Down the middle Auckland to Invercargill itinerary

This 15-day tour around New Zealand is designed for those who enjoy visiting remote locations and participating in outdoor activities. The North Island's geothermal attractions, volcanoes, and river trips contrast with the South Island's towering mountains, intriguing fiords, and alpine communities. The range of adventures and natural wonders available on this trek in the centre of New Zealand from Auckland to Invercargill will astound you.

Go New Zealand Go New Zealand 1 month ago
Down the middle Auckland to Invercargill itinerary

Day 1: Auckland to Rotorua

The journey south from Auckland passes through the fertile dairy producing region of Waikato, with the powerful Waikato River accompanying you for much of the route. Stop in Matamata to see Peter Jackson's Hobbiton Movie Set, where he brought The Shire to life. Everywhere you look in Rotorua, there are evidence of geothermal activity. Explore New Zealand's geothermal sites and learn about the Maori people's distinctive culture. Rotorua is also becoming a hotspot for adrenaline-pumping activities ranging from rafting and mountain biking to the strange zorbing and shweeb.

Ngarunui Beach
Ngarunui Beach
Ngarunui Beach, Wainui Road, Raglan, Waikato, New Zealand
Raglan
Raglan
Raglan, Waikato, New Zealand

Day 2: Rotorua to Taupō

The volcanic geology along the drive to Taupo is fascinating. If you still want more geothermal action, take a detour to Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park or Craters of the Moon, where you'll find geysers, silica terraces, and boiling mud craters. Taupo, as New Zealand's largest lake, is ideal for aquatic activities. Popular activities include kayaking, paddleboarding, boat trips, jet boating, and fishing. Try skydiving from the world's largest commercial tandem dropzone and look down on the breathtaking volcanic scenery below.

Huka Falls Road
Huka Falls Road
Huka Falls Road, Rangatira Park, Taupō, New Zealand
Taupō
Taupō
Taupō, New Zealand

Day 3: Taupō to Tūrangi

Turangi can be reached by following the eastern edge of Lake Taupo. The village is an excellent starting point for exploring Tongariro National Park, which includes the three volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. Tongariro Alpine Crossing, arguably the most famous activity in the park, is recognized as one of the top one-day walks in the world. However, the location offers a variety of other activities, including short and lengthy treks, rafting on the Tongariro River, and skiing in the winter. Turangi is also a trout fishing paradise, having world-class fishing sites in practically every direction.

Ruapehu
Ruapehu
Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand

Day 4: Tūrangi to Whanganui

There are two ways to travel to Whanganui: the long and winding route via Pipiriki leads to Whanganui National Park, which is a wonderful spot to hike. The more traditional route follows State Highway 4 through a world of rivers and mild hill scenery. The Durie Hill elevator, one of only two earth-bound elevators in the world, is one of many beautifully restored historical locations to discover in Whanganui, a river city with a long history and plenty of beautifully restored heritage areas to discover. Check out the many possibilities for a river journey; there are jet boats, kayaks, and canoe excursions available.

Whanganui National Park
Whanganui National Park
Whanganui National Park, Whanganui, New Zealand

Day 5: Whanganui to Wellington

Today's trip south is full of natural beauties and wildlife encounters. Beautiful dune lakes, surrounded by wetland and rich native woodland, are accessible through a short diversion from Levin. Kapiti Island, further south, is a natural reserve where you may get up up and personal with uncommon birds. Take some time to visit the Kapiti Coast, which is noted for its gourmet pleasures and beautiful beaches, before heading to New Zealand's capital city. You can enjoy a variety of cafes, restaurants, museums, and live music venues in Wellington.

Wellington
Wellington
Wellington, New Zealand

Day 6: Spend the day in Wellington

Wellington's downtown district, which is nestled between the harbour and the hills, is great for exploring on foot. Explore New Zealand's capital city's museums and galleries, drink local craft brews, and take in the city's unique culture. There are plenty of treks to do if you want to venture farther away, including a coastal walk to the Red Rocks Reserve, where you can see a colony of fur seals. The Remutaka Cycle Route is a fun ride; the entire trail takes 2-3 days to complete, but you can do a part in a day.

Martinborough
Martinborough
Martinborough, Wellington, New Zealand
Castlepoint
Castlepoint
Castlepoint, New Zealand

Day 7: Wellington to Nelson

The crossing of Cook Strait and across the Marlborough Sounds is one of the world's most magnificent ferry rides, with the sounds' lovely coves awaiting you as you enter the South Island. Continue on to Nelson from Picton, passing through Havelock (renowned for its greenshell mussels). This seaside city is home to over 300 professional artists, a multitude of galleries, wonderful restaurants, wineries, and boutique craft breweries, as well as a vibrant artistic community. Bike, kayak, or walk to discover the region. Cycling the Great Taste Trail, a network of pathways that connects Nelson to other towns, is a great way to get some exercise.

Abel Tasman National Park is only a short distance from Nelson.

Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Day 8: Nelson to St Arnaud

Until you reach Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, travel through a mix of forest, agriculture, and hill scenery. St Arnaud, an alpine settlement on the lake's edge, is an ideal location for exploring New Zealand's second largest national park. Hiking paths of incredible beauty, kayaking, river rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular activities in this area. In the winter, the neighboring Rainbow Ski Field provides skiers and snowboarders with a variety of terrain.

Lake Rotoiti
Lake Rotoiti
Lake Rotoiti, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Day 9: St Arnaud to Hanmer Springs

Follow the Buller River west from St Arnaud to Murchison, where you may take a Buller Canyon jetboat ride to get your adrenaline pumping. Murchison also has the longest swing bridge in the country. Hanmer Springs has a reputation for being a haven for leisure and indulgence. You can relax in the hot springs or indulge in a variety of spa treatments. Forest treks, horseback riding, paintball, rafting, and 4WD Quad bikes are just a few of the outdoor adventure activities available.

Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs, New Zealand

Day 10: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

The journey to Christchurch is characterized by farmland, wineries, and olive groves. You'll drive through the Waipara Valley, one of New Zealand's top wine areas, along the trip. The final portion of your journey takes you past the Amberley, Leithfield, Waikuku, and Woodend surf beaches. Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, is a unique mix of antiquity and innovation. Punting down the Avon River, visiting the International Antarctic Centre, motorcycling in the Port Hills, relaxing on Sumner Beach, or experiencing animals in Akaroa are all popular pastimes.

Port Hills
Port Hills
Port Hills, Cashmere, Christchurch, New Zealand

Day 11: Christchurch to Mount Cook Village

As you journey from the Canterbury Plains to Aoraki Mount Cook, small settlements develop on a regular basis. Lake Tekapo is a lovely site to halt along the road, with stunning views of the turquoise lake flanked by snow-capped mountains. The highest peak in Australasia (Mt Cook, 3755m) is located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, which attracts mountain climbers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts from all over the world. Take a heli-skiing, heli-hiking, or aerial sightseeing adventure in the Alps, or visit Tasman Glacier by boat. Aoraki Mount Cook is also a member of the International Dark Sky Reserve, making it a fantastic place to go stargazing.

Tasman Glacier
Tasman Glacier
Tasman Glacier, Canterbury, New Zealand
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, Canterbury, New Zealand

Day 12 - 13: Mount Cook Village to Queenstown

Make your way from Aoraki Mount Cook to Queenstown, the adventure hub of New Zealand. Queenstown is visually stunning, situated on the beaches of Lake Wakatipu and with The Remarkables mountain range as a backdrop. It's also a great spot to find practically any type of activity, such as bungee jumping, jet boating, horseback riding, rafting, and skydiving. When you need a break from the adventure activities, there are a variety of luxury experiences to choose from, like wine tours, spa treatments, and relaxing golf games.

Chard Farm
Chard Farm
Chard Farm Chard Road, RD 1, Gibbston, New Zealand

Day 14: Day trip to Milford Sound

The drive to Milford Sound is one of the most picturesque in New Zealand. The Mirror Lakes, with their spectacular reflecting views, and the rough-hewn Homer Tunnel will be passed along the journey. Boat excursions are a terrific opportunity to hear the noises; you can go on a day trip or a longer overnight cruise. Many trips include an underwater observatory where you can see the intriguing depths of the fiord. Alternatively, rent a kayak and go at your own pace. The Sound's features include tall waterfalls, towering rock cliffs, and seals.

Spend the night in Te Anau if you've chosen a day cruise.

Milford Sound
Milford Sound
Milford Sound, Southland, New Zealand

Day 15: Milford Sound to Invercargill

Invercargill may be reached by two routes. Lake Manapouri, Tuatapere, and Riverton, one of New Zealand's early towns, are all included on the longer, wilder route. Take the east route to Gore, where the Hokonui Moonshine Museum tells the story of the region's illicit whisky-making past through forested hills, valleys, and river plains. The remainder of your tour should be spent exploring the country's southernmost portion. Invercargill's Transport World is a must-see, as is a trip to Stewart Island. Alternatively, continue up the southern coast and explore the Catlins wilderness area. Before you go, make sure to sample the region's famous Bluff Oysters and blue cod.

Tuatapere
Tuatapere
Tuatapere, Southland, New Zealand

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