Round trip New Zealand: The ideal 2-week itinerary through the North Island

Kia Ora! Welcome to New Zealand, the country best known for its rugged nature and endless landscapes, where the kiwi is not a fruit but the national symbol and where the Haka is danced before every rugby match. Not for nothing has this country probably been on your bucket list to visit for years, just as it has been for us. In this article, you will find everything you need to know for a round trip to discover New Zealand’s North Island and which highlights you should definitely not miss! We also give you the option of extending this itinerary further into the South Island. Saves you some research!

Best travel time New Zealand

The seasons in New Zealand are reversed from those of Belgium and the Netherlands. That is, when it is summer with us, it is winter in New Zealand. Therefore, the best travel time to explore this amazing country is between early November and late March. This with the months of December, January and February being the high season.

If you go in November as we did, you have the advantage that it is still very quiet and in terms of accommodation. This is also a bit cheaper. One possible drawback is that the weather can potentially be unpredictable and cold. In high season, it is summer in New Zealand, which increases the chances of good weather, but you will also have to share the country with more people. Don’t let the potentially unpredictable weather stop you, however, as even the locals indicated that it becomes increasingly changeable during all months. And believe us, New Zealand is beautiful whether it rains or not.

Everything you need to know before your North Island tour begins

Are you packing your bags already? Nicely done! But how do you get to the other side of the world? We recommend that you start searching for flights through Skyscanner or Google Flights early. Plane tickets can easily reach €2000 (return) last minute. From Zaventem or Schiphol Airport, with one or two stopovers, you can get to New Zealand in about 26 hours.

In addition, to enter New Zealand, you need an electronic visa or NZeTA . You can easily apply for this online via this website or via the NZETA app. This will cost you about €35 per person. It is best to do this one or two weeks in advance to be sure. Normally, your visa will be approved within 72 hours. This visa allows you to stay in New Zealand as a tourist for up to 9 months and is valid for two years.

Do you combine the North Island with the South Island like we did? Then be sure to book your seat on the ferry between the two islands several months in advance.

Also, read our 10 tips for your trip to New Zealand in advance here.

roundtrip north island new zealand
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Where to stay and how to move for your tour of New Zealand’s North Island?

The most popular way to travel around New Zealand is by campervan, which is what we did. Nothing like having the ultimate freedom to go wherever you want. This with everything you need always with you. There are several organizations where you can go to rent an RV for your tour. Jucy and Travelbarn are the best known. We booked our trip to New Zealand through Kilroy. They were excellent in helping us choose a suitable RV for our trip and also helped us book our airline tickets.

Are you planning to travel around New Zealand for longer? Then you can also always buy a motorhome locally and sell it back at the end of your trip. We do recommend that you don’t wait until high season then, because chances are that the best RVs will already be gone.

Once you have an RV you can hit the road! New Zealand has hundreds of campsites, so there is something for everyone. It is notable, however, that the number of free campsites in New Zealand has decreased dramatically and there are much stricter controls on wild camping. Expect to pay an average of NZD 7 to 15 per person per night for basic camping. For a more luxurious campsite, you pay around NZD 25-30 per person. The best way to look up campsites is to use apps such as Campermate or Rankers.

A second option for getting around New Zealand is to rent a car. This often works out cheaper than a camper van, and you’ll also be a lot faster on New Zealand roads. This is where you then have to calculate additional budget for your accommodations. Then be sure to secure them early because some areas of New Zealand such as around the Tongariro Crossing only have a limited supply of stays.

TRAVEL TIP! Remember that they drive on the left in New Zealand and you need an international driver’s license.

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Two weeks round trip through the North Island

Plane tickets booked? Camper or car arranged? Visa has been approved? Good, then it’s time to explore the North Island! This round trip starts in Auckland and ends in Wellington after which we give you the option to continue your trip to the South Island. Of course, you can modify and shorten or extend this route as you wish.

Day 1 – 2: Auckland

Your tour of the North Island begins in New Zealand’s largest city: Auckland. Although this is not the capital, you can easily spend a day here. After the long flight, you can recharge your energy here by leisurely strolling through the city and eating something delicious. Pick up your motorhome on day two to begin your tour of this amazing country. You can possibly combine another visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum to already delve a bit into the history of this country. Then go shopping and you’re good to go!

TRAVEL TIP! The best chain to do your shopping is at Pak’nSave. Here you can find really everything and often find good promotions.

Day 2 – 3: Piha beach

Today you will drive to the west coast of the North Island in less than an hour. You leave the urban environment behind to drive to Piha beach via New Zealand’s typical winding roads. This place is still relatively unknown to tourists and therefore a quiet place to stay. Book a place at the Piha Domain Motor Camp campground which is within walking distance of Piha beach in a green setting. Head towards the beach at sunset and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets in New Zealand. In the morning you can take a nice walk on the beach before we continue our tour.

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Here you have the option of continuing your tour first to the Bay of Islands in the North. Unfortunately, we did not have the time for this, but we heard an awful lot of good things about this region. So if you have the opportunity, you can definitely include this in your itinerary.

Day 3 – 4: Coromandel Peninsula & Cathedral Cove

From the west coast, we drive three hours to the Coromandel Peninsula, and specifically to Hot Water Beach. Along the way, you can stop in the village of Coromandel, where with any luck you can see dolphins or orcas swimming off the coast. Spend the next two nights near Hot Water Beach, with the Top 10 Holiday Park being an ideal base. As the name suggests, you can dig your own private spa at Hot Water Beach, as there are several hot springs on the beach. Rent a shovel from your accommodation and go to the beach at low tide to dig your own pool, which then fills with warm water of around 40 degrees. Wonderfully relaxing!

On Day 4, you can go to one of New Zealand’s most photographed beaches: Cathedral Cove. Park your car or RV near Hahei Beach and start the hike to Cathedral Cove from there. The hike itself takes you past beautiful viewpoints over the beaches and cliffs. You can also go to other little beaches like Stingray Bay during this hike. Be sure to bring your towel to relax on the beach at Cathedral Cove for a few hours and enjoy the clear blue waters and beautiful views before continuing on to your next destination in the afternoon.

Day 4 – 6: The Pinnacles

On Day 4, we don’t leave the Coromandel Peninsula yet but drive on to the Pinnacles in two hours. Although this gigantic mountain area is skipped by many, here you will find one of the most beautiful hikes in the North Island: the Pinnacles Walk or Kauaeranga Kauri Trail. Park your RV at one of the DOC campsites near the start of the hike. Get up early on Day 5 to begin the 6 km toward the summit via the Webb Creek Track. Not to be underestimated, the hike takes you past beautiful mountain views to the top in about 4 hours. Return to your RV along the Billygoat Track to enjoy a delicious, home-cooked meal at the campsite in the evening.

Day 6 – 8: Hobbiton & Rotorua

Today we drive on to what may be the nicest village in New Zealand: Hobbiton Village. Whether you are a Lord of the Rings fan or not, a visit to the famous movie set should definitely not be missed during your North Island tour, if only for the stunning views. A tour of Hobbiton is best booked in advance and takes about two hours, including a drink at “the Green Inn. From Hobbiton, you drive on to Rotorua in an hour.

On Day 7, you have the full day to explore the area in Rotorua. This area is known for its many geothermal springs, so you will regularly see steam coming out of the ground (and smell it, as the typical sulfur smells a bit like rotten eggs). Be sure to schedule a visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland known for its Champagne Pool. However, this park has only been open from Friday to Monday since 2022. If, like us, you are in Rotorua on another day, you can go to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. In this park, you can also see more of these bizarre natural wonders such as geysers or the Green and Blue Lake. If you have time to spare, be sure to take a hike through the Redwoods as well.

Day 8 – 10: Lake Taupo & Tongariro Alpine Crossing

We say goodbye to Rotorua and drive on in one hour to New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo. Today you can stroll along the lake or hike to the turquoise Huka Falls. Here you can see how the Waikato River shoots through a gorge at a whopping 220,000 gallons per second before plunging 11 meters down. Drive on in time to Tongariro Alpine National Park. After all, tomorrow you’re going on New Zealand’s most beautiful day hike, and for this you’re pretty well equipped! A good base for this is the Tongariro Holiday Park, just a few minutes’ drive from the start of the hike.

On Day 9, you will embark on what may be the highlight of your North Island tour: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! This 19.4 km hike takes you past unique, volcanic landscapes and no less than three active volcanoes. This hike should definitely not be skipped during your tour, but it is certainly not to be underestimated either. Here you can read everything you need to know about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

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Day 10 – 13: Napier & Hawke’s Bay

Still reeling from the hike and perhaps with some slight muscle soreness, you’ll drive on today to your penultimate stop on the North Island. Located in the wine region of Hawke’s Bay, you’ll find New Zealand’s Art Deco city: Napier. Explore this city that was completely rebuilt in the style of the time after an earthquake in 1931 and which you can still enjoy today by doing the free Art Deco city walk.

Napier is further located in one of New Zealand’s best wine regions. From here you can rent a bike and map out your own bike route that will take you past the many wonderful wineries in the region. At many wineries you can do a wine tasting, where for $10 to $20 NZD you get four glasses of their best wines. The Mission Estate winery is New Zealand’s oldest, and perhaps finest, winery. We also recommend a visit to the Clearview Estate and Urban Winery.

Day 13 – 14: Wellington

Today we say goodbye to Hawkes Bay and drive on to New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington in four hours. Here you can drop off your RV or car and explore the city on foot. Be sure to visit the impressive Te Papa museum. This museum takes you through New Zealand’s nature and culture in an interactive way and you can visit completely for free! Or visit the Botanical Gardens with the Wellington cable car. In the evening, enjoy a drink at the Wellington Waterfront before crawling under the covers to catch your flight back home the next day and conclude your North Island roundtrip.

Onward travel to the South Island

After this North Island tour of New Zealand, aren’t you ready to go home yet and would you like to explore the South Island as well? We certainly understand that, because the South Island has something totally different to offer again than the North Island. To continue your journey, take the ferry from Wellington with your RV or car to Picton. Do book your seat on the ferry early, as it can sometimes fill up months in advance! Here you can read everything you need to know for the ideal round trip through New Zealand’s South Island.

Do you have any questions about the above North Island tour? Let us know in a comment below! Looking for more information about your next trip? Please do not hesitate to contact us or send an email to snoezelsontheroad@gmail.com

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