How to Make the Most of Travelling the North Island in Two Weeks
We’re sure you’ve heard before that travelling New Zealand in two weeks isn’t nearly enough time to see everything. That’s true, but by just travelling one island like the North Island, you are heading in the right direction to really make the most of your time in New Zealand! Nevertheless, seeing the awesome sights and activities in the North Island in two weeks does mean you will have an action-packed itinerary with your fair share of driving. If you’re up for that, then read on…
The two weeks North Island travel itinerary below fits in most of the biggest highlights of the North Island, including spending time in volcanic regions, experiencing Maori culture, a mix of New Zealand wilderness and New Zealand city life and so much more! What’s more, the two-week itinerary allows you to choose from a lot of activities so you don’t need to worry about not finding things to do that you’ll totally dig! We’ll also give you a few tips on car rental and getting around the North Island.
Finally, if you’d rather skip the part of spending hours planning your own road trip itinerary, then consider using the service of First Light Travel – a free online New Zealand itinerary planner. Find out more at the bottom of this article!
Renting a Car or Campervan for Two Weeks in the North Island
Travelling for two weeks 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. Plus, the itinerary below loops the North Island so you can return your rental car where you started. That means no expensive one-way fees! For more ways to save money on car rental take a look at this nifty list.
For a complete comparison of car rental companies, check out The Best Car Rental Companies in Auckland.
Bus Tours for Two Weeks in the North Island
For travellers who would rather let someone else do the driving, escorted bus tours are available to take you around the North Island with like-minded people. Some of the tour companies that offer 12-14-day tours of the North Island, following an itinerary similar to the one featured below, include Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, Bamba Experience, APT, Stray Travel, Haka Tours, Sweet As Travel, Intrepid Travel, Active Adventures and more!
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Hahei
Drive Time: 2h15mins
You’ve arrived at Auckland Airport! Once you have picked up your rental vehicle, jump straight into it and hit the road to Hahei in the Coromandel Peninsula! Auckland Airport is south of the city, so save on drive time by heading south straight away and explore the North Island. Don’t worry, you’ll see more of Auckland later. 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. These are pretty relaxing and accessible activities/sights to see for your first day in New Zealand:
- 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
If you’re looking for a different style of accommodation, plan a more catered itinerary with First Light Travel – find more information at the bottom of this itinerary.
Day 2 – Hahei to Rotorua
Drive Time: 3 hours
Your final destination today is Rotorua, famous for its geothermal and cultural experiences. 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. Plus, Lord of the Rings nerds can stop by the Hobbiton Movie Set for a tour around the Shire.
Things to Do in Rotorua
If you have some time to kill this evening in Rotorua, here are a few suggestions.
- Relax in a natural geothermal hot pool. There are paid options, such as the Polynesian Spa, or go find some of the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.
- See an evening cultural performance at one of the Maori attractions. We list most of the options in the 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand.
Accommodation in Rotorua
- All Seasons Holiday Park
- Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park
- Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park
- Crash Palace
- Funky Green Voyager
- Hot Rocks (Base)
Day 3 – Rotorua
Drive Time: 0 hours
There is so much to do in and around Rotorua that we recommend staying here the whole day. Have a rest from driving and do something awesome. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the Maori culture, see some wonderful geothermal parks, do an adrenaline activity or see some New Zealand wildlife, there’s something for every traveller in Rotorua!
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, go luging from the top of the gondola, 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 Rainbow Springs.
For more inspiration, get stuck into The Complete Guide to Rotorua.
Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo
Drive Time: 1 hour
Not too far from Rotorua is Taupo on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake! Again, there really is a lot to do here! If you want to skydive and/or bungy jump on the North Island than Taupo is a great place to do it. Plus, there are plenty of options to get out on the lake, relax in hot pools, see raging waterfalls and more!
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.
- Do a skydive.
- Go on a white water rafting trip on the Tongariro River. (Pick up available from Taupo).
- Walk along the Waikato River to a natural hot pool at Spa Park, then onto Huka Falls.
- Get more inspiration from The Complete Guide to Taupo.
Accommodation in Taupo
- Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort
- Lake Taupo Top 10 Holiday Park
- All Seasons Kiwi Holiday Park
- Quality Suites Huka Falls
Day 5 – Taupo to Tongariro National Park
Drive Time: 1h15mins
Get up early and drive to the Tongariro National Park to do the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand’s most popular day hike over the volcanic plateau with lots of geothermal sights. Otherwise, take your time getting to the Tongariro National Park and enjoy one of the shorter hikes in the area, still giving fantastic views of the Central North Island volcanoes. You also have the option for mountain biking or even skiing on the Whakapapa ski field in winter. For the Tongariro National Park, we recommend staying in either National Park Village or Whakapapa Village.
Things to Do in Tongariro National Park
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is New Zealand’s most popular day hike taking you over the volcanoes of the central North Island. The 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 by looking at the 13 Walks Around National Park Village & Whakapapa Village.
Accommodation in National Park Village
Day 6 – Tongariro National Park to the Ruahine Forest Park
Drive Time: 2 hours
The mission today is to spend some time in the New Zealand wilderness. Ruahine Forest Park is an awesome place to do that and a locals’ favourite! There are a few different wilderness lodges and camping options in the Ruahine Forest Park, as well as activities from hikes to horse riding to white water rafting.
To break up the journey, stop in Ohakune for a coffee or check out the Mangawhero Walking Track (1-hour loop) to walk in the forests at the base of Mt Ruapehu. Your final destination today will be at one of the accommodation options listed below. You’ll get more time to explore the area or do an activity there tomorrow.
Accommodation in the Ruahine Forest Park
Day 7 – Ruahine Forest Park
Drive Time: 0 Hours
It’s time to relax/go wild in the Ruahine Forest Park! Whatever your bag is, you could do some white water rafting or horse riding at River Valley, horse riding, 4x4ing or claybird shooting at Makoura Lodge, or hiking in the Ruahine Ranges. Alternatively, relax in your farmstay or accommodation to get a taste of Kiwi life.
Things to Do in the Ruahine Forest Park
Day 8 – Ruahine Forest Park to Wellington
Drive Time: 3h20mins
Your final destination today is the capital city of New Zealand! However, we recommend breaking up the drive by stopping along the Kapiti Coast, full of beaches and walks to check out! Walk over a sand dune walkway in the Queen Elizabeth Park, relax on Peka Peka Beach. How about getting a kite landboarding or kite surfing lesson on Foxton Beach?
Accommodation in Wellington
Day 9 – Wellington to Whanganui
Drive Time: 2h30mins
Take some time this morning to explore the sights of Wellington, such as the Te Papa Museum, the Botanic Gardens or the Weta Workshop, before making the drive to Whanganui later this afternoon.
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 Lord of the Rings tour.
- 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.
Accommodation in Whanganui
Day 10 – Whanganui to Stratford
Drive Time: 1h30min
On today’s drive, you’ll get to see the wild west coast of the Taranaki region as you make your way up to Stratford. Stratford is on the edge of the Egmont National Park with the impressive Mt Taranaki at its centre. Stratford gives good access to the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre and the Stratford Plateau on Mt Taranaki giving you a great deal of walking and hiking options through “enchanted forests” to waterfalls and volcano views!
Things to Do in Stratford
- See the town centre Glockenspiel that performs at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm
- Do the Wilkies Pools Loop Track (1 hour) and Dawson Falls (20 minutes) near the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre
- Do one of the 5 Walks You Have to do in Stratford, Taranaki
Accommodation in Stratford
Day 11 – Stratford to Waitomo
Drive Time: 3h16min
Now it’s time for an ironically unforgettable journey through the Forgotten World Highway. Fill up with fuel before delving into this historical and isolated part of the North Island. You will get breathtaking views of Mt Taranaki as you leave Stratford. Stop by the Republic of Whangamomona and get your passport stamped. After that, you will go through old tunnels (or over them if you are too scared), as well as through the wild and wonderful Tangarakau Gorge. There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way. You can find a few in our 10 Places You Can’t Miss on the Forgotten World Highway.
After a long drive to Waitomo, just relax in Waitomo in one of these affordable accommodations.
Accommodation in Waitomo
Day 12 – Waitomo
Drive Time: 0 hours
Now you have the whole day to enjoy one or more of the epic glowworm and caving activities in Waitomo. Join one of the caving operators in Waitomo, throw on a sexy wetsuit and tube/abseil/climb your way through the Waitomo Caves! There are a few walks in the area too if you are still feeling active.
Things to Do in Waitomo
Day 13 – Waitomo to Auckland
Drive Time: 2h30min
Take your time driving up to your final destination on this two-week itinerary of the North Island. There are a lot of quirky little towns to stop by on the way like Otorohanga with the best public toilets in New Zealand and the Ed Hillary Walkway in the centre of town. You’ll then reach Auckland city where you can relax tonight at one of the harbour eateries or on top of the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sky Tower. We’ll give you more ideas on what to do in Auckland tomorrow, but if you have time, you can fit some activities this evening.
Accommodation in Auckland
Day 14 – Auckland
Drive Time: 0
For your final day in New Zealand, why not have one last day of wild beauty by taking the ferry to one of the off-shore islands, like Rangitoto, Waiheke or Tiritiri Matangi? Alternatively, this could be your last chance to do a skydive in New Zealand or jump from the Sky Tower. You can even cruise out into the harbour searching for whales and dolphins with a whale safari tour. Auckland really has a lot to offer! Then it’s time to return your rental car and head to the Auckland Airport for your next adventure.
Things to Do in Auckland
- Go to the Auckland Museum
- Walk up the volcanic island of Rangitoto Island
- Drink wine and be merry on Waiheke Island
- See protected wildlife on the Tiritiri Matangi Island bird sanctuary
- Do a skydive
- Jump off the Sky Tower with the SkyJump or walk around the top of it with the SkyWalk
- Go whale watching
- Walk to Mt Eden for some city views.
Plan This Itinerary with First Light Travel
If you like this 2-week North Island itinerary but don’t like the hassle of planning everything yourself, then there’s a way to lighten the load. First Light Travel is a free online travel agent specialising in self-drive itineraries in New Zealand. Plus, using their service is super simple:
- First, send First Light Travel an enquiry filling up their online form
- Then, you’ll receive your personalised itinerary within 24 hours
- Finally, review the itinerary, make any changes where you want, and First Light Travel will organise the rest including the bookings.
First Light Travel has access to more than 20,000 travel products, including almost all the tours and accommodation featured on this list (and more). With that and their expertise, they will create a well-catered itinerary to meet your needs while also suggesting some dream travel experiences that you may have never heard of. What’s more, did we mention the service is free?! First Light Travel only receive a commission from the travel companies you decide to book with keeping your own costs to a minimum. Plus, they only work with companies where their past clients have had positive experiences in the past.
For more information on planning your own New Zealand itinerary, see How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary.