pools, and hot springs.

Wairakei Terraces

A notable attraction to check out in Taupo is the Wairakei Terraces. These chalky silica terraces are surrounded by bright blue, bubbling pools of water, more evidence of volcanic activity in this region of New Zealand. If you’re still yearning for another geothermal experience, the Wairakei Terraces have pools you can visit for a relaxing soak.

Huka Falls

Image credit: dmitrynaumov via Canva pro

Part of the Waikato River, the Huka Falls are truly an impressive spectacle. It’s 11 metres tall, and every second, more than 220,000 litres of water cascade down in a powerful, roaring current. A footbridge at the peak of the falls allows visitors to witness this primal display of nature. If you’d like an even closer look, try a jet boat ride or river cruise.

To follow the slow build-up of the falls, you can hike from Spa Park to the Huka Falls Trail. This path begins as an easy walk where the river is wide and tranquil. As you walk through native forests, the roar of Huka Falls will become more apparent, until you reach the main event. Along the way, there are plenty of amazing vantage points to grab Instagram-worthy photos.

Day 5 – Hawke’s Bay

Te Mata Peak, Hawke’s Bay | Image credit: anuphamhantui via Canva pro

As you slowly make your way down south across New Zealand, the next destination on your campervan journey should be Hawke’s Bay. The beautiful countryside is famed for its wine scene, most notably full-bodied red wines. During June and November, the annual Food and Wine Classic event (better known as F.A.W.C) takes place and showcases the very best of Hawke’s Bay food, wine, beer, and cider.

If you’re in the mood for something more adventurous than a sommelier escapade, Hawke’s Bay is also home to the majestic Te Mata Peak. You can reach the peak on foot, on a bike, or even by car. The summit promises breathtaking views in every direction, and on a clear day, you might even be able to see the distant silhouette of the volcanic giant Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park.

new zealand road trip

Image credit: Gannet Safaris

At Hawke’s Bay, you can get up close and personal with local wildlife on a Gannet Safari! These majestic seabirds are champion divers and masters of the sea. The safari will take you on a stunning discovery tour to the top of Cape Kidnappers’ Gannet Colony, where you’ll get up close and personal with over 20,000 gannets in their natural habitat. Enjoy a magnificent view of the surrounding vista and watch the birds as they nest, preen, and dive into the sea before your very eyes!

Day 6 – To South Island via Wellington

Panoramic view of Wellington | Image credit: Martin Vlnas via Canva Pro

After exploring Hawke’s Bay, it’s time to travel from the North Island to the South Island and continue your New Zealand road trip. The best way to do this is via the Interislander Ferry from Wellington. This bustling city is the capital of New Zealand, and there’s plenty to see and do. You can enjoy a ride on the bright red Wellington Cable Car for stunning views of the city, or spend a few hours roaming the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to learn more about Māori culture.

Wellington is also known as New Zealand’s coffee capital, so don’t miss your chance to sample some of the local brews. Once you’re done with your afternoon activity, you can take the Interislander Ferry to South Island. Don’t think of this crossing as a simple commute. The ferry chugs along Cook Strait, which means you’ll have plenty of scenic views to take pictures of from the deck.

Image credit: @pipinuipoint | Instagram

If you decide to spend a few days in Wellington, there are plenty of amazing stays to choose from, but the cream of the crop is Pipinui Point. Located just minutes away from central Wellington, this 1,600-acre stretch of farmland boats luxurious private retreats for the ultimate romantic getaway. 

new zealand road trip

Image credit: @pipinuipoint | Instagram

From a clifftop outdoor hot tub and breathtaking sea views to exciting outdoor activities, it’s the perfect place for a couple’s getaway in Wellington. As a bonus, if you’re visiting Pipinui Point anytime between May and August, you get to enjoy a discounted rate for your stay.

Day 7 – Kaikōura

Aerial view of Kaikoura | Image credit: kokkai via Canva Pro

Hello South Island! Kaikōura is a beautiful coastal town that’s perfect for close encounters with marine life, serene coastal walks, and dining on crayfish (in the Māori language ‘kai’ means food, ‘kōura’ means crayfish). More than anything else, Kaikōura is an immensely popular destination for whale watching, due to the large population of whales that permanently reside in the coastal waters.

Whale-watching trips leave the town several times a day, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to hop aboard. October to March is the best time to spot orcas, while June to August is great for getting to see humpback whales.

Hapuku Kitchen

Image credit: @hapukukitchen | Instagram

Not a fan of boats? That’s no problem. Spend an afternoon at Kaikōura’s Hapuku Kitchen for an exciting culinary journey inspired by the wild Kaikōura landscape. Join owners Fiona and Chris in their beautiful home located amidst the Kaikōura mountains and take your pick from the various cooking activities that are offered. You can enjoy a complete farm-to-table cooking experience, a catch-and-cook fishing trip, learn about cooking over a wood fire, and much more. 

Day 8 & 9 – Arthur’s Pass National Park

new zealand road trip

Arthur’s Pass from above | Image credit: Wayfarerphoto via Canva Pro

Welcome to what is most likely to be one of the most beautiful natural regions you’ll encounter in the South Island. Drive along the Great Alpine Highway and enjoy breathtaking views of colossal mountains crowned with fluffy white clouds and crystal-clear lakes framed by flowery pastures. You’ll want to clear a couple of days in your itinerary to fully appreciate the beauty of this destination.

Castle Hill

Image credit: magann via Canva Pro

As you make your way through the national park, you’ll come across Castle Hill, also known as Kura Tawhiti by the indigenous Māori Tribe Ngai Tahu. A collection of massive, naturally formed boulders mark the spot where settlers first made their way into the forest centuries ago. The curiously shaped chunks of limestone are said to have provided shelter for the ancient Māori people.

Arthur’s Pass

Eventually, the road will lead you to Arthur’s Pass, which is nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the highest of all passes within the mountains. Here, you can make a pit stop at Arthur’s Pass Village, a cosy alpine village that’s surrounded by forests and mountains on all sides. 

Only five minutes away is the scenic Bealey Valley. Here, you’ll find glacier views, fields that are filled with brightly coloured flowers, and stunning drives. Besides that, there are also plenty of hiking trails that you can explore.

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls

new zealand road trip

Image credit: Thiwathphon Sirihongthong via Canva Pro

Round out your second day at Arthur’s Pass with a hike to the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, arguably one of the most popular nature destinations in the area. The trek takes you through a lush beech forest until you reach the base of this massive 131-metre waterfall. There are two bridges along the way that make for great places to stop and take some pictures for the ’Gram.

Day 10 – Driving to Wanaka

From Arthur’s Pass, you’ll be driving to the town of Wanaka to continue your New Zealand road trip. The journey to Wanaka includes a couple of must-see stops along the way that deserve your attention. Let’s take a look at them below!

Franz Josef Glacier

The Franz Josef Glacier (Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere) was first explored by the iwi, and then by a geologist named Julius von Has in 1865, who named it after the Austrian Emperor at the time. It’s a vast stretch of craggy white ice, framed by stone, that’s truly majestic to behold. Ordinarily, you can only observe the glacier from a distance.

However, if you’d like to make contact with the glacier, you can take a heli-hike. This involves flying to the glacier and landing on it for a short walk on the ice. Another option is to go for an aerial tour, without landing. Five kilometres away from Franz Josef Glacier is a village, which bears the same name, another destination surrounded by forests, waterfalls, and lakes.

Lake Matheson

new zealand road trip

Image credit: travellinglight via Canva Pro

You can also stop by Lake Matheson for the next leg of your New Zealand road trip, a serene lake located nearby Fox Glacier. Natural conditions come together to create the perfect reflective mirror for New Zealand’s highest peaks; Mount Cook, and Mount Tasman. Lake Matheson was formed 14,000 thousand years ago, when Fox Glacier retreated from the sea, and left a depression in the earth that filled with water over time. 

Day 11 – Wanaka

View from Diamond Lake Lookout | Image credit: stevegeer via Canva Pro

Wanaka is a small town that’s easy to explore on foot. Like many New Zealand towns, it’s peaceful and beautiful. You can start your day with a short trek to Diamond Lake Lookout, which takes around 45 minutes to complete. Enjoy the aerial lake view, ringed by lush greenery, and the looming mountains in the distance.

Lake Wanaka’s unique tree | Image credit: denizunlusu via Canva Pro

Return to the town and continue your New Zealand road trip with a stroll along Lake Wanaka or take a kayak out onto the lake. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Lake Wanaka’s famous lonely tree sticking out from the calm waters. After that, take some time to enjoy an afternoon nap, because you’ll want to be up late for the next activity; stargazing! The still waters of Lake Wanaka at night turn it into a giant mirror that perfectly reflects the stars shining in the night sky above.

Image credit: @crosshillgeodomes | Instagram

If you’re looking for a place to stay while exploring Wanaka, check out Cross Hill Lodge & Domes, a charming and unique accommodation by Lake Hawea. Their chic geo-domes make for the perfect hub to rest and relax before continuing your day at Wanaka. Each one comes with the modern comforts you’ll need, plus floor-to-ceiling windows that are perfect for stargazing.

Day 12 – Queenstown

Onsen Retreat and Day Spa

Image credit: @onsenhotpools | Instagram

Continue your New Zealand road trip by driving further south to Queenstown. It’s not a very long journey, but you might find yourself stopping pretty often because the views along the way are simply stunning. Upon arrival, your first stop should be the tranquil Onsen Retreat and Day Spa in Arthur’s Point. This incredibly relaxing retreat offers a unique Kiwi twist to the traditional Japanese onsen experience.

Soak your worries away in relaxing cedar-lined hot pools, fed by mountain spring water, which are spacious enough to fit four people at a time. A retractable roof allows you to convert your indoor bathing experience into an outdoor one with the press of a button. There are also private oval hot tubs for individuals and couples. 

Onsen also offers relaxing day spa experiences that include face and body treatments, as well as deep-tissue massages. Sitting pretty atop the cliffs overlooking the magnificent Shotover River, framed by majestic mountain ranges, Onsen Retreat and Day Spa is a fantastic start to your day in Queenstown.

Lake Wakatipu

Image credit: Bernard Spragg | Wikimedia Commons

After the refreshing soak, head to Lake Wakatipu, a beautiful inland lake. This is New Zealand’s third largest lake, and the unique, lightning-bolt shape of the lake causes it to have a faux tide that rises and falls every 20 minutes or so. The best way to appreciate the beauty of Lake Wakatipu is to hop aboard the T.S.S Earnslaw, a vintage steamship that cruises the lake every day.

Glenorchy and Lake Moke

Image credit (L – R): IsabelPoulin, Mantas Volungevicious via Canva Pro

From Queenstown, you can take a 45-minute drive to explore the nearby, rustic town of Glenorchy. This charming destination is a true outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, with plenty of activities available like kayaking, hiking, and even horse trekking. On your way back from Glenorchy, make a pit stop at Lake Moke. It’s a secluded spot that’s perfect for a picnic, or just a quick snack break before getting back on the road.

Day 13 – Milford Sound

Image credit: Kamchatka via Canva Pro

On Day 14, get an early start and leave Queenstown for Milford Sound to continue your New Zealand road trip. This is the heart of New Zealand’s fjordland, and was famously described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. This leg of the journey takes 4 hours each way so it’s recommended that youjoin an organised tour that departs from Queenstown daily to get extra rest and soak in the scenery along the way.

Also known as Piopiotahi, Milford Sound is a magnificent sight in any weather. Feast your eyes on a magnificent natural tapestry of towering fjord cliffs, mountainous peaks, and graceful waterfalls that cascade from 1,000 metres into the water below.

Image credit: Newzealand.com

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Milford Sound is to explore it on a cruise. Boat cruises are available for short day trips, or longer ones that last overnight. If you’ve got no plans to explore the Sound any other way, then an overnight cruise is an excellent choice. However, you can also take a short afternoon cruise, and then indulge in more exciting activities like kayaking or snorkelling.

Day 14 – Christchurch

Image credit: Tourism New Zealand

Christchurch will be the final stop of your epic New Zealand road trip before flying home to Singapore. At this point, you will have most likely driven over 4,000 kilometres and explored the breadth of an entire country in a little over two weeks. Our suggestion is to just take your time in Christchurch nice and easy.

Take a relaxing stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and enjoy the beauty of the flowers around you. Also, you can check out the Canterbury Museum. Spend a lazy evening exploring Hagley Park (tip: don’t miss the cherry blossoms here in spring!), and just enjoy your final day in New Zealand with some good coffee and great food.

Also read: 26 Best Natural Attractions in New Zealand That Will Blow Your Mind!

If you’re seeking the ultimate New Zealand adventure, here’s where to find it! Get ready to discover a wild and beautiful land filled with unique experiences, friendly people, and destinations that will take your breath away.

Visit Newzealand.com for all the information you need to plan your next trip to New Zealand, including information about visa requirements, flight tickets, and travel advice. There’s always more to find in Aotearoa New Zealand!


There, you’ve done it! You’ve explored the best of New Zealand on an epic road trip that’ll stay with you for the rest of your life. On the flight home, you’ll most likely be dreaming of the open plains, mirrored lakes that reflect pristine glaciers, and endless fields of flowers. But that’s okay because you can always come back to New Zealand for more. Ka kite anō!

Brought to you by Tourism New Zealand

About Author

Jeremiah Patrick
Jeremiah Patrick

A journeyman wordsmith wandering the creative lexicon, looking to craft a masterpiece. The only thing on par with Jerry’s love for a good story is the time he spends playing dauntingly difficult video games, reading works of fiction, and listening to horror podcasts. His mood shifts between dark brooding and cheery quips, depending on how much caffeine swirls in his system.