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  • The Best New Zealand Itineraries for Backpackers

    Remember these are only suggested itineraries - there is no right or wrong route and they can be shortened, extended or altered as you wish. The itineraries below aim to provide the most cost effective routes whilst incorporating as many top destinations as possible. Don't be inhibited to any itinerary - get off the beaten tracks and visit lesser know places - you may even find some secret havens.

    Check out our Top 10 Places In New Zealand To Visit while planning your itinerary.

    For Those Who Want To Do It All (3-6 weeks)

    New Zealand Popular Itinerary Route

    Popular Route & Destinations

    If you want to see everything New Zealand has to offer this is the best and cheapest itinerary.

    You can start in any of the cities labelled on the map above. The route is basically a figure of eight and you will finish in the same city you start in, which is great if you have a return flight. You can however do this route as two circles around each island and fly between the islands. There are two off shoots: from Auckland to the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga; and from Queenstown to Te Anau and Milford Sound.

    Auckland - Bay of Islands - Cape Regina (3-5 days)

    Starting in Auckland, check out the small, but beautiful, modern city and it's stunning harbour islands. Then take the off shoot to the warm weathered Bay of Islands and drive along up 90 mile beach to Cape Regina, New Zealand's most northern point.

    Bay of Islands

    Bay of Islands

    Coromandel Peninsula - Rotorua (2-3 days)

    After returning and passing through Auckland head East to the Coromandel Peninsula, home to beautiful beaches and warm waters. Next head to Rotorua and it's geothermal pools, hot springs and geysers.

    Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

    Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

    Lake Taupo - Napier (optional) - Tongariro National Park (2-4 days)

    Go South and visit New Zealand’s largest Lake (Taupo) then head further East to Napier (optional). Cut back towards Lake Taupo, but this time to the South of the lake and Tongariro National Park - one of the best day walks in the world and body double to Lord of the Rings' Mt Doom.

    Tongariro National Park

    Tongariro National Park

    Wellington - Picton (2-3 days)

    After stopping in friendly Wellington cross over to the South Island by ferry to Picton through the impressive sounds.

    Wellington

    Wellington

    Abel Tasman National Park - West Coast (1-3 days)

    Head West to Abel Tasman National Park, where you will find lush rainforest, golden beaches and clear waters. Then travel down the West coast.

    Abel Tasman National Park

    Abel Tasman National Park

    Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers - Haast - Wanaka (2-5 days)

    Visit the glaciers and Wanaka, which boast some of the most picturesque views in New Zealand.

    Franz Josef Glacier

    Franz Josef Glacier

    Queenstown - Te Anau - Milford Sound (3-5 days)

    Do something extreme in the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown. Then take the off shoot to see the spectacular Milford Sound.

    Milford Sound

    Milford Sound

    Queenstown (again, optional) - Mount Cook - Lake Tekapo (2-4 days)

    After returning head up Mount Cook, NZ's tallest mountain, and Lake Tekapo, one of the best start gazing spots in the entire world.

    Lake Tekapo

    Lake Tekapo

    Christchurch - Kaikoura - Picton (2-4 days)

    Chirstchurch has been badly damaged by an earthquake in 2011, but is still worth a visit. Complete your journey up the East coast of the South Island in the marine life haven of Kaikoura, where you can see whales, seals and dolphins. Then cross back over at Picton to the North Island on the ferry.

    Kaikoura Whale

    Whale off Kaikoura

    Mount Taranaki - Waitomo - Raglan - Auckland (3-7 days)

    Back on the North Island, this time visit the West coast on your route back up to Auckland, stopping at Mount Taranaki, the Waitomo glow worm caves and the laidback town of Raglan.

    Mount Taranaki

    Mount Taranaki

    For Those With Little Time Or Budget
    (10 days to 3 weeks)

    New Zealand Popular Itinerary Route

    Begin in either Auckland or Christchurch. If you start in Auckland begin with the optional off shoot to the Bay of Islands. Then after returning and passing through Auckland head East to the Coromandel Peninsula and Rotorua. Go South and visit New Zealand’s largest Lake (Taupo) and then further South, Tongariro National Park.

    After stopping in Wellington cross over to the South Island by ferry. Head West to Abel Tasman National Park, then travel down the West Coast, visiting the glaciers and Wanaka. Take the off shoot from Queenstown to see the spectacular Milford Sound. After returning head up to Christchurch via Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo.

    Extended Stay On The North Island (2-4 weeks)

    New Zealand Popular Itinerary Route

    Start and finish in either Auckland or Wellington. If you start in Auckland begin with the off shoot to the Bay of Islands. Then after returning and passing through Auckland head East to the Coromandel Peninsula and Rotorua.

    Go South and visit New Zealand’s largest Lake (Taupo) then head to the East coast town of Gisborne. Head down to Napier along Hawke Bay and then onto Wellington (you can also head along the North coast from Rotorua to Gisborne, then cut back to Lake Taupo from Napier and then go onto Wellington).

    Maraetotara-Falls-Hawkes-Bay

    Maraetotara Falls, Hawkes-Bay

    Travel back North via Tongariro National Park, then move over to the West coast on your route back up to Auckland stopping at Mount Taranaki, Waitomo and the laidback town of Raglan.

    Extended Stay On The South Island (2-4 weeks)

    New Zealand Popular Itinerary Route

    Begin and end in either Queenstown or Christchurch. If you begin in Queenstown head to Milford Sound and Te Anau first. Then head to very South of New Zealand and visit Invercargill and if you wish take the ferry from Bluff over to Stewart Island. Go East along the coast to Dunedin then cut back inland to take the route to Christchurch via Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo.

    University Of Otago, Dunedin

    University Of Otago, Dunedin

    After visiting Kaikoura and Picton on the East coast head over to Abel Tasman National Park on the West coast. Finally travel down the West coast, visiting the glaciers and Wanaka before arriving back in Queenstown.

    You may wish to consider taking the TranzAlpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth and skip Picton and Kaikoura.

    TranzAlpine train

    TranzAlpine train

    For Further Information

    Destinations

    Asia
    Oceania
    North America
    Africa
    South America
    Europe



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