18 days in New Zealand Itinerary

18 days in New Zealand Itinerary

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Route & dates

18 days in New Zealand Itinerary

Start: San Francisco
Fly:  15​h 30​min
1
Auckland
— 2 nights
Bus + Fly:  2​h 45​min
2
Taupo
— 2 nights
Fly:  2​h 45​min
3
Wellington
— 3 nights
Fly + Drive:  4​h
4
Lake Tekapo
— 2 nights
Bus:  3​h 45​min
5
Wanaka
— 2 nights
Bus:  6​h 30​min
6
Te Anau
— 2 nights
Bus:  3​h 15​min
7
Queenstown
— 4 nights
Fly:  18​h
End: San Francisco

2
nights
Auckland

Auckland ©
The largest and most populous city in New Zealand, Auckland combines a rich history and thriving contemporary culture in an abundance of museums, art galleries, and performance venues.
On the 22nd (Sun), take a memorable drive along Arataki Visitor Centre, look for all kinds of wild species at Muriwai Gannet Colony, and then add some adventure to your tour with a kayaking and canoeing tour. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the next day: brush up on your military savvy at Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, see majestic marine mammals with a dolphin and whale watching tour, and then take in the architecture and atmosphere at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

For reviews, photos, more things to do, and other tourist information, you can read our Auckland online driving holiday planner .

San Francisco, USA to Auckland is an approximately 15.5-hour flight. You can also do a combination of train and flight. Traveling from San Francisco to Auckland, you'll lose 20 hours due to the time zone difference. Traveling from San Francisco in December, you can expect nighttime temperatures to be somewhat warmer in Auckland, with lows of 64°F. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 23rd (Mon) so you can travel to Taupo.

Things to do in Auckland

Outdoors Tours Wildlife

Side Trips

Muriwai Gannet Colony, Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, Arataki Visitor Centre
Find places to stay Dec 21 — 23:
Highlights from your plan
Muriwai Gannet Colony ©
Muriwai Gannet Colony
Arataki Visitor Centre ©
Arataki Visitor Centre
Dolphin & Whale Watching

2
nights
Taupo

The resort town of Taupo lies on the banks of Lake Taupo, the largest body of water in the whole of Australasia.
On the 24th (Tue), take in the dramatic scenery at Huka Falls Walkway, add some adventure to your tour with a kayaking and canoeing tour, then contemplate the geological forces at Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and finally take in the natural beauty of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Keep things going the next day: take in the natural beauty of Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave, see what you can catch with a fishing tour, and then browse the exhibits of Tukairangi Gallery.

To see other places to visit, photos, traveler tips, and other tourist information, you can read our Taupo online driving holiday planner .

You can do a combination of bus and flight from Auckland to Taupo in 3 hours. Other options are to drive; or take a bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 25th (Wed) early enough to travel to Wellington.

Things to do in Taupo

Wildlife Nature Parks

Side Trips

Rotorua, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave
Find places to stay Dec 23 — 25:
Highlights from your plan
Kayaking & Canoeing
Waimangu Volcanic Valley ©
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave ©

3
nights
Wellington

Wellington
Wellington, the world's southernmost capital city and New Zealand's second most populous urban area, combines the nation's rugged history and nature with its modern and cosmopolitan present.
Museum-lovers will get to explore Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Wellington Museum. Get in touch with nature at Safaris and Staglands Wildlife Reserve. Take a break from Wellington with a short trip to Southward Car Museum in Paraparaumu, about 48 minutes away. There's still lots to do: delve into the lush surroundings at Otari-Wilton's Bush Native Botanic Garden, examine the collection at National War Memorial, admire the landmark architecture of Old St Paul's, and look and learn at Space Place at Carter Observatory.

To find more things to do, maps, where to stay, and other tourist information, you can read our Wellington travel planning site .

Fly from Taupo to Wellington in 3 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or do a combination of bus and flight. December in Wellington sees daily highs of 67°F and lows of 56°F at night. Cap off your sightseeing on the 28th (Sat) early enough to travel to Lake Tekapo.

Things to do in Wellington

Museums Wildlife Parks

Side Trip

Southward Car Museum
Find places to stay Dec 25 — 28:
Highlights from your plan
Wellington Museum ©
Wellington Museum
National War Memorial ©
National War Memorial

2
nights
Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo ©
Located in a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, Lake Tekapo offers evenings of stargazing and days of long walks.
Start off your visit on the 29th (Sun): contemplate the waterfront views at Lake Pukaki, get outside with Aoraki/Mt. Cook, and then trek along Glencoe Walk. On your second day here, view the masterpieces at Burkes Pass Gallery, take in the pleasant sights at Mount John University Observatory, and then fly down the slopes at Ski The Tasman.

To see more things to do, where to stay, maps, and tourist information, go to the Lake Tekapo trip itinerary planner.

Traveling by combination of flight and car from Wellington to Lake Tekapo takes 4 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of flight and bus; or do a combination of ferry and car. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 30th (Mon) so you can catcht the bus to Wanaka.

Things to do in Lake Tekapo

Outdoors Parks Winter Sports

Side Trips

Mt. Cook Village, Lake Pukaki, Burkes Pass Gallery, Glencoe Walk
Find places to stay Dec 28 — 30:
Highlights from your plan
Aoraki/Mt. Cook ©
Aoraki/Mt. Cook
Lake Pukaki ©
Lake Pukaki
Ski The Tasman ©
Ski The Tasman

2
nights
Wanaka

Wanaka ©
Situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka in the Otago region, Wanaka has become a popular ski and summer resort area, owing to its extensive views of the lake and its proximity to some of the best slopes in the country.
Kick off your visit on the 31st (Tue): tour the pleasant surroundings at Mount Iron Track, then get a new perspective on things with Boat Tours & Water Sports, and then stroll through Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain walks. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the 1st (Wed): hike along Blue Pools Track and then relax and float downstream with a rafting and tubing tour.

For traveler tips, more things to do, other places to visit, and more tourist information, read our Wanaka online vacation builder .

Traveling by bus from Lake Tekapo to Wanaka takes 4 hours. Finish your sightseeing early on the 1st (Wed) to allow enough time to take a bus to Te Anau.

Things to do in Wanaka

Outdoors Parks Trails
Find places to stay Dec 30 — Jan 1:
Highlights from your plan
Mount Iron Track ©
Mount Iron Track
Parasailing & Paragliding
Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain walks ©

2
nights
Te Anau

Te Anau ©
Set among the picturesque peaks and glacially carved fiords of Fiordland National Park, Te Anau offers those wishing to explore the park a great place to stay and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of a small town in an enviable location.
On the 2nd (Thu), look for all kinds of wild species at Milford sound Hwy, then trek along The Chasm Walk, and then tour the pleasant surroundings at Lake Marian Track. On your second day here, explore the activities along Lake Te Anau, tour the pleasant surroundings at Mirror Lakes Walk, and then look for all kinds of wild species at Te Anau Bird Sanctuary.

To find photos, reviews, where to stay, and tourist information, refer to the Te Anau travel planning app .

Traveling by bus from Wanaka to Te Anau takes 6.5 hours. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 3rd (Fri) so you can catcht the bus to Queenstown.

Things to do in Te Anau

Parks Trails Outdoors

Side Trips

Fiordland National Park, Milford sound Hwy
Find places to stay Jan 1 — 3:
Highlights from your plan
Milford sound Hwy ©
Milford sound Hwy
Mirror Lakes Walk ©
Mirror Lakes Walk
The Chasm Walk ©
The Chasm Walk

4
nights
Queenstown

Queenstown ©
Sheltered in an inlet of Lake Wakatipu, the resort town of Queenstown enjoys a strong reputation for its adventuring and skiing opportunities.
Take a break from the city and head to Glenorchy-Queenstown Road and Ben Lomond Track. Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery and Queenstown Arts Centre will appeal to museum buffs. Take a break from Queenstown with a short trip to Little Paradise Dream Garden in Mount Creighton, about 32 minutes away. There's still lots to do: take a memorable tour with Tours, tour the pleasant surroundings at Lake Alta Track, do a tasting at Chard Farm Winery, and steep yourself in history at Fallen Soldiers Memorial.

To find photos, ratings, more things to do, and other tourist information, use the Queenstown trip planner .

Traveling by bus from Te Anau to Queenstown takes 3.5 hours. Finish your sightseeing early on the 7th (Tue) to allow enough time to travel back home.

Things to do in Queenstown

Outdoors Parks Trails

Side Trips

Arrowtown, Little Paradise Dream Garden
Find places to stay Jan 3 — 7:
Highlights from your plan
Queenstown Hill ©
Queenstown Hill
Ben Lomond Track ©
Ben Lomond Track
Glenorchy-Queenstown Road ©
Glenorchy-Queenstown Road

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