Auckland to Napier road trip

hawkes-bay

An action-packed journey to the art deco city of Napier.

7 Days 650 km

Highlights

  • Hobbiton Movie Set™
  • Rotorua
  • Food and wine in Hawke’s Bay

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Experience some of New Zealand’s top attractions in this seven-day campervan itinerary that takes you from the big city vibes of Auckland through the rolling green hills of the Waikato to the home of Middle‑earth™.

Catch some waves in Mount Maunganui, marvel at the geothermal wonders of Rotorua and finish in the art deco city of Napier in the heart of Hawke’s Bay food and wine country.

Day 1: Auckland highlights

auckland

Explore the many sides of Auckland

Highlights

  • Waiheke Island
  • Viaduct Harbour
  • Sky Tower

Explore Auckland

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Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, with lots of activities to choose from. You could start with designer shopping at Britomart Precinct(opens in new window) and nearby Commercial Bay, then stop at the Viaduct(opens in new window) for lunch with a sea view.

Or take a ferry from the CBD across the sparkling Waitematā Harbour for a day in the vineyards of Waiheke Island, or to Rangitoto for sweeping views from the top of this iconic landmark. At 328 metres, the Sky Tower is also famous for its views and kids will love riding the glass-fronted elevators to the top. Popular Mission Bay is just 10 minutes from the CBD – head along the waterfront on Tamaki Drive and have ice cream under the pōhutukawa trees.

From Auckland, it’s an hour south to Miranda on the Firth of Thames for the night. This pretty spot is internationally recognised for its bird species and famous for its thermal pools, with several options for campervans.

Day 2: Journey to Middle‑earth™

hamilton-waikato

See movie magic up close at the Hobbiton Movie Set

Highlights

  • Hobbiton Movie Set™
  • Mount Maunganui
  • Glow worms

Explore Hobbiton Movie Set™

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Heading south from Miranda you’ll travel through the lush, green farmland of the Waikato region.

Stop in Matamata, where the hobbit-style i-SITE Visitor Centre hints at what lies just a short drive away – the Hobbiton Movie Set(opens in new window). An amazing experience for fans and newbies alike, book a tour for a magical glimpse of the world brought to life in the famous film trilogies. You’ll wander through the Shireä, see Bilbo Baggins house at Bag End, and even enjoy a drink at the Green Dragon Inn.

Then it’s just an hour to the golden sands of Mount Maunganui (known affectionately as ‘The Mount’) where you can spend the night in the beachside campground at the foot of the famous landmark. Relax in the thermal hot pools right next door and finish with fish and chips on the beach, or head out on an evening kayak for some glow worm spotting.

Day 3: Beach life in the Bay of Plenty

bay-of-plenty

Chill out in Mount Maunganui

Highlights

  • Climb Mount Maunganui
  • Surf lessons
  • Tauranga

Reach the top of Mount Maunganui

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Make it a memorable sunrise and walk up Mount Maunganui for spectacular views over the bay and beyond.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to great breakfast spots afterwards local favourites include The General and Elspeth Bakery, or grab a smoothie and snacks from one of the food trucks parked up beachside.

The ‘Mount’ is famous for its swimming and surfing, and you can hire a board or take lessons. The bay’s warm waters are teeming with sea life too, if you’re keen for fishing or dolphin watching. The waterfront at nearby Tauranga is home to shops and eateries, as well as the Tauranga Art Gallery.

Or get back to nature with 300km of tracks to choose from in Kamai Mamaku Forest Park. Then head south to Whakatāne, where the Whakatāne Holiday Park is the perfect spot to park up and stroll into town for dinner.

Day 4: Nature and culture in Whakatāne

bay-of-plenty

Māori culture and natural wonders

Highlights

  • Māori culture
  • Moutohora Island
  • Ōhope Beach

Learn about Mataatua

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One of Whakatāne’s most famous attractions is Mataatua“the house that came home”. Learn the story of this carved Māori ancestral house that travelled the world for a century before returning to the people of Ngāti Awa.

Cruise out to idyllic Moutohorā Island Sanctuary, which is home to some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds and reptiles.

Back in town, little ones will love the Kiwi Wandering Trail, a self-guided scavenger hunt that doubles as an excellent way to see the sights. Or choose from a wide range of walks and tramping tracks.

Visit the popular Sunday Market for local produce and arts and crafts. A short drive from Whakatāne is beautiful Ōhope Beach, then it’s onward to Rotorua, where you’ll find plenty of campervan-friendly accommodation. For an unforgettable adventure head to Redwoods Nightlights – a night-time tree-top walk in the majestic Whakarewarewa Forest.

Day 5: Adventure and geothermal wonders in Rotorua

rotorua

New Zealand’s original hotspot

Highlights

  • Rotorua Skyline
  • Te Puia
  • Mountain biking

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Regarded as the birthplace of New Zealand tourism, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with adventure activities, Māori culture and much more.

Take the gondola to the top of Mount Ngongotaha at Skyline Rotorua(opens in new window) and ride the family-friendly luge, or try the zipline or sky swing.

Te Puia(opens in new window) offers an awe-inspiring Māori cultural experience against a backdrop of bubbling mud and spouting geysers. Children will love the animals at Agrodome, which has an entertaining farm show and tour. Adrenalin-seekers will want to try the the range of mountain bike tracks around Rotorua that cater from beginner through to the most courageous.

Finish with a relaxing soak at the bush setting of Secret Spot Hot Tubs or lakeside in the thermal pools at Polynesian Spa. For dinner, browse the menus at Eat Streat – a one-stop-shop for some of the city’s best dining. On Thursday nights, the Night Market(opens in new window) is the place for delicious street food.

Day 6: Road trip to Taupō

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Glass art and awesome natural wonders

Highlights

  • Glass sculpture
  • Huka Falls
  • Lake Taupō

Learn about Lake Taupō

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The drive from Rotorua to Taupō is full of things to see and do.

Stop for lunch at Lava Glass(opens in new window), a glass studio with glass blowing demonstrations, a gallery, café and sculpture garden full of incredible glass artworks. Further down the road, keep an eye out for the rising steam of Craters of the Moon.

Wooden boardwalks wind through this picturesque geothermal valley and are moved regularly as new vents pop up! Just outside Taupō are the mighty Huka Falls, where thousands of litres of foaming white water pounds its way through a narrow ravine.

Much calmer, but no less impressive is Lake Taupō – take a fishing trip or a lake cruise to see the Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings. There are several holiday parks around town to choose from for the night.

Day 7: Explore art deco Napier

hawkes-bay

Food, wine and art deco style in Hawke’s Bay

Highlights

  • Art deco tour
  • Hawke’s Bay wineries
  • Te Mata Peak

Travel back in time in Napier

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From Taupō, it’s two hours to Napier, the heart of the Hawke’s Bay region.

The city is famous for its beautiful 1930s art deco architecture, the result of a rebuild following a devastating earthquake in 1931.

Take a guided walk(opens in new window), learn more about the city’s history at MTG Hawke’s Bay(opens in new window) museum and browse the galleries and vintage shops.

Hawke’s Bay is known as “food and wine country”, and a wine tour is the easiest way to get around the vineyards and sample world-famous wines. Or, if boutique distilleries and craft breweries are more your thing, there’s Hastings Distillers, The National Distillery Company and Brave Brewing.

Don’t miss the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market on Sundays, where locals go for coffee and fresh produce. For spectacular views, you can drive or walk to the top of Te Mata Peak, while nature-lovers won’t want to miss the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

 View the route below

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