2 hours ago we were really excited, because we planned a 4-5 week trip to NZ! But now we realized, that it won't be possible to stay there that long (studying medicine sucks sometimes...) And now we're wondering if it's possible to get a good impression of the country in just 3 weeks!? Of course we know that 3 weeks won't be enough to explore everything that this great country offers, but we would just love to go there...
Thanks for your opinion!!!
Susi and Marion
Yes, you can see a decent amount of New Zealand in three weeks. I once did a whirlwind tour with my girlfriend, showing her in two weeks what I'd been exploring during a year. The following suggested itinerary is based on that, assuming that you'll rent a car, like walking and seeing beautiful nature, and will be going during late spring/summer/early autumn. Adjust as you see fit.
day 1: Arrive in Auckland, explore. Take a ferry to Devonport or Rangitoto Island, or wander through Parnell.
day 2: See more of Auckland - do the Coast to Coast walkway, which takes you from one side of Auckland to the other, over two of the most beautiful and impressive volcanoes that dot Auckland's landscape.
day 3: Rent a car, drive from Auckland to Kaitaia.
day 4: Drive up to Cape Reinga, walk over the beach to Cape Maria van Diemen.
day 5: drive from Kaitaia to Paihia. Do a touristy activity at Paihia (swim with the dolphins, taking a cruise), or walk to the Haruru Falls through Mangrove forest and other beautiful scenery.
day 6: Drive from Paihia, through Auckland, on to Hamilton. (A nice city, but nothing much to see here; just a place to stop.)
day 7: Start early with a detour to Matamata to see the original movie set at Hobbiton (the only LotR set remaining), and then head to Tongariro National Park (stay in Ohakune or National Park Village).
day 8: Walk the Tongariro Crossing, the best one day hike in existence (if good weather), otherwise do shorter walks through the national park
day 9: Tongariro National Park to Wellington. Explore Wellington
day 10: Ferry from Wellington to Picton, drive to Motueka, book a watertaxi to and from a one-day stretch of the Abel Tasman track.
day 11: Walk a one-day section of the Abel Tasman track. Swat at sandflies every other minute and think they're really annoying.
day 12: Drive to Franz Josef Glacier, aiming to be at the Punakaiki blowholes on the way there around high tide, if at all possible.
day 13: Walk around in Franz Josef. Be sure to watch the mirror perfect reflection of the glacier in Peter's Pool, and marvel at the stunning greenness of the rainforest while walking the Roberts Point track - if the weather's nice, and if you can afford it, do a helicopter flight with glacier landing.
day 14: Drive from Franz Josef to Queenstown. Be sure to stop for the waterfalls at Haast Pass.
day 15: Explore Queenstown. Do the One Mile Creek track, scale Ben Lomond, and take the gondolas back down.
day 16: Take a daytrip with boatcruise to Milford Sound. (I'd recommend going by bus for this, because it's a really long day to be driving yourself.) Swat at sandflies every other second. *know* they're really annoying.
day 17: Drive from Queenstown to Mt. Cook Village. Bungy jump at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge if that's your thing. Have lunch at the balcony of the Hermitage, watching Mt. Cook loom over you. Walk the Hooker Valley track.
day 18: Drive from Mt. Cook to Lake Tekapo. Watch the stunning blue of the lake and hear serenity and quietude surround you.
day 19: Spend a second day at Lake Tekapo (it's that good!) Walk to the top of Mt. John. Eat a Carbonara pizza at Pepe's. (If the weather's good now, and wasn't at Franz Josef, do the helicopter flight here.)
day 20: Drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch. Explore Christchurch. Walk through the Botanic Gardens, visit the museums.
day 21: See more of Christchuch, and fly out.
That's a pretty full schedule, although I tried to include a number of rest days. If it feels like it'd be too much rushing about (some of those days in the car can be pretty long), I'd remove days 3-6 (the trip up to the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga) and spread those days out over the rest of the itinerary. Maybe use one of them for doing a daytrip up to Kaikoura from Christchurch to do whale watching instead. If you'd prefer to travel by bus, rather than car, Intercity and Newmans coaches go everywhere, and almost all of this trip would still be quite feasible, but the days would be much longer, and not all the connections might work out, so I'd definitely cut the cape reinga / bay of island section and use those days to make it all fit.
Either way, this itinerary should give you a decent overview of everything the country has to offer, from rainforests to volcanic landscape to snowcapped mountains to rolling green hills to bits and pieces of culture and activities here and there.
You could pick ONE of the islands and concentrate on it this time, resolving to go back to do the other one next time!
The South has the Alpine scenery and the adrenaline sports, the North is more volcanic and has much more Maori culture.
Hire a motorhome, not a car.
That way you spend zero time looking for accommodation. You just turn up and plug in.
ya i woudl say you can see a good chunk of NZ in 3 weeks, NZ is always worth going too! That's a great itinerary above...
Also always leave one day a week to relax and climatize. your body will appreciate it later.
I agree with Stevieh,
Definetely focus on one island and as I see you are from Austria, you are used to some nice alpine surroundings, found on the south island as well. So probably the north island is a better choice with more different things to visit than in Europe, like volcanoes for example.
I'd just like add a little comment to Sander's itenerary. It's a pretty full one as he points out, covers a lot of the touresty bits too.
If you do hire a car or camper, just drive it's pretty easy to cover most of the country within 3 weeks if you want to. If you plan a schedule, keep it loose as depending on the time of year will dictate what is worth going to see/do.
Many people miss out on the hidden jewels such as:
Hawkes Bay area,
Otago Peninsula (the drive from Dunedin to Central Otago is great if you take the Middlemarch route),
Catlans National Park.
Id recommend spending the 3 weeks in the South Island and just cruise around the place rather than cramming in both Islands...there's so much to see here mate and it aint worth rushing..take your time..relax..check out the Marlborough Sounds, Gods own paradise..good luck in your choice and maybe look me up when you are here..I'll have a cold one with ya.
When I went to NZ we were only there for 3 weeks. We spent the whole time in the South Island. It was totally worth it. There is so much to see. My advice would be to have a plan for what you want to see before you go. The country is easy to navigate. We rented a car.