ULTIMATE NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP GUIDE: 3 WEEK ROUTE WITH WILD KIWI

ULTIMATE NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP GUIDE: 3 WEEK ROUTE WITH WILD KIWI

We have just returned from the most epic road trip we have ever done – three weeks on the road through New Zealand! NZ is a very special country for us as it was where we took our first international trip together, and it is the place that sparked our love for travel. We always knew we wanted to return, and when we did we wanted to fully experience everything New Zealand has to offer, rather than another trip to Queenstown.

When Wild Kiwi invited us to experience New Zealand on their New Zealand Discovery 3 week road trip it didn’t take us long to jump onboard this incredible opportunity. If you have been following us for a while now you will know how much we love group tours. Experiencing a new country with like-minded travellers is an amazing way to see the world and we were so ready to start this new adventure!

First things first: Who are Wild Kiwi & why we chose them?

Wild Kiwi offers small group adventure tours for 18 to 35 year olds in New Zealand. Owned by 3 Kiwis all with a passion for travel, they wanted to create a company that allowed people to come and enjoy their home country.  They run a number of tours throughout the North and South Island starting from 7 to 21 days.

Wild Kiwi is the perfect choice for those looking for a New Zealand group tour adventure that isn’t your standard 60 seater bus. Instead you will experience NZ with a limit of 16 people, in a small vehicle, visiting all the hotspots without needing to hire a car or do any of the planning!

 

Which route to take?

Choosing which route to take all comes down to how long you want to spend in New Zealand and what you are wanting to take out of your NZ experience. Do you want to explore the North Island, the South Island or a bit of both? Do you want to experience more nature or more adrenaline activities?

Wild Kiwi currently has 7 routes available covering all different areas of the North and/or Sound Island. They have 3 x 7 day tours, 3 x 14 day tours and 1 x 21 day tours available to choose from.

The 7 day tours

Southern Voyager: Christchurch – Franz Josef – Queenstown – Mt Cook – Christchurch

Northern Voyager: Auckland – Raglan – Taupo – Napier – Rotorua – Coromandel – Auckland

Southern Loop: Christchurch – Kaikoura – Picton – Abel Tasman – Punakaiki – Hokitika – Christchurch

The 14 day tours

NZ Explorer: Auckland – Raglan – Taupo – Napier – Rotorua – Coromandel – Auckland (fly to Christchurch) Christchurch – Franz Josef – Queenstown – Mt Cook – Christchurch

Big South: Christchurch – Franz Josef – Queenstown – Mt Cook – Christchurch – Kaikoura – Picton – Abel Tasman – Punakaiki – Hokitika – Christchurch

New Zealand Adventurer: Auckland – Raglan – Taupo – Napier – Rotorua – Coromandel – Auckland (fly to Christchurch) Christchurch – Kaikoura – Picton – Abel Tasman – Punakaiki – Hokitika – Christchurch

The 21 day tour – the one we did!

New Zealand Discovery: Auckland – Raglan – Taupo – Napier – Rotorua – Coromandel – Auckland (fly to Christchurch) Christchurch – Kaikoura – Picton – Abel Tasman – Punakaiki – Hokitika – Christchurch – Franz Josef – Queenstown – Mt Cook – Christchurch

Our Route: 3 Week New Zealand Road Trip

Our goal for this New Zealand trip was to see as much of New Zealand as possible, so we opted for the ultimate 21 day tour – exploring both the North and Sound Island!

Day 1: Auckland to Raglan

Starting in the North, we met up with our Wild Kiwi group and headed to the beach town of Raglan. Here we spent the afternoon surfing, exploring the hippie town and had a massive BBQ at our private accommodation as we watched the sunset on an epic first day on tour.

Read more: Learning to Surf in Raglan, New Zealand

Day 2: Raglan to Taupo (via Waitomo)

We left Raglan and headed out to Taupo, a town sitting on the edge of Australasia’s largest lake! On the way we stopped off at Waitomo to go explore the famous glowworm caves (an activity we highly suggest experiencing for yourselves). Once we arrived in Taupo we jumped on a jet boat before heading to our hostel to play some cards before bed.

Read more: New Zealand Must Do: Glowworm Caves, Waitomo


Day 3: Taupo to Napier

After having some breakfast by the lake we all jumped into the Wild Kiwi van and headed to Napier. This place is famous for two things, for its stunning Art Deco buildings and for being New Zealand’s most famous wine region. We spent the afternoon hopping from winery to winery, tasting some of NZ’s delicious wines before having a picnic high above Hawkes Bay.

Day 4: Napier to Rotorua

Today we headed to the geothermal centre of NZ – Rotorua. Once we arrived we went on a 2 hour walk through Wai-O-Tapu thermal park, home to a bunch of incredible bubbling and steaming volcanic crater lakes all with strange, unique colours, from bright green, to blues, yellows and oranges.

Day 5: Rotorua

This was by far our favourite day on the North Island part of the tour. We spent the morning at the Hobbiton Movie Set, the afternoon rolling down hills in giant blow up balls and had dinner at a traditional Maori village! We highly recommend doing all three of these activities during a visit to Rotorua!

Read more: 48 Hours in Rotorua – Favourite Destination on the North Island




Day 6: Rotorua to Coromandel

After breakfast, we took the beautiful drive to the stunning Coromandel Peninsula stopping off at some scenic spots along the way. Once we arrived at our beachfront accommodation we dumped our bags, grabbed our swimwear (and shovels) and headed to the famous Hot Water Beach. Located around a small rock formation on the beach is a pocket of hot water, which is exposed at low tide. When you visit make sure you bring a shovel (if you are staying at a place nearby they usually have shovels available to borrow), you will want to create a hole that will fill up with very hot water and then use the cold sea water to regulate the temperature. Such a unique experience!

For dinner we found a food truck serving the most delicious burgers right next door from where we were staying. It was the perfect way to end our time on the North island.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Coromandel, New Zealand

Day 7: Coromandel to Auckland (fly to Christchurch)

Today we woke up before the sun to take the 1.5 hour hike to Cathedral Cove. With white sand and white rock formations contrasting with the turquoise waters, this is by far the most beautiful attraction of the peninsula. We arrived just in time to watch the sunrise and take some shots before heading back to pack our bags and make our way back to Auckland.

Once we arrived back in the city we were dropped off at the airport and jumped on a domestic flight with our fellow Wild Kiwi group headed to Christchurch.


Day 8: Christchurch to Kaikoura

Today was the start of our South Island part of the tour. We spent the day driving out to Kaikoura, the beautiful seaside town where you can see a lot of marine life. We spent the afternoon hiking along the cliffs and this is where we lost our beloved drone #rip. During our adventures trying to find where it had crash landed, we found ourselves surrounded by a family of seals – only in Kaikoura!

Our night was spent with our group eating fish and chips and moarning our loss, haha!

Day 9: Kaikoura to Picton

Today we drove along the Kaikoura coast, seeing the effects of the earthquake damage back in 2016. The roads we took were only recently reopened and it was eye opening seeing the damage that can occur. Once we arrived in Picton, the gateway to Marlborough Sound, we were blown away – this area is absolutely breathtaking! This is the spot the ferries come in from the North Island and is made up of a collection of ancient sunken river valleys filled with the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The best way to take in the beauty of this area is to do a hike, and we decided to spend the afternoon doing the Snout Track. It is a 3 hour return hike and gives you incredible views of the Sound!



Day 10: Picton to Abel Tasman

We all woke up extra excited for today, we were heading out to Abel Tasman – one of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks. This day was mainly spent driving, stopping off at a couple of amazing beaches along the way.

We arrived late in the afternoon, staying at a really nice hostel right outside the entrance to Abel Tasman. We spent that night hanging out, cooking dinner together and just taking it easy.

Day 11: Abel Tasman

We started the morning with pancakes before going on a kayaking tour of Abel Tasman. We spent a couple of hours kayaking down this stunning coastline, passing islands and beaches with nobody else in sight.

We stopped to have lunch at Observation Beach before making the 3 hour hike back to our accommodation. If you ever head out to Abel Tasman we highly recommend this tour. Being able to experience the national park from the sea and from the land was a great way to take everything in when only having one day to do so.



Day 12: Abel Tasman to Punakaiki

After another scenic drive, stopping off at a lake for a morning coffee and dip to wake us up, we headed to the little coastal town of Punakaiki. This quaint spot is where you can see the famous Pancake Rocks.

In Punakaiki we stayed at an awesome private house in the middle of the forest. To end the day we followed the path that lead to a secluded beach to watch the sunset.



Day 13: Punakaiki (day trip to Hokitika)

Today we decided to head out of Punakaiki for the day and see what else this area had to offer. We found ourselves at the flattest lake we have ever seen, looking down at the water was just like looking in a mirror. We spent the morning running off the jetty into the icy cold waters – but this isn’t where the cold dips end. Next stop was Hokitika Gorge, a glacial fed river, and our group was daring enough to jump into the freezing cold waters – a memory we will never forget!

On the way home we found a store that sold drones and we picked up a brand new Mavic Air (let us know if you want to see a video on our first impressions of our new baby). We also picked up some 100’s & 1000’s as we had an American and German on the group that had never tried fairy bread – any Australians reading will know what we are on about! We spent the rest of the night playing games and eating too much sugar – the perfect way to end a day if you ask us!



Day 14: Punakaiki to Christchurch

Today was one of those long, driving days. We spent most of the morning heading through the iconic Southern Alps, which is one of New Zealand’s highest passes as we headed back to Christchurch.

Spending a night in the awesome capsule hostel in Christchurch was much needed (if you haven’t watched our vlog on this awesome accommodation, it’s worth checking out). Here we recharged our batteries ready for the last 7 days of our trip – which we knew were going to be jam packed with adventure!

Day 15: Christchurch to Franz Josef

After meeting some new people who were joining us for the southern South Island part of our journey, we jumped in our Wild Kiwi van and began our drive through Arthurs Pass on our way to Franz Josef – the gateway to glacier country!

We arrived in Franz Josef quite late, deciding to have an early night for the crazy day we had planned for tomorrow.

Day 16: Franz Josef

If you visit Franz Josef you need to do two things – go quad biking & go hiking on a glacier!

We spent the morning on a quad bike tour, driving through rainforest, mud and glacial fed rivers. After lunch we were off on the next adventure, jumping on a helicopter to visit Franz Josef Glacier. Once we landed we went for a glacier hike, climbing through ice caves and squeezing our way through cracks in the ice. This was a day we will never forget!







Day 17: Franz Josef to Queenstown

After breakfast, we hit the road ready for the most scenic drive so far. We drove along rugged coastline, hitting the Haast pass known for its ancient rainforests, blue glaciers and powerful waterfalls. We couldn’t stop staring out the window with awe!

After lunch we made a stop at Wanaka, known for the famous Wanaka Tree, before making our way to the main attraction – Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of New Zealand!


Day 18: Queenstown

Today we woke up at silly-o’clock ready to take the 5 hour drive to the 8th Wonder of the World – Milford Sound. This UNESCO sight is best seen by cruise, and that is exactly what we did. If you trying to decide if the long drive is worth it … it is!!! Milford Sound is a place that needs to be experienced in person, a major highlight of our trip!

Once we got back to Queenstown we were starving and decided to hit up NZ’s most famous burger joint, Fergburger! We had visited here last time we were in Queenstown 7 years ago and we surprised to see that Jess had made it on the Fergburger wall!



Day 19: Queenstown

Today was our last day in Queenstown, so it was time to experience what Queenstown is all about – adrenaline! Jess has been wanting to overcome her fear of heights for a while now, and has slowly been making progress ready for her trip to Queenstown. So today we decided to do two activities to help her conquer her fear, canyoning and the canyon fox swing!

We spent the morning ziplining, abseiling, jumping and sliding through a stunning canyon and had the most incredible morning ever! The afternoon was the finale, with Jess deciding to run and fall 6m off a cliff and ziplining across a canyon and Stephen falling 60m from a canyon swing!

Today was one of those days that are best explained through video. If there is any vlog we recommend you watching from our New Zealand trip it would be this one!



Day 20: Queenstown to Mt Cook

It was time to say goodbye to Queenstown, and head to the final stop on our trip – the iconic Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak. This mountain stands at 3,724m above sea level, and there are some amazing hikes to do around the area.

We decided to do the Hooker Valley track, one of the most popular hikes in the valley. The 3 hour track took us through stunning alpine scenery and over two swingbridge before ending at the Hooker Glacier Lake.



Day 21: Mt Cook to Christchurch

After breakfast it was time to hit the road for our last drive together. We stopped off at some turquoise lakes with amazing mountain views as we made our way back to Christchurch. This New Zealand trip really was a trip of a lifetime. We made so many incredible memories on this trip, along with some beautiful new friends!

The Vehicle

Something we found super unique about Wild Kiwi was their tour vehicles. It was the most luxurious tour van we have ever experienced. With leather seats, USB ports, unlimited wifi, music always playing, air con and massive windows – it was definitely a premium road trip experience.

 

The Accomodations

The places we stayed during our Wild Kiwi tour absolutely blew our expectations. Each place was so different and unique, we never stayed in your typical hostel or backpackers. Each night we stayed anywhere from private houses and  beachside chalets to hostels right on the river and capsule style rooms. Each hostel was always in the perfect location, with every spot a walk away from grocery stores and nearby attractions.


What does a tour like this cost?

When comparing the price of Wild Kiwi to other tour companies in New Zealand, Wild Kiwi is one of the cheapest options. Their 7 day tours start at $1,149NZD, 14 day tours start at $2,449NZD and their 21 day tour starts from $3,899NZD.

What’s Included?

Included in all of Wild Kiwi tours:

  • guide & driver

  • daily transport

  • all accommodation covered

  • breakfast daily

Extra inclusions in our specific tour (21 day New Zealand Discovery)

  • surf lesson in Raglan

  • Wai O Tapu geothermal park entry

  • flights from Auckland to Christchurch

  • 3 dinners

Additional

So in terms of what else you need to cover;

  • Flights, travel insurance

  • Additional activities. Activities in New Zealand are quite pricey, with an average price of $150NZD (going up to $400NZD) per activity. We suggest having a look at suggested activities at each location and putting that money aside so you can experience everything you want to experience during your trip.

  • Lunch & evening meals. We spent about $30-40NZD each a day on food (but that was us being quite strict, as food in New Zealand is quite expensive).

  • Personal costs

Stephen and Jess signoff

Thanks to Wild Kiwi for sponsoring Flying The Nest to experience their New Zealand Discovery tour, as always all opinions are our own.

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