New Zealand in 2-3 days
If you’re in Kiwi land for such a short time, chances are you’re on a stopover – in which case it’s likely you’re in Auckland.
This cosmopolitan city with its picturesue harbour and vibrant nightlife makes for a charming few days’ sightseeing, which is just as well as, except for a trip up to Northland and the Bay of Islands, you won’t have time to go anywhere else.
If it’s city life you fancy, there are plenty of options. Climb the Harbour Bridge, jump off the Sky Tower, island hop around Waitemata Harbour and chill out over a few drinks in the Americas Cup village.
Catch a rugby match at Eden Park, pick up Maori bone carvings at Victoria Park market and watch the sun set from One Tree Hill, one of several extinct volcanoes dotting the city’s skyscape.
Hankering for the great outdoors? It’s a few hours’ road trip up to Paihia in the stunning Bay of Islands.
From there take a tour up to Cape Reinga and 90-mile beach at the far north of the country, or delight in the bay itself, where you can swim with dolphins or kayak across the bluest of seas.
In 7-9 days
Pick an island. South Island is generally more impressive, but you’ll get a better feel for North Island in this time frame.
Auckland is certainly worth a look (see above), but you’ll need to get out of the city if you want to cover some ground. Rotorua, in the middle of North Island, is a centre for Maori culture, volcanic landscapes and geothermal spas, so it’s worth a few days of your time.
Nearby Taupo, set on its awesome lake, is the place for adventure sports, with skydiving particularly popular.
If you still have time, choose between the rugged beauty of the East Cape, where you’ll be among the first people in the world to see the sunrise, or the chilled out capital Wellington.
Prefer the South Island? Follow the West Coast through the quaint town of Nelson, past the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, through picturesque Wanaka and down to adventure capital Queenstown. Every activity under the sun is on offer here – whether it be hurling yourself off bridges, out of planes or into raging rapids.
Be sure to take one of many tours to stunning Milford Sound, where Mitre Peak plunges dramatically into the silent waters of the fjord.
Two weeks +
Lucky you! As a rule of thumb, it takes six weeks to do the whole country justice.
Combining the various legs of North Island mentioned above should give you a good overview of what it has to offer.
In South Island, factor in a stop in Mount Cook National Park and heading back north along the East Coast. Charming, laid-back Christchurch is a pleasant city for chilling out and people watching.
Further north, the road runs alongside spectacular coastline all the way to Kaikoura, where you can stop off to experience the wonderful marine life that makes a home in New Zealand. Go whale watching, swim with dolphins, marvel at the awesome albatross and, if you’re brave, dive with sharks.