15 Days New Zealand's North and South Island

Most travellers to New Zealand include the North and South Island. Both Islands have unique features and highlights. However travellers often underestimate the distance between locations. For this 15-day North and South Island Itinerary, we recommend the convenience of a domestic flight. This will save you valuable travel time and if planned ahead, is budget-friendly. We highly recommend that you plan to spend a 1/3 of your time in the North Island and 2/3 of your time in the South Island. View more sample travel itineraries on Guest New Zealand.

Included in this Travel Package:

  • Personal Transfer Auckland Airport to Hotel
  • 15 days Compact Rental car, full insurance + GPS with Hertz or Thrifty New Zealand
  • 15 nights accommodation in B&B’s, lodges and motels (mostly breakfast included except in Auckland, Coromandels & Dunedin)
  • Sea kayaking half day tour Coromandels
  • Ruakuri Cave tour in Waitomo
  • Maori Hangi Concert + Dinner
  • Domestic flight Rotorua to Nelson
  • Self-guided Walking the Abel Tasman Park
  • Helicopter Flight (20 min) Fox Glacier
  • Dart River Safari tour ex Glenorchy
  • Cruise in Milford Sound
  • Penguin + Albatross nature tour Dunedin
  • Cost: NZ$3995 per Person (twin share - two people travelling)
  • Any part of this itinerary can be amended to your travel requirements.

Notes on New Zealand climate & seasons:

  • Spring = September until November
  • Summer = December until February
  • Autumn = March until May
  • Winter = June until August
  • See Weather Overview


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Itinerary Overview for Self-drive 15 Days North & South Island

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland

Arrive Auckland. See the America's Cup village, view the city and harbour from the Sky Tower, take a boat trip to beautiful Waiheke Island or across to Devonport and visit the shops and cafes of Parnell Village.

Day 2: Auckland - Hahei Beach/ Coromandel Peninsula

Drive to the eastern coast on the Coromandel Peninsula (160 km, 100 miles, 2.5 hours). The Coromandel has beautiful golden beaches, great swimming and bush walks. Take a picnic lunch and explore the beaches to the north ,including Hot Water Beach.Dig your own Spa Pool in the sand, Hahei and Cathedral Cove and Cooks Beach. From Cooks Beach, drive to Ferry landing and leave your car here.


Day 3: Stay and explore the Coromandels

Take a short ferry ride across to Whitianga, enjoy a good selection of cafes and shopping plus a walk along Buffalo Beach. Or join a guided kayaking tour ex Hahei Beach - it's easy and fun!


Day 4: Coromandels to Rotorua

Travel from the Coromandels a to Rotorua (160km, 3.5 hours) via Whangamata with it's 3.8km Ocean Beach of great surf and a relaxed holiday atmosphere. Or travel via Waitomo Caves, which offers a number of caving tour options. Travel onto Rotorua and relax in the Thermal baths or visit the Wai-otapu Thermal Reserve or the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.


Day 5: Stay and explore Rotoroua

Spend the day around the lakeside town of Rotorua. A helicopter trip to White Island, an active volcano, is a highlight! Keen anglers can take a charter boat out on the lake. Walking or cycling in the Whakarewarewa Forest is also recommended. In the evening join a Hangi Concert with the local Maori people and experience the cultural aspect of New Zealand.

Day 6: Domestic flight from Rotorua to Nelson (South Island)

Fly from Rotorua to Nelson. Pick up your rental car here. Visit the World of Wearable Arts Museum near the airport. Visit the lovely town of Nelson, then take a short (45 minute) drive to your accommodation located between Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park.


Day 7: Stay an explore the Nelson/ Abel Tasman region

Use this day to visit the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. Drive to Marahau via Kaiteriteri to the Southern entrance of the park and the base for sea kayaking, boat trips and walks. (NB. the Abel Tasman Park is the most visited in New Zealand and bookings are recommended for the summer months).If time allows, visit the Pupu Walkway and Te Waikoropupu Springs, the clearest freshwater springs in the Southern Hemisphere.

Day 8: Abel Tasman/ Nelson to Punakaiki/ Westcoast

Travel via Murchison and the mighty Buller River to Punakaiki - allow 4-5 hours with stops. Just South of Westport, take a short detour out to Cape Foulwind to enjoy stunning views and great food. A little further down the road at Charleston,take a rail trip through the limestone valley up the Nile River through stunning rainforest - highly recommended. Walk down Trumans Track just north of Punakaiki at low tide and try to see the Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point at high tide. There are lots of good bush walks around the Paparoa National Park and the Fox River.


Day 9: Punakaiki to Fox Glacier Village

Drive to Fox Glacier with stops in Hokitika (shop for greenstone at The Jade factory) and Franz Josef (250 km, 4.5 hours). Plan on arriving at one of the two Glaciers by early afternoon - (Fox and Franz Josef are approximately 45 minutes' drive apart) Either walk to the base of the Glaciers or join one of the guided glacier walks, which accommodate all level of fitness and experience. Consider a heli-hiking trip where you are flown up onto the glacier and taken for a guided walk to explore ice caves and formations. This is also the best place to take a scenic flight over the alps. The view of Mt Cook and the glaciers from the air is more spectacular from the Western side of the mountains. There are nature walks and other attraction options available to enjoy the area - visit the Franz Josef Glacier Visitor Centre for more information.

Day 10: Fox Glacier to Wanaka

If you didn't get a chance to fly to the glaciers the day before, book an early morning trip. Drive onto Wanaka (260km, 5.5 hours) via the spectacular Haast Pass and Lake Hawea. Wanaka is a scenic tourist town on the edge of the 4th largest lake in New Zealand. There is plenty to do here with great walks around the lake and mountains, fishing and boating available, scenic flights up to the Mt Aspiring National Park and good restaurants and cafes to enjoy the views.

Day 11: Wanaka via Queenstown to Te Anau / Fiordland

Travel to Te Anau via Queenstown - if you have a 4 wheel drive or are comfortable with steeper roads, the drive to Queenstown is more scenic through the Crown Range (1 hour). For lunch, take a short detour into the very pretty and historic mining town of Arrowtown. The drive from here to Te Anau is another 3 hours along the Southern arm of Lake Wakatipu. Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Parks and caters well for visitors keen to experience the wildlife and walking facilities in the area.


Day 12: Stay and explore the Fiordland and Milford Sound area

Options include driving into Milford Sound (leave early to  beat the tour coaches which come down on day trips from Queenstown), or taking a tour coach from TeAnau to Milford Sound.From Te Anau the road winds up the Eglington and Hollyford Valleys, then through the Homer Tunnel before being greeted by Mitre Peak towering from the glassy waters of Milford Sound. Boats cruise the full length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, and stop at various points of interest along the way to view waterfalls and marine life. Cruises leave from the main wharf at Milford Sound. Or spend the day visiting the deepest of all the fiords, Doubtful Sound has ancient rainforest and abundant wildlife,virtually untouched by man.Today one of the most popular of all Fiordland excursions is the return one-day trip from Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Modern launches leave Pearl Harbour at Manapouri (20 minutes from Te Anau) and cross Lake Manapouri to West Arm, where visitors can see the West Arm Underground Power Station before heading over Wilmot Pass and on to Doubtful Sound.

Day 13: Te Anau/ Fiordland to Dunedin

Drive to Dunedin (290 km, 180 miles, 4 hours. If time allows, take a tour of the Te Anau Caves and glowworm grottos. The drive to Dunedin is through some of New Zealands most lush and fertile farmlands with many small prosperous rural towns along the way. The Moth Restaurant at Mandeville, 10 minutes out of Gore is a good late lunch stop and there is a vintage aircraft restoration workshop here with Tiger Moths a specialty.

Day 14: Stay and explore Dunedin

Dunedin offers plenty for those interested in wildlife. We recommend you include the Elm Wildlife tour to see the Royal Albatross colony and Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve. Visit Larnarchs Castle and experience the history and atmosphere of this southern city with it's Scottish heritage.


Day 15: Depart from Christchurch

Return to Christchurch (362 km, 225 miles, 4.5 hours ) with stops at the Moeraki Boulders and Oamaru, rich in history and famous for its classical Victorian buildings made of a chalky limestone. Travel onto Christchurch and depart from here.


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