North Island circuit

This 10-day round journey through some of New Zealand's most fascinating destinations will satisfy your desire to experience the best of the North Island. Travel from Auckland, the dynamic 'city of sails,' to the Coromandel's beach villages. Discover Tauranga's sunny lifestyle, Rotorua's hot geothermal attractions, and Gisborne and Napier's vineyards. Explore Wellington's ingenuity before heading north to the Whanganui River's mysteries. Before returning to Auckland, take a stroll through New Plymouth's gardens and Waitomo's mysterious underworld.

Go New Zealand Go New Zealand 18 days ago
North Island circuit

Day 1: Auckland to Whitianga

Travel south from Auckland to Thames. Take a break along the route to visit Miranda, where you'll find peaceful hot springs and a bird refuge to get you in the holiday spirit. Thames, which was founded during the Coromandel gold rush, is littered with gold mining antiquities. The local museum tells the narrative of the region's illustrious past. Continue along the coast to Coromandel town, passing past a parade of Pohutukawa-fringed beaches. A delightful mix of handmade shops, hiking trails, and a narrow gauge train through native forest may be found here. Travel to Whitianga in the afternoon, stopping along the way to explore the coastal communities of Whangapoua, Matarangi, and Kuaotunu.

Whitianga
Whitianga
Whitianga, New Zealand

Day 2: Whitianga to Tauranga

You can visit two of Coromandel's must-see sites on the route south from Whitianga: Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. At low tide, go to Hot Water Beach and dig your own spa in the sand. Whangamata, one of the most beautiful surf towns in the country, is well worth a visit. You may take a day trip to Mayor Island, an offshore dormant volcano that has been turned into a wildlife refuge, from here. Waihi, Athenree Gorge, and Katikati, which is noted for its beautiful town murals, are all worth visiting. Boat charters in Tauranga provide fishing, snorkeling, and dolphin viewing experiences. Stay ashore and explore Mount Maunganui, which is nearby.

Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove, Waikato, New Zealand
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

Day 3: Tauranga to Rotorua

Rotorua, New Zealand's geothermal heart, is a short drive from Tauranga. Before beginning the ascent over the Mamaku Range, the lovely towns of Te Puke and Paengaroa provide excellent diversion. Near Lake Rotoiti, the Okere Falls Scenic Reserve includes a beautiful walking trail that leads to a series of thundering waterfalls surrounded by rich native forest. The soil at Rotorua is alive with volcanic activity everywhere you look. From boiling mud to erupting geysers, spend the day visiting the many geothermal sites. Relax at the Polynesian Spa in the evenings, or visit Te Puia, Mitai, or Tamaki Mori Villages for a cultural experience.

Te Puia
Te Puia
Te Puia Hemo Road, Tihiotonga, Rotorua, New Zealand

Day 4: Rotorua to Gisborne via Whakatane

Whakatane is one of New Zealand's sunniest towns, offering a diverse range of attractions such as a museum, observatory, and various Maori historical sites. From Whakatane, there are two ways to go to Gisborne. The drive around East Cape is gorgeous but hard; you might want to take a night at Te Araroa to break up the route. The picturesque Maori chapel at Tikitiki, hot springs in Te Puia Springs, and a historic 660-meter wharf in Tolaga Bay are among the sights along the journey. Take the quicker inland road to Gisborne and spend more time there, where superb wine and fantastic surf beaches abound.

Tolaga Bay Wharf
Tolaga Bay Wharf
Tolaga Bay Wharf Wharf Road, Tolaga Bay, New Zealand

Day 5: Gisborne to Napier

Napier is well-known for its Art Deco architecture. The city was nearly leveled by a severe earthquake in 1931, and it was reconstructed in the style of the time. Many of the structures have Maori elements, giving them a particular New Zealand flavor. Every February, Napier hosts a festival dedicated to all things 1930s to commemorate its Art Deco heritage. Hawke's Bay is known for its vineyards and orchards outside of the city. Hire a bike and ride the easy bike trails that connect wineries, beaches, and beautiful scenery. The gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers is a must-see for nature lovers.

Hawke's Bay
Hawke's Bay
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Day 6: Napier to Wellington via Masterton

On your route south, the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre (opens in new window) is a must-see. The titipounamu (rifleman), krearea (New Zealand falcon), and kerer (New Zealand eagle) are among the native New Zealand fauna that call the centre home (wood pigeon). The Wool Shed in Masterton, Paua World with its amazing assortment of souvenirs, and Greytown's attractive array of boutique shops, art galleries, and antique stores are among the other attractions along the journey. In Wellington, you'll find a vibrant blend of culture and heritage. The downtown area, which is nestled between the harbour and the hills, is great for walking tours. Explore New Zealand's capital city's many museums and galleries, drink local craft brews, and take in the unique culture.

Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre State Highway 2, Mount Bruce, New Zealand

Day 7: Wellington to Whanganui

Wildlife interactions abound on the road to Whanganui. Kapiti Island, a natural reserve for endangered birds off the coast of Waikanae, can be visited by booking a tour with a licensed operator. Levin, further north, has a booming garment sector and numerous factory outlet stores. Two magnificent dune lakes nearby provide a wetland for wading birds. Whanganui has a lengthy history and several nicely restored heritage districts being one of the country's earliest settlement towns. The Whanganui River, New Zealand's longest navigable river, is the city's genuine spiritual heart. From a jet boat to a paddle steamer or a kayak, there are many ways to explore this gorgeous location.

Bridge to Nowhere
Bridge to Nowhere
Bridge to Nowhere, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand

Day 8: Whanganui to New Plymouth

Keep an eye out for little museums and eccentric art shops as the road heads west from Whanganui. The largest milk factory in New Zealand and an interactive dairy farming attraction are both located in Hawera's rural center. You can take one of two ways from Hawera: either follow the coast for a continuous view of the beach, or take the inland route via Stratford and experience the green serenity of farmland. For much of your journey, the majestic volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki will dominate the scene. The city of New Plymouth, which is known for its art and culture, is adorned with beautiful parks and gardens. Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Puke Ariki are both worth visiting.

Mount Taranaki
Mount Taranaki
Mount Taranaki, Taranaki, New Zealand

Day 9: New Plymouth to Hamilton via Waitomo

The journey today starts with a parade of seaside communities facing the Tasman Sea. If you have the time, the Whitecliffs Walkway is a fantastic hike. Turn east at Awakino and travel through a mix of farming, forest, and rocky mountain terrain. The small village of Te Kuiti, which hosts the annual New Zealand sheep shearing competitions, serves as the entrance to the Waitomo Caves. Waitomo is known for its underground beauty. A succession of huge cave systems with stalactites, stalagmites, and glow-worms exist beneath the surface. Some caverns are easy to navigate, while others are extremely difficult and require specialized caving equipment.

Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

Day 10: Waitomo to Auckland via Hobbiton

The journey from Waitomo to Hamilton passes through great Waikato farmland. Take a detour to Matamata to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set (opens in new window) as it appeared in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. The Waikato River, which flows through Hamilton, gives the city a distinct charm. Gardens, museums, and the Hamilton Zoo's huge aviary are among the local attractions. The 48 extinct volcanic cones that dot the landscape around Auckland are hard to miss. Auckland is a terrific site to end your vacation, with two massive harbors and a plethora of other attractions such as harbour cruises, stunning beaches, forest treks, and delectable cuisine.

Hobbiton Village, New Zealand
Hobbiton Village, New Zealand
Hobbiton Village, New Zealand, Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand

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