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  • Writer's pictureLauren H

A Month-Long New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

New Zealand in a Month––You’ll Never Want to Return Home



I have created separate blog posts for each section of this tip. They are linked below as well as throughout this post. This post expands on how to put it all together and includes recommended stops on driving days.


I cheated a bit and this itinerary is technically 31 days. If you need a slightly shorter trip feel free to eliminate a day’s itinerary at any of the stops. You could also skip The Bay of Islands stop at the end. If you want to spend just 3 weeks in New Zealand, you could cut off last week on the North Island and just follow the first 3 weeks of road-tripping around the South Island.


My friends and I flew directly into Nelson to start the trip (with a short layover in Auckland). We drove to all of the stops on the South Island and then after finishing in Queenstown we then flew up to Tongariro. From Tongariro, we drove up to Auckland and then to the Bay of Islands area and flew home from the Bay of Islands.


The general strategy for this itinerary is to avoid switching lodging every night or every other night and to have a short-term home bases. This means there are numerous day trips that require additional driving. You could switch that strategy and move overnight lodging more frequently and then avoid as much driving back and forth for day trips. Basically, the day trips in the itinerary below could also become where you stay overnight.


Jump Ahead to Each Section


South Island- (The 1st 3 weeks)


North Island - (The last week)

Turangi (Tongariro)


Jump to individual blog posts in each area:

Turangi (Tongariro)


Day One

Daytime: Explore Nelson and relax at Tahunanui Beach

Overnight in Nelson



Day Two

Daytime: Day Trip to Abel Tasman National Park

Overnight in Nelson



Day Three

Daytime: Day Trip to Wine Taste in the Marlborough Wine Region

Overnight in: Nelson



Day Four

Daytime: Day Trip to Picton and Marlborough Sound

Overnight: Nelson



Day Five

Daytime: Nelson Lakes National Park

Overnight in: Nelson



Day Six

Morning: Drive 4 Hours from Nelson to Hokitika

Stops Along the Way: Zen’s Kitchen, Blueberry Farm Stands

Afternoon: Visit Hokitika Gorge

Evening: Visit Free Glow Worm Cave

Overnight in: Hokitika



On the drive between Nelson and Hokitika stop at Zen’s Kitchen. It was one of our favorite road-stop meals of the trip. It is a permanent food truck/RV that serves vegan local food like toasted muesli, lentil soup, and vegan burgers.


Zen’s Kitchen
Zen’s Kitchen

We also stopped and bought fresh blueberries from a trailer near Ikamatua. Look out for handmade roadside signs for stops with fresh produce. Be sure to have cash handy for buying produce with the honor’s system cash boxes too.



Day Seven

Daytime: Day Trip to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

Overnight in: Hokitika



Day Eight

Daytime: Paparoa National Park (Punakaiki Pancake Rocks) and Rapahoe Beach

Overnight in: Hokitika



Day Nine

Daytime: Drive 5 Hours from Hokitika to Lake Tekapo

Stops Along the Way: Short hike in Arthur’s Pass to Devil’s Punch Bowl, Short Hike at Castle Hill

Overnight in: Lake Tekapo



If you want to add Christchurch on your trip you could easily add it between the Hokitika and Lake Tekapo stops.


Arthur’s Pass and Castle Hill are stops directly along the route between Hokitika and Lake Tekapo, so they are perfect opportunities to get out and stretch your legs.


A short waterfall hike at Arthur's Pass
A short waterfall hike at Arthur's Pass

A Picnic Lunch at Castle Hill
A Picnic Lunch at Castle Hill

Arthur’s Pass has a cafeteria-style restaurant that is an easy stop for snacks or lunch. Look out for Passionfruit Yoyo’s here!


After Castle Hill, Geraldine is a larger town (larger being relative to New Zealand!) along the drive with multiple restaurant options. We stopped at Cafe Verde which has a large outdoor garden area to dine in. They serve fresh, healthy, fast-casual breakfast lunch, and dinner options like avocado toast, vegan bowls, and salads.


Day Ten

Morning: Hike the Mt. John Summit Track

Afternoon: Explore Tekapo’s Sites

Overnight in: Lake Tekapo



Day Eleven

Daytime: Day Trip to Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park

Overnight in: Lake Tekapo



Day Twelve

Daytime: Drive 5 hours from Lake Tekapo to Te Anau

Stops Along the Way: Salmon Feeding, A vineyard-town lunch, and peach or cherry picking

Overnight in: Te Anau



On your way out of town from Lake Tekapo stop at High Country Salmon. You can see and feed the salmon in the pools here. They also serve fresh-caught salmon sushi and sashimi. We bought fresh salmon to take with us to cook ourselves at our next stop. Their salmon was some of the best I have had in my life. It is definitely worth stopping here.


Feeding Salmon at High Country Salmon
Feeding Salmon at High Country Salmon

Along this drive a perfect lunch stop is Bannockburn Hotel. They have gorgeous mountain-view outdoor seating and serve a large wine list as well as salads, cheese boards, and sandwiches.


Lunch Views at the Bannockburn Hotel
Lunch Views at the Bannockburn Hotel

If peaches or cherries are in season, there are many stops along this route for peach picking or cherry picking. Even if you don’t catch a day where you can go picking you can buy fruit, fruit ice cream, jams, and more. We stopped at Cheeki Cherries, but there are many options in the area.


Peaches at Cheeki Cherries
Peaches at Cheeki Cherries

Day Thirteen

Morning: Boat Ride in Milford Sound and Hike Part of the Milford Sound Trek

Evening: Watch a Documentary at Fiordland Cinema

Overnight in: Te Anau


Day Fourteen

Morning: Milford Sound Kayak Tour

Afternoon:Hike to Lake Marion

Evening: Glow Worm Cave Tour

Overnight in: Te Anau



Day Fifteen

Morning: Drive 2 Hours from Te Anau to Queenstown

Afternoon: Queenstown Hill Hike

Overnight in: Queenstown



Day Sixteen

Daytime: Day Trip to Glenorchy

Overnight in: Queenstown



Day Seventeen

Daytime: Day Trip to Arrowtown and Gibbston to wine taste in the Central Otago Vineyards

Overnight in: Queenstown



Day Eighteen

Daytime: Hike Ben Lomond and/or explore the Gondola area

Overnight in: Queenstown



Day Nineteen

Daytime: Explore Queenstown (hike, boat ride, visit hot pools or go canyoning)

Overnight in: Queenstown



Day Twenty

Daytime: Day Trip to Wanaka

Overnight in: Queenstown


Day Twenty-One

Daytime: Day Trip to Mt. Aspiring National Park

Overnight in: Queenstown



North Island


Day Twenty-Two

Daytime: Fly from Queenstown to Taupo and drive 45 minutes to Turangi

Overnight in: Turangi


Day Twenty-Three

Daytime: Hike Tongariro

Overnight in: Turangi


See the post for more details here.


Day Twenty-Four

Daytime: Drive to 4 hours from Turangi to Auckland

Overnight in: Auckland



Day Twenty-Five

Daytime: Rangitoto Island and Auckland

Overnight in: Auckland



Day Twenty-Six

Daytime: Day Trip to Piha Beach

Overnight in: Auckland



Day Twenty-Seven

Daytime: Day trip to Waiheke Island

Overnight in: Auckland



Day Twenty-Eight

Daytime: Day Trip to Coromandel Peninsula

Overnight in: Auckland



Day Twenty-Nine

Morning: Drive 3.5 Hours from Auckland to Paihia in The Bay of Islands

Stops Along the Way: Stop at a beach in Bream Bay like Rukaka Beach (a white sand beach)

Overnight in: Paihia



Day Thirty

Daytime: Ferry to Urupukapuka Island

Overnight in: Paihia



Day Thirty-One

Daytime: Relax or kayak at Paiha’s Main Beach

Evening: Maori Hangi and Concert

Overnight in: Paihia



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