New Zealand by Road: Highlights of the North and South Islands

A New Zealand road trip from North to South - the drive is half the fun!

New Zealand has a lot to offer and it can be difficult to hone in on only a couple of regions. If you like driving, a New Zealand road trip is an ideal way to experience a wide variety of this country’s gems - Rotorua, Wellington, Abel Tasman, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Fiordland, and everything in between! New Zealand has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world which makes the drive half the fun. Just remember to factor in plenty of time to stop for photo ops!

New Zealand road trip: 17 days / 16 nights

DAY 1:

Arrive in Auckland, Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour

DAYS 2 & 3:

DAY 4:

Drive to Napier, Breckenridge Lodge

DAYS 5 & 6:

Drive to Wellington, QT Wellington

DAYS 7 & 8:

Ferry to Picton (South Island), drive to Abel Tasman National Park, The Waters

DAY 9 :

Drive to Punakaiki, Punakaiki Resort

DAYS 10 & 11:

Drive to Franz Josef National Park, Te Waonui Forest Retreat

DAYS 12 & 13:

Drive to Queenstown, Hotel St. Moritz

DAY 14:

Drive to Manapouri, Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

DAYS 15 & 16:

Drive to Te Anau, Fiordland Lodge

DAY 17:

Return to Queenstown, depart


  • This 17-day New Zealand road trip takes you from Auckland near the top of New Zealand’s North Island to Fiordland in the south of the South Island. The drive between  is bursting at the seams with jaw-dropping views of mountains, glaciers, lakes, hillsides, and coastlines.
  • Auckland is the City of Sails and the perfect place to unwind after a long flight. We recommend a visit to nearby Waiheke Island or exploring the city and learning of its settler heritage. 
  • Rotorua is the Maori capital of New Zealand. Learn of their ancient traditions while exploring the region’s redwood forests, geothermal pools, and massive lakes. 
  • Wellington is known as “the coolest little capital” and we don’t disagree! The seaside capital is full of hole in the wall cafes, bars, and restaurants. The Te Papa Tongarewa Museum Of New Zealand is not to be missed, especially for the rare opportunity to step inside a traditional Maori Marae!
  • The three-hour ferry from Wellington to Picton is a beautiful journey across the Cook Straight. From Picton, it’s an easy drive to Abel Tasman National Park which boasts golden beaches and turquoise waters with a backdrop of lush rainforests.
  • The drive down the West Coast is rugged and wild. The blowholes and Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki are a sight to be seen, but the real stars are the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. A heli-hike over the snowfields with views of the Southern Alps in the background will be a highlight of your trip. 
  • Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. On the banks of Lake Wakatipu and in the shadows of the Southern Alps, Queenstown is the ultimate base for anyone interested in bungee jumping, white water rafting, zip lining, skiing and skydiving. 
  • A night on the Doubtful Sound will be one to remember. Sleeping on a ship is an experience in itself, but to cruise the Sound below skyscraping peaks and witnessing the Sound in the evening and morning light is a wondrous experience. 
  • Fiordland is home to 3 of the 10 Great Walks of New Zealand and the iconic Milford Sound. Take a day hike through the fiords, hillsides, and forests while taking in the country’s most dramatic scenery is not to be missed.


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Itinerary Map

Hotel Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour

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Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel

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Breckenridge Lodge

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QT Wellington

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The Waters

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Punakaiki Resort

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Te Waonui Forest Retreat

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Hotel St. Moritz Queenstown

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Real Journeys Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

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Fiordland Lodge

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