In previous post I described the difference between New Zealand’s Islands, but now it’s time to focus on the North Island. Going to New Zealand is once in a lifetime experience for most people. Because I was going to spend a limited time on my New Zealand trip, I had to do some extensive research on what to see and how long it would take to drive between locations. Below is a map of my epic road trip itinerary for one week in the North Island.

DAY 1-2 Auckland

My trip started with a flight from Helsinki, Finland to Tokyo and after few hours I finally took the connecting flight to my final destination, Auckland. The flight time was about 24 hours total, oh my! I had never flown so long and so far. I’m a light sleeper and usually it’s impossible for me to have a refreshing sleep on the plane. You can imagine how jet-lagged I was when I finally arrived to Auckland at 5.10 am. Somehow I managed to find my luggage and retrieved a pocket Wi-Fi at the airport. I took a bus to Auckland city center and navigated my way to a hotel for a good night sleep.

Make sure that you stay at least one day in Auckland before driving a car. I had a lot of plans on what to do in Auckland for 48 hours, but to be honest I was way too tired to do all of them. Most of the time, I just wandered around the city by foot and enjoyed the sun. You should definitely check the Viaduct harbor, a 220 meters high Sky Tower and the beautiful Albert Park. I also recommend the Auckland Zoo, because here you can spot and learn about the native Kiwi birds. It’s a wonderful moment that should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting New Zealand. If you have some extra time in Auckland, you can take a ferry to the popular Waiheke Island.

Where to eat in Auckland?

  • The Crab Shack: 137 Quay Street. Especially for seafood lovers! Great location and local green lip mussels are to die for.
  • Little India19-23 Anzac Avenue. Affordable comfort food with lovely flavor.
  • Ima Cuisine: 53 Fort Street, Downtown. Middle Eastern restaurant for breakfast, lunch or just for coffee.

Click pictures below!

DAY 3 Coromandel Penisula

From Auckland (point A) to Whangamata (point C): 240 km, driving time 3 hours 20 minutes

Rise and shine, it was time to pick up a rental car from Auckland’s Europcar and hit the road. I was a little bit nervous, because the locals drive on the left side of the road and not on the right side which I had used to. I tried to calm myself with a mindset of no problem just go with the flow. Sun was shining and it was a great day to spend the day at the beach so I set the navigation to Hahei beach.

Coromandel Penisula is known for Cathedral Cove and beautiful beaches like Hahei and especially the Hot Water Beach where you can dig a hole with a shovel in the sand and enjoy your own hot spring. I didn’t had the time to see both of the beaches, so I picked Hahei, because of its convenient location. There aren’t many parking spots available so arrive here early! I took a 10 minute water taxi from Hahei beach to Cathedral Cove one way only for 15 NZD. This place is breathtaking and perfect place to enjoying the sun. After working on my tan, it was time to head back to Hahei beach. This time I didn’t take the water taxi, but took the scenic Cathedral Cove Walk from Cathedral Cove to Hahei beach car park. It takes about 45 minutes and the views are amazing. If you don’t wan’t to pay for water taxi you can always walk (1,5 hours return trip), but make sure that you have proper shoes, water and snacks.

Click pictures below!

DAY 4 Rotorua

From Whangamata (point C) to Cambridge (point E): 288 km, driving time 4 hours

Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity and New Zealand’s native people Maori culture. If you have the time, you can stop at Tauranga and check the Mount Maunganui on your way to Rotorua. I’ve been to Iceland before, so I had previously experienced the geothermal activity and rotten eggs smell in the air, but Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park offered something new. Admission costs 32,50 NZD, but its well worth the money.  This place had some crazy nature colours from bright orange (Champagne Pool) to neon green (Devil’s bath)! You can also see mud pools and the Lady Knox geyser which only erupts once a day at 10.15 am (In my opinion, Iceland has better one).

After visiting Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area I was interested to see the Whakarewarewa forest. It was such a peaceful place full of huge California redwood trees. There is 5600 hectares of forest with several great nature paths to explore for free. If you wan’t to take the treewalk high amongst the trees it costs 25 NZD.  Rotorua has so many awesome activities around, so you could easily spend at least 2 days here.

Click pictures below!

DAY 5 Waitomo

From Cambridge (point E) to Taupo (point H): 221 km, driving time 3 hours

Woke up early and hit the road towards my next destination, Alphra Lavenders in Te Awamutu. On my bucket list, I always wanted to run in a beautiful lavender field, but never got the chance until now. Wow the colour of the lavender fields was unreal. I was so happy! If you wan’t to see these fields too, notice that the main lavender fields bloom from early December to late January. Everyone can visit Alphra Lavenders farm for free. You can also check a little shop right next to the fields and buy some lavender products for home. After taking some photos, it was time to continue the journey to Waitomo.

Waitomo is known for its cool unique glowworm caves. What are the glowworms? They are small larvae insects which glow in the dark in just a few places around the world. Arachocampa Luminosa glowworm in New Zealand spends about 6 to 12 months in larvae form and hatches to mate for day or two until it dies. For 50 NZD you can go on a 45 minute tour around the caves. The tour highlight is in the end where you step on a boat and flow in complete darkness enjoying the silence. You will see all the glowworms twinkle in the cave ceiling like a thousand stars. It was sad that you couldn’t take any pictures, but maybe it was a good thing, because you could focus on the magical moment. I even cried a little!

Click pictures below!

DAY 6 Taupo

From Taupo (point H) to Palmerston North (point J): 292 km, driving time 3 hours 30 minutes

I really liked the holiday vibe in Taupo mainly because of the great lake and good restaurants. Check out the Aratiatia Rapids and take the Huka falls track. Today I was supposed to take a scenic flight over Tongariro National Park, but the weather was too bad. You couldn’t even hike the 19,4 km Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike in windy pouring rain. Mother Nature is brutal and this is why I hate to travel in a tight schedule. I didn’t have the time to wait a day or two for the weather to clear out. Make sure to plan things to do even in bad weather. Tongariro is known for rural volcano scenery from the Lord of the Rings movie.

DAY 7 Ferry from Wellington to South Island

From Palmerston North (point J) to South Island city Nelson (point C): 275 km, driving time 3 hours 40 minutes

This was going to be a long day, because it was time to move to the South Island by ferry. First I had to drive to Wellington for almost 2 hours and drop off my rental car at the ferry terminal in North Island before entering the Bluebridge ferry. Ferry ride takes about 3,5 hours to reach Picton and the cheapest ticket costs about 53 NZD and up depending on which ferry you take. At Picton I enjoyed lunch and had to pick up second rental car in the ferry terminal on South Island. From Picton my journey continued to Nelson (about 2 hours from Picton).  You can also fly to South Island, but I would recommend taking the ferry. The view is breathtaking when ferry crosses the Malborough Sounds.

Click pictures below!

In the next post I will write about my adventure in the South Island of NZ.