North Island NZ: Road Tripping Through Paradise

21 July 2017
Read Time: 4.8 mins

The North Island of New Zealand is the perfect destination for road tripping where themed highways offer unique experiences around every corner. From Auckland, pass beautiful beaches, journey to hobbit holes and cruise through volcanic environs on a self-drive journey.

Thermal Explorer Highway – 4 days

Te Puia, Rotorua, New Zealand Te Puia, Rotorua, is central to New Zealand’s Maori culture and its geothermal wonders. Image: Tourism New Zealand

The Thermal Explorer Highway begins in Auckland and makes its way through the central North Island alongside the mighty Waikato River. Waikato is home to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Matamata, the small town made famous as the site of The Hobbiton Movie Set. Heading south towards Rotorua, you will see geothermal attractions and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people. An hour further south is the trout-fishing mecca of Taupo, which sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake.


Visit Huka Falls, just eight minutes from Lake Taupo, which is one of New Zealand’s most popular natural attractions known for its speed and power.

Huka Falls, New Zealand Natural hydro power – more than 220,000 litres of water blast down Huka Falls every second. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Volcanic Loop

Mine Bay, Lake Taupo, New Zealand Kayak or cruise around the scenic Western Bays of Lake Taupo to see the huge Maori rock carving at Mine Bay. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Travel from Auckland through Hamilton and Waitomo to Ruapehu. Raft through black water in Waitomo and experience the thrill of jet boating on the Whanganui River, before hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Relax on a boat cruise on Lake Taupo and see the huge Maori rock carving on your way before returning to Auckland.


Set aside a day to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the world’s best day walks. The 19.4-kilometre hike showcases panoramas of active volcanic areas and crater lakes.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand The volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park is barren yet beautiful. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Twin Coast Discovery – 5 days

North Island New Zealand coast Spectacular scenery will be your constant companion along the North Island’s east coast. Image: Getty

The Twin Coast Discovery starts and ends in Auckland but takes in two vastly different coastlines. The sparkling waters of the east coast will be your guide to Whangarei before heading to the Bay of Islands and the northern tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. The journey back to Auckland sees a change of scenery as the rugged west coast beaches take over and ancient kauri forests line the highway.


A short walk through Waipoua Forest reveals Tane Mahuta, a 2,000-year-old kauri tree known as ‘Lord of the Forest’.

Kauri tree in forest, New Zealand Tane Mahuta, ‘Lord of the Forest’ takes its name from a god in Maori pantheon. Image: Getty

Pacific Coast Highway – 7 days

Couple standing in Cove, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand Famous Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula, accessible only by foot, boat or kayak. Image: Tourism New Zealand

The Pacific Coast Highway takes in the golden beaches on the east coast of the central North Island, while the Coromandel Peninsula is home to countless white-sand beaches and pohutukawa-lined shores. The journey to Tauranga, the Bay of Plenty's busiest city, goes through Waihi, a gold-mining town rich with history.


Just south of Tauranga lies Whakatane, the perfect base to explore the active marine volcano, White Island.

active volcano, New Zealand White Island, also known as Whakaari, is the most active volcano in New Zealand. Image: Getty

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