New Zealand: The Perfect 4 Weeks Itinerary
New Zealand is one of the dream destinations, where possibly every traveler wants to visit. Get inspired by our 4 weeks perfect itinerary which covers both, North and South Island. Plan your New Zealand road trip of lifetime and follow our complete itinerary guide.
New Zealand is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world, and although you can find a countless number of beautiful pictures and tips what to see and do, it can be overwhelming to choose your perfect roadtrip itinerary.
We hope that our ultimate guide will help you plan the holiday of a lifetime.
We spent more than a year in New Zealand on working holiday visas, and because the country was one of the destinations we always wanted to visit, we made sure that the holiday part was long enough to thoroughly explore the country which is on almost every traveler bucket list.
Overall, we spent more than six months traveling both, South and North Island, and thanks to our experience, we could share with you most beautiful places you should unquestionably add to your itinerary when planning your perfect New Zealand holiday.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRAVELS IN NEW ZEALAND
As mentioned above, we traveled in New Zealand more than six months and still cannot say we've seen everything.
But what made our travels much easier was having own car and if you consider getting the most out of your visit, do not hesitate to rent a car or campervan, which is by far the most popular option.
Not only you can travel whenever and wherever you want, but also in a campervan, you can save some money on accommodation.
And if it's your first time in New Zealand, you might find useful our post Best Ways How to Travel Around New Zealand.
NEW ZEALAND 4 WEEKS ITINERARY
If you have four weeks in this beautiful country, we can only congratulate you, as you can enjoy the stunning scenery of both New Zealand's islands and don't have to make a compromise which one to visit.
If you would have to choose between North and South Island, we would recommend sticking with the South Island which probably has slightly more to offer - at least for our hiking souls.
To visit such a diverse country as New Zealand in 28 days, you always must to make a compromise anyhow generous four weeks could seem.
If you like hiking, skip some places in North Island and allow yourself more time around Fiordland where you can find exceptional multi-day routes, such as Kepler Track, Routeburn Track or the most famous one, Milford Track.
Just don't forget that you must reserve your spot in huts far in advance.
We created this itinerary to show you the best of New Zealand, however, some of our favorite places did not make it to the list because they are time-consuming.
DAY 1 & 2: AUCKLAND
We know how long and tiring the flight to New Zealand can be, so the day when you arrive is good to have a rest, and although it might be tempting to hit the road immediately, we advise you to slow down and take a walk around the city.
Especially the area around the wharf is pretty.
Pick up your car, prepare yourself mentally for driving on the left side and have a rest in one of Auckland's hotels.
DAY 3: COROMANDEL PENINSULA
Less than three hours drive from Auckland is the Coromandel, peninsula with pristine golden beaches and scenic coastal walks.
If you feel like you need to stretch your legs after a long flight, visit Cathedral Cove located in Hahei via easy walking trek (it takes about one hour and a half return). Cathedral Cove is a stunning rock formation with a beach where you can take a (cold) dip.
Only 10 minutes drive from Hahei is Coromandel's most famous beach, called simply Hot Water Beach. Hot water is bubbling through the sand, and you can dig your private pool here.
The best time to visit is within two hours either side of low tide.
DAY 4: MATAMATA
One of the most touristy places in New Zealand lies on the way to Rotorua.
If Matamata doesn't ring a bell, what about Hobbiton?
You can visit this place only as part of a tour, and although it is quite overpriced, this is one of those destinations where you must turn a blind eye. Accommodation is a bit pricey, but it is a toll of being in such a famous area.
DAY 5: ROTORUA
You can smell that you are near the city of Rotorua, known for the geothermal activity and geysers and hot mud pools. The rotten-eggs-sulphur smell isn't somehow pleasant, but you will use to it after some time.
Visiting Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a must but don't skip geysers in the area as well.
In the evening, you can learn more about Maori culture.
DAY 6: WAITOMO CAVES
Waitomo Caves are special because of glowworms deep inside. Take a tour to get in it is a great experience - you cannot wander inside on your own.
First, you will walk in the complex of caves, and then you take a boat, and in complete darkness and silence, you will float in the labyrinth, and observe glowing worms everywhere around. If this doesn't sound like fun to you, you can go for adventurous rafting or caving.
Here is our full post about visiting Waitomo Caves.
DAY 7 & 8: TONGARIRO CROSSING
The most famous one day hike on North Island is one of those things to do you can't miss.
The trek belongs among New Zealand's Great Walks, and it will take you through spectacular scenery featuring chiefly three volcanoes Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. You most likely know this place as Mordor from the cult movie Lord of the Rings.
If you want to spend more time in Tongariro National Park, we strongly encourage you to do the three-days full loop called Tongariro Northern Circuit.
If you decided to stick with one day option, the next day after 8 hours walking, you can relax a bit on the bank of Lake Taupo and then drive to get closer to Mount Taranaki National Park.
DAY 9: MOUNT TARANAKI
A four hours scenic drive from Taupo will take you to the western tip of New Zealand and to the Taranaki National Park.
This destination has been overlooked by international travelers for some time, but since it was in 2017 featured in Lonely Planet as one of the must-visit destinations, you better hurry.
You can choose from multiple hikes, but probably the nicest one, if you have just one day, is Mount Taranaki’s Pouakai Crossing.
DAY 10: MARTINBOROUGH
Do you want to try one of the best wines produced in New Zealand? Although there are more areas in New Zealand (such as Marlborough on South Island), Martinborough is the right place where you can relax over a glass of wine or cycle around the countryside. And why we chose Martinborough among others?
We lived here for three months and worked on vineyard Ata Rangi - a family-run sustainable vineyard, so we know that this place is great.
In mid-November, when the wine and food festival Toast Martinborough is in full swing, book accommodation in advance.
DAY 11 & 12: WELLINGTON
You made it to New Zealand's capital, Wellington.
We liked Wellington as it doesn't have the busy feeling as other capitals around the world.
Take a walk around the waterfront, climb up Mount Victoria for better views, visit a perfect museum Te Papa (for free), or take a tour to explore New Zealand Parliament Buildings.
DAY 13: FERRY FROM WELLINGTON TO PICTON
Here you are leaving North Island.
Take a ferry from Wellington to the small town of Picton. Go to the observation deck, especially when you are coming closer to the shore of South Island because the scenery when floating through Marlborough Sounds is stunning.
If you are looking for something to do after arriving in Picton, you can try swimming with wild dolphins here.
DAY 14 & 15: ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Before hitting the road to the mountains, drive to Abel Tasman National Park, the coastal gem and holiday destination of New Zealand.
Here you can explore the park either on foot (you can walk part of Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of the New Zealand's Great Walks) or you can kayak along the coast or do the combination of both.
On the way back you can stop at Rabbit Island for a while or visit Nelson.
The northern part of New Zealand’s South Island is truly beautiful, and you can also consider hiking another amazing multi-day trek, Queen Charlotte Track featuring spectacular views of Marlborough Sounds.
DAY 16: DRIVE ALONG THE WEST COAST - PANCAKE ROCKS
From Abel Tasman, head along the West Coast slowly to Glaciers.
Along the way, make a worthwhile stop at Punakaiki alias Pancake Rocks, spectacular limestone formations. There are many spectacular views, small waterfalls or beaches where you can stop for a rest.
Also, keep this day as a backup day, it can rain a lot on the West Coast of New Zealand (we waited entire week for the rain to cease).
DAY 17 & 18: FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER & FOX GLACIER & LAKE MATHESON
The west coast of New Zealand is home to the most famous glaciers of the country.
You can either take a walk to Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier (both glaciers are unfortunately receding quickly), or you can take by far the most popular option (and also the most expensive one) heli-hiking when you can admire glaciers from above and then experience how is it to walk on the glacier.
Only a few minutes drive from Fox Glacier is Lake Matheson. Take a leisure stroll around, and if the weather allows, you can get the perfect view of Mount Cook reflecting in the lake.
Where To Stay In FRANZ JOSEF
Budget: Franz Josef Montrose Hostel Lodge | Mid-range: Lake Matheson Motel | Luxury: Distinction Fox Glacier - Te Weheka Boutique Hotel
DAY 19 & 20: WANAKA & QUEENSTOWN
Queenstown and Wanaka are the backpacker capitals of New Zealand. The stunning setting of both towns on the shore of picturesque lakes, Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hawea encourage all visitors to spend here more time than they originally planned.
You can do hiking around both towns or try bungee-jumping, paragliding or other adrenaline activities. We usually used both towns as a base to further explore mountains around, for example, the Mount Aspiring National Park (Liverpool Hut) or Greenstone Caples Track.
DAY 21 & 22: MILFORD SOUND
From Queenstown, drive to Te Anau via a scenic Crown Range Road. The Fiordland is one of the most stunning and diverse areas we've seen in New Zealand and to squeeze everything that the place has to offer in a few days is unfortunately impossible.
You can make the most of your visit by taking a boat tour to cruise around the fjords. It rains a lot in Fiordland, but only in this weather, you can appreciate the most the newly appeared cascades and waterfalls all around you.
Near Milford Sound and Te Anau start three out of our five most favorite hikes in New Zealand. If you decide to stay in the area longer, we highly recommend checking out the Milford Track, one of the most beautiful hikes in the world or the Kepler Track and Routeburn Track. For every single one, you need at least three days and make a reservation ahead.
DAY 23 & 24 & 25 MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
Spare one day for the drive from Te Anau to Mount Cook National Park.
The drive itself is more than pleasant, and you won't regret having more time when driving along Lake Pukaki where you also can swim, but be aware that the water is freezing.
When you arrive at the national park named after New Zealand's highest peak, you have several options for how to spend your time. We would recommend doing two easy walks in one day - Hooker Valley and Tasman Lake.
The other day, try to reserve a night in Mueller Hut.
A rewarding climb to the hut offers beautiful views, and then you can listen to ice cracks, watch the clear night sky and in the morning wake up above clouds.
DAY 26 & 27: LAKE TEKAPO
Another place in New Zealand, where we worked in a hotel, this time for five months. Apart from the beautiful Tekapo Lake, here you'll find the photogenic The Church of the Good Shepherd, we are sure you've seen this church long before your visit.
We’ve included Lake Tekapo among 16 Most Beautiful Lakes in New Zealand if you’re still not convinced.
Also, if you want to observe the night sky and stars, Lake Tekapo is one of the best spots in New Zealand where to do it because of the lack of pollutions. Another option is to walk an easy John Summit Circuit Track where you can see the real New Zealand's countryside, green hills and sheep everywhere you look.
We won't recommend you here the hotel where we worked, because it was a crappy one, instead, choose the one you like.
DAY 28: CHRISTCHURCH
Before your flight, walk around Christchurch, the city, unfortunately, destroyed many times by earthquakes, or if you don't have enough of New Zealand's scenery (and we don't blame you), you can spend an afternoon on Banks Peninsula.
Spend your last night in New Zealand in Jailhouse Accommodation, a highly-rated hostel whose building was used as a jail until 1999.
BASIC PACKING LIST FOR HIKING IN NEW ZEALAND
Traveling around New Zealand has some specifics when it comes to packing - because of the ever-changing weather, especially in the mountains, you always must be ready.
Still, there are some essential things you should always on your trip.
Hiking Boots for Him & for Her | Trails in New Zealand are well-maintained, but muddy, and we would not recommend you to hike in anything else, but quality, waterproof, and broken hiking shoes with sturdy soles are essential to enjoy the trek.
Camera | The land of Lord of the Rings is so photogenic that carrying a good camera will really pay off.
Bug Repellent | Sandflies are the most annoying bugs, and altogether with mosquitos can make your day painful. Bring bug repellent with deet.
Hiking Poles | Not sure if you have used hiking poles before, but we found them essential, especially when doing challenging treks almost every other day in New Zealand. If you have knee problems, hiking poles should be no brainer, when fit, hiking poles help you to keep pace.
GPS Watch | Smartwatch has been very trendy lately, and you can find it useful for outdoor activities.
We've also created an in-depth Ultimate New Zealand Packing List where you can find more information and useful tips.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!