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Upper North Island Road Tour - 14 days

Holiday Planning Guide - 14 Days Upper North Island road tour. Experience New Zealand with a two week Drive NZ planned road tour.

Day Location Distances Travel Time
1 Auckland at leisure - -
2 Auckland at leisure - -
3 Auckland to Kerikeri 240kms 4hrs 15min
4 Kerikeri to Paihia 50kms 1hr
5 Paihia at leisure - -
6 Paihia to Rotorua 475kms 7hrs 50min
7 Rotorua at leisure - -
8 Rotorua to Napier 223kms 3hrs 50mins
9 Napier at leisure - -
10 Napier to Taupo 143kms 2hrs 30mins
11 Taupo at leisure - -
12 Taupo to Whitianga 278kms 4hrs 05mins
13 Whitianga at leisure - -
14 Whitianga to Auckland 205kms 3hrs 20mins

You’ve got two weeks to spend in New Zealand and have decided to self drive around the beautiful North Island. But where should you go? Drive New Zealand rental cars come to the rescue with this 14 Day North Island itinerary of New Zealand.

Days 1 & 2: Explore 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 car. Luckily, Drive New Zealand rental cars come to the rescue. Just minutes from the Airport, they will sort you out with whatever sized hire 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 North Head and Bastion Point along with the Devonport Naval Museum and MOTAT II. 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, Western Springs, Auckland Domain & Winter Garden and the Parnell Rose Gardens.

Enjoy some Fun Auckland Activities

Auckland is full of fun activities, including theme parks such as Rainbows End in Manukau, craziness in a former mental hospital with Spookers and Asylum Paintball in Kingseat and loads of chances to test your fear of heights with the Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb and Bungy, Skytower Skywalk (or if that's too scary, try out the casino below) and Sky Screamer vertical bungy.


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 exhibit.


Arty types will enjoy the Auckland Art Gallery and theatre at the Civic.

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 along with Stoney Ridge (and home to some great parties too) and Mudbrick in Waiheke.


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 Bracu, 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 Burger Fuel 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 Racket 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 3 Drive to Keri Keri

After you are done in Auckland, take some time to enjoy the wonderful beaches in Keri Keri, a 240km drive north in your hire car, that should take around 4 hours and 15 minutes at normal speeds.

Visit Keri Keri’s Historical Sights

Looking for some history? Check out the Stone Store, New Zealands oldest stone building and Mission House, New Zealand’s oldest wooden house. Rewa’s village is a traditional Maori Village that can be explored for a glimpse into pre European Maori life.

Enjoy Excellent Food at Local Cafe’s and Restaurants

Keri Keri has some great local cafes, restaurants and eateries including Thai/Kiwi fusion at Food at Wharepuke, local favourite Cafe Zest for local wines, and Fishbone for the best breakfasts in the area. Don’t forget to grab some local produce from the Keri Keri Farmers Market to munch while you are on the move. At the end of the day grab a local beer at Rocksalt, the most popular bar in town.

Sleep if Off

Travellers on a budget can get some sleep at local hostels and backpackers accommodation including the Keri Keri Farm Hostel, while those wanting to splash out and enjoy some luxury can try the 4 and a half star hotel at Heron Hill.

Days 4 & 5 Explore Paihia & Waitangi

After checking out the sights in Keri Keri it’s time to move on towards Paihia in the Bay of Islands, a short 50km drive through coastline and countryside that should take less than an hour in your hire car. Paihia and neighbouring Waitangi are historical areas - literally where modern New Zealand started and are definitely worth spending a day or two to explore, relax and unwind.

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 Pauls Church.

Enjoy Nature

Explore the native forest at Opua Forest 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 to 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 information centre.

Day 6 & 7 Hang Out in Rotorua

After checking out the beaches in the North its time to venture towards the centre of the North Island to New Zealand’s very own thermal playground - Rotorua, or Rotovegas as its been nicknamed by locals and travellers alike. Drive safely as its a long, 8 hour and 475 kilometer journey in your rental car. Take a quick diversion via Matamata and make sure you check out the sets from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings at Hobbiton in Matamata. Other side trips include to the glowworm caves and black water rafting at Waitomo.

Geothermal Wonderland

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, while Wai-o-Tapu and Waimangu 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 check out 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 Culture

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.

Other Activities

Rotorua is full of fun things to do including Skyline Skyrides 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 8 & 9 Enjoy Napier’s Art Deco Culture

The Art Deco capital of New Zealand, Napier is located around 220 km from Rotorua and the journey should take approximately 4 hours in a hire car. Napier was rebuilt completely after an earthquake pretty much destroyed the city in the 1930s, resulting in the architecture we see today.

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.


Get Cycling

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 10 & 11 Visit Taupo & Central North Island

Its time to travel inland, to Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island. At 143km it should take around two and a half hours to get to Taupo from Napier in a car rental.

Enjoy the Lake and Rivers

Still have your fishing gear after Rotorua? Theres great fly fishing to be found in the Tongariro river. River Rafting tours are available at most tour agencies, with Rafting NZ and Tongariro River Rafting being favourites.If you’ve got a great shot don’t forget to try your luck with the Hole in One by the lake. If speed is more your thing try jetboating near Huka Falls, or Bungy Jumping.

Further Afield

If you want to drive further out of Taupo, Gravity Canyon is home to some crazy airborne activities including a flying fox that hits 160 kph at top speed! Driving south will take you to the desert road, along with the New Zealand Defense Force base and Waiouru Army Museum.

Hit the Slopes

Just a short drive from Taupo and you are near the ski fields and mountains of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. These ski fields are some of the best in New Zealand and well worth the drive to see, or if skiing isn’t your thing make sure you try out the Tongariro Crossing, easily one of the most beautiful full day walks in the entire country, if not the world. You might even spot the craters of Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings on the way!.

Food Time

A days exploring just isn’t complete without a good feed and Taupo doesn’t disappoint. Grab a deep fried Mars bar from the local fish and chip shops or if you are feeling classier try out the local restaurants and cafes. If you are still near the ski fields make sure you visit the Powder Keg and Matterhorn, who not only serve top notch burgers and nachos, but also host touring DJs and musicians. Other favourites include Replete, Cypress Tree, Eruption and Pimentos.

Day 12 & 13 Enjoy Whitianga & The Coromandel Peninsula

Next up is a 278 kilometer drive north from Taupo to Whitianga in the Coromandel Peninsula. Full of beaches, coastline and fishing opportunities, Whitianga is a great place to spend the last few days before the end of your North Island tour. Check out the local sights including Mercury Bay Museum, Captain Cooks Memorial and the local Maori Pas.

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 14 Back to Auckland

Its your final day in on tour and time to kick back and relax after two weeks of fun in the North Island. The drive back from the Coromandel will take you through small town New Zealand with the 205 km trip taking around three and a half hours in a rental car.


Now is the time to finish any site seeing that you missed out on days one and two, then cruise back at your leisure to drop your car off at Drive NZ Rental Cars - Auckland car rental.