New Zealand Travel Guide: A 7-day road trip across North Island

A tried and tested itinerary for a fun 7 day trip across stunning North Island.

19 Mar 2019 — By Hira Desai / Journal / Travel
Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

The “Land of the Long White Cloud” has long been famed for it’s awe-inspiring landscapes, fresh produce, award-winning wine and warm Kiwi hospitality.

Split by a strip of water, the divide between the North and South islands, makes it easy to play favourites. While the snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes of South Island are quite rightfully the most breathtaking vistas one could witness, it would be foolish not to experience the unique charm of the North.

From geothermal wonders and magical forests to Maori culture and history, follow our road trip itinerary for the ultimate adventure across North Island.

Day 1: Auckland

What to do:

Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island New Zealand

Rangitoto Island

Located just a short ferry ride from the city, Rangitoto Island, is Auckland’s most iconic island with its spectacular symmetrical shield volcano cone rising 360 metres high over the Hauraki Gulf.

Walk up to the summit on foot to witness black lava caves and stunning views of the gulf or take a kayak out to explore the rugged coastline at sunset before paddling back in the dark under the stars.

Sky Tower

Auckland at sunset

Auckland at sunset

Take a journey up to the iconic Sky Tower to enjoy unrivalled city views from 220 metres above street level. Featuring key landmarks, volcanoes and other historical locations within the city, this attraction makes for a great photo opportunity. It is also home to 20 bars and restaurants as well as a world-class Casino.

Where to eat:

Depot

Food at Depot Auckland

Depot

Sample some of the city’s freshest seafood at Depot, helmed by award-winning New Zealand Chef and TV presenter, Al Brown. From freshly shucked oysters to seasonal dishes cooked beautifully over charcoal or hard wood, this industrial-chic eatery promises to be a hit.

Where to stay:

Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour

Sofitel Auckland Viaduct - Exterior shot

Located in the heart of Auckland and overlooking the shimmering Waitemata Harbour, the upscale Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour is ideal for those looking to start their adventure in style. Rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling views over the Viaduct basin city or city skyline, while facilities include a luxury spa, waterside café, cocktail bar and fine dining restaurant.

 

Day 2 & 3: Rotorua via Waitomo and Matamata

What to do:

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Located just over 2 hours from Auckland, a stop at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is a must-see en route to Rotorua. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history and geological significance of the caves before taking a boat ride under the serene Glowworm Grotto. Unique to New Zealand, thousands of the glowworm species radiate a magical luminescent light that will leave you feeling fascinated and intrigued.

Hobbiton Movie Set

Hobbiton movie set

Hobbiton movie set

Fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies will no doubt have Hobbiton etched into the top of their New Zealand wish list. The 12-acre movie set features the windy paths of The Shire, Hobbit Holes dotted along rolling hills and iconic views of the Kaimai Ranges. For the ultimate LOTR fans, the evening banquet tours complete with traditional Hobbit fayre is sure to fulfil your dreams.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park is located at the northern perimeter of the Reporoa Caldera (a collapsed volcanic crater) formed 230,000 years ago. It is home to the famous Lady Knox Geyser, bubbling mud pools and a number of colourful hot springs including the iconic Champagne Pool, Artist’s Palette and Devil’s Bath. With three distinctive trails available, it’s worth reserving at least three hours to make the most of this natural phenomenon (even with the pungent smell from the Champagne Pool!)

The Redwood Forest

The Redwood Forest

The Redwood Forest

The fresh forest air and super mountain biking and walking trails among the towering Californian Coast Redwoods makes for an exciting day in the great outdoors at The Redwood Forest. For those that wish to get up close and personal, the Redwoods Treewalk is a must. The 600-metre long, eco-tourism walk consists of 23 suspension bridges and connects 22 majestic Redwood trees that are more then 117 years old! At night, the forest walk is transformed into a magical wonderland, adorned with 30 twinkling lanterns and coloured spotlights.

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Take a journey to the authentic Tamaki Maori Village nestled within a forest. Here you will experience a formal Maori welcoming before discovering Maori art forms, ancient rituals and learning fascinating traditions. Join in with traditional songs and haka dance before tucking into a traditional Hangi feast cooked beneath the ground on hot stones.

Where to eat:

Capers Epicurean

Capers Epicurean

Capers Epicurean

This cosy café is a great spot to enjoy some wholesome local food, good coffee and refreshing smoothies. From soups and salads to hearty mains and even vegetarian and vegan options, Capers Epicurean fuels your body with the best of local produce.

Where to stay:

Quest Rotorua Central

Conveniently located in Rotorua’s Central Business District and a short walk from shopping and restaurants, Quest Rotorua Central serviced apartments are a great place to relax after a long day of exploring. Each studio apartment features a fully equipped kitchen, ideal for families, groups or those wanting a home-away-from-home experience.

Day 4: Taupo

What to do:

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Set on the Waikato River, the Huka Falls is a stunning crystal-blue phenomenon of natural hydropower. With more than 220,000 litres of water per second erupting from a natural gorge and crashing 11-meters into the Waikato River, you’ll hear them well before you see them. If you’re feeling energetic, take a scenic stroll from the hot springs in Spa Thermal Park and along the banks of the river to the spectacular Huka Falls, or experience the force of nature close-up on a jet boat trip.

Taupo Bungy

Taupo Bungy

Taupo Bungy

As any adrenaline junkie will know, New Zealand is the birthplace of the bungy jump. Whether you’re looking to create new memories, challenge your fears, or simply witness the nail biting jumps, Taupo Bungy ticks all the boxes. Located above the stunning waters of the Waikato River, the 47-meter drop is the country’s highest water touch and can be experienced as a bungy solo or tandem.

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo

Measuring similar in size to Singapore and located in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano, the beautiful Lake Taupo is the heart of North Island. From snow-capped mountains and alpine deserts to ancient forests, a walk along the lake will reveal every vista you can imagine. Cycle along the Great Lake Walkway, stopping for coffee, ice cream breaks and plenty of swimming and photo opportunities.

Where to eat:

Fish and chips

After a day of adventure, treat yourself to some classic Kiwi fish and chips or fresh seafood while soaking up the stunning views at one of many lakeside restaurants in Taupo town. Alternatively, order a portion to go at Pauly’s Diner and find a picnic bench along the lake.

Where to stay:

Huka Lodge

Huka Lodge

Huka Lodge

Located on the outskirts of Taupo and sitting on the unrivalled riverside, Huka Lodge is the quintessential New Zealand retreat. Enjoy a relaxing stay in a range of accommodation including beautifully furnished lodge suites and exclusive cottages. From in-room massage and beauty treatments, to a pool complex, croquet, tennis and mountain bike facilities, guests at Huka Lodge will have all their needs attended to.

Day 5: Hawkes Bay

What to do:

Wine Tasting Tour

Wine Tasting Hawkes Bay

Wine tasting in Hawkes Bay

As the oldest wine region in New Zealand, a relaxed and intimate tour of local wineries is a must, whether you’re new to wine or a self-confessed oenophile. Embark on an off-the-beaten-path adventure with a wine-loving tour guide from Winery Tours Hawkes Bay where you will sample award winning wines and go behind the scenes to learn more about what makes each one unique.

Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak

Standing 399 metres above the Heretaunga Plains, the legendary Te Mata Peak is known for not only its stunning and varied scenery but also its integral part of Hawkes Bay history. The lookout summit offers unrivalled views across the peak and Hawkes Bay while the 99-hectare park offers a number of walking and mountain biking trails.

Napier

Napier, New Zealand

Napier

Rebuilt after an earthquake in 1931, the coastal city of Napier is now known for its Art Deco architecture. Take a step back in time with a self-guided tour of the picturesque city or do it in style, on a vintage car tour.

Where to eat:

Bistronomy

Bistronomy dish

Bistronomy

Inspired by flavours around the world and made with locally sourced ingredients, Bistronomy sets out to make every day dishes – including chicken wings and lasagne – extraordinary. The seasonal menu is served in a stylish and contemporary setting that feels fun and fresh. To avoid disappointment, be sure to book in advance.

Where to stay:

Porters Boutique Hotel

Porters Boutique Hotel Room

Porters Boutique Hotel

Located in the charming village of Havelock North and surrounded by the majestic hills of Hawkes Bay, Porter’s Boutique Hotel is ideal for those looking for luxury, comfort and relaxation. The beautifully appointed rooms are complete with classic furnishings, local artwork and fully stocked with luxury amenities. For an extra special stay, The Royal Suite features a private balcony, heated floors and a spacious open-plan bedroom and living area.

Day 6 & 7: Wellington

What to do:

Weta Studio Tour

Weta Workshop

Weta Workshop

Based in the heart of Miramar, Wellington, The Weta Workshop is a world-leading designs and effects service that has assisted in creating blockbuster movies such as The Hobbit, The Amazing Spider Man, Hercules and The Lord of the Rings.

Join a movie-based Weta Studio Tour where a crew member will spill behind-the-scenes secrets as well as featuring tools of the trade and examples of props, costumes, creatures and vehicles used in all your favourite movies.

Te Papa Museum

Te Papa Museum

Te Papa Museum

At Te Papa Tongarewa – meaning ‘container of treasures’ – guests can learn about the country’s natural life, Maori culture, heritage, as well as important works of art and fascinating history. With face-to-face encounters and 3D animation, you will leave Te Papa feeling educated, inspired and entertained.

Where to eat:

Fidel’s Café

Fidels Cafe

Fidel’s Cafe

From a tasty Cubano sandwich filled with ham, pulled pork and swiss cheese to the decadent Snickers Shake, a trip to Fidel’s Café is a must when visiting the capital. Follow with a stroll along the famous Cuba Street, soaking in the bohemian vibes and browsing the abundance of vintage shops and culinary delights.

Where to stay:

Sofitel Wellington

Sofitel Wellington

Sofitel Wellington

Conveniently located in Wellington’s Central Business District and close to many tourist attractions, Sofitel Wellington is ideal for guests looking to explore the city before returning to a haven of luxury and comfort.

Suitable for both couples and families, the beautifully appointed rooms are styled with French artwork with a contemporary flair and exclusive designer finishes. Offering picturesque views of the hillsides or the bustling city, each room features a personal espresso machine and smart TV, alongside luxury bedding, bath towels and bathrobes so that you can feel right at home.

Once settled, the friendly concierge team will be happy to help plan your stay. From restaurant recommendations to booking tours and helping you navigate your way around the city, the team at Sofitel Wellington will truly go above and beyond to ensure you have a delightful stay.

Sofitel Wellington - Jardin Grill

Jardin Grill, Sofitel Wellington

After a long day of exploring, hop over to the chic Green Room bar to enjoy a tasty tipple before sampling a taste of New Zealand’s fresh produce with the signature selection of wood-fired grilled steaks at Jardin Grill.

 

We hope you found this guide to New Zealand’s North Island useful, we have more travel inspiration for you here!

 


Hira is a British freelance lifestyle, food & travel writer currently living her best life in Hong Kong and blogging about her experiences here


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