Two weeks in New Zealand gives you more opportunities to drive between destinations and take in the color of the provinces. Still, don't underestimate the time your journey will take. New Zealand has good roads, but 20km (12 miles) in some parts of the country could be narrow, steep, and winding - which means it might take you twice as long to negotiate them as it would back home. In general, roads are well maintained and all major roads are paved. Drive with care on narrow, unpaved roads if you venture into more remote areas. What I've suggested here gives you a taste of both main islands, sticking to main centers with the greatest concentration of activities.

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland

Arrive in Auckland and rest for a whole day, doing nothing more taxing than eating and drinking at Viaduct Harbour. At night, go to the top of Sky Tower for the big daddy of views and a meal in the revolving restaurant.


Day 2: Auckland's Major Sights

Prepare to sightsee until you drop. Get on the Explorer Bus - the cheapest and easiest way to see as much as possible in 1 day. You'll set eyes on Mission Bay's pretty beach promenade, visit Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, and get a taste of Maori culture at Auckland Museum. The bus drives through the leafy Botanic Gardens and through Parnell village. It stops at the SKYCITY complex, the Museum of Transport & Technology, and much more.

Day 3: Waiheke Island

Rise early and catch a ferry to Waiheke Island. Hire a car and drive around the island, visiting wineries, olive groves, artists' studios, and unspoiled beaches. Some of the best surprises are in the little bays away from Oneroa township. Following visits to Whittaker's Musical Museum and Te Whau Garden, have lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard. Later in the day, sit on Onetangi Beach and watch the sunset. Stay at the Boatshed.


Day 4: Rotorua

Arrive back in Auckland by midday and fly to Rotorua. Hire a car. If you want a day of complete rest and solitude in unabashed luxury, head for Treetops Lodge. If you want to see the sights, go straight to Rotorua Museum for an excellent overview of geothermal and volcanic history. Spend the rest of the afternoon at Te Puia to see bubbling mud and Maori cultural performances. Watch the sun set over the lake and relax in a hot rock pool at Polynesian Spa.

Day 5: The Thermal Attractions


Drive 30 minutes south to see the wonders of Waimangu and Waiotapu. Waimangu has shorter walks but fewer spectacular sights; I prefer Waiotapu. If you're back in town by early afternoon you could take a guided tour of Ohinemutu, the original Maori village on the lakefront, followed by a walk among the Whakarewarewa Forest redwoods. Finish the night with a tour and cultural performance at Tamaki Maori Village.

Day 6: Drive to Wellington

Rise early for a day of driving, but be careful, as roads in the Rotorua region are busy with huge logging trucks. A 5-hour journey will take you around Lake Taupo, where there are plenty of lake-edge stops for photographs, through the stark beauty of Tongariro National Park, and through heartland farming provinces. You could stop off for a night in the Wairarapa - or at least stop to eat in one of Greytown's cute cafes - or drive the last taxing, winding, uphill leg over the Rimutaka Hills to Wellington. Alternatively, go the coastal route along the Kapiti Coast.


Day 7: Wellington

Te Papa is a must-visit. Spend 2 to 3 hours there and don't miss the gift shop for top-quality crafts. And you can't visit the capital without a ride up the cable car, a wander through the Botanic Garden at the top, and a sit-in at a session of Parliament. Art lovers should see City Gallery Wellington, and if you like the funky side of life, wander up Cuba Street. Late afternoon, amble around the waterfront to Oriental Parade. Have dinner at Logan Brown or Matterhorn.

Day 8: A Ferry Crossing


Rise early and catch one of the first ferries to Picton on the Interislander. The 3-hour trip is an experience in its own right and if the weather's good you'll have a picturesque passage through Queen Charlotte Sound. Catch the 1:40pm TranzCoastal. This rail journey is a scenic feast through vineyards and along a rugged coastline hugged by steep mountains. You might want to get out at Kaikoura and go whale-watching, or continue on to Christchurch, arriving around 7pm.

Day 9: Christchurch

Get up early and head up Dyers Pass Road (in a hired car) to the top of the Port Hills. My favorite drive is along the top, heading east, stopping for the fabulous views down into Lyttelton Harbour on your right. Drop down into the trendy seaside village of Sumner, have coffee at Coffee Culture, and walk along the white sands of Sumner Beach. Back in town, the swanky new architectural wonder that is Christchurch Art Gallery is bound to impress - don't leave without visiting their shop and Form Gallery. Wander down the boulevard to Canterbury Museum, past the Arts Centre, and into the Botanic Gardens.


Day 10: Drive to Queenstown

Prepare to be impressed by the landscapes on this 5- to 6-hour journey. You'll pass by the unbelievably turquoise Lake Tekapo - look out for the stop at the south end of the lake, which affords picture-perfect views of Mount Cook - and through the grand beauty of Lindis Pass. The lupines will be flowering along the summer roadsides of the Mackenzie Country and you won't be able to resist pulling out your camera. Stop on the Queenstown side of Cromwell at the Big Picture for refreshments, wine tastings, and an overview of the region's vineyards and wineries. Don't miss stops at the fresh summer fruit stalls along the way. Apricots are near perfect here.

Day 11: Queenstown


Sleep in and breakfast late at Joe's Garage before taking an early cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. You'll be back in plenty of time to take the gondola up to Bob's Peak for breathtaking views over Queenstown. Leap off the bungy if you dare, or descend on the gondola and wander into the Kiwi & Birdlife Park. Dine on seafood at Boardwalk.

Day 12: The Wineries

Hire a car (or take a guided tour) and drive yourself around the best of Central Otago's wineries. The top four closest to Queenstown are GVW Winery, Peregrine, Amisfield, and Chard Farm. Don't miss Gibbston's wine cave, its cheesery, and its excellent lunches under a canopy of vines. Alternatively, wander around central Queenstown stores for excellent duty-free shopping and have lunch at Eichardt's, or take in a round of golf at Millbrook Resort and eat in one of its restaurants, finishing off with a soothing massage in the splendid spa. Have dinner at the Bunker.


Day 13: Fly to Milford Sound

Be up early for a memorable scenic flight or helicopter ride to Milford Sound. Take a boat cruise and make sure you include the Underwater Observatory. Flying is by far the best option if you're short on time, although it is weather dependent. Bus trips can take around 12 hours roundtrip. When you're back in Queenstown at the end of the day, dine at Saffron in Arrowtown.

Day 14: Back to Christchurch

Enjoy a lazy morning in Queenstown before flying to Christchurch to connect with your international flight. If you have time between the two flights, go to the International Antarctic Centre near the airport, or, if you've yet to see a live kiwi, check out the nearby Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. If you fancy big cats, visit the cheetahs at Orana Park.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.