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mount taranaki sunrise new zealand

North Island Campervan Trip


A Road Trip To Every Corner Of North Island

Auckland to Wellington and back again sounds like the best way to spend nine days in New Zealand's North Island. With Raglan being a firm-favourite among many of our travellers, Whitney and Kato tell us exactly what it is that made them fall in love with the area.

Oysters Couple Salad

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driving britz campervan in new zealand

Day 1: Farmers market to Raglan

Driving time: 2.5 hours

We stocked up on premium local produce in the lush countryside just east of Auckland before hitting Highway 1 south to Hamilton. At Ngaruawahia (this little town was our favourite Maori tongue twister and we perfected our accents on this single word throughout the whole trip!) we stocked up on essentials and plenty of luxuries before veering off to Raglan.  At Raglan we pulled into Manu Bay and jumped into perfect waves. We loved the village feel and cafe culture going in Raglan. Great coffee and lots of yummy places to eat. We also got addicted to Feijoas in this town, buying bags of it off little street stalls. Great view and coffee at Echo Lodge.

raglan sunset new zealand

Day 2: Raglan to New Plymouth

Driving time: 4 hours

We got our fix of coffee at our favourite cafe and then made our way down the coast stopping at Awakino. From endless bare green hills we entered steep green fern valleys before it opened up into the picturesque Awakino Rivermouth and ocean. We pulled over at a deserted beach and had lunch. Our first sighting of the majestic Mt Taranaki is from here. We also drove down a few private roads searching for way to some beaches we thought we could get some good surf at. We only found a couple of farmers and their sheep who kindly told us it was only cliff and there was no way to the beach from here. We pulled into New Plymouth and stayed at the camping ground by the beach. 

mount taranaki sunrise from campervan

Day 3: New Plymouth to Mt Taranaki to Hawera

Driving time: 1.5 hours

We took a whole day as we checked out New Plymouth and then drove up Mt Taranaki.
From virtually everywhere you can see the summit of Mt Taranaki soaring through the clouds. We had to see get closer. We skipped the coastal road and drove inland to a small town at the base of the main road which leads to the ski fields. The first snowfall of winter had come a couple of days prior so there was fresh snow on the roads and the car park was full it. We threw snowballs, ate the snow and jumped around in it. After our snow fix we headed back down and straight to Harewa and to Harewa Camping ground.

Day 4: Hawera to Wellington

Driving time: 3 hours

We made a quick pit stop at Wanganui river mouth to get some very cold and black sand waves. We then cruised along the beautiful coastal road into windy Wellington. We headed straight to Lyall Beach and asked around for the best fish chips shop. We found one a few beaches down. At sunset, we watched the planes land from the cosy warmth of our lounge whilst we sipped on wine. That night we had dinner in the main strip of Wellington.

Day 5: Wellington to Taupo

Driving time: 5 hours

We travelled by night up to Taupo. This was the only time we didn't really plan our stay anyway and ended up parking on a quiet side street and slept there for the night. In Taupo we took a ride in the old boat and saw the Maori rock carvings that aren't actually that old. We only spent half a day in Taupo before heading to Rotorua.

Day 6: Rotorua

Driving time: 1 hour

Hot springs and Polynesian Steam baths. Had a swim by the side of the road in the natural hot springs river. Rolled down hills in giant balls filled with water with OGO Company. Did the slingshot on the mountain as well as sped down the mountain go-karts.

campervan tea break in rotorua

Day 7: Gisborne

Driving time: 5 hours

To get to Gisborne we drove through the mountains. Mainly a day of travel via the Motu Road with a quick stop at Rere falls to enjoy the rockslide and waterfall.

Day 8: Gisborne to Raglan

Driving time: 7 hours

We loved Raglan so much we decide to cross the country in a marathon effort to spend our last 2 days there. We did the East Cape road on the way back which was beautiful. We stopped on the north coast for a swim and at some very isolated beaches and saw lots of sheep farms.

raglan surf new zealand

Day 9: Raglan to Auckland

Driving time: 2.5 hours

We spent the morning in Raglan before sadly handing the keys back to our camper in the afternoon, just in time for our flight back to Australia.

Road Trip Highligths

Where was the best view?
Awakino, Awakino rivermouth looking south to Mt Taranaki at sunset. Pull up anywhere along the deserted beach. 

Picnic spot?
Gisbourne back beaches along the East Cape. Also stopped at the longest wharf in the world and had some sandwiches. 

Where was your favourite place/town?
Raglan. Small town with very nice cafes and boutique shops. Some Italians and French have opened up little cafes with great pizza, cakes and coffee. And of course surfing  the epic left hand point break. 

What was your favourite experience/activity?
Black water rafting in the caves in Waikato region. We've never done anything like it - Climbing into dark caves, freezing cold water, floating down underground rivers in blow up tyres. 

Top highlights? 
- Stopping by the side of the road and taking a dip in the natural hot spring rivers near Rotorua.
- Driving around the East Cape and stopping at isolated beaches and hills.
- Blackwater rafting 
- Snow on Mt Taranaki
- Surfing the awesome west coast coastline.

Best café for coffee?
Outside Cafe, Raglan Town Centre opposite the library (library has free wifi)

Favourite pub/restaurant?
A drink at the Irish Pub in Cuba Street, Wellington.  Then walk to one of the many restaurants nearby. 

Did you have a favourite Holiday Park you stayed in and why?
Geothermal Caravan Park, Rotorua. Hot spring pools for guests.

What would be your top tip for other campervan travellers – a piece of advice?
Have a very loose plan or in other words don't be a stickler to stickiing to your plan. Make turns offs at everything that catches your attention.

Can you share a recipe from something you cooked in the campervan?  
Bully beef curry and rice. Buy a can of bully beef and mix in some onion and your favourite curry powder, fry it in a pan and boil some rice. 

What is your greatest memory of the whole campervan holiday?
Pulling up an Manu Bay, Raglan and opening up the back doors to the sunset and eating cheese and drinking wine.