New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

Our New Zealand road trip, in all honesty, was planned very last minute. We had flights and a few hotels booked but a week before we were set to leave, we rearranged the entire itinerary. Then, while we were on the trip and weather became a factor and things had to shift, we changed the itinerary accordingly. Luckily a good portion of our plans were flexible so most of what we wanted to do worked out, though of course in two weeks it was impossible to see and do everything. Here is what we did... 

Day 1

Arrived into Auckland Airport, transfer to hotel at the Auckland Hilton

Dropped off bags and booked a last minute Auckland city tour that drove us around to see the main sites -- spent the day exploring the city and shopping the main area near the waterfront

Dinner at Clooney Restaurant -- delicious tasting meal complete with lots of wine pairings

Midnight New Year's fireworks -- view from the street outside Clooney of Auckland Sky Tower


Day 2

Brunch at Ortolana

A friend of my mom's who lives in Auckland picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Muriwai Beach to see the coast and the ganet bird colony there, then we went back to his beautiful home overlooking the city and sat for awhile chatting with him and his wife and daughter

Dinner at SOUL Bar on the Auckland waterfront


Day 3

Picked up the rental car in the morning from Avis at the Auckland Airport

Drove to Hobbiton Shire's Rest near Matamata for a Lord of the Rings Move Set Tour

Lunch at Alpino Cucina and Vino

Drove to Waitomo Glow Worm Caves for a tour of the caves

Drove to the Lake Taupo Hilton and checked in

Dinner at Rose on Roberts in Taupo

All in all a successful day of road tripping despite the awful rainy weather and random earthquake


Day 4

(Morning floatplane tour canceled due to bad weather)

Drove to Napier and stopped for lunch at Emporium Eatery and Bar

Stopped for a wine tasting at Elephant Hill Estate and left with several bottles of wines and olive oils 

Drove south into Wellington to check into the Wellington Intercontinental Hotel

Gourmet dinner at Hippopotamus -- best meal of the trip


Day 5

Spent the day exploring Wellington -- took the cable car to the top then walked back down to the city through the Botanic Gardens and past the Parliament buildings 

Torrentially rainy evening spent inside the hotel, ate dinner at the hotel


Day 6

Morning coffee at Havana Coffee Works

Ferry ride across Cook Straight to Picton on the south island (very rough passage, requires lots of seasickness preparedness) 

Wine tasting in Marlborough at Cloudy Bay Vineyards

Drove into Nelson to check into Rutherford Hotel

Dinner at Harry's a great Asian inspired restaurant 


Day 7

Early morning drive to Marahau for Abel Tasman Kayak Tour -- spent most of the day kayaking around the national park and marine reserve past sea lions, dolphins, and more

Stopped to eat at Hooked on Marahau, an adorable waterfront cafe with great food and trendy decor

Drove back into Nelson and stopped at the Tahunanui Beach for sunset


Day 8

Delicious breakfast at Ford's Restaurant -- sitting outside on the sunny bustling sidewalk, devouring eggs benedict

Wandered around Queen's Gardens and explored Nelson a little bit

Drive to Neudorf Vineyards for wine tasting and a snack of fresh cheese, crackers, and olives

Drive to Bird's Ferry Lodge on the coast, dinner prepared at the lodge


Day 9

A day of road tripping down the rugged coast

Drive to Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks formation and blow holes

Drive south along coast to the town of Hokitika

Lunch in Hokitika at Stumpers, which was every bit an unimpressive touristy joint

Drive to Hokitika Gorge and hike into the gorge 

Drive further south along coast to Te Waionui Forest Lodge, a retreat in the middle of the rainforest near the Franz Josef Glacier 

Dinner at the lodge 


Day 10

(helicopter tour to the Franz Josef Glacier canceled due to bad weather)

Drive south through Haast Pass, stops at Roaring Billy Falls and Blue Pools

Stops along route driving south along Lake Wanaka, enjoying the beautiful scenery and sparkling clear lake water

Wanaka for dinner 

Drive to hotel across the Crown Range Road to Arrowtown

Check into hotel at the Millbrook Resort


Day 11

Drove to Queenstown Airport for "Fly, Cruise, Fly" Day Tour to Milford Sound

Flight to Milford Sound, cruise around the fiord, and flight back to Queenstown

Drive back to Arrowtown and dinner at The Postmasters Residence Restaurant 


Day 12

Spent morning exploring Queenstown -- took cable car to the view, ate ice cream at Patagonia Chocolates, lunch at Bespoke Kitchen, skydive canceled due to high winds

Drive south along Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau

Checked into hotel at Loch Vista Airbnb


Day 13

Spent most of the day on a tour to Doubtful Sound

Played with sheep and fed lambs with Pam at Loch Vista

Check into the Fiordland Lodge 

Dinner at Fiordland Lodge


Day 14

Drove back into Queenstown

Checked into the Hotel St. Moritz

Wandered around town exploring more of Queenstown, skydive canceled for the second time

Shotover Jet Boat ride

Dinner at Sasso and drinks at Little Blackwood


Day 15

Sadly and regretfully time to leave -- headed to airport and back to the U.S.


And here's a lovely map that I made for the trip. Fun fact: if you create a map like this using Google Maps, you can actually download it to your phone so that you can use it while you're traveling and you won't need data or service or GPS or anything.