Eco friendly things to do in New Zealand in 14 days

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Can you realistically spend 14 days in New Zealand and see everything? No, and it’s not recommended to try because you won’t have time to enjoy much. But you can still see a lot (note that we rented a car in order to do this trip in this amount of time).

We spent 2 weeks in New Zealand, and ended up doing the best combination of city and nature. It prevented us from feeling overwhelmed by city life, but also from feeling oversaturated with lakes and mountains. 

And now we want to share our list of top eco-friendly things to do in New Zealand, as well as things we decided to skip. All our activities were chosen mindfully, making sure they were eco-friendly.

We booked activities with local businesses, found gorgeous eco-friendly hotels, learned cultural facts about New Zealand, and made sure to follow proper etiquette.

Eco things to do in New Zealand: South Island

New Zealand is made up of two islands: North and South island. We started our journey in the South Island, landing in Queenstown.

We recommend renting a car, or even a camper van, in order to achieve this trip. 

Day 1: Fiordland National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

eco things to do in new zealand
Fiordland National Park

On Day 1, we visited the Fiordland National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is one of the most recommended things to do in New Zealand, for its gorgeous fjords and landscape, particularly Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound

Eco tip: instead of taking a boat, you can kayak along the fjord for a more eco-friendly activity.

Day 2: LOTR filming locations and Mount Earnslaw

LOTR filming locations new zealand

Day 2 led us to Mount Earnslaw / Pikirakatahi. You can hike or just drive around and admire the scenery. In the afternoon we did a tour of Lord of the Rings filming locations

I recommend this local, family-owned business that takes you around the LOTR filming locations near Queenstown, which include some of the beautiful lakes and rivers in the area. They are the only company that has access to the filming locations on private land. Our guide was actually an extra in the LOTR movies and shared fun anecdotes.

Day 3: Wanaka, Lake Pukaki 

New zealand itinerary 14 days
Lake Pukaki

On Day 3 we left Queenstown and drove to the small town Wanaka, saw Lake Pukaki and beautiful nature including glaciers. For the evening we went stargazing and sunk into hot springs at night. Lake Tekapo Lodge was the perfect place to rejuvenate.

Day 4: Drive to Picton and on to Wellington

We spent Day 4 driving to Picton to take the ferry from Picton to Wellington and spend the night there. A faster option would have been to drive to Christchurch instead and fly from there to Wellington, but the ferry was the more sustainable choice. 

Eco things to do in New Zealand: North Island

Day 5: Wellington, Te Papa, more LOTR filming locations

During Day 5 of the trip we spent the early part of the day in Wellington. We were recommended to walk along Cuba street for cafes and pastries, but to be honest, Cuba street was not that charming – it is just a pedestrian street in the middle of the city, and there are definitely weirdos hanging around there.

We left Cuba Street fast and instead we spent about half a day at the Te Papa museum, New Zealand’s national museum, which is free to visit, but you can also opt for a paid tour. Half a day was enough to cover the whole museum (6 floors) but you can definitely spend a whole day there.

Local tip: Wellington is generally windy, best to bring a jacket. There’s also not that much to do in the city centre itself so you don’t need much time to explore the city.

If you’re a Narnia or LOTR fan like we are, don’t miss the Wētā Cave to see movie props. It’s free to enter, like Te Papa, but you can also do a paid tour or movie workshops. Book the workshops weeks in advance as they get sold out fast. Prepare to spend a few hours there if you are doing a workshop. The tour only lasts about 1.5 hours, and you get more insights into the costumes and props, with the possibility of meeting some of the costume designers.

weta cave lord of the rings
Wētā Cave

Day 6: Pūtangirua Pinnacles and the Hobbit’s hideaway (yes, more LOTR filming locations)

On Day 6 in the early morning, we drove to Pūtangirua Pinnacles. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Wellington, but it’s worth the trip if you’re interested in hiking and/or LOTR filming locations. 

Aside from being another one of the LOTR filming locations (the Path of the Dead scene), the pinnacles are a geological phenomenon – ​​formed over 7 million years ago by erosion that forced the sediments of the Pūtangirua Stream to combine together into these earth pyramids called ‘hoodoos’.

For the best views of the Pūtangirua Pinnacles, there are a few options, but we chose the one that offers the best views. It’s a 3-4 hour walk, starting with the Pinnacles Track leading to the lookout, then going uphill from there. This takes you to the coast, and you get views of Palliser Bay and Lake Onoke.

In the evening back in Wellington, we drove to Victoria Park to look for the Hobbit’s hideaway in Victoria Park (where the four hobbits hid from the Nazgul in the woods). This was really cool, especially because the wind and rustling of the branches gave us that eerie feeling of that scene.

Afterwards, we followed the road to Mount Victoria viewpoint, another spot where LOTR was filmed in New Zealand, to watch the sunset. You can hike around the the viewpoint area (we didn’t, we were all hiked out for the day), or just go to the lookout.

Local tip: it can get quite windy up there.

14 days in New Zealand
Mount Victoria

Day 7: Eco animal sanctuary, Moai Statue, Red Rocks

Day 7 took us on another small road trip outside of the city centre. In the morning we went to Zealandia, an eco sanctuary for New Zealand’s endemic animals. You can also choose to do a night tour to observe nocturnal wildlife. There is a pricey entrance fee though, and only about 10 people are allowed at a time, so you need to book ahead.

After that we drove to the Moai Statue, similar to the ones on Easter Island. These are monolithic (large single rock) human figures that people carved, and they usually represent god-like ancestors. Moai culture is said to be a bit similar to the Maori’s. 

things to do in new zealand
Moia Statue in Wellington

The majority of the afternoon after lunch was spent at Red Rocks. We did a 3-4 hour round trip walk to try and see seals lounging in the sun. The walk is relatively flat and easy, but you will still need good walking shoes.

The seals are not always visible, and they don’t show up all the time. In winter your chances of seeing them increase. We did not see any.

Day 8: Tūrangi

On Day 8 we left Wellington early and headed to Tūrangi. It was a long drive, about 4 hours, so we skipped Tongariro National Park and Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike, which is a spot where LOTR was filmed in New Zealand (where Gollum splashed around to catch a fish).

We headed straight to Tūrangi: we drove around Lake Taupo and arrived at Mine Bay, famous for its Māori rock carvings (can be accessed by boat but we recommend a kayak for a more sustainable and up-close view of the rocks). A ferry or boat takes around 90 minutes, and the kayak takes a few hours.

Afterwards we dipped into the hot springs at Otumuheke stream. The warm hot spring area is rather small, but it goes into the river which is colder and has strong currents.

otumuheke stream new zealand
Otumuheke stream

Local tip: There are changing rooms and a toilet there, but it’s not the cleanest, and the changing rooms are just one big room, no individual stalls. I recommend getting ready in your accommodation before heading there.

The Huka Falls are nearby, and we went to the viewpoint by car. You can do a 90 minute walk if you have time, but we were pretty exhausted by then.

huka falls new zealand
Huka Falls

Day 9: Waitomo Caves and Redwood Treewalk in Rotorua

Day 9 took us to Waitomo Caves, where we visited the Glowworm Caves. These caves are famous for their glow worms which light up the caves. We did the 45 minute tour with the short boat ride where you get an introductory talk and then glide along the tiny river and look up at the glow worms. Photos are not allowed on this tour.

You can also do a walking-only tour (the Ruakuri tour) – it’s about 90 minutes and you can take photos on this tour.

Another cave that attracts visitors is Aranui Caves, which you can actually visit by yourself for free at night. These don’t have the glowworm, but they do have wētā colonies (wētā are insects that look like roaches, and are endemic to New Zealand), which can be interesting, or creepy, depending on how much you like insects.

There are other nature-related things to do near the Waitomo Caves if you have time, such as zip lining and black water rafting through the caves, but we skipped those.

Local tip: bring a jacket for the caves, temperatures are around 16°C (60°F) year round.  And wear comfortable shoes, preferably non-slippery ones.

Afterwards we made our way to Rotorua. Our next eco activity was the Redwood Treewalk, where we saw century-old trees and experienced views of trees from above. For this activity if you just want to see trees, you can take a walk in the forest and there’s no entry fee. If you want to walk on the suspension bridges during day time there’s a fee but no pre-booking necessary. If you want to do the Redwoods Nightlights and the Redwoods Altitude activities, they recommend to book online in advance.

We did the Nighlights activity. Bear in mind that you still need to wait in line despite having tickets, so get there early. We went before sunset so that we could go for a walk in the forest. During the activity, it was slightly scary at first when you walk on the suspension bridge right above the car park, but as you venture further into the forest you barely see the ground, just trees.

redwood treewalk
Redwoods Nightlights

Local tip: close your windows when in Rotorua. The town has an unpleasant smell, like rotten eggs, due to the sulphur from the geothermal activity nearby.

Day 10: Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Māori cultural experience

14 days in new zealand
Champagne Pool

On Day 10 we started our morning to the world’s largest hot springs, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, 20 minutes south of Rotorua. We visited the Champagne Pool, a unique orange-coloured natural hot spring. 

Local tip: avoid the Champagne Pool if you’re sensitive to smells, or bring some ginger candy to combat the nausea. It smells like old farts / rotten boiled eggs. We did not stay there long.

We ended the day with the one thing that’s unique to New Zealand: experience the Māori culture via a Māori “village experience”. There are several local companies (Te-pa-tu, Mitai, and Whakarewarewa) that offer this, and we chose to book with them directly so that they did not have to pay a commission.

Māori culture
Māori show at Mitai Māori Village

Whakarewarewa is the shortest and most affordable activity, but does not offer transport or food. With Te-pa-tu and Mitai, you get traditionally cooked Māori meals. We chose Mitai and can’t recommend it enough.

We did a short “bush” walk and watched the Māori men row by on a traditional boat, then watched a performance where they explained about their tools, schooling, and culture. We had dinner after that, a buffet meal with the meat and potatoes prepared the traditional way over hot rocks, and finished the evening looking at glowworms.

More about Māori culture here.

Day 11: Hobbiton Movie Set tour (LOTR filming locations)

LOTR filming locations, Where LOTR was filmed in new zealand
Hobbiton movie set

On Day 11, we drove to Matama for our morning Hobbiton Movie Set tour. This is one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand, and we recommend it for any one who appreciates the LOTR movies’ aesthetics, regardless of whether you’re a huge fan or not. There are several options to choose from (basic tour, second breakfast tour, or dinner banquet tour).

Take your time to appreciate the nature and artistic vision of Peter Jackson in creating Hobbiton, because the tour ends fast and most people are only concerned with getting a photo in front of the hobbit holes, particularly Bag End, and you might feel rushed.

Local tip: book your tour months ahead because they get sold out fast, and choose the earliest tour so that you’ll be the first group going in.

After the tour we walked through Hamilton gardens, which to be honest were somewhat underwhelming, although the Indian Gardens and Italian Renaissance Gardens were beautiful. It also has a sustainability garden that addresses topics like composting.

In the afternoon we drove to Auckland where we spent the last few days of our New Zealand journey. 

Day 12: Auckland city

auckland new zealand

On the morning of Day 12 we explored the city of Auckland. We walked around the harbour and bridge, and then went to Parnell Village. We had lunch there, and explored museums and Parnell Baths, which is by the bay and has a big salt water pool.

In the afternoon we went to Mount Eden village nearby, and in the evening we went to night markets for a casual dinner.  

In Auckland, The Hotel Britomart is a great sustainable, elegant option.

Day 13: Takapuna and Howick Historical Village

On Day 13 we explored the Takapuna area. It has a chill vibe with beaches, cafes, and pubs. We went on to Devonport seaside village (12 min by ferry or you can also drive there) and walked to Mount Victoria for beautiful panoramic views. 

In the afternoon we explored Howick Historical Village, a living museum of New Zealand’s colonial’s past, in the suburb of Pakuranga. The village practices sustainability in its recycling processes, traditional gardening (no chemicals), and use of eco-friendly cleaning products.

Day 14: Bay of Islands

Activities in new zealand
Bay of Islands

On our last day in Auckland we drove 3 hours north of Auckland and went to the Bay of Islands. It is a must-do activity in New Zealand. It’s a bay area with about 140 islands, great for sailing and kayaking with gorgeous natural beauty. 

Things we didn’t include in our 14 days in New Zealand


  • Is New Zealand worth visiting?

Yes, New Zealand is absolutely worth visiting. I spent 2 weeks there and I can’t wait to go back. There is so much to do and see in New Zealand: from national parks, mountains, beaches, and fjords to beautiful cities. Plus if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you absolutely have to go as all three movies were filmed entirely in New Zealand. 

  • What are the absolute must-dos in New Zealand?

It depends on the time of the year, and whether you prefer city life or nature, though I would say that New Zealand is all about gorgeous landscapes and nature-filled outdoor activities. Outdoor activities include skiing, biking, visiting national parks, fjords, and geothermal phenomena like geysers, hot springs, and volcanic craters. One of the best things I recommend doing is visit a Māori cultural village and learn more about the culture of the indigenous people. And don’t forget the Hobbiton movie set in the North Island.

  • How long do you need to visit New Zealand?

A week in New Zealand is not nearly enough to cover even one island, let alone both. Two weeks is somewhat doable to hit a few spots on both islands, but I would say at least 3 weeks to a month to see most of New Zealand.

  • Is it expensive to visit New Zealand?

New Zealand is indeed not a budget destination, and it can be costly to travel there. We spent on average €75 per night for decent, mid-range accommodations for 2 people, and renting a car per week cost around €400.

Final thoughts on eco-friendly things to do in New Zealand in 14 days

There is so much to do and see in New Zealand, but in order to avoid feeling jaded with similar sightseeing activities (museums, national parks, rivers, lakes, mountains), we did a mixture of things and skipped some activities.

We did have a pretty packed schedule, but it was still a relaxing and nature-infused trip, and we did not feel like we had to rush from place to place. And as always we chose nature-filled and cultural activities, opting for family-owned businesses, eco-friendly hotels, learned about New Zealand culture to practise proper etiquette, and booked directly with local agencies rather than via international tour companies.

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