The Ultimate New Zealand Backpacking Itinerary

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If you want to travel or if you’re into backpacking then New Zealand is probably the most beautiful country in the world. I highly recommend everybody to go there, this is the ultimate New Zealand backpackers itinerary. It’s a 3 week trip through New-Zealand and it has everything that you need to see while you’re in New Zealand.

If you check out the route you’ll see that you’ve visited the whole of New Zealand and only in three weeks. If you want to stay longer in some places or areas that’s of course possible ;). Rent or buy a car and drive where you want to go, stop the car somewhere and enjoy the amazing views. If you follow the suggestions below your trip to New Zealand will be one you’ll never forget.

My name is André Aalfs, I’m an intern at Kaitiaki Adventures and a blog writer. I love being here in New Zealand and interning at Kaitiaki. I hope you enjoy the blog!

The Ultimate New Zealand Backpacking Itinerary

Day 1-3 Auckland (north)

The first day, depending on where you from, you’re probably suffering from a jetlag. Check out the city. Visit the harbour, sometimes there are some big cruise ships. Walk down or up Queen Street and check out the Auckland Sky Tower, if you want you can do some bungee jumping at this tower. If you’re hungry then I highly recommend Velvet Burger, it’s like McDonald’s but with real burgers. Those burgers are simply brilliant. If you’re very hungry there’s The GoneBurger Challenge, good luck with that one. After you’ve done some sightseeing in Auckland you’ll notice that there isn’t much to do. So take your car and drive north to the Bay of Islands, there are so many great views up there. You should stay there for a few days if you’ve got the time.

Blog - Auckland

Day 4-6 Rotorua

I would like to refer to my first blog with the Rotorua things to do list, but I will summarize shortly what you can expect. When you’re in New Zealand rafting is one of the things you must try. In Rotorua rafting and sledging are popular things to do. You can raft the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world, everybody needs to do that. After this you should do some hiking in Rotorua. Go with Kaitiaki to Mt. Tarawera and I’ll promise you that the views are amazing. You can see White Island from up there, it’s mind blowing. You should also visit a Maori village. There you can see how they lived back in the old days. What’s special about Rotorua is that it sometimes smells like rotten eggs, so why don’t you go to the place where it comes from, go to Wai-O-Tapu for example. There are amazing things to see there, hot pools, yellow pools, hot mud pools and geysers. In Rotorua there’s also a bus tour towards the scene of The Hobbit that’s one of the most popular things in New Zealand. Like I said there’s plenty adventure in Rotorua.

Whakarewarewa Thermal area, Rotorua, New Zealand. Pohutu Geyser.

Day 7 Waitomo

When you’re here you must visit the legendary Waitomo Caves and check out the glowworms. You need also check out black water rafting. Rafting in caves, how cool is that? Experienced guides take you safely to the finish line. This is highly recommend. Do this enjoy the views and head straight for some awesome days in Taupo.

Day 8-9 Taupo

Want to do a really adventurous thing? Do some skydiving in Taupo. Can you imagine skydiving in one of the most beautiful countries in the world? Sounds amazing. Fly through the clouds and have the best sights on New Zealand. When you’re in Taupo you also need to check out the Tongariro Crossing. It’s in New Zealand’s oldest national park. Again, the views are stunning.

Blog Tongariro

Day 10 Wellington

After a long trip you’ve finally arrived in the capital city of New Zealand: Wellington. There are many things to do in Wellington, for example you can take a ride the historic Wellington Cable Car. It’s like a historic gondola and at the top there’s a great view. There is also the National Museum Te Papa with interactive displays and historic telescopes, pretty cool. If you want some adventure you’ve got to go to Adrenalin Forest. Climbing your way up to the top of the trees, it’s amazing.

Blog Wellington

Day 11 Nelson

There you are, you’ve arrived at the South Island of New Zealand. There are some beautiful national parks here, so put on your hiking shoes and enjoy nature for a while.

Day 12 – 13 Kaikoura

Again lots of beautiful natural scenery, but yes you’re in New Zealand, so of course there is plenty of beautiful nature! You should do some whale watching here. There are many tours which provide whale watching, jump in a boat and spot some of nature’s biggest animals.

Day 14 – 15 West Coast

When you’re here you definitely must check out the Franz Josef Glacier. This one is beautiful; it’s one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. You’re surrounded by ice of course and with stunning views, this one is highly recommend. Beside that you could walk a section of the Heaphy Track near Karamea, this is one of the ‘New Zealand Great Walks’.

Blog West Coast

Day 16 – 18 Fiordland

This place is all about the fiords. You can cruise around and spot the fiords from the water in a boat, I think you should do that. If you’re into fishing or diving, there are many companies who offer fishing and diving tours. You can also check out some caves with glow worms, you can do this for free too. Enjoy the beauty of Fiordland, it’s amazing.

Day 19 – 20 Queenstown

Everything comes to an end, this is your final destination. But we are going to end this itinerary in style. Bring on more adventure! First we’re taking a jump in a jet boat and a drive through the wild. There is only one company who is allowed to jet boat on the Shotover River. It’s wicked, check it out! Then you need to go to The Nevis Bungy, it’s is New Zealand’s highest bungy at 134 metres, with 8.5 seconds of free-fall. It’s WHAT! Last but not least we’re going to do the canyon swing (yeah it’s a lot of jumping today) this will be one of the best jumps you’ve ever done. It isn’t really a jump it is a swing, which is cooler in my opinion.

It’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this backpacking itinerary – it really is one of the best ways to see New Zealand.

  • Review of: Cath Hagan
    If you havent already been white-water rafting then this is the BEST place in the world to have a go!
  • Review of: Sarah H
    Be prepared for an adventure, the views are stunning, and the sense of awe and accomplishment at the end was amazing.
  • Review of: Tristan P
    A must do! Our guides Cam & Curtis were amazing and really funny. Definitely the highlight of the month.
  • Review of: Caradis A
    What an amazing time! We had so much rafting fun, even though at first I was terrified. Will recommend this to everyone.
  • Review of: Te-Aroha P
    Such an exhilarating experience. We loved all the waterfalls and rapids, but we always felt safe with an awesome safety crew.
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