New Zealand: 9 Day North Island Road Trip

Editor’s note:

While we typically try to focus on family-friendly trips here on Terra Trekkers, this was a vacation we took that was deliciously free from children. My husband and I left our toddler son home with his grandparents while we soaked up the sun in Fiji and New Zealand in November 2013. I was seven months pregnant with our daughter Emma so it wasn’t exactly a wild vacation in the land that claims to have invented extreme sports, but it was lovely nonetheless. This trip could easily be configured for families with children that are 10+ years. The cave experience of Waitomo and Rotorua would be particularly interesting for kids. Auckland also has a lot to offer families. 

This nine-day road trip through NZ’s North Island encompassed cosmopolitan Auckland, gorgeous scenery of the Waipoua Forest and Tongariro, and the fiery geothermal pits of Rotorua. This trip is heavy on hiking (or tramping, as the Kiwis say), boating, and enjoying NZ’s natural beauty.  For those keen on spending more time in Auckland, omitting Whanganua/Tongariro and instead heading straight to Waitomo (and then back to Auckland) would allow more time for exploring the city. 

New Zealand North Island Road Trip Itinerary


Trip Details:

-We flew both in and out of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.

-We rented a car. Kiwis drive on the right hand side. If you’re American, do yourself a favor and be sure to rent an automatic, not a manual.

-Total miles: 1,000

-We stayed in hotels. Some were rented in advance; we also had good luck renting them on the day-of. Check sites like for good deals.

-Food, particularly in restaurants, was expensive. We stayed at hotels with free breakfasts, packed picnics for lunches, and generally went out (or got take-away) for dinner.




9 Day North Island New Zealand Itinerary

Click on the links for photos and additional trip details (hotels, activities, restaurants).

Day 1: Flew in from Fiji. Rented car, drove into the center of Auckland. Walked around. Spent 1st night in downtown Auckland. [Auckland Post]

Day 2: Drove north along the west coast, visiting and hiking in the Waipoua Forest. Arrived in Russell (Bay of Islands). Spent night. [Waipoua Forest Post]

Day 3: Went on a dolphin cruise. Swam with wild dolphins!! Spent night in Russell. [Russell and the Bay of Islands]

Day 4: Drove down east coast, through Auckland and went hiking in the KarangahakeGorge. It was amazing. Kept driving and arrived in Rotorua. Spent night. [Karangahake Gorge Post]

Day 5: Visited the Rainbow Springs Wildlife Park and Agrodome. Spent night in Rotorua. [Rotorua Post]

Day 6: Hiked through Wai O Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. Drove through Taupo and went on a short hike through Tongariro National Park. Spent the night in Whanganui National Park. [Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks]

Day 7: Drove through Whanganui National Park. Wished we’d done a jet boat/canoe tour to the Bridge to Nowhere. Continued along the south and west coasts to the Waitomo Caves area. Spent the night at the Waitomo Lodge Motel. [Glow Worm Caves Post]

Day 8: Did the spellbound glow worm caves tour in Waitomo before finishing up for the day in Auckland.

Day 9: Visited the Maritime Museum and One Tree Hill Park in Auckland. Flew home.


Also, click here for an overview of our planning process.


New Zealand North Island Road Trip


Up Next:

Part 2: Auckland: the cosmopolitan heart of the North Island

All New Zealand Posts:

Part 1: New Zealand Travel Route: The North Island in 9 Days
Part 2: Auckland: the cosmopolitan heart of the North Island
Part 3: Waipoua Forest: giant trees and pretty views
Part 4: Bay of Islands: Swimming with Dolphins
Part 5: Karangahake Gorge: an abandoned gold mine in a stunningly beautiful valley
Part 6: Rotorua: The Yellowstone of New Zealand
Part 7: Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks
Part 8: Waitomo: Glow Worms Galore! 
Part 9: Planning Your New Zealand Driving Tour

Also: Fiji Babymoon

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