New Zealand in a Nutshell
We’re often asked if it’s possible to see New Zealand in as little as two weeks. While ambitious, it is entirely feasible to see the best of both islands in (around) a fortnight. The trick is to get the balance right… to maximise what you see without leaving you stressed and exhausted.
- Enjoying the best of Kiwi hospitality at some of the finest lodges in the country
- Sampling fresh-from-the-sea oysters and award-winning olive oil on Waiheke Island
- Tasting world-beating wines among the vineyards of Marlborough
- Threading the needle between the mountains and the sea on the Pacific Coastal train
- Admiring the majesty of New Zealand’s Southern Alps on the drive to Queenstown
This journey through New Zealand is like a fun-filled lesson in geography: vast empty beaches, bubbling mud pools, pristine lakes, plunging waterfalls and mountains blanketed in both snow and rainforest.
It’s a topographical tango that’s complemented by a rich Maori culture and stays at some of the most luxurious accommodation in the country. All the lodges we recommend are in outstanding locations and offer onsite and local activities as well world-class cuisine and exceptional hospitality.
A 15-day journey through North and South Island, taking in the best of New Zealand’s scenery, culture, food, wine and luxury lodge accommodation.
Anyone who has dreamed of visiting New Zealand but only has a relatively short time to take it all in.
When to go:
The best time to visit is in summer (November to April).
Days 1-2: Waiheke Island
Shake off the jetlag with a relaxing two-night stay on Waiheke Island near Auckland. The second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke is a beguiling blend of forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves.
For a great Kiwi welcome in homely yet luxurious surrounds, we recommend The Boatshed – the food is excellent, all rooms have sea views, and staff are always on hand but never overbearing.
Days 3-5: The Thermal Region
With your batteries recharged, collect your hire car and head south into the thermal centre of New Zealand’s North Island. Visit the spurting geysers and multi-coloured pools that make Rotorua one of the world’s most dramatic geothermal hotspots. Tap into Maori culture with a traditional hangi feast. Take a scenic flight over New Zealand’s largest lake, Taupo. And admire the tumbling torrent of Huka Falls on the winding Waikato River.
Just 300 metres upstream from the falls, on the banks of the Waikato and backed by verdant forests, is Huka Lodge. An icon of Kiwi hospitality since the 1920s, the lodge has welcomed everyone from the Obamas to the Queen. Whether her majesty was here for the world-class trout fishing or exceptional fine dining we’re not sure, but it’s easy to see why she gave it the royal seal of approval.
Day 6: Wellington
Continue south to the capital Wellington for a night before crossing the next day to the South Island by ferry. New Zealand’s capital is a quarter the size of Auckland, yet is arguably the country’s most fashionable centre, home to a wide selection of restaurants, microbreweries, cafes, galleries and museums, including Te Papa, the free-to-enter national museum of New Zealand.
Perfectly in keeping then is the QT Museum Wellington, a design hotel in the heart of the city with a quirky style, a provocative art collection and a popular French-inspired restaurant.
Days 7-9: Marlborough
‘New Zealand’s little slice of Norway’ is how many describe the deep inlets and drowned river valleys of the Marlborough Sounds. The sounds are a charming introduction to the South Island, with opportunities for cruising, sea kayaking, walking and wildlife watching. Close by is Blenheim, the region’s capital and the centre of Marlborough wine country. We recommend a full day to explore the sounds and another to tour a few of the local wineries.
The ten-room Marlborough Lodge is perfectly placed to let you do just that. Set in delightful gardens with its own outdoor pool and vineyard, the Victorian wooden building is right on the Marlborough Wine Trail, which lists 35 wineries, including Cloudy Bay and Hans Herzog just down the road.
Days 10-11: Christchurch
For a change from driving, take the train south from Picton to the ‘Garden City’ of Christchurch. The Coastal Pacific train journey is one of the most astonishingly beautiful in New Zealand, threading a line between the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Kaikoura ranges rising majestically on the other.
From the station in Christchurch it’s a simple 30-minute transfer to Otahuna Lodge, a heritage-listed, colonial-era mansion that combines the style and scale of an aristocratic English country house with the creature comforts of a Manhattan penthouse. Outside, Otahuna, which is Maori for ‘little hill among the hills’, has striking views over the Canterbury Plains and the Banks Peninsula.
Days 12-15: Queenstown
It’s a breathtaking drive through the Southern Alps, the central spine of New Zealand’s South Island, to Queenstown. Spectacularly set beside Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkable Mountains, Queenstown is famous as the country’s adventure capital. Sure enough, there is little you can’t do here in terms of thrill-seeking, be it bungee jumping, hang gliding or white-water rafting, but those looking for a more relaxed time will also find more than 75 local wineries and some beautiful lakeside lodges.
Our pick of the bunch? Well that would have to be Matakauri Lodge, a serene retreat with jaw-dropping lake and mountain views, just a few minutes’ drive out of town. From here you can strike out on day trips to the likes of Doubtful or Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling once famously referred to as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’.
If you’ve more time
So there you have it: it is possible to see the best of New Zealand in as little as two weeks. That said, if you’ve only a fortnight, you may want to consider doing just the North or only the South Island. That way you’ll reduce the amount of time you spend driving from A to B and see a few extra highlights we couldn’t squeeze in above.
If you insist on covering both islands but have a little more time, we suggest three to four weeks to see the country in more detail. Then we can add in extra gems like dolphin-spotting in the subtropical Bay of Islands, wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay, kayaking at Abel Tasman, glacier gazing at Franz Josef, spotting kiwis on Stewart Island, or getting off-grid entirely at remote luxury lodges like The Lindis or Minaret Station, which can only be reached by helicopter.
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