The Best Way to Spend 7 Days on the North Island© Tourism New Zealand
The Best Way to Spend 7 Days on the North Island

North Island 1 Week (7 Days) Road Trip Itinerary (Start/End Auckland)

© Tourism New Zealand
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Article Single Pages©
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The Ultimate 1-Week North Island Road Trip Itinerary (Starting and Ending in Auckland)

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…

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 and exhausting, and 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.

What’s more, Auckland Airport is the main and cheapest airport to arrive and depart the North Island, so with that in mind, this 7-day North Island itinerary starts and ends in Auckland. (For an alternative itinerary starting in Auckland and ending in Wellington, see North Island 1 Week Road Trip Itinerary – Auckland to Wellington.)

With all that out of the way, let’s jump into this itinerary for seven days on the North Island, starting and ending in Auckland!

North Island Road Trip Itinerary for 1 Week (7 Days): Overview

  • Day 1 – Auckland Airport to Rotorua (via Hobbiton)
  • Day 2 – Explore Rotorua
  • Day 3 – Rotorua to Taupo
  • Day 4 – Explore Taupo
  • Day 5 – Taupo to Waitomo
  • Day 6 – Waitomo to Raglan
  • Day 7 – Raglan to Auckland Airport

The Best Way to Spend 7 Days on the North Island©

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 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 Rotorua (via Hobbiton)

Drive time: 2 hrs 40 mins

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 are plenty of ways to break the day up.

Things to Do on the Road to Rotorua

  • Do the Te Waihou Walkway (1 hr 30 mins-3 hours walk) to the Putaruru Blue Spring
  • Lord of the Rings fans, stop by the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata (more info on Viator and Klook)
  • Walk to Wairere Falls (1-2 hours walk), the North Island’s highest waterfall
  • Stop for coffee and find the colourful cow sculptures in Morrinsville.

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


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 2 – Explore 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

For more inspiration, get stuck into The Complete Guide to Rotorua.©

Day 3 – 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 then 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

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

Accommodation in Taupo


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.©

Day 4 – Explore 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!

More Things to Do in Taupo

For more inspiration, see the 20 Best 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. Good towns to stop by for rest and refreshments include Whakamaru and Te Kuiti.

Things to Do in 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.

Hamilton & Waikato© Hamilton & Waikato

Day 6 – Waitomo to Raglan

Drive time: 1 hr 20 mins

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 and some of the quirky “kiwiana” attractions as listed in the 5 Best Things to Do in Otorohanga. You can also stop for refreshments at Pirongia and Whatawhata.

Things to Do in Raglan

For more information on each activity and for more recommendations, see the 15 Best Things to Do in Raglan.

Accommodation in Raglan


See more options in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Raglan.



Hamilton & Waikato© Hamilton & Waikato

Day 7 – Raglan to Auckland Airport

Drive time: 2 hrs 15 mins

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!

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 and ending in Auckland. 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.


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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