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On a sunny November day, we finally arrived at a place that had been on top of our bucket list for so long: New Zealand. First out was a 6 day New Zealand north island road trip, and we were both so eager to leave Auckland behind to see what this fairytale island had to offer. In hindsight, we should have given this magical place more time, but still, our 6 day New Zealand north island itinerary took us to so many gorgeous and breathtaking places. Let’s get going!

New Zealand north island road trip: Woody hanger lodge
You’ll find this magical view from Woodyhanger lodge a bit further down

Before setting out to drive across this beautiful island, prepare by reading the 9 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW TO PLAN THE PERFECT NEW ZEALAND TRIP!

New Zealand North Island Itinerary

Our New Zealand North Island Road trip in short: 

  • Day 1 – Arrival to Auckland & Drive to National Park
  • Day 2 – Tongariro Crossing Trek
  • Day 3 – Lake Taupo – Huka Falls – Rotura – Hobbiton Movie Set – Tauranga
  • Day 4 – Mount Mauntganui Sunrise Trek – Whitianga
  • Day 5 – Hot Water Beach – Mercury Bay Estate Vineyard
  • Day 6 – Coromandel – Thames – Auckland

Find luscious adventures throughout New Zealand on GET YOUR GUIDE!

New Zealand north island road trip: hobbiton movie set
The fairy tail destination – Hobbiton Movie Set!

Day 1: Leaving the City Behind!

Route:  Arrival  – Drive from Auckland to National Park

Drive: Google Maps – 4 hours 15 minutes. IRL- 5 hours 30 minutes

Stay: Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites

Arriving mid-afternoon, we hit the road as soon as we got our car, leaving Auckland behind, our New Zealand North Island itinerary began. The four hours drive should take us to National Park and our stay for the night at the Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites. The first day of our New Zealand North Island road trip gave us the warmest welcome, with a blue sky and sun.

New Zealand North Island itinerary car ride
Let’s go!

After 30 minutes’ drive, we got a glimpse of all the beauty this trip would offer us. Green rolling hills, mountain backdrops – a scenery that took our breath away. Being from Sweden, we are used to beautiful nature, but this was something different, something even more majestic. 

New Zealand north island road trip drive
Make sure you have the camera in the front seat whilst driving around

Photo Spots Everywhere…

Driving on the left side was a bit scary but after 30 minutes or so, Fred was mastering this greatly. The route from Hamilton to our end destination took almost double the time. There were so many gorgeous spots along the way, so we just had to stop to capture them…. after a while, we realised that we will never make it to our end destination at this pace, and the photo spots in this place seemed never-ending.

If you have time I strongly recommend to make a stop at the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves and BOOK THIS 45 MINUTES TOUR!

New Zealand North Island itinerary: Magical view of the landscape
Hello New Zealand! You stole my heart the minute we hit the road!

If you’re looking for a luxurious yet short experience in the area, why not go for this 13-hour Waitomo Caves, Agrodome & Te Puia Coach Tour from Auckland?

Day 2 of Our New Zealand North Island Road Trip: Up in the Mountains

Activity of the day: One Day Tongariro Crossing Trek 

Shuttle: Booking shuttle is a must as you enter and end at different points. Make sure to book it in advance HERE

What to bring: It is a relatively tough trek so good gear is key! Bring good hiking clothes, including rain gear, hiking shoes plus 1,5 liters of water per person.

Stay: Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites. If you prefer a full-service hotel, check out the Park Hotel Ruapehu.

New Zealand North Island itinerary: The Tongariro Crossing Trek
Would you go for a hike if you visit New Zealand? The the Tongariro Crossing is a must!

It was time for the number one trek of this New Zealand North Island road trip: The Tongariro Crossing! The oldest national park in New Zealand and a two-fold world heritage area. The 19.4 kilometers’ walk should take us up among volcano peaks, alpine lakes, and impressive sceneries. However, when our driver picked us up at 06.45 am, the weather had changed dramatically from the day before. Welcome to New Zealand!!! Grey sky, rain and lots of fog. Not the best conditions for this tough trek, but off we went. 

New Zealand north island road trip: The Tongariro Crossing Hike!
A Mystic Start of the Day!

Let the trek begin…

After the 30 minutes shuttle with our lovely guide, we arrived at the starting point and started our hike. It was all kind of spooky. The volcano landscape with black soil, the huge mountains ahead of us, and the fog giving it all a mystic feel. We quickly realised this would be a tough day. It was cold, and the rain started to pour more and more the further we got. The first hour was flat and relatively easy, but when the climb up the mountain truly started, the wind got stronger and the rain colder. 

New Zealand north island road trip: tongariro crossing trek
This trek was so challenging! Especially when the weather is like this…
New Zealand north island road trip: tongariro crossing trek
Such a cool setting and surrounding even though the weather was not on our side!

Unfortunately, this was not the best day of our New Zealand North Island itinerary. The weather conditions forced us to stop and turn around almost up at the first peak. The park guides told us it was not safe, and, in all honesty, it was crazy cold and a bit scary with the storm. 

Spa time…

Back home, we got some time to explore our cute boutique hotel – Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites. A truly unique one. Very simple with just a small room & toilet – all modern but with no other facilities in the room. Built to be one with nature and with a lovely hot outdoor swimming pool and an outdoor jacuzzi for a bath under the stars.

Simple natural luxury at its best with no extras. Still in a setting like this and with the Tongariro Crossing as the main activity, it was a perfect stay. So instead of a full day trekking, we took some warming baths and then had a dinner in front of the fireplace. 

The hot pool at Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites
Can you ask for more? A hot pool with a lovely view! Maybe some sun:)!
New Zealand North Island itinerary pool nature
Perfect ending to this day

After some warming baths, we headed into town for dinner at the Park Hotel Ruapehu. Winning and dining at the cozy lounge’s open fire in their cozy lounge did make up for some of our disappointment. Ending the day under the stars in the jacuzzi made us even happier. The sky at night in New Zealand is truly amazing with the Southern Cross and the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies! 

The Jacuzzi at Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites
Happy Guy!

Book a stay at Tongariro Springs Boutique Suites HERE, or at Park Hotel Ruapehu HERE. To take the hike guided by pros, check out this Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Premium Guided Trek!

Day 3: A Busy Day of Natural Wonders & Hobbits!

Route/Drive: National Park – Lake Taupo/Huka Falls (1,5 hours). Lake Taupo – Rotura (1 hour). Rotura – Hobbiton Movie Set (1 hour). Hobbiton Movie Set – Tauranga (1 hour)

Stay:Trinity Wharf TaurangaHowever, would recommend staying in a hotel in Mount Maunganui instead. You can find one HERE!

Recommendations: If time allows, I would recommend to split this day into two and stay an extra night close to Rotorua to have more time for each part. Our schedule for this section of the New Zealand North Island road trip was a bit too tight!

New Zealand north island road trip
On the road again and now with a bit more sun!

Lake Taupo – A Beautiful Natural Encounter!

New day and new adventures on our New Zealand North Island itinerary. After a morning swim, we left our cute stay behind for  our next stop. Lake Tekapo – the largest lake in New Zealand!

The town Taupo was small and cozy but it was the setting in front of the lake that made it unique!  Here locals start their days with a good walk or run. At Victoria’s Cafe Kitchen bar, we did not only get a great breakfast but also a true feel of the genuine and friendly New Zealand locals.

New Zealand North Island itinerary lake taupo
The Beautiful Lake Taupo!

See this beautiful lake from the inside by booking this Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise!

Huka Falls –  Natural Power of this New Zealand North Island Road Trip!

A 10 minutes drive from Taupo awaited the Huka Falls. Impressive natural hydropower with more than 220,000 liters of water per sec flowing down the 11 meters high waterfall. A perfect stop on this New Zealand North Island road trip for some snaps and to experience the power of our lovely mother nature. 

New Zealand North Island itinerary huka falls
The spectacular Huka Falls – Had to snap an Instagram shot!

Check out this Hukafalls: 30-Minute Jet Boat Experience!

Rotorua – The No Geothermal wonder of this New Zealand North Island Itinerary!

A geothermal wonder famous for its mud & hot pools and volcanic activity as well as the sulfur smell. Unfortunately, our schedule for this day was a bit too tight, so we could only have a short walk in Kuirau Park and admire the cool natural wonders.

In hindsight, I would strongly recommend to at least spend half a day here, as there are lots of things to do. This is the place to experience authentic Maori culture and of course some spa time in the pools and lots of river and lake adventures. 

Beautiful New Zealand landscape!
Beautiful New Zealand landscape!

Enjoy an authentic cultural time with delicious food with this Whakarewarewa Maori Village Geothermal Hangi Experience!

Hobbiton Movie Set

After a short stop at Rotorua, we headed for Fredrik’s highlight of the day. The Hobbiton Movie Set! A tourist trap? For sure! Still worth a visit even though you are not a big Hobbit fan (like me). 

New Zealand North Island itinerary getting to hobbiton
Even the way here was an experience itself, so many gorgeous views

The magic starts already on the way there — a wonderland of green rolling hills bringing you directly to the movie scene itself. No wonder New Zealand is a popular film destination! The scenery here was just insanely beautiful, one of the loveliest of our New Zealand North Island road trip!

Hobbiton Movie Set - North New Zealand!
The Cute Hobbiton Town!

The movie scene itself is truly well preserved with the cute hobbit houses tucked into the landscape, everything in hobbit size! The sun was shining, making the spot even more beautiful – a true photography gem!

Make sure to book the tour in advance as it is selling out quickly during peak season. Would also recommend the first tour of the day to be able to enjoy the spot and take photos without the crowd!

Hobbiton Movie Set North New Zealand!
Fred found his house!

Tired but happy, we left the Hobbiton World behind heading for our stay for the night in Trinity Wharf, Tauranga. Not a boutique hotel this time. Still beautifully located by the sea and with a great restaurant. However, if you are making this trip, I would strongly recommend to check in at some hotel in Mount Maunganui town instead. A super cute and chill little beach town just next to the impressive mountain!

 New Zealand north island: View from Mount Maunganui
Quite a view from the top of Mount Maunganui!

Have a merry old time in Middle Earth with this Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour and Festive Buffet Lunch!

Day 4: A Sunrise to Remember

Route/Drive: Tauranga – Mount Maunganui (10 min), Mount Maunganui – Whitianga (3 hours)

Stay: WoodyHanger Lodge

5 am, and the alarm clock went off: it was time to begin day 4 of our New Zealand North Island itinerary. Time for the sunrise trek up along Mount Maunganui. A lovely morning with blue sky, a bit chilly but so fresh and peaceful.

Mount Maunganui - North New Zealand road trip
Good Morning Mount Maunganui! What a lovely morning!
View from Mount Maunganui
So peaceful & serene!

When reaching the top after 50 minutes, the view took our breaths away. It was for sure worth the early rise and morning walk. 

Sunrise at Mount Maunganui
A morning view to remember!
Mount Maunganui morning view!
Woho a bit scary… but worth it for a good snap:)!

A healthy breakfast and an hour or two on the beach was the perfect way to spend the rest of the morning. Loved this place so much and could easily have spent a couple of nights here just enjoying the New Zealand life. Except for the beautiful sunrise view, the beach took me by surprise. Did not expect to find this white sandy beach and turquoise water here in New Zealand!

The beach in Mount Maunganui
Beach Time!

Our Cosy Little Oasis…

Two tired souls arrived at our stay for the next nights – the WoodyHanger Lodge. A true piece of paradise up on the mountain top! Fredrik was skeptic when driving up the narrow pathway up along the mountain, but when Carol and Warren gave us the warmest welcome, all doubts were gone. We had found a true New Zealand oasis with a stunning view. For me, this is what travel is about: finding hidden gems like this, getting a truly personal and local experience. 

New Zealand North Island itinerary woodyhanger lodge
This cute place gave us some of the most amazing days here

Tired after two tough days, we did a short visit to the town buying some food and snacks and then returned to our nest for a lazy evening. 

New Zealand North Island itinerary: woodyhanger lodge
Waking up watching the view

You can read my review of WoodyHanger Lodge HERE or simply book your stay HERE. Chill after a long day of trekking with this 2-Hour Relax and Rejuvenate Geothermal Pool Experience!

Day 5: Sunrise, Tourist Traps & Delicious Wine

Route/Drive: Exploring Whitianga and its surroundings 1,5 hrs drive in total

Stay: WoodyHanger Lodge

You might think we are morning people, but we are not. However, when traveling and staying in places like this, you can not afford missing the morning spectacle. And a spectacle we got on this early New Zealand North Island road trip section!

Sunrise in WoodyHanger Lodge!
Good Morning Whitianga!
Sunrise from the WoodyHanger Lodge!
Quite a spectacle!

Based on a lot of travel blogs and travel guide recommendations, our first stop of the day was the Hot Water Beach. A spot on the beach with hot thermal water where you can dig your own little pool to sit in during low tide (2 hours either side of low tide). If you ask me, it is a bit of a tourist trap given the number of people there. 

New Zealand North Island itinerary hot water beach
Time to check out the Hot Water Beach!

Crowds Led to a Slight Change of Plans

The idea of sitting in a hot pool by the beach was not as tempting as it sounded with an overcrowded beach. So…. we left after a quick visit for a late lunch with delicious wine based on Carol’s & Warren’s recommendation at Mercury Bay Estate Winery. A true contrast to our previous experience. A small family-owned winery in a beautiful setting and with delicious wooden fried pizzas. This was where we get the first taste of the tasty New Zealand wines!

New Zealand North Island itinerary mercury winery
The Mercury Winery

The idea was to end the day with a visit to Cathedral Cove, but as the rain came, we decided to end the day in the same manner as the day before. In our cozy next up on the mountain with a bottle of delicious red wine from the Mercury Winery!

The Mercury Bay Estate Vineyard!
Loved the setting here!

See this area’s most iconic sight with this Cathedral Cove 2 Hour Boat Cruise!

Day 6 of Our New Zealand North Island Road Trip: Last Leg Around Coromandel

Route/Drive: Whitianga – Coromandel (northern route 1 hr), Coromandel – Thames (1 hr), Thames – Auckland (1,5 hrs)

Everything comes to an end, and so did also this New Zealand north island itinerary. However, our flight was leaving in the evening, so we spend a day on the road driving the beautiful northern route from Whitianga to the cute Coromandel town. 

Natural Beauty - The Beaches of Coromandel!
Natural Beauty – The Beaches of Coromandel!
Cute Coromandel Town!
Cute Coromandel Town!

Our favourite leg was the coming one along the coast down to Thames. Full of magical viewpoints and with the sea and beautiful beach by our side!

North New Zealand Viewpoint - Coromandel!
Magical Viewpoints everywhere!

In Thames, we made a quick stop for a late lunch and found a true hip and trendy place, all inspired by Melbourne – the Café Melbourne! What a surprise to find a place like this here and the perfect way to end our six days New Zealand north island road trip!

New Zealand North Island itinerary melbourne café
Well deserved food break

The Coromandel peninsula is truly beautiful. Experience the town for yourself with this Coromandel Town: Driving Creek Railway and Kauri Groves Tour!

The north island of New Zealand is so worth a visit, and if you have time, I would recommend spending 2 to 3 weeks here. I would have loved to drive north of Auckland to visit the Bay of Island and everything this area has to offer… so see you soon again New Zealand North!

North New Zealand!
Bye, bye New Zealand North! See you soon again!

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Booking Support & Input for your New Zealand North Island Itinerary

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