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Ultimate New Zealand North Island Itinerary for 7 Days (Epic One Week Road Trip)

Pilot Bay in Mount Maungnaui, with sailboats moored in the calm turquoise bay and the volcanic mountain of Mount Maunganui in the background.

Explore volcanoes, vineyards, hot pools, and beaches along this 7-day itinerary for New Zealand’s North Island.

Visitors to New Zealand often overlook the North Island in favour of the South Island—but the North Island has so much to offer, too. 

As someone who’s lived on both the North Island and South Island, it makes me sad when people suggest skipping the North Island entirely! I think that when many travellers visit NZ on a whistle-stop tour of the country, they only see the touristy bits of the North Island, and believe that’s all there is to do.

The truth is that the North Island is packed with gorgeous and unique scenery, amazing food and drinks, and lots of hidden pockets to explore. You just need to know where to look (and that’s where I can help!).

Picture hiking up a dormant volcano, sipping wine at a lush vineyard, sinking your toes into a pristine white sand beach, and soaking in a hot pool after a day of exploring. 

You can do all of that (and lots more!) on the North Island. 

In this 7-day North Island itinerary, you’ll see some of the island’s highlights but also experience places that don’t always make it onto more generic itineraries. 

If you like walking, sipping wine and craft beer, eating local food, and exploring beaches, I think you’ll like this guide.

Here’s how to spend a week road-tripping around the North Island.

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7-Day New Zealand North Island Itinerary Map

Where to Hire (Rent) a Car or Campervan for your North Island Road Trip

🚗 Car hire: I recommend using Rentalcars.com to easily compare prices and vehicle models from all of the top NZ car rental companies. They do all of the homework for you so you don’t have to spend hours (and open 10+ tabs) to find the best deals. I also really like Snap Rentals (they usually have the best prices!).

🚐 Campervan Hire: I use Motorhome Republic to compare prices on campervans in NZ. I’m a big fan of JUCY, Travellers Autobarn, and Spaceships for campervan rentals.

Ultimate New Zealand North Island Itinerary in 7 Days

Day 1: Auckland

Views over Auckland City and the Sky Tower from the Viaduct Harbour.

While this is a road trip itinerary, I actually suggest waiting until Day 3 to pick up your car or campervan. 

You’ll spend the next two days in Auckland, and won’t need a vehicle until you hit the road. This means you won’t have to deal with driving in New Zealand’s largest city, nor will you need to worry about finding accommodation with parking.

On your first day in Auckland, spend the day getting to know the city on foot. 

Start your day in Auckland with breakfast at a cafe (I love Daily Bread in Britomart).

Then explore the Britomart and High Street precincts, where you’ll find neat heritage buildings to admire and some great boutique shopping (don’t miss Unity Books if you’re a bookworm like me!). 

If you’re up for a larger walk, you could also visit the lovely suburb of Ponsonby, which is a 30-minute walk from the city centre (Franklin Road is a nice way to walk up there, or take an Uber).  

There is excellent shopping along Ponsonby Road, and side streets lined with leafy villas. For lunch, head to Ponsonby Central, an upscale food court with lots of dining options.

A stroll along the Viaduct Harbour and Westhaven Walkway is also a must. This waterfront walk gives you glimpses of Auckland’s sailing culture, and it’s fun to see all of the fancy yachts moored in the harbour. If you’re heading down from Ponsonby, I recommend walking down Curran Street in Herne Bay to connect to the Harbour Bridge Pathway and then the Westhaven Walkway. It’s a stellar urban walk.

If you have even more time and energy, take the ferry to Devonport and walk to North Head Historic Reserve, where you can summit a volcanic cone with gorgeous views over Auckland, the Waitemata Harbour, and the Hauraki Gulf.

After all of that walking, relax with dinner and drinks—I like Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Bar for a craft beer or cocktail with a view. And for dinner, Federal Diner never disappoints, or try Hello Beasty for delicious Asian-New Zealand fusion food.

An icy-cold pint of beer and a glass of aperol spritz on the deck at Rudi's Rooftop Bar in Auckland, with a view overlooking the Viaduct Harbour.
Refreshing drinks with a view at Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Bar in the Viaduct.

Where to stay in Auckland

A hotel room at the M Social Hotel in Auckland, with minimalist modern decor and a view of the Auckland Harbour from the window.
The M Social Hotel, my favourite hotel in Auckland

Top Choice Hotel: I highly recommend the M Social Hotel. It’s located right in the Viaduct Harbour within walking distance to the ferry terminal. If the budget allows, definitely splurge on a room with a view—it’ll be worth it!

Budget-friendly: For a budget accommodation option, check out Lylo. Their private rooms are great value and it’s in a good central location.

Day 2: Auckland (day trip to Waiheke Island)

Green rolling hills lined with vineyards on Waiheke Island in Auckland.

Spend Day 2 of your 7-day North Island itinerary on a day trip to Waiheke Island.

Accessed via a 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a paradise of idyllic vineyards, golden-sand beaches, and lush green landscapes. 

Once on the island, the easiest way to get around is to book tickets on the hop-on, hop-off bus. Or you can get an AT HOP card and take the public bus instead, which is cheaper but does require a bit more planning and DIY’ing.

Once on the island, head to Oneroa Village to start the day. Have a coffee at a cafe and peek into the cute local shops. Oneroa Beach is a lovely spot for a sandy stroll.

Onetangi is also a great spot to visit. Have a picnic or go for a walk along Onetangi Beach, or have lunch with a view at the always-popular Charlie Farley’s.

Pick a couple of wineries to visit in the afternoon—I love Batch, Stonyridge, and Mudbrick. And if you’re a craft beer lover, head to the Heke. 

After frolicking around Waiheke Island, return to the city on the ferry, have some dinner, and get to bed at a reasonable hour so you’re rested up for your drive tomorrow!

Two people sitting in beanbags outside on a lawn at Batch Winery on Waiheke Island, with a peek of an ocean view in the backdrop and wine barrels and tables along the gravel patio.
Batch Winery on Waiheke Island

Day 3: Auckland to Rotorua (via Hobbiton)

A straight, wide dirt trail piercing through towering redwood trees at the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest in Rotorua.
The Whakarewarewa Redwoods

Pick up your rental car or campervan, then hit the road for Rotorua.

Hobbiton is a popular stop for Lord of the Rings fans, so if that’s you, you’ll want to make a stop here! Do book tickets in advance, though, as they’re known to sell out.

Another great stop today is the gorgeous walk at the Putaruru Blue Springs, where you can see a natural freshwater spring that’s the source of 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water. The colour of the water is so blue that it doesn’t look real.

For road trip snacks, stop at Over the Moon Dairy in Putaruru for artisan cheeses, or visit Tirau for a pie and coffee at the Baker.

Once you arrive in Rotorua, you’ll be spoilt for choice with how to spend the rest of the day. 

Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity and rich Maori culture. Stroll through Kuirau Park to see some geothermal action, and visit the Redwoods for a gorgeous walk through the forest. Both of these are free activities in Rotorua and will give you a taste of the area.

Have dinner on Eat Streat—Atticus Finch is fantastic—and then end the night with a soak in the Polynesian Hot Springs (or your hotel or campground’s onsite hot pools, depending on where you stay).

Turquoise-blue water surrounded by fern trees and drooping greenery at Blue Spring in Putaruru.
Putaruru Blue Springs is a must-see on the drive from Auckland to Rotorua. The water is really that colour!

Where to stay in Rotorua

A dock at Lake Rotorua at sunset.
You can walk to the Rotorua Lakefront in just a few minutes from Aura Accommodation.

Accommodation in Rotorua: Aura Accommodation is my top choice for a place to stay in Rotorua. While it’s not fancy, their rooms are clean and comfortable, and the location is right in town. They have the friendliest staff (who always offer great recommendations) and onsite hot pools, too!

Camping in Rotorua: For camping, I recommend the Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park (located 15 minutes from town in a peaceful setting) or Tasman Holiday Park Rotorua (right near town and has onsite hot pools).

Day 4: Rotorua to Mount Maunganui

Pilot Bay in Mount Maungnaui, with sailboats moored in the calm turquoise bay and the volcanic mountain of Mount Maunganui in the background.

Fuel up for your day with breakfast in Rotorua at either Capers Cafe or Ciabatta Bakery.

Before making your way to Mount Maunganui today, you might want to take the opportunity to visit a geothermal site around Rotorua. There are three main geothermal parks in Rotorua: Te Puia, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and Wai-o-Tapu. 

You could also soak in one of the free natural hot pools in Rotorua. Kerosene Creek is the most famous one, but I really like Hot ‘n Cold pool (also known as the “Bridge”). Just make sure to keep any valuables with you if you go for a soak, because car break-ins are unfortunately a common occurence at these spots.

Then head to Mount Maunganui with a stop at Okere Falls to watch whitewater rafters plunge over a waterfall. The Okere Falls store is a great place for lunch, too.

From Okere Falls, you’ll drive for about 45 minutes before reaching Mount Maunganui.

Mount Maunganui—often called “the Mount” by locals— is one of the best beach towns in New Zealand, and a great place to spend some time soaking up the sun and going for coastal walks.

Hike up or around Mount Maunganui itself (also known as “Mauao”), and go for a nice long beach stroll on the gorgeous Mount Maunganui Beach.

Walk along the Mount Mainstreet and check out the cute shops and eateries. Paper Plane Store is one of my all-time favourite boutique shops in NZ.

Have dinner at Rice Rice Baby, where you’ll find delicious Vietnamese food in a fun, bright setting. They make excellent cocktails, too. Or if you’re a craft beer lover, don’t miss the Rising Tide for an amazing selection of local beers and tasty dumplings to pair with your pint.

The Mount Hot Pools are the perfect place to end the day. These heated saltwater pools are located at the base of Mauao and are such a treat after a day of driving and walking!

A view over Mount Maunganui from the summit of Mauao, with the ocean on both sides of a peninsula covered in buildings.
A sunrise view from the summit of Mount Maunganui.

Where to stay in Mount Maunganui

The front desk at the Mission Belle Motel in Mount Maunganui, one of the best places to stay on a North Island itinerary.
The Mission Belle Motel, Mount Maunganui’s best accommodation.

Accommodation in Mount Maunganui: The Mission Belle Motel is the best place to stay in the Mount. The location couldn’t be better—you can easily walk from here to the beach, to Mauao, and to shops and restaurants in the Mount! Their rooms are clean, comfortable and have little kitchenettes.

Camping in Mount Maunganui: You can’t beat the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park for its prime beachfront location at the base of Mauao.

Day 5: Mount Maunganui to the Coromandel

A view over Hahei Beach and Hahei town from the Te Pare Pa Reserve walking track.

Wake up and have brunch at either the General or Tay Street Cafe. 

Then head up the coast to the Coromandel Peninsula!

Along today’s drive, there are multiple opportunities to explore the beautiful beaches in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel regions.

Stop at Waihi Beach for a beach stroll or a gorgeous walk to Orokawa Bay (p.s.—bring a picnic lunch if you do the Orokawa Bay walk! Flaveur Bakery in the Mount is a good place to grab picnic sandwiches).

Whangamata is also a great beach town to stop at. Known for its famous surf break, this cute coastal town is the perfect spot for a lunch break, beach stroll, or kayak trip to Whenuakura (Donut) Island. If you do stop for lunch, Port Road Project is the best cafe around!

Then continue cruising up the coast—Tairua is another good little stop for a walk up to Mount Paku, where you’ll get gorgeous views over the Tairua Harbour from the summit.

If you like craft beer, pop into the Family in Whenuakite to try a pint of their Hot Water Beach Brewing beer, or pick up cans for takeaway. They also make yum wood-fired pizzas and other meals.

Then you’ll arrive in Hahei, a little slice of coastal paradise! Spend the evening with a beach stroll or walk up to the Hereheretaura Pa for gorgeous sunset views. Finish the night with dinner and drinks at the Pour House.

Where to Stay in the Coromandel

The top of a pointed wooden cabin surrounded by a palm tree and native bush at the Church accommodation in Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The lovely Church Hotel in Hahei.

Hahei or Hot Water Beach are my favourite places to stay in the Coromandel.

In Hahei, stay at the Church Accommodation or camp at the Hahei Beach Resort (they have glamping, cabins and units, too!).

In Hot Water Beach, stay or camp at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park. I absolutely love their cabins and can’t recommend them enough. This is one of my favourite camping grounds in the Coromandel 😊

Day 6: The Coromandel

A birds-eye view over the white sand beach, turquoise ocean, and green native bush at New Chums Beach in the Coromandel.
New Chums Beach is a worthy day trip today

Today is all about the beach!

The beaches in the Coromandel are some of the best in New Zealand, and you’ll get to explore quite a few of them today.

Plan your day around the tides, because most beaches in the Coromandel are best to visit around low tide.

Hot Water Beach is an extremely popular beach to visit, and for good reason—you can dig your own hot tub in the sand at low tide here! It’s best to visit Hot Water Beach within 2 hours on either side of low tide, otherwise the hot pool area is covered by the ocean. 

You can hire spades (shovels) from Hotties Cafe to dig your hot pool, and many accommodation providers in the area offer spades for guest use, too. 

I do need to warn you that Hot Water Beach gets really, really busy and if you want solitude, this isn’t the place. However, it’s still fun to go see the action and the beach itself is absolutely beautiful.

Cathedral Cove is the area’s other most famous beach, but unfortunately there is currently no walking access to this beach as it was damaged in a cyclone. However, you can still see Cathedral Cove via a kayak trip or boat cruise.

You can also view Cathedral Cove from above by parking at the Lees Road carpark ($10 per car for 2 people), then walking to the McHands Bay Lookout. It’s a stunning walk and I highly recommend it!

If you’re keen to venture further afield, you could also drive north to New Chums Beach, a prisine hike-in beach that looks straight out of the tropics. 

Along the way to New Chums (or on your return drive to Hahei), you could also stop for a soak at the lush Lost Springs hot pools, which are a real treat (but only available to those of us 14 years and older). Luke’s Kitchen in Kuaotunu is a great spot for lunch on the way to or from New Chums, too.

And if all you feel like doing today is lounging by the beach for an afternoon, that’s all good, too! My favourite beach in the area is Lonely Bay—bring a picnic and hang out for a few hours; it’s glorious here!

Have dinner at either Pour House or the Family if you didn’t visit either yesterday, or get takeaway fish & chips to enjoy at the beach.

Related read: the ultimate Coromandel road trip!

Tyson from Weekend Path soaking in a hot pool in the sand at Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel.
Hot Water Beach at sunrise – we got lucky this time and it wasn’t very busy; it’s normally packed!

Day 7: The Coromandel to Auckland

Tyson from Weekend Path standing on bright green grass at the top of the Hahei Pa walk in the Coromandel Peninsula, looking out at the turquoise ocean dotted with little islands.

Pack up and say goodbye to the Coromandel, then make your way back to the Auckland Airport for departure.

Just after leaving Hahei, pop into Colenso Country Cafe for breakfast before completing the rest of your drive.

While the drive from Hahei to the Auckland Airport usually takes around 2.5 hours, do give yourself plenty of time to allow for any traffic delays on your journey.

Then it’s onto your next adventure, whether that’s home or elsewhere! 

Best time of year for this 7-day New Zealand North Island itinerary

Four yellow kayaks sitting on Hahei Beach in the Coromandel, waiting to be paddled out to Cathedral Cove.
October through April are usually the best months for outdoor activities like kayaking to Cathedral Cove!

The best time of year for a North Island road trip is October through April, which coincides with mid-late spring, summer, and early-mid autumn in New Zealand.

If you’d like to avoid crowds, then avoid the peak summer period between the end of December through the first weekend in February. 

All of this said, do be prepared for weather of all kinds—even in summer, the North Island can sometimes get a lot of rain. Or it can be sunny throughout your whole trip. You honestly just never know until a few days before, so come prepared with a rain coat and layers!

More New Zealand itineraries & locations to consider

A view over a faint trail leading into volcanic mountains along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Tongariro National Park is another great destination if you have more time on the North Island.

Thanks for reading my 7-day North Island itinerary!

I truly hope it’s helped you plan your trip.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email, and I’ll reply as soon as possible!

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