Wild Kiwi: Ultimate New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary for 1st-Time Visitors (North

Wild Kiwi: Ultimate New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary for 1st-Time Visitors (North & South Island)

A lot of you would have known by now how I adore New Zealand — and that’s not just because it’s the set for ‘Middle-earth’.

Regrettably, first trip to this country felt incredibly short; after all, I barely scratched the surface of the wonders held within the North Island, and I didn’t even manage to drop by in the South Island. So when Wild Kiwi invited me to go on a 21-day tour to both of the islands, you bet that I said ‘yes‘ in a heartbeat.

Looking back, it has surely turned out to be the one most epic road trips that I have ever done in my life. With that, I hope that the rest of this post will show you why a tour with Wild Kiwi will be worth your while, if not give you ideas for your own New Zealand adventure!

Find out more about Wild Kiwi and why I have chosen to go with them (despite the number of other New Zealand tour companies who have extended their invitations to me) by reading the post below…
READ
: My Next Big Adventure to New Zealand with Wild Kiwi

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Where to Stay in New Zealand?

Come and check out my list of the Best Hotels in Auckland‘, ‘Best Hotels in Wellington‘, ‘Best Hotels in Queenstown‘ and Best Hotels in Christchurch which features the top recommended choices for cheap to luxurious accommodation choices.

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Pre-Travel Guide for New Zealand

Roy’s Peak from Shutterstock.com

IMPORTANT: New Zealand has STRICT quarantine laws for undeclared food and other biohazards. This means that you should not bring in any kind of fresh food such as bananas, apples, honey, etc. as you make sure that you dispose of them before going through the baggage claim area. Processed or packaged food can be accepted but you are supposed to declare them on your arrival card. If you’re ever in doubt, ask for clarification — otherwise, you will be charged with a hefty fine.

If you’ve got outdoor equipment like diving gear, hiking boots, etc. you must clean them before you travel to New Zealand in order for the inspection process to go more quickly for you. Be advised that New Zealand is firm about this given how they have sniffer dogs and bio-sensitive X-ray machines to detect any unwanted items.

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What is the currency in New Zealand?
New Zealand Dollar (NZD) wherein about NZD 1.40~ is equal to USD $1, €0.85~ or Php 50~ (this is as of May 2018).

When exchanging your money to NZD, I highly advice that you do NOT exchange it at the airport since the rates there are not competitive. So what should you rather do? Either exchange your money at a bank or at a money exchanger in your home country or in any of New Zealand’s city centers. Better yet, just withdraw from an ATM with your debit/credit card (do one big withdrawal to minimize fees with your bank). Speaking of cards, a lot of New Zealand’s establishments accept credit cards but it’s always advisable to have cash on hand.

When is the best time to visit New Zealand?
Technically, there is NEVER a bad time to go to New Zealand; yet of course, since both the North and South Islands are long and narrow, weather is not uniform. But as an overview, below are New Zealand’s seasons:

  • Summer: (December to February) This is the most popular time; hence, the busiest — but the beaches are great during this time of the year. Take note by the way that January will be the warmest month. Thinking about this, New Zealand is a great escape for these months of the year if you want to get away from harsh winters.
  • Autumn: (March to May) This time is gorgeous as the leaves change colors and it’s also one of the best times to plan a getaway or a hiking spree since the summer crowds are mostly gone. To add, rates are on an ‘off peak’ level.
  • Winter: (June to August) Queenstown for instance will be your winter wonderland, but there surely are a number of ski areas around the country. If you come in June you can enjoy the Queenstown Winter Festival.
  • Spring: (September to November) This is one of the ‘off peak’ seasons as you get to enjoy warmer days and longer daylight hours.

If I go with Wild Kiwi, what routes can I take or choose from?
To date, Wild Kiwi has over 7 kinds of routes and combinations that you can choose from:

  • North Island: 7-day Northern Voyager
    • Stops: Auckland > Raglan > Taupo > Napier > Rotorua > Coromandel > Auckland
    • Price: NZD $1,199 (subject to change)
  • South Island: 7-day Southern Voyager
    • Stops: Christchurch > Franz Josef > Queenstown > Mt. Cook > Christchurch
    • Price: NZD $1,199 (subject to change)
  • South Island: 7-day Southern Loop
    • Stops: Christchurch > Kaikoura > Picton > Abel Tasman > Punakaiki > Hokitika > Christchurch
    • Price: NZD $1,099 (subject to change)
  • North & South Island: 14-day NZ Explorer
    • Combination of 7-day Northern Voyager + 7-day Southern Voyager
    • Stops: Auckland > Raglan > Taupo > Napier > Rotorua > Coromandel > Auckland > (Fly to Christchurch) > Christchurch > Franz Josef > Queenstown > Mt. Cook > Christchurch
    • Price: NZD $2,499 (subject to change)
  • South Island: 14-day Big South
    • Combination of 7-daySouthern Voyager + 7-day Southern Loop
    • Stops: Christchurch > Franz Josef > Queenstown > Mt. Cook > Christchurch > Kaikoura > Picton > Abel Tasman > Punakaiki > Hokitika > Christchurch
    • Price: NZD $2,499 (subject to change)
  • North & South Island: 14-day NZ Adventurer
    • Combination of 7-day Northern Voyager + 7-day Southern Loop
    • Stops: Auckland > Raglan > Taupo > Napier > Rotorua > Coromandel > Auckland > (Fly to Christchurch) > Christchurch > Kaikoura > Picton > Abel Tasman > Punakaiki > Hokitika > Christchurch
    • Price: NZD $2,499 (subject to change)
  • North & South Island21-day NZ Discovery
    • Combination of 7-day Northern Voyager + 7-day Southern Loop + 7-day Southern Voyager
    • Stops: Auckland > Raglan > Taupo > Napier > Rotorua > Coromandel > Auckland > (Fly to Christchurch) > Christchurch > Kaikoura > Picton > Abel Tasman > Punakaiki > Hokitika > Christchurch > Franz Josef > Queenstown > Mt. Cook > Christchurch
    • Price: NZD $3,599 (subject to change)

The following are the basic inclusions for all the tours…

  • Expert local guide/driver
  • Daily road transportation and stops
  • Unlimited WiFi
  • Accommodations
  • Daily breakfast
  • Local flight (as applicable to the route)

If you are on the 21-day NZ Discovery tour like I did, you get some more extras such as the following…

  • Surf lesson in Raglan
  • Wai O Tapu geothermal park admittance
  • 3 free dinners

Booking Essentials



Booking.com

What should I pack for this Wild Kiwi holiday?
Of course this will depend on what month and what locations you will be visiting as per the road trip circuit you choose with Wild Kiwi; but for a start:

– Bring comfortable walking shoes (for those city strolls + hiking sprees) and a rain jacket (just in case).
– In summer, bring a towel, swimming gear, light summer clothes, flip-flops and a light jacket.
– In winter, make sure to pack a warm jacket and lots of layers since the South Island can get really chilly.
– Don’t worry about bringing fancy dresses because New Zealand has a very casual dress code.
– It’s best to bring a day bag that can hold some of your essentials since it will be important for the stops you’ll be making.
– Get a refillable bottle too. After all, New Zealand tap water tastes better than the bottled stuff (not to mention, it’s free, which saves you the cost of buying the expensive bottled water).
– Remember to pack sunscreen or a hat because the sun can be quite strong in some places.
– Feel free to bring your own snacks or alcoholic beverages during the road trip.
– Bringing insect repellant is a good idea as well because there are little pests called ‘sand flies’.
– Lastly, you must buy travel insurance especially with how you’ll be doing a lot of adrenaline-pumping activities. For this I highly recommend buying from World Nomads. I’ve been buying my travel insurance with them for years and they’re amazing. They have a wide coverage, they service worldwide and they have a fast and easy purchase process online.

Where to best stay (for accommodations)?
There is of course a range of accommodations in New Zealand for you to choose from. To search for the best accommodations at the best prices, I suggest checking out Agoda and Booking.com. But if you’re rather interested in renting comfortable houses, check AirBnB.

Anyhow, if you’re coming with Wild Kiwi, your accommodations will be taken care of during the tour (a mix of inns and hostels); but it is highly recommended that you book your own accommodation for at least 1 night before and after your Wild Kiwi road trip journey to allot some time of relaxation before and after your flights. For a list of the top accommodations, see my posts below…

Should I get a visa to visit New Zealand?
You can check this list of countries to see who does NOT need tourist visas to enter New Zealand. Naturally, if you’re NOT a citizen of any of the listed countries, you will then need to apply for a tourist visa in the New Zealand embassy that’s near you. If you’re a Philippine citizen like me, you can read my guide on ‘How to Apply for a New Zealand Visa‘.

Helpful Māori phrases
English is the dominant language spoken by most Kiwis (New Zealanders) but the country’s de jure official languages are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Rest assured, Māori people are bilingual and can speak English too, but they’ll be happy to hear you try and speak the Māori language.

If you want to learn a few helpful phrases, make sure that you pronounce the following properly!

Hello (to 1 person, formal): Tēnā koe (Te-na koy)
Hello (to 1 person, informal): Kia ora (Key-oar-rah)
Thank you: Kia ora (Key-oar-rah) ~ pronounced with a rising intonation
Yes: Āe (I)
No: Kāore (Kao-re)
Goodbye (said by person leaving): E noho rā (E-noho ra)
Goodbye (said by person staying): Haere rā (Hayre ra)
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I’m sorry: Aroha mai (Ar-ro-ha-mai)
Help!: Āwhina! (Af-fin-nuh!)
Cheers!: Kia ora! (Key-oar-rah!)

New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

NOTE: The following sections are in a tabbed format; so, in order to see the next day’s contents, just click the headings.
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» Northern Voyager «

◘◘ From Auckland to Raglan
Our first day started off grey and rainy — but nothing dampened our mood as we set off to our first stop in the North Island: Raglan.

This small coastal town is famous for its overall surf culture and its black sands in Ngarunui Beach — that being said, we did some surfing here and it was loads of fun (though the water was cold for a tropical girl like now). Now, one fun trivia about this beach is that it is apparently one of the world’ longest left-hand surf break; that being said, it was quite a unique place in itself!

After our time here, we huddled back to town to explore the charming cafes and shops before making a stop over to the breathtaking Bridal Veil “Waireinga” Falls in Waikato which was on the way to our accommodation for the night. This first day was quite something and during dinner, we got to know the rest of the amazing people that we were going to spend the next days with.

TIP: Like I’ve previously mentioned, it’s advisable to allot some days in Auckland before starting Day #1 because there are some great spots that you must see in this biggest city of New Zealand! For a list of awesome FREE things to do in Auckland, see my detailed post here.

RaglanRaglan from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ Waitomo & Taupō
The fun continues as we got to discover the following towns filled with unique activities!

  • Waitomo is a village that is well known for its extensive underground cave systems, and as a visitor, you can either do the following…
    • Visit Waitomo Glowworm Cave(NZ$50~) Do you want to see stars up close — or better yet, see a galaxy of ‘tiny living lights’? With this tour, you will be gliding silently on a boat through Waitomo River as you go through the “starry” wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto which has thousands of tiny glowworms (Arachnocampa luminosa) that radiate a luminescent bluish light in the dark. Mind you, these creatures are unique to New Zealand only!
    • Visit Ruakuri Cave(NZ$70~) Much like the main Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Ruakuri Cave offers the magical experience of sighting glowworms up close; but more than this, you’ll be winding your way through spectacular limestone formations and crystal tapestries.
    • Go black water rafting through glowworm caves = (NZ$140~) If you want a more adventurous experience, this is the best choice for you as you abseil, weave, jump, climb and float through the stunning underworld of Ruakuri Cave and a few waterfalls too.
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  • Taupo is a town that’s rather distinguised by its lakefront setting as well as the following…
    • Do jet boating(NZ$115~) This is an adrenaline-pumping activity that was invented by New Zealand. So if you like speed, spins, and thrills combined with marvelous water scenery, going on a jet boating activity will be worth your while! I have gone through this experience myself and it was loads of fun!
    • Sail on Lake Taupo = (NZ$50~) A lot of sailing companies not only take you to the incredible waters of Lake Taupo, but it also takes you to the ‘Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings’ which is often refered to as one of the country’s most extraordinary artworks that towers 14 meters above deep water. Apparently, this has been sculpted over the course of 4 years and depicts the face of Ngatoroirangi, a ‘visionary Māori navigator who guided the Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupō area over a thousand years ago’.
    • Huka Falls = (FREE admittance) This powerful yet astonishing set of bluish waterfalls on the Waikato River drains onwards to Lake Taupo. It is said that per second, the volume of water flowing through it often approaches 220,000 liters!

Waitomo Glowworm CaveCarvings & Waitomo from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ Napier & Hawke’s Bay
Before leaving Taupo, we had the choice to go skydiving over Lake Taupo (NZ$270) — however, I was hell-bent on doing mine in Queenstown instead (weather permitting *fingers crossed*). But either way, doing a skydive here will be one for the books because the views high up overlooking the lake will be memorable!

I’m actually terribly afraid of heights. Combine that with my fear of flying airplanes, then surely, doing skydiving is a horrible idea for me, right? Haha. But I’ve since decided to conquer my fears!

Once everyone was ready, we hit the road again to visit the charismatic city of Napier which is popular for its beautifully-preserved 1930s architecture of art-deco buildings. It surely made me feel like I was transported to the filming set of Great Gatsby!

While we were still basked in the afterglow of Napier, we proceeded to visit some vineyards to do some wine tastings (costs around NZ$10~). And to cap our day off, we stopped by Te Mata Peak in Hawke’s Bay region to sight the sweeping summits that rise up to 399m. This place is particularly great for driving, hiking, and mountain biking since you’re sure to be showered with spectacular views in every direction!

Te Mata PeakTe Mata Peak from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ Rotorua’s Adventure & Natural Sights
From the moment that we stepped in to the geothermal town of Rotorua, I became nostalgic of my first visit here back in 2016 as I smelled the all-too-familiar scent of the sulphur-rich air. This is a hotspot in the North Island of New Zealand and there are heaps to do here:

  • Geothermal Parks: Naturally, Rotorua is packed with several geothermal parks; but if I may suggest, choose from any of these top 3 places (and then steel your sense of smell!)
    • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland = (NZ$32~ / FREE with Wild Kiwi Tours) This showcases New Zealand’s most colorful and unique active geothermal elements that have been sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity.
    • Te Puia = (NZ$54~) Other than being a Maori cultural village, Te Puia is famous for its geothermal activity especially that of its Pōhutu Geyser which is said to be the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere. It also erupts once or twice every hour at heights that could reach 30 meters!
    • Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Spa = (Starts at NZ$20~) Other than witnessing boiling pools and erupting waters, you could also enjoy their hot spring services that are coupled with a therapeutic mud and sulphur spa.
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  • Redwood Forest: (FREE admittance) Spend the day away hiking or biking through this towering forest that’s just on the edge of Rotorua. Rest assured, there is an array of trails that you can choose from, no matter your level of fitness or experience.
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  • Luge: (Starts at NZ$45~) Somewhat of a mix between a go-kart (without the engine) and a toboggan (without the snow), Rotorua’s “Luge” is a fun and fast-paced adventure activity that is great for people of all ages! I enjoyed this so much and a lot of people even say that this place is better than the Luge activity found in South Island’s Queenstown, so go and give this a try!
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  • Zorb: (Starts at NZ$39) Also called as ‘globe riding’, this involves a ‘ball of fun’ where you roll down a hill inside a huge inflatable ball. Invented in 1994 in New Zealand, this has become one of the ‘must-do’ activities when in the country and it often gives you the chance to choose the kind of trail that you’ll go through — may it be zigzag or straight!
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  • White Water Rafting: This is a great thing to do with your family or friends in Rotorua! This is one of the things I did together with my companion and it was an extraordinary experience! We went through steep native bush canyons and over 14 rapids and 3 waterfalls, including the world-renowned 7-meter Tutea Falls which is the ‘Highest Commercially Rafted Waterfall in the World’! Truth be told, this was my first white water rafting activity of all time and it was absolutely a great first.

White Water Rafting

◘◘ Rotorua’s Movie & Cultural Sights
For this day, there are 2 things that we made sure we did NOT miss:

  • Visit the Hobbiton Movie Set: (NZ$114~) For the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit‘ movie fans like me, this is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to venture off into your own Middle-earth adventure! After all, this is the famous 12-acre movie set of the iconic village of the Shire. As a visitor, you will be guided through a two-hour walking tour to the different hobbit hole houses (e.g. Sam and Frodo’s house) and other quintessential landmarks like the Mill and the Green Dragon Inn (where you can also grab a complimentary drink that is brewed only in Hobbiton!).
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  • Visit a Maori Cultural Village: (Around NZ$100~) Rotorua and its surrounding towns arguably has the highest concentration of Māori villages. With that in mind, it is a must to visit at least one in order to immerse yourself with the history and customs of the Maori people in New Zealand — a culture that the country is highly proud of. We went to one of the best villages, Tamaki Maori Village, and some of the many amazing things that you’ll experience and which I personally loved was witnessing the powerful haka (traditional war cry), learning about the Maori history, partaking in a hangi (traditional Maori feast), and more.

Hobbiton

◘◘ Coromandel
We bid farewell to the wonders of Rotorua and said hello to the stunning Coromandel Peninsula while making stops and short walks to scenic landscapes along the way. Once we arrived at Hahei, we donned on our swimwear and headed to the popular Hot Water Beach. It might sound peculiar for a beach’s waters to be related to anything ‘hot‘ but it’s true, because this bay has underground hot springs which everyone can enjoy by digging through the sand during low tide. With this, you can easily alternate between hot and cold pools in an instant!

So armed with our shovels, we searched for a good spot by the beach and lounged as we watched the sun set on the horizon. Needless to say, this was truly one of a kind!

Hot Water BeachHot Water Beach from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ From Coromandel to Auckland
To mark our last day in the North Island, we first went on a hike to Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei) Marine Reserve which is yet another highlight of our visit in Coromandel Peninsula.  With its beautiful white sand, turquoise waters and towering rock formations, this place was quite a sight! Not to mention, there is a pathway here that is well-known for being the opening scene from the movie Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Once we had our fill of the magical scenery, we went to pack our bags and journeyed back to Auckland in preparation for our flight to Christchurch so as to mark the start of our South Island adventure.

NOTE: If you want to stay back in the North Island, it’s advisable to fly over to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

Cathedral CoveCathedral Cove from Shutterstock.com

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» Southern Loop «

◘◘ From Christchurch to Kaikoura
After a night’s rest in Christchurch, we started our South Island journey by making a stop first in the seaside town of Kaikoura that’s filled with rugged cliffs and impressive marine life. For an array of things to do here, they are as follows…

  • Whale watching: (NZ$150~) This is a year-round experience where you can get real close with whales of different kinds such as the sperm whales which are the largest toothed predators. The best thing about this tour is that there is a 95% rate of sighting success and this is mainly because all the locals cooperate in sharing information when sighting these big creatures in the water. If in case you don’t see any whales (which is highly unlikely) they will glady issue an 80% refund.
    • Fly option = (NZ$180~) If you’re not good with boat rides or if you simply want a bird eyeview to truly see the magnitude of the world’s largest mammals, a flight experience above Kaikoura’s waters is a great choice! Now don’t worry because everyone is guaranteed a window seat for unobstructed views.
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  • Watch or Swim with Dolphins: (Starts at NZ$95~) Come face-to-face with numerous dolphins in their natural environment by swimming and playing with them — you will never get a better chance than this! If you’re not fond of swimming, you could also opt to stay dry and go on the dolphin watching tour.
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  • Fishing Trip: (NZ$120~) Go with a local and experience an immersive fishing trip as you catch lobsters and crayfish in the waters — famous delicacies in Kaikoura! Whether if it’s you’re a first time fisher or not, you’re sure to have so much fun in this. At the end of the trip, you can choose to release your catch or have it cooked. My companions and I had a lot of fun enjoying our catch so this can be a fun activity for you too!
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  • Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: (FREE) This is a 3-hour scenic hike full of clifftop views and wild animals (in fact, you can sight seabirds and seals up close!) as you cross the peninsula to South Bay. If you don’t have 3 hours, there are smaller hikes or detours along the way for you to do.

Kaikoura

◘◘ Picton
After a night’s rest, we proceeded to drive down the Kaikoura coast where we got to see the damage of the earthquake that happened in 2016. These roads were only recently opened so we could see how hard the country has worked to fix things; but amidst this, we were enamored by the beauty of the coastline which often had dolphins and seals playing in the shallow waters.

During this journey, we explored some wonderful beaches before arriving at the port town of Picton which is lauded as the gateway to the Marlborough Sound (this is also the gateway to the South Island for ferries that come from the North). We had some time left when we arrived in town and one of the things we did and which you could also do is hike the 3-hour return Snout Track for stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds.

PictonPicton from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ From Picton to Abel Tasman National Park
This day was mostly spent driving so that we could reach one of New Zealand’s most beautiful wilderness reserves, the Abel Tasman National Park! We actually arrived late in the afternoon, but we filled our day with stops to some breweries and wineries in the Marlborough region, as well as to the enchanting green waters at Pelorus Bridge.

TRIVIA: You’ll find a bit of Middle-earth in this spot because this is actually the filming location in the scene of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” when the dwarves were floating in barrels down a river.

Once we got checked-in at The Barn near Abel Tasman National Park, we marked our first night with a scrumptious barbecue dinner as we hung out by the fireplace and exchanged stories as we prepare for the next day’s adventures!

Pelorus Bridge

◘◘ Abel Tasman National Park
It’s time to make the most of this New Zealand national park which is highly renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and world-famous coast track called as the ‘Abel Tasman Coast Track’.

The best way to do this? Go on a kayaking trip which will first depart from Kaiteriteri via a cruise boat that’s already included in the tour, and then upon arriving at Torrent Bay, you will have a fully-guided kayak tour for about 2.5 hours where you can encounter seals along the way.

After this, you can go back to Kaiteriteri via a return cruise or a 2/3-hour unguided hike through the Abel Tasma Coast Track. I would recommend doing the latter so that you can make stops along the beautiful bashes to do some subathing or whatnot (you can even encounter some of New Zealand’s native wildlife such as the Tui and the Tuatara!).

Abel TasmanAbel Tasman from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ Punakaiki
We bid goodbye to Abel Tasman and headed down to the West Coast to the little coastal town of Punakaiki which is situated on the edge of the Paparoa National Park. For this day, we made several stops on the road and then ended the day with a visit to Punakaiki’s famous ‘Pancake Rocks’.

  • Nelson Lake: (FREE) We had lunch with a view in this lake that is within Nelson Lakes National Park — a place full of enchanting alpines, forests and glacial lakes.
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  • Cape Foulwind Walkway: (FREE) This is a spectacular 3.4km one-way coastal walk that led us through a towering lighthouse, a fur seal breeding colony, and eventually to Tauranga Bay.
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  • Pancake Rocks: (FREE) As the name suggests, these are limestones that look like stacked pancakes, and the cause of which is from millions of years of erosion  by water, wind and salt. In this area, you will also find impressive blowholes that make thundering sounds. I recommend coming here either during sunrise or sunset in order to get the best lighting and view.

◘◘ Hokitika
Today was solely for discovering the hidden gems of Hokitika and its surrounding areas. As such, the highlight for this day would be our visit to Hokitika Gorge which had astonishing blue-green waters and a picture-perfect swing bridge. Walking to this spot involved no more than a 650-meter hike so it was an easy trail to go through. We all wanted to take a swim but unfortunately, since we were here in autumn, the waters were already too cold.

Before the day ends, after we checked in to our accommodation, we built a huge bonfire by the beach in Hokitika. We had so much fun roasting marshmallows and exchanging stories (after all, this was technically the last tour day of this Southern Loop leg).

◘◘ From Hokitika to Christchurch
On our way back to Christchurch, we drove across the iconic Southern Alps which is one of New Zealand’s highest passes.

Upon arriving in the city, we checked in to JUCY Snooze (which was a unique capsule hostel), and some people opted to explore Christchurch — whereas others opted to stay in and rest, in preparation for the adrenaline-filled trip for the next days under the ‘Southern Voyager’ leg of Wild Kiwi!

ChristchurchChristchurch from Shutterstock.com

• • •

» Southern Voyager «

◘◘ From Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier
After meeting new additional people to our tour, we departed from Christchurch in the morning and headed for the dizzying heights of Arthurs Pass and the stunning snow-capped Southern Alps. Mid-way, we stopped by a lake (wherein some of our companions were crazy enough to jump into the icy waters) and Castle Hill (which was named as such because of its imposing array of limestone boulders that were reminiscent of an old run-down stone castle).

After we had our fun, we finally arrived to our destination which was Franz Josef Glacier Village.

Castle HillCastle Hill from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ Franz Josef Glacier
Together with Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier is surrounded by the World Heritage Site park of Te Wahipounamu. As a lush area filled with fantastic sights, there is a diverse number of things that you can do here:

  • Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike: (NZ$459~) Through this once-in-a-lifetime tour, you’ll go on an exhilirating helicopter ride and do a 3-hour hike through the most awesome glacier ‘ice architecture’. Evidently, this is a pricey tour to make but it’s an expense that will be worth your money and while — guaranteed. Though, if you only have the budget for just one tour in your whole Franz Josef visit, this is the experience you should invest it on. Just take note that this is weather dependent, so if the day turns out sour then no worries because there are other things for you to do around town.
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  • Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk: (NZ$78~ or FREE) This is an activity that you must make if you have a lower budget or if the weather turned out bad (and you can’t do a heli hike). You can do this with a guide or by yourself and it will take about 3 hours to go past the Waiho river bed in order to see the grand terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier.
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  • Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools: (NZ$25~) After a day of hiking, reward yourself with a relaxing dip in the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools. This is open until 9:00PM and you can choose to soak in one of the 3 main outdoor pools that range from 36 to 41 degree Celsius (if you want privacy, there are also private pools available).
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  • Fox Glacier Heli Hike: (NZ$440~) If you rather want to witness the glacier to the south, this heli hike tour to Fox Glacier is an option. Much like the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike, this will take you on a ride on a helcopter over the Fox Glacier and then land in an area where you can do a 4-hour guided hike.

Franz JosefFranz Josef from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ From Franz Josef to Queenstown
For this day, we’re finally making our way to the ‘adrenaline capital’ of New Zealand — Queenstown! It’s a bit of a drive though, so before we arrived in the city, we passed by the following places first..

  • Lake Matheson: This lake offers awe-inspiring mirror reflections of Mt. Cook (the highest mountain in New Zealand) and Mt. Tasman. It basically involves a short circuit walk, and if I may share a tip, it’s best to hike here during dawn or dusk in order to see the best lake reflections of the surrounding snowcapped mountains.
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  • Haast Pass: A mountain pass found in the Southern Alps that’s brimming with beautiful short walks, rainforests and waterfalls. Some of the breathtaking waterfalls we have seen were Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls.
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  • Wanaka: We stopped in this resort town to take a brief driving break, and it was such a serene place to lounge or have a picnic in! It was also a fascinating experience to see the ‘recently famous’ Wanaka Tree (a fence post that has now turned into an online sensation — and it’s easy to see why because this lone tree was perfectly backdropped by the alps and the surrounding terrain).
    • NOTE: If you happen to have a full day to spare in Wanaka, I suggest doing the 16km return track to Roy’s Peak that grants views over Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring/Tititea and its surrounding peaks.

TIP: When you arrive in Queenstown around night time, drop by Fergburger for dinner. This is New Zealand’s most famous burger joint and it helps to note that it is NOT a chain — you’ll only find them in Queenstown, so it’s a must to give them a try. Sure enough, they do have great-tasting burgers. (But if you want a less crowded place, Devil Burger is a great alternative!).

Wanaka Tree

◘◘ Milford Sound
A trip to the South Island is not complete without visiting the UNESCO-listed fiord of Milford Sound. It takes 5 hours to drive here from Queenstown, but I assure you: this will be worth your while because for one thing, the road that leads to Milford Sound are scenic. And once you arrive, you’ll be indulging in the towering Mitre Peak, the lush rainforests and the high waterfalls like Stirling and Bowen falls that both plummet down its sheer sides. Not to mention, this fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins — so you’re sure to have a fun time overall.

Now, the best way to see this all would be through a boat cruise (NZ$80~), but if you want to take it a step further, you can also do a helicopter tour over Milford Sound!

NOTE: If you end up with some spare time, check by the tab marked as ‘Day #19’ to see the other activities that you can do in and around Queenstown.

Milford Sound

◘◘ Queenstown
For our last day in Queenstown, we made sure to fill it up with adrenaline-pumping activities! Some of my companions went bungee jumping and others did canyon swings. As for me…? Like I’ve already mentioned before, I made it my goal to do sky diving in Queenstown so that it could help me overcome two of my top fears: heights and flying in a plane — and so I did: I jumped out of a perfectly-functioning plane at 15,000 feet and boy, it was the most amazing thing that I have ever done in my life!

For a complete list of action activities you can do, see below…

  • Sky Diving: (Starts at NZ$330~) Queenstown is said to be the birthplace of tandem skydiving; therefore, there’s no better place to do it than here! And if you want the best provider possible, do it with NZONE Skydive. With their years of operation and highly-trained dive masters, you’re sure to be in good hands when you jump out of an aircraft at 12,000 or 15,000 feet (your choice). The thrill of free falling for about 60 seconds as you plummet towards the ground at 200kph is a sensation that you’ll forever remember and cherish. I’ve done this myself and I’m so glad that I did it with NZONE!
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  • Bungy Jumping: (Starts at NZ$60~) This is New Zealand’s highest bungy jump at 134m above the Nevis River, and it offers 8.5 seconds of pure free fall! Though this looks dangerous to your eyes, be assured that your safety is wholly assured because AJ Hackett has been operating this since 1988 with over 1.5 million jumpers who now hold the bragging rights. (NOTE: If in case you want some added ‘oomph‘ to your trip, you can also package this with a roundtrip helicopter ride).
    • Combo = Combine this bungee jumping activity with a Nevis canyon swing for the ultimate adrenaline rush!
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  • Ledge Swing:(NZ$160~) Yet another daredevil affair, the Ledge Swing will set you flying 400m across and over Queenstown! Located at the top of the Skyline Gondola, the Ledge Swing will first take you on a relaxing panoramic ride up and after you’re strapped in, they will pull the ‘trigger’ to send you swinging over the mountain.
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  • Jet Boating: (NZ$150~) This is an adrenaline-pumping activity that is also invented by New Zealand. If you like speed, spins, and thrills combined with marvelous water scenery on the Shotover River, then going on this Queenstown jet boating activity will be worth your while!
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  • Quad Biking: (NZ$240~) This is the best fun you can have on four wheels! For this, you will be provided with a full set of protective equipment and clothing gear as you go on a 2.5-hour ride through panoramic vistas of Queenstown.
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  • Luge: (Starts at NZ$45~) Somewhat of a mix between a go-kart (without the engine) and a toboggan (without the snow), “Luge” is a fun and fast-paced adventure activity that is great for people of all ages! (NOTE: It also already includes a gondola ride).
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  • Lord of the Rings Tour: (Starts at NZ$185~) Journey through Middle-earth and visit the ‘cinescapes’ from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies in this amazing half-day tour. Some of the places you’ll be visiting are “Isengard”, 12 mile Delta, Misty Mountains, Pillars of the Kings — and more! Without a doubt, this will be a treat for the franchise fans (like me!).
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  • Helicopter Tour: (Starts at NZ$800~) Soar high above Queenstown as you make your way to UNESCO-listed area of Te Wahipounamu which encompasses Mt. Cook, all the way to Milford Sound which has acres of dense forests, streams, lakes and towering mountains. From this bird’s eye view, you’ll definitely have rare access view of the landscapes you’ll be seeing — and that’s not all, because you will also experience a snow landing in the secluded Southern Alps!
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  • Skyline Gondola: (Starts at NZ$30~) Slow down and get on the Skyline Gondola which gives you one of the best vantage points of the city. For the best views and photos, go here when the sun sets, and if the sky happens to be clear, you must grab the chance to go on their stargazing tour.

Sky Diving

◘◘ Mt. Cook
We said our goodbyes to Queenstown today, but we shook away the blues because we knew that we were heading off to the iconic Mt. Cook which is New Zealand’s highest peak (at 3,724 meters!). As must as we would have loved to climb the summit, we were happy enough to do a hike in the valley and one of the popular trails that leads to Mt. Cook was the Hooker Valley track. This is a 3-hour hike that goes through gorgeous alpine sceneries and you can do it by yourself or with a knowledgeable guide. Now… if I say so myself, this has got to be one of the most amazing hiking trails that I have ever done in my travels, so don’t skip out on this!

Once the night falls, don’t also forget to go out and do some stargazing in the beautiful Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

Mt. Cook

◘◘ Back to Christchurch
Sadly, this was our last drive with our companions and Wild Kiwi — but of course, we were all smiles as we think back at all the memorable things that we’ve done or seen! …And as if we were still hungry for more, we made sure to make some stops along the way before finally arriving back to Christchurch, and some of the spots we’ve dropped in were: Tasman Glacier, Lake Tekapo, and Church of the Good Shepherd.

Church of the Good ShepherdLake Tekapo & Church of the Good Shepherd from Shutterstock.com


Overall

New Zealand

It’s plain to see that this has been an ultimate adventure for me — and it’s all thanks to Wild Kiwi!

With that said and done, going for their 21-day NZ Discovery tour is a must if you want an all-encompassing great-for-value trip of the country North and South Island; however, if you’re pressed on time, any of their 7-day or 14-day tour will already fit you well.

NOTE: Some of you have been asking me as to which of the 7-day tours is best to take. Well… this is quite a difficult question to answer because each of those tours have their own charm. But depending on your preference, it can be an easy pick; therefore, what I can say is that the ‘North Voyager’ offers the best of New Zealand’s culture, the ‘Southern Loop’ takes you on a laid-back trip of sorts, and the ‘Southern Voyager’ provides the best adventure and adrenaline choices.

How about you?

  • What do you think of this New Zealand road trip itinerary?
  • Would you like to try out one of Wild Kiwi’s routes? Why or why not?
  • Do you have any other tips to add?

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10 comments

  1. Hey, Aileen! First of all thanks for the awesome guide and one of the most detailed ones I've read. I am planning to explore NZ by car. How many days would be enough to spend on a road trip in NZ and see all the highlights?

    Reply
    1. Thank you Lydia! As per the guide here, 3 weeks would be enough to see North and South. If you're only exploring the North Island, 1 week should be fine. If only South, 2 weeks is good. :)

      Reply
  2. Wow! This is so detailed. I've bookmarked it so we can plan our trip accordingly. Thanks so much.

    Reply
    1. I'm happy to hear that! You're welcome.

      Reply
  3. I've heard such wonderful things about New Zealand and have always wanted to visit. Thanks to the beautiful details and photography, I felt like I was almost there!

    Reply
    1. I hope you could come visit soon!

      Reply
  4. Middle Earth is where I belong. I know this deep in my soul. I wish I could visit. I am so glad to see all of your experiences. If I ever do get to go you have given some great tips. It is so nice to hear that New Zeland has a casual dress code! Again, totally my style!

    Reply
    1. I wish you could visit soon, especially as you're familiar with Middle-earth ;)

      Reply
  5. You had an amazing time there. Thanks for sharing this post and these lovely pictures.

    Reply
    1. Thanks, I sure did!

      Reply

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