North Island Encounter

6 DAYS

779 km

Highlights

  • Pristine beaches and tranquil lakes
  • Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Geysers, hot pools, and bubbling mud

Proximity

CAR-FREE TRAVEL OPTIONS

Experience a little of everything with this six-day North Island loop route that leaves plenty of time for exploration.

Discover urban delights, secluded beaches, geothermal wonders and the splendour of New Zealand's largest lake.

Day 1: Spend the day in Auckland

Auckland
Britomart, Auckland

By Camilla Rutherford

Auckland

AUCKLAND

Vibrant city style and stunning natural landscapes

Highlights

  • Indulge in a little inner-city culture
  • Board a thrilling harbour jet boat ride
  • Climb the volcanic Island of Rangitoto

MUST-DO EXPERIENCES IN AUCKLAND

A buzzing urban hub nestled between two contrasting coastlines.

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Situated between two large harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones, Auckland is the perfect place to start your North Island encounter. 

Whether you want to spend your day shopping, learning about the local culture or discovering the outdoors, New Zealand's biggest city has something for everyone. Spend the day exploring the central city by foot, public transport, or with an organised tour. 

For those wanting to go further afield, Rangitoto Island, Waiheke Island and Matakana are all excellent day trip options, offering wineries, walking trails and stunning beaches. Return to the city in the evening for a sumptuous meal at one of the diverse range of eateries.

Day 2: Auckland to Whitianga

The Coromandel
Cathedral Cove, The Coromandel

By Adam Bryce

The Coromandel

THE COROMANDEL

White sand coastline & abundant marine life.

Highlights

  • Cathedral Cove
  • Hot Water Beach
  • Swimming, kayaking and diving

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 35 min | 169 km via SH1, SH2 & SH25
  • By bus: 4 hr 35 min | by Intercity or NakedBus
  • By : Visit the local iSITE for activities & tours

Cloaked in native rainforest, with dazzling white-sand beaches and picturesque coves, The Coromandel is a favourite holiday spot for New Zealanders and visitors alike.

Take the shorter route across the base of the peninsula, or the scenic drive along the Firth of Thames. Whichever route you choose, allow time to visit two of Coromandel's must-see attractions. Cathedral Cove is a picturesque photo spot, and at Hot Water Beach you can dig your own natural spa.

You can see both these attractions in one day - but you'll need to time it carefully, as you need to be at Hot Water Beach within two hours of low tide to access the naturally heated water.

Day 3: Whitianga to Rotorua via Hobbiton

Hamilton - Waikato
Hobbiton, Hamilton - Waikato

By Matthew Crawford

Highlights

  • Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Karangahake Gorge
  • Gold mining town of Waihi

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h 10 min | 230 km via SH25, SH27 & SH5
  • By bus: No direct bus service - see car free option.

HOBBITION IN 360

Go behind the scenes of New Zealand's real Middle‑earth film set, without leaving home.

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The road south takes you through the surf town of Whangamata and the dramatic Karangahake Gorge. After Waihi, you'll find yourself amid lush farmland on your way to Matamata. It's easy to see why Peter Jackson chose this area to be The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Visit Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata to see how this imaginary place was brought to life.

From Matamata, continue travelling southeast through forest, bush and farmland on your way to Rotorua.

Car-free option

Add a night in Tauranga: 4 h | Whitianga to Tauranga & 1 h 25 min | Tauranga to Rotorua.

Day 4: Spend the day in Rotorua

Rotorua
Te Puia, Rotorua

By Sara Orme

Rotorua

ROTORUA

Mud pools, adventure and unique Maori culture.

Highlights

  • Geothermal attractions
  • Maori cultural experiences
  • Thrilling adventure

MUST-DO EXPERIENCES IN ROTORUA

Nowhere in New Zealand does the earth feel more alive than it does in Rotorua.

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Spend the day exploring the wonderland that is Rotorua. From its fascinating geothermal areas to its rich Maori culture and huge range of thrilling adventure activities, there is always something to do here. Ride some of the world's top mountain biking trails on the Whakarewarewa Forest Track, or explore the forest canopy on a Redwood Treewalk

In the evening, immerse yourself in the local culture with a delicious traditional Maori hāngi (earth oven) and a live cultural performance at the Mitai Maori Village.

Day 5: Rotorua to Taupo

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo Boat Cruise, Lake Taupo

By Alistair Guthrie

Lake Taupo

TAUPO

Teeming with outdoor activities and water sports.

Highlights

  • Kayak to Mine Bay Maori carvings
  • Skydive from 15,000ft
  • Take a thrilling Hukafalls jet boat ride

Proximity

The resort town of Taupo sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake, well stocked with sizeable trout. You’ll find everything a traveller could wish for here, including an excellent choice of restaurants and a prawn park where you can catch your own prawns to eat. 

Spend the morning on a boat or kayak tour to visit the giant Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay and learn about the area's unique history. Change pace in the afternoon with a thrilling jet boat ride in the raging waters of Huka Falls, or jump out of a plane at 15,000ft and experience the sensation of freefall.

Day 6: Taupo to Auckland

Hamilton - Waikato
Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton - Waikato

By Sandy Austin

Highlights

  • Hamilton Botanical Gardens
  • Hamilton Zoo
  • Raglan surf beach

Proximity

TOP EXPERIENCES IN WAIKATO

Rolling green hills, limestone caves and surf beaches.

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Make your way north to Hamilton, New Zealand's largest inland city, which straddles the mighty Waikato River.

At the southern end of the city’s main street, you’ll discover a variety of excellent restaurants and cafes. The city has lovely botanic gardens and an amazing free-flight bird aviary at Hamilton Zoo. If you're in the mood for a detour, travel west and visit Raglan, a black-sand beach that's a favourite among surfers. Enjoy a relaxed bohemian vibe as you explore the town's many eateries, art galleries, and craft shops.

Head back to Auckland through the Waikato's rolling green countryside.

Driving in New Zealand

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

View the route below

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