How to Make the Most of One Week on the North Island
We’ll skip the part where we tell you that seven days on the North Island is not long enough and make you an unforgettable itinerary to make the most of the time that you have…
Auckland Airport is the main and cheapest airport to arrive and depart the North Island, so with that in mind, this seven days on the North Island itinerary starts and ends in Auckland. The itinerary below is best done by renting a car or campervan, so check out The Best Campervan Rental Companies in Auckland and The Best Car Rental Companies in Auckland for recommended rental companies from Auckland Airport. With all that out of the way, let’s jump into this itinerary for 7 days on the North Island!
For an alternative itinerary starting in Auckland and ending in Wellington, see North Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary.
The Criteria for an Unforgettable 7 Days on the North Island
When visiting the North Island of New Zealand in only a week, you will have to cut some serious corners to make the most of your trip. However, trying to fit too much in a short amount of time makes the journey much less enjoyable, exhausting, less about experiences and more just about ticking boxes. For this reason, we have worked our itinerary below using the following criteria:
- Exciting destinations with lots of activity options to suit every budget and taste
- No more than three hours drive per day
- Suggested activities or refreshment stops between destinations.
Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Rotorua (via Matamata)
Drive Time: 2h40min
Once you’ve arrived at Auckland Airport, had the rest you need, and picked up your rental vehicle, we recommend hitting the road to Rotorua. While it might be a long drive, there’s plenty of ways to break the day up.
Things to Do on the Road to Rotorua
- Do the Te Waihou Walkway (1h30min-3 hours walk) to the Putaruru Blue Spring
- Lord of the Rings fans, stop by the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata
- Walk to Wairere Falls in Matamata (2-4 hours walk), the North Island’s highest waterfall
- Stop for coffee and find the colourful cow sculptures in Morrinsville.
Things to Do in Rotorua on an Evening
- Relax in a natural geothermal hot pool. Try the Polynesian Spa or go find one of the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua
- See an evening cultural performance at one of the Maori villages. See the 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand.
Get more inspiration from the 9 Things to Do in Rotorua at Night.
Accommodation in Rotorua
Day 2 – Rotorua
Today you have the whole day to experience the geothermal, adventure and cultural hotspot of Rotorua. There’s something to suit every mood, taste and budget!
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. See the 8 Insane Geothermal Parks in New Zealand You Won’t Believe Exist for options
- Catch a Maori cultural performance (if you missed doing so yesterday)
- Zorb your way in a giant hamster ball down a hill
- Go luging from the top of the Skyline Gondonal
- Walk or mountain bike in the Redwood Forest
- Jetboat or do a freefall experience at the Velocity Valley
- See native New Zealand wildlife at Wingspan or Rainbow Springs.
Or head to our 20 Awesome Places to Visit in Rotorua for more ideas.
Day 3 – Rotorua to Taupo
Drive Time: 1 hour
It’s just a short drive to Taupo, a picturesque town on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. There’s a couple of awesome activities to do along the way. Otherwise, there’s plenty of amazing things to do in Taupo.
Things to Do on the Road to Taupo
- Visit the Orakei Korako geothermal park and follow the 2-hour self-guided walkway
- Jump on a jet boat tour with New Zealand Riverjet to either Orakei Korako or a secret hot spring spot in the wilderness
Things to Do in Taupo on an Evening
- Relax in some thermal hot pools like the DeBretts Thermal Resort
- Enjoy an evening cruise to some Maori rock carvings on Lake Taupo with Chris Jolly Outdoors or Sail Barbary
- Sample the local cuisine, as Taupo has an amazing range of eateries.
Find more inspiration in the 10 Things to Do in Taupo at Night.
Accommodation in Taupo
Day 4 – Taupo
Taupo offers a wide range of landscapes to explore, from New Zealand’s largest lake to the longest river to the volcanic Tongariro National Park. There’s so much to do here, so take your pick from the list below!
Things to Do in Taupo
- Take a trip out on New Zealand’s largest lake for fishing, kayaking, sailing, cruising or parasailing
- Bungy jump over the Waikato River
- Skydive over the great lake
- 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
- Hike in the volcanic wonderland of the Tongariro Crossing. Shuttles are available with Tongariro Expeditions or Adventure HQ.
For more inspiration, see the 10 Amazing Things to Do in Taupo.
Day 5 – Taupo to Waitomo
Drive Time: 2 hours
Waitomo is a special place on the North Island with vast cave networks and breathtaking displays of glowworms. We recommend setting off early so you have time to make the most of the amazing experiences available in Waitomo. Good towns to stop by for rest and refreshments include Whakamaru and Te Kuiti.
Things to Do in Waitomo
- Do a walking tour of the Waitomo caves, such as the Ruakuri Cave or the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Do the Ruakuri Bush Walk (45 minutes) at night to see glowworms
- Go on a tubing/abseiling/caving adventure with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co or Waitomo Adventures
For more activities, see the 10 Amazing Things to Do in Waitomo.
Accommodation in Waitomo
Day 6 – Waitomo to Raglan
Drive Time: 1h20mins
Raglan is the North Island’s bohemian town offering something for surfers, foodies or eco-conscious travellers. On the way there, stop by Otorohanga to see a kiwi bird at the Kiwi House. You can also stop for refreshments at Pirongia and Whatawhata.
Things to Do in Raglan
- See the majestic Bridal Veil Falls (10-20min walk)
- Kayak or paddleboard to Raglan’s pancake rocks
- Learn to surf or hire a surfboard and hit the waves
- Visit the art galleries, the Raglan Museum and enjoy the food scene.
For more information on each activity and for more recommendations, see the 10 Epic Things to Do in Raglan.
Accommodation in Raglan
Day 7 – Raglan to Auckland Airport
Drive Time: 2h15mins
As reluctant as you may be, it’s time to hit the road back to Auckland Airport. Stop by Bridal Veil Falls on your way out of Raglan if you didn’t get the chance to see it yesterday. If you have the time, drive into Hamilton and see the award-winning Hamilton Gardens. Then, the most direct route to Auckland Airport is via State Highway 1.
Next time, visit New Zealand for longer!