North Island: Auckland → Wellington

How Long:

12 days - 1200 km


Plenty to offer at all times of year, from bush to beach and everything in between.

Must do:

  • Music festivals galore
  • Dig your own geothermal hot pool at Hot Water Beach
  • White water rafting and Māori culture in Rotorua
  • Wineries and Art Deco design in Hawkes Bay
  • Culture, history, nature and cuisine in Wellington

New Zealand’s North Island offers a whole host of outdoor activities, as well as the perfect balance of city life. While the Auckland area boasts superb summer festivals, compact, charming capital Wellington has some of the best coffee and eateries.

Day 1-3 Auckland - Coromandel (2 h 30 min | 168 km via SH1 & SH25)

Auckland is an awesome city to visit during summer. Explore black sand West Coast beaches, such as Piha or Bethells, or squeeze in a trip to the lively Waiheke Island (only 30 mins by ferry from Auckland CBD) for ziplining, archery, and excellent winery restaurants.

The Coromandel is an easy two-hour drive from Auckland. Once you reach the coast, you’ll feel the laid-back vibe, and enjoy heaps of camping options in your self-contained Big Little Camper. Surf your heart out at Whangamata or take a scenic boat tour from Hahei beach.

We wouldn't leave without a visit to Whangapoua in the north for easy access to the secret gem of New Chums beach. You'll find the epic Earl’s Paradise campsite up on the hill, perfect for a hot shower and a good cuddle with Earl's dog, Monster!

Day 4-6 Coromandel - Rotorua (3h 25 min | 240 km via SH25 & SH5)

Rotorua is the centre of geothermal activity, with bubbling mud pools and plumes of steam erupting from geysers. Explore the Redwoods by foot, mountain bike, or up in the canopy with Redwoods Treewalk for an elevated view. Don’t miss experiencing authentic Māori culture, with live cultural performances, such as the Haka and a meal slow-cooked in traditional Hangi style.

The superb lakes on the outskirts of Rotorua offer epic camping experiences and a break from the hubbub of central Rotorua.

Day 7-10 Rotorua - Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Napier (3h 10 min | 320 km via SH2)

Get up early (make sure you fill up the tank with fuel) and hit the road. Close to Gisborne (Gizzy), take a sharp turn and head to the 60-metre long Rere Rock waterslide, it's free fun at its best! If the timing’s right, hit up New Zealand’s best New Year's Eve music festival, Rhythm & Vines on the beautiful Waiohika Estate. Stop at Wainui beach for some fun waves, or go dive for crayfish along the coast. We highly recommend stopping for coffee at Zephyr in Wainui or lunch at Frank & Albies on Gisborne's main street.

As you continue south down the coast, spend the day in Napier, with its distinctive Art Deco architecture and festival in February.

Hawke's Bay is known for its wineries, cellar door opportunities and delicious food in stunning locations. Park up your campervan and explore this beautiful area by bike. There are some fantastic freedom camping options in Hawke’s Bay (where you can stay up to 3 nights) if you're in a self-contained campervan. Chat to us for our recommendations.

Day 11-12 Napier to Wellington (4h 10 min | 325 km via SH50 & SH1)

Depending on how much time you've got and whether you're racing for that ferry, there's plenty of wild and rugged coastline to explore on the journey south to Wellington.

If spending a few days in Wellington is more your scene, the quirky Capital has a crazy amount of art and culture, coffee and bars to get into. Check out the beer festival held in August each year. Homegrown, featuring (you guessed it) Kiwi artists big and small, is Wellington’s most popular music festival, held on the picturesque waterfront during March or April.

Don't jump on the ferry south without visiting the awe-inspiring Wētā Workshop as well as the Te Papa Museum on the waterfront.

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