How to Spend 10 Days in New Zealand
Plan your trip to New Zealand with this action-packed travel itinerary.
There’s a jaw-dropping landscape around every corner in New Zealand. With its wild coastlines, mountain-ringed lakes, and cinematic Middle Earth vistas, the country is the ultimate adventure-lover’s island getaway — and a bonafide Instagram dream. For many, the journey here ventures into trip-of-a-lifetime territory, with travelers packing in as much as they can in a short amount of time. The truth is, you could spend months in New Zealand, and still leave wanting to explore more.
The best time to visit New Zealand is between December and May, the country’s summer and fall seasons. Ten days allows for ample time to explore the both the North and South Island, on a self-drive itinerary that lets you control the journey. Here’s how to do it.
DAY 1: Auckland
Fly into Auckland on the North Island and pick up a rental car at the airport (remember to drive on the left!) before heading to the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour. New Zealand’s largest city is as metropolitan as this country gets, especially in the downtown CBD (Central Business District). Dig into local Orongo Bay oysters at Depot Eatery, then ride 1,000 feet up to the top of the Sky Tower for sweeping North Island views. A 20-minute walk leads to the bohemian Ponsonby neighborhood and an array of funky boutiques and buzzing cocktail bars on Ponsonby Road.
DAY 2: Auckland
Wake up early and drive an hour west to the stunning, black-sand Piha Beach. Kick back and watch surfers conquer impressive Tasman Sea breaks, or hike up the relatively-steep-but-short Tasman Lookout Track for the best coastline views. Head back to Auckland (leave your car at the hotel) and walk over to Queens Wharf to take the Fullers ferry to Waiheke Island. The 35-square-mile island is home to nearly two-dozen wineries (chalk it up to dry summers and very agreeable soil conditions), and it’s easy to book a private tour or buy a ticket to ride a hop-on, hop-off wine-tasting bus.
DAY 3: Rotorua
New Zealand takes scenic drives to new levels — there’s rarely an “Are we there yet?” moment as you cruise past lush, rolling countryside dotted with grazing cows and sheep. (There are more sheep in New Zealand than people.) From Auckland, it’s a three-hour drive to Rotorua; the route takes you through the heart of Middle Earth. Tolkien fans have to stop in the town of Matamata, home to the Hobbiton Movie Set, for a two-hour tour of some Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit filming locations. In Rotorua, check into the Treetops Lodge & Estate, before a twilight stroll at the Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua.
Champagne Pool, a geothermal pool in Rotorua
DAY 4: Rotorua
Rotorua is one of the North Island’s biggest tourism hubs, and there’s a lot to do here when it comes to adventure and Maori culture. Learn about the Maori — the indigenous people of New Zealand — at the Mitai Maori Village, go whitewater rafting on the Kaituna River, or soak in the area’s geothermal mud pools in Kuirau Park.
Gondolas at Skyline Queenstown
DAY 5: Queenstown
It’s easy to get between the North and South Islands — flights are frequent and inexpensive. Wake up and drive back to Auckland, return your car, and fly to Queenstown. Established during the island’s 1860s gold rush, Queenstown overlooks Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain rage. Ease into the South Island portion of your trip with an afternoon exploring this quaint, postcard-worthy city: take a gondola ride at Skyline Queenstown, linger over dinner at Rata (or grab a burger at the extremely popular Fergburger), and sip nightcaps at Little Blackwood. Queenstown is popular with backpackers, so there are plenty budget and hostel options, as well as several surrounding guesthouses. For something more upscale, the city’s grande dame is Eichardt’s Private Hotel, which holds court over the lake.
DAY 6: Queenstown
Queenstown is the gateway to Fiordland, the country’s rugged, Southern Alps-lined southwest corner. No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to Fiordland’s crown jewel, Milford Sound. (Rudyard Kipling once called it the eighth wonder of the world.) You can drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown, but it will be a long day, with at least eight round-trip hours in the car and lots of white-knuckle mountain passes. Other options: Book a coach tour, or spring for a helicopter or floatplane ride from Queenstown to the sound. The latter option has you back in Queenstown by early afternoon — plenty of time for a bungee jump (which was invented here) or a jet-boat ride down the Shotover River. This is the adventure capital of the world, after all.
Queenstown’s wine region
DAY 7: Queenstown
Queenstown is also a popular gateway to even more stellar winetasting. Spend a day winery hopping in the Central Otago Wine Region, known for its bold Pinot Noirs. (Most hotels and lodges can arrange a tour.) Stop for lunch in Arrowtown, a quaint gold rush village along the Arrow River outside of Queenstown.
A night sky over Lake Tekapo in the Mackenzie Region
DAY 8: Mackenzie Region
While North Island scenery deals in rolling hills and wide-open spaces, the South Island delivers spectacular mountain ranges and gorges. Today, drive two-and-a-half hours north to the Mackenzie Region, in the center of the South Island. The region is one of the world’s International Dark Sky Reserves, which means stargazing here is incredible — especially if you check into a place like Skyscape, a small house made entirely of glass in the middle of a 6,000-acre sheep and beef farm. The remote, middle-of-nowhere accommodation is well worth the splurge.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
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That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.