Our Recommended Route for New Zealand

There are many ways to experience this gorgeous country, its friendly residents and culture. After living and travelling for a combined total of 5 years we have come to love the country like a second home. We would like to share with you our most preferred route to take. By clicking on the link for each town we will give you an overview of the place along with our favourite activities, accomodation and ways of transport.

The most common question when planning a trip to New Zealand is…

Should I start in the North Island or the South?

North Island

Chances are that your flight to New Zealand will arrive in Auckland which, in our opinion is the best way to go! Its an awesome place to begin your travels, Josh lived here for a year and even through it is quickly expanding, its a great place to start your trip.

From Auckland you can either make your way up through Northland to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point in NZ or start making your journey down South. For those who are cut fine on either time and/or budget we would recommend that you contemplate skipping this part of NZ. It is undeniably a beautiful part of the country however you have to loop back on yourself which is time consuming as well as money draining.

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Recommended Route – North Island

What ever route you decide to undertake, we suggest that your next stop is to the Waitomo District. Here you will discover New Zealand’s famous Glowworm which, are a travellers must see at the famous Waitomo Caves.

From Waitomo you can finally get your LOTR fix at Hobbiton, there are many tours which you can pick to best suit you – Allow 2-3hr for your tour.  The epic movie set is on route to Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region. Rotorua is mainly known for its Maori culture, geothermal activity and hot mud pools, something that you will struggle to find elsewhere.

After a couple days, make your way down to the centre of the North Island to a lovely town called Taupo, home to New Zealand’s largest lake, Huka Falls and much more. From Taupo you can start making your journey down to the Capitol – Wellington (most Southern part of the North Island). Its a long journey and there are not many towns in between the two. There is however a Great Walk of New Zealand – The Tongariro Crossing on route. Be sure to click on the link and have a read because this was by far our favourite day treks in New Zealand.

South Island

Now from Wellington you will need to take a ferry across to Picton (most Northern point on the South Island). There are two main ferries, the Interislander and Bluebridge both of which are direct to Picton and take you through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds to get there.

If you have a few days to spare, from Picton head to the stunning Abel Tasman National Park. You can do anything from one day, to a five day hike on its 60km (one way) coastal track.

Its a very long drive down the West Coast so if needs be, take a night in West Port to shower and recuperate.

Be sure to pull over Nelson Lakes and at Pancake Rock for some awesome pictures along the way.

Then make your way to the lovely town, Hokitika. Its a great place to spend a day or two. With glowworms and gorges this little town has a lot of offer.

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Recommended Route – West Coast of the South Island

Next stop is the remarkable Franz Josef home to the Franz Josef Glacier and neighbouring to the Fox Glacier. If your keen for an experience of a lifetime, be sure to pop a glacier hike onto your itinerary and you wont be disappointed.

From here you can make your way down South to the stunning, most under-rated town in New Zealand, Wanaka. Its a beautiful place to either kick back or to take on some thrilling activities.

The the incredible Queenstown is next on the agenda. Renowned for being the adventure hub you can do anything from canyon swinging, skydives luging to water sports and much more. You definitely wont have a boring day spent here.

Then you can make your way to a little town called Te Anau, the last stop before Milford Sounds. It takes around two hours to get to the Sounds but its well worth the day trip.

Now to make your way over to the East Coast of the South Island – Your first stop being Dunedin. We’d recommend making this your stop-over before venturing further up the coast.

From Dunedin start making your way up to Christchurch. Its a long old 4hr45min drive so be sure to stop at Lake Tekapo on your way. Its a beautiful place – Check out the header photo as this was taken in Tekapo.

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Recommended Route to from Milford Sound to East Coast (minus Kaikoura due to earthquake road damage November 2016)

From Christchurch you can take a day trip to Swim with dolphins in the little town of Akaroa. This lovely french-like town is home to the smallest and rarest dolphins, so be sure to check out the above link for an experience of a lifetime.

If you fancy something a bit different you can always take an afternoon to explore New Zealand’s best kept secret, The Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. Its roughly 1hr30 from Christchurch central but well worth it if you would like to explore an incredible 1hr long cave for free!

Hamner Springs should be the next destination on your list. It takes 2hr15 to get there from Christchurch and is a cool little adventure/ holiday town. From quad biking, mountain biking,  jet boating, rafting to hot pools and much more there is something for everyone.

The last stop on our recommended route is the lovely town of Kaikoura. Here you will find an amazing menu of marine life activities such as whale watching, swimming with dolphins and even seals which, makes the town very unique.

From Kaikoura you will need to travel back down to Christchurch. Your outbound flight may be from Auckland which is easiest to fly to from Christchurch airport.

We hope that you enjoy your stay in New Zealand and love the place as much as we do! If you have any questions or would like to make any recommendations that we may have missed, please do. We would love to hear your feedback!

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