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:  18​h
1
Queenstown
— 1 night
Bus:  2​h 30​min
2
Wanaka
— 2 nights
Bus + Fly:  7​h 15​min
3
Paihia
— 2 nights
+2
Taxi + Fly + Taxi:  3​h
4
Waitomo Caves
— 2 nights
Drive:  2​h 15​min
5
Whakapapa
— 2 nights
Drive:  2​h 15​min
6
Rotorua
— 6 nights
Fly:  18​h
End: San Francisco

1
night
Queenstown

Sheltered in an inlet of Lake Wakatipu, the resort town of Queenstown enjoys a strong reputation for its adventuring and skiing opportunities.
On the 23rd (Mon), get interesting insight from Tours, then tour the pleasant surroundings at Queenstown Hill, and then see what you can catch with a fishing tour. Keep things going the next day: cross one thing off your bucket list with a skydiving experience, then hike along Ben Lomond Track, then get your game on at Dark Ride, and finally get your game on at Fear Factory Queenstown.

For photos, maps, other places to visit, and tourist information, go to the Queenstown trip itinerary planning website .

San Francisco, USA to Queenstown is an approximately 18-hour flight. You can also do a combination of flight and bus; or do a combination of train and flight. Due to the time zone difference, you'll lose 20 hours traveling from San Francisco to Queenstown. Cap off your sightseeing on the 24th (Tue) early enough to catcht the bus to Wanaka.

Things to do in Queenstown

Outdoors Tours Parks
Find places to stay Dec 22 — 24:
Highlights from your plan
Off-Road Tours
Ben Lomond Track ©
Ben Lomond Track
Queenstown Hill ©
Queenstown Hill

2
nights
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.
On the 25th (Wed), take a pleasant ride with a tour on horseback, race across the water with a speed boat tour, and then fly like a bird with a parasailing or paragliding tour. Here are some ideas for day two: cast your line with a fishing tour, then trek along Mount Iron Track, and then fly down the slopes at Wanaka.

To find more things to do, photos, where to stay, and other tourist information, read our Wanaka road trip planner.

Getting from Queenstown to Wanaka by bus takes about 2.5 hours. Cap off your sightseeing on the 26th (Thu) early enough to travel to Paihia.

Things to do in Wanaka

Outdoors Tours Parks
Find places to stay Dec 24 — 26:
Highlights from your plan
Speed Boats Tours
Wanaka ©
Wanaka
Mount Iron Track ©
Mount Iron Track

2
nights
Paihia

Paihia ©
The main tourist town in the Bay of Islands area, Paihia gives visitors a good range of accommodations, a convenient town center, long sandy beaches, and interesting architecture.
Get in touch with nature at Whangarei Falls and Tane Mahuta Walk. Explore hidden gems such as Paihia Harbour and Nature & Wildlife Tours. Get out of town with these interesting Paihia side-trips: Manginangina Kauri Walk (in Kerikeri) and Dolphin & Whale Watching (in Russell). The adventure continues: fly like a bird with a parasailing or paragliding tour, admire the sheer force of Rainbow Falls, and look for all kinds of wild species at Wildlife Areas.

To see where to stay, ratings, other places to visit, and tourist information, refer to the Paihia online trip itinerary maker .

You can do a combination of bus and flight from Wanaka to Paihia in 7.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of bus and flight; or do a combination of ferry and car. Finish your sightseeing early on the 29th (Sun) so you can travel to Waitomo Caves.

Things to do in Paihia

Outdoors Wildlife Tours

Side Trips

Kerikeri, Whangarei Falls, Tane Mahuta Walk, Dolphin & Whale Watching
Find places to stay Dec 26 — 29:
Highlights from your plan
Whangarei Falls ©
Whangarei Falls
Scuba & Snorkeling
Paihia Harbour ©
Paihia Harbour

2
nights
Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves
Head deep beneath the surface of the earth at Waitomo Caves, a village and cave system that draws both extreme sports enthusiasts and those wanting something a little more relaxed.
Start off your visit on the 30th (Mon): get a dose of the wild on a nature and wildlife tour, then explore the fascinating underground world of Ruakuri Cave, then explore the fascinating underground world of Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and finally stroll through Ruakuri Walk. On the 31st (Tue), you'll have a packed day of sightseeing: explore the fascinating underground world of Caveworld, then let the river carry you with a rafting and tubing tour, then admire the sheer force of Marakopa Falls, and finally take in the views from Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk.

To see reviews, other places to visit, traveler tips, and other tourist information, use the Waitomo Caves trip planner.

Traveling by combination of taxi and flight from Paihia to Waitomo Caves takes 3 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or do a combination of flight and bus. Finish your sightseeing early on the 31st (Tue) to allow enough time to travel to Whakapapa.

Things to do in Waitomo Caves

Outdoors Tours Parks
Find places to stay Dec 29 — 31:
Highlights from your plan
Ruakuri Cave
Ruakuri Cave
Ruakuri Walk ©
Ruakuri Walk
Caveworld ©
Caveworld

2
nights
Whakapapa

Whakapapa ©
On the 1st (Wed), hike along Tongariro Alpine Crossing, admire the sheer force of Taranaki Falls, and then trek along Whakapapa Nature Walk. On the next day, admire the sheer force of Tawhai Falls, identify plant and animal life at Tongariro National Trout Centre, and then contemplate the geological forces at Mount Ruapehu.

To see other places to visit, maps, traveler tips, and other tourist information, read Whakapapa online trip maker .

Traveling by car from Waitomo Caves to Whakapapa takes 2.5 hours. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 2nd (Thu) so you can travel to Rotorua.

Things to do in Whakapapa

Parks Outdoors Trails

Side Trips

Tongariro National Park, Tongariro National Trout Centre
Find places to stay Dec 31 — Jan 2:
Highlights from your plan
Tongariro Alpine Crossing ©
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Taranaki Falls ©
Taranaki Falls
Mount Ruapehu ©
Mount Ruapehu

6
nights
Rotorua

Rotorua ©
Surrounded by lakes and featuring impressive areas of geothermal landscape, the city of Rotorua offers an otherwordly landscape and a welcoming, peaceful environment, with the culture of the native Maori people very much in the foreground.
Get outdoors at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Huka Falls Walkway. You'll discover tucked-away gems like Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Kuirau Park. You'll find plenty of places to visit near Rotorua: Taupo (Adrenaline & Extreme Tours & Souvenir Outlet), Johnson Reserve (in Tauranga) and Mount Maunganui (Mt Maunganui Main Beach & Mount Maunganui Base Track). There's much more to do: take in the natural beauty of Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, look for all kinds of wild species at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park, tour the pleasant surroundings at Blue Lake Track, and learn about winemaking at Volcanic Hills Winery.

To find maps, photos, more things to do, and other tourist information, refer to the Rotorua trip itinerary maker site .

You can drive from Whakapapa to Rotorua in 2.5 hours. January in Rotorua sees daily highs of 74°F and lows of 61°F at night. Finish your sightseeing early on the 8th (Wed) to allow enough time to travel back home.

Things to do in Rotorua

Parks Outdoors Nature

Side Trips

Taupo, Tauranga, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave
Find places to stay Jan 2 — 8:
Highlights from your plan
Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave ©
Mt Maunganui Main Beach ©
Mt Maunganui Main Beach
Waimangu Volcanic Valley ©
Waimangu Volcanic Valley

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