New Zealand highlights itinerary

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New Zealand highlights itinerary

This 14-day highlights tour will take you to some of New Zealand's most beautiful locations. Glowworm caves and geothermal wonders will leave you speechless. In Wellington, you may visit world-class museums and galleries. Relax on Nelson's sunny beaches and discover the rugged West Coast's glaciers and forests before heading to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital, and the breathtakingly magnificent Milford Sound.

Day 1: Spend the day in Auckland

Auckland is a terrific site to start your New Zealand vacation, with a combination of natural wonder and adventure. From the renowned Sky Tower, take in the panoramic views. In Auckland's various eateries, sample world-class cuisine and wine, and immerse yourself in the city's dynamic nightlife. If you have time, walk through gorgeous native woodland or enjoy a spectacular wine tour on one of the Hauraki Gulf's numerous sparkling islands.

Auckland, New Zealand

Day 2: Auckland - Waitomo Caves

Travel south across rolling hills to Hamilton, where you may visit the Hamilton Zoo and observe the large free fly aviary or stroll through quiet botanic gardens. Continue south until you reach Otorohanga Kiwi House, where you can meet New Zealand's national symbol. The subterranean magnificence of the Waitomo Caves is legendary. A succession of huge cave systems adorned with glow-worms lie beneath the surface of this ancient limestone region. Choose your adventure level, from a relaxing boat ride to blackwater rafting or abseiling into the abyss.

Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

Day 3: Waitomo Caves - Rotorua

You'll pass through a unique combination of agriculture, lakeland, and forest on your way to Rotorua. Walkers can take a break to explore the many trails of Pureora Forest Park, which is home to a variety of uncommon bird species. Lake Whakamaru is a popular destination for trout anglers. Rotorua offers a diverse range of activities, from relaxing in hot springs to bungee jumping and mountain biking. See more Rotorua must-do activities.

Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa
State Highway 30, Tikitere, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand

Day 4: Spend the day in Rotorua

In Rotorua, evidence of volcanic activity abounds, from bubbling mud pools to massive geysers and peaceful hot pools. Explore the region's many geothermal wonders or learn about Maori culture by attending a cultural performance and eating excellent hangi. Try the legendary Skyline luge(opens in new window), bungy jumping, mountain biking, or zip-lining through the forest canopy for the more daring.

Te Puia - Rotorua, NZ
Hemo Road, Tihiotonga, Rotorua 3040, New Zealand

Day 5: Rotorua - Taupo

As you approach the tourist town of Lake Taupo, the geothermal vistas continue. Take a side road to the Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park, which has geysers, silica terraces, and boiling mud craters. Take a rest at Huka Falls and witness the turbulent water plummet over the falls at a rate of 220,000 litres per second. Lake Taupo is stocked with large trout, making it ideal for fly-fishing. Alternatively, take a lake tour or kayak to Mine Bay to see the Maori rock carvings, which are a wonderful way to learn about the area's history.

Mine Bay
Mine Bay, Lake Taupo, Waikato 3385, New Zealand

Day 6: Taupo - Wellington

The scenery during the trip from Taupo to Wellington is breathtaking, with mountains, rivers, valleys, and wide open plains. Take a break along the road to visit Turangi, New Zealand's trout fishing capital, or the neighboring Tokaanu hot springs. If you have time, rafting the Tongariro River is an option. The QE2 Memorial Museum in Waiouru is definitely worth a visit, as is the magnificent Mangaweka Gorge. From here, travel through the Wairarapa region and down the stunning Kapiti Coast to Wellington, the world's coolest little capital.

Wellington, New Zealand

Day 7: Spend the day in Wellington

Wellington is a compact, cultured city with a lot of personality. The downtown area, which is nestled between the harbour and the hills, is great for walking tours. Spend the morning touring the city's various art galleries and museums, including Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand's spectacular national museum. A Weta Cave Workshop Tour will reveal the secrets of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies.

In the afternoon, take a walk to Mount Victoria's peak for 360-degree city vistas and to sample Wellington's vibrant cafe scene.

Wellington, New Zealand

Day 8: Wellington - Picton - Nelson

One of the most scenic boat rides in the world takes you across the Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds. Travel west from the charming beach town of Picton to Nelson. Visit Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve for a bush stroll or a swim, or visit one of the many vineyards that make this region famous for its wine. Nelson is an excellent location for organizing an eco-adventure, immersing yourself in the local artistic culture, or simply relaxing on one of the many beautiful beaches.

Day 9: Nelson - Greymouth

Traveling up the Motueka River Valley from Nelson, you'll pass through magnificent landscape and small communities. Before navigating the magnificent Buller Gorge, pan for gold in Lyell Creek. Continue along the coast to Greymouth, where you'll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of wild beaches and the raging Tasman Sea. Punakaiki, the crown jewel of the Paparoa National Park, is home to beautiful pancake rocks and thundering blowholes. Visit the local museum or adjacent Shantytown in Greymouth to learn about the region's long history of gold mining.

Greymouth, New Zealand

Day 10: Greymouth - Franz Josef Glacier - Fox Glacier

Take time to see the intriguing village of Hokitika, which is known for its annual Wild Food Festival, as you travel down the West Coast to Franz Josef Glacier. At the nearby Treetops Walk, take a stroll through the forest canopy. The glacier terminus is located a short distance from Franz Josef town center. Join a guided walk or heli-flight to get up close and personal with the ice. Fox Glacier is only a short drive south of Franz Josef. The route passes over ancient moraines left over from previous advances and retreats. See more West Coast must-do activities.

Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand

Day 11: Fox Glacier - Wanaka

As you leave the shore and enter Haast Pass, you'll be greeted by waterfalls and river landscapes. As you continue inward, the road passes into Aspiring National Park, and the vegetation becomes sparser. Wanaka, a lakeside town, has a range of interesting activities to explore. The bizarre Paradiso Cinema and the perplexing Puzzling World are worth a visit. Take a walk along one of the many trails in the area, making sure to see the renowned Wanaka tree that grows out of the lake.

Lake Wānaka
Lake Wānaka, Otago, New Zealand

Day 12: Wanaka - Queenstown

There are numerous rest stops during the one-hour trip from Wanaka to Queenstown. Visit the Gibbston area's vineyards or watch bungy jumpers take off from the Kawarau River Bridge. Queenstown is a fascinating blend of refinement, breathtaking landscape, and adventure. It's the ideal location for bungee jumping, jet skiing, horseback riding, rafting, and skydiving. Alternatively, for a more relaxed experience, indulge in some luxury with gourmet food and wine, spa treatments, and leisurely golf games.

Moke Lake
Moke Lake, Otago 9371, New Zealand

Day 13: Queenstown - Milford Sound

The initial portion of the Milford Sound drive follows the picturesque edge of Lake Wakatipu. Te Anau township is located on the beaches of Lake Te Anau and offers a diverse selection of lunch options. Continue down the Milford Road, passing through beech woodland, the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, and the Mirror Lakes, until you reach Milford Sound's rough hewn Homer Tunnel. Mitre Peak dominates the 22-kilometer-long fiord, which is dotted with waterfalls, towering rock cliffs, and rare animals.

Milford Sound / Piopiotahi
Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, Southland 9679, New Zealand

Day 14: Milford Sound - Queenstown

Take some time to visit Te Anau before returning to Queenstown. Visit the Department of Conservation wildlife center, cruise the lakes, and walk the tracks. The Te Ana-au Caves are a fantastic trip as well. Make your way back to Queenstown through Kingston and Lake Wakatipu, where you can do some shopping or finish your tour with a delectable lunch at one of Queenstown's numerous fine dining venues.

Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu, Otago, New Zealand
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