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Ahhhh New Zealand. Every time I think about my time spent with you my face lightens up. My love affair with New Zealand is still ongoing and I am here to share the love with you. 

 

Let me guess, you finally took the leap and decided you are going to see New Zealand to verify if all those online rankings for "the best countries in the world" are true. 

 

I know that the overload of information on the internet can be daunting and leave you frustrated. I've been there and I feel for you. To help you out I finally put together itineraries that will save you tons of time.

 

Whilst I would recommend to anyone who is asking for my personal opinion to just stick to the South Island if you've got 2 weeks or less, some of you might still insist on seeing both islands.

 

Whilst ambitious it can still be done. I've taken a lot of time to design an itinerary that will maximize your experience without leaving you feeling stressed and disappointed.  

 

 

This itinerary is completely free! I poured my heart into it and spent a lot of time designing it. If you find it useful, I would appreciate it if you use the affiliate links provided in the text and at the end of the post when you book hotels, rental cars, camper vans or activities. If you do, I will get paid a small commission, at no extra cost to you!

 

 

Check out my other New Zealand road trip itineraries here

 

You don't have two weeks, or are interested in only seeing the South Island? Browse through my other itineraries! I am sure you will find something just for you! 

 

How to get around New Zealand on your road trip

 

This itinerary starts in Auckland then takes you through some of the most photogenic spots of the North Island. After 6 days you will need to catch another flight from Auckland to Christchurch on the south island and pick up your second rental car.

 

You will then spent 8 days travelling through the best spots on the South Island. The itinerary finishes in Queenstown. From here you can fly back to Auckland or if you came from Australia then book your flight out directly out of Queenstown.

 

Don't worry about dropping the car off at a different location. Companies in New Zealand are really well accustomed to it and it won't cost a lot more. Check for best car rental deals with rentalcars.com. It will give you drop off option at a different airport than pick up.  

 

This is way more economical and faster than crossing over with a ferry. Not only it will save you at least a day of driving, but also the money spent on gas, if you had to add all those kilometres to your trip. 

 

One way flights from Auckland to Christchurch can be purchased for as low as 50 bucks. The ferry costs 250 dollars for a car, that's 5 times more expensive! 

 

Another great option to road trip around New Zealand, chosen by many travellers every year is renting a motorhome. A great search engine that compiles many camper van rental companies in New Zealand is Motorhome Republic. It's way easier than checking each and every one separately. Companies like Britz, Mighty, Jucy, Apollo and Maui are the leaders when it comes to motorhomes and can all be found on this website. 

 

If you decided on the latter read my guide to motorhome travel in New Zealand. 

 

 

New Zealand two week road trip itinerary part 1: North Island

 

As I mentioned earlier starting your trip in Auckland will not only be the most economical way to do it, but Auckland is also very well connected to the places you will visit on the first part of this trip. 

 

Day 1 Auckland
View from Mount Eden, Auckland

 

Auckland is the biggest New Zealand city, but I don't want to waste your time on cities, when there is so much amazing nature to experience! If you fly in the afternoon or evening I would recommend staying overnight and setting off on your roadtrip early the next day.

 

In the meantime you can visit some cool photo spots in Auckland with Mount Eden being my favorite. Take it easy on your first day, you have quite a lot ahead of you in the next two weeks!

 

 

Accommodation Options In Auckland
Day 2-4 Taupo

 

On your second day head towards Taupo, a little town nestled on the shore of New Zealand's biggest lake of the same name. You can choose the direct route from Auckland to Taupo (275 km/4 hours) or a slightly longer route past Waitomo and visit the world famous glowworm caves.

 

New Zealand Glowworms are an endemic species found only in New Zealand and as the name indicates they are worms that glow in the dark and by doing so attract their prey!

 

I have visited few of the caves, where glowworms can be spotted and have to say they are fascinating. The best way I can describe them is by saying that they look like little stars glued onto a ceiling. My friends Jordan and Jenna have captured them perfectly in this beautiful timelapse video.

 

There are a few companies that operate tours within these caves with Legendary Black Water rafting being the leaders. 

  

Best things to do around Taupo

 

Tongariro Crossing day hike

 

When you find yourself touring around New Zealand’s North Island there is one place you absolutely can’t miss and that’s The Tongariro Crossing. It’s the most famous of day hikes on New Zealand's North Island which takes you through spectacular scenery amongst 3 active volcanoes: Ngauruhoe (also known as Mount Doom from..

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Planning a trip to New Zealand can be daunting. I've been there. 

 

Everybody who comes here on a two week holiday, seems to start a blog, call themselves an expert and tells people what they should and shouldn't do. 


The internet is full of information about travelling in New Zealand. Some of which has simply gone out of date or was wrong to begin with.

 

Someone sad that writing a guide is like having a baby. You have to tend it it and nurture it all the time. I try to update my New Zealand Travel Guide as often as possible. 

 

Hopefully this article gives you the answers you have been searching for and the photos will convince you to visit. 

 

If there is a question I missed, make sure to ask it in the comments at the end of the post! 

 


common questions coming from readers planning a trip to New Zealand
1. What's the best time to visit?
Lake Pearson in Arthur's Pass National Park bathed in autumn colours

 

My favourite time is autumn and in this part of the world autumn is in March, April and May. The seasons in New Zealand aren’t too extreme if you compare them to somewhere like the Canadian Rockies, where winter lasts 6 months.

 

The fall foliage in New Zealand comes to life in an array of golden hues and oranges, mornings can be cold but days can still be as hot as 25C (77F). The first snow will fall in the mountains but won't linger for too long. 

 

Winter in New Zealand is quite short and mild and it’s still certainly possible to do a road trip maybe just not in a campervan. The nights in the mountains can go below freezing but during the day the temperatures are bearable. June and July are the snowiest months which will please skiers, snowboarders and photographers.

 

Spring starts in September and lasts until November. This is a great time to road trip as the warm weather starts to come back and several different species of wildflowers start to bloom.

 

Lupin flowers are also seen in Late November/Early December. This time of the year you might get a late snow fall but it won’t last long once on the ground, the days can be as high as 25C. The only downside to travelling in spring is that it's also the rainiest time. 

 

December, January and February is summer in New Zealand. It's hot and humid in the tropical north. The air is much crispier in the mountainous south island, especially when south easterlies blow in from Antarctica.

 

This is the ideal road trip time but be warned New Zealand isn’t exactly a well-kept secret anymore. Book your campervans and hotels months in advance, and avoid spending Christmas and New Years here as it gets insanely busy. Temperatures can soar into the 30s and even nights can be in the 20s.

 

 

2. Is freedom camping allowed?
Campers on the Mueller hut hike in Mount Cook National Park

 

In theory yes it is! People who tell you freedom camping is not allowed aren't right. The thing is you can’t do it wherever you please. For the most part, in national parks freedom camping is allowed as long as you’re over 200m away from any paths, trails, huts and water source and you should still inform the DOC of your intentions. Some exceptions apply, for example on the Milford Track, where your only choice is staying in the huts. 

 

Restrictions regarding freedom camping in cities are now often in place as previous freedom campers abused the privileges they were once bestowed. Now, you’ll find it tough to find legal freedom camping spots in any touristy town or city.

 

If you have a self-contained campervan or motorhome (with a toilet) you have much more freedom about where you can stop and sleep but still can’t do it everywhere. There are parking lots designated for such vehicles and you can find them with the help of travel apps such as the Camper Mate. 

 

Non self-contained campervans (without a toilet) will have to stay in designated paid campsites.

 

3. Can I fly my drone in New Zealand?
Aerial view in Arthur's Pass National Park taken from the summit of Avalanche Peak

 

Since drones became popular in the recent years new sanctions have been imposed on the manning of such devices. Drones are now banned in all national parks unless the pilot has a permit to fly it. Permits are pretty much impossible to come by for recreational use.

 

Outside of national parks some local councils still prohibit flying drones. Places such as Queenstown are totally a “No Drone Zone”. By doing some research I’ve found the latest rules for drones under 25kg:

 

·       No drones above 70m

·       You can’t fly over people unless you have their permission

·       You can’t fly over private land without the owners permission

·       You can’t fly within 4km of restricted airspace (i.e next to an airfield, helipad, airport)

·       You must remain in direct eye sight of your drone at all times

 

These are some, BUT NOT ALL, of the restrictions in place. For a full breakdown of regulations contact the CAA in NZ. 

 

4. Where are the most photogenic places?
Milford Sound is certainly one of the most south after destinations amongst photographers.

 

There are lots. Far too many to enlist here. If you want to know where the top photography spots are, my articles on photography on the North and the South Island will help you lots. See them all below. 

 

5. What are the best hikes in New Zealand?
Hiking the ridge line on Mount Roy in Wanaka

 

Again, there’s so many hikes here it’d be impossible for me to write them all down in one post. One could spend a lifetime hiking on these islands and still not see everything. If you’re a keen tramper, my articles on hiking in New Zealand will help you out a lot!

 

6. Is New Zealand expensive to travel?
White Island is an experience worts splurging for

 

Yes, there is no need to sugarcoat it. New Zealand is expensive. It's a small island nation with small population. A lot of the things need to be imported. A meal in a..

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Being a New Zealand travel fanatic I’ve been to Milford Sound on several day cruises, scenic flights and recently I even walked there on foot along the Milford Track.

 

When I received the opportunity to do an overnight cruise I thought, well there’s not actually that much more I can see or learn about Milford Sound. Oh, how wrong was I.

 

My overnight experience on Milford Sound with Fiordland Discovery taught me more in a single night than I learnt in weeks of exploring Milford Sound on my own. 

 

This was mainly down to 3 things:

  • The limited numbers aboard giving us more personal time with the boats crew.
  • The knowledge that the crew possesses. 
  • My eagerness to learn as much as I could about this amazing place.

 

 


Overnight Cruise With Fiordland Discovery - The Best Way To Experience Milford Sound
Kayaking into the sunset

 

Let’s go back to the beginning. Upon arriving at the Milford Sound Ferry Terminal, we were warmly greeted and given our lanyards that confirmed our participation on the overnight experience. After being ushered on board of the vessel - the aptly named Fiordland Jewel, we were personally introduced to every member of the boats crew from the porter to the captain.

 

After a quick, but essential, safety briefing we embarked on our sunset cruise on the Fjord. The fact that there were only 12 of us, not including the boat crew, and that we were in one of the most remote areas of the world, immediately made us feel like we were the only people left on this planet. 

 

 

For me, one of the biggest advantages of an overnight cruise is the lack of what I like to call the 'conveyor belt issue'. Day cruises are constantly boarding and departing, forming a continuous stream of boats. This certainly distracts you from the grandeur of the fjord.

 

 

Thankfully, the day cruises were finished by the time our overnight experience with Fiordland Discovery started. It meant we had the whole place to ourselves! If we wanted to wait at a particular waterfall we could, because there wasn’t a queue behind us.

 

When we came across a pod of dolphins we stopped and enjoyed their presence for a while. There was never a rush.

 

 

With the limited numbers aboard our vessel, we had the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the knowledgeable captain and staff. 

 

The name of every mountain, every animal and every waterfall intertwined with personal anecdotes and facts that never felt recited. 

 

The view from the Fiordland Discovery vessel during the cruise around Milford Sound

 

We stayed in a private twin ensuite room. It was modern, clean and had everything we needed including USB docking stations, plug sockets, towels and toiletries. It was like a fancy hotel room but with much better views! 

 

Speaking about the views! One huge window at the foot of the beds, gave uninterrupted vistas of wherever we were docked or sailing through. Just imagine waking up to it!

 

Before dinner we had the opportunity to go on a sightseeing tour in the smaller boat or go kayaking as the sunset over the mountains. I did both. I also captured some stunning images of Jack paddling away into the sunset. The light conditions were certainly in my favour. 

 

 

Whilst kayaking we had a private guide come along with us giving us information about the surroundings. We were also free to go explore if we wanted some alone time.

 

The brave ones could also choose to dive into the chilly water from the helipad! Interestingly when I jumped in, I expected to taste salt water but the fresh water from rivers and rain sits on top of the salt water! It was really quite refreshing.

 

 

After working up our appetite and given a chance to shower and freshen up for dinner, we were treated to a 3 course extravagance including freshly caught lobster with wasabi mayonnaise, New Zealand Blue Cod with pancetta and home-made ice cream with berry coulis and pistachio snap. YUM!

 

The menu does highly depend on what’s freshly caught and what seasonal vegetables are available. Vegetarian, vegan, lactose free and all other dietary requirements can be catered for.

 

After a glass of wine enjoyed with good company, we spent the evening in the hot tub on the top deck, watching the stars turn slowly above our heads. That night I slept like a baby being gently rocked by the waves in the bay, where we anchored for the night. 

 

Morning views on our second round around Milford Sound

 

When we awoke, we could tell we were moving but it was still dark. We were getting out in the fjord for the sunrise. Again, all alone apart from the dolphins and seals. Once the sun rose, breakfast was served. Eggs any style, bacon, toast, cereals, fruit, tea and coffee plus yoghurts and bottles of water.

 

After our sunrise cruise we started our return to the Milford Sound Ferry Terminal and arrived just as the first day cruises were leaving. Perfect timing.

 

Big thanks to..
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The Kepler Track is a 60km loop in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.  

 

It showcases the grandeur of Lake Te Anau, The Murchison Mountains and The Jackson Peaks. The route traverses mountain ridgelines and twists through native beach forest.

 

NOTE: It’s possible to reduce it to 45km whilst still incorporating the most spectacular part of the track above the tree line. I will get to that in a bit. 

 

The entire route is very well maintained, as I've come to expect with New Zealand's Great Walks and the huts are excellently located to break down the days. However, for those looking to camp, be prepared for some very long arduous days.

 

Fun fact: The stars are so mesmerising in this part of the world that Richard Henry, Fiordland's first ranger, named the Kepler Mountains after 17th century German astronomer Johannes Kepler.

 


How to make the most of your experience hiking the kepler track in New Zealand
Looking over Lake Te Anau at the Murchison Mountains
How to make bookings for the Kepler Track and how much does it cost?

 

The cost of the huts has recently seen an increase to international visitors. The huts now cost 130$ per person per night regardless of age.

 

The huts for NZ residents are 65$ per person and still remain free for NZ residents under 18.

 

If it wasn’t possible to reduce the length of the track I would recommend staying in all 3 huts but if you plan on doing the shorter version of the Kepler then just staying in the Luxmore and the Iris Burn Hut is your best option and it will save you a bit of money too!

 

All bookings must be made via the DOC’s Online Booking Portal and they usually open in June every year. The track is one of the most popular Great Walks. If you are not flexible with your dates makes sure to make the booking as far in advance as you possibly can. 

 

Watching the sunrise from the Luxmore Hut
Should you hike Kepler Track clockwise or anti-clockwise?

 

There are pros and cons of each direction but I am going to convince why I, and most other hikers, prefer to do it anti-clockwise.

 

Firstly, it’s easier as you’ll be tackling the hardest parts on your first couple of days as opposed to your last. Secondly, and most importantly, the views are in front of you more of the time.

 

A scenic staircase on day 2 of the Kepler Track
How to Reduce the Hiking Distance on the Kepler Track
1. boat transfer

 

The first option to reduce the track is by taking a boat over from the Te Anau lake front to the first campsite Brod Bay. This takes off 5.6km or roughly 90 minutes from the first day. The boat costs 25$ per person.

 

2. The optional relocation

 

The second option to reduce the track is to finish at Rainbow Reach car park instead of completing the full loop back to the Control Gates. This reduces the track by a further 9.5km. By not doing the last 9.5km you will NOT miss anything.

 

The South Fiord of Lake Te Anau
Getting to the trailhead

 

The Control Gates trailhead is 5km, or just over an hours walk, away from the centre of Te Anau. If you do not have your own transport or don’t fancy adding on 5km to your day, then TrackNet offers a bus service from Te Anau to the Control Gate for 8$ per person.  

 

They will also pick you up from the Rainbow Reach Car Park and drop you off in Te Anau for 14$ per person.

 

The main ridge line of the Kepler Track between the Forest Burn and Hanging Valley shelters.
The Elevation Profile of the Kepler Track
Source: DOC
The map of the Kepler Track
Day 1: The Control Gates to Luxmore Hut
Sunrise from near the Luxmore Hut

 

If you decide to start at the Control Gate, you’ll cross the bridge and begin the trail on a wide path that meanders along the side of Lake Te Anau but doesn’t offer any particularly great views.

 

After roughly 90 minutes you’ll reach Brod Bay, the first of two campsites on the trail. From here the track gains elevation quickly on a wide gravel path. Sections of wooden steps make a welcome change as you pass under large limestone cliffs. Once you’re past the cliffs you’ll shortly arrive at the tree-line and the views start to improve.

  

The entrance to the Luxmore Caves

 

..

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The Routeburn Trail is 32km relocation hike which traverses both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

 

It can be done over 2, 3 and 4 days depending on the amount of time you have and your fitness level.

 

Highlights of the trail include dense forests, the Harris Saddle, Lake MacKenzie and the Key Summit extension. Plus lots of trickling streams, waterfalls, alpine meadows and mountain vistas.

 

The track is well maintained as you’d expect with a Great Walk but can often flood between the Routeburn Falls Hut and the Harris Saddle. Always be prepared to get wet feet.

 

 

I have done this trail myself as part of the research for my New Zealand Travel Guide and I am here to share with you my tips, photos and trip report from hiking the Routeburn trail.

  


Essential Information for Backpacking the Routeburn track in New Zealand
Looking back toward the Routeburn Falls Hut from near the Harris Saddle
How to make bookings and how much it costs to hike the Routeburn Track

 

Bookings can be made from the end of June (the exact date changes each year) and are mandatory for the hiking season between the end of October until the end of April. The trail usually books out quickly so make sure you plan it well in advance! 

 

During hiking season, huts are well serviced with gas for cooking, wood for the fire, toilet paper and informative hut wardens. Outside of hiking season these luxuries are not necessarily available so check with the DOC beforehand.

 

Bookings can be made on the Department of Conservations Booking Portal. (opens in new tab)

 

Prices have recently seen another increase. Currently international visitors have to pay $130 per person per night, regardless of age, in each hut and $40 NZD for a campsite. It's not cheap I know! 

 

NZ residents pay 65$ per person per night with no charges for under 18s (though booking is still required) and 20NZD/person for a campsite. 

 

 

For bookings outside the Great Walks season hut prices reduce dramatically to $15 pp pn but amenities like gas/wood are not to be relied on.

 

Working my way round Ocean Peak with the Darran Mountains in the distance.
Figuring out the relocation on the Routeburn Trail

 

Several companies offer drop off/pick up services from the Routeburn Shelter, the eastern trailhead, or the western trailhead The Divide.

 

Costs for being dropped off at the Routeburn Shelter from Queenstown and then being picked up from The Divide and driven back to Queenstown currently stand at $123 per person with a company called TrackNet.

 

It is also the same price to do it the other way around and also the same price if you want to start and finish in Te Anau.

 

Personally, I have always hitchhiked in New Zealand and have never had any problems. Lifts have always been quick, just remember to look friendly and smile :) 

 

A hiker above Harris Lake as seen from the top of Conical Hill
The elevation profile of the Routeburn Trail
Source: Department of Conservation New Zealand
The map of the Routeburn Track
Day 1: Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls
The Routeburn North Branch beneath the Humboldt Mountains

 

On this first section, the gravel path is well maintained and crosses the Routeburn River (which can be anything from a trickle to a cascade) several times on scenic bridges. The route is within the trees and very easy to follow.

 

After around 2 hours, 6.5km, you’ll reach the first hut, The Routeburn Flats huts. In my opinion this hut isn't far enough in to justify staying here. If you can get a reservation at Routeburn Falls hut (the next one along the trail) then stay there. If not, then this is your best option.

 

If you plan on camping along the trail, here is where you will find first of the two campsites.

 

The Routeburn Falls Hut at sunrise

 

After the Routeburn Flats Hut the trail steepens and views out into Mount Aspiring National Park become more frequent. After another hour you’ll be at the Routeburn Falls Hut.

 

The hut, one of the most scenic in New Zealand, lies on the edge of the forest and just before an expansive hanging valley carved out by the Routeburn Glacier and then the Routeburn River. 

 

As you have probably guessed from the name, it's located next to the Routeburn Falls. 

 

Day 2: Routeburn Falls to Lake MacKenzie

 

Regardless of which direction you’re going in, this section between the Routeburn Falls Hut and the Lake MacKenzie Hut is, literally and figuratively speaking, the top part of the trail. From the Falls Hut it starts with a short uphill section over smooth rock. It can be slippy when wet but there are hand rails if you should need them.

 

The route then flattens somewhat but still steadily climbs up to the Harris Saddle, the highest point on the trail. An additional side track to the summit of Conical Hill is possible and certainly worth it. It adds on an extra hour to your day.

 

If you plan on doing the extension you can leave your heavy backpack at the Harris Saddle shelter and hike to the top of Conical Hill without it!

  

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