7-Day Family Itinerary for the North Island
Explore the North Island with kids using this North Island family itinerary for one week! While we strongly recommend allowing at least two weeks to explore the North Island with kids, we know that not all families have that luxury. With that in mind, we’ve put together a 7-day North Island family itinerary hitting exciting destinations. Plus, it includes a couple of days in the same place mid-way through so you can recharge.
Plan your North Island family vacation with this complete North Island family itinerary for seven days.
How to Get Around the North Island in One Week with Kids
Most families come to the North Island to experience the great Kiwi road trip. With that in mind, renting a car or campervan allows families to have full flexibility and comfort compared to using public transport. However, those on a tight budget might want to consider the national bus service. The best ways to get around, using the below itinerary, are as follows:
- Rental car or campervan – Enjoy complete freedom to visit all of the stops we recommend in this family one-week itinerary by renting a car or campervan. As this itinerary starts in Auckland and ends in Wellington, we recommend choosing a rental company that have depots in both cities – don’t worry, there are many. Start your research using The Guide to Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand.
- National bus service – InterCity offers the cheapest way to get between the destinations mentioned in this budget itinerary. However, you are restrained by bus schedules. Find out more about the passes available in What’s the Difference Between InterCity Bus Passes?
- Domestic flights – The below itinerary begins in Auckland and ends in Wellington. Both cities have international airports and are well connected with domestic flights. If you’re leaving 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 and Tripadvisor.
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Waitomo
Travel time: 2h10mins
With only one week to explore the North Island, you and your family have no time to lose in hitting the road. If you’ve come from a different time zone, we recommend reading the tips in 10 Simple Ways to Get Over Jet Lag to make sure our as fresh as possible for travelling the North Island. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the journey from Auckland Airport to Waitomo!
Collect your rental vehicle from Auckland Airport and head south, picking up supplies or grabbing a bite to eat in Hamilton. You can also stop by the quirky town of Otorohanga which is the self-proclaimed “Kiwiana Capital of the World”.
Once you arrive in Waitomo, you have a wide array of tours available to experience its famous glowworm caves. Walking cave tours are suitable for all ages, while older kids might like underground tubing. Check out tour options in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours. Otherwise, check out the suggestions below.
Family Activities in Waitomo
- Do a walking tour through Waitomo’s limestone and glowworm caves (more info on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Or enjoy a gentle boat trip through the caves (on See Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Figure out the puzzles of the Troll Cave
- See the filming locations of The Hobbit at Hairy Feet Waitomo
- Meet a kiwi bird and more at the Otorohanga Kiwi House
For more details on each activity, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Waitomo
- Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Waitomo Caves Hotel
- Woodlyn Park Motel
- Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge
- Waitomo Boutique Lodge
For more information on our top picks, take a look at the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Waitomo.
Day 2 – Waitomo to Rotorua
Travel time: 1h55mins
Start off your morning with any of the activities you might have missed in Waitomo yesterday. Then, Rotorua is just under two hours’ drive away. If any of your family are Middle-earth enthusiasts, however, you will need to take a mandatory 15-minute detour to the Hobbiton Movie Set. Check out Viator and Tripadvisor to book your tickets or head to How to Get the Best Hobbiton Discount for tips on how to get in cheaper.
An alternative pitstop on the way to Rotorua from Waitomo is the 5-minute detour to the Putaruru Blue Spring/Te Waihou Walkway. The walkway is stroller-friendly and free to see the brilliant blue waters of the spring flowing down a stream.
If you haven’t worn the kids out once you get to Rotorua, you can always check out the free geothermal Kuirau Park in the city centre. Check-in at your accommodation from the recommendations listed below. You will have more time to explore Rotorua tomorrow.
Family Accommodation in Rotorua
For more information on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Rotorua.
Day 3 – Explore Rotorua
You have the whole day to enjoy Rotorua, with something to suit all families. How about a sheep and farm show at Agrodome (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)? Why not zip through the trees with Rotorua Canopy Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)? For something free to do, go for a short walk in the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest or one of Rotorua’s surrounding lakes like Lake Okareka. Check out more recommendations below.
Family Activities in Rotorua
- Experience the famous sheep show and farm tour of Agrodome (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Meet the kiwi birds, giant trout and more at Rainbow Springs (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See Rotorua’s highlights and lakes on Rotorua Duck Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do the family-friendly walks of the Whakawerawera Redwood Forest
- Experience that famous NZ adrenaline at Velocity Valley (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
For more information on each experience, check out the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo
Travel time: 1 hour
The road to Taupo is full of geothermal wonders. On your way out of Rotorua, treat the kids to a morning at a geothermal park, such as Wai-O-Tapu (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Waimangu Volcanic Valley (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Orakei Korako (on Viator or Tripadvisor).
In town, you have a wealth of cruises to enjoy on the lake to see its famous Maori carvings Y1589. Alternatively, you might want to kayak down the Waikato River to some hot pools with Canoe & Kayak Taupo (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Taupo Kayaking Adventures (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Check out more ideas below.
Family Activities in Taupo
- Blast down the Waikato River on a jet boat tour…
- … Or gently float to natural hot springs on a family-friendly kayaking tour
- Let the kids loose on the slides while you relax at Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort (see on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Marvel at the mighty Huka Falls
- Fish for prawns at the Huka Prawn Park.
For more information on each activity, check out the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Taupo
- Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort
- Acapulco Motor Inn
- Wairakei Resort Taupo
- Quality Suites Huka Falls
- Lake Taupo Holiday Resort
For more information on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Taupo.
Day 5 – Taupo to Ohakune
Travel time: 1h40mins
If there’s anything you’ve missed in Taupo, now’s your chance before you hit the road again – this time to Ohakune via the Tongariro National Park.
In the town of Turangi, experience adventure for the whole family with the excellent kid-friendly white water rafting trip on the Tongariro River. Tours are available with Tongariro River Rafting (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Rafting New Zealand (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Next, delve into the Tongariro National Park with plenty of free stops along the way. Walk around the dense forest of Lake Rotopounamu on a 2-hour easy walking trail. Then, take a quick detour towards Whakapapa Village to do the short Tawhai Falls walk, the Mounds Walk for excellent volcano views, or the 2-hour Taranaki Falls.
As you reach Ohakune, you’ll probably have some very worn out little ones, so check-in at one of our recommended accommodations. Additionally, Ohakune has its own set of activities, should you prefer to miss out on some of the above recommendations in favour of something from this list:
Family Activities in Ohakune
- Horse trek through streams and a historic town with Ruapehu Homestead Horsetrekking
- Hire bikes and ride the Jubilee Walkway, Mangawhero River Trail and more
- Let the kids loose at the Ohakune Carrot playground
- Tackle the indoor climbing walls at the Vertigo Adventure Centre
- Check out Dinosaur House
- Treat the kids to a world-famous Jonny Nation’s chocolate eclair.
For more information on each activity and its location, check out the 10 Things to Do in Ohakune with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Ohakune
- Rocky Mountain Chalets Ohakune
- Snowman Lodge and Spa
- The Hobbit Motorlodge
- Ruapehu Mountain Motel & Lodge
- Ohakune TOP 10 Holiday Park
For more information on our top recommendations, check out the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Ohakune.
Day 6 – Ohakune to Wellington
Travel time: 3h45mins
Once everyone is up and ready to go, it’s time to hit the road to the capital city, Wellington. But it’s not without seeing some quirky towns and attractions along the way.
The first town you’ll encounter is Waiouru, home to the National Army Museum. With all the tanks displayed outside, just try to pass without the kids begging to stop! Next, you’ll pass through Taihape with its giant gumboot sculpture and Mangaweka with a plane hanging over the highway.
Just before reaching Hunterville, we recommend taking the alternative route to Wellington stopping by Manawatu Gorge. This will just add 15 minutes to your drive time, but it’s well worth it to walk the family-friendly trails like the Tawa Loop Walk.
Finally, it’s a couple of more hours to Wellington where you can put your feet up at one of the recommended accommodations or fit in a cheeky visit to the free-entry Te Papa Museum.
Family Accommodation in Wellington
Find out more about each accommodation in the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Wellington.
Day 7 – Wellington to Wellington Airport
Travel time: 10 minutes
Depending on what time your flight is out of Wellington, you might have enough time to explore the Wellington Botanic Garden or Zealandia Ecosanctuary (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). The latter is an affordable attraction that gives you access to a predator-free reserve where New Zealand’s weird and wonderful birds can thrive. This fun educational sanctuary is ideal for all ages.
But if these activities aren’t your cup of tea, we have some other recommendations:
Family Activities in Wellington
- Get active on the high-wire course at Adrenalin Forest (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Spend the day at Wellington’s beaches
- Learn about the night’s sky at Space Place
- Meet the animals and birds at Staglands Wildlife Reserve (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See how the movies are made at the Weta Workshop (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Find out more about each activity for families in 10 Things to Do in Wellington with Kids.
Leaving the North Island
Finally, after two weeks on the North Island, it’s time to wrap this adventure up and head to Wellington Airport.
Remember to give yourself plenty of time to return your rental vehicle. There are connecting flights between Wellington and Auckland if you are flying out of Auckland.
Goodbye from New Zealand! Next time, why not try the South Island Family Itinerary: One Week / 7 Days?