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Two Week North Island Itinerary Ideas – 3 Tried and Tested Itineraries!

Two Week North Island Itinerary Ideas – 3 Tried and Tested Itineraries!

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So, you want to take a road trip across New Zealand’s North Island? Well, I don’t blame you! With warm weather, lots of freedom camping options, and tons of volcanic activity, the North Island promises adventure in spades. 

The only problem is that with so much to see and do, it can be difficult to choose a route! But since I’ve had so much fun road-tripping across the North Island over the years, I’m going to share the two-week itineraries that have worked best for me. Whether you want to get off the beaten path and surf or work your way down towards the South Island, these itineraries are convenient and hit all of the highlights (and some of my favorite hidden gems). Let’s dive in! 

Overview of My Top 3 Itineraries

1. Itinerary #1 Overview (Auckland to Wellington)

Auckland to Coromandel to Rotorua to Taupo to Napier to Wellington road trip New Zealand
  • 14 Days
  • Can start in either Auckland or Wellington
  • Starts and finishes at a major airport
  • Great for those heading to the South Island
  • Highlights are Auckland, Coromandel, Waiheke Island, Wairere Falls, Hobbiton, Rotorua, Taupo, Napier, and Wellington

Day 1 – Auckland

Day 2 – Day Trip to Waiheke Island

Day 3 – Drive to Coromandel (stay in Hot Water Beach or Hahei)

Day 4 – Coromandel

Day 5 – Drive to Rotorua via Wairere Falls and Hobbiton

Day 6 – Rotorua

Day 7 – Rotorua

Day 8 – Drive to Taupo

Day 9 – Taupo

Day 10 – Drive to Napier

Day 11 – Napier

Day 12 – Drive to Wellington

Day 13 – Wellington

Day 14 – Wellington

2. Itinerary #2 Overview (North Island Loop with Northland)

Auckland to Paihia to Kaitaia to Whangarei to Raglan to Rotorua to Taupo to Auckland road trip New Zealand
  • 14 Days
  • Starts and finishes in Auckland
  • Starts and finishes at a major airport
  • Perfect for those who are coming to New Zealand for beaches, warm weather and surfing and want to stay off the beaten path
  • Highlights are Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Cape Regina and Ninety Mile Beach, Freedom camping in Whangarei, Raglan, Waitomo Glow Worms, Hobbiton, Rotorua, Taupo, and Tongariro Alpin crossing.

Day 1 – Auckland

Day 2 – Auckland

Day 3 – Drive to Paihia

Day 4 – Paihia

Day 5 – Explore Cape Regina and stay in Kaitaia or Ahipara

Day 6 – Drive to Whangarei

Day 7 – Drive from Whangarei to Raglan

Day 8 – Raglan

Day 9 – Raglan to Rotorua via Hobbiton

Day 10 – Rotorua

Day 11 – Drive to Taupo

Day 12 – Taupo

Day 13 – Tongariro National Alpine Crossing (stay in Taupo)

Day 14 – Drive to Auckland

3. Itinerary #3 Overview (Auckland to Wellington Volcanic Road Trip)

Auckland to Raglan to Rotorua to Taupo to New Plymouth to Wellington road trip New Zealand
  • 14 Days 
  • Can start in either Auckland or Wellington 
  • Starts and finishes at a major airport 
  • Great for those heading to the South Island
  • Highlights are Auckland, Raglan, Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, Taupo, New Plymouth, Egmont National Park, and Wellington. 

Day 1 – Auckland 

Day 2 – Auckland

Day 3 – Drive to Raglan 

Day 4 – Raglan 

Day 5 – Drive to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton 

Day 6 – Rotorua 

Day 7 – Rotorua

Day 8 – Drive to Taupo 

Day 9 – Taupo 

Day 10 – Drive to New Plymouth 

Day 11 – New Plymouth 

Day 12 – Drive to Wellington 

Day 13 – Wellington 

Day 14 – Wellington

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Itinerary #1 – Auckland to Wellington: 14 Days

Bailey drinks wine at a winery on Waiheke Island from Auckland
Cheers from Waiheke Island!
Bailey walks up to the door of a Hobbit Hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand
Hobbiton is a must!

I think that this itinerary is perfect for those heading to or coming from the South Island, as you can do it either way round! Or, if you’re sticking to the North Island, that’s fine too because both Auckland and Wellington are home to international airports. 

I love this road trip because it gives you a little bit of everything. From the stunning Coromandel Peninsula and wine-filled Waiheke Island to the adventure town of Taupo and Hobbiton, which I consider a must whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not! 

Day 1 – Auckland

You’ll either arrive today or have the whole day to explore! I actually lived in Auckland for a while before I moved to Queenstown, and there’s a ton to do here. The Auckland Museum is an interesting way to get to know the city better (and no, I’m not just saying that because I used to work here!), but I’d recommend booking skip-the-line tickets as it’s really popular. 

I enjoy hiking up Mount Eden whenever I’m back in Auckland, as the views are excellent. But if you’re not in the mood to hike, booking this scenic Waitemata Harbour cruise is a great way to sightsee without any uphill climbs involved! Plus, it includes hot drinks and sweet treats.

And if you’d like a more structured idea of what to do, be sure to check out my one-day Auckland itinerary. (Spoiler alert: it involves the Weta Workshop tour and an epic sunset dinner cruise!)

Where to Stay in Auckland (2 Nights)

Budget-friendly – The Attic Backpackers

Mid-range – CityLife Auckland

Luxury – The Grand by SkyCity

Or for more ideas, check out my full guide on where to stay in Auckland!

Day 2 – Go on a day trip

Waiheke Island

My favorite day trip from Auckland is the spectacular Waiheke Island, which is home to beautiful beaches and boutique wineries. You can use the Fullers Fast ferry to get there, and I recommend booking this food and wine tour for when you arrive. 

The tour was so much fun – I visited three different vineyards to sample wine, olive oil, cheese, and Waiheke oysters! For $272 NZD I thought it was good value because it included a huge artisan platter for lunch. After the tour, I spent a little longer relaxing on the island before heading back to Auckland.  

West Coast

If wine isn’t your thing (gasp!), then you can take a drive along the West Coast instead. It’s beautiful and rugged, so I definitely think it’s worth exploring. 

When I lived in Auckland, I loved escaping to Piha Beach, which is only 45 minutes outside of the city, and I especially enjoyed hiking to the viewpoint on Lion Rock. Then, if you drive for another hour, you can visit Muriwai Beach, which is home to breathtaking coastline and the region’s only gannet colony. 

Gannet colony at Muriwai Beach NZ
Gannets at Muriwai Beach!

Day 3 – Drive to Coromandel (stay in Hot Water Beach or Hahei)

The drive from Auckland to Coromandel is 168 kilometers (104 miles) long, which takes 2.5 hours. I recommend staying either in the town, in Hahei, or in Hot Water Beach, as they’re all pretty close together. Then, once you’ve checked into your hotel (or found a good camping spot), spend the afternoon exploring. 

I love going wine tasting at the beautiful Mercury Bay Estate Winery, or the short Mt Paku Summit hike is gorgeous. Then, unwind in The Lost Spring geothermal pools, which are a little slice of tropical paradise in Whitianga – and don’t even get me started on the luxurious spa treatments available! Or for families, I think that the Driving Creek Railway Explorer train is perfect. 

If you’re an avid hiker like me, consider booking a night at the Pinnacles Hut and doing the fantastic Pinnacles Walk. It’s 7 km (4.3 mi) each way, which doesn’t sound that long but it involves a lot of scrambling so it takes at least 6 hours round trip. 

Where to Stay at Hot Water Beach or Hahei (2 Nights)

Budget (for hikers) – Pinnacles Hut

Budget (great for families) – Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park

Mid-range – Hahei Beach Resort (private cabins at a great price!)

Day 4 – Coromandel

Today, the Coromandel Peninsula is your oyster! Although I don’t love early mornings, I think going to Hot Water Beach for sunrise is worth it. Check the tide times, though, because the hot springs are underwater at high tide. And if you choose to stay in the Pinnacles Hut, then I find that the sunrise from there is equally spectacular! 

A lady relaxes at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel, New Zealand
Hot Water Beach is amazing

Cathedral Cove is a must today. If the trail is open, you can do the beautiful Cathedral Cove walk, which takes around 1.5 hours. It often closes due to the weather, though, so check the DOC website.

If you can’t access the cove on foot, then you’ll still be able to visit on this small-group kayak tour, which is actually my favorite way to explore! And if you’re staying in Hahei, you can also use the water taxi service, which drops you off right at Cathedral Cove. 

Day 5 – Drive to Rotorua via Wairere Falls and Hobbiton

Today is a road trip day and boy, do I have an epic one planned for you! The drive is from Coromandel to Rotorua but there are two super fun detours along the way – and even then, the drive time is only 3.5 hours total. 

First up, we have Wairere Falls, which is 2 hours from Coromandel. It’s the highest waterfall on the North Island – and, in my opinion, the most beautiful. Hiking the Wairere Falls Track to the lower viewpoint took me about 3 hours in total.

Then, Hobbiton is the film set for the Shire in Lord of the Rings. I’m not even a huge fan of the series but you really don’t need to be to enjoy the tour. I had an absolute blast! Do book your Hobbiton tour tickets in advance though, because it’s really popular and you don’t want to turn up on the day to find that it’s sold out! 

Where to Stay in Rotorua (3 Nights)

Budget – Rock Solid Backpackers Rotorua

Mid-range – Thermal Oak Motel

Luxury – Rydges Rotorua

Day 6 – Rotorua

Rotorua is one of the most exciting places to visit on the North Island! If you’re going to go rafting anywhere in New Zealand, then make sure it’s here because this 5-star rafting tour takes you over the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. It’s one of the most exciting rafting experiences I’ve ever had!

I also love exploring the Whakarewarewa Forest. The Redwood Memorial Grove Track is perfect for a quick stroll, or if you want something more exciting then I loved this mountain biking tour! And for families and big kids, this Zorb ball ride is likely to make you laugh until you cry. 

After a day of adventures, I like to book a Secret Spot Hot Tub soak for the evening, or the Polynesian Spa has 28 different pools, so you can’t go wrong. Then, for dinner, I never get tired of exploring the famous ‘Eat Streat‘. There are tons of fantastic restaurants here but dessert always has to be a Danish ice cream cone at Lady Janes!

White water rafting on the Kaituna River in New Zealand
The Kaituna River near Rotorua has the best rafting in New Zealand!

Day 7 – Rotorua

There’s just too much in Rotorua not to stay for another day! I’m always impressed by the views from the Skyline Gondola, and although I’m saving most of the geothermal attractions for tomorrow, as they’re on the way to Taupo, I do recommend booking a mud bath at Hells Gate. My skin has never felt so soft! 

I loved this Maori tour of Te Pā Tū, and I learned so much through all of the performances and of course the delicious 3-course Hāngī feast. It’s not a tacky tourist buffet, and the slow-cooked meat from the underground oven was just divine!

Day 8 – Drive to Taupo

There are only 81 kilometers (50 miles) between Rotorua and Taupo and only an hour of drive time. I really love this drive, but I always see traffic police along the way so don’t speed! 

Te Puia is a must on this journey. I love seeing the Pohutu Geyser erupt and learning about traditional Māori craftsmanship on site. I also enjoyed this walking tour of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, as the crater lake is just beautiful. Stopping for a swim in Kerosene Creek is also fun if you don’t mind the “interesting” smell! 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is also a must-visit location! You’ll probably be too late to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10:15 am but checking out the brightly colored Champagne Pool is definitely worth it. 

Where to Stay in Taupo (2 Nights)

Budget – Taupo Debretts Spa Resort

Mid-range – Baycrest Thermal Lodge

Luxury – Hilton Lake Taupo

Inferno Crater Lake at Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Inferno Crater Lake at Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Day 9 – Taupo

Taupo is small but let me tell you, it packs a punch! One of my favorite things to do here is to visit the Craters of the Moon, which is a fascinating geothermal trail, and the perfect place to beef up your Instagram feed.

The town is also home to Huka Falls, which is one of the most spectacular attractions on the North Island. You can even book a jet boating tour that takes you close up to the falls, so hold onto your hat! 

Or, for a different kind of aquatic adventure, I loved this half-day kayak tour which took me to see the amazing Maori Rock Carvings out on Lake Taupo. Or, for something more relaxing, I also like this yacht tour. Book it for the evening because then you get a free glass of beer or wine, and I’ll never say no to that!

Related Read: If two weeks feels like a lot, check out these options for 10-day North Island road trips instead!

Day 10 – Drive to Napier

It takes just over 2 hours to make the 144 km (89 mi) drive from Taupo to Napier. However, I still like to make it count with a hike up and down Mount Tauhara. I also love the Waipunga Falls viewpoint, which is just stunning, and I can never resist a stop at Linden Estate Winery

Since the drive isn’t very long, you’ll probably be in Napier by the afternoon. Hiking and wine are two of my main passions in life, so I recommend either climbing up to Te Mata Peak for sunset or heading to a winery for dinner and a glass of Hawke’s Bay’s finest. There are lots of wineries here but Craggy Range is my favorite. I did the tasting menu here with friends, and it was honestly incredible.

Where to Stay in Napier (2 Nights)

Budget – Toad Hall Accommodation

Mid-range – Art Deco Masonic Hotel

Luxury – The Crown Hotel

Bailey at the drive way of Mission estate winery in Napier, NZ
I love a good wine tour in Napier!

Day 11 – Napier

Today is a full day in beautiful Napier, and one of my favorite ways to explore is by booking this wine tour! I had so much fun and the tour included a stop at Te Mata Peak for amazing panoramic views.

Since the wine tour lasts for 4-5 hours, you should have time to walk along the Marine Parade before or afterward. I also loved visiting the Sunken Gardens, which are right nearby.

And if you’re more about wildlife than wine, then this tour to the gannet colony is another of my top choices, especially in summer when the chicks hatch! I always love seeing gannets and the tour saves you from a long and precarious hike, so it’s definitely worth it.

Day 12 – Drive to Wellington

There are 332 km (206 mi) between Napier and Wellington, which takes 4.5 hours without stopping, but trust me, you won’t want to do that when there are so many beautiful stops along the way! I always stick to State Highway 2, and I love to stop and stretch my legs in Pekapeka Regional Park, which is 30 minutes south of the city. I usually get lunch at the Paper Mulberry Cafe and stop for a free wine tasting at Junction Wines’ Cellar Door – yup, you read that right, it’s free! 

I also recommend stopping to see the eels at the WopWops Wetland Park, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Meanwhile, the views at the Remutaka Crossing take my breath away every single time. I like to tackle the Te Ara Tirohanga Track, but if you’re not into hiking the views from the car will more than suffice. 

Where to Stay in Wellington (2 Nights)

Budget – The Marion Hostel

Mid-range – Ramada by Wyndham

Luxury – Doubletree By Hilton Wellington (I stayed here on a business trip and loved it!)

Bailey with the troll out the front of the Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

Day 13 – Wellington

This road trip ends with two full days in Wellington, which is such a treat because I think it’s one of the coolest cities in the world! If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, then I recommend booking a tour of the special effects powerhouse Wētā Workshop. I loved seeing where all of the movie magic came from! 

I also love visiting Wellington’s beautiful botanical gardens, especially the rose and rock gardens. For great views, I recommend riding the cable car during the day and then heading to the Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset. 

I know how it feels to want to fit in as many sights as possible, so I think that if you want to maximize your time here in Wellington booking this full-day tour is one of the best things you can do! It covers everything I’ve just talked about, as well as visits to historic buildings like Parliament and Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Day 14 – Wellington

Today is the last day of the trip, so try to fit in as much as possible before you catch your flight! One of the best things I have done in Wellington was taking a walking tour of Zealandia, which is an eco-sanctuary where you can see fascinating native birds and reptiles.

I also love exploring the vibrant Cuba Street. There’s an endless array of colorful cafes to explore but you can’t beat the iconic Fidel’s for brunch! 

I also highly recommend a visit to the Te Papa Museum, which is one of the best museums in the world. Admission is free, but I’m so glad that I booked this early bird tour. I got to enter the museum before it opened to the public for the day – how cool is that?

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Itinerary #2 North Island Loop with Northland – 14 days

Bailey enjoys the view at the Sky Tower in Auckland
Don’t miss the Sky Tower in Auckland!
Bailey looks down at the valley on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
Tongariro Crossing!

This road trip starts and ends in Auckland, so it’s easy in terms of flying in and out. I think this itinerary is ideal for those who love beautiful beaches, surfing, and getting off the beaten track – that’s definitely me! 

Another thing I love about this trip is that it includes freedom camping, visiting natural wonders like the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and the volcanic wonderland that is Rotorua, as well as iconic highlights like Hobbiton and the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Seriously, what’s not to love?

Day 1 – Auckland 

Auckland is so much fun. I lived here before I settled in Queenstown and I never got bored! The Auckland Museum is fascinating, and as a former employee, I’d recommend booking skip-the-line tickets as I’ve seen some crazy long lines. 

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, make sure you book Weta Workshop Unleashed to see some of the behind-the-scenes movie magic. If, like me, you love hiking, be sure to head up Mount Eden for epic views! However, if you’ve just flown in, you’ll probably want something more relaxing, so consider this scenic Waitemata Harbour cruise instead. I loved the views and the complimentary coffee! 

And if you’re overwhelmed with all of these choices, I’ve got a one-day Auckland itinerary you can follow to make things extra easy. I really fine-tuned this with all of my friends who came to visit. 

Where to Stay in Auckland (2 Nights)

Budget-friendly – The Attic Backpackers

Mid-range – CityLife Auckland

Luxury – The Grand by SkyCity

Day 2 Auckland (Go on a day trip)

Waiheke Island

Let’s be honest, wine is one of the best things about New Zealand! I always jump at the chance to go wine tasting, which is why I love getting the fast ferry over to Waiheke Island and then enjoying this food and wine tour. Hopping between boutique wineries was just heavenly, and I also got to try lots of cheese, olive oil, and oysters.

Since the tour starts on the island, you’re free to hang around on Waiheke Island a little longer. My husband and I stayed for a few more hours and went to check out some of the beaches and cute cafes. Coffee was definitely welcome after all of that wine! 

A beautiful beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Waiheke Island is magical

West Coast

Auckland’s West Coast is absolutely beautiful, so if you’re in the mood for a scenic drive (I mean, this is a road trip after all!) then spend the day exploring the rugged scenery. Piha Beach is 45 minutes from Auckland and it’s one of my favorite spots to escape to, especially because you can hike up Lion Rock for stunning views over the black sand shoreline. And then, I love to drive for another hour and visit Muriwai Beach to see the gannet colony and even more dramatic coastal views.

Related Read: If you have a bit longer to spend in Auckland, check out my 2-day and 3-day Auckland itineraries for more ideas!

Day 3 – Drive to Paihia

It’s a 230 km (124 mi) drive from Auckland to Paihia, which takes 3 hours and 15 minutes without any stops. I love the drive here and wrote a whole guide on the best stops! I suggest allowing at least 6 hours to make the most of the stops along the way. Leave early, because there’s a lot to fit in!

I recommend stopping at Browns Bay Beach Reserve for a quick dip, pulling over at the scenic lookout stops along the Brynderwyns road, and swimming at Piroa Falls. I also love a quick detour to the Waipu Caves, which are home to New Zealand’s famous glow worms. 

Then, when you arrive in Paihia, be sure to take a tour of the Waitangi Treaty Ground, where the treaty between the Maori and the Europeans was signed. Then, I love to end the day with fish and chips from Oceans 68 next to the water at sunset. 

Where to Stay in Paihia (3 Nights)

Budget – Haka Lodge Paihia

Mid-range – The Te Tiriti Motel

Day 4 – Paihia

Paihia is the gateway to the Bay of Islands, so I urge you to make the most of it! I love spending the whole day exploring the islands, which you can do by booking a small-group cruise to some of the remote islands. And with 144 islands, there’s a lot to see! My hosts were so friendly and I loved the activities, like snorkeling and SUPing.

Alternatively, you can book the Hole in the Rock cruise, which I absolutely loved. Sailing right through this unique rock formation is amazing enough, but being on a luxury catamaran and spotting dolphins and rare seabirds took it to the next level. Book this tour for the morning and then in the afternoon, take the ferry over to Russell and walk to the top of Flagstaff Hill for yet more beautiful views.

Bailey on a Bay of Islands cruise from Paihia
Exploring the Bay of the Islands on a cruise is a blast!

Day 5 – Paihia 

Although exploring the Bay of Islands is a must, I feel obliged to inform you that there’s also a lot more to Paihia. I love chasing waterfalls here, as there are some truly beautiful ones around, including Rainbow Falls and Wharepuke Falls, both of which can be found along the Kerikeri River Walking Track

I also love to visit the Kawiti Caves, which are just a 20-minute drive from Paihia. I mean, did you even go to New Zealand if you didn’t visit at least one glow worm cave? Meanwhile, as a wine lover, I really enjoyed this Bay of Islands wine tour, especially because it included a delicious lunch.

Day 6 – Drive to Whangarei

It’s 70.5 km (44 mi) from Paihia to Whangarei, which is only an hour’s drive. Whangarei is known as “the City of 100 Beaches” but I think that driving to Ocean Beach is the clear choice for this afternoon. It’s absolutely beautiful and a fantastic place to surf or paddleboard.

And if you love hiking, then you can walk from the beach up to Bream Head Scenic Lookout. It took me about 3 hours in total and definitely counted as my workout for the day. Allow some time to recover on the beach after! I also enjoy going to see Otuihau Whangarei Falls. It’s such a stunning waterfall and the 1-km (0.6-mi) loop only takes 15 minutes, so it’s easy to fit in. 

Bailey takes a selfie at the top of Bream Head Scenic Reserve near Whangarei, New Zealand
The Bream Head scenic lookout near Whangarei!

Where to Stay in Whangarei (1 night)

Tonight is a fantastic opportunity to go freedom camping! You can check out all the possible freedom camping sites in Whangarei here, but my personal pick is Parua Bay. It’s only a 5-minute walk to the Parua Bay Tavern for pizza, live music, and epic sunsets over the water. Oh, yes, and a glass of wine or two to help you sleep!

But of course, camping isn’t for everyone. As far as hotels in Whangarei go, I love BK’s Pohutakawa Lodge which has been recently renovated or Lupton Lodge for its rural setting with great beaches nearby.

Day 7 – Drive from Whangarei to Raglan

Raglan is 316 km (196 mi) from Whangarei, about 4 hours of driving. I know this can be a lot, but having fun stops along the way makes all the difference. I suggest you leave early and stop halfway at Honey Cafe Takapuna. Then, Zealong Tea Estate near Hamilton offers a fantastic high tea – just be sure to book this in advance!

As you approach Raglan, don’t miss Bridal Veil Falls! They’re super well-known (and top my list of the best waterfalls in New Zealand!) and only a 20-minute walk from the car park, so I think it’s the perfect place to stretch your legs. If you enjoy surfing, head to Manu Bay to catch some waves, although Ngarunui Beach is better for beginners. Then, later on, I love driving to Michael Hope Lookout for sunset.

Where to Stay in Raglan (2 Nights)

Budget – Raglan Backpackers (beachfront views!)

Spacious and Unique Accommodation – Silos Apartments (they are converted cement silos!)

Day 8 – Raglan

Raglan is your oyster today! I love surfing at both of the beaches I mentioned above, and you could easily spend all day hitting the waves but I won’t lie, surfing is pretty tiring. Sometimes, I like to stretch it out with a relaxing class at The Space… or just go and grab a pint of beer at Workshop Brewing, if I’m honest! 

In the evening, I highly recommend a sunset cruise which is not only a fantastic way to enjoy Raglan’s scenic coastline, but it’s also very educational, with speakers on board discussing different topics such as Maori culture and the local environment. And keep your eyes peeled, because Raglan is a fantastic place to see orcas – can you imagine?

A lady stands on a rock at Raglan Beach during sunset
The sunsets in Raglan are gorgeous!

Day 9 – Raglan to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton

You could go straight from Raglan to Rotorua, but where’s the fun in that? So today, I recommend taking two detours to two of the North Island’s biggest highlights. Buckle up! 

There are 251 km (156 mi) of driving today, so it’s about 3.5 hours along the road but the trip will take most of the day. First, drive to the Waitomo Caves to see the famous glow worms, which light up the caverns like the night sky. I recommend that you book the boat tour in advance because it’s very popular and you don’t want to end up waiting around today – there’s too much to do! 

Then, it’s on to Hobbiton for a movie set tour! Again, I recommend booking the Hobbiton tour in advance because this is such an iconic thing to do and you can’t explore here without a tour. Even if you’re not a movie buff it’s so much fun to see the Shire. 

When you make it to Rotorua, round off the day by taking an evening soak in the Secret Spot Hot Tubs. These are my favorite hot pools in the entire country and soaking here is so relaxing, especially because you can have drinks delivered right to your tub! 

Where to Stay in Rotorua (2 Nights)

Budget – Rock Solid Backpackers Rotorua

Mid-range – Thermal Oak Motel

Luxury – Rydges Rotorua

Day 10 – Rotorua

Where do I even start with Rotorua? Glimpsing some volcanic activity is a must, so I suggest booking a mud bath at Hells Gate. This city is also famous for rafting since it’s home to the highest commercial drop in the world. If you’re brave enough, you can book this rafting tour, which is one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had! 

For something a little less scary, this zorbing experience is pretty hilarious and ideal for families. Or if you just want to sit and enjoy some fantastic views, I recommend riding the Skyline Gondola and then heading to Volcanic Hills winery at the top. Cheers! 

Since Rotorua is famous for Maori culture, don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in it by booking this tour of Te Pā Tū, which is a Maori cultural village. I loved the chance to play traditional games, watch a haka, and best of all, have a delicious feast!

Bailey at the Rotorua Maori experience.
A Maori culture tour is a must-do in Rotorua!

Day 11 – Drive to Taupo

It’s an 81-kilometer (50-mile) drive from Rotorua to Taupo, which only takes an hour, so make the most of the volcanic highlights on the way! I love watching the Pohutu Geyser erupt at Te Puia, and checking out the examples of Māori craftsmanship there. I also enjoy stopping for a swim in Kerosene Creek. It’s a hot water stream, so it doesn’t matter if it’s not a warm day. 

Then, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is also definitely worth a visit, although unfortunately it’s closed midweek. If you head out early, you could arrive in time to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10:15 am, but even if you’re too late, it’s always fun to take a walk around and I love snapping photos of the Champagne Pool.

Where to Stay in Taupo (3 Nights)

Budget – Taupo Debretts Spa Resort

Mid-range – Baycrest Thermal Lodge

Luxury – Hilton Lake Taupo

Day 12 – Taupo

I love small towns that offer tons of activities, and Taupo meets that criteria perfectly. If you didn’t go jet boating in Rotorua, then you can book this jet boating tour near the magnificent Huka Falls. But for something a little calmer, I also like to view the falls from the footbridge, or follow the river along the Spa Park to Huka Falls walk. 

I also had a lot of fun on this half-day kayak tour. I got to paddle across Lake Taupo and see the Maori Rock Carvings, so it was a cool way to combine culture, views, and a fun activity. However, if you need a bit of a rest, I recommend booking this sailing yacht tour. In the evening you even get free wine or beer!

Taupo Kayaking adventures to the Māori Rock Carvings
Photo credit: Taupo Kayaking Adventures

Day 13 – Tongariro National Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a full-day hike and I won’t lie to you, it’s quite challenging, but it’s also an epic, bucket-list-worthy hike. With its vivid blue waters, jagged peaks, and crazy volcanic landscape, it’s no wonder that so many scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed here. 

This is a long hike so there’s some planning involved. It’s 19 kilometers (12 miles) each way, which takes 6-9 hours depending on your pace, so you can’t do it out and back. I’ve found that the easiest thing to do is book this shuttle from Taupo, which drops you off at the start of the hike and picks you up at the end.

This hike is doable if you know your limits, but it can be dangerous. I recommend you read my complete guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing before you go so that you’re fully prepared.

Day 14 – Drive to Auckland

It’s a boring 4-hour drive back to Auckland today. Just kidding! There’s so much to see and do on this 270-kilometer (168-mile) journey. Stopping at Te Kōhatu o Hatupatu is a must. It’s along State Highway 1 and it’s a sacred site, where the legendary Maori chief hid from the bird-woman, Kurangaituku, before he defeated her.

Next up, go to the Punnet Eatery for a delicious brunch. I personally love their chili scrambled eggs and make sure to grab a jar of their amazing strawberry jam too. Just 10 minutes down the road, make your final stop at the beautiful Hamilton Gardens before driving 1.5 hours further towards Auckland.

Related Read: Since you’re back in Auckland, check out all the best Auckland tours here if you can fit in one more before you leave!

Itinerary #3 Auckland to Wellington 14-Day Volcanic Road Trip

Bailey sits in the door of a red Hobbit home at Hobbiton, NZ
You don’t want to miss Hobbiton!
Bailey drinking craft beer in Auckland
Cheers from Auckland!

This road trip takes you from the top to the bottom (or vice versa) of the North Island, so it’s perfect if you’re coming from or heading to the South Island – perhaps for another epic road trip! You can choose which city to start in and both have major airports, so no worries there. 

But logistics aside, this road trip is perfect for those who are keen to discover the North Island’s famous volcanic scenery. So get ready for hikes, hobbits, hot springs, and maybe some surfing on the side! 

Day 1 – Auckland

Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand, and there’s lots to do here. Booking this Auckland Harbour cruise is a great way to see the most important sites, and you can discover the city’s history at the Auckland Museum. As a former employee, I’d recommend booking skip-the-line tickets because the lines can be long! 

Checking out Weta Workshop Unleashed is a must for Lord of the Rings fans. I’m not even that keen on the series and I still enjoyed it! I also like to hike up Mount Eden in the evening for fantastic views at sunset. 

Where to Stay in Auckland (2 Nights)

Budget-friendly – The Attic Backpackers

Mid-range – CityLife Auckland

Luxury – The Grand by SkyCity

Day 2 – Auckland

If you want to spend another day in the city, you can check out my one-day Auckland itinerary, which will keep you busy all day! However, you can also use today to enjoy one of my favorite day trips from Auckland. 

For magnificent coastal views, driving along the West Coast is hard to beat. I love driving out to Piha Beach, which is 45 minutes from Auckland, and hiking up Lion Rock. Then, you can hit the road again and check out Muriwai Beach, where the region’s only gannet colony lives! 

Alternatively, I also love hopping on the fast ferry to Waiheke Island, where you can enjoy this food and wine tour. I loved spending the day exploring boutique wineries and enjoying lots of tastings, not to mention a delicious lunch. Afterward, I spent a little more time exploring the island’s beautiful beaches before getting the ferry back to Auckland again – so all in all, it was a pretty fantastic day! 

Auckland Harbour, New Zealand
One of my favorite things to do in Auckland is harbourside drinks!

Day 3 – Drive to Raglan

It takes just over 2 hours to drive the 159 kilometers (99 miles) from Auckland to Raglan, but road trips are all about the stops along the way! Whatawhata Berry Farm is about 25 minutes outside of Auckland. In summer, you can pick your own berries here, but I can never resist their amazing fruity ice creams. Bridal Veil Falls is also a must-visit, and it’s only a 20-minute hike from the car park to this spectacular waterfall.

Then, when you get to Raglan, check out one of the cute cafes (I like the Orca Eatery!) or head to Manu Bay for an afternoon surf. And if you’re a sunset chaser like me, drive to Michael Hope Lookout to end the day on a high note.

Where to Stay in Raglan (2 Nights)

Budget – Raglan Backpackers (beachfront views!)

Spacious and Unique Accommodation – Silos Apartments (they are converted cement silos!)

Day 4 – Raglan

Raglan is famous for surfing. Manu Bay is the top spot, but Ngarunui Beach is perfect for beginners. Surfing is pretty tiring, I find, so if you need a pick-me-up, head to Raglan Roast in the cute downtown area, or take a break by wandering the shops. And if you’re not a surfer but want to get out on the water, you can rent a kayak or SUP from the Bow Street Jetty and paddle out to the Pancake Rocks in Raglan Harbour. 

I’m a sucker for a good sunset cruise, so in the evening, I recommend booking this tour. It takes you sailing around Raglan’s beautiful coastline, and there are educational speakers on board. It costs $75 NZD, including fish and chips for dinner! 

Scenic shot of the green hills at the Hobbiton Movie Set in New Zealand
You get to tour the entire movie set at Hobbiton!

Day 5 – Drive to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton

Today’s route covers 251 kilometers (156 miles) as you wind your way from Raglan to Rotorua. I love this route because it hits two of my favorite places on the North Island: the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton. 

First up, take a boat tour through the beautiful Waitomo Caves to see the glow worms light up the darkness. It’s such an amazing thing to see! Then, continue driving towards Hobbiton for a tour of the iconic movie set. It’s amazing to learn just how much work went into making the famous Lord of the Rings movies, but make sure to book the tour in advance because it’s incredibly popular.

Today is a fun but fairly long day, so in the evening, I recommend booking an evening soak at Secret Spot … and perhaps ordering a glass of wine as you relax in these beautiful pools!

Where to Stay in Rotorua (3 Nights)

Budget – Rock Solid Backpackers Rotorua

Mid-range – Thermal Oak Motel

Luxury – Rydges Rotorua

Related Read: Since this itinerary has a bit more time in Rotorua (three nights!), check out my full list of 33 things to do in Rotorua for more ideas!

Day 6 – Rotorua

Okay, we’re getting deep into volcano country now! I’ll save most of it for the drive to Taupo but definitely book a mud bath at Hells Gate, as it’s the only place in New Zealand where you can do this. Meanwhile, for thrill-seekers, you can take this rafting tour over the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. My heart was racing but it was so much fun!

Rotorua is steeped in Maori culture, so my favorite way to spend an evening here is on this tour of Te Pā Tū. It’s a Maori cultural village and offers a really immersive experience. I got to play games, watch dance performances, and then enjoy a traditional 3-course feast, which was just incredible.

Bialey on the The Ultimate Canopy Tour Rotorua, New Zealand
Ziplining in Rotorua is an adreneline rush!

Day 7 – Rotorua

If you want to get active today, you can book this mountain biking tour, which I think is an awesome way to take in the beautiful sights of Rotorua. I also think that this duck boat tour is such an interesting experience, and seeing the way these unique vehicles move is actually pretty funny. It’s ideal for families, too, as is rolling around on this zorb ball tour!

I had a blast flying above Rotorua’s 500-year-old forest on this ziplining tour. Meanwhile, for the evening, I love this twilight kayaking tour of Lake Rotoiti, which is about a 30-minute drive from Rotorua. It also includes a soak in the hot springs and a barbecue dinner, so what better way to finish your time in Rotorua?

Day 8 – Drive to Taupo

It’s only 81 kilometers (50 miles) from Rotorua to Taupo, so it’s about an hour on the road, but I usually allow 3-4 hours to take advantage of all of the volcanic highlights along the way. The Te Puia geyser field is a must, and you have to join a tour here, which is no bad thing since I loved learning about the site. If you’re traveling between Friday and Monday, then Wai-O-Tapu is home to the largest mud pool in the country, and the Lady Knox Geyser. Get here for 10:15 am if you want to see her erupt! 

I always stop to see Huka Falls just outside of Taupo. This waterfall is magnificent and you can even book a jet boating tour for a real rush, or simply admire them from the footbridge.

Where to Stay in Taupo (2 Nights)

Budget – Taupo Debretts Spa Resort

Mid-range – Baycrest Thermal Lodge

Luxury – Hilton Lake Taupo

Landscape view of Huka Falls in Taupo, NZ
Huka Falls is so cool!

Day 9 – Taupo

Taupo is a small town with tons of beautiful scenery and adventurous activities. It’s basically paradise! I loved this kayak tour, as I got to see the Maori Rock Carvings out on Lake Taupo and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Visiting the Spa Thermal Park is great fun, too, and remember your swimsuit because you can take a dip in the lovely, warm Otumuheke Stream.

If you love hiking, then great news, because I think that the Mount Tauhara trail is one of the best on the North Island. It’s 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) long, and it’s very doable overall, even if you don’t hike very often. Then, why not reward yourself by booking a yacht tour in the evening?

Day 10 – Drive to New Plymouth

Today is a long day, with 278 kilometers (173 miles) of driving, which means almost 4 hours on the road. This is why I like to get going early! The best stops are close to New Plymouth, so put some miles behind you and then take time to explore. 

Allow plenty of time to explore the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock, which is an hour outside of New Plymouth, along the Four Rivers Coastal Drive. These tall sandstone rocks are super dramatic and create amazing reflections in the water. I went at low tide and was able to walk right up to the Elephant Rock, and I also took some time to explore the caves and Maori carvings.

One of my favorite things about road trips are those off-the-beaten-path detours, so check out the White Cliffs Walkway. It’s 40 minutes from the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock, and it’s super quiet and scenic.

Where to Stay in New Plymouth (2 Nights)

Budget – Ariki Backpackers

Mid-range – The Devon Hotel (includes free mountain bike rental!)

Luxury – Millennium Hotel New Plymouth

Taranaki from New Plymouth
The view of Mount Taranaki from New Plymouth!

Day 11 – New Plymouth

I think that New Plymouth is criminally underrated, so make the most of it! My article on the best things to do here and guide to Egmont National Park cover everything you need to know, but I’ll share a few ideas here.

In Egmont National Park, I couldn’t resist snapping the famous photo on Kent Road with Mount Taranaki in the background. I also LOVE a quick walk to Dawson Falls and the longer hike to Pouakai Tarn and Hut for those epic views. I took the Mangorei Track, which took 2 hours each way.

After a day of exploring the park, grab dinner from Snapper’s Fish and Chips and take them to East End Beach to enjoy. And if you’re in need of some alcoholic refreshments, I love the Shining Peak and Three Sisters breweries! 

Day 12 – Drive to Wellington

It’s a 354-kilometer (220-mile) drive from New Plymouth to Wellington. It would take 4.5 hours without stopping but I always make a day of it and stop multiple times. I love Waihi Beach, which is an hour south of New Plymouth, so I suggest you stop and stretch your legs here. 

Then, the Nga Manu Nature Reserve is about 50 minutes before Wellington. I find it to be such a tranquil place and it’s amazing to see native New Zealand birds, like keas, kakas, and whips. And after a long drive, you can’t beat a cocktail at Hanging Ditch, which is not only Wellington’s quirkiest cocktail bar but also my personal favorite!

Where to Stay in Wellington (2 Nights)

Budget – The Marion Hostel

Mid-range – Ramada by Wyndham

Luxury – Doubletree By Hilton Wellington (I’ve stayed here and it was great!)

Bailey looks at life size figurines at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Photos with Gollum!

Day 13 – Wellington

You know what they say… When in Wellington, don’t miss the Weta Workshop! 

Okay, maybe they don’t really say that but it’s true nonetheless, whether you’re a fan of all things Hobbit-related or not. Booking the Weta Workshop tour is so much fun and it really opened my eyes to just how much artistry goes into making fantasy movies! On a sunny day, I also love to stroll through the botanical gardens and take a ride on the historic cable car, which is over 120 years old.

If you’re worried about fitting it all in, booking this full-day tour makes it super easy. I love this tour because it also includes a visit to Parliament, Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Mount Victoria Lookout which is a favorite spot of mine. 

Day 14 – Wellington

I’m always a little sad to wrap up a two-week road trip, but it’s not over just yet! If you’re able to spend the day here, make the most of it by booking a walking tour of Zealandia, which is one of the most amazing wildlife sanctuaries I’ve ever visited. You can visit independently, but I learned so much on the tour so it was really worth it for me.

I also love grabbing brunch on Cuba Street – maybe at the famous Fidels – and looking for rare books at Pegasus Books. I also love checking out the Te Papa Museum, which is one of the best I’ve ever visited. Admission is free but I do recommend booking this early bird tour because I learned so much from the guide and got to explore the museum before it opened. 

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at a beach near Auckland
Thanks for reading!

I had so much fun reliving some of my favorite road trip memories putting together these two-week North Island itineraries! I hope you found the perfect one for your time in New Zealand. I don’t think you can go wrong with either of the three options on my list, but let me know which one is your favorite!

For more New Zealand trip planning and inspiration, have a look through my blogs about the North Island or see some of my popular posts below:

35 EPIC Things to do in Auckland, NZ

27 BEST Hikes on the North Island of New Zealand (for all levels!)

4 BEST Tours to Hobbiton from Auckland +Things to Know Before Booking

10 Things to KNOW About Catching a Ferry to the South Island