5 Days

850 km


  • Wineries in the Wairarapa
  • Art Deco architecture in Napier
  • Geothermal attractions



Enjoy an impressive cross-section of attractions on this 5-day lower North Island route.

From Wellington (New Zealand's capital), travel north to Martinborough - wine country. Napier offers more wineries, along with Art Deco design and tranquil cycle trails. Geothermal parks and water activities await you in Taupo, before you turn south, through volcanic landscapes and nature reserves back to Wellington.

Day 1: Wellington to Wairarapa

Martinborough Village, Wairarapa


Wineries, heritage and boutique stores


  • Cycle-the-vines
  • Boutique stores
  • Colonial heritage


  • by car:

    1 h 30 min  | 98 km via SH2

  • by train:

    1 h 50 min | by Metlink Rail

From Wellington, travel north to the beautiful Wairarapa, a region of heritage towns, antique shops, and boutique wineries.

Martinborough is packed with colonial charm and features over 20 wineries, most within cycling or walking distance of the village square. Some of New Zealand’s best pinot noir comes from the town’s predominately family-owned vineyards, so it’s not surprising that this is a popular destination for wine lovers. Hire a bike and cycle-the-vines, take a guided wine tour or visit the local Wine Centre.

Alternatively, you can hike the Patuna Chasm Walkway which takes you through a spectacular limestone chasm or visit the Early Settlers Museum in nearby Greytown.

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Day 2: Wairarapa to Napier

Hawke's Bay
Food & wine indulgence, Hawke's Bay


Wineries, orchards and art deco design


  • Classic New Zealand Wine Trail
  • Art galleries and antique shops
  • Art Deco Capital


  • by car:

    2 h 50 min | 229 km vis SH2

  • by bus:

    4 h 15 min | by Intercity

From Martinborough, travel north to Masterton, the Wairarapa’s largest town. There you can explore beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park, The Wool Shed Museum, and Aratoi: Wairarapa Museum. Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is another highlight. It is home to wild birds such as the titipounamu (rifleman), kārearea (New Zealand falcon) and the kererū (wood pigeon). You may also see advocacy birds like Kahurangi the kōkako.

In the twin cities of Napier and Hasting, you'll find beautiful Art Deco architecture, the result of a 1931 earthquake, which destroyed many of the original buildings. Visit the local MTG museum for the story of this fascinating history. Hawke's Bay is also home to a plethora of vineyards, many within easy cycling distance of Napier. Another attraction is the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

Day 3: Napier to Taupo

Wairekei Terraces, Taupō


Explore New Zealand's largest lake


  • Natural hot springs
  • Huka Falls and jet boat
  • Kayaking, skydiving and cycle trails


  • by car:

    1 h 50 min | 141 km via SH5

  • by bus:

    2 h | by Intercity

The journey from Napier to Taupo is packed with fantastic scenery. There’s a bit of everything - rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. At Tarawera, you can walk to the hot springs above the Waipunga River. You might also want to stop at the Waiarua Falls lookout, to view the twin waterfalls.

If you like to fish, Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, is well-stocked with trout. It is also the perfect place for a range of water activities from boat cruises to kayaking. Nearby Huka Prawn Park combines theme park and aquaculture. Treat yourself to delicious self-caught prawns and try some of the park's quirky activities.

Day 4: Taupo to Palmerston North

Exploring the gorge, Manawatu


The heartland of New Zealand


  • Fly-fishing
  • Mangaweka Gorge
  • Rose gardens and museums


  • by car:

    3 h 5 min | 242 km via SH1

  • by bus:

    4 h 5 min | by Intercity

The Desert Road is the first lap of your journey today, this long and straight road across the volcanic plateau has amazing views of Tongariro National Park’s volcano cones. 

On the way south be sure to stop at Waiouru, home to the National Army Museum. This highly acclaimed museum tells of New Zealand's military history from the New Zealand Wars to more recent peacekeeping around the world. Other towns along the way include Taihape (the Gumboot Throwing capital of the world) and Bulls, a hub for antique shopping.

With its restored historical buildings, Palmerston North has an attractive heart with plenty of boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and lovely rose gardens to explore.

Day 5: Palmerston North to Wellington

Goldings Free Dive, Wellingtone, Wellington


A mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine


  • Shannon owl sanctuary
  • Kapiti Island
  • Bars and restaurants


  • by car:

    1 h 55 min | 142 km via SH57 & SH1

  • by bus:

    2 h 20 min | by Intercity

There are plenty of interesting places to visit on your journey south today.

In Shannon, you'll find Owlcatraz an animal sanctuary for the Ruru, New Zealand's native owl. Levin has a thriving clothing industry with factory outlet shops of all kinds. Nearby, two beautiful dune lakes are a great place for birdwatching or visit Waikanae and take a trip to Kapiti Island, where you can encounter rare birds in the wild. 

Return to Wellington and spend the afternoon exploring the downtown area. Along with being the country's capital, Wellington is also a hub of excellent cafes, restaurants, museums, and galleries. Dance, theatre and musical performances are also a Wellington speciality.

View the route below

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