The best way to discover the real New Zealand is most definitely through a road trip. New Zealand is a destination that will reignite your love for the great outdoors – from rugged mountains and freezing glaciers to thermal hot springs, active volcanoes, and deserted beaches. Depending on your preference, you can travel by car and stay in hotels or live the campervan life. Whatever your choice is, New Zealand offers endless road trip possibilities. With its varied attributes and sparse population for its size, rest assured the unspoiled views will not disappoint!
A great place to kickstart your ultimate North Island New Zealand road trip is Auckland. It is New Zealand’s most populated city with a busy central business district (CBD) and a plethora of retail outlets. Starting your journey in the “City of Sails” also mean you get to witness the countless yacht marina and sailboats anchoring offshore. Experience and see the picturesque Auckland by taking in the beautiful scenery of the towering Auckland skylines at Devonport. Visit the iconic Auckland Sky Tower and drive past the Auckland Harbour Bridge. However, settle in early for the evening as you prepare yourself for your big adventure the next morning.
Start your day early with a filling breakfast before hitting the road down south to Matamata. If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings, this trip is going to excite you. It is home to Hobbiton, also known as “the Shire” – the grassy village with forty-four hobbit holes that housed the hobbits before they set off on their dangerous adventure in the movie. You can visit Hobbiton on a guided tour at fixed times according to the season, so do check in advance to make sure you do not miss the correct timings.
After an eye-opening visit to Hobbiton, make your way to Rotorua. This is an interesting drive as you will be cruising along the Thermal Explorer Highway with roaring farmland where you get to see plenty of sheep on beautiful green fields. As you approach Rotorua, you will be greeted with a distinct rotten-egg-like sulfur smell, together with blasting geysers and boiling mud pools. Reward yourself after a long drive by relaxing at one of Rotorua’s many spas with mineral as well as mud and sulfur pools. Depending on your length of stay, slot in a trip to Te Puia the following day if time permits. It features the world-famous Pohutu geyser that erupts up to 20 times a day, spurting hot water up to 30 meters skyward.
As you continue your drive southwards from Rotorua, the magnificent sight of Lake Taupo comes into view. It is the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand and the whole of Oceania with the size of Singapore, hence it is truly a sight that is hard to miss. The town of Taupo sits on the northern shore of the lake with myriads of restaurants and cafes. It is also a natural playground for adrenaline junkies, with a wide selection of adventures for you to choose from – bungy jumping, tandem skydiving, jet boat ride near a turbulent pool – you name it, Taupo has it. With stellar views across the emerald blue waters of Lake Taupo, you can see all the way to snow-capped peaks of the neighboring Tongariro National Park on a clear day.
Tongariro National Park
A short distance away from Taupo is the Tongariro National Park. The World Heritage Area has three active volcanoes – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu. Marvel at the sights of these volcanoes as you drive along the Desert Road towards Wellington. If you have time to spare, do attempt the 17km hike on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – a one-day trek to be close to nature. With landscapes so diverse, it makes for a great experience to see the true beauty of the North Island.
End your epic road trip in Wellington – the capital city of New Zealand. Wellington is well-packed with heaps of great sights, tasty eateries, great bars, and shopping. Its compact size means easy access to attractions, one of it being Te Papa. It is a national museum with interactive exhibits of New Zealand’s treasures as well as its richness in history. Make your way to Lambton Quay after to catch the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. Another alternative is to drive or walk up Mount Victoria for 360-degree views of the beautiful city.
From Wellington, you can catch a short flight back to Auckland for your connecting flight home. Alternatively, you can proceed with your journey in the South Island by taking a flight Christchurch or boarding a ferry to Picton. Whatever your choice is, know that you have now just completed the ultimate North Island road trip in New Zealand!