Travel Itinerary: 3 Weeks in New Zealand – North Island

A Beginner’s Guide for when you’ve got only three weeks to explore New Zealand.

When browsing through the sphere of travel blogging, it seems as if every traveller in New Zealand has the luxury to explore New Zealand, or any other country for that matter, for months at a time. If you’re an average Joe or Jane, with a regular job and life, you’ll probably have only a handful of weeks of holidays per year. Thus, trying to explore an entire country in just two or three weeks seems like a daunting task. Especially, if you’ve never been to New Zealand before and know nothing about it.

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One of countless beautiful sunsets I’ve seen

Sure, you could read one travel guide after another and spend hours on Youtube watching travel vloggers. In the end, you’d probably none the wiser because you’ve moved away from ‘I don’t know what NZ has to offer’ to ‘I don’t know how to narrow down my choices of what NZ has to offer’ (Decision overload, anyone?).

Behold! I’ve got a solution for you. One grey Friday afternoon, when my wanderlust was particularly strong, I’ve created a hypothetical travel itinerary for all those that have no more than three weeks to explore New Zealand. This hypothetical itinerary is partly based on the actual itinerary my friend M, her sister, and I will take in October 2016. While I’ll spend about 6 months in New Zealand, starting in October, my friend and her sister will only be in NZ for three weeks. During these three weeks, I’ll join them and act as a semi-travel guide (kind of). Now, the travel itinerary below, is only a suggestion and a starting point and can (and should) be altered according to your interests.

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Ordinary selfies are so yesterday, let’s take Foot fotos!

Where to go and how long to stay

In general, the amount of your desired activities in each city determines how long you should stay in each city. If you know absolutely nothing about New Zealand, purchasing a travel guide such as Lonely Planet’s guide to New Zealand will help you a lot. I will, however, list a few things you’ll be able to do in each town in my travel itinerary.

How to get around

The cheapest and easiest way to get around in New Zealand is by bus. Bus operators such as InterCity or Nakedbus offer tickets from $1 for individual journeys. When you’ve picked your destinations and you know when to get where a bus pass might be an even better option for you. IncerCity and Nakedbus offer a variety of bus passes for you to choose from.

What to do in New Zealand when you’ve got only three weeks: North Island

Auckland: 2 Days
Most flights will land in Auckland, so why not use your time well and immerse yourself in this metropolis. However, I’ll recommend you not to spend more than two days at the beginning of your journey because you’ll come back to Auckland at the end of your journey and can still stay one or two additional days there. As a way to recover from your massive jet lag, why not climb Mount Eden to get some fresh air.

Rotorua: 3-4 Days
The second stop on this list is Rotorua, also sometimes known as Rotovegas, where you can pick from a variety of activities. You can visit one of New Zealand’s geothermal wonders Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, maybe explore Maori culture by visiting Tamaki Maori Village, or explore the Hobbiton Movie Set. I’ve written a review on the Hobbiton Movie Set tour a while ago, why not check it out? Starting from Rotorua, you can book all kinds of day trips to places like Waitomo Caves, Hamilton, or Te Urewera National Park. I will post a more detailed list of things to do in Rotorua next week, so stay tuned!

Wellington: 3-4 Days
The last stop on the North Island, before heading down south, is Wellington. New Zealand’s capitol will enchant you with its arts and culture scene. For movie geeks around the world, Wellington is also known as Wellywood, the place were Peter Jackson created and worked on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. There are a number of LOTR related places to visit such as Weta Cave. If you’re not too interested in Middle-earth, then why not explore the Te Papa musem or enjoy a relaxed day on Cuba Street?

Alternative Stops

New Zealand’s North Island has, of course, a lot more to offer. Given enough time, you could explore New Zealand’s Northland and visit places like Cape Reinga, the 90 Mile Beach, and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Other stops could include the greater Waikato region, Tongariro National Park, Whanganui National Park and so much more. However, if you’ve got only a limited number of days, Auckland, Rotorua, and Wellington should be a good start.

To find out what to do on New Zealand’s South Island, go and check out my post which you can find over here!

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3 thoughts on “Travel Itinerary: 3 Weeks in New Zealand – North Island

    1. You are right. Also, one could even depart from Christchurch. However, most airlines land and depart in Auckland and this guide is aimed at those who start and end their journey in Auckland.

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