Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Zealand 3 week Itinerary

In planning for our trip, I found several recommended itineraries online that were really helpful. I figured it would be good to put our itinerary up here, in addition to the more detailed posts about each day. We were in New Zealand for 22 days, 5 days on the North Island and 17 days on the South. We drove a total of 3,160 km (1,964 miles), walked approximately 140 km (87 miles), kayaked 30 km (18.6 miles), biked 18km (11.2 miles), whitewater rafted two class V rapids, and paraglided off one mountain.

Many people choose to travel New Zealand in a campervan. It allows you flexibility and an opportunity to see a good amount of this beautiful country. We opted to see as much as we could, but this meant giving up opportunities to spend a few days in any one place (although we did spend a couple days in Milford Sound). Places that I wish we'd spent more time are: Abel Tasman National Park, Wanaka, and Queenstown. There are many places we didn't get to go, including the majority of the North Island (including Bay of Islands), Kaikoura, and the Catlins on the South Island. I guess we'll just have to make another trip soon!

For the most part, I think our itinerary was manageable and allowed us to see so many incredible things. We tried to keep our driving to around 3 hours a day and made sure we had a few days in there that were much less than that. As I've said in a previous post, I think our drive out to Totaraunui campground in Abel Tasman was the one day I would skip but I would still spend that day (total of 2 days) in Abel Tasman. Also, I'd make Lake Tekapo (haven't written this post yet) a short stop, rather than a place to stay. Other than that, all of these stops should be on your itinerary!

North Island (Days 1-5)

Click on the Day headings (e.g., Day 1) to see my post with details about that day.

Day 1
Highlights: Coast to Coast Walkway; Sky Tower

Day 2
Highlights: Hobbiton, geothermal attractions

Day 3
Rotorua to Tongariro National Park
Highlights: Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, lunch at Capers, Huka Falls, Lake Tekapo
Recommended lodging/camping: Discovery Lodge

Day 4
Tongariro National Park
Drive towards Wellington
Highlights: Tongariro Crossing
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Waikawa conservation campsite - free

Day 5
Highlights: Harbor walk, Te Papa National Museum, Mt. Victoria Lookout

Day 6
Ferry to South Island
Blenheim Wine Tasting
Highlights: Wine Tour by Bikes, camping in vineyard
Recommended Lodging/Camping: camping in Nigel's backyard

Day 7
Nelson to Totaranui Campground
Highlights: Lambretta Cafe in Nelson, location of first rugby match in NZ in Nelson
(I recommend cutting out the drive to Totaranui OR adding a few days on that side of Takaka Hill)

Day 8
Abel Tasman National Park
Drive to Nelson Lakes National Park
Highlights: Freedom Kayak and Hike (kayak out and walk back on famous Abel Tasman Coastal Track, fish and chips at Sprig & Fern in Motueka, beautiful drive to Nelson Lakes (lots of hops grown in this area!)
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Kerr Bay campground (no better place to wake up)

Day 9
Nelson Lakes National Park
Drive to Westport
Highlights: Mt. Robert walk, beautiful drive to Westport
Recommended Lodging/Camping: We stayed at Seal Colony Top 10 Holiday Park. These aren't my favorite but it was clean and had all the amenities you may want.

Day 10
Drive down West Coast
Highlights: Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Monteith Brewing Company in Greymouth, Lake Mahinapua
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Lake Mahinapua

Day 11
Highlights: Private pool at Glacier Hot Pools (We enjoyed this but probably wouldn't have done it if the weather wasn't horrible. Highly recommended if the weather interferes with your plans), Fox Glacier Valley Walk
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Fox Glacier Campervan Park

Day 12
Lake Matheson
Drive from Fox Glacier to Wanaka through Haast Past
Highlights: Lake Matheson walk, Roaring Billy Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Blue Pools, Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Lake Outlet Holiday Park (go swimming if you dare!)

Day 13
Isthmus Peak
Dinner in Wanaka
Crown Range Rd to Arrowtown
Highlights: Isthmus Peak hike (360 views of lakes and alps), relaxing dinner outside in Wanaka, lupines along scenic drive to Arrowtown

Day 14
Arrowtown to Milford Sound
Highlights: Arrowtown Bakery (didn't try them, but heard the meat pies are outstanding!), Miles Better Pies in Te Anau (yum), Mirror Lakes, The Chasm, Milford Sound
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Luxury Chalet at Milford Sound Lodge

Day 15
Milford Sound
Highlights: Morning Glory Kayak Tour, worst dinner ever at Blue Duck Cafe, glorious weather!
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Luxury Chalet at Milford Sound Lodge

Day 16
Fiordland National Park
Milford Sound to Te Anau
Highlights: Key Summit Hike on Routeburn Track, Glowworm Caves in Te Anau

Day 17
Milford Sound to Queenstown
Highlights: Paragliding from Coronet Peak, swimming in Lake Wakatipu, sunset
Recommended Lodging/Camping: 12 mile Delta Campground

Day 18
Drive to Lake Tekapo
Highlights: Skyline Gondola, Fergburger, shopping, Mt. John Observatory loop hike

Day 19
Rangitata River Rafting
Highlights: Class III through V rapids, great guides, cliff jumping, swimming through rapids

Day 20
Akaroa on Banks Peninsula
Highlights: Barry's Bay Cheese Factory, dinner and drinks at Ma Maison, evening walk in L'Aube Hill Reserve
Recommended Lodging/Camping: Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park

Day 21
Highlights: Walk on New Brighton Beach, Sparkling wine and brownies at the George, Re:Start Shipping Container Shopping Mall, Hagley Park, Smash Palace (drinks)

Day 22
Christchurch to San Francisco
Highlights: Run around Hagley Park

The highlights I mention here are highlights of our itinerary. There are obviously things to do in each place that we didn't have a chance to do because of our limited time in each place. If you have any questions or want any more suggestions, feel free to email me at

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