1 Month New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

by | Mar 21, 2022 | Itineraries, New Zealand Live Work and Play | 23 comments

Watch out for Kiwis on your New Zealand Road Trip

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Has Aotearoa (New Zealand) been calling your name? If you love adventure, hiking, beaches and adrenaline activities, there’s no better place to visit. Those familiar with the country will know that it’s split between two islands – North Island and South Island. While both are spectacular, South Island often gets most of the attention and North Island is sometimes left as an afterthought. However, this one month New Zealand itinerary will walk you through the best spots to check out and show you how unique and beautiful both islands of New Zealand are. Are you ready to make the most of one month in New Zealand? Come say Kia Ora Aotearoa – Welcome to New Zealand on this 1 month New Zealand road trip itinerary. 


Pre-Planning New Zealand Tips


New Zealand is a country which is easily explorable in a month. Let’s get started with some pre-trip planning, and then look at a detailed one month New Zealand road trip itinerary.


How to Get Around New Zealand


Travelling New Zealand by Car or Camper Van


Of course you can travel New Zealand by train and bus but for this itinerary around New Zealand, I’m recommending that you have your own transport. Even though you can travel New Zealand by train and bus, the best way to get around is by car or camper van. A vehicle will allow you the freedom to move at your own pace and go where you want, when you want! Your trip will be more flexible as you can deviate during this 1 month New Zealand itinerary if you want to. As you make your way through this New Zealand itinerary, you’ll see that there’s a lot of driving in order to get from place to place. If you don’t have a car and need to rent one you can rent one through RentalCars.com.  If wanting a camper van check out great options at MotorhomeRepublic.com.


READ MORE: Top 6 Travel Options to Travel Around New Zealand


Accommodation in New Zealand


There is no shortage of accommodation in New Zealand, from backpacker hostels, campsites to 5 star splurge establishments. Take a look at the booking.com listings for New Zealand to get great deals on accommodation. I have mentioned accommodation suggestions under each place we stay on this New Zealand road trip itinerary and you can check pricing and availability of them for each stop.


When to Visit New Zealand?


New Zealand has four distinct seasons with warm summers and cold winters. The further south you travel the temperatures are cooler, particularly around the high mountain areas which, provide great skiing during the winter months. If you are trying to work out when to visit New Zealand, it is busiest during the summer months (Dec-Feb). Winter is great (Jul-Sep) particularly if you want to spend time in the snow. Spring and Autumn are great times to visit, as they have nice weather and places are less crowded. If you don’t mind what the weather is like, then anytime is a great time to visit New Zealand.


Here is a Quick Summary of Your 1 Month in New Zealand Road Trip



1-3 Auckland
4-5 – Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Bay of Islands
6  Cape Reinga
7 – 8 Coromandel
9 -10 – Hobbiton and Rotorua
11 -12 Taupo
13 – Tongariro National Park
14 -15  Wellington
16 – leave Wellington to South Island by boat and drive to Christchurch
17-18  Christchurch
19 – Christchurch to Dunedin
20 – Dunedin
21 – Dunedin to Invercargill
22 – Invercargill to Te Anau
23 – Day trip to Doubtful Sound
24 – Day trip to Milford Sound
25 – Te Anau to Queenstown
26 – Queenstown
27 – Queenstown to Wanaka
28 – Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier
29 – Franz Josef Glacier to Greymouth to Picton with ferry back to Wellington
Day 30 – Drive Wellington to Auckland, via West Coast stopping at Waitomo Glow Worm Caves (about 5.5 hours).
Day 31 – Caves to Auckland about 2.5 hours (or do as a day trip from Auckland, In week 1)



1 Month New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary – Driving both North and South Islands


Note: This 1 month itinerary for New Zealand starts and finishes in Auckland as this is where most people arrive and leave. However, New Zealand has a number of airports so you could fly into Auckland and out of another city such as Wellington or Christchurch.


Auckland, Days 1-3


Auckland City With Tall Buildings On A Beautiful Harbour.

Enjoy Auckland Harbour


Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and there’s plenty to see and do. There are great cafes, restaurants and shopping throughout the city and many tourist attractions to keep you busy.


Best Things to See and Do in Auckland


  • Head to the SkyTower for panoramic views of Auckland, walk around the edge or even jump off – New Zealand is about adventure after all! 
  • Stroll around Viaduct Basin in Auckland Harbour and pop into a cafe, bar or restaurant. If you want to get into the action in the harbour, take to the water on a harbour cruise or get into some yacht racing while on your America’s Cup Sailing Experience. 
  • Hop on public transit to explore Mt. Eden for an easy 2km walk to a stunning view of the city. Mt. Eden is actually a sacred crater that you can see once you reach the top. Just be careful not to fall in! If you’re after a beach day, Mission Bay Beach is one of the closest beaches to the city and it won’t disappoint.
  • Opt to spend the day at Waiheke Island which you can get to by ferry. There are numerous beaches along the island with fun water activities to partake in. 
  • Enjoy one of the many parks – Auckland Botanic Gardens, Eden Gardens and Parnell Rose Gardens. 
  • Want to see native flora and fauna a visit to Auckland Zoo might be on your cards. Particularly Te Who Nui – the Living Realm at Auckland Zoo showcasing native animals, including the Kiwi.


Where to stay in Auckland


There are plenty of accommodation options for your Auckland stay. For a bed in a hostel, check out  HIT HostelHaka Lodge or Attic Backpackers. Prefer a budget hotel a couple of options are Auckland City Hotel and Verandahs Parkside Lodge. For a splurge check out SkyCity Grand Hotel AucklandFour Points by Sheraton Hotel and as you are staying a few nights in Auckland you may wish to find an apartment, such as the Empire Apartments. More accommodation options in Auckland can be found here.


Days Trips from Auckland


If you prefer, you could keep Auckland as your base and undertake day trips to some of the places we visit on this road trip, particularly those north of Auckland. Some day trips from Auckland are:

  • Waitomo Glow Worm Caves – float through the caves and see it light up from the glow worms. This is factored into this itinerary on the 2nd and last day of the itinerary.
  • Coromandel Peninsula – experience his beautiful area with its mountainous, forest-covered, sheltered bays.
  • Cape Reinga & Waitangi Treaty Grounds – Discover where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and head to the Northern most tip of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.
  • New Zealand Wineries – many wineries are only a short drive away.


Day 4-5 – Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Bay of Islands


Distance: 238km, about a 3 hour 40 minute drive via State Highway 1.

The Bay of Islands are group of 144 islands next to the North Island. It is known for its beautiful beaches, Maori cultural artefacts, wild coastline and big-game fishing. Definitely worth spending a full day exploring here. After arriving, head first to the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a short drive from the Bay of Islands. Here you will discover where in 1840 New Zealand’s founding document was signed – the Treaty of Waitangi. There are two museums here where you will discover many traditional Maori culture and be treated to cultural performances. Do not miss visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Spend a whole day exploring the Bay of Islands. It is best explored by boat and there are a number of cruises, half day or full day you could take. The area is just wild, by which I mean, the coastline, the waters and the wildlife are just wild.


Where to stay at Bay of Islands
Book for 3 nights (1 of these nights for your return from Cape Reinga)

Waitangi and the Bay of Islands are close together so there are many places to stay. The area of Paihia and Waitangi are popular towns to stay. For a hostel bed check out Haka Lodge in Paihia and Riverside Lodge Paihia. Prefer a budget to mid range hotel, then check out Dolphin Motel or Te Tireti Motel in Waitangi. Other options in the Bay of Islands area can be found here.


Day 6 – Cape Reinga


Cape Reinga Is The Most Northerly Point Of New Zealand. The Lighthouse Stands Atop Overlooking Where The Pacific Ocean Meets The Tasman Sea.

Walk to the Lighthouse and see where the Pacific Ocean Meets the Tasman Sea


Distance Bay of Islands to Cape Reinga: 197km, 2.5 hours drive

Today, drive the 2.5 hour drive up the coast to Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is an iconic spot in New Zealand and is famed for being the northernmost point of the country, though technically it isn’t. There is a lot of Maori cultural significance to Cape Reinga. This is the place where spirits come to descend into the underworld, leaving behind Aotearoa for Hawaiki-A-Nui, the land of their ancestors. The spirits slide down the roots of an ancient pohutakawa tree which you can see on the headland’s edge. 

Best way to spend your time at Cape Reinga

  • Walk to the lighthouse marking the tip of Cape Reinga and possibly see Manawatāwhi (Three Kings Islands). Cape Reinga is also where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean join and sometimes you can see the two different coloured oceans merging. Waves merge into each other and in Maori mythology, this is the joining of Te Moana-a-Rehua (the sea of Rehua) with Te Tai-o-Whitirea (the sea of Whitirea) representing the joining of male and female or the essence of life. Unfortunately, the day I was there, it was bitterly cold grey cloudy day with strong winds blowing off the ocean, so I didn’t get to see this and appreciate what I was actually seeing. 
  • Because of the remoteness of this area there is no public transport coming here so lucky you have your rented care, or you could take an organised day trip. There is limited camping in Cape Reinga but if you decide to stay you may be treated to a spectacular sunset and sunrise. I suggest you book an extra night in Waitangi and return there for the night if you don’t want to camp.
  • If you like hiking, Cape Reinga is in the middle of the Te Pack Coastal Track. However, it can take 4 days to hike the track so if you want to complete it, you will need to budget to do this. I haven’t during the 1 month New Zealand itinerary.

TIP: Cape Reinga is sacred ground and is considered tape (taboo) to eat or drink in the area. There are picnic spots you will need to find so you can eat and drink. If you were hoping to buy something to eat, the nearest shop is about 45km away. 

On you way back to Waitangi from Cape Reinga there are a number of places to call into. The Te Pack Sand Dunes are quite spectacular and you can hire boards to go dune boarding. There is also 90 Mile Beach which is a beautiful long stretch of beach.


Day 7-8 – Coromandel


Distance from Cape Reinga to Coromandel 570km, about 7.5-hour drive, or have an overnight stop in Auckland (5 hours away from Coromandel)

As Cape Reinga is the furthest point you can go to in New Zealand you will need to turn back. On this itinerary I recommend you call into Auckland for an overnight stop or keep on driving to the Coromandel. Coromandel is a must for beach lovers! Walk along Cathedral Cove – a beach with beautiful cliffs and a white rock cavern. Hot Water Beach is another incredible spot for swimming and surfing. What makes it so unique are the natural hot springs that form along the beach when the tide is low! You won’t experience a beach like this anywhere else, so it’s worth checking out.

Where to stay: Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park is comprised of a motel, cabins and campsites set across lush grounds. So something for every budget. 


Day 9 – 10 Hobbiton Village and Rotorua


Hobbit House From The Lord Of The Ring Trilogy In New Zealand.

Love Lord of the Rings? You will love Hobbiton – only half an hour outside of Rotorua


Distance to Rotorua from Coromandel: 3-hour drive 

Upon leaving Coromandel and en route to Rotorua, you’ll want to stop at a special spot. The Hobbiton movie set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It can be found about 20 minutes from Rotorua. If you’re a fan, you can choose from a few different tour options and explore the entire set!

Once you get to Rotorua, check into your accommodation and head out for some dinner. Tomorrow there is a full day in Rotorua where you could:

  • Visit the Tamaki Maori Village where you can learn about the Maori people of New Zealand and take part in a cultural experience. If you’re interested in other activities, there are many others to choose from.
  • See geysers at Te Pui Geothermal Park to see some geysers in action and learn about the geothermal activity surrounding Rotorua. It does smell of sulphur due to the activity surrounding the area.


Where to stay in Rotorua


Rotorua Downtown Backpackers is a great spot to spend the night as it’s centrally located as is the Rotorua Central Backpackers. For a budget to mid-range hotel check out the Tamaki Lakehouse or the Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park. For a bit of luxury check out the Jet Park Hotel.


Day 11 – 12 – Taupo

Distance to Taupo: 1-hour drive

There’s a lot to do in Taupo so you should account for a few days here! Just before you reach the city, you’ll pass by Huka Falls. Make sure to stop there for a few photos and take in the bright blue water rushing by. Spend your first day walking along New Zealand’s largest lake – Lake Taupo, or perhaps you’ll want to take a boat ride along the lake for sunset. You’ll be able to see beautiful rock carvings done by the Maori people many years ago. Extend your stay in Taupo to give skydiving a chance! Don’t worry if you’re not up for the adrenaline rush because you can spend the day at one of many natural or man-made hot springs! There are options that work with any budget and you can even find free natural hot springs a few minute drive from the city.


Where to stay in Taupo:

YHA Taupo is in a great spot within the city and they can help you arrange any activities while you’re there. Lakefront Lodge Hotel is a good budget option for a hotel room. For a little luxury consider the Hilton Lake Taupo.


Day 13 – Tongariro National Park

Distance to Tongariro: 1-hour drive 

Visiting New Zealand North Island wouldn’t be complete without completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! This day hike is part of a World Heritage Site and will take about 6-8 hours to complete. The hike is unlike any other hike you’ll do in New Zealand with beautiful and uniquely coloured geothermal lakes and volcanic rock! Or just enjoy this beautiful area around Mount Ruapehu and maybe visit the Whakapapa Ski Field. Maybe take a flight over this scenic mountain. Not interested in hiking in New Zealand? Then continue your drive to Wellington.

Day 14 – 15 – Wellington


Distance to Wellington: 3.5-hour drive

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and you’ll want to make the most of your time here. Some of the best things to do in Wellington are:


  • Start your day by heading to the Mount Victoria lookout for a fantastic view of the city.
  • Wellington is home to a range of wineries so you can spend the afternoon enjoying a glass or three of some of New Zealand’s best wine!
  • Get some serious culture in the Te Papa Museum – probably New Zealand’s best museum by far. This also happens to be free, and free is good.
  • Check out New Zealand’s Parliament Building – the heart of Government in New Zealand.


Where to stay in Wellington


There is a wide range of accommodation in Wellington and you are here for a few nights on this New Zealand road trip itinerary. Some hostel options include Nomads City Backpackers Wellington and Trek Global Backpackers. Some budget hotel options include The Dwellington and the Cambridge Hotel. For a nice mid-range hotel for your stay in Wellington check out Rydges Wellington and the West Plaza Hotel. Happy to pay for some luxury, then check out the InterContinental Wellington or the Sofitel Wellington.


Day 16 – InterIslander Ferry from North Island to South Island, then Drive to Christchurch


If You Sail Aboard The Interisland Ferry From New Zealand's North Island To South Island Your Last Hour On The Ferry Will See You Sail Through Milford Sound. Milford Sound Is A Spectacular Body Of Water Surrounded By Mountains.

Sail through Marlborough Sound on your way from the North Island to the South Island

To get from the North to South Island you can fly, but we are taking the ferry because we have the car. Plus, the crossing is quit scenic. There is lots to see as you sail through Wellington Harbour, across Cook Strait and sail through Marlborough Sounds, Queen Charlotte Sound and into Picton. The Marlborough Sounds are particularly magnificent which are an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys. Either side you will see steep forested hills and quiet little bays, its quite incredible – just wait till you see it during this New Zealand road trip.

The crossing from North Island to South Island is 92km across the Cook Straight and will take about 3-3.5 hours, depending on the weather. Ferries leave from 2.30am to 8pm daily and I suggest you take the sunrise sailing or earlier. You can book your trip on the ferry here.

Once off the boat, this part of your New Zealand road trip itinerary is all about New Zealand’s South Island. You could spend some time in Picton, maybe enjoying one of the resorts or take a walk. Then drive to Christchurch, about a 5 hour drive and check into your accommodation for the next 3 nights.

The drive to Christchurch is quite scenic as you are driving through  Marlborough Country, famous for its wine and food – fancy a local Sauvignon Blanc? I do, particularly over a walk around Picton – but that’s just me! You could make stops along the way at Blenheim or Kaikoura or any of the other towns along the way. They are beautiful little towns, then onto Christchurch.


Where to stay in Christchurch: Stay of 3 nights during this New Zealand road trip


There are a number of accommodation options in Christchurch. For a stay in a hostel check out Urbanz Christchurch or YHA Christchurch. For a budget hotel the Ibis Hotel may suit you or there is the mid-range Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square, a mid-range hotel to consider. Looking for a little luxury during your stay in Wellington, then check out The George Christchurch or the Crowne Plaza Christchurch. As you are staying 3 nights an apartment such as the Southwark Hotel and Apartments might be on the cards.

Day 17 – 18 – Christchurch


Christchurch Cathedral In Christchurch New Zealand. A Large Church In The Middle Of Christchurch.

Christchurch Cathedral

Enjoy 2 full days in Christchurch where you can explore more of the city. Top things to see and do in Christchurch include:


  • Take an open-top bus tour of the city.
  • The Riverside Market is a must when visiting Christchurch! It has some of the best food and drinks you’ll find in the city.
  • Make time to stop by the Christchurch Art Gallery and Canterbury Museum if you’e interested in seeing some of the unique art pieces and learning more about Christchurch’s history.
  • Don’t forget to check out the earthquake tours that are available if you want to learn more about the earthquake in 2011 that changed the city forever. The town centre was practically destroyed and many people were made homeless.
  • You might want to take a stroll in the beautiful Botanic Gardens or stroll by the Christchurch Cathedral.
  • Visit the International Antarctic Centre designed to provide informative accounts of life in the Antarctic without even leaving Christchurch.
  • End a day of sightseeing with a ride along the Christchurch Gondola for beautiful city views!
  • If you love Lord of the Rings, and enjoyed Hobbiton, enjoy more and discover where the movies were filmed. Not too far from Christchurch you can visit Mount Potts and see how it was transformed into Edoras, the capital city of the Rohan people.


Day 19 – Christchurch to Dunedin


The drive from Christchurch to Dunedin is about 4.5 hours. Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s best preserved Edwardian and Victorian cities with many beautiful buildings to admire, one such building the historic Train Station. Once you get to Dunedin you’ll find that this region of the south island is packed with things to do. If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with New Zealand’s wildlife, this is the place to do it! You can head to the Royal Albatross Centre or the Orokonui Ecosanctuary for an experience you’ll never forget.

If you didn’t get enough street art during your time in Christchurch, you can also explore Dunedin street art with Small City Big Walls. End your day with some local craft beer at Emerson’s Brewery before heading to your accommodation.

Where to stay in Dunedin: book accommodation in Dunedin for 2 nights

Dunedin has a number of accommodation options. Click on the links following for pricing, availability and to book. Hostel options include On Top Backpackers and Chalet Backpackers. For a budget motel consider Law Courts Hotel and for a mid-range hotel check out Owen’s Motel. For a bit of luxury in Dunedin consider the Distinction Dunedin Hotel.

Day 20 – Dunedin

With a full day in Dunedin, there are many more activities to do and ground to cover. Dunedin is known for its spectacular beaches so spend the day beach hopping if you’re travelling during the summer months. St Clair is popular for surfing but Brighton Beach and Long Beach are great options for swimming and exploring caves! Dunedin is also a great place for cycling and mountain biking with amazing downhill tracks not far from the city. If you’re up for a small drive you can make your way to Otago Rail Trail where you can ride through historic gold mining sites and a stunning landscape.

Day 21 – Dunedin to Invercargill


Invercargill On New Zealand's South Island Is At The Southern Most Point Of The South Island. With Beautiful Seaside Scenery You Will Find Ships Graveyard At Greenpoint.

Invercargill – Ships Graveyard


When you’ve finished exploring all that Dunedin has to offer, you’ll drive about 2.5 hours to Invercargill on this New Zealand road trip, the southernmost city in all of New Zealand. There is no shortage of sheep in Invercargill, as it’s landscape is perfect for harvesting food and for livestock to roam. While venturing through the city, you must stop by Queens Park for a picnic or to check out the sports facilities. Don’t forget to stop by Oreti Beach, only a few minutes from the city centre! It’s great for families, as well as adrenaline junkies with endless activities. Some include swimming, kayaking, horse riding, paddling or 4-wheel driving. It’s also a magnificent spot to watch the sunset!


Where to stay in Invercargill


Invercargill offers a number of accommodation options. There are a number of Hostels in Invercargill: Southern Comfort Backpackers and Tuatara Lodge. For a budget hotel in Invercargill check out the Whitehouse Hotel and for a mid-range Hotel in Invercargill consider Tower Lodge Motel,  Quest Invercargill Serviced Apartments. For some luxury there are a number of hotels in Invercargill including The Lodges At Transport World.


Day 22 – Invercargill to Te Anau


Next stop on this 1 Month New Zealand road trip itinerary is Te Anau. Begin the drive west from Invercargill to Te Anau and the glacier region which is about 2 hours long. Once you arrive in Te Anau, you’ll want to settle in for the next few days as you’ll want to do a few day trips from this location! It’s right outside Fiordland National Park, and is your gateway to the Fiordland giving you easy access to amazing walks, hikes and bodies of water.

On arrival take a walk by Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in the South Island of New Zealand where the town Te Anau is nestled.  Venture to the glowworm caves which are an ecological wonder and definitely an interesting way to spend your afternoon in Te Anau! Te Anau is also a great spot for fishing if you want to kick back and relax.


Where to stay in Te Anau


You will be in Te Anau 3 nights while doing day trips into the Fiordlands so you may want to upgrade your accommodation. For a hostels in Te Anau consider Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers and Barnyard Backpackers Te Anau. Budget Hotels in Te Anau include Alpenhon Motel and the The Village Inn. After a mid-range Hotel in Te Anau check out Alpine View Motel and Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau. For some luxury in Te Anau check out Luxury on Howden. Because this is your base for a few nights you might consider an apartment in Te Anau such as the Fiordland Eco Retreat.


Day 23 – Day trip to Doubtful Sound


Doubtful Sound On New Zealand's South Island Is A Beautiful Sunken Valley Full Of Water Surrounded By Tall Mountains.

Doubtful Sound – Just Spectacular

Take a quick 15-minute drive to Manapouri to explore the magnificent Doubtful Sound. Once you get to Manapouri, you’ll hop on a cruise to see Doubtful Sound for yourself! There are many cruise options to choose from, none of which will disappoint. While many people come to New Zealand’s South Island just to see Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is arguably just as beautiful.

The mountains aren’t quite as high at Doubtful Sound but it’s less touristy and a quieter spot if you’re after something a little more secluded! You can book your tour to Doubtful Sound here.

Day 24 – Day trip to Milford Sound


Milford Sound On New Zealand's South Island Is A Beautiful Sunken Valley Full Of Water Surrounded By Tall Mountains.

Milford Sound


Milford sound is only about 1.5 hours from Te Anau and definitely worth the journey! The drive in is beautiful with dozens of waterfalls on a rainy day and crystal clear water you can drink right from the streams. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a sunny, clear day, you’ll see bright blue water. The large fiords are world-renowned and offer some of the most incredible views in all of New Zealand! See the spectacular Bowen Falls and towering Mitre Peak, two highlights of Milford Sound

Hop aboard a cruise for the day to learn more about how these fiords formed thousands of years ago and to immerse yourself in this natural wonder.


Day 25 – Te Anau to Queenstown

Next stop Queenstown – which is about a 2-hour drive from Te Anau. Queenstown is without a doubt the adrenaline capital of New Zealand with heaps of adventurous activities to partake in.

Where to stay in Queenstown: book for a couple of nights

Queenstown has a number of accommodation options. Check out the following suggestions and click on the links for pricing and availability. For a bed in a hostels in Queenstown check out Nomads Queenstown and The Black Sheep Backpackers. For Budget to mid-range hotels in Queenstown try Four Seasons Motel Queenstown, Mercure Queenstown Resort or the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside. For a luxury hotel in Queenstown check out the Spire Queenstown or the Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments.


Day 26 – Queenstown


With a full day in Queenstown, there are many things to see and do.

  • explore the city centre.
  • walk by Lake Wakatipu or maybe cruise around it. If you hope to jump into the lake, beware of the freezing cold water, even in the summer months!
  • do a few short day hikes near the city.
  • If you’re an adrenalin junkie, or even not, there are plenty of activities to partake in. Why not bungee jump or skydive while in Queenstown.
  • Queenstown is also known for its nightlife so you should certainly check out some of the bars in the city before you take off to Wanaka the next day.
  • Queenstown is in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and is a great base if you want to ski in New Zealand. The four ski resorts, Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone offer great snow and a variety of terrain that suits beginners to expert skiers. There is plenty of are ski as well in the bars and restaurants.
  • If you haven’t had enough of epic scenic drives and have enough time on this New Zealand road trip, take a day trip to Mount Cook, the heart of the Southern Alps and is the highest mountain in New Zealand. You will need to deviate from this itinerary if you wish to do this day trip, but that is not a problem. If you want to stay in Mount Cook, there are a number of options, but on this New Zealand road trip itinerary I haven’t included a day trip there.


Day 27 – Queenstown to Wanaka


Don’t get too upset about leaving Queenstown because Wanaka is just as beautiful and only about an hour drive away! Wanaka is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and If you’re up for a hike, you must do Roy’s Peak while you’re in Wanaka. Start the hike in the afternoon to get to the peak by sunset. Just remember to bring a flashlight for your walk down the track on the way back.

You could also spend a chilled day in Wanaka, walking to the famous lone tree of Lake Wanaka. This is a famous tree that’s grown out of Lake Wanaka near the shore. There are also boat cruises and bike tours if you’re looking for a different activity!


Where to stay in Wanaka overnight


Wanaka has a number of accommodation options. Check out the following and click on the links for pricing and availability. Hostels in Wanaka include the Wanaka Backpackers Bothy or the Mountain View Backpackers. For a budget to mid-range hotel room check out the Oakridge Resort or the Edgewater Lake Wanaka. And for a bit of luxury while in Wanaka consider the Wanaka Luxury Apartments.


Day 28 – Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier


Franz Josef Glacier On New Zealand's South Iceland Is One Of The Many Glaciers Made From Ice That You Can Visit.

Franz Joseph Glacier

A trip to the Franz Josef Glacier just might be the highlight of your trip to New Zealand! It will take close to 4 hours to get there driving from Wanaka but it’s worth it. Leave early so you have enough time to do and see the following:

  • Do a heli hike on the Franz Josef Glacier where you get to explore the glacier with a guide, crawling through ice tunnels and caves and take in the breathtaking views! Time permitting, the Fox Glacier might be on your list to visit.
  • End your day at the Glacier Hot Pools Experience. Enjoy the pools fed by rainwater and surrounding natural waters to revive your body after a hard day sightseeing!
  • Take a scenic flight over Mount Cook. A flight would be better, as it is a long drive.

Where to stay in Franz Josef

After such a long day check into your accommodation for the night. There is a range of accommodation options in Franz Josef for your stay. Click on the links for pricing, availability and to book. For a hostel stay check out the Rainforest Retreat or the Glow Worm Accommodation. For a budget motel consider the Alpine Glacier Hotel and for some luxury the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef.


Day 29 – Franz Josef Glacier to Picton via Greymouth


On Leaving Franz Josef Glacier head to Greymouth about 2.5 hours drive. Why not check out the Shantytown Museum and taste a few of Monteith’s finest beers! If you’re interested in learning more about Greymouth’s history take on Point Elizabeth Walk (2 hours) that passes through old mining sites, a beach and a scenic reserve. Then head to Picton for your final night on the South Island.


Where to stay in Picton


For your last night on the South Island on this New Zealand road trip itinerary there are a number of accommodation options. For a bed in a hostel check out Atlantis Backpackers or the Piwaka Lodge and Backpackers. For a hotel stay consider the Harbour View Motel or the Bay Vista Waterfront Hotel. For some luxury on your final night on the South Island check out Escape to Picton Boutique Hotel.


Day 30 – InterIslander Ferry from Picton to Wellington then drive to Auckland


All good things must come to an end! Leave the South Island on the InterIslander Ferry from Picton back to the North Island. Once back on the North Island head to Auckland via the west coast and stop in at Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The caves are about a 6 hour drive from Wellington. Visit the Glow Worm Caves for the afternoon. Auckland is about a 2.5 hour drive from the caves, so either continue or if you have time you could stay in Waitomo for the evening then complete the journey to Auckland, to return the car on Day 31 before leaving New Zealand.


Accommodation in Waitomo Glow Worm Caves


If you decide to stay in Waitomo here are some accommodation options. For a hostel stay consider the Juno Hall Backpackers. For a mid-range hotel check out the Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge or for a bit of luxury on your final night on this New Zealand road trip check out the Waitomo Boutique Lodge.


Final words on my 1 month New Zealand itinerary


Of course, there’s so much more to discover in New Zealand but this 1 month itinerary will allow you to experience as much as possible in a short amount of time. If you happen to have more time to explore the North Island of New Zealand, you should do it! Both islands are unique and incredibly beautiful so it’s worth checking out if you can. Regardless, you’ll have a spectacular time venturing through New Zealand during this 1 month itinerary!


Extend your stay in New Zealand on a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.


There is plenty to see and do  On A New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary. See Maori Culture, Major Cities Like Auckland, Beautiful Sounds And Hobbiton.

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, Booking.com is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.


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Hi. Sharyn here. Savvy Australian female with a passion for travel and working abroad. I’m on a mission to provide you with my best tips, tricks and hacks to work abroad and travel the world. If I can do it, so can you!  Read more.


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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 


  1. Faith

    My son has New Zealand in his bucket list and with it opening up we are definitely planning a visit. He will love the all the Lord of the Rings sites—especially the hobbit houses. Thanks for the in-depth guide.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Glad you liked the post and I’m sure your son will have a fabulous time in New Zealand.

  2. Laura

    I would love to hire a campervan and explore both islands for a whole month! Great itinerary as the planning is pretty overwhelming! Milford Sound looks like a beautiful gem.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I think camper vans are fabulous. You have your transport and accommodation rolled into one. Milford Sound is spectacular! I hope you get to visit.

  3. Linnea

    What an amazing trip! 1 month seems like a long time, but this is a packed guide! Would you say it’s a very expensive country to visit?

    • Sharyn McCullum

      New Zealand is quite expensive, particularly if you compare it to travelling in some Asian countries. However, it is amazing!

  4. Yanitza

    I love road trips and New Zealand is on my bucket list so it was amazing to read this! I think I would definitely visit around the warm summer since I really don’t like the cold weather at all. Cape Reinga sounds like such an amazing place! I love all of this!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Glad you liked it. I loved visiting New Zealand and yes, Cape Reinga is wild – and as I mention in my post, the day I was there the weather was bitterly cold, windy and rainy – but well worth the visit.

  5. Krista

    This is such a fantastic road trip itinerary! You covered a lot of major things to see in New Zealand which is great. I’d definitely need more time though.

  6. Monica W

    This is the most comprehensive guide the New Zealand I’ve ever seen! Thanks for all the great tips 🙂

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Glad you liked it. I really enjoyed doing it and then writing it up.

  7. Lina

    New Zealand is my absolute dream country! Ever since I was a child I’m dreaming to go there. Hopefully one day I’ll be there and then I’ll use this guide because it seems to be perfect and cover everything! 🙂

  8. Yvonne

    This road trip is literally my bucket list! This itinerary is amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Elena Pappalardo

    What an awesome itinerary; I’m pumped to have so many new New Zealand gems on my radar. Cape Reinga looks right up my alley. I also had no idea about the inter-island ferry so I will definitely keep that in mind!

  10. Linda Jane

    What an epic road trip! I love that you included both the Sounds. I loved the stunning scenery of Doubtful Sound but missed Milford & would love to see it! It’s on my list for next time!

  11. Erika

    This is an amazing itinerary, I hope I’ll have one month to spend in New Zealand one day soon! Visiting the Hobbit village is high on my bucket list, as is admiring the beautiful mountains and lakes of South Island. Will save this for a future adventure 🙂

  12. Lasma

    Wow, one month in New Zealand sounds like a dream… not sure if I could manage to stay for so long, but this article is great to find some cool places to add to my itinerary! Well done!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      One month will take you to all the highlights of New Zealand. If you have longer, there are plenty more things to do and places to see. I hope you can add them to your itinerary.

  13. Annie

    This is incredible! I really want to visit New Zealand and will be using this itinerary when it’s time. Thank you so much for all the great info!

  14. Jan

    I love New Zealand! We spent 3 weeks driving through North and South Islands. I enjoyed reading your blog which brought back fond memories. I would love to visit this pristine country once again. 🙂

  15. Melinda

    This is so informative, especially since we plan to go next year. I love all the hiking and outdoorsy adventures. Can’t wait!

  16. Sabrina

    Wow what a thorough guide! This really includes any important info!

  17. Elyse

    This is such a great guide, you can definitely see heaps in one month. My favorite place in NZ is Mt Cook


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