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New Zealand’s North Island offers so much to see and explore – so hiring a campervan and hitting the open road is the best way to take it all in. You can travel at your own pace and adapt your itinerary to suit you. You’ll pick up and return your campervan in Auckland, but everything in between is up to you.
Within a three-hour drive of Auckland, you can discover sweeping beaches and marine wildlife in the Bay of Islands; black sands and surfing waves at Raglan; world-famous wines and farm-to-fork dining in Hawke’s Bay; Napier’s Art Deco architecture and Rotorua’s geothermal wonders; Taupo’s thundering Huka Falls and Waitomo’s otherworldly glow worm caves; and the magical movie set of Hobbiton™. Further afield, you can explore New Zealand’s cool capital, Wellington, the boutique wine region of Martinborough, and the vibrant cities of Hamilton and New Plymouth. Wherever your North Island adventure takes you, you’ll never run out of things to do and epic places to see.
If you want to extend your trip and visit the South Island too, you can always return your campervan in Christchurch or Queenstown. We can arrange tickets for the Interislander Ferry, which allows you to travel seamlessly between the two islands in your campervan. We suggest the below as an itinerary, but please speak to our travel specialists for details – we can tailor every aspect to suit you.
“Kia Ora” and welcome to New Zealand, as you kick-start your North Island itinerary with two nights in the vibrant city of Auckland. You can go up the Sky Tower for panoramic views over the city, feast on tasty cuisine at Ponsonby Central Market, and spend an evening on the waterfront enjoying cocktails and fresh oysters. Visit Waiheke Island – home to vineyards and picturesque beaches – or check out the All Blacks Experience to learn all about NZ’s famous rugby players. Want to see wild whales? The Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari sets sail every day and guarantees mammal sightings in Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. With so much to do, you might want to add on an extra night or two.
Overnight: Rydges Auckland
On day three, pick up your campervan and drive to the Coromandel Peninsula. Known for its pristine beaches, misty forests, charming towns and ocean activities, this place is the perfect contrast to bustling Auckland. There are motorhome campsites all over the peninsula, but Hahei is our top pick. With a sweeping beach and safe swimming, it’s perfectly positioned for exploring Coromandel Peninsula’s highlights, include Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. As the name suggests, Hot Water Beach has thermal waters – simply dig a hole in the sands to enjoy your own bath. Cyclists will love the Hauraki Rail Trail, while hikers should head to the trails of Karangahake Gorge. There are plenty of opportunities for diving, sailing and fishing along the 400-kilometre coastline, too.
From the coast, head inland to Rotorua. If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, we recommend stopping at the Hobbiton™ Movie Set on the way. You can learn how this area of farmland was transformed into The Shire from the Tolkien books. Admire life-size Hobbit Holes, enjoy a specially brewed beer at The Green Dragon Inn, and immerse yourself in the magic of the movie set.
Just an hour’s drive away, Rotorua offers cultural Maori experiences, wellness spas and all kinds of activities. Sitting on one of the world’s biggest active geothermal fields, Rotorua is home to geysers, bubbling mud pits and bright yellow sulphur pools. Visit the geothermal wonderlands of Te Puia, Waimangu and Wai-o-Tapu, or go white-water rafting or zip-lining. Fancy something more relaxing? Spend an afternoon at Polynesian Spa, where you can unwind with a treatment or soak in geothermal pools. Or ride the gondola up to Skyline Rotorua and enjoy an incredible dinner at the Stratosfare Restaurant as the sun sets.
Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s best known wine regions and, with more than 30 cellar doors, it’s a very enjoyable place to spend a couple of days. A guided tour is a great way to discover some of the vineyards – and you don’t need to worry about driving. If you’re feeling more active, why not jump on a bike? Largely flat, Hawke’s Bay is easy to explore on two wheels.
In Hawke’s Bay, you can also take advantage of the Maui Winery Haven. Exclusive to Maui campervan customers, this place allows you to camp overnight in a vineyard – and you’ll receive a delicious food and wine hamper.
While you’re in Hawke’s Bay, make sure you also visit the oceanfront town of Napier. Known for its beautiful Art Deco architecture, this place will make you feel like you’ve travelled back to the 1930s. You’ll find a fantastic array of restaurants, bars and boutiques, too.
With a lake the size of Singapore, Taupo is all about water. It’s home to New Zealand’s most visited attraction, Huka Falls, which you can marvel at from walking trails or a jet-boat. Adrenaline junkies can go skydiving in Taupo, or brave New Zealand’s highest cliff-top bungee jump, 47 metres above the Waikato River. For something more relaxing, take a boat trip to the Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, or unwind in the mineral waters of Otumuheke Stream – a natural (and free) thermal spring.
You might also want to visit Tongariro National Park – it’s a dual World Heritage Site, thanks to its cultural identity and natural scenery. Keen hikers can attempt the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. One of New Zealand’s best day hikes, this 19-kilometre route is a challenging walk, but the lakes, mountains and volcanoes are worth it the effort. Shuttles can be arranged from Taupo and back again, or you could book a guided walk to learn about the landscape and its history as you hike.
As you travel to Hamilton, it’s definitely worth stopping at the magical glow worm caves at Waitomo. You can discover an ancient, underground world where extraordinary caves are illuminated by thousands of tiny glow worms. If you’d prefer to get your heart racing, why not explore the cave networks by black-water rafting? You can rumble along underground rapids and slide down waterfalls as you marvel at a ceiling of glow worms.
Hamilton is the ideal spot to spend your last night. Often overlooked in favour of Auckland, this small city provides quicker access to the airport as it avoids Auckland’s traffic. Sprawled across the banks of the mighty Waitako River, Hamilton is home to plenty of cafés, restaurants and even Zealong – New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Make sure you also visit the stunning Hamilton Gardens, where you can go on a floral journey from Asia to Europe.
As your campervan adventure comes to an end, it’s time to drop off your vehicle at the depot near Auckland Airport. Auckland is well-connected with flights to New Zealand’s South Island, as well as Australia, Fiji and the Cook Islands – so your adventure can continue elsewhere, if you wish.
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