A six week tailor made or bespoke holiday in New Zealand is an ideal amount of time to enable you to see all the key attractions, as well as many ‘off the beaten track’ regions of this stunning country that even many New Zealander’s don’t get to. You’ll have time to go as you please at a relaxed pace too.
Day 1: Auckland
Most journeys will start in Auckland, enabling you to explore the North Island first, followed by the South Island. We usually suggest doing it in this order as both islands are beautiful in their own way, but it is the South Island that offers the rugged dramatic scenery so often seen in photos and worth working up to! Auckland is quite a large city by New Zealand standards, and certainly the busiest you will come across. Attractions include the Skytower, the Viaduct Basin, various museums and possibly a day out to Waiheke Island. The Viaduct Basin was built to host the Americas Cup a few years ago – and there are Americas Cup yachts in the basin that offer sailing trips out into the Hauraki Gulf.
Two nights Auckland
Day 3: Bay of Islands
The very northern tip of the North Island is well worth a visit. The towns of Paihia and Russell are on opposite sides of the estuary, and from a base here, you might like to explore Cape Reinga and Ninety-mile Beach. The Waitangi Treaty was signed near Paihia.
Three nights Bay of Islands
Day 6: Coromandel
Coming south through Auckland, and then to the east is the Coromandel Peninsular. This is home to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, and has some lovely scenery, with rain forest in the central spine. There is some old mining history here for those interested, and good sea fishing as well.
Two nights Coromandel
Day 8: Rotorua
Rotorua was the original tourist destination in the 1800’s, featuring the extraordinary pink and white terraces, which were destroyed in a volcanic eruption in the 1880’s. Visit the Museum where you can learn about the devastating eruption, followed by a visit to Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Craft Centre. Te Puia is also home to Whakawerawera thermal reserve. Follow this with a visit to the Buried Village – the remains of the devastation of the 1880’s, and finally Lake Tarawera. There are also a number of other thermal parks around the area. En route to Rotorua, take a detour to visit Hobbiton and see the hobbit hole set for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.
Two nights Rotorua
Before or after a stay in Rotorua, consider adding in a stop in Whakatane – it is from here that one can take a trip to White Island – an active volcano.
Day 10: Tongariro
This is a National Park and home to several volcanoes – Mt Ruapehu amongst them. There is also a long distance walking trail here – the Tongariro crossing, which is not an easy walk but with stunning scenery.
Two nights Tongariro
Day 12: Napier
Hawke Bay is surrounded by a circle of rugged hills, giving it its unique micro-climate, and making it the perfect location for vineyards and market gardens. Cape Kidnappers is here, which is home to a gannet colony and there are some good views to be had from Te Mata Peak. Napier itself suffered a major earthquake in the 1930’s and was rebuilt in Art Deco style.
Two nights Napier
Day 14: Wellington
This is the capital city and apart from the parliament buildings and botanical gardens, it is also home to the wonderful Te Papa Museum. It is also a unique building in that the foundations are built like a sponge and sit squarely on a major fault. They are built to withstand quite a sizeable tremor.
Two nights Wellington
Day 16: Kaikoura
Take the ferry across to Picton on the South Island, and drive down to Kaikoura. Located on the coast and jammed in between the mountains and the sea, Kaikoura is famous for its fish and chips and crayfish! It is also the place for whale watching – either by sea or from the air.
One night Kaikoura
Day 17: Blenheim
This area produces some excellent wines and many wineries are open for tastings. The Marlborough Sound and Queen Charlotte Sound are both in this area and well worth exploring if you have the time.
One night Blenheim
Day 18: Abel Tasman National Park
Drive around to Abel Tasman. This northern tip of the South Island is so often overlooked, but it is one of our favourites. It is here that you’ll see the crescent shaped beaches backed by lush greenery – easy to spend a full day in the park, using the water taxis to get about, and perhaps walking one of the many trails in the park.
Three nights Abel Tasman
Day 21: Punakaiki
Coming down the west coast, it is nice to break the journey with an overnight stop at Punakaiki. This is the home of the Pancake Rocks – a strange rock formation, and the overnight stop simply allows you to take your time as these roads are so scenic that you will simply have to keep stopping for more pictures.
One night Punakaiki
Day 22: Arthurs Pass
Turning inland to the central spine of mountains that run through the South Island, this is alpine scenery at its very best. There are plenty of walking opportunities in the area with stunning views all around.
Two nights Arthurs Pass
Day 24: Fox Glacier and Franz Josef
Returning to the west coast, the next place of interest are the two glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Take time to visit one or both glaciers, the beautiful Lake Matheson and the dramatic coast at Gillespie Beach. From here , you can take a sightseeing flight over the glaciers with or without a glacier landing and hike, and hopefully with good views of Mount Cook.
Two nights Fox Glacier
Day 26: Wanaka
The route to Wanaka takes you through the Haast Pass and past Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Simply beautiful – this little town is surrounded by mountains and is the Queenstown of yesteryear. Where Queenstown has developed, Wanaka has remained delightfully small.
One night Wanaka
Day 27: Queenstown
Sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a sizeable town with activities for every adrenalin junkie! Here you will find bungy jumping, sky diving, a luge and plenty more. Much of the Lord of the Rings was filmed in this area, and although the sets had to be removed, the scenery will seem familiar! For those not into extreme sports, a drive to Glenorchy is beautiful.
Two nights Queenstown
Day 29: Te Anau
Te Anau is the gateway to Fjordland National Park – for both Milford and Doubtful Sounds. For either, you can visit for a day, or take an overnight cruise. Of the two, Milford offers the more dramatic scenery but is busier. Doubtful Sound has fewer tourists and lovely scenery, but it’s not quite so dramatic.
Two nights Te Anau
Day 31: Stewart Island
At the very southern tip are areas of New Zealand that many never get to. Stewart Island is home to the only kiwi’s (the birds that is) to be found in the wild, and a must for birding enthusiasts. Access to the island is by ferry or by light aircraft – we suggest going by air as the ferry crossing can be quite choppy.
Two nights Stewart Island
Day 33: The Catlins
The Catlins is the area in the far southeast corner of the South Island – a wild and remote corner for those whose idea of paradise is the absence of anyone else at all (or pretty well!) and with good opportunities to see wildlife such as Little Blue Penguins, Yellow Eyed Penguins, seals and sealions.
Two nights The Catlins
Day 35: Dunedin
Visited by many for its Scottish appeal and for the colony of albatross that call this home. This is a must for birders. There are a number of other attractions in the area including the Rail Trail – great for cycling. The Otago Peninsula is beautiful, and a stay here rather than in the city itself may appeal too.
Two nights Dunedin
Day 37: Lake Tekapo
This is the home of the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog Memorial often features in brochures. This is also a great place for stargazing as it is a ‘designated dark sky’ area.
Two nights Lake Tekapo
Day 39: Akaroa
Located on the Banks Peninsula south east of Christchurch, this small town has a French feel to it and is a lovely place to relax for a day or two. From here, one can take a cruise to swim with wild Hector’s Dolphins – the smallest and rarest dolphin, which is endemic to New Zealand.
Two nights Akaroa
Day 41: Christchurch
Coming further north is the city of Christchurch. After the earthquakes of recent years Christchurch is still rebuilding, but is still well worth a stay. Punt along the river, visit the botanical gardens or take a tram ride around the town centre. Unique attractions to pop up since the earthquakes include Re:Start – a shopping centre comprised of shipping containers, and the Cardboard Cathedral.
Two nights Christchurch
Day 43: Depart Christchurch
Depart Christchurch today to head home or to your next destination.
Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo
Yellow Eyed Penguin, The Catlins