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

North Island 1 Week (7 Days) Road Trip Itinerary (Auckland to Wellington)

© Tourism New Zealand
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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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

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

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.

Pixabay© Pixabay

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

Budget:

See more like this in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Coromandel.

Mid-range:

For more mid-range stays, take a look at the 15 Best Hotels & Resorts in the Coromandel.

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.

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

Check out the 15 Best Things to Do in Waitomo for more recommendations.

Accommodation in Waitomo

Budget:

Learn more in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Waitomo.

Mid-range:

See more options in the 10 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Waitomo.

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

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.

For more recommendations, check out the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.

Accommodation in Rotorua

Budget:

For more options, check out the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua.

Mid-range:

See more stays in The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua.

Luxury:

More lavish finds are available in the 20 Best Luxury Accommodations in Rotorua.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

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

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:

Budget:

Check out more options over at the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Taupo.

Mid-range:

For more, check out the 20 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Taupo.

Luxury:

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:

Budget:

See more options in the 7 Best Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa.

Mid-range:

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

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

For more ideas, check out the 15 Best Things to Do in the Tongariro National Park.

Things to Do in Taupo

For more inspiration, take a look at the 20 Best Things to Do in Taupo.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

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

Budget:

Need more options? Head to the 15 Best Budget Accommodations in Wellington.

Mid-range:

Check out The 50 Best Accommodations for all of your best options.

Luxury:

See more stays in the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wellington.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

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

… 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:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.

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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