7 Day New Zealand North Island Driving Itinerary

by | Mar 9, 2021 | Live Work Play Travel, New Zealand Live Work and Play | 8 comments

Hobbiton is a must visit for Lord of the Rings Fans

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Has New Zealand been calling your name? If you love adventure, hiking, beaches and adrenaline activities, there’s no better place to visit. Those familiar with the country will know that it’s split between two islands – North Island and South Island. While both are spectacular, South Island often gets most of the attention and North Island is sometimes left as an afterthought. This 7 day North Island itinerary will walk you through the best spots to check out and show you just how unique and beautiful this part of New Zealand is!


Getting Around New Zealand


Since New Zealand is a fairly small country with a small population, there aren’t many transit options. With that being said, it’s quite easy to get around and the locals will help you find your way if you happen to get lost.


Travelling North Island by Campervan/Car


Hiring a car or a campervan is a wonderful way to experience the North Island on your own! You’ll have the freedom to stop wherever you please along the way and will wake up to amazing views if you’re sleeping in a van. This option is best if you’re travelling with at least one other person so you can split costs and will have some company along the way! Check here for car and campervan rental pricing and availability.


Travelling North Island by Train


Taking the train is another method you can use to get from one place to another in New Zealand. It’s not the most common option as it can sometimes be the pricier option compared to flying or driving. You can check the ticket prices here.


Travelling North Island by Bus


If you’re planning on travelling solo through the North Island, a hop-on, hop-off bus such as Kiwi Experience or Stray is a great option! The system allows you to travel from certain points within the country and secures a hostel stay the night of, so you don’t have to worry about accommodation ahead of time. Making friends is incredibly easy if you choose one of these options, making it one of the most popular methods for solo travellers to get around the country!


Travelling North Island by Plane


New Zealand has a number of airports and if you prefer to fly in and out of different New Zealand towns, then why not. The major airline in New Zealand is Air New Zealand.


Places to Visit When Travelling Around New Zealand’s North Island


With only a week (maybe more) to explore all that the North Island has to offer, we’re starting in Auckland and travelling down to Wellington before circling back to the starting point!


Day 1 – Auckland


Auckland City With Tall Buildings On A Beautiful Harbour.

Auckland City


Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and there’s plenty to see and do. There are great cafes, restaurants and shopping throughout the city and many tourist attractions to keep you busy. Head to the SkyTower for panoramic views of Auckland, walk around the edge or even jump off – New Zealand is about adventure after all!

You can also hop on public transit to explore Mt. Eden for an easy 2km walk to a stunning view of the city. Mt. Eden is actually a sacred crater that you can see once you reach the top. Just be careful not to fall in! If you’re after a beach day, Mission Bay Beach is one of the closest beaches to the city and it won’t disappoint.

You can also opt to spend the day at Waiheke Island which you can get to by ferry. There are numerous beaches along the island and fun water activities to partake in.

Where to stay in Auckland:

HIT Hostel is a great budget option for accommodation in Auckland.
Auckland City Hotel is a good budget hotel option.
Empire Apartments is good if you prefer an apartment.


Day 2 – Coromandel


Distance to Coromandel: 2.5-hour drive

Coromandel is a must for beach lovers! Walk along Cathedral Cove – a beach with beautiful cliffs and a white rock cavern. Hot Water Beach is another incredible spot for swimming and surfing. What makes it so unique are the natural hot springs that form along the beach when the tide is low! You won’t experience a beach like this anywhere else, so it’s worth checking out.

Where to stay: Anchor Lodge Motel


Day 3 – Rotorua


Distance to Rotorua: 3-hour drive 

Upon leaving Coromandel and en route to Rotorua, you’ll want to stop at a special spot. The Hobbiton movie set from the Lord of the Rings series can be found about 20 minutes from Rotorua. If you’re a fan, you can choose from a few different tour options and explore the entire set! 

Once you get to Rotorua, you may be interested in visiting the Tamaki Maori Village where you can learn about the Maori people of New Zealand and take part in a cultural experience. If you’re interested in other activities, there are many others to choose from. Head over to Te Pui Geothermal Park to see some geysers in action and learn about the geothermal activity surrounding Rotorua. 

Where to stay: Rotorua Downtown Backpackers is a great spot to spend the night in Rotorua as it’s centrally located. Otherwise, you can spend the night at the Tamaki Maori Village. 


Day 4 & 5 – Taupo


Distance to Taupo: 1-hour drive

There’s a lot to do in Taupo so you should account for a few days here! Just before you reach the city, you’ll pass by Huka Falls. Make sure to stop there for a few photos and take in the bright blue water rushing by.

Spend your first day walking along New Zealand’s largest lake – Lake Taupo, or perhaps you’ll want to take a boat ride along the lake for sunset. You’ll be able to see beautiful rock carvings done by the Maori people many years ago.

Extend your stay in Taupo to give skydiving a chance! Don’t worry if you’re not up for the adrenaline rush because you can spend the day at one of many natural or man-made hot springs! There are options that work with any budget and you can even find free natural hot springs a few minute drive from the city.

Where to stay: YHA Taupo is in a great spot within the city and they can help you arrange any activities while you’re there.
Lakefront Lodge Hotel is good budget option for a hotel room.


Day 6 – Tongariro National Park


Distance to Tongariro: 1-hour drive 

Your 7 day New Zealand North Island itinerary wouldn’t be complete without completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! This day hike is part of a World Heritage Site and will take about 6-8 hours to complete.

The hike is unlike any other hike you’ll do in New Zealand with beautiful and uniquely coloured geothermal lakes and volcanic rock! Or just enjoy this beautiful area around Mount Ruapehu and maybe take a flight over this scenic mountain.

Where to stay:
Drive to Wellington after the hike and stay at Nomads Capital Backpackers or Aura Hotel. You’ll be ready for a good night’s rest before your final day in the North Island.


Day 7 – Wellington


Distance to Wellington: 3.5-hour drive

You’ll want to make the most of your day in New Zealand’s capital city! Start your day by heading to the Mount Victoria lookout for a fantastic view of the city. Wellington is home to a range of wineries so you can spend the afternoon enjoying a glass or three of some of New Zealand’s best wine!

Where to stay: Your last night of accommodation will be a train! The overnight train will take you back to Auckland to complete your trip. Or, it could be on New Zealand’s South Island after taking the Inter-Island Ferry. Or you can extend your time in Wellington.

While this 7 day North Island Itinerary is merely scratching the surface of New Zealand, it’s a great place to start.


If you end up having some extra time available to explore the North Island, you can venture further north up to Bay of Islands or Cape Reinga where you’ll stumble upon hundreds of picturesque beaches and learn more about the Maori people. Either way, you’re sure to have an unforgettable trip!


READ MORE: A New Zealand Working Holiday


New Zealand North Island Collage. Auckland City From The Harbour, A Maori With His Tongue Out, Hobbiton House Door, White Water Rafting.

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, Booking.com is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.


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Hi. Sharyn here. Savvy Australian female with a passion for travel and working abroad. I’m on a mission to provide you with my best tips, tricks and hacks to work abroad and travel the world. If I can do it, so can you!  Read more.


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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 


  1. Nicole

    This is a great post. You have a great itinerary planned out.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Thanks. This is a quick and easy itinerary that packs in a lot. If you can, I would suggest you extend your time in New Zealand to experience so much more.

  2. Daniella

    What a great itinerary – I’d love to see all these places. New Zealand is so high on my list of destinations to visit so saving this for the future!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      New Zealand is a such a beautiful place to visit. 7 Days is not enough but it is a start. I hope you enjoy New Zealand when you finally arrive.

  3. Tegan | Why Not Walk Travel Guides

    I am dreaming of a trip to NZ!!! I have always wanted to visit and am hoping to plan a trip soon. I have always wanted to go to Queenstown for all the adventure and hiking there. Thanks so much for your post!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      You will love New Zealand. I am shortly to publish a 10 day South Island Driving Itinerary that will take in Queenstown.

  4. Kathryn

    What a concise guide for New Zealand! Looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      New Zealand is a beautiful place and 7 days really, isn’t enough, but it is a start.


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