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The Best New Zealand Itinerary for Solo Travellers

Best New Zealand Itinerary for Solo Travellers:

Solo travelling New Zealand: Coach, Car or Campervan?
Stop 1: Auckland
Stop 2: Bay of Islands
Stop 3: Waitomo Caves
Stop 4: Hot Water Beach
Stop 5: Mount Maunganui
Stop 6: Rotorua
Stop 7: Lake Taupo
Stop 8: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Stop 9: Wellington
Stop 10: Christchurch
Stop 11: Lake Tekapo
Stop 12: Queenstown
Stop 13: Lake Wanaka
Stop 14: Franz Josef Glacier

If you want to travel New Zealand solo, you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for an expensive solo package trip.

This New Zealand itinerary for solo travellers will tell you the best places to stay to meet new people, how to find cheap group activities and how to have the most epic NZ trip solo.

How to Get Around New Zealand as a Solo Traveller

New Zealand Coach Travel for Solo Travellers

Coach travel is probably the most budget-friendly way to complete your solo trip around New Zealand.

If you don’t want to drive during your solo itinerary, InterCity coach service offers transport to basically all of the major tourist spots in the country.

You don’t have to buy tickets for specific coach routes either, instead you buy journey hours on a FlexiPass and you can top up as you go.

You can buy up to 80 hours of travel, which would get you up and down the length of the country for $641 dollars.

If you’re just visiting one of the islands or doing a shorter trip, you could choose between 20-70 hours of travel.

For solo travellers, using coach travel can be the most economical choice, especially given the current global fuel prices.

Car Hire in New Zealand for Solo Travellers

A white 4x4 parked by the side of a road heading towards snow capped mountains.
Driving around in Mount Cook Aoraki National Park

Hiring a car to drive around New Zealand is an exhilarating experience.

Driving is relatively easy in New Zealand (as long as you’re comfortable driving on the left!), and it’s a great way to check out spots that are off the beaten track.

If you feel comfortable driving long distances on your own, then car hire may be a good option for your solo itinerary.

For car hire I can recommend Jucy Rentals, who offer cheap car rentals and have various drop off locations on both North and South Island.

This means if you don’t want to drive back to Auckland after your solo road trip, you can drop off the car in Queenstown or Christchurch.

I’ve used Jucy both in New Zealand and Australia and was really impressed with the customer service and quality of the vehicles for reasonable prices.

New Zealand Campervan Hire for Solo Travellers

When solo travelling I personally prefer to stay in hostels as it’s the best way to meet new people and socialise.

However, if you do want to do complete your New Zealand solo traveller itinerary in a campervan, then you will have an amazing time.

In spring and summer, many of the free camping spots are full of backpackers so you will still have an opportunity to meet new people on the road.

For solo campervan hire in New Zealand, I would again chose Jucy Rentals.

A green and purple campervan in a grassy camping spot overlooking snow-capped mountains.
Jucy campervan in Mount Cook Aoraki National Park

The iconic bright green and purple campervans are always a good conversation starter, and it’s an unspoken rule that you have to wave at all fellow Jucy vans on the highway!

Stop 1: Auckland

A city skyline with skyscrapers and a radio tower behind a body of water dotted with sailing boats and port equipment.
Auckland city skyline

It’s most likely that you’ll fly into Auckland, given that it’s the biggest international airport.

Auckland is a brilliant place to start your solo New Zealand itinerary, offering great opportunities to meet people and organise your transport around the country.

The best place to stay in Auckland for solo travellers is Haka Lodge, where you can choose between dorms or private rooms.

At Haka Lodge, you’ll be able to meet like-minded travellers who are also most likely at the beginning of their Kiwi adventure.

If you only have a short time in Auckland before commencing your solo New Zealand roadtrip, I can highly recommend doing an Auckland Walking Tour with an expert local guide, a Discover Auckland Scenic Discovery Tour or an Auckland Food Walking Tour.

Whilst in Auckland, don’t miss Viaduct Harbour, Auckland Sky Tower and Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Stop 2: Bay of Islands

A dolphin diving out of the water next to a white boat where people take photos of it.
Dolphin spotting on a group boat trip of the Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands is a cluster of 140 subtropical islands on the east coast of the country.

It’s famous for pristine waters, unspoilt beaches and marine life.

Bay of Islands is also a great place to visit as a solo traveller, with a couple of chilled out beach hostels to stay at.

As a solo traveller I would choose to stay in Paihia, a relaxed coastal town known as the gateway to the Bay of Islands.

Haka Lodge Paihia is a brilliant backpackers hostel right on the beach, with paddleboards and kayaks available to hire.

Some of the islands can only be accessed by boat, so you may want to do a Bay of Islands Boat Tour to discover marine life, snorkel, SUP and sunbathe with your tour group.

Bay of Islands is also the place for thrill-seekers to do one of the highest skydives in New Zealand (20,000 ft).

Whilst in the Paihia, definitely check out the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (a preserved site where the first accord between the British and the Māori was signed).

Stop 3: Waitomo Caves

Four people floating in a cave of water in black rubber rings with black wetsuits and blue helmets on looking up at glow worms on the roof.
Group Black Water Rafting via Waitomo Glowworm Caves on TripAdvisor

Waitomo Caves is a famous extensive underground cave system full of glow worms.

It’s one of the most unique experiences in New Zealand and tourists come from all over the world to experience the magical glow worm caves for themselves.

Whether you want to do a Glowworm Caving Adventure, a Black Water Rafting Experience, or a Budget-Friendly Boat Tour, there are plenty of group tours available so you can enjoy this experience with others.

For the best accommodation for solo travellers near Waitomo Caves, I can highly recommend YHA Waitomo Juno Hall.

The youth hostel is just down the road from the Waitomo Caves and has an outdoor pool and fab BBQ/ communal areas to enjoy the warm summer evenings with new friends.

Stop 4: Hot Water Beach

The Coromandel Peninsula is known for it’s pristine aquamarine water and laid back holiday vibes, as well as the famous Hot Water Beach.

The best place for solo travellers to stay on the Coromandel Peninsula is Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park.

Here you can opt for a mixed dorm in a cosy cabin or choose a private glamping pod/ room.

The super clean communal kitchen is a great place to make friends, and get a group together to dig for hot water on the nearby popular beach.

A steaming pool of water on a beach with a shovel stuck in the sand. Waves crash on rocks and the sun rises in the distance.
Digging for thermal water on Hot Water Beach via The Coromandel.

Due to a natural phenomenon where hot springs run underneath the sand, at certain times of the day you can grab a shovel and dig a hole in the sand that will fill with thermal water.

The water is only hot for 2 hours either side of low tide (make sure you check the low tide times and plan your trip accordingly).

Look for the small rocks sticking out of the sea and dig in front of them, because this is where the hot water is found.

You don’t need to bring your own shovels, you can rent them for a couple of dollars from the café near the beach.

Whilst you’re on the Coromandel, don’t miss the epic Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour in the clear aquamarine water, along with the stunning cliffs of Cooks Beach.

Stop 5: Mount Maunganui

The next stop is a laid back surf town with great nightlife.

The viewpoint from the top of a mountain overlooking a peninsula town by the ocean with a white beach, gentle waves and small islands in the distance.
Mount Maunganui from the top of the extinct volcano

Mount Maunganui is an extinct volcano by the ocean, and it’s one of New Zealand’s Best Short Hikes.

Below the volcano you’ll find Main Beach, which is popular with surfers and suitable for beginners.

The best place for solo travellers to stay in Mount Maunganui is Mount Backpackers.

Found just round the corner from the beach, the sociable hostel offers group home-cooked dinners and surfboard/ wetsuit hire.

You’ll also find fellow travellers at the hostel to party with (don’t miss Voodoo Lounge and Palace Tavern).

Stop 6: Rotorua

Rotorua is famous for geothermal activity, and it’s also the best place in New Zealand to learn about Māori culture.

A geothermal park pictured from above with steaming hot blue water surrounding by wooden viewing platforms and green trees.
Geothermal activity via Kuirau Park in Rotorua

The buzzing town is a great place for solo travellers to base themselves for a few days, with opportunities to do cool group activities.

Rotorua is the best place to do white water rafting in New Zealand, with the nearby Kaituna River being home to the highest rafted waterfall in the world.

This adrenaline-filled activity is a brilliant way to make friends with fellow thrill-seekers.

An inflatable raft filled with people dropping down a steep waterfall with green lush plants and rocks on either side.
White water rafting near Rotorua via Kaituna Cascades

In terms of accommodation for solo travellers, Rock Solid Backpackers is the best place to stay.

It’s found on Eat Street, Rotorua’s iconic street filled with eateries, bars and a nightclub, meaning it’s a really sociable spot to enjoy with new friends (try and plan your trip around the Thursday Rotorua Night Market for amazing street food).

At the hostel, get a group of backpackers together and drive out to the free thermal attractions around Rotorua, such as Kerosene Creek natural hot spring and Waiotapu Mud Pool.

For authentic cultural experiences in Rotorua, check out Te Puia (home to the impressive Pōhutu geyser) and Mitai Living Maori Village.

Other cool activities to do in Rotorua include the Ziplining Forest Adventure in the Redwood Forest and the Rotorua Luge.

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you should also do a day trip to The Hobbiton Movie Set from Rotorua (it’s only an hour away by car).

A hobbit hole covered in grass and vines with a big tree on top of it and steps leading to a round green door.
Bilbo Baggins’ house at Hobbiton Movie Set

Stop 7: Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is the largest lake in the country, and a must-stop destination on your New Zealand itinerary for solo travellers.

Solo travellers should check into Finlay Jack’s Backpackers, a really cool hostel with free morning yoga, group BBQs and even backyard gigs in the summer.

Other sociable backpacker hostels around Lake Taupo include Haka Lodge Taupo and Rainbow Lodge Backpackers.

After making some new mates in your hostel, get a group together and check out Huka Falls, New Zealand’s famous waterfall that drains a quarter of a million litres of water per second from the lake.

Fellow adrenaline junkies at your hostel may enjoy a group trip on the thrilling Huka Jet, whilst those who love a good stomp will be challenged by Mt Tauhara.

Want to learn more about māori history in Taupo? Why not join a boat trip out to the Māori rock carvings at Mine Bay (it’s really cheap!).

Stop 8: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most famous attractions in New Zealand, and it’s easy for solo travellers to find fellow hikers to tackle it with.

The hike through Mordor in Tongariro National Park is a must-do for any Lord of the Rings fan, with a chance to get up close to Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom).

A rocky volcanic landscape of dark brown peaks and green lakes shown from a high viewpoint.
Views from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

All you need to do is check into the YHA National Park Backpackers, who offer shuttle buses to and from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing every day (during high season).

Hiking solo can be dangerous in New Zealand, but YHA National Park Backpackers takes away that worry by offering group shuttles to hostel guests.

There is also a climbing wall at the hostel, with guests offered equipment hire at a discounted rate.

Prefer to do a guided trek of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing? This highly rated guided trek includes transfers from National Park Village where the YHA is located.

Stop 9: Wellington

The capital city is a fantastic stop on the New Zealand itinerary for solo travellers.

The Marion Hostel is the best hostel in Wellington – it has been beautifully refurbished to add a little luxury to the backpacker experience (and it has a sociable roof terrace).

Whilst in Wellington definitely check out Te Papa Museum of New Zealand, which is free entry and has brilliant exhibitions.

With your new travel mates from the hostel, take a stroll up to Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset for great views over the city and the waterfront.

For those wanting to experience some of Wellington’s nightlife, don’t miss Cuba St for a buzzing atmosphere.

Stop 10: Christchurch

Christchurch is the biggest city on New Zealand’s South Island and a cool place to check out for a day or two.

Solo travellers should stay at The Old Countryhouse, a friendly hostel with a social atmosphere near the city centre.

Whilst in Christchurch, don’t miss the vibey Riverside Market and the colourful New Regent Street for great bars and cafés.

A street lined with colourful regent-style buildings with outdoor tables, benches and parasols out front.
The colourful New Regent Street in Christchurch

Christchurch also has lots of English heritage that can be enjoyed by strolling along the River Avon, and don’t miss the old vintage trams rumbling through the city.

Stop 11: Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is stunning spot in the heart of South Island that solo travellers will love.

YHA Lake Tekapo is a great sociable spot to stay for solo travellers, with a common area overlooking the lake.

Whilst in Lake Tekapo don’t miss Mt John Summit Circuit Track for panoramic lake views and the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd at sunrise.

Whilst here the friendly staff will help you to organise a trip to Mount Cook via Lake Pukaki, which I would highly recommend for epic scenery.

A stone Anglican church surrounded by long grass plants and big rocks perched on the shores of a lake with snow-capped mountains in the distance.
The Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo

Stop 12: Queenstown

And now we get to the pearl of South Island, the lakeside paradise of Queenstown.

Queenstown is probably one of the best spots in New Zealand for solo travellers, with loads of activities and tours available.

Solo travellers should stay at Adventure Queenstown Hostel, found just a block from the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

An alpine style building on a roadside with people waving from the upstairs terrace and a mountain in the distance.
The sociable hostel in Queenstown via Adventure Hostels New Zealand

The budget-friendly hostel offers hostel-run events and activities 7 nights a week, along with a roof terrace with views of The Remarkables mountain range.

With your new hostel friends why not go bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge or do a 85km/hour jet boat ride through the Shotover River Canyons.

If a group of you enjoy hiking you can tackle Queenstown Hill (don’t be fooled – it’s actually a small mountain) or the even more challenging Ben Lomond.

Heading up the Skyline Gondola is a bit of a rite of passage in Queenstown (it’s one of the best viewpoints in New Zealand), but adrenaline-junkies might prefer the Queenstown Zipline Adventure for even better views.

An aerial view of a lakeside town at sunrise overlooked by snow-capped mountains.
Queenstown from the top of the Sky Gondola

Food-enthusiasts should try the cult burgers at Fergburger and authentic Mexican at Margo’s Queenstown.

A sunset drink at Perky’s Floating Bar is obligatory, whilst party animals won’t be disappointed by Queenstown’s après-ski style nightlife.

If you can get a group together at the hostel, you should spend a day driving out to Glenorchy and Arrowtown, two beautiful heritage towns just outside of Queenstown.

Queenstown is also the perfect base for solo travellers to do a day trip to the famous Milford Sound, I would recommend the Milford Sound Day Tour from Queenstown.

Stop 13: Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka is another of the South Island’s famous lakes.

Solo travellers should stay at Wanaka Bakpaka Hostel, a lakeside 1920s hunting lodge with amazing views over the glacial waters.

Two people relaxing on a table on an outdoor terrace with paving stones, grass and trees overlooking a blue lake.
The lake views from the terrace via Wanaka Bakpaka Hostel

You can’t visit Wanaka without checking out #ThatWanakaTree, a willow tree sticking out of the water towards the southern end of the lake.

A group of you from the hostel may want to tackle the legendary Roy’s Peak, or bathe in the Blue Pools of Mount Aspiring National Park.

Wanaka is a small town, but it still has some cool spots for a drink. Don’t miss Cork Bar and, or Ground Up Brewing and Rhyme X Reason Brewery for local craft beer.

Stop 14: Franz Josef Glacier

The next stop on your New Zealand itinerary for solo travellers is the ‘Wild West Coast‘.

Known as Glacier Country, Franz Josef Glacier is found on the other side of the Southern Alps to Mount Cook, yet the landscapes are so different.

Solo travellers visiting Franz Josef Glacier should stay at Glow Worm Accommodation, a chilled backpackers hostel with a hot tub and free breakfast, as well as free soup in the evenings and unlimited popcorn.

On a clear day you can see Franz Josef Glacier from the kitchen, and you’ll be able to get a group together to hike up to the glacier observation deck.

A retreating icy glacier with a rocky river bed in the foreground used by people walking towards the glacier.
The Franz Josef Glacier Walk

I hope you enjoyed this New Zealand itinerary for solo travellers. Don’t miss the best viewpoints in New Zealand too!