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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!
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!
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.
When reaching the top after 50 minutes, the view took our breaths away. It was for sure worth the early rise and morning walk.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
More from Travel with a Silver Lining
- Loved this New Zealand North Island itinerary? Do not miss my New Zealand Planning Guide with 9 Steps to Make Your Trip a Perfect One and find everything I’ve written about this beautiful country in the New Zealand section of the blog!
- For a nearby road trip, read about our time through Australia’s Great Ocean Drive. You want more from the World Down Under? Find all my Australian travel guides HERE!
- Do you love road trips as much as we do? Then check out my guides driving through Cuba, Florida, and the Amalfi Coast!
- Do not miss my top 3 posts: My Lisbon Instagram Guide, My Favorite Trendy Restaurants in Moscow, and my Amalfi Coast Photography Guide.
Booking Support & Input for your New Zealand North Island Itinerary
- Flight. MOMONDO is the best way to reach New Zealand at an amazing price. DOWNLOAD THEIR INCREDIBLE APP HERE!
- Transfer. Start your adventure without hassle by booking a transfer from Auckland to your local accommodation HERE!
- Hotel. Find amazing hotels throughout New Zealand through BOOKING.COM!
- Guide. Accompany your New Zealand North Island road trip with incredible experiences along the way thanks to GET YOUR GUIDE!
- Check out their Auckland guide, below!
Did you love this post and want to share it with others? Check out some pins, below!