New Zealand 16 Night Itinerary

Lake Wanaka

(The above photo was taken of Lake Wanaka early in the morning as we drove towards the Rob Roy Glacier).

We had 16 nights in New Zealand and this is a summary of the route we took:

Auckland (1 night)
Rotorua (2 nights)
Napier (1 night)
Wellington (2 nights)
Christchurch (1 night)
Fairlie (1 night)
Wanaka (2 nights)
Te Anau (2 nights)
Queenstown (4 nights)

We started planning our itinerary about 3 months in advance and managed to find some $1 bus tickets which bus companies tend to offer when they start releasing tickets. We had 3 bus journeys in New Zealand’s North Island and travelled from Auckland to Rotorua, from Rotorua to Napier and from Napier to Wellington with Naked Bus. The total paid for both of us for all three journeys including luggage and booking fees was NZ$87 (around £40). The buses left on time on each occasion and were fairly comfortable although none had wifi.

You can travel between North and South islands by either ferry or plane. We chose to fly as we were visiting both islands in just over 2 weeks so did this to save time. We flew with Jetstar from Wellington to Christchurch which took about 45 minutes. The transition through both Wellington and Christchurch airports was fast and efficient with no queues, fast baggage collection and was an easy stress free experience.

We hired a car in Christchurch and then spent 10 days exploring South Island which also included a day trip to Akaroa. These transport options worked well for us. As mentioned in the Auckland post it is impossible to see everything in 2 weeks so we chose a selection of some of the highlights of NZ. As part of our round-the-world trip we are also on a budget so the buses were a good option in North Island for us.

We stayed in a selection of motels, budget hotels and hostels. All were of a high standard and the prices averaged around NZ$130 (£60) per room per night. We found most of these on We pre-booked our accommodation which may be advised for travelling in the summer as we found most of the accommodations were fully booked. We also found that pre-booking gave us the opportunity to check reviews and ratings in advance (e.g. on and TripAdvisor).

Most accommodations had fridge and cooking facilities so we were able to eat for a reasonable cost. The exchange rate between the NZ dollar and UK pound is currently in our favour so lunches out were around NZ$10 (less than £5) and an evening meal for two with wine was around £35. Sometimes we brought food from a supermarket and prepared this ourselves rather than eating out which helped with our budget.

Washing our clothes was easy as all accommodations had washers and dryers that we could use. We haven’t ironed anything we purposely took ‘non iron’ clothes with us.


We drove along the ‘Inland Scenic Route’ driving from Christchurch to Fairlie. We stopped at the coffee shop and store (above) at Staveley which served one of the most delicious slices of carrot cake we’ve ever had. We later discovered this place is no. 1 of 32 restaurants in the area on Trip Advisor…


We noticed a sign to Sharplin Falls nearby so we drove along for 10 minutes or so, parked the car and decided to have a look. The scenery was lovely as we made our way along the hiking track towards the Falls. The walk was to take 45 minutes but after around 20 minutes we found the rest of the track had been closed due to boulders falling! Never mind… we went back to the car and continued towards Fairlie.

Fairlie was a small farming village but had a small number of cafes, shops and restaurants so great for a stop-over between Christchurch and Wanaka.

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Lake Tekapo (above) was incredibly blue. This is due to ‘rock flour’ which is minute particles of rock ground from glaciers high above. We drove to the top of Mount John to take this photo. From Tekapo village this only takes 10 minutes or so and costs $5. The road is steep and twisty but has tarmac to the top and a cafe.


Lake Pukaki (above) is just past Lake Tekapo and also incredibly blue…


We stopped at a pull-over place along the road to swap drivers and just happened to come across a large patch of wild lupins (above)!


We stayed in Wanaka (Lake Wanaka above) for a couple of nights which was lovely. A small row of cafes and restaurants lined the lake front and it reminded us of an Italian lakeside town. It was from Wanaka we did the Rob Roy Glacier trek.


Above is the first view you see of Queenstown (top left) as you drive south along the Wanaka to Queenstown road (through Cardrona).


Another pit stop at Arrowtown (above) not far from Queenstown. We stopped here for petrol and decided on another coffee and cake, this time stumbling across a lovely small town with a gold rush past. With its timber cafes and shops Arrowtown still has a gold rush feel.


We stayed for two nights in Te Anau which was another lovely lakeside town. Again it had a good selection of shops, cafes and bars in a picturesque mountain setting. The above picture was taken on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Te Anau is well worth a stop-over in NZ’s fiordland national park.


We ended our NZ adventure in Queenstown (above). After nearly 2 weeks of travelling through both North and South islands we relaxed a bit in Queenstown, spending the last 4 days having leisurely strolls through the lively bustling streets and park. We also drove around Lake Wakatipu (above) to Glenorchy.


Of course there are a number of itineraries for visiting New Zealand and many wonderful places we didn’t see. For a 3 week North to South Island itinerary you may wish to add Bay of Islands (north of Auckland) at the beginning, take the ferry from Wellington to Picton and visit the Franz Josef Glacier before driving perhaps to Wanaka.

Our 16 day itinerary worked well for us and we felt we spent about the right amount of time in each place to enable us to get a fantastic overview of some of the best of New Zealand. We hope this may be of assistance to anyone reading our blog who may be planning a New Zealand trip. Please feel free to share our blog site, ask questions or add comments by clicking on the blog post title (which also applies to any of our blog postings).




  1. Auckland to Rotorua to Napier to Wellington with Naked Bus and without any delays is quite impressive. Every time I travelled with Naked Bus something went wrong.


      1. Yes, Naked Bus and Jetstar are both businesses that allow you to get where you want to be for a cheap price but at the cost of the kind of amazing service you can potentially get from other people.


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