North Island Highlights
New Zealand’s North Island offers adventures for everyone, from the subtropical climate and history of the Far North to the geothermal wonders of the central plateau. This is a land of active volcanoes, beautiful sandy beaches, rolling hills and sprawling farmlands. Our North Island Highlights journey starts and ends in our biggest city Auckland, where most international visitors begin their New Zealand experience.
We recommend booking minimum 5 nights accommodation.
6 Day North Island Self-Drive Itinerary
Day 1: Auckland to Hamilton
Day 2: Hamilton to Rotorua
Day 3: Rotorua to Gisborne
Day 4: Gisborne to Napier
Day 5: Napier to Taupo
Day 6: Taupo to Auckland
Day 1: Auckland to Hamilton via Waitomo Caves (3.75 hours)
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a must-do experience in the North Island. There are several different ways to see the caves, ranging from a gentle boat journey to an extreme abseiling descent perfect for adrenalin junkies. After your time in the caves, head to Hamilton where you can explore the beautiful Hamilton Gardens and settle in for the evening at your Hamilton accommodation. There are some excellent restaurants and bars around Hood and Victoria Streets.
Day 2: Hamilton to Rotorua (1.5 hours)
From Hamilton you travel east to Rotorua, the land of bubbling mud pools, spitting geysers and natural hot springs. It is accompanied by a distinct sulphur smell – a little like rotten eggs! Rotorua is also famous for its Maori culture and we highly recommend an evening cultural performance and dinner (pick up from your motel is usually included).
Day 3: Rotorua to Gisborne (4.5 hours)
Start your day with some adventure! Rotorua offers plenty of ways to get your heart racing, including white water rafting, zorbing, bungy, mountain biking and zip lining. If that sounds a little extreme, there’s also some great walk, sightseeing and spa options and the Agrodome Farm Show and Gondola are popular activities when travelling with children. However, don’t leave it too late to journey onwards to Gisborne, as this is your longest drive. Our Gisborne motel is easy to find on Gladstone Road.
Day 4: Gisborne to Napier (3 hours)
As the first place on earth to see the sun (or so we like to claim!), Gisborne is the ideal place to put your feet up – enjoy the local wines, hit the beach or take a gentle bicycle tour around the vineyards. A three hour drive down the east coast brings you to the art-deco influenced town of Napier, which was rebuilt after the fatal 1931 earthquakes.
Day 5: Napier to Taupo (2 hours)
Your final night is spent in Taupo. The lake here was caused by a supervolcanic eruption approximately 26,500 years ago, and is the size of Singapore. We recommend a boat cruise or sail across the lake to see the well-known Maori carvings. For the younger at heart there’s skydiving, bungy and jetboating – and don’t miss out on Huka Falls, just a five minute drive from the Bella Vista Taupo motel.
Day 6: Taupo to Auckland (4 hours)
Break up your return drive to Auckland with a visit to Hobbiton - for a true Lord of the Rings experience. Set on picturesque farmland, the two hour tour is very popular with movie fans. As an alternative route, you could choose to drive from Taupo to Wellington (approx. 4-5 hours).
Please note, this is a sample itinerary only providing an illustration as to how a North Island self-drive holiday using Bella Vista accommodation might look. Driving times are shown in brackets and are estimated using AA Travel calculations.