Top of the North to Top of the South itinerary
On this two-week travel from Kaitaia to Christchurch, you'll see some of New Zealand's most famous sights. Travel the length of the North Island, from the Bay of Islands' maritime adventures to Auckland's urban charms and the geological wonders of Waitomo, Rotorua, and Taupo. Enjoy world-class wine in Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa, Wellington's heritage and culture, and then cross the Cook Strait to Nelson Lakes and the West Coast's untamed landscape. Finish your tour with a travel to Christchurch via the Southern Alps.
Day 1: Auckland to Kaitaia
The 'winterless north' is centered around Kaitaia. You can take a bus tour down Ninety Mile Beach or visit Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island from here. Ahipara Beach, Te Ahu (the Far North Regional Museum), and Millennium Nocturnal Park, where you may see glowworms at any time of day or night, are among the other local attractions.
Bay Of IslandsBay Of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Day 2: Kaitaia to Bay of Islands
You can visit a variety of distinct communities in the Bay of Islands. There are galleries, cafes, and wineries in Kerikeri, as well as gourmet food shops, golf courses, and historic monuments including the Stone Store and the Mission House. In the region, there are excellent hiking routes, including Rainbow Falls, which is a great site for a picnic. You'll have the opportunity to visit Haruru Falls just before arriving in Paihia. These waterfalls cascade down in a beautiful horseshoe pattern. Paihia is a great place to start exploring the Bay of Islands. Take a trip to the outer islands, a dolphin-spotting safari, or a ferry ride to Russell, a beautiful city. The historic Treaty House in Waitangi commemorates New Zealand's birth as a nation.
Paroa BayParoa Bay, Northland, New Zealand
Day 3: Bay of Islands to Auckland
Make a point of stopping at Kawakawa's lovely public restroom on your way south. Frederick Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist, constructed this masterwork of glass tiles and imagination as his final building. Whangarei, a subtropical city on the edge of a lovely bay, is reached via a series of minor villages. There are trendy cafes and restaurants, as well as museums, art galleries, and stores, at the Quayside Town Basin complex. This three-hour trip to neighboring Whangarei Falls will help you stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Auckland is surrounded by 48 extinct volcanic cones and is sandwiched between two massive harbors. Marine experiences, wine trails, forest treks, and urban elegance may all be found here.
Motuihe IslandMotuihe Island, Auckland, New Zealand
Day 4: Auckland to Waitomo Caves
For much of your drive south to the Waikato, you'll be accompanied by New Zealand's longest river. You can either turn onto State Highway 39 and head directly to Waitomo from Ngaruawahia, or you can spend some time exploring Hamilton. Waitomo is a limestone terrain with a variety of huge cave systems hidden beneath the surface. Exploring the caverns' stalactite, stalagmite, and glow-worm-decorated stalactites, stalagmite, and glow-worm-decorated stalactite, stalagmite, and glow-worm-decorated stalactite Try blackwater rafting or abseiling into the subterranean depths if you're looking for something a little more daring.
Waitomo CavesWaitomo Caves, New Zealand
Day 5: Waitomo Caves to Rotorua
You'll pass through a number of tiny communities on your way to Rotorua. Visit Te Awamutu's stunning rose gardens or see New Zealand's renowned bird at Otorohanga Kiwi House. The prosperous horse breeding district of the Waikato is centered on Cambridge. Its tree-lined streets and boutique stores make for a pleasant pit stop. Tirau, noted for its animal-shaped corrugated iron structures, is another interesting stop. Because Rotorua is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, volcanic activity has always been a feature of the city's history and present. Explore New Zealand's geothermal sites and learn about the Maori people's distinctive culture. Rotorua is a fun place to visit in any weather and at any time of year.
TikitereTikitere, Rotorua, New Zealand
Kaituna RiverKaituna River, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Day 6: Rotorua to Taupō
With its distinctive volcanic geology, the drive to Taupo will keep you entertained. Take a side road to a geothermal park (such as Orakei Korako or Craters of the Moon) to see geysers, silica terraces, and boiling mud craters. Huka Prawn Park, Huka Falls, and a world-renowned golf course await you near the finish of your adventure. Taupo is a vacation town on the edge of New Zealand's largest lake, which is stocked with big trout. A boat tour to Mine Bay's Maori rock carvings is a terrific way to go out on the water and learn about the history of the area.
TaupōTaupō, New Zealand
Day 7: Taupō to Napier
The spectacular scenery along the road from Taupo to Napier is the main attraction. Rugged hills, magnificent valleys, calm plains, and vast vistas are all present. Take a vacation in Tarawera and walk to the Waipunga River's hot springs. You should also visit the Waiarua Falls overlook to see the twin waterfalls. The city of Napier was nearly destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1931. It was reconstructed in the Art Deco style and is now a museum of the period's architecture. The Hawke's Bay vineyards are all within reasonable driving distance of Napier, with several of them connected by accessible cycle tracks. The gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers is another draw.
NapierNapier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Day 8: Napier to Wellington via Martinborough
Today's excursion takes you through the Wairarapa's beautiful countryside and attractive communities. Greytown is a center of antique shops and Victorian heritage buildings, while Carterton is a terrific spot to stop for souvenirs. Martinborough has approximately 20 wineries, the most of which are within walking or bike distance of the village square. This region produces some of New Zealand's best pinot noir. Take a guided wine tour or cycle around the vineyards. Wellington is a compact, cultured city with a lot of personality. The downtown area is great for strolling explorations, as there are numerous cafes, restaurants, and museums within easy walking distance. Make a point of visiting Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum.
MartinboroughMartinborough, New Zealand
Day 9: Spend the day in Wellington
Spend the day in Wellington, New Zealand's cool little capital. There are plenty of activities to keep you engaged in Wellington, in addition to the many museums and galleries that have made it the country's cultural capital. The Weta Workshop Tour, where you can learn about the special effects and props that bring fictional worlds to life, is a must-see for film aficionados. Wellington is also a wonderful spot to visit if you enjoy plants and animals. The distinctive red cable car will carry you to the botanical gardens and Zealandia wildlife refuge, where you may encounter some of New Zealand's greatest unusual animals. A wonderful coastal stroll leads to the seal colony at Red Rock Reserve.
WellingtonWellington, New Zealand
Day 10: Wellington to Blenheim
One of the most magnificent boat rides in the world is over Cook Strait and into the Marlborough Sounds. Look for the Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel, Cook's Lookout, and the picturesque coves of the Sounds along the way. You'll arrive in Picton, which serves as the South Island hub for ferry services between the North and South islands. It's also the starting point for exploring the Marlborough Sounds' marine, woodland, and island attractions. With more than 20 vineyards on its doorstep, Blenheim is the center of wine-growing Marlborough. Character lodging, ranging from homestays to boutique hotels, is another highlight here.
MarlboroughMarlborough, New Zealand
Day 11: Blenheim to Murchison
You'll follow the Wairau River up to the Southern Alps after passing through Renwick. Visit Mount Richmond Forest Park and take a hike on one of the park's many trails. St Arnaud, an alpine resort on the edge of Lake Rotoiti, is set against a spectacular mountain backdrop. It's the ideal starting point for visiting New Zealand's second-largest national park, Nelson Lakes. There are numerous beautiful hiking trails, both short and lengthy. Kayaking, river rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, and 4WD motorbikes are all available from local adventure operators.
Spend the night here or in Murchison, which is nearby.
MurchisonMurchison, New Zealand
Day 12: Murchison to Greymouth
The drive to Greymouth offers breathtaking vistas of rugged beaches and the choppy Tasman Sea. Underground rafting and cave exploration activities can be arranged in Charleston. The old pancake rocks and thundering blowholes of Punakaiki are well-known. It is the focal point of the Paparoa National Park, which is home to a diverse range of breathtaking landscapes. Greymouth has a lengthy history of gold mining. It's the largest city on the West Coast, and it's famed for its breathtaking views of the ocean. Tours of the local brewery are available, or you can purchase for carved pounamu (greenstone/jade), a Maori treasure.
GreymouthGreymouth, New Zealand
Day 13: Greymouth to Arthur's Pass
The road known as Arthur's Pass was first utilized by Maori tribes going to the West Coast in search of pounamu (jade). It is now a complex mountain pass that is famous for both its splendor and its magnificent civil engineering. Take the scenic TranzAlpine railway or drive the trip yourself. Take the time to visit Arthur's Pass Village in any case. This alpine village serves as a base for climbing, hiking, hunting, and skiing excursions in the nearby national park. There are many short treks to choose from, and local species such as the kea, tui, and bellbird are prevalent.
Arthur's PassArthur's Pass, West Coast, New Zealand
Day 14: Arthur's Pass to Christchurch
Rural tranquillity and friendly communities will take you to Christchurch as you drive from the Southern Alps to the Canterbury Plains. Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, is full of charming tradition, innovation, and outdoor activities. There are many things to do here, including punting on the Avon River, heritage tram excursions, street art trails, botanical gardens, and breathtaking heli-flights. Spend the afternoon exploring the sights and sounds of this fascinating city.
ChristchurchChristchurch, New Zealand
Day 15: Explore Christchurch and surrounds
Spend your final day in Christchurch by taking a day trip to Akaroa, a French colonial village. Self-drivers have the option of using State Highway 75 around Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth, or taking the longer and more challenging route through the Lyttelton tunnel and around Lyttelton Harbour. Akaroa is a beautiful town with a lot of personality. The streets are named after French cities, and local restaurants serve French food. The Akaroa Museum and the wonderfully restored medieval dwellings are worth a visit. Dolphins, penguins, and fur seals can all be seen on harbour cruises.