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21-Day Itinerary for Car Rental in New Zealand
When you consider the incredible landscapes and general variety of experiences in New Zealand, few travel destinations can compare to this mystical part of the world. Furthermore, the affordable car rental in New Zealand and excellent road infrastructure make this a remarkable place for a road trip.
Located just a short distance from Australia, this beautiful landmass in the Pacific Ocean is made up of two separate islands – the North and South Islands. Featuring a variety of incredible geothermal parks, charming coastline and outdoor beauty in general; both of these islands should be incorporated into a travel itinerary wherever possible.
Things to See and Do in New Zealand
North Island – From the enchanting Howick Village and the vibrant North Shore to Rangitoto Island and Lord of the Rings scenery in Hobbiton; the North Island is overflowing with interesting attractions. Furthermore, Rotorua is an excellent place to meet the Maori people in a very authentic setting.
South Island – Fjiordland National Park and Milford Sound are two extremely popular nature regions which are perfect for exploring in a car rental in New Zealand. That being said, both Kaikoura and Queenstown are worthy destinations and offer entirely different experiences compared to the nature parks above.
Where to Begin a Road Trip in New Zealand
Christchurch is a popular place for car rental in New Zealand but it must be said that the range of international flights will usually mean the city of Auckland is slightly more convenient. In this regard, it is often better to return to Auckland via charter flight at the end of a road trip rather than drive back over the same route in your car rental.
21-Day Itinerary for Car Rental in New Zealand
With the above in mind, here is a 21 day itinerary for car rental in New Zealand:
Day 1 Arriving in Auckland
Auckland may not be the most impressive city in terms of scenery but there is certainly enough reason to use this time to put jetlag behind and visit some local attractions. You can obviously pick up your car rental in the city but before leaving, maybe take time to visit the Sky Tower, Tarlton’s Aquarium or the rather interesting Museum of Transport.
At the same time, Rangitoto Island is also close enough to visit on a day tour if you have extra time and the Otara Flea Market is a great place to filter through local Polynesian crafts and traditional Maori clothing. Either way, this is a good place to pick up the car hire and get ready for the upcoming adventure.
Day 2 – Visit Howick Village & North Shore
Ex-soldiers were initially welcomed to stay free of charge in Howick village in return for their protection services. However, this is now a very charming insight into an 1800’s cottage and time which the modern world often forgets about. Also, this small village is reminiscent of movies the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings but more on that later.
Having explored Howick Village, the North Shore is a great place to spend an evening which is mostly due to the vibrant nightlife. Featuring an energetic backpacker crowd along with ample bars and restaurants, this is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring in your car rental. After all, you will also be waking up next to an idyllic beach.
Day 3 Hobbiton and Lord of the Rings
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, car rental in New Zealand is often a great way to explore the landscapes from world famous movie, Lord of the Rings. In this regard, Hobbiton is quite a fascinating encounter. Known as the “Middle Earth Experience,” the region was first brought to global attention by this movie, but really, the scenery speaks for itself. Luscious gardens and dense forest make this one of the most special nature experiences of the whole itinerary.
Day 4 The Magical Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves are situated on the North Island and offer a unique insight into a hidden treasure in New Zealand. Home to the magnificent glow-worm, the inside of these caves is lit with magical colors and the only way to enter is on a boat. For this reason, you can leave the car hire behind for a few hours and take a tour inside the caves to learn about the history which dates back over thirty million years.
While several restaurants can also be found in the area, the best option is often to proceed onward to Rotorua where you can settle down for a few days.
Day 5 to 8 Exciting Roturua
Located next to authentic Maori villages in the mist of nature, Rotorua is usually a highlight for anyone traveling by a car rental in New Zealand. In fact, this stunning region features beautiful vistas, endless hiking trails, and a very cultural experience overall.
Some of these experiences are considered adrenaline sports with the Skyline Zipline offering a fast-paced journey through the jungle. However, there is also a gondola ride which can take you to the top of nearby Mt Ngongotaha. And then there is Wai-O-Tapu, the geothermal park which is also the location of a “Champagne Pool” which consists of beautiful colors and alluring waters. Furthermore, the Rotorua Museum and Kerosene Creek ensure there is more than enough things to do in Rotorua over the course of two or three days.
That being said, Hells Gate Geothermal Park is the main attraction for people with a car hire in this part of New Zealand. Maori villages are still situated within this park, but there are thermal pools, luscious canopies, and stunning scenes to add to an encounter with the Rangiteaorere tribe.
Day 9 and 10 Beautiful Lake Taupo
While many of the popular tourist destinations in New Zealand can feel a little crowded at the busiest time of year, Lake Taupo is the place to escape any such feeling. Located in the heart of the most iconic natural landscapes and scenery in New Zealand, you should find this a great place to explore in a car hire but also to escape on foot.
However, the region is also known for skydiving and bungee jumping so if this is of any interest, rest assured there is a slightly more exhilarating way to see the surroundings. In fact, Lake Taupo is often regarded as the best place to skydive in the Southern Hemisphere by travelers while the prospect of landing in the middle of this beautiful pocket of the North Island is further reason to add it to the bucket list.
Day 11 and 12 Wellington
When it comes to popularity, Wellington is possible the most visited city in all of New Zealand, and the aesthetics are enough to suggest why this might be the case. Located next to the ocean, the cityscape is certainly an attractive one, but then the beautiful beaches and general scenery are also interspersed with many world-class restaurants and a lively nightlife.
Travelling in the Wellington cable car, you can visit some beautiful botanical gardens with a rather special view, but if you seek activity, it is also possible to hike up Mount Victoria which is arguably the most panoramic part of town.
Overall, Wellington is a very enjoyable city and a great place to break up the journey so two nights should be enough to take a rest, while also encountering a little bit of the town.
Interislander Ferry – Travelling to the South Island
From this point, you will then transfer by ferry across to the South Island. This enjoyable ferry ride offers unrivaled views of each island and travels for more than one hundred kilometers through the Cook Straight. On the other side, you will disembark in the town of Nelson, but with so much time and so little to do, it is often best to continue onward to the town of Kaikoura.
Day 13 and 14 Enchanting Kaikoura
At the very eastern side of the South Island, you will reach Kairkoura, one of the most scenic places in New Zealand. Best known for glistening lakes, iconic coastline and majestic landscapes, this region is often used by the New Zealand Tourism Board for promotional purposes; such is the beauty of the area.
Even though there are many things to do in Kaikoura which make it worthy of reputation. For example, this is the best place in New Zealand to go swimming with dolphins and depending on the time of year; this is also a great place to participate in a day out on the ocean searching for whales. Of course, these are mostly sperm whales, but there are often sightings of orca whales in the area.
Day 15 to 17 – World Famous Milford Sound
Few places anywhere in the world come with the same attraction as Milford Sound and having bypassed Christchurch; this is another reason to opt for car rental in New Zealand. Travelling winding roads through rugged scenery, you should encounter cascading waterfalls over flowing rivers, amidst green landscapes. In many ways, this is the New Zealand that most visitors hope to find and it simply never fails to impress.
One of the main highlights of Milford Sound is taking a boat trip on the beautiful lake. Rising high on both sides of the valley, immense cliffs offer spectacular photography opportunities. Furthermore, you can enjoy a wonderful meal on board, while drinking in the incredible surroundings.
While two full days should be enough to explore Milford Sound, you could easily extend this an extra night to spend more time on the nearby hiking trails.
Day 18 and 19 Queenstown
Again, the scenery you can enjoy with a car rental in New Zealand is second to none. Travelling from Milford Sound to Queenstown, you can expect even more beautiful vistas in the magical surroundings of Te Anau. In fact, many travelers consider Te Anau to be the most impressive spectacle on either island.
However, Queenstown is a lot busier than the previous town, and while there is certainly a relaxing atmosphere during the day, things really liven up after dark. Yes, Queenstown has a vibrant nightlife, and many of the backpackers here love nothing more than to spend the day on the Short Over Jet.
Travelling at 80kmh, the Short Over Jet is an adrenaline-fused way to see the local area and not for the faint of heart. However, it does offer a very different way to take in the sights in a much shorter period.
Day 20 and 21 – The End of an Adventure – Christchurch
Christchurch is a very comfortable place to finish a road trip and drop off the car rental in New Zealand. Having spent so much time in nature, it is also a nice feeling to arrive back in the city for some comfort and further variety. After all, this is also known as “The Garden City” where beautiful parks can be found in between a full range of excellent restaurants and coffee shops.
The Avon River is a good location in which to be based, but regardless, everything feels within reach in Christchurch including Hagley Park, busy Madras Street, the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and many more attractions.
The True Importance of Car Rental in New Zealand
It must be said, car rental in New Zealand is the difference between a standard visit and an encounter with everything these wonderful islands have to offer. Of course, there are endless reasons to diverge from this itinerary and explore other areas of New Zealand, but this is truly the beauty of car hire and having a flexible schedule.
When you consider the variety of the above itinerary, you should see the true appeal of an adventure in New Zealand. From the many famous movie destinations and charming experiences in Howick Village to the majestic landscapes in Te Anau and relaxing cruises in Milford Sound; there is little wonder as to why many travellers consider these magical islands be the best road tripping destination, anywhere in the world.