New Zealand North Island Itinerary - 2 Weeks Highlights

Green, rolling hills, pristine beaches, big city life and roaring volcanoes.  There is so much to do and see in New Zealand's North Island, that it's hardly possible to fit it all into just one visit. Even though the country is small compared to its neighbour Australia, you should definitely calculate enough time for your New Zealand road trip.
If you have two weeks, your New Zealand North Island itinerary could look a bit like this:

If you need additional tips on New Zealand North Island attractions, send me a message. I'll try my best to help you.

 

 
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If you haven't been on a road trip to New Zealand yet and are thinking about it, Lindsay from carpediemourway.com has written down 8 realities you might want to keep in mind.

Please note that this is a New Zealand North Island Highlight itinerary for first timers and covers only some of the best places in New Zealand. Itineraries for New Zealand repeaters will follow at a later stage.

If you want to know what a 2-week South Island New Zealand itinerary could look like, click here

Day 1: Auckland

On day 1 of your 2 weeks North Island New Zealand, you shouldn’t go too far, as you probably have a huge jetlag. Go pick up your car or camper van and check-in to your hotel or campground. Maybe go for a little walk around your area. Get a first taste of Auckland New Zealand by eating the best hokey pokey ice cream in the world at Giapo ice cream on Gore Street or drinking a Flat White at one of the many cafes. But apart from that, just relax and get rid of the nasty jetlag.

Auckland accommodation

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The Great Ponsonby Arthotel B&B

Lovely B&B in a charming 1890 heritage villa, located in the lively neighbourhood of Ponsonby that’s famous for great food and cocktails.

 
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M Social

Modern, stylish and colourful hotel. Right at Auckland Harbour and only a minute walk from Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter with an abundance of restaurants. Queen Street is only 2 minutes walk away.

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Four Points by Sheraton

New, modern hotel, right on Queen Street. Find shops, restaurants and bars right at your doorstep!

 

Day 2: Explore Auckland

Exploring the inner city of Auckland is easiest done by public transport. The green Inner City Link bus will bring you to all the interesting areas of Auckland. Queen Street with the Skytower, Ponsonby, Parnell, K-Road, they all have their own flair and are worth a visit. There are also red buses to get you around the city center. But with all the traffic and lights, you’re probably faster by walking. Explore Auckland by boat on a Waitemata Harbour cruise or visit an open bird sanctuary on Tiritiri Matangi Island. If you feel like a day of walking, the Coast to Coast Walkway or Rangitoto Island will be perfect for you.

And don't miss out on the abundance of Auckland's waterfront restaurants in Viaduct Harbour and the Wynyard Quarter for dinner.

Day 3: Auckland to Paihia (approx. 230km)

Get up early and start driving north. Stop in Waipu to visit Waipu caves with their millions of glow worms, and add another break in Whangarei for lunch. Don’t forget to visit the toilets in Kawakawa that have been designed by the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Peeing has never been artsier 😉

Bay of Islands accommodation

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The Waterfront Suites, Paihia

Modern, luxurious aparthotel in great location, only steps from Paihia’s town centre and the beach.

 
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The Duke of Marlborough, Russell

Stunning hotel in colonial style, right on the waterfront. Beautiful rooms with new and original elements. A place to dream!

 

Love New Zealand like I do? What’s your favourite place?

Check out my 20 best places to visit in New Zealand!

Day 4: Bay of Islands Cruise

There are plenty of tour operators in Paihia or Russell. Go for a hole in the rock tour, dolphin watching or even swim with dolphins in Bay of Islands! It’s completely up to you! Just make sure you find time to walk through Russell as it’s really pretty with its colonial houses right on the water’s edge.

Check out my recommendations for Bay of Islands activities and accommodation! 

If you have a few days and want to rather stay on the islands instead of Russell or Paihia, Amy from outchasingstars.com has some really good inspiration in the Bay of islands for you

Day 5: Paihia to Waipoua Forest (approx. 130km)

First, visit the Maori Treaty Grounds, the place where the British Crown and Maori signed the famous treaty that founded modern New Zealand (and disadvantaged the Maori). Afterwards, drive to the Waipoua Kauri Forest. Here lives Tane Mahuta, the oldest Kauri tree in New Zealand.

Discover Aotearoa Tip: If you travel with a tent or in a camper, stay at the Trounson Kauri Park DOC campground and take a nocturnal walk to find glow worms

Day 6: Waipoua Forest to Orewa Beach (approx. 210km)

To break up the long stretch to Rotorua, stay a night at Orewa Beach, just north of Auckland. The 3km long beach is perfect for a walk, some swimming and surfing, and is a popular weekend getaway for Aucklander. Perfect for a little relaxation.

Orewa accommodation

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Edgewater Motel, Orewa

One of the few accommodation in New Zealand with direct access to the beach! Orewa’s town centre is also only a few steps away.

 
 
 

Day 7 – 9: Explore Rotorua

This town is nicknamed Rotovegas for a reason. There is so many things to do in Rotorua that you could easily spend a week or even two and still explore something new every day. It is most famous for its geo-thermal areas and you can see it steaming and bubbling pretty much everywhere (even in the city park). All through the town the smell of rotten eggs is omnipresent, evidence of the ever-flowing Sulphur. A visit at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland is a must-do and can be booked here!

If you’re a biker, you’ll have to go on a ride through the Redwood forest! Thrill-seekers can zorb down a hill and kids can try to find their way out of the huge maze at aMAZEme. Hikers will love the nearby Tarawera Trail. Dinner is great in one of the restaurants at the car-free eat street Rotorua. And that’s only a little extract of what Rotorua has to offer!

See here a list of some of the many attractions in Rotorua

There are also heaps of free things to do in Rotorua. Click here for my best recommendations.

By the way: If you have some time to spare on your way from Auckland to Rotorua, you should definitely stop at Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata!

Rotorua accommodation

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Funky Green Voyager

Charming backpackers in Rotorua, in walking distance to the center. Most rooms are located around a grassy garden area with a lovely gazebo. More rooms, the kitchen and communal area are in the main building. Newest addition to the facilities is a swimming pool.

 
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Accolade Motel

Family operated motel about 10 minutes’ walk from the city center. The rooms have a fridge and tea and coffee and it’s one of the only places in Rotorua that offers a small, but lovely breakfast. Best value for money in Town!

 
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Novotel Rotorua

As central as it gets, Novotel lies between Eat Street and the town on one side and Lake Rotorua on the other. Perfect to explore the city centre on foot. The stylish hotel also has a swimming pool.

 

Day 10: Rotorua to National Park Village (approx. 180km)

A must-stop on your North Island itinerary en-route to National Park Village is Taupo. The least you should visit are the Huka Falls and Spa Park. Spa Park Taupo a popular free hot spring that leads into the river and i can only recommend it.

National Park Village is quiet but there are a couple bars (eg Schnapps Bar and Park Hotel Bar), a minigolf and a climbing hall (that is also a hostel).

Tongariro National Park accommodation

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Howard’s Mountain Lodge

Lovely and well-priced backpackers in National Park Village. Warm thanks to heating and double glazing. Charming communal area with log fire and free pool table. Free spa pool to soak after hiking or skiing.

 
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The Park Hotel

Nice 3* hotel with resort feeling. 2 free spa pools to relax those feet after a long day hiking. Hotel has restaurant and bar with cozy log fire.

 
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Chateau Tongariro

Luxurious residence in Whakapapa Village, near the ski field. Nice wellness area with sauna and plunge pool. Lots of entertainment thanks to the games room and the in-house cinema.

 

Day 11: Tongariro Crossing in summer (20km, approx. 6h) or skiing in winter

Take the shuttle bus at the prearranged time and be chauffeured to the start of the 20km walk. It can be quite busy at times as this is the most popular day hike in New Zealand. The hike takes you through a volcanic landscape that seems out of this world. If you’re fast you can try to climb Mount Ngauruhoe additionally, known to many as Mt. Doom of Lord of the Rings. Take your lunch break at the Emerald Lakes before tackling the second half of the 6 hour hike.

If you are in Tongariro National Park in winter I suggest you try skiing Ruapehu. It's a one in a lifetime experience!

Also check out my post about other things to do in Tongariro National Park and what to do in bad weather.

 
 

Day 12: National Park Village to Wellington (approx. 320km)

It’s a long way down to Wellington but it can easily be interrupted with a few breaks. Drive to Ohakune (30mins from National Park), get yourself a coffee for the road and stop again in the little village of Bulls. There’s not that much to see apart from the special sense of humor of the locals. You’ll see :-)

Another nice break is in Paraparaumu Beach, with a great view to Kapiti Island, a birders paradise. If the island sounds familiar to you, that’s because of the yummy Kapiti ice cream you might have eaten somewhere.

Or if you need to stretch your legs on a (longer) walk, the Paekakariki Escarpment Track is perfect for you!

Tip: If you have spare time, stay on Kapiti Island for the night. Because it’s governed by DOC you’ll need to book your accommodation in advance.

 
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Ibis Wellington

Nice budge hotel on great location! Only a few minute’s walk in every direction to get to the major tourist attractions in Wellington.

 
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DoubleTree by Hilton

Beautiful new hotel, themed in a modern Art Deco style. Super central, right opposite the Wellington Cable Car. Walking distance to the waterfront and all important attractions.

 

Day 13-14: Wellington

The least you should see in Wellington is the National Museum Te Papa and the often captured lookout that can be reached by cable car. Shopping and dining can be done in the popular Cuba Street. The street has a bohemian flair and is full with little cafes, bars and street art. Being the capital of New Zealand, Wellington is also interesting for the ones who are into politics.

If you need some more inspiration for things to do in Wellington, the Travelkiwis have 4 other tips on the Waterfront for you.

You are now at the end of your North Island itinerary of 2 weeks. I hope you enjoyed your holiday and collected a lot of great memories.

Either fly home from here (Singapore Air now flies to Welly) or take the ferry down to the South Island.
Click here to see the 2 weeks South Island itinerary.

If you would like to get your own tailored travel itinerary for New Zealand, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a quote!


Click here to continue with your south island itinerary

Love New Zealand like I do? What are your favourite places? Check out my 20 best places to visit in New Zealand