The Ultimate One Month New Zealand Itinerary

12th September 2016

So you’ve got a month and you’ve decided to visit New Zealand.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

I’ll start with the bad news.

One month is not nearly enough time to see everything New Zealand has to offer, and you’re going to fall head over heels for this incredible country and not want to leave.

But fear not.

The good news is that one month is long enough to see pretty much all of the main sights and get a feel for the culture of this country; you can get a good taste of what New Zealand has to offer.

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Seals in Kaikoura can be spotted along the coastline

With black sand beaches, snow-topped mountains and (who could forget?!) the Shire, New Zealand has something for everyone. But a month is still cutting it fine!

This one month New Zealand itinerary is loosely based on my own route as I travelled the country for four months in a campervan. I have tried to include the “best bits” – the things I couldn’t bear to think about leaving this country without doing or seeing.

This itinerary is therefore best for you if you will be travelling the country with your own wheels. But it’s great inspiration for you if you are looking to travel New Zealand by bus, as most of these places will be accessible and you can book day tours to most remote places.

Please note that this is a full-on itinerary, with lots of early morning starts and action-packed days, plus a few days where driving will take up a long time, but I have tried to include as much as possible. It’s up to you to chop and change this guide as you like. I hope it helps you plan your trip to New Zealand!

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Mount Cook – a must on your one month New Zealand itinerary


 The North Island (12 days)

Day 1 & 2: Auckland

Most international flights from the US and Europe land in Auckland, and this is a great place to stop and rest for a day before starting your trip. Pick up your rental car or buy your bus pass here.

Day 1: Auckland CBD

Spend a day adjusting to jet-lag and seeing the city’s sights: visit Mount Eden, the War Memorial Museum and go up the Sky Tower for a stunning view of the city by night before heading to Ponsonby Road for dinner and drinks.

Day 2: Auckland’s surrounds

Take a trip to one of the Hauraki Gulf’s islands: the hike to the summit of Rangitoto, a dormant volcano, offers spectacular views of Auckland’s skyline on a clear day; Waiheke is the place to visit if you like wine-tasting.

Or explore the Waitakere, Auckland’s best-kept secret: head out to the black-sand beaches of Piha and Karekare, see the Fairy Falls and walk the muddy walking tracks.

Related: Walking tracks in Auckland

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Mount Victoria, Auckland – an easy hike in the city

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Days 3, 4 and 5: Northland

When you’re refreshed and ready to start your road trip, you’ll have a long day of driving ahead of you – but it’ll be worth it!

Day 3: Whangarei

Head north; stop at Whangarei to see the stunning Whangarei Falls – take a picnic and have lunch.

Then hike the pleasant walking track from the falls to the town basin. Continue driving to Paihia and spend the night here.

Day 4: Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga

Spend the next day sailing or kayaking in the Bay of Islands before visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the important Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the Māori chiefs and the British Crown back in 1840.

Continue north to the “top of NZ”, Cape Reinga, which is a very important place in Maori culture and offers panoramic views of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean as they meet.

Stay in one of the DOC campsites in the area.

Day 5: 90 Mile Beach & Waipoua Forest

Returning South, stop off at 90 Mile Beach; if you have a 4×4 you can drive along the sand (though be sure to check with your insurance/rental vehicle provider first!).

Drive through the Waipoua Forest, where you can see New Zealand’s tallest Kauri tree, Tane Mahuta, and the impressive Four Sisters.

Drive back to Auckland for the night.

Related: Whangarei for the day

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Cape Reinga, the top of NZ

Days 6 and 7: The Coromandel

To be honest, I could have spent a week in the Coromandel so it’s really hard to whittle this down to just a few days! In reality, we had limited time and a limited budget, so we ended up spending only 3 days there.

Day 6: The Pinnacles

Set off early and visit the Hunua Falls before having an early lunch in Thames.

In the early afternoon, begin the 4-5 hour long Kauaeranga Kauri Trail. This is one of my favourite hikes in New Zealand.

The track follows a historic packhorse route before climbing (literally) a rock-face to the summit of the Pinnacles, where there are panoramic views of the Coromandel Peninsular.

Stay the night in the Pinnacles hut; you’ll have the opportunity to watch the sunset and/or sunrise from the summit.

Day 7: Hot Water Beach & Cathedral Cove

The descent from the Pinnacles takes about 3 hours.

In the afternoon, relax on Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own bubbly hot pool in the sand, before watching the sunset at Cathedral Cove, which is the iconic snapshot of New Zealand and a perfect spot.

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The view from the top of the Pinnacles

Days 8, 9 and 10: Central North Island

Day 8: Hobbiton & Rotorua

Hobbiton is a dream for any Tolkien fan, and even if (like me) you aren’t a fan, you’ll probably still enjoy this informative guided tour of the film set. Be sure to take an early tour to avoid crowds.

Continue to Rotorua – the drive takes under an hour. Stop off at the Hamurana Springs (the North Island’s deepest natural spring) or Okere Falls, where you can white water raft down the waterfall!

Then explore the city: Kuirau Park offers some free-to-view geothermal activity, with steamy springs and bubbling mud pools, and Ohinemutu is a free-to-view Maori village.

If you arrive on a Thursday, check out Rotorua’s Night Market on Tutenakai Street for some dinner.

Related: How we spent a day in Rotorua

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You can’t visit New Zealand without going to the Shire!

Day 9: Rotorua & Taupo

Get up early and visit Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of Rotorua’s best attractions.

This huge park is home to bubbling mud pools, spurting geysers and neon-coloured lakes – but be prepared for the smell! Lady Gnox Geyser explodes at 10:15am every day.

In the afternoon, drive down to Lake Taupo and explore the town. Spend the night watching the sun set over the water.

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Rotorua is full of geothermal activity

Day 10: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

If there is only one hike you should do while you’re in New Zealand, it’s this.

Hike through craters of volcanoes and along ridge tops. The views will leave you speechless, the walk will physically challenge you, and you can even do a side-trip to hike to the top of Mount Doom.

Afterwards, camp at one of the free DOC campsites in the area.

MUST READ: Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a must!

Days 11 and 12: Wellington

Welly is known as the “coolest little capital” and for a good reason: there is always something going on. I love living in Wellington; I think it’s the close proximity of everything that really appeals to me.

Day 11: Wellington CBD

After the drive from Tongariro, you’ll be pretty shattered, so rest up and have lunch at one of the many cafés on Cuba Street.

Take the cable car up to the Botanical Gardens for a leisurely stroll in the afternoon. Welly has a fantastic food culture, with a huge choice of restaurants serving cuisine from around the globe; you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Be sure to head out for a drink or two, and sample some craft beer, brewed locally in the city. Spend your evening at the theatre or visit the Space Place for some stargazing.

Day 12: Cultural Wellington

The next day, spend the morning in New Zealand’s best museum, Te Papa. In the afternoon, visit Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary where you can see many species of birds including the endangered Takahē.

After dinner, hike up Mount Victoria for views across the city; it’s especially beautiful at sunset.

Related: Walking tracks in Wellington

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Wellington at dusk from Mount Victoria

The South Island (18 days)

Having left Windy Welly behind after your cruise across the Cook Strait, (keep an eye out for dolphins!), you may be surprised to find that the breeze is warmer on the South Island; Marlborough is home to great weather and Nelson is the town that gets the most sunlight in the whole of NZ!

Some may say this is where the trip really starts… I beg to differ. I really don’t recommend skipping the North Island unless you are very tight for time, but shorter itineraries are advised at the end of this post.

Days 13 and 14: Marlborough & Tasman

Day 13: The Sounds & Nelson

Take the early morning ferry from Wellington to Picton. From here you can take a cruise of Marlborough Sounds, or from Havelock you can cruise the Pelorus Sounds.

Continue on to Nelson, stop for lunch and a wander before sleeping near Marahau, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. There is a great campsite on the coast called McKee Memorial Domain, which, at the time of writing, costs just $6pp per night.

Related: Cruising Marlborough Sounds

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Little Blue Penguin on Motuara Island, Marlborough Sounds

Day 14: Abel Tasman National Park

Hike part of one of New Zealand’s most popular tracks: The Abel Tasman Coastal Track.

This is a 4-5 day hike along golden sand beaches, through palm trees and across inlets (be prepared to get your feet wet!)

If you can’t do the full walk, at least spend a few hours experiencing the beauty this park has to offer: hike from Marahau to Coquille Bay or go kayaking around the bays.

Related: Hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track

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Visiting Abel Tasman National Park is a priority in NZ!

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Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Days 15, 16 and 17: The West Coast & Arthurs Pass

Day 15: Westport to Arthurs Pass

Your first stop will be Cape Foulwind in Westport, named as such by Captain James Cook because one can only assume the winds weren’t the most pleasant.

Here, you can watch a huge New Zealand fur seal colony from afar; there are up to two hundred seals in this colony.

Further south, stop off at Punakaiki to see the impressive Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, before continuing to Arthurs Pass National Park, where you can stay in a number of DOC Campsites for free.

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Day 16: Arthurs Pass National Park

Arthurs Pass was a highlight of our trip; even the drive through it is one of a kind!

This is one of the five Passes that cross the Southern Alps mountain range from East to West, and it’s possibly the most spectacular. Grab a leaflet from the Visitor Centre and choose which hikes you want to do.

In the winter, the Temple Basin ski area is a fantastic place for snow sports; in the summer you can hike up to the ski lifts (the views are incredible!).

An absolute must is the climb up to the beautiful Devil’s Punchbowl Falls; it isn’t very strenuous and the waterfall is beautiful.

Camp at one of the many free DOC campsites in the park, or check into one of the hostels/motels in Arthurs Pass village.

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Arthurs Pass is full of hikes like this

Day 17: The West Coast

The next morning, stop by the small town of Hokitika where you can amble along the beach. A visit isn’t complete without a trip to Hokitika Gorge, where the water is a perfect blue (unless it’s been raining; then it’s a murky green!) Take your togs and go for a swim!

Continue down the West Coast to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. These are two very small towns with not much going on aside from their proximity to the glaciers.

Both glaciers are just about viewable from viewing platforms which are a short walk from their respective car parks. I wouldn’t stick around unless you are planning to take a helicopter ride over the glaciers or go glacier gliding (walking on the glaciers).

There are two other glaciers that we personally thought were much more worth a visit – stay tuned to find out where!

Camp for the night in Haast or stop in one of the hotels in Fox; the drive to Wanaka is long.

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The Pancake Rocks are a pretty cool sight!

Days 18, 19 and 20: Wanaka and Queenstown

Day 18 & 19: Wanaka

Another early start from the West Coast means you should reach Wanaka by lunchtime, where you can see the iconic #ThatWanakaTree.

Climb Mount Iron for panoramic views over the town, or head out to Rob Roy Glacier, which is much more visible that those on the West Coast from its viewpoint – and you can actually hear the ice from the avalanches crashing to the floor!

Stay overnight in or around Wanaka. The town livens up in the evening.

Spend the next day climbing Mount Roy, for one of the most iconic views in all of New Zealand. This hike takes around 6 hours return, so take a packed lunch with you.

If you’re super keen, climb up in the dark and get there for sunrise; you will not regret it!

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Roys Peak offers incredible views

Day 20: Queenstown

A trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Queenstown!

This is the adrenaline capital of the world and the best place to tick off your bucket list. Here you can jump out of a plane, jet-boat down the Shotover river, or try New Zealand’s highest bungy jump!

For those looking for something a little quieter, take the skyline gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak – offering stunning views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu.

For lunch, head to the famous Fergburger; for dinner try its competitor, Devil Burger (which does REALLY good veggie burgers by the way!)

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Queenstown is a must on your New Zealand Itinerary

Days 21 and 22: Fiordland

Day 21: Te Anau

Te Anau is located in Fiordland – the gateway to the sounds. It’s a small town right beside the gorgeous Lake Te Anau and is the perfect place to base yourself while you explore the area.

Take a walk along the waterfront and visit the famous Miles Better Pies shop for some lunch.

From Te Anau you can walk part of the Kepler Track, or continue along the Te Anau Milford Highway and stop off at one of the many lakes, hikes or waterfalls.

There are loads of free DOC campsites along the highway with minimal facilities, so it really is just you and Mother Nature.

Related: The Road to Milford Sound

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Lake Te Anau at sunset

Day 22: Milford or Doubtful Sound

Spend a day exploring the Sounds; you have got to!

Known as the eighth Wonder of the World, Milford Sound is easily accessible; you can park close by and walk right up to the water which offers the stunning view of Mitre Peak pictured below. Take a cruise of Milford Sound to really experience the true beauty of the landscape. Book in advance as this sight gets extremely busy with tourists.

Doubtful Sound is harder to access, and is therefore less busy; you have to take a boat across Lake Manapouri, then take a coach over Wilmot Pass.

Related: Kayaking in Doubtful Sound

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Kayaking in Doubtful Sound is an incredible experience

Days 23 and 24: The Catlins

The Catlins is an area of New Zealand that isn’t overly populated with tourists. It’s remote; there is no mobile phone signal, and the roads are mostly windy and unsealed.

However, the forest here is magical, the beaches are stunning, and the landscapes are spectacular. Spend a couple of days exploring, you won’t want to rush this!

The Waipohatu Walk is good for an afternoon climb, and the short walks to Jack’s Blowhole and Lake Wilkie are rewarding. Don’t miss McLean Falls, or Purakaunui Falls – they are both stunning!

You can visit the most southern point of the South Island at Slope Point, and you’ll probably spot a seal or a sea lion or a dolphin or a penguin (or all of them) somewhere along the coastline!

Related: 10 reasons you should visit the Catlins

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Nugget Point – beautiful views in the Catlins

Days 25 and 25: Otago and Canterbury

Day 25: Dunedin

After a couple of days off the beaten path, get back to reality in Dunedin, the South Island’s second largest city.

Spend the morning exploring the sights. Baldwin Street is the steepest residential street in the world, and the railway station is New Zealand’s most photographed building (easy to see why!)

Have a picnic in the Botanic Gardens for lunch, and in the afternoon head out to the Otago Peninsular. This picturesque area is famous for its wildlife and is home to the Royal Albatross Centre, as well as Australasia’s only castle: Larnach Castle.

Dunedin is home to the University of Otago and its many students, so understandably there are lots of bars and pubs – head out for some food and a drink (or five!) in the evening.

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Dunedin’s train station is one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand

Day 26: Moeraki & Oamaru

The next day requires a long drive. Stop by the Moeraki Boulders to see New Zealand’s famous rocks that resemble dinosaur eggs. These are best enjoyed at low-tide, so aim to arrive accordingly.

Continue onto Oamaru and stop to see the Victorian style buildings. These are heritage buildings constructed by the British when they arrived in New Zealand in the 1800s.

When you reach Pukaki, I guarantee you’ll marvel at the colour of the lake.

Stay at the DOC campsite in Mount Cook village, or at at one of the accommodation options in Mount Cook Village.

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The Moeraki Boulders are worth a stop on your trip around NZ

Days 27 and 28: Mount Cook and Tekapo

Day 27: Mount Cook

I recommend two days at Mount Cook; firstly because there is so much to explore, and secondly because the weather is very interchangeable here; if it’s dreadful on your first day, the next morning might be better. There are lots of hikes to do here.

An absolute must is the Hooker Valley track, an easy walk that leads to a glacial lake at the foot of Aoraki / Mount Cook. This walk is mostly flat and the views at the end of the track are spectacular.

The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View walk is very worthwhile: a steady climb is rewarded with views of the lakes and the enormous Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand, which opens out into a picturesque glacial lake.

In the evening, watch the sun set over the face of Aoraki/ Mount Cook from the lookout on the Glencoe Walk. Stay in the DOC campsite again.

Alternatively, spend your first day climbing to the The Mueller Hut, a 3-5 hour long, steep, ungraded track which offers panoramic views, and stay overnight in the hut so you can catch the sunrise on the snow.

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The Hooker Valley Track is a must!

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Day 28: Mount Cook and Tekapo

Spend the morning of your second day enjoying the National Park. Start the drive to Tekapo to arrive in the late afternoon.

Catch the light as the sun begins to set over the Church of the Good Shepherd, and stick around until the stars come out for a view of the Milky Way.

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The Church of the Good Shepherd at sunset

Days 29 and 30: Canterbury and Christchurch

Day 29: Canterbury

Continue driving towards Christchurch, but take highway 72 which is inland, and stop at Rakaia Gorge or Lake Coleridge. Both offer short walks which are beautiful in good weather. Stay at one of the many accommodation options in the city.

Day 30: Christchurch

On your last day, spend some time exploring Christchurch, known as New Zealand’s Garden City; visit the Botanic Gardens, ride the tram, or visit the museum.

Christchurch was hit badly by the earthquakes in 2011 and is still very much in a state of re-construction. Visit the site of the Cathedral for a look at the scale of the damage.

The Re:Start Mall is a great example of the positivity of this city; a shopping centre has been created from old shipping containers, which were originally put up temporarily when the earthquake first hit.

It has an international airport, so you can return your rental car and fly out from here, or fly back to Auckland and onward home.

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Christchurch is a must-visit in New Zealand (Oct 2015)


Travelling to New Zealand for less than a month is still very worthwhile. Here are some options for how to spend your time in the country, focusing on a few main areas rather than trying to cram too much in.

3 weeks in New Zealand

If you’ve got three weeks, I would advise you to fly into Auckland, spending one week on the North Island and two weeks on the South. Fly out from Christchurch airport, returning to Auckland or straight home.

Option 1:

  • Auckland
  • Hobbiton
  • Rotorua
  • Tongariro
  • Wellington
  • Ferry to the South Island
  • Kaikoura
  • Arthurs Pass
  • West Coast
  • Wanaka
  • Queenstown
  • Mount Cook
  • Tekapo
  • Christchurch

Option 2:

  • Christchurch
  • Dunedin
  • Catlins
  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • West Coast
  • Hamner Springs
  • Kaikoura
  • Wellington
  • Ferry to North Island
  • Napier
  • Taupo
  • Rotorua
  • Auckland

Option 3:

  • Auckland
  • Northland
  • Coromandel via Auckland
  • Mount Maunganui
  • Fly from Auckland to Christchurch
  • Tekapo
  • Mount Cook
  • Wanaka
  • Queenstown
  • West Coast
  • Arthur’s Pass
  • Christchurch

2 weeks in New Zealand

If you’ve got two weeks, I would choose just one island to explore, or a couple of cities and fly between them to save time.

Option 1: North Island – Auckland Loop:

  • Auckland
  • Northland
  • Rotorua
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Taupo
  • Tongariro
  • Wellington
  • Fly from Wellington to Auckland for return flight

Option 3: South Island – Christchurch loop:

  • Christchurch
  • Arthurs Pass
  • West Coast
  • Wanaka
  • Queenstown
  • Te Anau
  • Milford Sound
  • Travel back to Queenstown to fly to Christchurch for return flight

Option 2: North and South Islands – Auckland Loop:

  • Auckland
  • Northland
  • Fly from Auckland to Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Tekapo
  • Mount Cook
  • Queenstown & Wanaka
  • Fly from Queenstown to Auckland for return flight

South Island – Christchurch loop 2:

  • Christchurch
  • Dunedin
  • Catlins
  • Te Anau
  • Milford Sound
  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • Mount Cook
  • Tekapo
  • Christchurch

One week in New Zealand

If you’ve only got a week, you’ll have to keep your trip to just a few places – so make sure you do your research in advance!

Option 1: Auckland & Around

  • Auckland
  • Northland
  • The Coromandel
  • Mount Maunganui

Option 3: Wellington to Auckland

  • Wellington
  • Tongariro
  • Rotorua
  • Auckland

Option 2: Christchurch & Around

  • Christchurch
  • Kaikoura
  • Hamner Springs
  • Marlborough Sounds

Option 4: Queenstown & Around

  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • Te Anau
  • Milford Sound

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki


Also worth considering in your itinerary are the below places; I didn’t want to completely leave them off this itinerary but couldn’t fit them all in! (see, I told you there is just too much to squeeze into one month!)

North Island:

South Island:

  • Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Kaikoura
  • Hamner Springs
  • Kahurangi National Park
  • Golden Bay

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The Kepler Track in Fiordland



InterCity and ManaBus/ Naked Bus are the main operators for bus journeys between the bigger cities in New Zealand. Shuttles run to and from major attractions in some areas; check at local iSites (tourism centres) to double check on these.

As well as these buses, you can also arrange entire tours on a coach to see the country. The most popular operators for this are Stray and the Kiwi Experience, the latter of which is aimed at a younger crowd.


Trains aren’t really a thing in New Zealand – I mean, they exist, but the network is so miniscule that it’s not worth planning your entire trip around train journeys. That said, you can get from Auckland all the way to Christchurch by train (apart from the ferry crossing of course). See the New Zealand Rail website for more.

Car or Campervan

The best way to see the country is by car or campervan. There are heaps of rental companies in New Zealand. If you would prefer to buy a vehicle, see my guide to buying a campervan in New Zealand here.

With a tour

If you’d prefer not to drive but still want to visit some remote places, be sure to book a tour with Get Your Guide.



Your go-to if you’re going to be camping in New Zealand! Campsites range in price from being completely free (with no amenities or only a long-drop toilet), to luxurious holiday parks complete with fully equipped kitchens and hot showers – take your pick! Make sure that the vehicle you are driving is suitable for the campsite you wish to stay at. Non-self-contained vehicles have less choice than vehicles with a toilet on board.


I stayed in a number of AirBnBs whilst in New Zealand, varying from very cheap and basic rooms to absolutely lovely apartments. The standard of AirBnBs are really improving! Book now and get £25 GBP off your first trip (that’s about $50 NZD off!) 

Hostels, Hotels and Motels

Hostelworld and are great places to search for hostels, but don’t expect super-cheap prices. You tend to get a discount if you stay for a week or longer, but that’s not ideal when you want to travel!

Motels are more common than hotels in NZ, possibly because parts of the country may well still be in the 1980s, but that’s a different story. These are more expensive than hostels but offer more in the way of comfort and amenties.

Browse accommodation on below.

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Tasman Glacier, Mount Cook National Park

What do you think of my one month New Zealand itinerary? Are there any places I have missed?

Thanks for reading & happy travels!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the linked site, I’ll earn a tiny (and I mean tiny!) commission at no extra cost to you, which contributes to running this blog.

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40 responses to “The Ultimate One Month New Zealand Itinerary”

  1. Flo says:

    Abbi, this is such a fantastic post! I’ve always felt overwhelmed at the idea of planning a trip of New Zealand, because there is SO much ground to cover! Bookmarking this to help plan our future trip!

    • Abbigail Bishop says:

      Thanks for your comment, Flo – and so glad this post will come in handy for your future travels to NZ! It’s a beautiful country, so it’s important to make the most of the time you have here! 🙂

  2. Kiara Gallop says:

    Wow, this is such a fantastic resource! I travelled to New Zealand for all of two weeks (as that’s all the time work would allow) so I missed most of the north island but travelled a fair bit of the south in a hired campervan with three friends. Queenstown was amazing, as was my skydive over Fox Glacier, and I loved how English Christchurch felt. Reading this is making me want to return!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Kiara! Great to hear that you enjoyed your trip. You’ll have to plan another one to see all the bits you missed! Agreed on the English-ness of Christchurch, I think I overlooked that as I’m from England myself so it wasn’t much of a novelty!

  3. Great, exhaustive compilation. Love that you have even included options for shorter trips. We went for two weeks, but NZ deserves so much more.

  4. zorrokc says:

    Aoraki or Mt. Cook is one of the most spectacular place I have visited in NZ. For bird lovers, one should go to Stewart Island to have a walk. If you are lucky, you might be there to witness when the Aurora Australis decided to drop in for a visit.

    • Thanks for your comment, Zorrokc! I agree – Mount Cook blew me away. We didn’t make it to Stewart Island unfortunately, though I think the ferries across are fairly regular so I’m sure it would be quite easy to go for a day or two. I’m a bird lover myself so I regret not making it over there. Thanks for your tips!

      • zorrokc says:

        As of February 2016, the ferry makes 3 trips to Oban, Stewart Island daily. Maybe you could spend one or two nights there, or a shot of 4 days 3 nights for the Rakiura track. Make a trip to Ulva Island, then you will have a bush walking with bird watching experience like no other.

      • Great advice, thanks Zorrokc! 🙂

  5. Amazing trip! I just spent eight weeks in NZ and it wasn’t nearly enough time, but we had a similar trip to yours. Anyway, it’s always good to be able to come back and still have new things to see.

  6. deeshootsit says:

    this is a fantastic post and great reference for anyone thinking of going

  7. Gareth says:

    This is a really great resource and a superb run through of at least some of the highlights in New Zealand. It can be intimidating trying to condense everything into a holiday but following this would cover most. Thoroughly enjoyable read

  8. I loved reading your post, so informative! Perfect for a basic itinerary!

  9. You’re so lucky. I have yearned to visit NZ for as long as I can remember. I have a family out there, too. Maybe one day I’ll manage the flight from the UK over! xo

    • Thanks for your comment Tamsin! Agreed, I am so lucky to have the chance to live and work in such a beautiful country. I’m from the UK too, so I understand what you mean about flights! Hope you make the trip one day, it’s worth it!

  10. Laia says:

    This is a great resource for anyone wanting to visit New Zealand! I was there for 37 days and chose to spend most of the time in the South Island. I do agree that if only one hike is to be done, it should be the Tongariro Alpine Crossing 🙂
    And personally I would add Banks Peninsula to the list (it’s nearby Christchurch). I loved it there and can be explored by car in a day or two.

  11. stylelullaby says:

    Great photos! I haven’t been to NZ yet but really want to visit to see the sheep! xo, sharon

  12. kirsty-rose says:

    This post gave me serious wanderlust! I have always wanted to visit New Zealand and thanks to this post I have a better idea of where to go. Thank you!

  13. An incredibly detailed post! Would definitely be revisiting this (pinned for later) when I visit NZ. Thanks for this. Wow. Great post.

  14. Suz says:

    Thank you for so much amazing information! I loved what you said about thinking on why we are visiting places to make the most of our time there. I hear so much from people that places they visit aren’t what they expected/wanted and it is due to them doing things they felt they ‘had to ‘do’ rather than doing the things they ‘want to ‘do’. Just because something is a tourist hot spot doesn’t mean you have to do it!

    So I’m teying to convince my husband our next trip should be to NZ. Logistical questions first, did you rent your campervan or buy it? I’ve heard it’s reasonable to buy a car in NZ to get around. What would you say is the best time to go?

    Coromandel looks amazing! Did you dig a bubbly hot pool? What was it like? All of the national parks look incredible! Could you pick a favorite if you had to? But from your photos it looks like the whole country is jaw dropping pretty. Thank you again for such an informative post!

    • Thanks so much for your comment Suz! Yep it’s definitely important to do what you want to do, not just hit the tourist hotspots! There are so many things James and I decided to skip because we would rather pend the money elsewhere.
      Your next trip should definitely be NZ! James and I bought a car, and I wrote about that here. If you don’t have enough time to buy and sell one, I would definitely recommend renting one as it’s definitely the best way to see the country. Time-wise, December and January are the hottest and busiest months, so just before or just after is best.
      We didn’t go to Hot Water Beach in the end as we were there when the time was in! It’s really important to plan your timings well. I can’t pick a favourite national park! I loved Tongariro, Urewera, Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, Aoraki/Mount Cook and Abel Tasman. All for different reasons. They are all incredible – try to visit all of them if you can!
      Thanks for your comment and the compliment on my photos – but it isn’t hard to take a beautiful picture when the scenery is as stunning as this!
      Let me know when you make it to NZ! 🙂

  15. I have recently read so many post about New Zealand, and I have added it into my bucket list. So much to see and do there. Mostly I like it, because it has so much nature and I love to see what the nature has to offer in other places. I think I would definitely enjoy visiting that thermal pool and Emerald Lakes. Great post!

    • Thanks for the comment Paula – yes, I agree, the nature is one of the best things about New Zealand. Sometimes you feel like you are the only person in the world, it’s so remote (the South Island especially!) The Emerald Lakes are stunning!

  16. […] lived the absolute dream, travelling by campervan, climbing mountains and getting lost in forests, swimming in lakes and stargazing until the early […]

  17. josypheen says:

    This is SUCH a helpful post!
    Thank you so much for sharing it all. Argh. I can see it is going to be tough to decide what to see!

  18. Thanks for this it is really helpful. My partner and I are going in a few days! We are managing to squeeze in 5 weeks and I just wondered what you would add on as a ‘can’t miss’ if you had an extra 6 days? Thank you!

  19. grapeseed says:

    Hello! Where do you leave your car and belongings when you are doing multi-day hikes? Is it safe to just park somewhere and leave the rest of your belongings in the car? Of course, taking your valuables and essentials in a day pack as you hike. Thanks!

    • Heey yep I took all my valuables with me. There are car parking areas at the start of all the hikes. Some areas are more prone to thieves than others; generally the more popular hikes. But don’t let this stop you from doing them – just take all your valuables with you and the chances of break ins are very slim anyway. Take our insurance that covers theft just in case. Enjoy your trip!

  20. Sue says:

    Kia Ora! Thank you for such a detailed and informative post! I can’t wait to go exploring!!!

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I’m a travel-loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.