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2-WEEK NEW ZEALAND ITINERARY

NORTH ISLAND ROAD TRIP


New Zealand (Aotearoa) is an island nation known for its beautiful natural landscape, incredible hikes, Māori culture and let’s not forget its rugby team, Lord of the Rings filming locations and wine country. With so many of New Zealand’s attractions being outside major cities, the only way to thoroughly explore the country is on a road trip.

2 Week New Zealand Itinerary

 

QUICK LINKS

 

DAY ONE

AUCKLAND – BAY OF ISLANDS


The itinerary begins and ends in Auckland, although it doesn’t allow much time in the city. We would recommend adding a day if you would like more time to explore Auckland.

From Auckland, travel north on State Highway 1 for an hour to the town of Warkworth. This is a good stop for breakfast, with many great cafes and bakeries in the town centre.

We really enjoyed Pete & Mary’s Eatery on Queen Street.


Hop back onto SH1, then take the turn off at Wayby Valley Road, towards Mangawhai. After another hour of driving, you will arrive at Mangawhai Heads Beach. There is a large, free car park at the beach and public toilets. There was a coffee cart and an ice cream cart on the day we visited as well. Depending on how much time you want to spend here, you could just enjoy the view, go for a swim at the beach or hike the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway. The hike takes around 2-3 hours.


If you are up for another hike, continue driving along the coastline for an hour and turn off SH1 at Mountfield Road, where you will see signs for Waipu Caves. Inside the cave entrance, you can find stalactites, stalagmites and even glow worms. There is also a separate 2 km (1.2 mi) walking track that begins near the cave entrance. This area can be very muddy and slippery, so be prepared with your footwear and clothing. The inner cave is only suitable for experienced cavers.


Once you’ve left the caves, it is less than 2 hours to the final destination for the day.


When visiting the Bay of Islands, you have many options for accommodation, depending on your budget. We opted to stay further inland at Oromahoe, a short 15-minute drive from the town of Paihia, where many Bay of Islands tours depart from.

WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed here for two nights. Continue reading below for more information.



DAY TWO

BAY OF ISLANDS


There are many ways to explore the Bay of Islands. From boat cruises to helicopter tours, sailboat charters, trike tours and skydiving, there is an option to suit every budget and every style of travel.


We took a Small Group Cruise & Island Tour, operated by Sea Shuttle Bay of Island and booked through Viator. This tour departs from Paihia, it lasts 3 hours and includes the cruise, a stop at 2 islands, a bushwalk to a scenic lookout, snorkelling and stand-up paddleboarding.

WHERE WE STAYED


This accommodation is unique, comfortable and situated in a beautiful garden on a peaceful farm. The hosts are very welcoming, their dog is friendly yet calm, and they helped us feel right at home. The converted bus has a bedroom, seating area, kitchenette and attached bathroom. The outdoor area includes seating, a hammock and a BBQ. There is another Airbnb at this farm stay, but the owners have built fencing to provide privacy for all guests.


Be sure to visit the nearby Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese so you can enjoy a cheeseboard with a glass of wine in the garden.


DAY THREE

BAY OF ISLANDS – CAPE REINGA


The drive from Oromahoe to Cape Reinga, the northernmost area of New Zealand, can take between 2 hours 30 minutes and 3 hours, depending on road conditions and closures. SH1 will end at a parking lot, which also has public toilets.


There are not a lot of food options towards the end of this drive, and due to the cultural significance of Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga, the protocols ask that no food be consumed in the area. We recommend packing car snacks for the drive instead.

The walk to the lighthouse starts at the parking lot. It is 800 m one way and takes around 10 minutes. Along the trail, you can learn about the cultural significance of this site and enjoy the scenic views (when you’re not surrounded by fog like we were). At the end of the walk, you can not only admire the lighthouse but also witness the merging of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean.


A 20-minute drive south, back down SH1, you will reach the Giant Sand Dunes. This is a popular spot for sandboarding. You can hire boards from the car park for NZD $15. From the dunes, it will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the town of Kaitaia.


WHERE WE STAYED


This accommodation is a private room in a house, with a bathroom and kitchen. We were welcomed by the host, who was very friendly and helpful. The room has everything you need for a short stay and lots of thoughtful extras, like robes, slippers and snacks. The area is very peaceful and perfectly located to start or end a day in Cape Reinga. They only accept cash for the booking, payable on arrival.



DAY FOUR

CAPE REINGA – HUIA


This is a big day of driving with many scenic stops and walks, so we recommend packing snacks and lunch for day four. For a good morning coffee, head to Kawhe Hub Kaitaia before hitting the road.

Head south out of Kaitaia via the SH1 or the slightly longer Twin Coast Discovery Highway. In less than 3 hours, you will reach the Waipoua Forest. The first stop within the forest is at the Tāne Mahuta walk. Parking is on the right side of the road, with the entrance to the walk on the left side. There are public toilets and a picnic area near the parking. The track is along a boardwalk and only takes 5 minutes to reach the “Lord of the Forest”; the largest living kauri tree in New Zealand.


Kauri trees are at risk of dieback disease caused by a soil-borne pathogen. To protect them it is very important to utilise the wash stations at the entrance to the trails, ensure all gear is clean and stay on the clearly marked tracks.

A short 2-minute drive up the road will get you to the second walk of the day. Turn right at the sign for “Kauri Walks”. This will bring you to the gravel parking area outside the trail entrance. There are multiple trails to choose from, but many people come here for Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest); the second-largest living kauri tree. It is around a 20-minute walk to the tree along a well-marked track.


Continue south along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway for just over an hour, turn left at Tokatoka Road and continue for a few minutes until you see the sign and track entrance for the Tokatoka Lookout. A small parking section is available on the left side of the road.


For more information on this hike, check out our 5 Day Hikes in New Zealand guide.

After the hike, you will still have around 3 hours of driving south before you reach Huia.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed in an Airbnb, approximately 12 minutes east of Huia. It is a private room inside a large house. The room is simple but has everything needed for a 1-night stay. The bathroom is shared with one of the housemates (they were not there when we stayed so we enjoyed more privacy). The view from the balcony is lovely, the hosts were very welcoming and accommodating, the area is peaceful, and it’s perfectly placed for an early morning trip to Whatipu.



DAY FIVE

HUIA – COROMANDEL


This day includes a lot of driving and hiking so we recommend packing snacks and lunch again for day five. We also recommend getting started as early as possible to make the most of the day, beat the crowds and avoid the midday heat for the hike.

From the Airbnb, it is a 30-minute drive to the first stop of the day. Travel west until you reach the end of Whatipu Road. The last few kilometres of this road are unsealed but well-maintained. At the end of the road, just before the beach, is a large car park where the Omanawanui Track begins. There are also public toilets available and a campsite.


For more information on this hike, check out our 5 Day Hikes in New Zealand guide.
Good Road Trip Stops in New Zealand - Hunua Falls

Once you’ve completed the Omanawanui Track, jump back in the car, head east towards Auckland and then south towards Hunua, which should take less than 2 hours. The Hunua Falls is a good spot for lunch, with a great picnic area next to the 30-metre waterfall. There is a large parking lot and public toilets available. There are no rubbish bins though, so be sure to take everything with you when you leave. If you are up for more walking after the morning hike, there are also a few trails starting from the shoe-washing station in the car park.


Afterwards, continue east for an hour to reach Turua, or 2 hours to Coromandel.


Turua is approximately an hour’s drive from Coromandel. We chose to stay here as it was more affordable than the options we could see along the Coromandel Peninsula.

WHERE WE STAYED

Wine and Cheese in New Zealand


This farm stay is a small building out the back of the main house. It is quiet, private and very comfortable. The kitchen is well-equipped, the balcony has a view across the paddocks, and the bedroom is very cosy. There is not much to do in the area, so we would recommend utilising the kitchen and enjoying a lovely dinner and perhaps a cheeseboard as the sun sets.






DAY SIX

COROMANDEL – ROTORUA


First thing in the morning, drive from Turua to the coastal town of Hahei. This is where you will start the walk to the popular Cathedral Cove. The shortest walk begins from the car park on Grange Road. This parking area is only open from May to September. If this parking area is full or you are visiting from October to April, park instead at Hahei Beach and follow the Hahei Beach Walk signs towards Cathedral Cove. From the beach, the walk takes around an hour one way. Don’t forget to pack your swimmers and be prepared for crowds, especially if the weather is warm.


After a beautiful morning on the beach, get back in the car and head south for just over 3 hours to reach Rotorua. Check into your accommodation and then explore the main streets of town. For dinner, head to Eat Streat (yes, that is spelt correctly), where you can choose from a range of restaurants and cuisines. During our time in Rotorua, we ate at The Beer Garden and enjoyed drinks and dinner in their outdoor courtyard and at the more affordable, but just as good, Wild Rice Thai.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed here for two nights. Continue reading below for more information.



DAY SEVEN

ROTORUA


There is a lot to see and do in Rotorua. Some of the most popular attractions include the Skyline, hot pools and spas, mountain biking, white water rafting and the Zorb Ball Rolling Park. If you are more interested in free activities, we would recommend the Redwoods Trail in the Whakarewarewa Forest, Blue Lake, Government Gardens, Kuirau Park and discovering all the scenic reserves and lookouts around Lake Rotorua.


For more, check out our guide for 5 Free Things To Do in Rotorua.

WHERE WE STAYED


The “man cave” is a 15-minute drive from the main streets of Rotorua. We found it was much more affordable than the accommodation options in town. It is a studio space with a small balcony, a bathroom, a well-equipped kitchenette and laundry (which was a major bonus for us). The room is located behind the main house on a farm stay. The hosts were lovely, and the area was peaceful. The only downside is that they don’t offer Wi-Fi and the phone reception is spotty. It makes for a lovely technology break if you can afford to do so for a couple of days.


Be sure to visit the nearby Mamaku Blue Blueberry Experience to grab some of their many blueberry goodies. We personally loved the blueberry juice and blueberry muffin.


DAY EIGHT

ROTORUA – TŪRANGI


The drive from Rotorua to Tūrangi is only around 1 hour and 30 minutes, which gives you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and stops along the way. Head south of State Highway 5, and along the drive you will pass places like the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, Lava Glass Glassblowing Studio and the Huka Honey Hive. At the same turnoff as the Honey Hive, you will also find Huka Falls. These falls are definitely worth a stop. There is a large parking lot, information kiosk and public toilets. A very short walk from the car park is a bridge, where you will get your first glimpse of the roaring, turquoise water.


From the falls, it is only a 10-minute drive to the town of Taupō. Stop here and plan to spend a few hours exploring the streets. Find a place for lunch, get some groceries for the days ahead, shop at the boutiques and stop by the Love Taupo sign. You’ll then head south down the east side of the lake for 50 minutes before reaching Tūrangi.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed here for three nights. Continue reading below for more information.



DAY NINE

TŪRANGI


Day nine was personally a highlight for us and is a bucket list New Zealand item for many travellers. However, if you are not a keen hiker and not confident hiking in alpine environments, skip past this to Day Ten.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of the best day hikes in New Zealand and one of the top 10 in the world. It is located within Tongariro National Park and usually takes around 6-8 hours to complete. While this hike is extremely popular among hikers and tourists, it is not a walk in the park. In an alpine environment, the weather can be extreme and unpredictable. Even in summer, the temperatures can drop quite low. It is important to be prepared before deciding to tackle this trail.


For more, check out our Know Before You Go guide for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Best Hikes in New Zealand - Tongariro Alpine Crossing

If you choose to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on day nine, relax in the evening and reward yourself with a good meal and refreshing drink back in town at the Tūrangi Tavern.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed here for three nights. Continue reading below for more information.



DAY TEN

TŪRANGI


If you did complete the Alpine Crossing yesterday, we recommend spending an extra day in Tūrangi to explore the other places and walks on offer, like The Trout Centre, the Tongariro River Trail and Lake Rotopounamu Track. Also, if the weather is bad and you are unable to hike Tongariro on day nine, staying a bit longer gives you the chance to reschedule the hike without affecting future plans.


WHERE WE STAYED


This accommodation was the perfect place to stay when hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is located in town, a short walk from the shops and only a 30-minute drive from the crossing car park and shuttle service. The rooms are huge, with full kitchens, big bathrooms, separate bedrooms and an open-plan lounge and dining area. They have a pool, spas, communal lounge areas, games, BBQs and a laundry. The service was wonderful, and the staff were welcoming and helpful.



DAY ELEVEN

TŪRANGI – NEW PLYMOUTH


Before hitting the road, you have to stop by Delta Coffee. This small cart is just around the corner from the Leisure Lodge, in a parking lot off SH1. Their coffee is great, and they have many breakfast and snack options available as well.

From Tūrangi, head west out of town on State Highway 41. At Taumaruni, continue onto State Highway 4 and after around 1 hour and 30 minutes of driving, turn left onto Omaru Road. A short drive up this gravel road, you will see the sign for the Omaru Falls Track. You can park on the side of the road at the start of the track.


For more information on this walk, check out our 5 Day Hikes in New Zealand guide.

From Omaru Falls, continue up SH4, turn left onto SH3, and 30 minutes later, you will arrive in Piopio. This is a great stop for lunch, whether you want to enjoy a picnic in Piopio Park which also has public toilets or try the Fat Pigeon Café, where they have a range of pre-made and fresh meals.


From Piopio, continue driving south towards New Plymouth, which is only around 2 hours away. If the tides are right, stop by The Three Sisters and Elephant Rock. These rock formations are a popular tourist location but can only be reached during low tide.


Once you reach New Plymouth, stretch your legs at the coastal walkway and check out The Wind Wand. There are many options for food, but we would recommend getting a classic fish and chips from Catch & Co on Ocean View Parade.


WHERE WE STAYED


We stayed here for two nights. Continue reading below for more information.



DAY TWELVE

NEW PLYMOUTH


You’ve seen Mount Taranaki looming in the distance, so why not spend a day exploring the Egmont National Park, where the mountain is located? This park has many walks and hiking trails varying in length and difficulty. If you are up for it, you can tackle the Mount Taranaki Summit Track. This is an advanced track covered in snow and ice from May to October. It is advised that hikers be well prepared, experienced and carrying the appropriate equipment for the season. If that doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, there are plenty of other amazing trail options in the park.


For more on our favourite trail in Egmont National Park, check out our 5 Day Hikes in New Zealand guide.

WHERE WE STAYED

Cute Farmstays in New Zealand

We loved our stay at this Airbnb. It is a sleepout located next to the main house on a quiet property only 10 minutes from the centre of town. The hosts are wonderful. They are so welcoming, provide fresh food for breakfast and go out of their way to ensure you are comfortable and happy. We loved the visit from their cats and dog too. The room is spotless, with a well-equipped kitchenette, comfortable bed, large bathroom and cute balcony.





DAY THIRTEEN

NEW PLYMOUTH – HAMILTON


Sadly, our final days in New Zealand were affected by a cyclone. Due to the weather, we had to cancel our plans for this day and were unable to do much around Hamilton. What we have included below are the places and activities we had planned to get to and will hopefully return one day to see for ourselves.

Drive north out of New Plymouth on SH3. You will drive for around 2 hours and 30 minutes, turning off the highway at Troopers Road, to reach the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. As the name gives away, these caves are home to glowworms, specifically a species only found in New Zealand. To visit the caves, you will need to book a guided tour. There are many on offer, with varying inclusions and prices.


If you are more interested in free activities but still want to see the glowworms, head to the Ruakuri Walk. At night, the glowworms light up along the banks of the track. This trail is a 1 km (0.6 mi) loop track that should take less than an hour. You will need torches or headlamps if completing this walk at night.


From the caves, it is a 1-hour drive north to Hamilton.


If you plan to walk at night, we recommend finding accommodation closer to the caves. We stayed at an Airbnb in Te Awamutu, which is around 40 minutes from the Ruakuri Walk.

WHERE WE STAYED


This Airbnb is a sleepout behind the main house on a beautiful, quiet property. The hosts are so kind and welcoming, providing fresh food and offering to clean up and restock each day. They also have 3 dogs, which we loved spending time with. It is a studio-style room with a desk, TV, microwave, kettle and kitchen utensils. The room and bathroom are both clean and comfortable.



DAY FOURTEEN

HAMILTON – AUCKLAND


It is 1 hour and 30 minutes from Hamilton to Auckland, or just under 2 hours from Te Awamutu. In the morning, head to the Whatawhata Berry Farm, located 10 minutes west of Hamilton. Here you can pick your own fresh berries straight from the farm to enjoy on the drive. You've probably seen multiple signs for fresh fruit ice cream all over New Zealand, so if you haven’t already tried some, this may be the place to indulge in some ice cream for breakfast.


If you have time to explore Auckland before jumping on a flight, head over to the suburb of Parnell. Along Parnell Road are shops, boutiques and great restaurant and café options for lunch. Afterwards, drive over to Maungawhau/Mount Eden; Auckland’s highest volcano. Located right in the heart of Auckland, Mount Eden offers incredible views across the city from the summit. There is plenty of parking, and it is a fairly easy walk to the top, just with an incline and a few stairs.


It is around 20 minutes from Mount Eden to the International Airport. Depending on the time of day, this may be longer due to peak hour traffic.


WHERE WE RENTED OUR CAR


Rental cars and campervans in New Zealand can be very expensive. We searched for a while before coming across Rental Cars 247. We had never rented from them before, but they had much more affordable prices than any other companies we had seen. Their location at Auckland Airport is further away, but they provide free shuttle services to and from the terminal. We had great service, renting and returning the car was a smooth process, and we had no issues with our car. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and we would happily rent a car from here again.



OUR GOOGLE MAPS


When planning our travel destinations, we pin our bucket list of sites to see and recommended places to eat and drink on Google Maps. We are then never lost for ideas when travelling, and can easily share these lists for our friends and family to use as well.





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