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North Island Road Trip

Image of a Hobbit home in Hobbiton in New Zealand - KILROY
View the full itinerary as a list

Recommended duration

Around 3 weeks


Auckland round trip

Travel type

Road trip


Flights and campervan rental

Book this itinerary
Discover the North Island of New Zealand on this three-week itinerary that takes you from Auckland city to the stunning coastline with visits to Taupo lake and Rotorua along the way.

Start and end your road trip in Auckland with a night in a hostel before picking up your campervan and hitting the road. With 17 days at your disposal, you can make it all the way to Cape Reinga to check out Ninety Mile Beach and still enjoy plenty of time to explore the North Island's highlights, including the Waitomo Caves and the Art Deco city of Napier on the east coast. 

This road trip itinerary combines the best of the North Island's nature, wildlife and Maori culture. Check out the numerous hot pools, visit amazing volcanos and geothermal areas, and experience the amazing Maori culture firsthand.

*Price is a 'from' price per person based on two people over 25 travelling together. Reach out to us if you're younger - it's not a problem!

What's included
  • Return economy class flights from the UK to New Zealand
  • 1 night pre road trip hostel accommodation in Auckland
  • 17 days of campervan hire (Chaser campervan)
  • 2 nights' post road trip hostel accommodation in Auckland 
  • Booking fees
  • Services of your own travel advisor
What's not included
  • Travel insurance (but we can help you with that)
  • Vaccinations 
  • Meals
  • Optional activities

Route Suggestion

UK - Auckland - Paihia - Kaitaia - Dargaville - Hobbiton - Rotorua - Whakatāne - Gisborne - Napier - Wellington - Tongariro National Park - Taupo - Waitomo Caves - Hamilton - Auckland - UK

This is only a suggested itinerary for your North Island road trip. You can tweak this itinerary to get it just right - spend more time in one place, skip another place. Add a tour here, or an activity there. Let us know what you want and we'll create your dream trip.


A vibrant city of harbours, beaches and islands, Auckland is known as the "City of Sails". Enjoy a night's hostel accommodation and take it easy after you arrive after a long flight. If you're not feeling too jet lagged, visit the Sky Tower and one of the city's many cool art galleries or museums.

You'll pick up your campervan in Auckland the next day and begin your road trip of the North Island.


Around three hours north of Auckland, you'll find the small, picturesque town Paihia. It's beautifully located on the Bay of Islands with plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as a gorgeous sandy beach. If you have time, you can opt for a trip to nearby Russell or you can check out some of the marine life including seals, dolphins or even whales if you're lucky.

Kaitaia & Cape Reinga

A little further north you'll find Kaitaia. Stay here for a day and drive to Cape Reinga, the most northern part of New Zealand, where you'll get the most amazing view over the ocean. And if you really want to spice up this experience, you should go here at either sunrise or sunset.


If you're into The Lord of Rings, you can't miss the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. It's an enchanting community of life-sized Hobbit holes in the Hamilton/Waikato region, and is the first stop in "The Trilogy" - a Middle-earth themed package that includes the Hobbiton Movie Set, Waitomo Caves and Rotorua (which is next on your road trip).

Enjoy a guided tour around Hobbiton, where your knowledgeable guide will enlighten you about the history and the on-location filming processes. Stop for a handle of ale at the Green Dragon Pub or grab a light lunch at the Shire's Rest Café.


Mud pools, geysers and adventure - that's what characterises Rotorua, one of the world's most lively fields of geothermal activity. Explore the bubbling mud pools and geysers of Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, or get your adrenaline pumping with some of the great adventure activities on offer.

While you're in the area, visit Te Puia to experience a Maori cultural display and learn about the fascinating history of New Zealand's indigenous people.


Next stop is Whakatāne, located by the Bay of Plenty. It's all about the great outdoors here, as there are loads of cool outdoor activities waiting for you. Hiking or biking in the beautiful surroundings is one way to do it. You can also explore the area from the water with a kayaking trip. Make sure to check out the stunning nearby islands of Moutohora and Whakaari, aka White Island.


On the eastern side of New Zealand's North Island, you'll find Gisborne. Fun fact: this place is the first in the world to see the sunrise every day, so make sure you wake up early at least one morning to experience this from the beach.

Speaking of beaches, Gisborne is famous for Waikanae Beach, which provides excellent surf conditions if you'd like to get active during the day. You can also visit Cook's Cove for stunning views of the coastline.


Napier is a small coastal town located at Hawke's Bay. The city was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1931, but has since been rebuilt in a cool Art Deco style, which makes it a great place to wander around and photograph.

Napier also boasts a number of wineries, so it's only natural to taste some of the locally produced wine (of course not on a day of driving!). Make sure you also visit Motara Pa, which is a Maori fortified village and one of New Zealand's most important archeological areas.


Famous for its burgeoning movie production industry and buzzing foodie scene, Wellington shouldn't be missed. It's located at the southernmost tip of the North Island and is home to Weta Workshop and the Weta Cave. Here you can get a behind-the-scenes look at movie making magic in action and check out the nearby filming locations.

You should also indulge in the city's buzzing food and wine scene, and enjoy a cable-car ride to the Kelburn lookout for expansive harbour views. If you're looking for a great place to eat, we recommend the Chocolate Fish Café located outside the city centre. It's a local café and the drive here along the coast is absolutely beautiful!

Tongariro National Park

You can choose to take the direct route to get from Wellington to Tongariro, but we actually recommend that you take a detour west, so that you drive from Stratford and towards Taumarunui along the "Forgotten World Highway". It's something special and looks like an area where dinosaurs used to (or still do perhaps) live.

Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's oldest national park and on UNESCO's world heritage list. It's home to three active volcanos, and needless to say some pretty awesome hiking trails as well.


Arrive from Tongariro to Taupo, home of the famous Lake Taupo and the nearby Huka Falls. We encourage you to check out both, and if you feel active, you can choose to hike to the top of Mt. Tauhara and enjoy the view. After the hike you can relax in a natural spa pool at Otumuheke Stream.

Waitomo Caves

Around 2 hours' drive from Taupo lies the Waitomo Caves, a fascinating labyrinth of underground sinkholes, caves and rivers beneath rolling green farmland. Take a walking or boat tour, try black water rafting or zip line through the darkness to see the famous glow worms illuminating the caves.


Your road trip around the North Island ends where it all started, back in Auckland. Drop off your campervan and enjoy two nights in a hostel where you can reflect on your adventure through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. Take it slow and make sure to check out the different corners of the city. If you feel brave you can opt for a bungy jump while you're here.

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