Queenstown to Auckland, East Coast discovery

This 14-day adventure through New Zealand combines the country's most popular destinations with lots of hidden gems. As you journey from Queenstown to Auckland on this epic trip of New Zealand, you'll experience exotic wildlife, explore isolated beaches, savor world-class wine, and enjoy vibrant nightlife.

Go New Zealand Go New Zealand 26 days ago
Queenstown to Auckland, East Coast discovery

Day 1: Queenstown to Wanaka

Queenstown, New Zealand's alpine resort, is a haven for luxury, breathtaking scenery, and nearly any type of action, including bungy jumping, jet boating, horseback riding, and rafting. Take a wine tour, skydive, or play a game of golf at one of the country's top golf courses to get a taste of everything this gorgeous place has to offer. You'll get the chance to stop in at the lovely township of Arrowtown on your way to Wanaka. Explore the stores and cafes, go gold panning, go to the galleries, or take a stroll through the historic Chinese miners' hamlet. Wanaka is a charming mix of luxury living and unusual attractions, such as the Wildwire waterfall climb and the quirky Cinema Paradiso.

Lake Wānaka
Lake Wānaka
Lake Wānaka, Otago, New Zealand

Day 2: Wanaka to Aoraki Mount Cook

As you travel from Wanaka to Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest summit, take in the golden tussock and snow-capped mountain scenery. You'll pass into Omarama, a popular hangout for gliders. The Northwest Arch, a thermal that can transport glider pilots over 10,000 meters, is formed thanks to the area's peculiar terrain. There are many of hiking and climbing opportunities in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. This is also the location of New Zealand's longest glacier, which may be explored by scenic flights, short treks, and boat cruises around the terminal lake.

Aoraki / Mount Cook
Aoraki / Mount Cook
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

Day 3: Mount Cook to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo

Today you'll leave the mountain landscape behind and travel to Christchurch across the Canterbury Plains. Stop in Lake Tekapo if you have time and enjoy the gorgeous turquoise lake. Fishing, kayaking, biking, horseback riding, and skiing are just a few of the activities available in this area. The sheepdog statue and the Church of the Good Shepherd provide excellent photo options. Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, is dynamic and funky. Punting down the Avon River, biking in the Port Hills, visiting Sumner Beach, or taking a day excursion to the French colonial settlement of Akaroa are all popular pastimes.

Tekapo
Tekapo
Tekapo, Canterbury, New Zealand

Day 4: Christchurch to Kaikoura

Leave Christchurch and travel through Waikuku, Leithfield, and Amberley, all of which are known for their surfing. Stop for lunch at Waipara, a region noted for its vineyards and olive trees (Pinot Noir is the local specialty). Kaikoura is a terrific area to go for all kinds of wildlife adventures, and it's also a great place to eat crayfish. Minke, Humpback, and Southern Right whales, as well as dolphins and orcas, can be seen during a whale watching excursion. You can also go on a walk to witness fur seal colonies and large seabirds including mollymawks, albatrosses, and petrels.

Kaikōura
Kaikōura
Kaikōura, Canterbury, New Zealand

Day 5: Kaikoura to Blenheim

Follow the Pacific Coast north from Kaikoura, via the Wairau Plains, and into Blenheim, the centre of wine-growing Marlborough. Blenheim is an excellent site for a wine tour, with more than 20 vineyards within a short drive of town. Make sure to sample some of the region's famous Sauvignon Blanc. There are also a variety of cafes, restaurants, taverns, stores, and golf courses to choose from. Alternatively, you can explore the Marlborough Sounds' waterways and islands by boat, kayak, bike, or foot.

Blenheim
Blenheim
Blenheim, New Zealand

Day 6: Picton to Wellington

Picton, a gorgeous beach town on the South Island, is the departure point for the boat that will take you to Wellington. Picton offers a variety of attractions, including museums, intriguing walks, and an aquarium, to keep you entertained. One of the most scenic boat rides in the world takes you across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds. The Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel, and Cook's Lookout are all must-sees. Wellington is a dynamic, funky city with plenty of things to do. It's the place to go if you want to visit museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants, or try some craft beer.

Picton
Picton
Picton, Marlborough, New Zealand

Day 7: Wellington to Masterton

You'll appreciate the slower pace of the Wairarapa countryside after soaking up the bustling spirit of Wellington. This area contains a diverse collection of little historic towns, each with its own particular flavor. Featherston is the starting point for a journey across the wetlands that surround Lake Wairarapa. Martinborough, noted for its many boutique wineries and superb Pinot Noir, is only a short drive away. Greytown and Carterton, further north, are fantastic places to go antique and souvenir shopping. The largest population center in the area is Masterton. Visit the Wool Shed and Arotoi Museum to learn more about the region's history.

Martinborough
Martinborough
Martinborough, New Zealand

Day 8: Masterton to Napier

The Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from Masterton, is home to wild birds such as the titipounamu (rifleman), krearea (New Zealand falcon), and kerer (wood pigeon). Advocacy birds such as Kahurangi the kkako may also be seen. The city of Napier was nearly destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1931. It was restored in the Art Deco style and is now known as the world's Art Deco capital. The Hawke's Bay wineries are all within easy driving distance of Napier. The gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers is another draw.

Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Day 9: Napier to Gisborne

From Napier to Gisborne, there are two options. On the inland path, you can see Hackfalls Arboretum, one of New Zealand's largest private tree collections. The coastline path takes you past Morere Hot Springs and Mahia Peninsula's beautiful beaches. Take a diversion to Lake Waikaremoana, the gateway to the Te Urewera wilderness area, which is ideal for horseback riding, kayaking, and hiking. Gisborne is a sunny city known for its excellent wine and beautiful beaches. There are more than 20 vineyards in the area, with Chardonnay being the predominant grape.

Mount Hikurangi
Mount Hikurangi
Mount Hikurangi, Raukūmara, Gisborne, New Zealand

Day 10: Gisborne to Whakatāne

You'll journey to ptiki from Gisborne via the picturesque Waioeka Gorge. Take your time and appreciate the beauty along the journey, which includes a forest and a river. Hope, a welcoming seaside village with kilometers of unbroken beach for swimming, walking, surfing, and fishing, is not far from ptiki. This region has a significant Mori culture, so search for carved meeting halls and distinctive churches. Whakatne is one of New Zealand's sunniest villages, offering a diverse range of attractions such as a museum, observatory, and various Mori historical sites. Moutohor (Whale Island) is a unique, predator-free island sanctuary just offshore.

Whakatane
Whakatane
Whakatane, New Zealand

Day 11: Whakatane to Rotorua

Rotorua, New Zealand's geothermal heart, is only a short drive away. Rotorua, which is located exactly on the ring of fire, is a town ablaze with volcanic activity. From boiling mud to erupting geysers, explore the region's interesting geothermal sites. Visit one of Rotorua's Maori Villages to learn more about the region's history and culture. If thrills are what you're looking for, there's enough to pick from, including excellent mountain bike tracks and a growing range of eccentric and strange adventure activities like the OGO, shweeb, and luge.

Kerosene Creek
Kerosene Creek
Kerosene Creek Old Waiotapu Road, Waiotapu, New Zealand

Day 12: Rotorua to Whitianga via Tauranga

The Mamaku Range provides spectacular vistas as the route from Rotorua to Tauranga rises up and over it. Tauranga has a vibrant café culture as well as boat trips for big game fishing, snorkeling, and dolphin viewing. Alternatively, wander around the Mount Maunganui beach. Continue along the coast to Whitianga, a charming beach village that is a wonderful base for exploring two of the Coromandel's must-see sights. Geothermally heated water is hidden beneath the beach at Hot Water Beach. You can dig your own spa at low tide. The trek from Hahei to beautiful Cathedral Cove is another highlight.

Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove, Waikato, New Zealand

Day 13: Whitianga to Auckland

The historic township of Thames is your first stop today. This museum, which was established during the Coromandel gold rush, is an excellent place to learn about the region's gold mining history. Before continuing your travel north to Auckland, stop up in Miranda for some relaxing hot springs and a bird sanctuary. Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, is surrounded by 48 extinct volcanic cones and is positioned between two vast harbours. Enjoy the city's waterfront, museums, galleries, and adventure activities while you're here.

Auckland
Auckland
Auckland, New Zealand

Day 14: Spend the day in Auckland

Spend your final day in New Zealand touring Auckland and its environs. The Auckland region is home to numerous beaches and forest parks, so if hiking, bicycling, surfing, kayaking, fishing, or beach lounging are on your schedule, you've come to the correct place. Visit the vineyards on Waiheke Island or climb Rangitoto's extinct volcano, both of which are conveniently accessible by ferry from downtown. Explore the inner city, which has a variety of boutique and designer businesses as well as wonderful cafes.

Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Trip.Social User
Trip.Social User Stories

More from this author

Show more stories

More from Trip.Social