Follow the path of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins as you drive across the dramatic landscape of New Zealand, from the northern town of Aukland to the tip of the Southern Island and Christchurch. Between the two you’ll find sooty volcanoes, glacial lakes, rushing whitewater, and mighty redwoods. Take your pick of adventure from horseback riding to bungee jumping. Explore the marine life of Rotura and the ice caves of the Franz Josef Glacier. Wherever you are kia ora or “be well.”
Tongariro National Park
Lake Te Anau
The first stop on your trip is Auckland, a city with two harbours that launch daily boat cruises to the Hauraki Gulf. Head to Queen Street and indulge in a little retail time as you enjoy fashion boutiques and fine restaurants. Auckland Domain is a park with 75 hectares that include a rose garden, museum, and amphitheatre formed from a crater.
The beachside town of Pauanui on the Coromandel Peninsula is a holiday location full of outdoor activities. Enjoy a swim, dive, or surf in these turquoise waters. Back on land, walk a bush trail through the winding forest to the base of Mount Pauanui. Summit the 360-meter peak for panoramic views of the region. Finish your day at “Hot Water Beach” to relax in natural hot springs dug from the sand.
Next, you’ll head to the Bay of Plenty where you’ll find the shoreside city of Rotorua. Head inland to explore the 18 surrounding lakes and surrounding Whakarewarewa Forest. Bike, hike, or ride horses through these towering redwoods and visit a Maori Village to learn about the indigenous way of life. Boost your adrenaline in the afternoon with a white-water ride over Tutea Falls.
4. Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park was a key filming location in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, featuring the dramatic volcano landscape dominated by the orange and black peaks of three volcanoes and a shockingly turquoise crater lake. Hike along the Whanganui River to the canyon forest. Take the Tongariro Alpine Crossing route to hit all the best sites in a day.
From the mighty natural landscapes of Tongariro, dive into the cultural hub that is Wellington. The national museum has interactive exhibitions that celebrate the Māori people, whilst City Gallery has a focus on modern art. Visit the Botanic Garden and enjoy sumptuous nature in the heart of downtown. Ride a cable car to the suburb of Kelburn and capture views of the harbourfront before checking out Zealandia, a 500-acre restoration project.
You’ll love your time in Nelson, a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. Here you can hop on a bike and take the Great Taste Trail to visit vineyards and art galleries. No trip to the region would be complete until you’ve entered Abel Tasman National Park, home to some of New Zealand’s most striking landscapes, and wildlife that includes the blue penguin.
New Zealand Jade or “Pounamu” is precious to the west coast town of Hokitika. Find carvings and jewellery of the precious stone in town before heading to Hokitika Gorge for hiking and whitewater rafting. From there, a boat cruise through the Mahinapua waterways is a chance to enjoy views of Mount Cook as you learn about the coastal flora that surrounds you.
8. Franz Josef
Franz Josef is a small town located a few miles from the Franz Josef Glacier. This mighty iceblock descends 300 metres below sea level. Explore ice caves with a tour guide and learn how to step cut as you manoeuvre crevices. Step away from the ice for a hike or horse ride around Lake Matheson whose water mirrors a mountainous backdrop.
9. Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka’s scenery is outstanding. A half-day hike to Mount Roy at the south of its water’s rewards with thrilling views of the Southern Alps. A mountain climb, canyoning tour at Deep Canyon, or horse trek are also popular activities. Several scenes from the Lord of the Rings movie adaptation were filmed in this nature setting located next to Mount Aspiring National Park.
Queenstown is considered the adventure capital of New Zealand, you’ll feel the rush as soon as you arrive. Brave Skippers Canyon in a speed boat. Bungy jump at Kawarau Bridge--if you’re brave enough to take the leap. Or ride a cable car to the top of the city to gaze across green hills that lead to a harbourfront worthy of sunset.
11. Lake Te Anau
Around an hour’s drive from Milford Sound, Lake Te Anau is more than a stop-off location on route to Fiordland National Park. On arrival, you’ll have a choice of popular activities. Visit the Te Ana-au caves--alive with glowworm. Take a boat cruise or man your own kayak on the nearby lake. If you prefer to stay onshore, a relaxing day of fishing will help you unwind.
You’ll arrive in the city of Dunedin next, a UNESCO City of Literature. A walking tour of the Edwardian architecture or visit to a botanic garden are both charming ways to spend a day. Larnach Castle is open year-round with the ballroom hosting high tea in the afternoon daily. Follow a trail focused on local artworks as you move through the quaint lanes and back alleys of cultural Dunedin.
The town of Twizel makes for an excellent location to relax before a visit to the neighbouring Mount Cook National Park. Fish in Lake Pukaki and then enjoy a picnic on the embankment. A hike, bike, or horse trek will reward with views of a snow-capped mountain in the distance.
Your trip ends in the city of Christchurch. The 160 hectares of Hagley Park offers activities such as a boat ride along the snaking Avon River. There’s also a museum, botanic garden here for your viewing pleasure. Just across town is the International Antarctic Centre where you can take a Hägglund ride over icy crevices. A local’s favourite is Riccarton Market, maybe the perfect place to unwind on a Sunday.
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