Have you ever dreamt of seeing New Zealand, but decided not to go, since you simply didn’t have ”enough time” to see it all?
Truth is, you don’t need to be a teenager with a one-year working-holiday-visa to see the beauty of the islands. All you need is to have a driver’s license and 10 days to spare. But make sure you leave your lazy bone companions at home.
Day 1-4 Glenorchy -> Queenstown -> Oamaru -> Christchurch
Most international flights take you to Auckland, so hop on the next domestic flight to Queenstown. The southwesternmost city on the South Island offers beautiful natural scenery with picturesque mountains, fiords and of course that Wanaka tree.
Start by renting a car (or camper) at Queenstown airport. It will give you the absolute freedom to see the mystery of the landscape as you please. Glenorchy is a small village just northwest of Queenstown, most known from certain scenes from Lord of the Rings, but also a great destination for adventurous souls, as kayaking, jet boating and skydiving is offered in the most beautiful surroundings.
The east coast of the South Island does not offer as magic scenery as Glenorchy and Wanaka, but it is definitely worth experiencing, especially if you’re a fan of penguins! Oamaru has two beautiful penguin colonies, the small Blue Penguins located the harbor and their big, Yellow-Eyed relatives on nearby Katiki Point.
Having seen one of the most beautiful sceneries on the planet, arriving in Christchurch at the end of this South Island adventure will give you quit the chock. The city was totally devastated in an earthquake, and is still a ghost town. However, it’s a convenient way of island-hopping as it offers plenty of connections to the North Island. Plus, it’s an easy town to drop off a one-way rental.
Day 4-5 Wellington
Wellington is probably the antithesis to Chistchurch. It’s a compact capital with a certain English feel to it. It’s extremely convenient as the city center is extremely compact and walkable. The cable car will take you to all levels of the city, so don’t miss this charming opportunity to learn more about the city and it’s history. If you’re interested in the latter, don’t miss Te Papa, an impressive museum complex offering exhibitions on all kinds of topics, everything from earthquakes to Maori culture.
Day 6-8 Rotorua -> Hobbiton
Depending on your budget, there are several ways of getting around the north island. If you value your time, a smart idea would be to fly directly from Wellington to Rotorua and rent your car there to get around the area. A cheaper option is however another one-way rental, this time from Wellington to Auckland. The benefit? Even more beautiful sights on the way.
Rotorua is a fascinating place, centrally located on the North Island. The entire village is built over hot springs and there is an incredible geothermal activity all over the village. It is also an amazing place to get familiar with the indigenous peoples of New Zealand as the Maori who still live around the hot springs invite you around their villages. You will learn about Maori history, see amazing cultural performances and also get to know how it is to live in a place where you can take a nice 40C bath and boil your vegetables in your garden.
Don’t miss the opportunity to have a bath in a hot spring yourself. Kerosene Creek offers year-round bathing just minutes south of Rotorua. You will get there by taking a left to an extremely unpaved road with giant holes. But it’s worth it.
Between Rotorua and Auckland, you will find another fascinating place. Hobbiton! Famous for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, this spectacular movie set will intrigue everyone, even somebody like myself that hasn’t seen the original movie. Get to know how you would live, had you been a Hobbit!
Day 9-10 Auckland
Auckland, the biggest city of New Zealand and the only true metropolis of the country. Extremely easy and convenient, don’t miss to stroll around the Domain, Auckland Harbour, Cornwall park or why not take the lift to the Sky Tower on a sunshiny day?
New Zealand is home to many amazing species. If you weren’t able to see native birds on the island on your 10 day stay – such as Emu’s, Kiwi’s or Kea’s – a stop by Auckland Zoo is a golden opportunity to catch up with all of the above and maybe squeeze in a really touristy selfie.