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What to do for a week in New Zealand: cities, culture and chilling
November 6, 2014 | By:

You’ll have to choose between the North and South Islands with just a week in New Zealand, but you can pack in beautiful beaches, cities and stunning landscapes, says Robin Barton

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Wellington, New Zealand’s compact but pretty capital

With just one week in New Zealand, the choice will be between spending it on one island or the other. Very generally, the North Island has more people, warmer weather and more mellow landscapes (if you can call the active volcanoes around Tongariro mellow).

Meanwhile, the South Island is a more physically challenging environment, with mountain adventures, dramatic weather and greater distances between attractions. For that reason, the North Island is the more easy-going option.

Head south out of Auckland after visiting a couple of chic neighbourhoods, such as Ponsonby and Parnell, for an introduction to New Zealand food and wine.

A night in Rotorua, after the three-hour drive from Auckland, will give you a day to tour the thermal wonders before moving onto the east coast for a couple days in Napier and Hawkes Bay for wine-touring.

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Rotorua lies on a caldera, the source of its thermal activity

Then return inland to the centre of the North Island to explore an active volcano – and New Zealand’s first national park, Tongariro. The one-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a chance to pull on some hiking boots and discover old lava flows, volcanic craters, emerald lakes and thermal vents.

The 20km hike involves some moderately challenging climbing but the views make up for the effort. If you have time, the reward is a day on Lake Taupo, just to the north.

The final drive of the trip is the four-hour stint between Tongariro and Wellington. The New Zealand capital, the last stop on this whirlwind tour, has the country’s best museums, a lively bar and cafe scene (coffee and beer are two things New Zealand does as proficiently as wine) and a refreshing, low-key vibe, thanks to its location squeezed between hills and the wild ocean. 

If you’re thinking of heading to the South Island, click here for an itinerary

High50 has partnered with Tourism New Zealand to bring you this guide. To discover more about New Zealand and to book, visit newzealand.com.