My New Zealand Road Trip

I’ve talked about it off and on, and guys, it’s finally almost here…eeek!

After snuggling up for fall and winter in New Zealand, a drunk lady totaling my car last month, and successfully scraping the money together to buy a new one just in time, my summer New Zealand road trip is just around the corner.

I wanted to give an outline of all the spots I’ll driving around in New Zealand for the next couple of weeks just in case some really awesome recommendations come my way of any hidden gems to see (hint hint). 


I’ll be hitting the road with one of my best friends from back home, by the name of Kelsey, and I couldn’t be more excited to see more of this crazy beautiful country. If you look back on my posts from Australia, you’ll see her name pop up a few times from last year’s shenanigans when she came to visit me before I took off for Asia.

Here it is, my road trip around New Zealand. I’ve planned it from scratch starting 8 months ago, the dates are semi-flexible, taking into account the need to book for certain activities/accommodations in the high tourist season over here.

I have to say, it’s great to finally see it all coming together.

Note: if you’re looking for a great way to road trip around this country in comfort, check out this detailed guide on traveling New Zealand in a campervan. If you are looking for more information on New Zealand check out this two week New Zealand itinerary

Related: How to Easily Get a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa as an American

December 28th • Coromandel Peninsula: Cathedral Cove & Hot Water Beach

We were originally planning on exploring the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves for the first length of our trip, but discovered the hard way just how quickly popular activities fill up in New Zealand during the summer. So, we switched our trip around and decided to make the long journey up to the Coromandel Peninsula instead – one of the most beautiful North Island road trip stops in New Zealand.

We’ll be leaving in the wee hours of the morning (does anyone else love starting a road trip when it’s still dark out?) to make the 8 hour drive to one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand.

The Coromandel Peninsula boasts the jewels Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. Cathedral Cove is one of those picturesque beaches that shows up constantly on Pinterest, and for good reason, it’s gorgeous. It’s an iconic spot in New Zealand and I’m looking forward to finally seeing it in person.

Hot water Beach just sounds plain awesome. Due to the underground hot springs that are buried underneath the sand, you can create your own personal spa on the beach with a little digging.

Coromandel Peninsula
Coromandel Peninsula. Phot Cred: Travel Photo Adventures
Cathedral Cove. Photo Cred:
Cathedral Cove. Photo Cred: Sea Kayak Tours
Hot water beach
Hot Water Beach. Photo Cred: NZ Hot Pools

December 29th-30th • Rotorua

There’s a lot to see and do in Rotorua. From it’s geothermal character with sulfur smell abound, to it’s deep-rooted Maori culture, and the place where zorbing was invented, I think we’ll be spoiled for choice with what to do for our two days there.

Rotorua. Photo Cred: My Destination
Zorbing. Photo Cred: Road Trippers

We’ll also be taking a little detour to explore Hobbiton in Matamata. HOBBITS!

Hobbiton. Photo Cred: Tang Chang

December 31st • Wellington

We’ll be heading back down to Wellington for New Year’s Eve. I’ve been told the city pretty much vacates after Christmas, but I figured it would be the most cost effective solution to have a place to stay on New Year’s Eve as I already have my own apartment, and all of my Kiwi friends should be in Welly on the last day of 2014, including my boyfriend.

Wellington. Photo Cred: Wellington NZ

January 1st-2nd • Nelson

Me, Kelsey, and my boyfriend, Kendall, will be heading out on the afternoon ferry from Wellington to Picton on New Year’s Day. We’ll make the short drive from Picton to Nelson, and have a couple of days to explore a place I’ve heard has the best sunsets in New Zealand.

It’s also where Kendall grew up, so I’ll be looking forward to exploring my boyfriend’s hometown, and to see the hidden local spots.

Nelson. Photo Cred: Northern Xposed

January 3rd-5th • Abel Tasman

Kelsey and I will be venturing off on our own again for the remainder of the trip, starting with our first multi-day hike on the coastal track in Abel Tasman.

3 days in the wilderness with only our backpacks and breathtaking scenery in front of us. I’m actually really looking forward to unwinding in nature and relaxing for a few days to break up our whirlwind trip.

Especially after spending the majority of my time living in a city since I’ve been in New Zealand, I know the best parts of the country are waiting for me in places a bit more untouched.

abel tasman
Abel Tasman. Photo Cred: Experience Kaiteriteri

January 6th • Punakaiki Rocks, Hokitika Beach, Franz Josef Glacier

We’ll be driving by Punakaiki Rocks (also known as the Pancake Rocks due to their appearance) and Hokitika Beach from Abel Tasman, and spending the night around Franz Josef Glacier. We’re still undecided if we’ll be doing any glacier hiking, but we’ll definitely be spending some time exploring and walking around the area, if not actually picking up an ice axe and tackling the glacier.

Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks. Photo Cred: Wikipedia
Hokitika Beach. Photo Cred: The Big Idea
Franz Josef
Franz Josef Glacier. Photo Cred: Wandering Justin

January 7th-9th • Wanaka, Queenstown

We’ll be driving through Wanaka on our way to Queenstown, and I look forward to spending an afternoon in the quiet town that I’ve heard so many good things about.

Queenstown will be another animal all together. It’s the place to party in the South Island, and has so many adrenaline activities to choose from, it will be, well, hard to choose. There’s white water rafting, skydiving,  bungy jumping, flyboarding, the Shotover Jet and Canyon Swing, and even luging to consider.

Only time, and our budget, will reveal what we end up doing with our few days there. In any case, it will be a good chance to jump outside of our comfort zones and experience all that is the adventure capital.

Oh, and we’ll also make sure to stop by Fergburger, which holds the title for the best burgers in New Zealand. If there’s one quirk I’ve learned since living in New Zealand, it’s that Kiwis know how to make ridiculously tasty burgers.

Wanaka. Photo Cred: Travel All Together
Queenstown. Photo Cred: Holidays Queenstown
Queenstown Luge. Photo Cred: Skyline

January 10th • Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of those magical places that brings a sense of calm (and most likely rain) to your sense of wellbeing. We’ll be taking a cruise around the sound, and getting up close and personal with some majestic waterfalls.

Milford Sound
Milford Sound. Photo Cred: Reddit

January 11th • Arrowtown, Lake Tekapo

Arrowtown looks like another one of those picture perfect places in New Zealand that has foliage to make any photo look good. We’ll be stopping in for lunch here on our way to Lake Tekapo to take in the stunning landscape.

I’ve been looking forward to Lake Tekapo since seeing pictures of the lake during lupin season. We’ll be staying the night in the area so we can hopefully catch the sunrise over the lake the next morning, and maybe we’ll even catch some lupins in bloom.

Arrowtown autumn
Arrowtown. Photo Cred: Claire Takacks
Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo. Photo Cred:

January 12th-14th • Christchurch & Akaroa

I’m not sure what to expect with Christchurch. It’s the second largest city in New Zealand, but recently went through a traumatic earthquake that left a lot of loss in its wake. Regardless, Christchurch looks like an intriguing city with a lot of history and monuments to fill up our days.

I’ve been told by a few different people to check out Akaroa as a day trip from Christchurch. I googled it, and although I don’t know much about the place, the turquoise water sold me. I’m planning on just winging it and seeing what we discover there, it’s guaranteed to be a beautiful place to explore, which is good enough for me.

Christchurch. Photo Cred: Hot Trip
Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, South Island, Neuseeland
Akaroa. Photo Cred: inzumi

January 15th • Kaikoura

The place to see baby seals, swim with dolphins, and go whale watching, or so I’ve been told. Is it embarrassing to admit that I’m actually most excited to go to a local llama farm while I’m there? Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to check out the sea animals as well…but llamas, so cool.

Kaikoura. Photo Cred: andamare

January 16th-17th • Blenheim

Kelsey has another friend named Kelsey who works on vineyards around the world. She just happens to be located in Blenheim, New Zealand at the moment, and we’ve somehow lucked out with our accommodation and a personal wine tour through the world-renonwned Marlborough vineyards.

Blenheim. Photo Cred: Green Gables Bed and Breakfast

January 18th • Wellington 

Sadly all good things come to an end, and our last day of the trip will be spent on an early ferry from Picton to Wellington. It’s also Kelsey’s last day in New Zealand so I’ll be taking her out for a delicious meal on Cuba Street in Wellington before we say our goodbyes.

Bluebridge Ferry Wellington
Bluebridge Ferry. Photo Credit:

What do you think of my New Zealand itinerary? Is there anything major I’m missing?

Mimi McFadden
Find Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *