New Zealand’s North Island In A Week
So many fellow camper travellers blissfully announce their mission to tour New Zealand’s North Island in a week!
At first, we thought these people slightly mad – because goodness me – where would you start? The normal 6 week trips of yesteryear, seem to be now dwindling down to just 3 weeks between both islands.
In our opinion, this country has far too many amazing sights to limit to just a few weeks for both Islands. After several trips lasting a few months at a time, we still haven’t seen it all! Then, add those deceptively lengthy distances between main sights and it could make short trips rather tedious.
Having said that, if that’s all the time you’ve got and you’ve made your mind up, then so be it. So – fear not – because, we’re here to give our insight into those best places to see in New Zealand’s North Island in a week!
Jet-lag and where to start
Firstly, don’t forget if you’re arriving from Europe, you’ll have Jet-lag to get over. Then you’ll be either arriving in Auckland or Wellington, which will determine which city you visit!
The drive time between Auckland and Wellington is around 8 hours without stopping. Therefore, it makes a big difference where you start your trip and finish it for that matter!
Wellington is one of the coolest capitals in the World. Not only that but is has enough coffee culture, arty vibes and tempting beaches to add to the youthful appeal. Above all – it’s a capital city like no other.
So why not spend the day on foot? Everywhere is accessible in this compact city from strolling the waterfront to shopping on Cuba Street. Then take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens for some incredible views across the city.
Tongariro National Park
Around a 4 hour drive (add time for drive breaks) from Wellington is the Winter ski resort hub of the North Island. Also home of the famous Summer one-day hike The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Mt.Ruapehu, is not only the North island’s highest mountain at 2797m but it’s also one of the worlds most active volcanoes. Dominating the landscape, it’s surrounded by Mt.Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe – the latter being the youngest Volcano on the North Island.
This volcanic mountain range has some excellent shorter walks from the main centre of Whakapapa village. The Department of Conservation visitor centre there has details.
About an hour’s drive from Tongariro National Park is Taupo, one of the main resorts on the North Island.
This is New Zealand’s largest lake, formed from a huge volcanic eruption around 25,000 years ago! It’s still very active, with thermal hot spots throughout the area.
There’s plenty to keep you busy – too much for this short trip – so you’ll have to decide! From Bungy jumping to Jet boats, Sky Diving to walks, soaking in thermal pools to watching thundering river rapids. This steamy town has it all.
This is a thermal wonderland at every turn and Rotorua is about an hour and a half drive from Taupo. You’ll be mesmerised by the steaming, bubbling and boiling natural attractions beneath your feet!
There maybe a smell of Sulphur in the air but that’s all part of the experience. Rotorua is located on Lake Rotorua and it’s phenomenal! This volcanic thermal area is full of natures natural thermal dynamics.
Soak in thermal pools, stroll the steamy Kuirau Park in the town centre, or explore one of the thermal area attractions that are open to visitors.
About a 3 hour drive from Rotorua will take you to one of the biggest natural attractions in New Zealand – Hot Water Beach.
This busy but sort of “must do” sight must be timed around 2 hours before low tide (check times with tourist sites). Take a spade to the relevant section of beach and start digging your own thermal pool in the sand! You won’t be alone, it’s no longer the quiet little spot it used to be, but it’s a great experience all the same. Watch out though – that water gets boiling hot, don’t burn those feet!
The Coromandel offers a whole lot more than just hot water! This area is stunning, there’s walks galore, fabulous beaches and the other very well known tourist sight of Cathedral Cove.
We could and have spent weeks on The Coromandel, so if you only get a sneak peek – be sure to go!
If I’m honest, Auckland isn’t one of our favourite cities. It has a bit of a claustrophobic feel, but maybe the ongoing infrastructure works in the centre don’t help. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Thames, the main town on The Coromandel.
Nonetheless, if you’re coming all the way to New Zealand, it’s only natural to check out the most well-known Kiwi city. Not to be be confused as the capital, the “City of Sails” is also a city built around volcanoes.
The waterfront is the best bit, bustling cafe’s, bars and all those boats with the cityscape and that well known sky tower as a backdrop.
Bay of Islands
I really wouldn’t want to miss The Bay of Islands off a trip. This sub-tropical paradise is full of stunning little inlets, bays and laid back towns.
The crunch thing is that it’s another long drive North of Auckland, around 4 1/4 hours before adding on any stops to reach Paihia, the main resort town.
There’s so many beautiful locations around here, Kerikeri and Russell are just the main ones. A simply beautiful region, stunning beaches, blue seas and incredible fresh produce.
How to Choose
With 7 locations in 7 days, something has to give! Our pick of places to see in New Zealand’s North Island in a week, is a difficult one.
It’s not possible to do them all, and much will depend on where you begin. If you’re coming from or going to the South Island by road will be a big factor, as Wellington will be the one location that you’ll have to be at to get across the Cook Strait!
Whatever you choose, we hope you have the most amazing time. Hopefully, like us, you’ll be able to return again to see those places you didn’t quite manage to reach!
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