North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© Northland Inc
North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days

© Northland Inc
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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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.

New Zealand North Island Budget and Backpacking Itinerary for 2 Weeks: Overview

  • Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Auckland Central
  • Day 2 – Explore Auckland
  • Day 3 – Auckland to the Bay of Islands
  • Day 4 – Explore the Bay of Islands
  • Day 5 – Bay of Islands to Auckland
  • Day 6 – Auckland to Waitomo
  • Day 7 – Waitomo to Rotorua
  • Day 8 – Explore Rotorua
  • Day 9 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park
  • Day 10 – Explore Tongariro National Park
  • Day 11 – Tongariro National Park to Whanganui
  • Day 12 – Whanganui to Wellington
  • Day 13 – Explore Wellington
  • Day 14 – Wellington to Wellington Airport.

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© Backyard Roadies

How to Get Around the North Island in 2 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:

Rental Car or Campervan

For freedom to visit all of the stops we recommend in this budget two-week itinerary, rent a car or campervan. As this itinerary starts in Auckland and ends in Wellington, we recommend choosing a rental company that has depots in both cities. Start your research with The Guide to Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand or The Best Backpacker Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.

National Bus Service

InterCity offers the cheapest way to get between all of the destinations mentioned in this budget itinerary. Find out more about the passes available in What’s the Difference Between InterCity Backpacker Bus Passes?

Escorted Bus Tour

While two-week North Island bus tours won’t follow the exact itinerary we have, they’ll have their own set itineraries hitting some of the destinations mentioned. We like the 10-Day North Island Explorer Tour with Backyard Roadies; a small-group tour providing a fun and safe experience hitting New Zealand’s amazing nooks and crannies at a relaxed pace. Check out more tour companies in The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the North Island.

Hop-on Hop-off Tour

Similar to a bus tour, hop-on hop-off buses follow a set itinerary around the country but give you the flexibility to stay in some destinations longer. They tend to be cheaper than escorted bus tours. Find out more in What is a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus?

Domestic Flights

The below itinerary begins in Auckland and ends in Wellington. Both cities have international airports and are well-connected by domestic flights. If you’re leaving New Zealand from Auckland, you will need to consider booking a domestic flight from Wellington to Auckland.

Train

Alternative to taking a flight from Wellington to Auckland (and better for the planet), take a scenic train journey with the Northern Explorer. Find out more on our guide to the Train Network in New Zealand and book tickets on Viator.

For more transport methods for backpackers, check out the 6 Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand.

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

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 Viator and Klook), the Auckland Museum (on Viator 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 Accommodations in Auckland

Check out some of our top recommendations in the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Auckland City and the 30 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 are 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.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Auckland

Find out more about each activity and others in 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Auckland.

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 3 – Auckland to the Bay of Islands

Travel time: 3 hrs 15 mins

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 to 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 with Clearyak.

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 20 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 has awesome activities to explore the bay.

Budget Accommodations in Paihia

See some of our top picks in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Paihia and 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Paihia.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

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/Explore Group.

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 & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 5 – Bay of Islands to Auckland

Travel time: 3 hrs 15 mins

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 1 hr 20 mins 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 Budget & Backpacking Guide to Auckland.

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 6 – Auckland to Waitomo

Travel time: 2 hrs 20 mins

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. 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 10 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 Accommodations in Waitomo

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

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 7 – Waitomo to Rotorua

Travel time: 1 hr 55 mins

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 Viator or Klook 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 Accommodations in Rotorua

For more details on accommodations, take a look at the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua and the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Rotorua.

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

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 Te Pā Tū (formerly Tamaki Maori Village – more info on Viator and Klook), Mitai Maori Village or Whakarewarewa: The Living Maori Village (on Viator and Klook). You’ll also find a lot more recommendations in the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.

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 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 9 – Rotorua to Tongariro National Park

Travel time: 2 hrs 10 mins

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, Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Orakei Korako.

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 and free stuff in the 15 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 Accommodations in Whakapapa and National Park Villages

Find out more about these accommodations in the 5 Best Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

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 15 Walks Around National Park Village & Whakapapa Village.

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 11 – Tongariro National Park to Whanganui

Travel time: 1 hr 50 mins

On your way down to the city of Whanganui today, take a 5-10 minute detour to Ohakune. Here, hire bikes and cycle the Old Coach Road through the forest of the Tongariro National Park, 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 Accommodations 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© NZPocketGuide.com

Day 12 – Whanganui to Wellington

Travel time: 2 hrs 30 mins

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 and open until 6 pm, so is always an easy visit when you first arrive. You’ll have more time to explore Wellington tomorrow.

Budget Accommodations in Wellington

For more details on our top picks, check out the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Wellington and the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Wellington.

North Island Budget Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

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 just over 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

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

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© NZPocketGuide.com

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. 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: 2 Weeks?

North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 2 Weeks / 14 Days© Backyard Roadies

Stressed About Driving in New Zealand? Leave it to Backyard Roadies

We know, there’s a lot of ground to cover on this budget and backpacking itinerary for the North Island and driving long distances isn’t for everyone. An easy way to leave out the hassle of driving, and give yourself more time to enjoy the scenery, is to take a guided tour of New Zealand.

Meet Backyard Roadies who formed out of the pandemic showing locals their awesome New Zealand “backyard”. They’re keen to show international travellers the highlights too on their variety of New Zealand tours ranging from 10 to 21 days! To add to the “Kiwi” vibe, Backyard Roadies is not only 100% New Zealand-owned and operated, but they go the extra mile to make their guests feel like locals, spending more time at each destination than most other tours. With small groups and a mix of male and female guides, Backyard Roadies offers fun, safe and great-value tours for all.

Learn more about their tours, including their 10-Day North Island Explorer Tour and become part of the Backyard Roadies family over at backyardroadies.com.

More About a New Zealand North Island Budget and Backpacking Itinerary for 2 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?

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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