Holiday Planning Guide - 21 Days North and South Islands road
tour. Experience New Zealand with a three week Drive NZ
planned road tour.
You’ve got three weeks off work and its time to hit
the road with a good old fashioned Kiwi road trip. But where
should you go? Experience New Zealand with a 3 week Drive
New Zealand rental cars planned road tour.
Day 1: Auckland at your leisure
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and definitely
worth at least a day to explore while checking out the
sights, great food, shopping and nightlife.
Get Yourself Some Wheels
The first thing you are going to need for your two week road
trip is a safe, reliable and budget friendly rental car.
Luckily, Drive NZ comes to the rescue with Auckland car
rental. Just minutes from the Airport, they will sort you
out with whatever sized car you need, at the right price.
Go Sightseeing around Auckland
Landmarks, Museums and Parks
Being New Zealand’s main city, Auckland is full of
tourist sites, landmarks, historic museums and parks to
explore. Military buffs can check out the World War II era
caves and gun emplacements at
Bastion Point along with the
Devonport Naval Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum
has a full history of New Zealand, with Maori artifacts,
historical Auckland, polynesian history and more. The
New Zealand Maritime Museum
displays New Zealand’s long maritime museum, while
The Museum of Transport and Technology
(There are two sites in Western Springs) has great displays
of machinery, vehicles and more.
Once you are tired of museums go for a walk in the many
parks nearby including
One Tree Hill,
Auckland Domain & Winter Garden
Parnell Rose Gardens.
Enjoy some Fun Auckland
Auckland is full of fun activities, including theme parks
in Manukau, craziness in a former mental hospital with
in Kingseat and loads of chances to test your fear of
heights with the
Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb and Bungy,
(or if that's too scary, try out the casino below) and
If Zoos are more you think make sure you visit Auckland Zoo
in Western Springs or Kelly Tarltons Underwater World near
Mission bay, and amazing underwater aquarium and antarctic
Arty types will enjoy the
Auckland Art Gallery
and theatre at the
Wine and Dine in
Auckland’s Cafes and Restaurants
Decades ago many immigrants from former Yugoslavia moved to
Auckland, bringing with them the skills and craftsmanship of
fine winemaking. You’ll find amazing wineries a short
drive (or ferry) away in Kumeu, Matakana & Waiheke
Island. Remember to take a sober driver with you, so you can
enjoy some of the best wine in the upper North Island. Top
wineries include the
Kumeu River Winery
(and home to some great parties too) and
Auckland is also home to some pretty amazing food, with the
top 50 restaurants
being ranked in Metro magazine every year. Treat yourself to
a great feed at
Cibo, or Clooney. For those on more of a budget, make sure you
grab a feed at the fish and chips shop in Mission Bay, or
grab a great burger at one of the many
stores, or Ponsonby Favourite - Murder Burger!
Party the Nights Away in Clubs,
Pubs and Nightclubs
Auckland has an awesome music and party scene, whether its
live music, DJs and nightclubs, irish bars, backpackers
spots or something in between - you’ll find something
in Auckland. Get underground upstairs at
Rakinos, drink from teapots with the hipsters at
Cassette #9, confuse yourself with the signage at
or hang with the Ponsonby set at
Golden Dawn. Backpackers love Globe, while the waterfront area is
popular every weekend if top 40 is more your scene.
Day 2 & 3: Paihia
Its a 4 hour and 15 minute journey from Auckland to Paihia
in your rented car, clocking in at around 240 kilometers.
Learn about Kiwi History
Visit the historic
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
(free entry for Kiwis with valid passport or drivers
licence) and see where modern New Zealand began as well as
the site of New Zealand’s first church at
St Paul’s Church.
Explore the native forest at
and walk the trails (anywhere from 1-5 hours depending on
difficulty) and check out
Haruru Falls (which are even better at night)
Relax at the Beach
Being the entry point to the Bay of Islands, beaches are
absolutely everywhere. Te Tii is probably the most
well known, with golden sand, pohutukawa trees and calm
water suitable for swimming. The more adventurous can walk
around the corner from Paihia Town Beach at low tide
Sullivan’s Beach, a popular “local secret”.
Find Somewhere To Stay
Those on a budget can stay at backpackers like the
Pickled Parrot, Saltwater Lodge and the Mousetrap, while those who
want something high end can stay at the
Paihia Beach Resort, Spa and Hotel (If you’ve
got a spare $450 a night!), of course there are plenty of
options in between if you check with the local visitor
Day 4: Whitianga
Its a 7 and a half hour, 450km journey in your rented car
from Paihia to Whitianga in the Coromandel through farmland
and up the coast towards sunny beaches.
Relax on the Beach
Its easy to lose count of all the great beaches nearby, some
of the best include Buffalo Beach,
Flaxmill Bay, Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach. If you feel like driving a little further make sure you
visit Hahei, Cathedral Cove and
Hot Water Beach. Remember to bring a picnic with you
and don’t forget to take all your rubbish with you,
keep our beaches beautiful.
Activities on the Water
There are loads of activities for those who enjoy playtime
on the water including PADI Diving,
Banana Boats, Seafari Windsurfing,
Cave Cruisers and Glass Bottom Boats.
Food & Drink
Food is plentiful in the Coromandel, and Whitianga provides
lots of options for the travelling foodie.
Wild Hogs is great for fast food including burgers
and pizza, Squids is perfect for seafood lovers,
Cafe Nina provides the late breakfast and early lunch
and Tuatua is the place to go for Tapas.
Day 5 & 6: Rotorua
Next you’ve got a 200km journey inland using your hire
car that should take around 3 and a half hours at a decent
speed, watch out for the motorhomes and tourists who can
hold up traffic and be a little dangerous on these roads,
especially as you get close to the city.
Rotorua is full of thermal areas, from boiling mud, geysers
and hot pools, its the number one reason people visit the
area. Te Puia is a geyser which erupts up to 20 times a day,
are must visit attractions for bubbling mud, beautiful
coloured lakes and more. Swim in the hot pools at the
Blue Baths &
Polynesian Spa or hit the slides at the
Wet’n’Wild water park. Make sure you also
Kerosene Creek, hidden about 20 minutes down the road on the way to
Taupo, its a great hidden local secret hot pool.
Museums, Maori History and
Rotorua Museum is located in the heart of the city and is
one of the prettiest buildings in town with its Tudor
architecture, the exhibits inside aren’t half bad
either. The Buried Village shows you what life was like
before a volcanic eruption destroyed the village, preserving
everything as it stood on the day.
Rotorua is full of fun things to do including
with its gondola up the mountain, restaurant with the best
views in town and high speed luging to get back down. Nearby
you can roll down the hill in a giant inflatable ball, known
locally as the
Zorb, the more adventurous can try it in pairs or full of
water. You can tour the area in a World War II era American
DUKW landing craft with Rotorua Duck Tours or if you
are a 4WD nut hit the hills with Off Road NZ and the
Land Rover Experience. Rock climbers can scale
The Wall, while trout fans only have to check out the
local fishing stores dotted all over the city for the latest
news on local spots on the rivers and lakes (just remember
to get your licence before hand).
Have a Drink
Strangely enough Rotorua seems to be the home of a fair few
imported and craft beer places. Make sure you visit Brew,
Rotorua’s very own microbrewery for some real local
beer including pale ales and more. Pub food and live music
is always on at the Pig and Whistle right next to the
courthouse, while you can get a wide range of imported
Belgian beer on tap and bottled at the creatively named
Belgian Beer Bar.
Finding a Bed
Hotels, Motels and Backpackers are available everywhere on
the “strip” as Fenton street is known by the
locals, with rooms and beds available to suit any budget. If
you are stuck pop into the local
Visitor Information Centre at the start of the street
near the lake.
Day 7: Napier
You’ve got a 223 km journey from Rotorua to Napier in
your car rental, that should take around 4 hours through
rolling hills and farmland.
Go on a winery tour
The Napier, Hastings and Hawkes Bay region are famous in New
Zealand and internationally for their wines. Join an
organised tour or get a designated driver and make sure you
visit top wineries including Craggy Range,
Mission Estate, Trinity Hill,
Te Mata Estate and many more.
Napier is great for riding, whether it’s between the
wineries or to explore local sights. Make sure you grab a
bike from a local company such as
On Yer Bike, Village Cycle Tours and Hire or
Bike About and hit the road.
A Foodies Dream
Napier isn’t all great wine and pretty buildings,
it's also a foodies dream. Leave the belt at home and
try food out at restaurants and cafes including
Cappadona, Take Five (great if you love a bit
of Jazz) and don’t miss out on the traditional Maori
bread found at Cafe Ujazi. The bars are home to
sophisticated cocktails at Med Bar, club nights at
Harston and numerous Irish bars dotted around town.
Art Deco Accommodation
Budget travellers have some of the nicest accommodation
options in Napier with
Criterion Art Deco Backpackers
and the Stables, converted from actual stables. Mid
ranged accommodation is available with loads of motels and
motor inns dotted around the city, while those with more of
a budget can splash out on a night The Crown, The
Art Deco Masonic Hotel or The Country, where
you’ll find style and quality at the right price.
Day 8 & 9: Wellington
Its 323 km from Napier to New Zealand’s windy city and
capital, Wellington, the trip should take no more than 5
hours in a rented car, though you may get held up as you
reach the outskirts of the city. There’s so much to
see and do here two days will barely seem like enough.
Remember your GPS when driving through Wellington as it is
full of one way streets!
Wellington’s has the best coffee and cafe scene in New
Zealand, and a trip isn’t complete without checking
Cuba Street. Grab a short white or black, kick back and watch the
world go by as you enjoy the creations of New
Zealand’s best baristas. Later on at night Wellington
comes alive with pubs, clubs and bars on
Cuba Street and Courtenay Place.
Film buffs and Lord of the Rings fans will love Wellywood,