Pacific Coast Highway


1104 km


  • Beaches & wineries
  • Active volcano
  • Untouched rainforest



Experience every kind of seaside scenery on this epic coastal journey, from Auckland to Napier, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway. The trip takes you off the beaten track to some of the North Island's most beautiful and remote coastal areas.

Day 1: Auckland - Whitianga

The Coromandel
Cathedral Cove, The Coromandel

By Alistair Guthrie

The Coromandel


Pristine beaches and dramatic coastlines.


  • Explore the world famous Cathedral Cove
  • Snorkel Orua sea cave
  • Dig your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach


  • By car: 2 h 40 min | 170 km
  • By bus: 4 h 40 mins | to Whitianga

Begin your journey in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. 

Coromandel Peninsula, is home to some of the North Island's most spectacular natural sights, including the world famous Cathedral Cove, featured in the film Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Here the soft white rock has eroded away to create a magnificent archway connecting two secluded coves. A rocky island pinnacle completes the picture making it one of the Coromandel's most photogenic spots.

Not far from Cathedral Cove, you will find Hot Water Beach. Dig down into the sand a little way and create your own seaside bath from the rising natural spring that resides beneath the surface.

As you continue on to Whangamata, stop to take a kayak tour of Whenuakura Island. This unusual island contains a tranquil lagoon at its centre, due to the collapse of a volcanic blowhole. 

Day 2: Whitianga - Tauranga

Bay of Plenty
Sunrise on Mt Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

By Bay of Plenty Tourism

Bay of Plenty


Spectacular beaches and an active volcano


  • Mount Maunganui - voted NZ's best beach
  • Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail
  • Evening kayaking with glowworms


Journey down the peninsula to Thames where you will find one of New Zealand's Great Cycling Trails. Following a historic railway route from Thames to Waihi, the Hauraki Rail Trail is rich with gold mining history and stunning scenery. One highlight is the spectacular Owharoa Falls.

Your next stop is the sunny city of Tauranga. Learn more about this favourite kiwi holiday spot with a guided tour of Mount Maunganui. Enjoy hearing local Maori legends as you wander from the mountain's base to its summit.

Alternatively, spend the afternoon on board a boat cruise meeting the Bay of Plenty's friendly marine life and exploring the region's many secluded islands.

Day 3: Tauranga - Whakatane & White Island

Bay of Plenty
White Island, Bay of Plenty

By Tourism New Zealand


  • By car: 1 h 10 min | 89 km to Whakatane
  • By bus: 6 h 30 min | bus goes via Rotorua


  • White Island volcanic tours
  • Maori historical sites
  • Dolphin and seal nature tours


Learn more about New Zealand's only active marine volcano.

Read more

Wake up early to watch the sunrise from Mount Maunganui, before driving the short distance to Whakatane. Here you will join a thrilling scenic tour to White Island, New Zealand's only active marine volcano. Sitting just 49km off the coast, White Island is one of the world's most accessible active volcanoes. Step out on the volcano's surface and get up close to roaring steam vents, bubbling mud pools, boiling streams and a lake of steaming acid. The guides will give you a taste of the island's rich geological and human influenced history.

After your volcanic encounter return to Tauranga for the night, and spend the evening kayaking through a canyon alight with twinkling glowworms. A perfect end to the day.

Day 4 - 5: Whakatane - Gisborne via Te Araroa

Tolaga Bay, Eastland

By Tourism Eastland Inc



World class surfing, vineyards and native forest


  • 600m Tolaga Bay wharf
  • Tikitiki's ornate Maori church
  • Friendly coastal towns


  • By car: 5 h 20 min | 372 km - coastal route via SH35
  • By bus: 3 h 5 min | to Gisborne

Today involves a beautiful but challenging drive around East Cape. If you've got time, spread this trip over two days, with an overnight stop in Te Araroa.

The short trip to Opotiki takes you past Ohope, a friendly coastal town with 11 kms of uninterrupted beach for swimming, walking, surfing and fishing. You’ll drive through gently rolling hill country – the foothills of the Urewera Ranges.

Te Araroa is situated near the edge of East Cape. From town, a 21km drive and several hundred steps will bring you to the eastern most lighthouse in New Zealand. The small town offers a range of accommodation including campsites, cabins, motel units, and a hotel with a licensed restaurant. Popular local activities include fishing, diving, pig and deer hunting, hiking and Maori history tours.

There’s a lot to see and do as you continue down the edge of East Cape. At Tikitiki you’ll see one of the most marvellously ornate Maori churches in New Zealand. Further south is Waipiro Bay, which has three historical marae (you are welcome to view these from outside the property, but should not enter uninvited). Te Puia Springs is a place for a hot soak in mineral water. Then at Tolaga Bay you can walk along the historic 660 metre wharf.

Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun each day and is surrounded by natural wonders. Here you can surf to your heart’s content, experience Maori culture and gain a new appreciation for Chardonnay.

Day 6: Gisborne - Wairoa via Waikaremoana

Hawke's Bay
Lake Waikaremoana, Hawke's Bay

By Tourism Eastland



  • Te Urewera wilderness area
  • Morere Hot Springs
  • Onepoto Caves


Home to a vast world of stunning lakes, forest and mountains.

Read more

There are two routes to Waikaremoana – inland, via State Highway 36, or along the coast on State Highway 2. The inland route gives you the chance to visit Hackfalls Arboratum, one of the largest private collections of trees in New Zealand. Te Reinga Falls is another local attraction. The coastal route provides access to Morere Hot Springs and the fabulous beaches of the Mahia Peninsula.

Waikaremoana is one of the North Island’s most beautiful lakes, and the gateway to Te Urewera wilderness area. Walking tracks around the lake are well maintained and clearly signposted. The Onepoto Caves are a highlight. Near the shores of the lake is the settlement of Aniwaniwa, where a visitor centre is located. Also on the lake shore is a motor camp with motels, cabins and tent-sites.

Day 7: Wairoa - Napier

Hawke's Bay
Cape Kidnappers, Hawke's Bay

By Tourism Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay


Discover wineries, wildlife and Art Deco design


  • Cape Kidnappers gannet colony
  • Heritage architecture
  • Winery tours


  • By car: 1 h 40 min | 116 km
  • By bus: 2 h 30 min | to Napier
  • By : Visit Napier iSITE for local day tours.

After the wilds of the Urewera National Park, the town of Wairoa will feel like a bustling metropolis. The last leg of your journey takes you past Lake Tutira.

The Hawke’s Bay is a fertile wine-growing region that boasts one of the world’s best collections of Art Deco architecture. You’ll find this last stop on your Pacific Coast journey a great place to relax and unwind.

Once in Napier, you can visit the Hawke’s Bay’s many wineries on a self-drive, chauffer driven or bicycle tour. The winery restaurants make it easy to appreciate lush sauvignon blanc, smooth merlot and spicy cabernet sauvignon, all complemented by first-class cuisine.

Nearby Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest gannet colony which can be reached on foot, by kayak or on a tractor. The Cape also happens to have one of the country’s best golf courses.

Driving in New Zealand

Important things you need to know about driving in New Zealand.

View the route below

You may also be interested in...

Recommended Trips →

Travel to NZ →

Visas & Immigration →