New Zealand's North Island: Auckland to Wellington


New Zealand's North Island is a spectacularly diverse destination to explore. Go from stunning seaside cliffs and pristine beaches to volcanoes and giant lakes to towering forests and even a movie set!  The Auckland to Wellington drive is one of the best road trips in New Zealand, check out our itinerary below. 


8 days


Auckland to Wellington


Best Time of the Year

November to March


  • Cathedral Cove
  • Te Puia
  • Whakarewarewa Forest
  • Cape Palliser
  • Castlepoint

The Journey


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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Day 1
Auckland to The Coromandel Peninsula

Distance 212km - Driving Time 3 hours 45 minutes

After collecting your campervan from our Auckland branch, head south and east through Thames. Following the coast-hugging road, all the way will provide you with stunning views of the sea, Pohutukawa trees, and pebble beaches. Heading past Coromandel Town, you will ascend along the cliff edge to drive past lush green countryside, looking down to white crashing waves.

Port Jackson is about remote as it gets. The DOC campsite is pretty simple, but with your campervan, you are sure to have everything you need for an amazing night spent overlooking the pristine beach.

Where to stay: Port Jackson DOC Campsite

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Day 2
Explore the Coromandel Peninsula

Distance 109km - Driving Time 2 hours 40 minutes

Start your second day with an early rise and head out to Port Fletcher to begin the Coromandel Coastal Walk. This walk is not for the faint-hearted, although it follows an easy grade, this is a long walk and will take a big portion of your day. With options of a 20 km, 7-hour return route, or a 10km one-way route with a shuttle on the other end, you can choose the challenge that best suits you.

Beginning at Fletcher Bay, the walk sets off across farmland, over a fence, and follows an upper track leading you to pristine native bush, overlooking sparkling water below.

If you've packed your bikes for this trip, try the 8km mountain bike trail instead! This is suitable for advanced riders as the track is steep and can be slippery.

If you took the 10km Coastal Walkway route, head to Coromandel Town for some well-deserved refreshments after your hard work before heading to New Chum Beach to start the afternoon of beach hopping. The beach is a bit of a walk from the car park, but when the weather's right it is arguably one of the best beach spots on the North Island.

An hour's drive south is another hidden gem. Nearby to Hahei, you will find the incredible Cathedral Cove, well known for its feature in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.The walk down to this cove is incredible, descend a path through lush green bush whilst looking out over the cliff to off-shore islands.

Where to stay: Hahei Holiday Resort

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Day 3
Coromandel Peninsula to Matamata

Distance 180km - Driving Time 2 hours 40 minutes

Waking up in Hahei is an incredible experience – we don’t blame you if you decide to park up here for a few days just to enjoy the sheer beauty of this spot and the places that surround it.

If you are hitting the road, begin the two-hour drive to Matamata, also known as the access point for the Hobbiton Movie Set. As a detour, we recommend a visit to the Karangahake Gorge to check out the gold mining tunnels. A visit to the movie set will take you to a 1250-acre working farm. You can visit on an organised tour, with a set time slot.

Head to Brock's Place for the evening – the perfect location to stay after a Hobbiton visit. Find yourself on a peaceful paddock, surrounded by a beautiful view, and spend a tranquil evening in your cosy campervan.

Where to stay: Brock's Place

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Day 4
Matamata to Rotorua

Distance 103km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Continue your travels south to the home of world-famous geothermal springs and a hub for Māori culture, Rotorua. With an abundance of forest trails, Māori cultural sites and experiences, lakes, and geothermal wonders it will be hard to limit your time here to just one day.

With only a short drive from Matamata, you will have all day to lose yourself in the experiences Rotorua has to offer. Start your day off with a walk through Whakarewarewa Forest, exploring under a canopy of Redwoods before heading to the twin Blue and Green Lakes.

After a morning spent walking, it's time to unwind with the iconic geothermal pools. Polynesian Spa is New Zealand's leading thermal spa, offering relaxing hot mineral spring bathing. Choose the best experience to suit your needs and spend the afternoon soaking and overlooking incredible views.

Rotorua is one of the best places in New Zealand to experience Māori culture. Te Puia is famous for its vibrant cultural performances and the world-famous Pohutu geyser, boiling mud pools, and wood carving and weaving schools. Visiting Te Puia is the perfect activity to end your day in Rotorua before heading to your accommodation for the evening.

Where to stay: Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park

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Day 5
Rotorua to Taupo

Distance 101km - Driving Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Heading further south towards Lake Taupo, be sure to make a stop at Huka Falls to witness the phenomenon of natural hydropower. With more than 220,000 litres of water barreling over an 11 metre high waterfall per second, this is a must-see sight! Explore the falls via a foot bridge right at the top, or for the thrill-seekers try out the Huka Falls Jet and zip through the river to the falls.

Lake Taupo is another destination well known for outdoor activities. Defined by an ancient volcanic landscape with the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, Taupo's incredible natural features and scenic attractions are truly one of a kind. Spend your day exploring with one of the many nature walks and tracks. If you're here on a sunny day, consider taking a boat ride to view the giant Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo, hailed as one of the most extraordinary contemporary Māori artworks in New Zealand.

Spend the afternoon unwinding at the Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa, an incredibly scenic and relaxing destination.

Where to stay: Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park

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Day 6
Taupo to Napier

Distance 131km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 minutes

A visit to Napier will provide you with something completely different from what you have seen during this road trip. After a huge earthquake in 1931 in Hawkes Bay, Napier has been completely rebuilt and restored in the Art Deco style.

Home to many fine wineries, restaurants, bars, and cafes today is the perfect day to spend relaxing and enjoying the culture of the town. Visit the many boutique stores as well as the Sea Wall murals painted around the city.

The restored Marine Parade is a thriving playground, a scenic bridge that takes you from the city to the Pacific Ocean. With a wealth of family-friendly activities, a visit to Napier is sure to keep the whole family entertained for hours.

Where to stay: Napier Beach Kiwi Holiday Park

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Day 7
Napier to Wairarapa Coast

Distance 484km - Driving Time 6 hours 40 minutes

The journey from Napier to the Wairarapa Coast and Cape Palliser is a long drive but is sure to provide you with some unreal scenery. With fewer big-ticket stops along this route, enjoy the beautiful drive through New Zealand's countryside as you approach the southernmost point of the North Island.

As you arrive in Masterton, take a left to the iconic Castlepoint – this coastal walk along to Castle Rock is a worthwhile detour before getting back on the road to Cape Palliser. This drive is incredibly sparse and will take you through the scenery of rough rocks, black sand beaches, as well as one of the largest fur seal colonies in New Zealand!

The seals can be spotted from the side of the road looking below to rocks, but you can also walk over for a closer look. There are a few walks around this area as well as a steep climb up to the lighthouse. With not much else to do in this area, spend the day relaxing and reflecting on your trip so far.

Where to stay: Waimeha Camping Village

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Day 8
Wairarapa Coast to Wellington

Distance 132km - Driving Time 2 hours

From Cape Palliser, the drive to Wellington is not too far. New Zealand's capital city provides you with so many things to do and see. Spend some time at Te Papa, learning stories of Aotearoa through innovative and interactive exhibitions that are fascinating for all ages. Ride the Cable Car from bustling Lambton Quay to Kelburn and enjoy panoramic views over the city and harbour.

Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Weta Workshops assist with crafting some of the world's biggest films, try a few of the incredible eateries dotted around the town, and just take in the incredible culture that this city is so rich in.