Road-Trip in New Zealand – the Must-Sees of the Two Islands

Are you ready for a wonder road trip to New Zealand? Not quite…? No problem, keep on reading! At the risk of sounding caricatural, when we thought of New Zealand before, we had two things in mind: the Lord of the Rings and the All Blacks rugby team. The first one evoked the sublime landscapes and the second, Maori culture and the legendary Hakka, of course! Now that we’ve been there, we can say that New Zealand is much more than that!

The must-sees of the two Islands

The North Island

In the Coromandel peninsula, we visited the Hot Water Beach, where people bring their shovels to dig in the beach when the tide is low, in order to bathe in a natural Jacuzzi. When we passed by, we were not lucky because the water wasn’t warm, or else we had to get away from the shore and dig very deep to find it. Unfortunately, we did not have the patience nor the tools to do so!

Hot Water Beach

A few minutes away from the Hot Water Beach is the famous Cathedral Cove, which is a major tourist attraction in the region: a natural tunnel in the rock. The short hike to get there is easy and quite exciting.

Cathedral Cove

Jessica was completely delighted when we visited Hobbiton, AKA “The Shire”, she is a definite “fan” of the Lord of the Rings. Throughout the visit in this magical landscape, we had the music of the film running through our heads. Nostalgia, nostalgia!



On the way south is a little-known attraction but which is really worth a visit. Blue Spring Putaruru is a river with water of exceptional purity that draws its source far away in the mountains. To preserve its transparency, it is forbidden to swim in it.

Blue Spring Putaruru

Our road-trip took us to Taupo, a pretty and very pleasant city on the edge of a lake with a view over the mountains. It’s actually a volcanic caldera with thermal waters everywhere!


Auckland is the capital and largest city of the country. This vibrant and multicultural city attracts people from all backgrounds for its quality of life, which we have come to appreciate while walking around.


Auckland Sky Tower

South Island – from Christchurch to Milford Sound

On the South Island of New Zealand, the weather was more variable and colder than in the North, but the views are much more spectacular and worthy of the Lord of the Rings’ extraordinary landscapes! Moreover, we very often remembered certain scenes from the film, at the turn of the many roads.

Faithful to our reputation, we have charted our way from Christchurch to Milford Sound. We walked the 10km of the Hooker Valley Track which is at the foot of Mount Cook, where we admired a glacier and some icebergs amid a fantastic scenery.

Mount Cook – View from Lake Pukaki

Mount Cook

Hooker Valley Trail

Hooker Valley Trail

Lake Pukaki

In Fjordland, the views are truly spectacular. We tried to climb to Lake Marian, but without success because we were not equipped with walking boots. So we made a turn back along the way, without first forgetting to contemplate the magical forest surrounding us.

On our way to Milford Sound

Pop’s View lookout

Lake Marian Trail

In Milford Sound, a 2-hour boat ride awaited us to sail to the end of one of the world’ s most famous fjords, which the famous author of the Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, even called the “eighth wonder of the world”.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise

South Island – from Queenstown to Christchurch

Queenstown is nicknamed “The Adventure Capital of the World” and with good reason! From bungee jumping, parachuting and jet boating, a wide range of extreme activities are available for thrill-seekers. As we grew to old to enjoy Red Bull, we decided to do a more relaxing activity there, by climbing Queenstown Hill at the top of which we were able to admire a panoramic view of Lake Wakatipu and a part of the city.

Queenstown Hill

Queenstown Hill


A short detour to Glenorchy along the same Lake Wakatipu also offers sensational views.

Bennetts Bluff Lookout

Twenty Five Mile Stream

Leaving Queenstown on the hilly road to Wanaka, we had no choice but to stop several times as well. When we reached Wanaka, we could enjoy #thatwanakatree, the iconic tree in the lake.

Crown Range Summit

That Wanaka Tree

We then went along the west coast of the island and saw the now ” mini ” Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in the distance. This region would not have left its mark on us if we had not come across the breathtaking view of Bruce Bay.

Bruce Bay View Point

Waterfall on the West Coast

The road through Arthur’s Pass, on the slopes and heights of the mountains, at the crossroads of waterfalls and lakes to bring us to Christchurch is breathtaking! To finish off with our trip to New Zealand, we did two small but beautiful hikes at Cave Stream Scenic Reserve and Castle Hill.

Kia Birds

Cave Stream Scenic Reserve

Castle Hill

Castle Hill

For a better preparation


We landed on the North Island for 4 days, more precisely in Auckland where we rented a car for a short trip of 1000 km to the Coromandel Peninsula and the center of the island.

Back in Auckland, we took a domestic flight to Christchurch, on the South Island. From there, we rented a campervan for 7 days to drive down to Milford Sound and through Mount Cook, then back to Christchurch by the glacier route on the west side of the island.

Transportation et accomodation

In Auckland, we benefited from the generosity of our friends Joy and Andrew who opened the doors of their beautiful home to us. Our boys had the pleasure of playing with their 3 beautiful mixed-race children! In order to cover part of the North Island, we rented a Nissan X-Trail.

Nissan X-Trail for the North Island

On the South Island, we rented a Jucy campervan in Christchurch to swallow 2000 km of road. Camping is highly regulated in New Zealand, so it was impossible to camp in the wild. We slept in DOC (Department of Conservation) as much as possible. The DOC Pass, which costs 75 NZD for 7 nights, pays for itself after 2 nights. Otherwise, the Campermate and Wikicamp applications also pointed us to free camps.

Campervan for the South Island


We have spent a lot of money on transport. Restaurants being relatively expensive, we preferred to do our groceries and prepare our meals. Overall, the cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 3,582.00 NZD (2,227.28 USD);
  • 325.64 NZD (202.48 USD) per day;
  • 81.40 NZD (50.61 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense Category Amount Spent
Flight 1,081.00 NZD / 673.56 USD
Accomodation 99.00 NZD / 61.69 USD
Transport (including gas) 1,532.00 NZD / 954.57 USD
Eating out 58.00 NZD / 36.14 USD
Groceries 504.00 NZD / 314.04 USD
Activities 308.00 NZD / 191.91 USD
Total3,582.00 NZD / 2,231.89 USD

In a nutshell

Dates2019-03-01 to 2019-03-12
Number of days 11
Cities we visited Auckland, Taupo, Christchurch, Queenstown, Wanaka
Inbound From Australia by plane
Outbound To Fiji by plane
Mode of transport Rental car, campervan
Distance travelled (car, foot) 3220 km
Number of photos taken 3500 (318 per day)
Currency The New Zealand Dollar (1.00 USD = 1.60 NZD)


New Zealand is one of those countries (along with Australia) where we absolutely wanted to visit before planning our round the world trip. During the planning process, our interest in this country decreased while that of other countries increased. With a sense of accomplishment, we finally visited New Zealand.

It’s time to reach to another sunny destination. Fiji is awaiting us!

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