7 Days In The North Island

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Read about '7 Days In The North Island' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

Taking on the entire North Island in just seven days can be a huge undertaking, but don’t worry we’ve put together this handy guide breaking it down into ‘North’ and ‘South’ 7 day options. Both taking a total of 7 days and both allowing for more time to see the best of the North Island without spending all of your time in the car.

Head North to the stunningly beautiful waters and beaches of the Northland and Bay of Islands regions, or South and go on an adventure to the Hobbiton village from the Lord of the Rings, experience the thermal delights of Rotorua and unwind on the Coromandel Peninsula – the choice is yours!

With only 7 days to spend in the North Island most people will tend to base themselves from Auckland or fly into Auckland, so we have begun both of these itinerary options from Auckland, but feel free to adapt the order of events to suit your requirements. 

Auckland Skyline

7 Day North Island Itinerary – North Of Auckland

Exploring the top of the North Island is one of those must-do experiences for anyone who lives in New Zealand or is just visiting. This trip is just enough time to take in the best of Northland including Auckland, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Cape Reinga and the stunning Bay of Islands.

Day 1 Auckland 

Auckland to Gulf Harbour 45 minutes (tonight)

Assuming you have already arrived in Auckland it is a good idea to spend some time exploring the city sights on the first day before getting underway. Many of the usual things people like to do are centrally located and easy to find – see below for our top 3 things to do in Auckland.

Once you have finished exploring Auckland city it’s off to enjoy the drive up the coast to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and Gulf Harbour for the night. This beautiful peninsula has a variety of accommodation to choose from and you get to wake up to the beautiful Hauraki Gulf on your doorstep! The drive is only 45 minutes and is easily done after nightfall so don’t feel like you have to rush through the day of fun in Auckland.

Top 3 Things to Do In Auckland

Realistically you could spend much more than just a day in Auckland, but if a road trip is your plan then it’s not really Auckland you’ve come to see is it? With the limited timeframe in mind, we have narrowed down the three best things to do in Auckland so you squeeze the best of the city into one day.

1. Auckland Sky Tower

If you’re looking for the best views then the Sky Tower is the place to be! Take a ride in the lift to the viewing deck, grab a coffee from the café or enjoy a long lunch in the famous Orbit restaurant as it rotates giving you uninterrupted 360 degree views while you eat. Or if its adventure you prefer then how about jumping off the Sky Tower? Or taking a walk around the outside edge? Then check out the SkyJump or SkyWalk while you are there!

Highlights
  • Orbit Restaurant
  • Sky Jump and Sky Walk
  • The Viewing Deck

2. Devonport Ferry

Taking the ferry across the harbour to nearby Devonport (15mins) is a great way to break up the day and get out on the water for a while. Devonport is a historic naval seaside village complete with maritime sightseeing walks, great cafes, arts, craft and more!

Highlights
  • The Flagstaff Art Gallery
  • Fort Takapuna
  • The Ferry Ride!

3. Auckland Waterfront

Taking a stroll along the Auckland waterfront to enjoy some good food, light-hearted fun in the sun and to watch the boats come and go is one of the best things to do in Auckland – and it’s free! Depending on the time you have available explore the Wynyard Quarter for outdoor fun in the sun and the cafes, bars and restaurants of the Viaduct Harbour precinct for the best places to eat.

Highlights
  • Wynyard Quarter
  • Queens Wharf
  • Viaduct Harbour

Day 2 The Whangaparaoa Peninsula And Warkworth

Warkworth to Whangarei 2 hours (option for travel tonight or tomorrow)

Having taken an early morning walk along the beach and stopped for a leisurely breakfast and coffee at one of the beachside cafes, or explored the Shakespear Regional Park at the tip of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula it’s time to travel up the coast a little to Warkworth and enjoy a visit to Kawau Island, the famous Sheepworld and some of the excellent wineries the area is famous for.

There are plenty of accommodation options in and around Warkworth and Matakana or it is approximately a 2 hour drive from Matakakana to Whangarei – Northlands largest city. Whether you make the trip tonight or in the morning may depend on how much you enjoyed sampling the Matakakana wines!

Top 3 Things To Do In Warkworth And Matakana

The Warkworth/Matakana area is located opposite the picturesque Omaha Bay and Kawau Bay at the northern tip of the Hauraki Gulf. Here are our top three things to do in Warkworth and Matakana.

1. Kawau Island

Kawau Island is located just off the coast from Snells Beach and Sandspit and is a great way to get off the beaten track and out on to the water. Enjoy the relative seclusion of this beautiful Island via regular ferry service, charter boat or on the Royal Mail Run Cruise. Book an enjoyable ferry ride across to the Island for just $80 per adult and $44 per child return.

Highlights
  • The Royal Mail Run Cruise
  • Exploring the Island of course!
  • The Historical Mansion House

2. Matakana Wineries

Matakana is an area famous for its award-winning wines, so if you are interested in finding that perfect drop there are a variety of wineries located in the area along with some great winery restaurants that would make for an excellent spot for a long lunch.

Highlights
  • Matavino Vineyard and Cellar Door
  • Matakana Estate
  • Plume The Restaurant

3. Sheepworld

No visit to Northland is complete without stopping by Sheepworld! This interactive farming experience gives great insight into the world of farming here in New Zealand complete with baby animals and working sheepdogs.

Highlights
  • The sheepdogs
  • Feeding the lambs
  • Eel and emu feeding

Day 3 Whangarei

Whangarei to Paihia 1 hour (tonight)

Arriving in Whangarei you will find plenty of places to stay, eat and explore. If you have been roughing it a bit it’s a nice opportunity to find a good place to stay to recharge the batteries before the big drive up the Cape tomorrow. Look out for the famous Abby Caves, try your hand at tree climbing or restock, refuel and just enjoy a bit of relaxation for the day.

From Whangarei, it’s on to Paihia tonight and an early morning start at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for a New Zealand history lesson, then it’s on to explore some of the stunning beaches, and every kind of water activity you can think of!

Top 3 Things To Do In Whangarei

Whangarei is the largest city in the Northland region, you will find all of the usual amenities and plenty to see and do, need help deciding? Here are our top 3 things to do in Whangarei.

1. Adventure Forest

Zip lining, climbing and obstacle courses appeal to you? Then Adventure Forest is the place to spend the next 3 hours. Take on the challenge of the specially designed 12 treetop courses catering to different abilities and ages and enjoy the fresh air and dizzying heights!

Highlights
  • The stunning location out under the trees!
  • It’s free for spectators
  • The Possum and Pukeko courses for the kids!

2. Abbey Caves

Just 10 minutes’ drive from Whangarei you will find the famous Abbey Caves. These natural rock formations are set amongst beautiful native forest surrounds and there are three caves to explore altogether. You will need appropriate footwear/clothing and a torch or headlamp if you wish to explore any deeper than the immediate openings.

Highlights
  • The walk to get to the caves
  • The Glowworms!
  • The Middle Cave – our favourite!

3. AH Reed Memorial Park

Want to check out the magnificent Kauri trees that everyone is talking about? Then the AH Reed Memorial Park is a good way to explore these mighty trees without having to travel far. There are a number of loop walks around the Park to choose from and you can even experience two canopy walks on raised walkways to get a closer look.

Highlights
  • The Alexander McKinnon Canopy Loop Walkway
  • The Elizabeth Alexander Canopy Loop Walkway
  • The Paranui Falls

Day 4 Paihia And The Bay Of Islands

No travel today!

Whether you are here to fish, swim, cruise or paddle the Bay of Islands has it all and in a grand way! Take a look below for our top three activities in Paihia and always make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment. We are staying the night in Paihia tonight so pack in as much fun as you can – and book in some more fun for tomorrow morning!

While you are in the Bay of Islands don’t miss the chance to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – a definite bucket list activity. The facility offers an excellent chance to learn a little about our ancestors and the history of this country –  one for the kids, it will be something they always remember. Aim to spend the morning at the Treaty Grounds and then its time to hit the water for the afternoon!

Bay Of Islands

Top 3 Things To Do In Paihia

Other than the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Paihia is perhaps best known as the gateway to the beautiful Bay of Islands. Swimming with dolphins, diving, on a cruise, jet skiing, kayaking, snorkelling, swimming and fishing are just some of the awesome ways to explore the Bay of Islands and all it has to offer!

1. Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Upon arrival in Paihia, you will want to make a beeline for the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to ensure you have as much time as you need to explore this wonderful place in New Zealand history. The Treaty Grounds guided Tours depart regularly throughout the day and are highly recommended.

Highlights
  • The ceremonial war canoe
  • The on-site carving studio
  • Guided tours

2. Swimming With Dolphins

The Bay of Islands is the perfect location for the once in a lifetime opportunity of swimming with dolphins. Swimming with these magnificent and intelligent creatures – Bay of Islands Bottlenose Dolphins – will be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip. In the Bay of Islands waters you’ll most likely come across Bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and very occasionally Orcas.

Highlights
  • The dolphins of course!
  • The scenic boat cruise
  • The Hole in the Rock

3. Car Ferry To Russell

No trip to Paihia would be complete without taking the ferry across to Russell and taking the car ferry is just a bonus! The car ferry crossing departs from Opua and takes about ten minutes to reach Russell. Having your vehicle in Russell will mean you are able to explore and seek out some of the more interesting sights a little further afield.

Highlights
  • You can take your car!
  • Flag Staff Hill Lookout
  • Oneroa Bay Beach

Day 5 Epic Roadie To Cape Reinga

Paihia to Cape Reinga 3 hours, plus Cape Reinga to Kaitaia 1.5 hrs

Staying the night in Paihia will mean you get to wake up to the beautiful Bay of Islands sunshine and enjoy some time near the water or on one last activity before we hit the road and head inland for a while on the longest drive of this road trip up to Cape Reinga and the tip of the North Island. So stock up the car, stretch the legs and get ready for a day of driving on this one!

Having visited the Cape Reinga Lighthouse and grabbed a selfie of you at the top of the North Island, and slid down some sand dunes its back to the car we go and down to Kaitaia for the night for some rest and relaxation.

Top 3 Things To Do At Cape Reinga

The tip of the North Island is famous for three things – Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach and the awesome surf! See if you can tick all three of them off today!

1. Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Checking out the iconic Lighthouse is a must-do when visiting Cape Reinga. Just 300 metres from the car park, the walk to the lighthouse is easily accessible and pushchair friendly. The views from the lighthouse include being able to watch the currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide in gush of broken water, at times causing sea spray and foam high into the air.

Highlights
  • The Cape Reinga Lighthouse
  • Amazing ocean views!
  • Historical and cultural significance

2. Ninety Mile Beach

No, it’s not quite 90 miles long, but it is still one of the most memorable beaches in NZ! At the far end of 90 Mile Beach, sandboarding the giant sand dunes on boogie boards is all the go. Sand boards are available for hire at around $15 each from various local operators, look out for the Te Paki Stream Sand Dunes for the best rides.

Highlights
  • Sandboarding of course!
  • Cheap board hire
  • Fantastic views!

3. Surfing Cape Reinga

Said to have one of the world’s best left-hand breaks, 90 Mile Beach has always been a popular spot with avid surfers. The long stretch of exposed coastline makes it easy to find waves suited for all abilities. Ahipara Bay and Shipwreck Bay at the very southern end of the beach are the best places to head for if you are looking for the best breaks for all levels, you can hire boards from the local surf school.

Highlights
  • Affordable board hire
  • Great surf!
  • Stunning beaches!

Day 6 Kaitaia

No travel today!

Having reached Kaitaia late last night you probably haven’t had time to have a look around – good news – there is no driving today and its all about rest and relaxation! Kaitaia is a great place to recharge and relax after your epic roadie yesterday, so sit back relax and take a break today. These are our top suggestions for just going with the flow in Kaitaia, or feel free to just make it up as you go – the day is all yours.

Top Three Things To Do In Kaitaia

Whether you like to sit back and enjoy the sunshine with a good book, or are a bit more of an active relaxer Kaitaia has something for everyone!

1. Te Ahu Multi-Functional Centre

This one-stop-shop is a museum, cafe, cinema, library and information centre all rolled into one! Enjoy the interactive displays, catch a movie and grab a bite to eat without even having to move the car. The Te Ahu Centre is located on the corner of State Highway 1 and Matthews Avenue, Kaitaia, and also holds a regular series of events throughout the year.

Highlights

2. Kaitaia Walkway

Want to check out the famous Kauri trees and see what all the fuss is about? Then the Kaitaia Walkway is a great way to do it. The walkway begins at the end of Larmer Road, car parking is available. The entire walk is around 4 km long, and there are extension options available.

Highlights
  • Diggers Valley views
  • The giant Kauri
  • Beautiful forest surrounds

3. Okahu Estate Winery

If an afternoon of wine tasting is more to your liking then the Okahu Estate Cellar Door wine tasting might be the one for you! Sample some of the award-winning Okahu range and enjoy the serene surroundings on the six-acre estate vineyard. The Okahu Estate Winery is located 3.5 km from Kaitaia along Awarora Road, check the website for opening hours before you go.

Highlights
  • The award-winning wines – both Okahu and Shipwreck Bay brands
  • The stunning sunsets
  • Tastings are free!

Day 7 Back to Auckland

Kaitaia to Auckland 5 hours

After enjoying a quiet day in Kaitaia, it’s up and on the road early this morning. Today it’s all about heading home – it’s time to make your way back to Auckland for the end of this epic road trip. Don’t worry this doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the car all day – we have worked out three of the best places to stop on the way home, see below. Or you have caught the travel bug and want to carry on take a look below for our 7 day road trip south of Auckland.

Things To Do On The Way Back To Auckland

Take your time with the drive home and make it all about the journey rather than the destination today, we reccomend Dargaville, Te Hana and Gibbs Farm for three great places to stop on the way but there are plenty of other choices.

1. Dargaville

The last good-sized township you will find on the West coast of Northland, Dargaville is a great place to stretch the legs and refuel – both the car and yourselves! Stick around a while and see an authentic Maori Waka and some shipwreck relics including the mast of the famous Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship at the local Dargaville Museum. Or take a unique ride on the historic Northern Wairoa River railway lines in a self-drive rail converted golf cart with Dargaville Rail & River Tours.

Highlights
  • Dargaville Museum
  • Dargaville Rail & River Tours
  • The Woodturners Kauri Gallery and Studio

2. Te Hana Te Ao Marama Maori Cultural Centre

Just an hour out from Auckland on State Highway 1 you will come across the tiny settlement of Te Hana, which is home to the Te Hana Te Ao Marama Maori Cultural Centre. This is a great place to stop for lunch on the home stretch of your epic roadie around the top of the North Island. You will find a replica Maori village to explore, and awesome hangi lunch, art gallery, café and cultural performance.

Highlights
  • Replica Maori Village
  • Hangi and cultural performance
  • Ahi Kaa Gallery

3. Gibbs Farm

From Te Hana, we recommend taking the State Highway 16 turnoff at nearby Wellford to Gibbs Farm if you have the time. Gibbs Farm is a privately owned outdoor art gallery spanning 400 hectares on the Kaipara Coast. The farm is home to the largest collection of outdoor sculptures in NZ with contributions from many local artists including Graham Bennett, Chris Booth, Daniel Buren, Bill Culbert and Neil Dawson. Advance bookings are required.

Highlights
  • Neil Dawson’s Horizon sculpture
  • Jeff Thompson’s Giraffe
  • Zhan Wang’s Floating Island of Immortals

Having completed your 7 days in the North of the North Island it’s probably time to head home – or you could take a look at our 7 days in the south of the North Island below and make it 14 days!

 

7 Day South Of Auckland Itinerary

Prefer to head south and explore the thermal delights of Rotorua, the Lord of the Rings sites in the Waikato and follow the surf to the sunny Hawkes Bay and Gisborne? Then our 7 day itinerary for South of Auckland is the one for you! Read on for all the best places to see and the top things to do in the North Island.

Day 1 Hobbiton (Matamata) and Waitomo Caves (Hamilton)

Auckland to Hobbiton (Matamata) 2 hours, Hobbiton to Rotorua 1 hour (tonight)

While we all love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, not all of us have been to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set on location in Matamata. The hobbit-sized set includes Hobbit holes, The Mill and the Green Dragon Inn along with guided commentary offering behind the scenes insight into the making of the iconic movies.

After you have finished Hobbiting for the day it is a good idea to continue on to Rotorua for the night, allowing you to wake refreshed and ready to get your day of adventure underway!

Waitomo Caves

Top Three Things To Do At Hobbiton, Matamata

For all those movie fans out there Hobbiton is going to be the ultimate highlight of your North Island road trip! Here are the top 3 things to do at Hobbiton.

1. Green Dragon Inn

The fully functional Green Dragon Inn comes complete with roaring rustic fire, and complimentary beverage! For all those hardcore movie fans out there you will find the Green Dragon Inn presented exactly as it appeared in the movies and there is even the chance to purchase some ‘traditional fare’ and dine at the Inn.

Highlights
  • The Hobbit style food
  • Attention to detail in the sets
  • The free drink!

2. Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Explore the Hobbiton Movie favourites such as the Green Dragon Inn, Hobbit Holes and wander the paths just as the Hobbits did in the Lord Of the Rings Trilogy. These popular day-time tours depart at 9.30 am, 10.45 am, 12 pm, 1.15 pm and 2.30 pm daily. Allow approximately 2 hours for the tour. Tours cost $89 per adult, and $44 per child (up to 16 years of age). Younger children (under the age of 8) are free!

Highlights
  • Green Dragon Inn
  • The Mill
  • Informative commentary

3. Evening Tour and Banquet Feast

Take this unique opportunity to explore the Hobbiton Shire by night and see the set lit up as if the Hobbits were at home enjoying their evening by the fireside. The tour includes a fully catered Banquet Feast at the Green Dragon Inn. Tours cost $199 per adult, $162 per child and $104 per younger child (5-8 years), pre-schoolers are free. Allow approximately 4 hours for the tour, check availability on the website (booking ahead is a must), tours usually depart about 5.45 pm.

Highlights
  • Green Dragon Inn
  • The Hobbit holes all lit up for the evening
  • The Banquet Feast of course!

Day 2 Rotorua

No travel today!

Having spent the night in Rotorua it’s a good idea to get up early and get the day underway as there is a lot to do! Rotorua is known for its awesome range of tourist activities and geothermal sights and sounds there is sure to be something to suit every taste.

Zorbing, hurtling downhill on the Luge, taking a mud bath, bungy jumping, white water rafting, swooping, jet boating, and soaking away your aches and pains in the thermally heated waters are just a few of the activities on offer in Rotorua! How do you choose? Well, to help you out we have picked out our top 3 – see below.

Top 3 Things To Do In Rotorua

Struggling to pick out the best activity to do in Rotorua? Here are our top 3 choices.

1. Redwoods Treewalk

Make like the Royals and explore the beautiful stand of ancient Redwood trees. Taking the Redwoods Treewalk adds a little extra to the experience as you walk specially constructed platforms high above the forest floor giving you a bird’s eye view of the beautiful surrounds. Allow around 40 minutes to complete the walk.

Highlights
  • Fully accessible walkways designed for all ages
  • The 118 year old trees of course!
  • Stunning views of the Redwood canopy

2. Skyline Gondola And The Luge

Heading on over to the Skyline Gondola is a great way to experience what Rotorua is all about. Taking the Gondola up the hill you will not only get to see some wonderful views out over the city, at the top you can access the purpose-built Luge Track, Mountain Bike Park, and the Zoom Ziplines – something for everyone! The Luge is our top pick with three different track levels to choose from, bends, twists, dips and even a tunnel!

Highlights
  • The Luge – one ride is never enough!
  • Zoom Ziplines
  • Mountain Bike Park

3. Velocity Valley

Another great destination attraction, Velocity Valley provides a variety of adrenaline pumping activities to suit everyone. Choose from the Agrojet custom designed jet boating experience, Freefall Xtreme wind tunnel, the superhuman Swoop swing and the unique Shweeb Racer! Booking ahead is a must, pricing is currently set at $55 per activity.

Highlights
  • Jet boating
  • Swoop Swing
  • Shweeb racing

Day 3 Taupo

Rotorua to Taupo 1 hour

After an adrenaline pumping day in Rotorua, Taupo is the destination for today – but it’s not all about getting there let’s enjoy the journey as we stop by some of the best attractions on the way. So grab your morning coffee and let’s hit the road!

First stop is the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland for some bubbling mud and geyser action, then it’s on to the epic Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon walkway before arriving at Lake Taupo for an evening of relaxation at the Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa.

River Waikato, Taupo

Top 3 Things To Do On The Way To Taupo

Rotorua to Taupo is a popular route for many traveller when exploring the North Island, the scenic drive offers beautiful lanscapes tranforming from farmland to hills to the desert to mountains there are some stunning photo ops on the way. This leg of the trip is going to be an eventful one with three great ideas for an action packed day below.

1. Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

You simply can’t visit the Bay of Plenty area without stopping by the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. This unique geothermal area is home to the famous Lady Knox Geyser, bubbling mud pools, steaming waterways and interesting rock formations and is just 20 minutes along the Rotorua – Taupo Highway.

Highlights
  • Lady Knox Geyser (10.15 am daily)
  • Stunningly aqua coloured waterways
  • The big mud pool!

2. Huka Falls And Craters Of The Moon Walkway

Our next stop (35 minutes along the same road) is the epic Huka Falls. These falls are free to visit and a must-do on your way to Taupo. The sheer force of the water as it channels through the narrow rock is very impressive, along with the penetrating sound given off by the water as you near the viewing bridge and platform. Or you can book a river cruise or jet boating experience to see the falls from the river below. If you have time and want to stretch the legs 5 minutes up the road you will find the Craters of the Moon walkway – for another look at some of the local geothermal activity.

Highlights
  • The bridge across the falls
  • Jet Boating tour
  • River Cruise

3. Wairakei Terraces And Thermal Health Spa

The waters and clay soils of the Wairakei area were historically valued by Maori for their healing and therapeutic benefits. The Wairakei Terraces Thermal Spa offers you the chance to soak in the hot thermal waters just like the Maori did all those years ago – what better way to finish the day! Entry to the pools is just $25 per person.

Highlights
  • Range of pools (and temperatures!)
  • Optional extras such as Hot Stone Massage
  • The relaxing and serene environment 

Day 4 Napier And Gisborne

Taupo to Napier 2 hours, Napier to Gisborne 3.5 hours

Today requires the largest portion of driving required in one day for this road trip so it pays to get an early start and plan for a late breakfast/brunch when you get to Napier. After you have refuelled both you and your vehicle in Napier there is time to explore a little before heading up the coast to Gisborne for the night. 

Top 3 Things To Do In Napier and Gisborne

Art Deco is the theme for Napier, and sunrise is the goal for Gisborne, throw in some stingrays and you’ve got yourself an epic adventure!

1. Vintage Car City Tour – Napier

Napier is known for its art-deco style architecture and quirky buildings and taking the time to explore the city streets is a great way to get a feel for the place. Taking a Vintage Car Tour just adds to the experience and will push your day from excellent up to extraordinary!

Highlights
  • The vintage cars of course!
  • The Art Deco Centre
  • The Municipal Theatre

2. Reef Ecology Tour With Stingrays – Gisborne

The Reef Ecology Tours from the team at Dive Tatapouri is a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed. The tour takes you out on the reef at low tide (complete with walking stick and waders) to interact with the wild Short Tail Stingrays, Eagle Rays, Kingfish and other reef dwellers in their natural habitat. The tour also provides valuable insight into the preservation of the reef and its significance to local Maori.

Highlights
  • The stingrays of course!
  • Knowledgeable and interesting guides
  • Yes – It’s suitable for all ages

3. Sunrise In Gisborne

Said to be one of the first places to see the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, watching the sunrise in Gisborne is one of those lifelong Bucket-List activities for many kiwis so get an early night and plan to be up before sunrise to tick this one off!

Best Places To See The Sunrise In Gisborne
  • Wainui Beach
  • Kaiti Hill in the Titirangi Domain
  • Te Kuri Farm Walkway

Day 5 Whakatane

Gisborne to Whakatane 2.5 hours, Whakatane to Tauranga 1 hour (tonight)

Having seen the epic sunrise in Gisborne it’s time to get on the road and head inland to Whakatane today. Stay on State Highway 2 and you’ll arrive within about 2.5 hours. You will hit the coast at Opotiki, followed by a short hop over to Whakatane. A traditional holiday spot for many kiwis, Whakatane is home to popular Ohope Beach, the Moutohora Island Sanctuary and is a popular destination for divers.

From Whakatane, it’s further up the coast of the Bay of Plenty to holiday hotspot – Mount Maunganui for the night. Best known for its prominent mountain namesake ‘The Mount’ (Mauao) and the stunning beaches Mount Maunganui is a great place to stay the night and enjoy a walk along the beach. 

Top 3 Things To Do Whakatane

Whakatane is literally an outdoor enthusiast’s playground! There is so much to do whether it’s out on the water or deep in the native forest. Take a look below for our top 3 ways to spend the day in Whakatane. 

1. Ohope Beach – Whakatane

Ohope Beach is a very popular camping spot for the summer holidays and great for fishing, swimming, kayaking, surfing and other water-based activities. Diving charters and swimming with the dolphins are also popular activities – the choice is yours!

Highlights
  • The beautiful 11km white sandy beach!
  • Dive charters
  • Swimming with dolphins

2. Moutohora Island Sanctuary – Whakatane

A scenic guided tour to Moutohora (Whale) Island is the perfect way to enjoy some time on the water and explore a little off-shore. This pest-free Island located just off the coast from Whakatane (15mins) is home to rare and endangered birds, reptiles and plant species. Taking a walking tour of the Island and having a swim at Onepū/Sulphur Bay will be one of the most memorable experiences in Whakatane.

Highlights
  • The ferry boat ride
  • Untouched native forest
  • Hot water beach

3. Kohi Point Walkway

The Kohi Point Walkway is the best walk close to the Whakatane township, it winds its way around the headlands between Ohope Beach and Whakatane. The walk will take you approximately 3 hours depending on your fitness level and offers stunning views of Ohope Beach, White Island and beyond. You will need good footwear and take a jacket it can get a bit chilly up on the top.

Highlights
  • Fantastic views!
  • Varying terrain (road, forest, and beach)
  • Native birds (Tui, Bellbirds, Fantails, Warblers and Pigeon)

Day 6 Tauranga And Mount Maunganui

No travel today!

After enjoying the exploring Whale Island and Whakatane yesterday the theme for today is all about sun, sand and surf! Mount Maunganui is famous for its stunning beaches and it’s nearby namesake ‘mountain’ – Mount Maunganui (Mauao). The walk around and up Mauao is one of the best things to do in Mount Maunganui – the views are truly magnificent!

We will be staying the night in Tauranga/Mount Maunganui tonight so there is no further driving for today. This is the perfect opportunity to book in somewhere nice to make th emost of the last night of your holiday before heading back to Auckland tomorrow.

Top 3 Things To Do In Tauranga/Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui and Tauranga are all about sunshine and getting out in it as much as you can, so here are our top 3 things to do today.

1. Mount Maunganui Walks

There are two main walks on the Mount Maunganui reserve, around the bottom or all the way to the top. The walk around the bottom is along a well-formed path and is pushchair friendly. This walk will take you around 30-40 minutes, but we highly recommend stopping a while at one of the many lookout points to enjoy watching the boats pass by.

The walk to the top will take a bit more effort and is quite steep in places. Good footwear is a must, along with sunscreen and a hat. But the views from the top are absolutely stunning and well worth the extra effort. You won’t be disappointed!

Highlights
  • The views from the top!
  • Base walk ocean and boat views
  • Port views

2. Mount Maunganui Beach

Mount Maunganui Beach is easily one of the best beaches in New Zealand and a favourite weekend getaway for Aucklanders. The seemingly endless white sands, consistently good swimming conditions and relatively low swells make it easy to see why it is such a popular choice!

Highlights
  • The beautiful beach surrounds
  • Lifeguard patrols
  • Fish and Chips on the beach for tea!

3. Mount Hot Pools

Looking for a way to relax and unwind after climbing to the top of the Mount? The Mount Hot Pools at the base of Mountt Maunganui are the perfect place for you! These hot saltwater pools are filled with ocean water and offer you a unique hot pool experience. General admission is $18 per adult and $11.50 per child.

Highlights
  • Hydrotherapy pool (you can swim/move about in this one)
  • Separate children’s pool
  • Two spa pools

Day 7 Back To Auckland Via The Coromandel

Tauranga to Coromandel to Auckland 3-5 hours

From Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, it’s back up the coast to explore the wilds of the Coromandel before heading home to Auckland. The Coromandel Peninsula is largely a forest-clad reserve covered for the most part in native and exotic forest making it very popular with hikers and campers. There are two choices here depending on how much time you have – the full circuit around the Peninsula or the faster route across the bottom to Thames. Both routes will give you different experiences, the longer one will include around 5 hours of driving, the shorter one about 3.5 hours.

Top 3 Walks In The Coromandel

Since the coromandel is all about the forest and you will be spending a lot of time in the car today we have chosen three of the most popular walks to stretch the legs and get some fresh air.

1. Karangahake Windows Walk

A nice little short walk along an old tramway line, the Karangahake Windows Walk includes disused gold mining tunnels and relics along with a suspension bridge and stairs. This loop walk is just an hour north of Tauranga and is a great way to get everyone going for the day. Allow an hour for the walk and half an hour to enjoy the scenery.

Highlights
  • Suspension Bridge
  • The ‘Windows’ tunnel
  • Tramway tracks

2. Cathedral Cove Walk

This 2.5km walk is one of the best walks on the Coromandel Peninsula. This popular coastal track offers stunning oceanic vies and interesting landscapes as you make your way along the coast to the iconic rock formation known as Cathedral Cove.

Highlights
  • Cathedral Cove Rock
  • Easy terrain
  • Beautiful coastal views

Cathedral Cove

3. Square Kauri Walk

Just a quick pit stop and chance to stretch the legs, the Square Kauri Walk is only 20 minutes return. This brief walk will take you to a unique square-shaped Kauri tree which is thought to be over 1200 years old.

Highlights
  • Good photo op!
  • The square Kauri
  • Views across the main Coromandel range

We hope you have enjoyed our two different options on the best way to explore the North Island in just 7 days. For more travel ideas and things to do in and around Auckland see here or if you have catch the travel bug and want to see more of New Zealand see here for our guide to 7 days in the South Island. Need reliable transport to get you there and back? Find the best rates for car hire in New Zealand here.

 

 

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