Wondering how to spend 10 Days in New Zealand ?
10 days in New Zealand will give you the opportunity to see what this special country has to offer!
It’s truly a spectacular place, with magnificent sites, a rich culture, delicious food, and VERY friendly Kiwis!
Here are the details for 10 days in New Zealand. Let the funventures begin!
New Zealand 10 Day Itinerary
1. Auckland & Waiheke Island – North Island
2. Waitomo & Matamata – North Island
3. Hobbiton & Rotorua – North Island
4. Rotorua – North Island
5. Queenstown – South Island
6. Milford Sound – South Island
7. Wanaka – South Island
8. Minaret Burn Track – South Island
9. Dunedin – South Island
10. Auckland – North Island
Is 10 days enough in New Zealand?
Yes! This 10 day itnierary allows you to see the best attractions in both the North Island and the South Island.
Obviously, more time in New Zealand is always better, but this 10 day itinerary lets you explore the main attractions and some hidden gems while allowing for travel days on either end.
New Zealand is an adventurers paradise! You’ll find breathtaking views, dramatic mountains, gorgeous coastlines, and historic culture at every turn.
Day #1 Auckland
Fly into Auckland Airport on the North Island.
Hotel Parnell – Check in to this basic and suitable hotel. They’ll schedule a taxi pick up from the airport. Prices start at $89 p/night.
Take a shower, grab some food and venture out to explore the city of Auckland and the lovely islands just off shore. This is your jetlag day, so it’s an easy one!
First stop, the Mt. Eden Volcano site. Auckland’s highest volcano spot with stunning views of the whole city and harbor. Inactive, of course, the volcano area is filled with grass and looks like a big abandoned crater.
Next, take the ferry ride from Auckland Ferry Terminal to Waiheke Island.
A 40 minute ride to a beautiful small island with a lovely beach, walking trails, shops, and restaurants.
Easy to stroll, wander, and not feel pressured or too busy, just in case you do get a wave of jet lag!
Later, dine at the Devonport Bayside Village area with loads of cafes and pubs.
Day #2 Waitomo & Matamata
Pick up the rental car you reserved from the downtown Auckland Hertz.
Road trip for 2.5 hours through green rolling hills covered in sheep to the Waitomo Caves.
Reserve the combination 2 hour tour of the Ruakuri Cave and the Glowworm Cave. $89 per person. Not cheap, but completely worth it!
You are guided through folding shawls of limestone formations and crystal tapestries. It’s quite magical.
Enjoy the special Cathedral Cave which feels like a giant Gaudi church dripping with limestone. You may even hear your guide sing an ancient Mãori folk song!
What to know about Glowworms
Glow worms live in these vast caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Part 2 of the tour takes you through an adjacent cave with water pathways. In the pitch-black bottom of the cave, you climb into a boat.
The guide, a Mãori descendent of the chief who originally explored the caves, stands in the boat and pushes off the sides of the cave to keep the boat moving through.
In complete silence, you are surrounded by ceilings and walls of glowworms.
Stay the night in Waitomo. The haunted, old Waitomo Hotel we stayed at has closed, last I heard, so find some options below.
Road Trip to Matamata
You can eat at a local spot before driving just over an hour to Matamata.
Stop in at the Otorohanga Kiwi House along the way to catch a glimpse of the famous Kiwi Bird.
Kiwi are nocturnal, so their habitat is indoors and in the dark. Not easy to see, but you can say you saw a Kiwi bird!
Spend the night at one of the many choices for lodging in Matamata, near Hobbiton.
Day #3 Hobbiton & Rotorua
Have your Hobbiton reservation scheduled for the morning. You’ll park in the Visitors Center Lot and will be picked up by bus and taken to Hobbiton.
The Hobbiton Tour is totally worth it. You’ll want to reserve and purchase your tickets in advance. You can use the Hobbiton website directly, or here. It’s very popular!
You’ll run on the paths, enter a Hobbit Hole, take photos by the party tree, drink beer at the Green Dragon, and hear all the marvelous stories of how the films were made.
It’s a total tourist trap and we loved it!
Is Zorbing worth it?
Next, you have a one hour drive to the original Zorbing site, called ZORB Rotorua.
OK, maybe a ridiculous amount of money for such a silly thing ($40 per person for a single ride with discounts for multiple rides.)
However, I guarantee you have never laughed this hard in your life!
Jump into a giant ball with splashing water and roll down a hill, spinning and tossing around for a few minutes.
The whole adventure lasts about 30 minutes. And then you get to sit in a hot tub for as long as you like!
Rotorua – the home of Manaakitia
Manaakitia means hospitality, and that is what you’ll find here.
Rotorua is one of the most memorable and wonderful spots in NZ! Plan on two nights there because there is so much to do.
Be prepared for the odor of this city. You may find it a little offensive.
Sulfur permeates the air because the city is built on bubbling mud pools and geothermal activity.
Everywhere you go, find another bubbling spot, emerging from the earth, reminding you that the land is active, and alive.
Rotorua is steeped deeply in ancient and current Mãori culture. You’ll get a feel for how nurturing of each other, and of the land, the people are.
The Sudima Hotel – Stay here for 2 nights on the banks of Lake Rotorua. There is an onsite restaurant and its next to the Polynesian Spa. Prices start at $82 p/night.
The steaming Lake Rotorua is difficult to describe because the activity, color, and atmosphere create a haunting, while also calming, experience.
On your first evening, get reservations at the Polynesian Spa, across the street from the hotel. Soak in a private outdoor tub of natural hot springs, in the dark, sipping water, and relaxing overlooking the lake. Healing and decadent.
Day #4 Explore Rotorua
Tour the Whakarewarewa Village, a living Mãori Village. The village tour is an absolute MUST SEE. The Tuhourangi-Ngati Wahiao people have lived and worked in this village for centuries.
The town is built surrounding the mud pools and boiling mineral springs, right next to the erupting geyser.
We ate corn cooked in the geothermal community cooking pool and saw traditional dance, singing, and of course, the “almighty HAKA.” BIG highlight of the trip.
View the Pohutu and Prince of Wales Geysers, two of New Zealand’s most famous and active geysers!
Visit the Agrodome Farm
Just 10 minutes from Rotorua center is Agrodome Farm. It’s a 350 acre working sheep farm.
Watch the sheep performance, visit the alpacas and cows, and of course, the café!
Buy sheep and possum yarn and head back to town for dinner and bed.
Day #5 Head to the South Island – Queenstown
Drop the car off at the Rotorua Airport and fly ( we connected through Wellington) to Queenstown on the South Island where you will pick up another car at the airport at Hertz.
Stay at the Rydges Lakeland Resort, right on the bank of the lake, with a balcony in the room and free parking! Time for lunch in the very charming town with a little wild west, meets outdoor activity hub.
Shotover Jet – A must do activity!
Next stop the Shotover Jet that has “thrilled over 3 million people since 1965!” These are speed boats, driven for thrill rides in the Shotover River Canyons.
The boats speed up to 85kph in as little as 10cm of water. The highly trained drivers do 360 degree turns, nearly crash into cliff sides, and completely take your breath away, in a good way!
It’s not cheap but it’s an authentic New Zealand adventure not to be missed!
Kawarua Bridge – The OG Bungy Jump Bridge
Queenstown is also the home of the famous skydiving trips and the original bungy jumping bridge.
The Kawarua Bridge is the world’s first commercial bungy jumping site, established in 1988.
The lodge is booming with people, loud music, and a ski resort vibe.
There are no waivers to sign, no high tech devices, no big fanfare, just people diving off a 141 foot bridge and bouncing up and down until they get scooped up by in a boat below.
You can zipline and bungy jump if skydiving is not your thing!
Back in town, dine at the famous Fergburger, where you wait in line for an hour to get any kind of New Zealand beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, or steak burger, or a falafel pattie named Bun Laden on a gluten free bun!
Day #6 Milford Sound –
A World Heritage Site
Plan your Milford Sound Tour in advance. The bus will pick you up in town and take you on the four hour bus ride from Queenstown through a rain forest. The bus stops in a quaint town for snacks and bathroom breaks and again in the forest to introduce you to the rare Kea birds.
The Kea Bird, a nationally endangered species, is of the parrot family and lives only in this alpine, rain forest, region on the South Island. One bird will distract the human while the other one steals the human’s food!
The Milford Sound Cruise
In Milford Sound, board a boat cruise through the fjords.
Milford Sound is a World Heritage site, known for its spectacular waterfalls and breathtaking scenery.
Sitting inside the very large dining cabin with tables and chairs is warm and dry, but also a bit wavy.
Standing outside is gorgeous and fun, but also intense because of wind and water!
I promise you will take a great nap on the busride back to Queenstown.
Day #7 Is Wanaka worth going to?
Drive one hour to Wanaka. Stay at the charming, yet funky, Wanaka Hotel.
Explore the lake in search of the famous Wanaka Tree, “The Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka.” You’ll find the backdrop of the Mount Aspiring National Park picture perfect.
After relaxing by the beach, head to the Cinema Paradiso!
It is a classic and tiny old theater, filled with cozy couches and chairs, and even an antique Morris Minor car!
They serve food and freshly baked cookies, drinks, and homemade ice cream. This place is a New Zealand treasure. Definitely go!
Day #8 Hike the Minaret Burn Track
Venture out to the Minaret Burn Track along the western shore of Lake Wanaka.
Its a 12 mile out and back trail, well groomed by a cattle flat. parking at the head of the trail is easy. Go as far as you like before heading back to your car.
This is a lovely and picturesque hike with beautiful views of the mountains and lots of cows!
The Wanaka Lavender Farm
Afterwards, stop at the Wanaka Lavender Farm. A few minutes outside of Wanaka is a 20 acre lavendder and honey farm
A sweet café serves you lavender tea and lavender cookies. And talk about photo ops!
Drive the 3 hours to Dunedin at the tip of the South Island.
Dunedin is a university city, on the Pacific Ocean, with plenty of lodging and dining choices.
What is the best month to visit
My advice has to do with airline ticket prices and time of year.
The Longest Day in New Zealand is December 22. It’s a beautiful summer during the winter solstice. However, the ticket prices in December double!
Spend 10 days in New Zealand in November, just BEFORE the longest day in New Zealand! While November is still a bit damp and chilly, there can be plenty of nice weather and no crowds.
Feel free to experience the longest day in New Zealand on the gorgeous beaches, but for half the price, November weather is great!
How much does a trip to
New Zealand cost?
New Zealand is overall relatively inexpensive when it comes to food, lodging, and domestic transportation.
The pricy parts of the trip are the activities/excursions. While there are plenty of free things to do, New Zealand is all about adventure, and adventures cost money.
Reserve ahead, look for discounts, and pay in the months and weeks before you go to spread out the expenses.
How to travel around New Zealand
This 10 day itinerary in New Zealand recommends:
~ Flying in and out of Auckland on the North Island.
~ Renting a car in Auckland for the North Island excursions.
~ Flying to the South Island from Rotorua to Queenstown.
~ Renting a car in Queenstown for the South Island excursions (excpet for the tour bus to Milford Sound)
~ Flying back to Auckland from Dunedin.
In New Zealand you will drive on the Right side of the car, but Left side of the road.
Just like in the UK. If you aren’t used to this, don’t freak out. You can do it! Once you get the hang of where the blinkers are vs the windshield wipers, you’re good to go!
The roads are simple to navigate and practically empty. Really, there is so little traffic there!
Important New Zealand Travel Advice
~ What to pack? For 10 days in New Zealand, all you need are exercise leggings, hiking shoes, jacket layers for rain, and a bathing suit. It’s a casual country and you will be active and outdoors most of the time.
~ Pay now, Play later! Make as many reservations as you can prior to your trip. A NZ adventure has a lot of moving parts so you’ll want to be organized.
~ Pay close attention to this itinerary because you can reserve the cars, plane tickets, lodgings, and excursions all in advance. That way, you will only need to find food, which is super easy and delicious in NZ!
~ Check the exchange rate for the New Zealand dollar. Currently the US .61 = $1 NZ
Day #9 Dunedin – The Southern Tip
Dunedin is the city on the Otago Harbor. It is a big university town with a lot of Scottish and Maori heritage.
Dunedin is known for its majestic coastline and being the home of the rare yellow eyed penguins!
Wander through the tunnels, rocks and cliffs at Tunnel Beach
Be sure to climb Baldwin Street, New Zealand claims it is the steepest street in the world!
Visit the Dunedin Public Art Gallery for its beautiful collection of New Zealand historic artifacts and famous Maori portrait paintings by Gottfried Lindauer.
Day #10 Travel Day
Time to pack up and return the car at the Dunedin Airport. Fly back to the Auckland Airport, on the North Island, and head back home. You’ll have plenty of time to look at your photos on the plane! Enjoy!
These are a couple of things that I was not able to fit into my 10 Day itinerary and really want to return to do on the next trip!
New Zealand Bucket List Add Ons:
~ Abel Tasman National Park– wilderness at the north end of the Sount Island. Hike the famous Able Tasman Coast Track Trail and see blue penguins, bottlenose dolphons, and seals.
~ The Franz Josef Glacier Hike – this is a 12-km glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of the South Island.
Now you are ready for your 10 Days in New Zealand!
In a nutshell…
New Zealand is probably one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been. Its beauty, people, and culture are so unique to that country and unlike anywhere else in the world.
Pack your bags, use this itinerary, and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!