North Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
North Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

North Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary

© Destination Lake Taupo

How to Make the Most of Travelling the North Island in One Week

We won’t go over the whole spiel of how travelling the North Island in one week isn’t enough time. We get it, that’s how much time you have. If you are prepared to do a lot of driving and have a super action-packed trip in New Zealand then you’re ready to do the North Island in one week!

The North Island in one week itinerary below covers most of the major highlights of the North Island, incorporating a bit of everything from mountain landscapes, coastal landscapes, adrenaline activities, natural wonders, wildlife, culture and the city. This one week in the North Island itinerary also offers you a choice in different types of activities you can do each day, as well as different budget accommodation to consider. We’ll also give you some bonus power tips on renting a car for one week in New Zealand just because we’re nice like that.

Renting a Car or Campervan for One Week in the North Island

Travelling for one week on the North Island and looking for the perfect road trip itinerary? Renting a car or campervan is going to be the best way to squeeze everything you want into one week on the North Island. This means no waiting around for buses and gives you the freedom to hit all the incredible North Island destinations listed below.

For a car or campervan rental in the North Island, consider the following:

  • Choose a rental company with a low or no one-way fees. The itinerary below means you will pick up a rental vehicle in Auckland and drop it off in Wellington. Most car rental companies will charge a one-way fee for this.
  • Consider car relocation. See if there are any car relocation deals at your time of travel between Auckland and Wellington for as little as NZ$1 a day! Find out more in Car Relocation in New Zealand.
  • Use a car rental company based at the Auckland Airport. And make sure the “premium location fee” is fair (less than NZ$30) and whether the rental company offers a free shuttle to their depot.

For a complete comparison of car rental companies, check out The Best Car Rental Companies in Auckland.

Bus Tours for One Week in the North Island

For travellers who would rather let someone else do the driving, escorted bus tours are a great option to take you around the North Island. Some of the tour companies that offer 7-day tours of the North Island, following an itinerary similar to the one featured below, include Wild Kiwi, Haka Tours, G Adventures, Trafalgar, Contiki, Stray Travel, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and more!

For more information and tips, head to Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide.

Pixabay© Pixabay

Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Hahei

Drive Time: 2h15mins

You’ve arrived at Auckland Airport! Once you have picked up your rental vehicle, it’s time to hit the road to Hahei in the Coromandel Peninsula! Why leave the city so soon? Well, we’re guessing you have come to New Zealand to see the natural beauty of the country, not the city life. So for the first day of your road trip, go check out some of the stunning coastal scenery and beaches of the North Island.

Things to Do in Hahei

Depending on what time your flight came in, you have the option to do one or both of the following in Hahei:

  • Cathedral Cove. Take the easy coastal walk (1h30min walking track) to a beach with white cliffs and giant archway to walk through. There are also options to visit the beach with activity operators by kayak or boat
  • Hot Water Beach. Go to Hot Water Beach at low tide to dig yourself a hot pool in the sand.

Accommodation in Hahei



Tourism NZ© Tourism NZ

Day 2 – Hahei to Waitomo (via Karangahake Gorge)

Drive Time: 3 hours

Your final destination today is Waitomo, famous for its glowworms and caving activities. Before you get there, don’t miss the Karangahake Gorge, halfway through the drive. There are a number of walking tracks in the area between 45 minutes to 4 hours going through a historic mining area taken back by the forest and the river. Walk through mining tunnels, through native forest, alongside mining relics and to magnificent waterfalls.

Things to Do in Waitomo

After the drive and walking at Karangahake Gorge, you will have time to do one of the short activities in Waitomo. For example:

Accommodation in Waitomo




North Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary©

Day 3 – Waitomo to Rotorua

Drive Time: 1h50min

If you want to do one the caving activities in Waitomo, or didn’t get to do one of the Waitomo activities yesterday, this morning would be a great time to do so! Join one of the caving operators in Waitomo, throw on a sexy wetsuit and tube/abseil/climb your way through the Waitomo Caves! Once the adventure is over, it’s time to hit the road to Rotorua! Depending on what you prefer, there are things to do along the way to Rotorua, or you can save some time to do something awesome in Rotorua this evening. Here are your options…

Things to Do on the Road to Rotorua

  • Stop by Otorohanga to see a kiwi bird in the kiwi house or quickly learn a bit of New Zealand history down the Ed Hillary Walkway situated in the centre of Otorohanga.
  • See the Arapuni Swing Bridge, a huge suspension bridge crossing New Zealand’s longest river.
  • Do the Te Waihou Walkway (1h30min or 3 hours walk) to the Putaruru Blue Spring to see some of the purest and clearest water flowing in a stream.
  • Take a detour to Matamata to visit The Hobbiton Movie Set (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). This will add an extra 30 minutes to your drive time.

Things to Do in Rotorua

Accommodation in Rotorua




See more options in The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua.©

Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo/Tongariro National Park

Drive Time: 1 hour to Taupo or 2h15min to National Park Village

Why the crazy drive time? Well, if you are into hiking and landscapes, then we suggest that you pass through the town of Taupo and base yourself in the Tongariro National Park so that tomorrow morning, you can tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or another hike in the national park. However, we know long hikes are not for everyone, so another option is to stay in Taupo which has a huge variety of activities on offer. Find out more about what there is to do in either Taupo or Tongariro National Park in tomorrow’s section. Before then, you have a day in Rotorua to enjoy before hitting the road!

Things to Do in Rotorua

  • Visit a geothermal park. Geysers, steaming lakes, bubbling mud, silica terraces and so much more can be seen in one of the many geothermal parks of Rotorua.
  • Catch a Maori cultural performance (if you missed doing so yesterday).
  • Do some adrenaline activities. Zorb your way in a giant hamster ball down a hill (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), go luging from the top of the gondola (on Viator and Tripadvisor), mountain bike in the Redwood Forest (on Viator and Tripadvisor), jet boat or do a freefall experience at the Velocity Valley (on Viator and Tripadvisor), and so much more!
  • See native New Zealand wildlife at Wingspan or Rainbow Springs (on Viator and Tripadvisor).

Accommodation in Taupo




Accommodation in National Park Village



Day 5 – Taupo/Tongariro National Park

Drive Time: 0

Spend the whole day in Taupo or Tongariro National Park doing awesome activities. There’s no driving to do today other than to your chosen activity. Plus, you can stay in the same accommodation as last night.

Things to Do in Tongariro National Park

Things to Do in Taupo©

Day 6 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington

Drive Time: 4 hours from National Park, 5 hours from Taupo

Your final destination today is the capital city of New Zealand! However, there’s plenty to do along the way to break up the 4-5-hour drive.

Things to Do on the Road to Wellington

  • Stop by Ohakune for its walking and biking trails. Hire a bike and do the 2-hour Old Coach Road (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or hike in the Mangawhero Forest (1 hour)
  • Visit the National Army Museum in Waiouru
  • Check out the quirky town of Bulls and spot all the bull-related puns of the town
  • Along the Kapiti Coast, stop by one of the beaches like Peka Peka Beach or Queen Elizabeth Park. Or take a tour to Kapiti Island to check out the native bird sanctuary (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).

Accommodation in Wellington




See more stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Wellington.©

Day 7 – Wellington

Drive Time: 0

It’s your last day in New Zealand! New Zealand’s capital is a good place to end your time on the North Island not only because it has an international airport, but because there are actually a lot of things to do here! Choose from the following…

Things to Do in Wellington


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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