14-Day Family Itinerary for the North Island
You’ve got two weeks to make the most of the North Island as a family; what do you do? You follow this North Island family itinerary for two weeks, of course! Discover stunning beaches, geothermal parks, the Maori culture, volcanic landscapes, lush forests, wonderful wildlife and much more on this family-friendly itinerary of the North Island. We give you plenty of time in each destination so that the trip doesn’t feel like “Go! Go! Go!” for the whole time. We also list family accommodation, transport tips and activities for all ages for each exciting destination.
Plan your family’s biggest adventure yet with this North Island family itinerary for 14 days.
How to Get Around the North Island in Two Weeks with Kids
Most families come to the North Island of New Zealand to experience the great Kiwi road trip. With that in mind, renting a car or campervan allows families to have full flexibility and comfort. However, parents who are 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-month itinerary by renting 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 – 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?
- Escorted bus tours – Let a professional guide handle the driving and the logistics. Escorted bus tours are a hassle-free way to travel the North Island. However, they follow their own set itineraries rather than the one outlined below. Check out Cosmos for child-friendly tours of the North Island or head to The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the North Island for more options.
- 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 with a lower carbon footprint), 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 Auckland Central
Travel time: 40 minutes
Welcome to New Zealand! For your first couple of days in the country, we recommend taking it easy in Auckland to get over the jet lag. Pick up your car rental, if it’s at the airport, or use one of the airport shuttles to get to Auckland Central.
Check-in at your family-friendly accommodation in Auckland and start exploring some quick attractions, like the Sky Tower (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or The Auckland Museum (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Tomorrow, you have more time to explore the city and surrounding islands.
Family Accommodation in Auckland
- SkyCity Hotel Auckland
- Waldorf St Martins Apartment Hotel
- ibis Budget Auckland Airport
- Grand Millenium Auckland
- VR Auckland City
Find out more about each accommodation in our 10 Best Family Accommodation in Auckland.
Day 2 – Explore Auckland
It’s day two of getting the family’s body clocks adjusted to New Zealand’s time zone, as well as a day to explore some of Auckland’s highlights. We 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 Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, take a cruise to see New Zealand’s whales, dolphins and seabirds on the Auckland Dolphin and Whale Safari. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
However, we’ve listed some other alternatives below, if getting on the water isn’t our thing.
Family Activities in Auckland
- Wise up about the world of technology at the kid-friendly MOTAT museum
- Learn about the Kiwi farming lifestyle at Sheepworld in Warkworth (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See the wild and wonderful birds of New Zealand on Tiritiri Matangi Island (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Watch a Maori cultural performance at the Auckland Museum (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take a family road trip to one of Auckland’s regional parks
Find out more about each experience in our 10 Things to Do in Auckland with Kids.
Day 3 – Auckland to The Coromandel
Travel time: 2h20mins
Leave the city behind and hit the road to discover the “real” New Zealand. As you head to the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, take a five-minute detour via Miranda to check out the Miranda Hot Springs and the educational Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre.
Stretch your legs in Tairua and give the kids some beach time before making your way over the winding road of Pumpkin Hill to your chosen Coromandel accommodation, whether it’s at Hot Water Beach, Hahei or Whitianga.
You have time to check out some Coromandel must-dos tomorrow. For now, kick back at our accommodation.
Family Accommodation in the Coromandel
- Beachfront Resort, Whitianga
- Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park, Hot Water Beach
- Hahei Holiday Resort, Hahei
- Peninsula Motel, Whitianga
- Pacific Harbour Villas, Tairua
For more information on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Family Accommodation in the Coromandel.
Day 4 – Explore The Coromandel
The Coromandel’s coast begs to be explored, whether it’s with one of the free activities like digging your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach or jumping on a cruise to Cathedral Cove. Cruising to Cathedral Cove via a glass-bottom boat is a pretty cool way to see this must-visit natural attraction. You’ll get the unique experience of seeing the abundance of fish through the glass panels and enjoy the option to snorkel if you and the kids want to get closer to nature. Find out more about Glass Bottom Boat Whitianga on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Or, you can just take it easy with a day at the beach, of which you can check out our favourites in the 10 Coromandel Beaches You Can’t Miss.
Family Activities in the Coromandel
- See the underwater world of Cathedral Cove with Glass Bottom Boat Whitianga (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Enjoy a thrill ride with Banana Boat Whitianga
- Do archery tag, kids quad biking and more at Fun Zone Whitianga
- Dig your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach
- Build sandcastles, hire a kayak and more at many of the Coromandel’s beaches.
For more information on each experience, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in the Coromandel with Kids.
Day 5 – The Coromandel to Waitomo
Travel time: 3 hours
Travellers of all ages can’t help but be in awe of Waitomo’s glowworm caves, which is your final destination today. Set off from the Coromandel in the morning to give you time to do a cave tour once you arrive. Pick up supplies or grab a bite to eat in towns like Morrinsville and Te Awamutu. You can also stop by the quirky town of Otorohanga which is the self-proclaimed “Kiwiana Capital of the World”.
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.
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 6 – Waitomo to Rotorua
Travel time: 1h55mins
Start off your morning with any of the activities you might have missed in Waitomo. Then, the road to Rotorua is just under two hours. 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 place to stretch our legs is just a 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.
Family Accommodation in Rotorua
For more information on our top picks, check out the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Rotorua.
Day 7 – Explore Rotorua
You have two whole days in Rotorua to enjoy. 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.
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 8 – Explore More of Rotorua
You have another day to tick the Rotorua must-dos off your family bucket list. Here are some more options to ponder over:
More Family Activities in Rotorua
- See the forest from a new perspective on the Redwoods Treewalk
- Take a day trip to the lakes of Rotorua
- Check out Rotorua’s amazing natural features at one of the geothermal parks
- Zip through the trees with Rotorua Canopy Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Experience the Maori culture at Tamaki Maori Village (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Mitai Maori Village (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Check out the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids for more details on each tour.
Day 9 – Rotorua to Taupo
Travel time: 1 hour
The road to Taupo is full of geothermal wonders. Treat the kids to exploring 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 10 – Taupo to Ohakune
Travel time: 1h40mins
If there’s anything you’ve missed in Taupo, now’s your chance before the family hits the road again – this time driving through the Tongariro National Park.
In 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.
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 11 – Explore Ohakune
Today can be as adventurous or relaxed as you wish. Short walks like the Mangawhero Forest Walk and letting the kids loose at the Ohakune Carrot playground are easy ways to relax. For something more epic, do a jet boat tour down the Whanganui River to the Bridge to Nowhere or, if it’s winter, head up Mt Ruapehu for some family skiing.
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 Johnny Nation’s chocolate eclair.
For more information on each activity and its location, check out the 10 Things to Do in Ohakune with Kids.
Day 12 – 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 on this journey 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. We told you it was quirky!
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 13 – Explore Wellington
If you haven’t visited the Te Papa Museum already, you have another chance today, as well as exploring 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.
Day 14 – Wellington to Wellington Airport
Travel time: 10 minutes
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: Two Weeks / 14 Days?