Plan Your North Island Holiday Itinerary – For Independent Travellers in New Zealand

Planning your North Island Holiday itinerary will always mean compromises have to be made… unless you have several months! While most agree the South Island is scenically absolutely stunning, the North Island is also very beautiful featuring a plethora of lovely beaches, harbours, islands, spectacular mountains, magnificent native forests and bush, thermal activity and historic features,… with a wide range of attractions and activities dictated by the geographic features of the area.

You will want to allow time for a wide range of adventure activities, walks, water activities, wineries, cultural attractions… the list goes on. New Zealand is larger than it appears on a map and travel times are longer than many people expect, in part because our roads are generally one lane, steep and windy.This should be a consideration in planning your North Island holiday itinerary.

Another consideration should be the seasons. The Central North Island has snow in winter which can mean some roads may be closed for short periods of time. In particular the Desert Road and the Napier-Taupo Hills.

North Island Holiday Itinerary Suggestions

These suggested itinerary options for independent travel in the North Island are just a guide for those wishing to tour New Zealand, seeing the best of the country. To tour the whole island you would really need a minimum four to six weeks…. but you can see a lot in 2-3 weeks.If you are planning on including
the South Island, you will probably opt for the shorter routes unless you are fortunate enough to have several weeks.

Destinations You Should Try to Include

The “must see locations” would be any or all of

  • Bay of Islands
  • Auckland
  • Rotorua
  • Tauranga
  • Coromandel Peninsula
  • Taupo
  • Napier
  • Wellington

Choosing Your Route

I am suggesting several alternative options for you to choose from, depending on the time you have. This may mean combining two options if you have more time. Almost certainly you will need to make choices. Some people prefer to spend more time in fewer areas seeing them well, while others will pass through for an overall view… but will have to choose their activities carefully picking out the best of the many activities and attractions.

NORTH ISLAND ITINERARY OPTIONS Routes Between Auckland and Wellington

  • Route 1 – Auckland – Waitomo – Taupo – Rotorua – Tauranga – Auckland
  • Route 2 – Auckland – Tauranga – Rotorua – Taupo -Wellington
  • Route 3 – Auckland – Waitomo – National Park – Wellington – Napier – Taupo – Rotorua – Tauranga – Coromandel (if time allows) – Auckland
  • Route 4– Auckland – Waitomo – New Plymouth – Wellington – and return as for as for route 3
  • Route 5 The complete tour! Auckland – Tauranga – side trip to Rotorua( less than an hour) – East Cape to Gisborne – Napier – Wellington – either Taupo – Auckland OR Wanganui – New Plymouth – Taupo – Waitomo – Auckland

You can travel by rental car or campervan for real independence. If you prefer not to drive yourself you could follow these routes using a bus pass which can be quite cost effective. New Zealand has a limited train service to some of these towns and cities, but train is not possible for a comprehensive coverage of the North Island.

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