The Ultimate 1-Week North Island Road Trip Itinerary (Starting in Auckland and Ending in Wellington)
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 seven days!
The 7-day North Island 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 of different types of activities you can do each day, as well as various accommodations 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.
North Island Road Trip Itinerary for 1 Week (7 Days): Overview
- Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Hahei (Coromandel)
- Day 2 – Hahei to Waitomo (via Karangahake Gorge)
- Day 3 – Waitomo to Rotorua (via Hobbiton)
- Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo or Tongariro National Park
- Day 5 – Explore Taupo or Tongariro National Park
- Day 6 – Tongariro National Park to Wellington
- Day 7 – Explore Wellington + Departure
Renting a Car or Campervan for 1 Week on 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 fee. 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 our Car Relocation Guide to New Zealand.
- Use a car rental company based at Auckland Airport. And make sure the “premium location fee” is fair (less than NZ$30) and offers a free shuttle to their depot.
For a complete comparison of rental companies, check out The Best Car Rental Companies in Auckland and The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in Auckland.
Alternative Transport: 7-Day Bus Tours of 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 are listed in The 7 Best 7-Day Tours of the North Island. Plus, see How to Travel by Bus in New Zealand for more ways to experience the North Island without a car.
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Hahei (Coromandel)
Drive time: 2 hrs 15 mins
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
These are pretty relaxing and accessible activities/sights to see for your first day in New Zealand:
- Hike to the famous Cathedral Cove and its beach with white cliffs and a giant coastal arch
- Take a boat tour with Hahei Explorer to Cathedral Cove
- Explore beaches and islands with Cathedral Cove Kayaks
- Go to Hot Water Beach at low tide to dig yourself a hot pool in the sand.
For more ideas, head to the 25 Best Things to Do in The Coromandel.
Accommodation in Hahei
See more like this in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Coromandel.
For more mid-range stays, take a look at the 15 Best Hotels & Resorts in the Coromandel.
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.
You’ll have the opportunity to explore the Waitomo caves tomorrow morning, but if you just can’t wait, here are some options:
Things to Do in Waitomo
- Explore the Waitomo caves with one of the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours
- Do a walking tour of the Ruakuri Cave or the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Do the Ruakuri Bush Walk at night to see glowworms
- Go on a caving adventure with Waitomo Adventures, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. (more info on Viator and Klook) or Cave World Waitomo.
Check out the 15 Best Things to Do in Waitomo for more recommendations.
Accommodation in Waitomo
Learn more in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Waitomo.
See more options in the 10 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Waitomo.
Day 3 – Waitomo to Rotorua (via Hobbiton)
Drive time: 1 hr 50 mins
If you want to do one of 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 – compare all of your options in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.
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, such as Hobbiton in Matamata, or save some time for more things to do in Rotorua this evening.
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
- See the Arapuni Swing Bridge, a huge suspension bridge crossing New Zealand’s longest river
- Do the Te Waihou Walkway 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 Klook). This will add an extra 30 minutes to your drive time.
Things to Do in Rotorua
If you get to Rotorua with time to spare, here are a few suggestions.
- Relax in a natural geothermal hot pool. There are paid options, such as the Polynesian Spa (more info on Klook or KKday), or go find some of the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua
- See an evening cultural performance at one of the Maori attractions
- Go for a bite to eat on Eat Streat and beyond
- See the forest decorated on the Redwoods Treewalk
- Have a race on the night Luge at Skyline Gondola.
For more recommendations, check out the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.
Accommodation in Rotorua
For more options, check out the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua.
See more stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua.
More lavish finds are available in the 20 Best Luxury Accommodations in Rotorua.
Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo or Tongariro National Park
Drive time: 1 hour to Taupo or 2 hr 15 mins to National Park Village
Today, spend some time doing awesome stuff in Rotorua before hitting the road. But 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
- 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, go luging from the top of the Skyline Gondola, hike or mountain bike in the Redwood Forest, jet boat or do a freefall experience at the Velocity Valley, and so much more!
- See native New Zealand wildlife at Wingspan or National Kiwi Hatchery (more info on Viator and Klook).
Again, we have a lot more recommendations in the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.
Accommodation in Taupo
For those who decide to stay in Taupo, here are your best accommodation options:
Check out more options over at the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Taupo.
For more, check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Taupo.
Discover more upscale finds in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Taupo.
Accommodation in National Park Village
Get closer to the Tongariro Crossing by staying at one of these accommodations:
See more options in the 7 Best Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa.
Day 5 – Taupo or Tongariro National Park
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
- Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, taking you over the volcanoes of the central North Island. The 6-8-hour hike is one-way and requires some planning in terms of transport and keeping safe; take a look at our Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to work out a plan
- Ski or snowboard at Whakapapa Ski Field in winter
- Choose from other hikes in Tongariro National Park, such as Tawhai Falls, Silica Rapids and Taranaki Falls
- Discover the birthplace of the Haka at the historical Opotaka.
For more ideas, check out the 15 Best Things to Do in the Tongariro National Park.
Things to Do in Taupo
- Take a trip out on New Zealand’s largest lake, whether it’s fishing, kayaking, sailing, cruising or parasailing
- Bungy jump over the Waikato River with Taupo Bungy
- Do a skydive with Taupo Tandem Skydive
- Go on a white water rafting trip on the Tongariro River with Tongariro River Rafting
- Walk along the Waikato River to a natural hot pool at Spa Park, then onto Huka Falls
- Sail to the Maori Rock Carvings with Sail Barbary (more info on Viator and Klook).
For more inspiration, take a look at the 20 Best Things to Do in Taupo.
Day 6 – Taupo or 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-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 or hike in the Mangawhero Forest (1 hour)
- Visit the National Army Museum in Waiouru
- Stop by Taihape, see the giant gumboot and do the short walk to the Mt Stewart Reserve lookout
- Do a quick detour to Palmerston North to check out the Wildbase Recovery Centre, the National Rugby Museum and Te Manawa Museum
- 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.
Accommodation in Wellington
Need more options? Head to the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Wellington.
Check out The 50 Best Accommodations for all of your best options.
See more stays in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wellington.
Day 7 – Explore Wellington + Departure
It’s your last day on the North Island! 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
- Visit the Te Papa Museum to learn everything there is to know about New Zealand
- Go to Zealandia to see native New Zealand wildlife
- Do a self-guided Lord of the Rings tour or be guided by Xplor Tours
- Tour the city sights of Wellington from the Waterfront to Cuba Street to the Botanic Gardens to Mt Victoria. Find out more in our One Day in Wellington: City Walking Tour Itinerary…
… And more as listed in the 25 Best Things to Do in Wellington.
Leaving the North Island
Finally, after a week 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.
Alternatively, take a train journey to Auckland with the Northern Explorer, which is more scenic and has a lower carbon footprint.
Goodbye from New Zealand! Next time, why not try the South Island in 1 Week: Road Trip Itinerary?
More New Zealand Itineraries for 1 Week / 7 Days
That’s the end of our New Zealand North Island road trip itinerary for 1 week / 7 days starting in Auckland and ending in Wellington. If this itinerary didn’t take you fancy, see our alternative one-week itineraries:
- North Island 1 Week Road Trip Itinerary (Start/End Auckland)
- North Island Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 1 Week
- North Island Luxury Itinerary: 1 Week
- North Island Food Itinerary: 1 Week
- North Island Family Itinerary: 1 Week
- North Island Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 1 Week
- New Zealand in 1 Week: Road Trip Itinerary
- How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.