North Island New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary: 6 Days in North Island
June 27, 2020
If you have never been on a road trip holiday, New Zealand is probably the best place to start. With easy-to-navigate roads and attractions that are located miles from each other, driving is the preferred option for most travellers. New Zealand is made up of the North Island and the South Island. This itinerary will focus on the main things to see & do on the North Island in New Zealand.
Table of Contents
Summary: North Island New Zealand Itinerary
FullNew Zealand Itinerary: 6 Days in North Island
Day 1 – Land in Auckland
Many people visiting New Zealand are likely to land in Auckland. Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest and most populous city, with 1.5 million people living here. Aukland is also known to be the “city of sails” as the city has more boats in a capital than anywhere else in the world. With modern malls, spacious urban parks and scenic ocean views, there are plenty of things to do around the city.
Things to do in Auckland
1. Mount Eden 2. Sky Tower 3. Cornwall Park 4. Waitakere Ranges Regional Park 5. Piha Beach 6. Ponsonby 7. Devonport (seafood lunch)
1. Mount Eden
Located in central Auckland, Mount Eden is an inner-city dormant Volcano. You can drive to the top and take a short walk to reach the crater. The best time to visit Mount Eden is at sunset, where you can sit at its surrounding benches to enjoy the view of the city.
2. Sky Tower
Stand at over 300 meters tall, the Sky Tower in Auckland dominates its skyline. Adrenaline seekers can opt for its Skywalk and Skyjump activity. Otherwise, you may also head over to its observation platform to have panoramic views of Auckland’s central streets.
3. Conwall Park
A public park in Auckland for locals to experience nature and have an area to wind down within the city. A perfect place to have a relaxing walk or jog. You can view the list of recreation and activities to do at the park here.
4. Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Outside the city of Auckland, you can drive down to Waitakere Ranges Regional Park to experience its beautiful hiking trails that will lead you to waterfalls & amazing viewpoints of New Zealand’s coast. If you need transport, book a Karekare Waterfalls and Piha Beach Day Tour from Auckland to visit the park.
5. Piha Beach
A beautiful black sand beach located near Waitakere Ranges. Here, you can enjoy walks along one of New Zealand’s beaches. It is also a popular spot for experienced surfers.
Visit the trendy shops & restaurants of Ponsoby. Auckland’s hippest strip where you can cafe hop and try some of the best food in the city.
At the ferry terminal, head across the bay to nearby Devonport to enjoy a seafood lunch. Some of the most popular restaurants here are ‘Hemingway’s Devonport Bistro’ and ‘Manuka Restaurant’.
Day 2 & Day 3 – Coromandel
Depending on how many things you want to complete in Auckland, you can stay there for 1-2 days. I decided to stay for just 1 day as there was just so many other things to see outside of the capital city in North Island New Zealand.
In the morning of Day 2 in our North Island New Zealand Itinerary, we drove from Auckland to Coromandel. The duration was approximately 2 hours 40 minutes. Set out early so that you have more time to spend here.
Things to do at Coromandel
1. Kauaeranga Kauri Trail (Pinnacles Walk) 2. Whitianga’s Stargazers 3. Hot Water Beach 4. Whenuakura Island (Donut Island)
1. Kauaeranga Kauri Trail (Pinnacles Walk)
One of the most popular hiking trails in North Island New Zealand. This is an 8-hour round trip hike to catch stunning panoramic views of jagged mountain tips. You can also opt to stay overnight at Pinnacles Hut to catch the sunrise. The difficulty of the trail is relatively simple, however, many parts are made of steep steps so a certain fitness level will be required.
2. Whitianga’s Stargazers
After a long and tiring day of hiking, book a night’s stay at Whitianga’s Stargazers. Here, you can explore the marvels of the northern New Zealand night sky at its dark sky site free from light pollution. Find out more information about their rooms & tours here.
3. Hot Water Beach
Wake up early the next day and head down to Coromandel Peninsula. A 40 minutes drive away from your B&B at Whitianga’s Stargazers.Hot water (up to 64 degrees celsius) from the springs beneath the beach bubble to the surface at low tide. Here, you can dig out sand to create your own private spa pool. Remember to bring a spade!
4. Whenuakura Island (Donut Island)
Since you’re wet and dirty from the Hot Water Beach, drive down further south to visit Donut Island. Donut Island is located on the coast of Whangamata, at the south-east side of Coromandel peninsula. You can rent a kayak or paddle board to reach the island. The island is actually an old dormant volcano whereby the roof gave way many years ago and it was filled with water, thus forming the shape of a ‘donut’.
After a whole day of sand and sea, we left to head down to the city of Tauranga. This is where we stayed for the night.
Day 4 – Tauranga
Travelling to Tauranga from Whangamata Beach will take you about 1 hour 30 minutes. Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty and its popularity has been derived from its stunning beaches, which are perfect for surfing, swimming and other water activities. You can find its most popular beach town, Mount Maunganui, just a 15-minutes drive from the city.
Things to do in Tauranga
1. Hobbiton Movie Set 2. Glowworm Cave Tour
1. Hobbiton Movie Set
Spend the first half of your day taking a tour at the Hobbiton Movie Set. The Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour will take you into the stunning landscapes of the Shire, as seen in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Even if you’re not a fan of LOTR, the natural landscape surrounding the set will be enough to captivate you. Note that booking a guided tour is a must to visit the set, you will not be allowed to travel around on your own due to crowd control measures.
2. Visit a Glowworm Cave
Taking a boat through a canyon in the dark will allow you to see glow worms at their full effect. The Kayak Tours in New Zealand will bring you to paddle though an enchanting canyon as you admire the ‘star-like’ ceiling above you. There are 2 places that you can book your Glowworm tour with 1. Waimarino Kayak Tours 2. Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour (Non-Kayaking Tour, cheaper option)
After visiting the glowworm cave, we headed straight to our accommodation in Taupo. As we opted for the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour, it was a 2-hours drive for us to reach Taupo.
Day 5 & 6 – Taupo
The beautiful Lake Taupo is a lake in the North Island of New Zealand. It was formed in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano. Besides visiting Lake Taupo, there are plenty of things to do around the area as it is so centrally located in the North Island. This makes it convenient to travel out of the city for a day trip to surrounding attractions.
Things to do at Taupo
1. Skydive Taupo 2. Huka Falls Walkway 3. Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa 4. Wai-o-Tapu 5. Tongariro National park 6. Nevalea Alpaca Farm
1. Skydive Taupo
This activity is only for those keen on skydiving in New Zealand (which I’ve realised is a very popular attraction for tourists). The package with Skydive Taupo is the most affordable one I’ve been able to find online. You can choose to skydive at either a height of 12,000 or 15,000 feet over the crystal clear waters of the Tongariro National Park.
2. Huka Falls Walkway
The Huka Falls are a series of waterfalls on the Waikato River that runs into Lake Taupo. The Huka Falls walkway runs for over 7 Kilometers which begins near the Spa Thermal Park. As you walk 500 meters along the track, you will be able to find Otumuheke Stream (Hot Water Stream). Here, you can take a dip into the healing mineral water to experience a free natural hot spring.
3. Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa
If you are looking to have a relaxing day soaking your entire body in a natural thermal hot spring, Wairakei Terraces is probably one of the most beautiful sites in North Island New Zealand. It consists of a series of terrace pools, with each pool varying in temperature. The entry fee is priced at $25.00 per person. You can find out more information from their website here.
4. Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
This is a 160,000 years old Natural Geothermal attraction, located inside a caldera volcano. There is an underground water system below the area whereby water temperatures go up to 3000 degrees centigrade. At this temperature all the minerals in the rocks get absorbed in the water and are brought up to the surface. Because of the acids in the rocks, it will form a weak acid solution that nibbles at the ground below causing it to collapse and form a natural hot spring. The park is a great place to witness New Zealand’s thousands of years of volcanic activity. You can purchase your tickets online for up to 10% discount.
5. Tongariro National park
For those keen on trekking, the Tangariro Crossing is a must to complete in North Island New Zealand. This 19.4 km moderate-difficulty hike (6-8 hours) that will lead you to the area where Mordor in Lord of the Rings was filmed. If you’re not a fan of LOTR, the amazing landscape will still make it a noteworthy place to visit.
It is recommended to book a roundtrip shuttlefor this hike. This is because it is not a circuit trail and you will start and end at different points. Driving on your own is not an option.
6. Nevalea Alpaca Farm
For those keen on seeing cute farm animals, take the time off to visit an Alpaca Farm in New Zealand! You’ll get to be up close with these animals and feeding sessions are also available.
Best Places to Stay at for your North Island New Zealand Road Trip
If you’re not planning to rent a caravan for your trip, here are the best & most affordable places to stay in each city we visited in new Zealand.
As mentioned above, I recommended to stay the night at Whitianga’s Stargazers to enjoy a night under New Zealand’s clear skies. However, if you find it too pricey, book a night at Hahei Pavillion Guest House to spend night close to Whangamata Beach.
Staying near the lake in Taupo is a great way to spend time in the city! Imagine waking up every morning to the serenity of the park. You can go for a walk or run at this stunning landscape right outside your door stop. Affordable accommodation around the lake include a stay at VU Thermal Lodge and Le Chalet Suisse Motel Taupo.
I just want to end of by saying that New Zealand is one of the most scenic places I’ve visited. If you’re planning a trip there, it will be better if you can visit both the North and South Island. However, to be brutally honest, the South Island may be a better choice if you can only choose 1 island to visit. The South Island is more scenic than the North, and there are just generally better things to do there! (But feel free to disagree with me).
Lastly, decide in which season you would like to visit New Zealand. Based on your activities and the things you want to see. If you want to see flowers blooming – definitely Spring. If you want snow-capped mountains and skiing – Winter it is. Summer is a great time to visit New Zealand too! The weather isn’t scorching hot and you’d get clear skies almost everyday.