Top 10 Road Trip Destinations Around North Island New Zealand

Kia Ora! New Zealand is made up of two main islands, North Island and South Island. There is so much to see and do across each, that it can be hard to fit it all in. With two weeks up my sleeve, I decided to tackle the North Island, with the desire to return and visit the South.

My top 10 bucket list destinations for North Island New Zealand is as follows.

1. Auckland

  • As a point of arrival and departure, Auckland is the major city in the North Island. It is based around two harbours with iconic city infrastructure lining the city skyline. Spot the Sky Tower, whilst you brunch and toast to the many city cafes and bars along the super yacht lined harbour.


2. Raglan

  • A Small beachside town 50km west of Hamilton. Raglan has great cafes and shops, nice beaches and offers a quiet peaceful night sleep. There is an alarm that sounds when emergency service volunteers are required and this can be heard from around the town. At first it freaked us all out, because immediately we thought there was a war happening, but once we knew what it was, it became a quirky addition to the seaside town.

3. Rotorua

A phenomenal destination to visit New Zealand’s geothermal landscapes. Rotorua is like stepping on another planet. With bubbling mud pools and steam shooting from the ground literally anywhere and everywhere, you cannot go to New Zealand and miss this destination.

  • Kuirau Park. Walk around Rotorua town and you will stumble across this interesting park. With old and new mud pools forming, steaming cracks in the ground and bubbling liquid at every corner, it makes for an interesting walk. Best of all its free!
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. A little smelly, but amazing colourful, bubbling mud pools, steaming cliffs and craters.

  • Red Wood Forest. A must do, so peaceful and beautiful.
  • Te Puia Geyser. If water and steam exploding out of the ground interests you, then definitely worth checking out.
  • Lake Waikoto – Blue Lake. Surrounded by beautiful walking tracks, the lake is a peaceful and idyllic spot to spend a couple of hours.
  • Lake Rotokakahi – Green Lake. A little hard to find, this sacred lake is for viewing only, no boating, water sports or swimming.
  • Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. Such a nice way to wind down after a hectic day of walking. You can pool hop between the thermal pools ranging from warm to very, very hot. The minerals are meant to make you feel reenergized and all other good things, but this is just a really cool place to hang out for some nice scenery and a warm swim!

4. Taupo

  • Lake Taupo
  • Huka Falls. Beautiful gushing blue falls, you can walk around the falls or explore by speedboat. The water-colour is amazing here and the water is very fast-moving. A must visit for something cool.
  • Craters of the Moon. Part of the largest geothermal field in New Zealand, this place does really feel like you’re on the moon. With winding walkways taking you around the craters, you can explore the steaming vents and thermal areas within.

5. Matamata

  • Hobbiton Movie Set. Need I say more, The Hobbiton Movie Set was created for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films. You can explore the well-kept gardens and be a hobbit for a day. Tour tickets will get you the bus ride to and from the set, entry into Hobbiton, a guided walking tour and an alcoholic beverage at the Green Dragon. Such a cool place to hang out and explore.

6. Whanarua Bay

  • Swim in the quiet and peaceful bay. Explore the rock pools and relax. This was such a beautiful hidden spot along the Whanarua coastline. Access is through private land, we stayed in a home on the bay. There are waterfalls nearby but you must call first to get permission to access them, due to their sacredness in Maori Culture.
  • Pacific Coast Macadamias. Explore the macadamia farm and pick a few of your own. Yum!

7. Whitianga

  • Check out Cathedral Cove for spectacular walks and views of the rock formations and beach.


8. Hahei

  • Mercury bay, Hot Water Beach. Travel out to the beach to find the hot water spring that runs into the ocean. It won’t be hard to find as there was always masses of people crammed together to enjoy the warm water, but be careful, stand in the wrong spot and there is literally boiling water coming out of the sand. Such a weird beach experience, but one for the bucket list!

9. Coromandel

  • The Karangahake Gorge. Walk the gorge that was formed by the Ohinemuri River.
  • Check out the beaches and natural landscapes around town.

10. Bay of Islands

  • Paihai Harbour. A great spot for eating, drinking and exploring. Beautiful views, however when I visited, the islands were difficult to see due to bad weather.
  • Rainbow Falls Walk. A pretty, scenic walk and heavy flowing waterfall.

Road trippers do take note that the roads can be extremely windy and a little on the dangerous side. Plan your trip accordingly. What looked like a short trip on the map, was often a long windy clifftop drive. If you’re a passenger, pack your travel sickness tablets and make sure you’ve got a confident, experienced driver behind the wheel. New Zealand is a beautiful, intriguing and phenomenal country. I hope you enjoy! Happy exploring xx


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