North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days
North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days

© Northland Inc

14-Day Budget Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand

With just two weeks to explore the land of New Zealand, it’s a good idea to stick to one of its main islands. If the North Island is your chosen destination, then you’re in the right place. This North Island budget itinerary for two weeks encapsulates New Zealand’s most vibrant cities, gorgeous beaches, volcanic landscapes and more. What’s more, sticking to your budget is easy thanks to our recommended free and cheap activities, budget accommodations and tips on different ways to get around.

Plan an easy 14-day budget and backpacking itinerary around the North Island right here.

How to Get Around the North Island in Two Weeks on a Budget

Two weeks gives you plenty of time to explore the North Island without feeling too rushed. The best ways to get around, utilising the below itinerary, are as follows:

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Unsplash

Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Auckland Central

Travel time: 40 minutes

It’s real; you’re in New Zealand! Because this country is far from where many of you are coming from, chances are you’ll be tired and jet-lagged (or super excitable from the adrenaline, but that wears off eventually). With that in mind, we recommend either picking up your car rental if it’s at the airport or using one of the affordable bus and shuttle options to get to Auckland Central.

Check-in at your budget accommodation in Auckland and start exploring the city centre attractions, like the Sky Tower (more info on ViatorTripadvisorKlook and KKday), the Auckland Museum (on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook) or the bushwalks in the Auckland Domain. It’s best to keep active while it’s still daylight in order to overcome jet lag quickly. Check out more tips in 10 Simple Ways to Get Over Jet Lag.

Budget Accommodation in Auckland

Check out more of our top recommendations in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Auckland City and the 10 Best Backpacker Hostels in Auckland.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Unsplash

Day 2 – Explore Auckland

It’s day two of getting your body clock onto New Zealand’s time zone, as well as a day to explore some of Auckland’s highlights. There’s plenty of free and ultra-cheap things to do in the city, which we list below. If you have the budget to spare, however, we fully recommend a ferry trip to one of Auckland’s outer islands, whether it’s the volcanic island of Rangitoto or the bird sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi (more info on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook).

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Auckland

  • See Auckland from the top of the Sky Tower (more info on ViatorTripadvisorKlook and KKday)
  • Watch a free movie at Silo Park in the summer
  • Climb Mt Eden for amazing views
  • Take a cheap ferry to Devonport or Rangitoto Island
  • Walk in the forest… in Auckland Domain.

Find out more about each activity and others in 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Auckland.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Unsplash

Day 3 – Auckland to the Bay of Islands

Travel time: 3h15mins

It’s time to hit the road! If you haven’t already, pick up your car rental in Auckland or hop on an InterCity bus to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Note that the fastest route between Auckland and Paihia has a toll road. Check out our Quick Guide The Northern Gateway Toll Road for more information.

There’s the option to take a 35-minute detour to the Goat Island Marine Reserve to do clear kayaking over fish and stingrays. Find out more about this experience and book your kayaks on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Another stop is the short walk to the majestic Whangarei Falls in the city of Whangarei. You can also check out the cafes and see glowworms at Abbey Caves for free. All of these and more are listed in the 19 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.

Once you arrive in Paihia, you have two options: either check-in at some cheap accommodation or join The Rock Adventure Cruise, which is a hostel on the water and awesome activities to explore the bay.

Budget Accommodation in Paihia

See some of our top picks in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Paihia and 8 Best Backpacker Hostels in Paihia.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days©

Day 4 – Explore the Bay of Islands

Today, experience the Bay of Islands your way. You could be completing The Rock Adventure Cruise with snorkelling, visiting islands and kayaking. If not, we recommend a bus tour to the top of the North Island.

Let someone else worry about the driving as you enjoy a diverse journey to Cape Reinga. This place has cultural significance, spectacular views and a photogenic lighthouse. The tour also includes driving down New Zealand’s sandy highway, Ninety Mile Beach, sandboarding on sand dunes, and seeing the largest species of trees in New Zealand. Check out the tour with Fullers GreatSights on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook.

On the other hand, if you just want to hang out in the Bay of Islands, check out the list below for some of the things you could be doing.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in the Bay of Islands

  • See the magnificent Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri
  • Take a tour of the Stone Store Museum and Kemp House
  • Take the ferry from Paihia to historic Russell
  • See New Zealand’s most famous public toilets in Kawakawa
  • Walk to Haruru Falls in Paihia.

For more ideas, head to the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Bay of Islands.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Unsplash

Day 5 – Bay of Islands to Auckland

Travel time: 3h15mins

This morning, head back down to Auckland. Drive down the way you came up (which is the fastest way) doing some of the free activities in Whangarei that you might have missed. Alternatively, take a 1h20min detour to Omapere to drive down the Kauri Coast. On this latter route, you might like to stop by the Koutu Boulders, the Waipoua Forest with its magnificent Kauri trees, or somewhere else mentioned in our 10 Outstanding Things to Do in Opononi & Omapere.

Get some rest in Auckland, do the free activities you might have missed, scout out some of the cheap eats, and enjoy another night in its cheap accommodation. For more reading on New Zealand’s largest city, check out The Guide to Auckland on a Budget.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Shaun Jeffers - THL

Day 6 – Auckland to Waitomo

Travel time: 2h20mins

Set off in the morning to Waitomo, which will give you enough time to do a cave tour once you arrive. If you need to pick up supplies or want to grab a bite to eat, take a quick detour to Hamilton city. There’s also the quirky town of Otorohanga which is the self-proclaimed “Kiwiana Capital of the World”.

In Waitomo, you have walking cave tours, underground tubing, boat tours, caving tours and free walks available. Check out tour options in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours. Alternatively, see the list below for free things to do.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Waitomo

For more ideas, head to the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo.

Budget Accommodation in Waitomo

For more listings, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Waitomo.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days©

Day 7 – Waitomo to Rotorua

Travel time: 1h55mins

Start off your morning with any of the free activities you might have missed in Waitomo. Then, it’s under a two-hour journey to Rotorua unless you’re a Middle-earth enthusiast. In that case, you can take a 15-minute detour to the Hobbiton Movie Set for their film set tour. Check out ViatorTripadvisorKlook or KKday to book your tickets or head to How to Get the Best Hobbiton Discount for tips on how to get in cheaper.

If Hobbits aren’t your thing, a scenic 5-minute detour to the Putaruru Blue Spring/Te Waihou Walkway is well worth it. Here, you’ll see a vividly blue and transparent stream along a three-hour return walkway.

In Rotorua, get started on checking out the free geothermal Kuirau Park in the city centre. Check-in at your accommodation from the recommendations listed below.

Budget Accommodation in Rotorua

For more details on accommodations, take a look at the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua and 10 Best Backpacker Hostels in Rotorua.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Unsplash

Day 8 – Explore Rotorua

You have the whole day to explore Rotorua and its free and affordable attractions, as listed below. If you have some budget to spare, you’re in one of the best places to experience a Maori culture tour and a traditional hangi meal. Check out Mitai Maori Village (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)Tamaki Maori Village (on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook) or Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village (on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook). You’ll also find a lot more recommendations in the 20 Rotorua Must-Dos.

But to keep the costs to a minimum (this North Island budget itinerary for two weeks, after all), here are some more adventures you could be having:

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua

For more ideas, just head to the 13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days©

Day 9 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park

Travel time: 2h10mins

Next on this two-week North Island budget itinerary is the Tongariro National Park, but not without a few awesome stops along the way. If you have the budget, stop by the amazing geothermal parks between Rotorua and Taupo. Choose from Wai-O-Tapu (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)Waimangu Volcanic Valley (on ViatorTripadvisor and Klook) and Orakei Korako (on Viator or Tripadvisor).

Taupo is next, where you can stop for a bite to eat using The Foodie Guide to Taupo or Cheap Eats in Taupo. Check out the powerful rapids of Huka Falls, soak in the free hot pools at Otumuheke Stream, or try the Hole in One Challenge on the lakeside. See more fun free stuff in the 12 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Taupo.

If you have time or are not enthused by the already suggested activities, then you might like the 2-hour walk around Lake Rotopounamu. The walk is an excellent example of New Zealand’s lush native forest and the lake is pretty darn stunning too. What’s more, it’s free.

Your final destination today is Whakapapa Village or National Park Village, depending on where you can get accommodation. The villages are the closest to the Tongariro National Park. Plus, they are only 10 minutes apart.

Budget Accommodation in Whakapapa and National Park Villages

Find out more about these accommodations in the 11 Best Backpacker Hostels in Tongariro National Park.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days©

Day 10 – Explore Tongariro National Park

If the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is on your list, you’re in the best place for it as you wake up in one of the closest villages to the crossing. Shuttles will transport you to the one-way day hike which is deemed the most popular in the country. Organise your transport using, Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport: A Practical Guide. Note that you’ll need a guide in winter or do one of the amazing alternatives.

Speaking of alternative walks, there’s a myriad of short walks in Whakapapa to take advantage of. Taranaki Falls is a good one, boasting views of the volcanic cone of Mt Ngauruhoe on a clear day, as well as featuring a waterfall plunging off an old lava flow. More waterfall delights await on the Tawhai Falls, while the Ridge Track offers more excellent volcano views. A good year-round alternative to the Tongariro Crossing is the return Tama Lakes hike.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Whakapapa and National Park

Learn about the walks and more in the 13 Walks Around National Park Village & Whakapapa Village.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Pxhere

Day 11 – Tongariro National Park to Whanganui

Travel time: 1h50mins

On your way down to the city of Whanganui today, take a 5-10 minute detour to Ohakune. Here, cycle the Old Coach Road through the forest of the Tongariro National Park (check out bike hire on Viator and Tripadvisor), do a bushwalk on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, or simply check out the giant carrot sculpture.

You’ll then follow a scenic drive down the Mangawhero River valley, stopping off to check out Raukawa Falls from the roadside, before reaching Whanganui. The city is extremely budget-friendly with most of its highlights being free. Check out the list below for things to do, as well as the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui

  • Check out the views from the Durie Hill Tower
  • Wander around Virginia Lake
  • Visit the Whanganui Regional Museum
  • Hire a bike and cycle alongside the Whanganui River
  • Do a road trip on the Whanganui River Road.

For more ideas and information on each one, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.

Budget Accommodation in Whanganui

For more information on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Whanganui.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days©

Day 12 – Whanganui to Wellington

Travel time: 2h30mins

Do anything you might have missed in Whanganui this morning then hit the road to the capital city!

Travel through the North Island’s quirkiest towns like Bulls, whose shops and services feature puns about bulls – ha… ha? Check out the giant windmill in Foxton, grab a bite to eat in Levin, and stretch your legs on the beaches and sand dune walks of Queen Elizabeth Park in Paraparaumu.

In Wellington, check-in at your budget accommodation and perhaps take a stroll to the Te Papa Museum. New Zealand’s national museum is free-entry and open until 6pm, so is always an easy visit when you first arrive. You’ll have more time to explore Wellington tomorrow.

Budget Accommodation in Wellington

For more details on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Wellington City and 11 Best Backpacker Hostels in Wellington.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days©

Day 13 – Explore Wellington

You have the whole day to explore the capital of New Zealand. Some of the free activities include the Te Papa Museum, walking the trails up Mt Victoria, exploring the Botanic Garden, checking out the art on the Wellington Waterfront and much more that we list in the 21 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wellington.

An activity worth doing, if you have a little budget to spare, is Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Admission is under NZ$20 and gives you access to a predator-free reserve where New Zealand’s weird and wonderful birds thrive. Spot them as you’re walking the network of trails and learn more about the New Zealand ecosystem at the extremely informative museum.

And if that’s not your thing, check out our One Day in Wellington: City Walking Tour Itinerary for things to do on the cheap.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Wellington

  • Visit the Te Papa Museum
  • Check out the views from Mt Victoria
  • Take the Cable Car to the Botanic Garden
  • People-watch and check out the art on the Wellington Waterfront
  • See the seals on the Red Rocks Walkway.

Find out more about each activity and much more in the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wellington.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Te Papa Museum - Tourism New Zealand

Day 14 – Wellington to Wellington Airport

Travel time: 15 minutes

Depending on what time your connecting flight to Auckland (or Christchurch) is, you may have time to do some more of the 21 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wellington.

Wellington Airport is just a 10-minute drive from the city centre. Remember to give yourself enough time to return your rental car if using one. Wellington has frequent flights to Auckland where you have the most choice of international routes out of New Zealand.

Alternatively, (yes, we even have an alternative way to get back to Auckland) take a scenic train journey to Auckland with the Northern Explorer. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor. Or the bus from Wellington to Auckland is a cheaper, albeit, less convenient option. However, both alternative transport methods have a lower carbon footprint and are, therefore, a better way to travel for the planet.

Goodbye from New Zealand! Next time, why not try the South Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks?

More About a New Zealand North Island Budget and Backpacking Itinerary for Two Weeks/14 Days

That’s it for our New Zealand North Island budget and backpacking itinerary for 14 days. If that wasn’t the itinerary you were looking for, check out these alternative 14-day itineraries:

Finally, get advice on planning more of your backpacking or budget trip to New Zealand with The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget and NZ Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost?


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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