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North Island Road Tour 7 Days


Holiday Planning Guide - 7 Days for an Upper North Island road tour. Experience New Zealand with a Drive NZ planned road tour.

Day Location Distances Travel Time
1 Auckland at leisure - -
2 Auckland to Paihia 240kms 4hrs 15mins
3 Paihia at leisure - -
4 Paihia to Rotorua 474kms 7hrs 50mins
5 Rotorua to Taupo 80kms 1hrs 20mins
6 Taupo to Whitianga 278kms 4hrs 05mins
7 Whitianga to Auckland 205kms 3hrs 20mins



7 Day Upper North Island Road Tour - Drive NZ Rental Cars


Holiday Planning Guide - 7 Days for an Upper North Island road tour. Experience New Zealand with a Drive New Zealand rental cars planned road tour.

Day 1: Exploring Auckland City

Get a Car from Drive NZ Rental Cars

You’ve just got off the plane at Auckland International Airport and you need some wheels quickly, make sure you head down to the conveniently located Drive NZ Rental Cars office located only 3 minutes from the terminal - we’ve even got free pickup when you phone us on 0800 374 836.

Take in the View at One Tree Hill

Take the Southwestern Motorway (State Highway 20) from the airport towards the city via Onehunga and check out the famous landmark One Tree Hill for an excellent view of Auckland City. Make sure you check out the boulders that have been moved to make huge sculptures in the farmland below.

Go Shopping in New Market

From One Tree Hill its only a short drive through Remuera to the shopping precinct of New Market. Park in one of the many parking buildings (some offer limited free parking with purchases).

Viaduct Harbour for Lunch

Feeling a little hungry? Take a 5 minute drive into the city and find some parking near the waterfront for your rental car. Walk the Viaduct Harbour, checking out the Voyager New Zealand National Maritime Museum and the many restaurants, cafes and bars on the waterfront.

Take a Stroll around Wynyard Quarter

A short walk from the Viaduct is the new precinct of Wynyard Quarter, formerly industrial warehouses and fuel storage containers its now a vibrant mix of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues and retails stores. They’ve even got the odd open air cinema going on!

Spin The Wheel at Skycity

Jump back in the card and head up the road to Skycity Casino where you can try your hand at the card tables, roulette or even the slots, take the elevator up to the top of the Skytower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and if you are feeling crazy - freefall from the top!

Mission Bay Dinner Time Picnic By The Beach

Only a 15 minute drive along the waterfront, with amazing views to Rangitoto Island and you arrive in Mission Bay. Grab some Kiwi style fish and chips from the Fish Pot Cafe, ice cream from Movenpick and a cold beer from the De Fontein, the Belgian beer bar and enjoy watching the world go by as Aucklanders head home for the evening.


Enjoy Ponsonby Cafe Culture

Ponsonby is the home of Auckland’s cafe and bar culture, go record shopping at Conch Records and a drink at Chapel, or an amazing cocktail from Ben and Jason at Revelry. Wind shop as you walk down the street checking art galleries, clothing and book shops in Auckland’s trendiest area.


Party Hard in Auckland’s CBD

You haven’t experienced Auckland until you’ve experienced its nightlife. Backpackers check out Globe bar for fellow travellers, hipsters feel at home at Cassette #9 on Vulcan lane, or loads of other pumping bars and clubs like The Carpark, Waterfront Bar, Bungalow 8 and Home Bar.


Accommodation options for Auckland are practically endless, with loads of choice for any budget. Whatever you are looking for can be found in practically any suburb of Auckland, just look out for the Vacancy signs on the side of the road, or if in doubt visit one of the many Visitor Information Centres dotted around the city.

Day 2: Driving from Auckland to Paihia


Get out of the city and drive north towards Paihia and the beautiful beaches located in the Bay of Islands. The journey is approximately 240 kilometers and should take just over 4 hours non stop, but getting there is only half the fun, so why not stop off along the way.


Paihia is a great little town full of history and right on the coast line in the Bay of Islands, home to 144 islands off the coast of New Zealand. The area is full of both Maori and European history and culture, so make sure you take the time to check out the best of nature, beaches and historical monuments while you are in town!

Finding Somewhere to Sleep

A wide variety of accommodation is available in Paihia, from camping, backpackers, homestays and motels with the Cooks Landout Motel and Breakwater Motel getting the highest ratings on Tripadvisor. If you get stuck for accommodation pay a visit to the Bay of Islands i-Site Visitor Information Centre located on Marsden road who will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Day 3: Exploring Paihia

Check Out New Zealand’s History

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is New Zealand’s most historical site and the birthplace of the modern nation where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Make sure you check out the Treaty House, Maori Meeting House and the Maori War Canoe.

Explore the Natural Landscape

Haruru Falls are a short drive, only around 3km from Paihia township where one of the earliest European settlements is based. Go on a bushwalk through the forest at Opua and walk all the way to the bay for an amazing view of the township (and former Kiwi capital) of Russell.

At the Beach

Theres no shortage of beaches in Paihia and its surroundings, all of which are safe for swimming (make sure you stay between the flags) and perfect for sunbathing (remember the sunscreen, Kiwi sun can burn very quickly!).

On the Water

You can’t visit the Bay of Islands without doing at least something water related, whether it’s taking the Fullers cruise of the islands, hiring some sea kayaks, swimming with dolphins or diving in the wreck of the rainbow there is something for everyone who is a fan of the sea! A trip to Paihia isn’t complete without visiting the Hole in the Rock.

Day 4: Driving from Paihia to Rotorua

Grab a Big Breakfast

Today is going to be a long day on the road, so make sure you get a big kiwi breakfast from one of the many cafes in the town, we’ve heard that you can’t go wrong at El Cafe on Kings Road. Its going to be a long drive of around 8 hours and 475 Kilometers so make sure you fill up with petrol and stock up on snacks before hitting the road in your car rental.

Refresh and Refuel in Bombay

About an hour South of Auckland is the official end of the motorway and start of the coast to coast highway, pull off, refuel and grab a feed at the Autobahn Cafe.

Take a Side Trip to Hobbiton

Matamata is on the way to Rotorua, so why not relive a bit of Kiwi film history. Open to the public after the filming of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film series is the Hobbiton film set. Explore Hobbit holes and check out film props before heading back on the road towards the final leg of todays trip. Be careful on the roads however, as these have some of the highest accident rates among tourists in all of New Zealand.

Accommodation on the Roto Vegas Strip

Your nose will remind you that you’ve arrived in Rotorua, New Zealand’s thermal wonderland. Drive along the riverside until you see a vintage World War II DUKW amphibious landing craft and go into the Rotorua Visitor Information Centre next door on Fenton Street, who will help you book your accommodation. Choices are endless at for all budget levels, with a wide variety of hotels and backpackers accommodation with Base being a favourite due to its location right next to party spot Lava Bar.

Day 5: Explore Rotorua before driving to Taupo

Check out the Thermal Hotspots

Rotorua is known as New Zealand’s thermal wonderland. Mototara (Sulphur Bay), Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Te Puia, Hells Gate, Wai-o-Tapu are just a few of the thermal sites where you will see geysers, bubbling mud pools, pink and blue terraces and much more. If you feel like a swim make sure you visit the Polynesian Spa & Lake Rotoiti Hot Pools where you can plunge into the thermally warmed water and relax.

Nature & Tourist Sites

Rent a mountain bike and ride through the the Redwood Forest, take a stroll through the picturesque Government Gardens, get a slice of history at the The Buried Village, New Zealand’s answer to Pompeii, or check out a working farm with sheep shows, zorbing and bungy jumping at the Agrodome.

Lakes, Streams and Springs

Rotorua is a fishermans paradise, with trout fishing spots (providing you have a licence and its in season) in many lakes and streams. There are plenty of other spots that are great for swimming and sightseeing, such as Hamurana Springs, Orere Falls,

Ride a Gondola & Luge down Mount Ngongotaha

Skyline Skyrides located on the side of Mount Ngongotaha is a must visit site when you are in Rotorua. Take the gondola up the mountainside, but don’t look down! Then jump on the luge for high speed fun as you race to the bottom.


Unwind in a Secret Local Hot Spring on the way to Taupo

Drive approximately 35 kilometers south on Old Taupo Road and just after you’ve gone past the honey shop you’ll see a small track (Old Waiotapu Road) off to the left. Follow this track to Kerosene Creek, a hidden hot spring in the middle of the forest, a perfect rest before the short 80km, one and a half hour drive to Taupo!

Find your Accommodation in Taupo

Once again the best bet is the local Visitor Information Centre, its easy to find being located right beside the lake on Tongariro Road. There are plenty of affordably priced hostels including Rainbow Lodge Backpackers, Black Current Backpackers and the Taupo Urban Retreat.


Drop your bags off in your room and hit the town for some food and drinks.

A Night on the Town in Taupo

Taupo is a major backpacker destination, and is full of cafes, pubs and bars catering to travellers. Bar hop from pub to club and irish bar including favourites like The Lazy Trout, Element Bar, Mulligans Pub & Lone Star.

Day 6: Explore Taupo then drive to Whitianga

Drive to Whitianga

Head out after lunch, as its a bit of a drive at over four hours and 278 kilometers in a rental car.

Hit The Beach

Check out Buffalo Beach in Mercury bay and take the ferry to Whitianga Rock Scenic Reserve. Other great beaches include Flaxmill Bay, Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach. Make sure you remember your sunscreen!

Fun for Adventure Junkies

If the beach is a little boring try out Highzone home of Whitianga’s very own trapeze, flying fox and high ropes course or if you are still keen for something on the water give PADI accredited diving, Windsurfer Seafaris or Banana boating a go.

Sightseeing Time

After the mornings activities take some time to check out all the sights that Whitianga has to offer including Mercury Bay Museum, Shakespeare Cliff Lookout, Captain Cook’s memorial or a fortified Maori Pa at Whare-Taewa or Wharekaho.

Time for Dinner

Seafood lovers can grab a feed at Squids, Wild Hogs is great for pub food, while Sangam Indian Cuisine is the perfect taste of North India, or pop into a cafe on the main street for something more local.

Accommodation In Whitianga

Need cheap accommodation at the end of your trip, book in at either On the Beach Backpackers or Albert Number 6.

Day 7 Whitianga to Auckland

Drive back to Auckland

Its your final day on your road trip and time to start the 205 km drive back to Auckland which should take around 3 1/2 hours in reasonable traffic using a car rental. Grab a big breakfast at one of Whitianga’s local cafes such as Cafe Nina or Eggcentric before hitting the road.


Make sure you stop along the way at popular spots like Miranda Hot Springs, Thames, Coromandel Township and grab some of the best pies in New Zealand in Pokeno.

Time to drop the car off and go home

The staff at Drive NZ Rentals will even drop you back off at the airport so you don’t miss your flight home!


Ready to start your Kiwi road trip with Drive NZ? Give us a call and book your Auckland car rental now!