The North Island of New Zealand is such an epic place. With untouched scenery, mountain ranges, forests, and volcanic valleys. You should defiantly spend some time here on your New Zealand road trip.
I spent two weeks travelling around the North Island of New Zeeland, and I can say it was nowhere enough time. I got to see some highlights of the North Island, which was a great way to start off my first visit to New Zealand.
This itinerary follows my road trip, so it has a mixture of slow and fast paced travel. By following this itinerary, you will see places like the Tongariro National Park, Rotorua, Coromandel and Taranaki. The itinerary does include a lot of hikes, because this is one of the best ways to seem some true gems of New Zealand (in my opinion anyways).
So, without further adieu, here is my 2-week North Island itinerary.
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Table of Contents
Getting to New Zealand
To complete this road trip, you can will need to fly into Auckland. I use Skyscanner to help find the best deals on flights! You can also read my blog here on my top 10 tips to finding cheap flights.
I always recommend you buy travel insurance. I always go with Covermore Travel Insurance, as they have a large range of different policies. As I travel with a lot of camera equipment, it’s important to find cover which will cover these items if they are damaged.
What will you need for this itinerary?
You will need a vehicle for this road trip. That can either be a campervan or you can rent a car. I will always recommend a campervan for travelling around New Zealand, as it’s much easier and much cheaper in the long run!
I went with Mad Campers for my 7-week road trip through New Zealand, and they were excellent. The customer service, the campervan and everything in between was wonderful. I travelled around in their MAD1 campervan, which is the only campervan made for solo travellers in New Zealand. You can read my full review here.
2 WEEK ITINERARY
DAY 0: FLY IN DAY
Fly to Auckland, New Zealand and pick up your campervan. I always like to give myself a day to setting in before setting off on a long road trip. Use today to collect your campervan, get groceries and sleep off that jet lag!
DAY 1: PHIA
Today you’ll complete the 1 hr drive to Piha Beach, on the west coast of the North Island. Here you will visit Piha Beach, Kitekite Falls and Karekare Falls and beach. You can read my short guide to Piha here.
Accommodation: Piha Domain Motor Camp – $22NZD for unpowered, $48NZD for powered
DAY 2: COROMANDEL PENINSULA
Today you will drive to the Coromandel Peninsula, making a few stops before settling into your campsite. Start off the day by heading to Karangahake Gorge, a 2.5hr drive from Piha. Here there are many short walks which you can complete!
- Owharao Falls: a short 5min walk from the road, it’s such an incredible falls and worth the stop
- Karangahake Windows Falls: A short, easy 1 hour walk, with impressive views.
Accommodation: Shag Stream Campsite – $10NZD pp/pn – Basic campsite, close to your hike for tomorrow!
DAY 3: PINNACLES HIKE
This is one of the most beautiful hikes to complete in this region, and one of the most popular! You can complete this hike as a one-day excursion, but in this itinerary, you will spend a night up at the Pinnacles Hut. You can read a full review of the Pinnacles hike here, a review of the hut here.
The Pinnacles hike is a 12-13km return, or 6km one way hike to the hut. It has some steep sections and a lot of steps. But the views at the top are worth it!
Accommodation: Pinnacles Hut – $20NZD pp/pn – it is recommended you book online during peak periods, as the hut books out quickly!
DAY 4: COROMANDAL PENINSULA
After you’ve woken up in the Pinnacles Hut, you will walk back to your car and set off to the coastline. You will be staying at Hotwater beach, but make sure you visit the Shakespeare Cliffs and hotwater beach along the way!
Accommodation: Hot Water Beach top 10 Caravan Park – $27NZD for a powered site, $24NZD for unpowered
DAY 5: COROMANDAL PENINSULA
Today you will visit one of the most popular places in the Coromandel Peninsula, Cathedral Cove. This cove is absolutely gorgeous, and well worth visiting. The Cathedral Cove walk is very pleasant, I recommend you do this rather than take the shuttle bus. You will be rewarded with spectacular views over the coastline, although it may take you a little longer! You can read my full guide to visiting Cathedral Cove here.
Afterwards you will drive to Mount Maunganui. Here you can spend the rest of your day relaxing, taking a stroll on the beach or visiting the many cafes. You have a choice here to either hike Mount Maunganui for sunset or tomorrow for sunrise.
Accommodation: Tauranga Tourist Park – Powered site $40NZD
DAY 6: MOUNT MAUNGANUI AND ROTORUA
If you have chosen to hike Mount Maunganui for sunrise, make sure you wake up extra early this morning! This hike offers great views over the city, and it’s a beautiful spot to watch the sun come up. The hike is steep in some sections, but relatively easy. You can read my full guide here.
After the early start, you will continue to Rotorua. Still plenty of time to grab a bite and coffee while in Mount Maunganui, as the drive to Rotorua is only 1 hour. One the way make sure you visit Okere Falls, a 1.2km return track and Hamurana Springs. Hamurana springs is a beautiful short track, and there is also a pub to get some lunch!
Later drive to Lake Okereke, where you can spend the rest of the day hanging around the Lake and even go for a dip!
Accommodation: Lake Okereke Campsite – $15NZD pp/pn, this campsite isn’t bookable, and does fill up quick, so get there early to secure a spot!
DAY 7: ROTORUA
Start your morning off by visiting Kerosene Creek, a geothermal heated creek, which is brilliant for a morning dip. I recommend getting here before 7am, for better chances of having it to yourself.
Then you will visit your first geothermal valley, Hell’s Gate! You can either book a time online or show up when you visit (although it does book out during peak periods). I highly recommend the Hell’s Gate experience, where you can walk around the geothermal valley and bath in the sulphur/mud baths! You can read my full review here.
If you have time and are feeling up to it, you can also visit the Redwoods. They have some beautiful walks and cycling paths!
After all this exploring, you will make your way to your campsite at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. I recommend you spend a night here, as your hot springs pass is included with your campsite. It ends up being cheaper, plus you can access the pools in the morning, when day visitors aren’t there! For more information about Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, you can read my blog here.
Accommodation: Waikitie Valley Thermal Pools – $28NZD pp/pn Non-Powered, $32NZD pp/pn Powered
DAY 8: ROTORUA and TAPUO
Today you will explore more geothermal valleys! I explored two this day, but you can choose which one you wish to explore.
Geothermal Valleys to explore:
Accommodation: Hipapatua Recreational Reserve – FREE!
DAY 9: TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK
Today you have about a 2hr drive into Tongariro National Park. Make sure you stop off at all the scenic spots on this drive, as the scenery is beautiful!
I recommend you visit Tawahi Falls and Taranaki falls, before heading to your campsite to rest up. You will be completing the Tongariro Alpine crossing tomorrow, so you will need some rest! For other things to do in Tongariro National Park, you can read my guide here.
Accommodation: Mangahuia Campsite – $15NZD pp/pn – Close to National Park, where you will commence your hike for tomorrow. You can also choose to stay in National Park, and I recommend the National Park Backpackers.
DAY 10: TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
I would recommend you have more than 1 day to complete this crossing, just in case of bad weather. But if you are short on time, and following this itinerary, this will be the day you complete it!
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the most popular day hike in New Zealand, and on a clear day it would be absolutely gorgeous. I wasn’t so lucky and didn’t receive those views when I hiked this track. Therefore, I recommend an extra day. It was still an incredible experience, and I would 100% do the track again. You can read about my full experience here.
This is a 19.4km return hike, it is in alpine terrain so does require some hiking experience. The blog post above also contains all the information you need to complete hike, included shuttle buses, how to get there and what to expect.
After you’ve completed your hike, I recommend visiting the Schnapps Bar, and treating yourself to one of their delicious burgers!
Accommodation: National Park Backpackers – $28NZD pp/pn for a dorm room
DAY 11: EGMONT NATIONAL PARK
Today you have a fairly long drive to your accommodation (well my recommendation!), which will be 4hrs. There is nothing else planned today, so take the drive slow and just enjoy the scenery!
You can make a stop off at the Kent Rd lookout point for some photos, but I don’t recommend you stop here midday, as it is a busy road. You are better off visiting early morning or late afternoon to get those beautiful shots!
Check in to your accommodation and enjoy the views! This was one of my favourite stays in New Zealand, and I highly recommend you book here when in the Taranaki Area! You can read a full review of my stay here.
Accommodation: Mangorei Heights – $198NZD per night – fits 3 people comfortably!
DAY 12: POUAKAI TARN
Today you will have the choice to hike to the Pouakai tarn and spend an extra night in the accommodation above (10 mins from trailhead) OR stay in the Pouakai Hut for a night. I recommend staying for a night, as you will have a better chance at getting some of those beautiful views from the tarn.
My experience hiking this track, again did not go as planned. But it would be a beautiful spot to stay and walk in clear weather! You can read about my experience here.
Accommodation: Pouakai Hut – $15NZD pp/pn – this does book out quickly, so if you want to stay here, make sure you book in advance!
DAY 13: EGMONT NATIONAL PARK
Today you will hike back to your car, and head to the other side of Egmont National Park.
You will explore the many hiking trails this part of the Egmont National Park has to offer. I recommend you defiantly do:
- Wilkies Pool Loop
- Dawson Falls
Afterwards, you can either drive a bit closer to your trailhead for the Sunrise hike tomorrow or stay close to the National Park. I choose to stay in Stratford.
DAY 14: RUAHINE FOREST PARK
Today you have another big drive ahead of you, a total of 4.5hrs. The hiking trail to the Sunrise hut doesn’t take long, so no need to rush today!
You will make your way into the Ruahine Forest park to hike the Sunrise Hut. This was one of my favourite hut hikes in all of New Zealand, and if you don’t choose to do any others on this itinerary, I recommend you still do this one!
I was treated to the most memorable views from this hut for sunrise. The inversion of cloud in the morning was spectacular, a hike I will always remember. You can find out more about my experience here.
If you don’t want to stay the night, or complete this hike, you can head into the Hawkes Bay area for the day instead.
Accommodation: Sunrise Hut – $15NZD pp/pn – this hike books out quickly on weekends and public holidays.
DAY 15: WELLINGTON
This is where the itinerary ends, you will make your way into Wellington where your North Island New Zealand adventure may end, or your South Island adventure begins!
I will admit I only spent this one day in Wellington before heading to the South Island and didn’t do much exploring. Mainly because I don’t like cities, and Wellington was very busy when I was there.
You can visit here a day earlier and not hike the Sunrise Hut if you wish, which will give you half a day in Wellington to explore.
The concludes this itinerary! I hope it was helpful in planning your North Island New Zealand road trip. You can also complete this itinerary backwards, from Wellington to Auckland. You don’t need to follow this itinerary exactly, but hopefully it helped with a plan.
Keep an eye out for my South Island itinerary coming up in a few months!
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