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North Island's Best Road Trips

31 October 2023

It is a dream for many Kiwis to head out on the open road and explore some of the most scenic routes in the North Island. It's so important to get outside of your own city and make the most of living in such a gorgeous country. 

Head off with everything you need all packed neatly into your vehicle so you can relax and focus on enjoying the scenery! 

North Island's Best Road Trips

Auckland → Napier

Take the Pacific Coast Highway to go at a relaxed pace from Auckland to Napier. This will bring you through Gisborne, Tauranga, and the Coromandel Peninsula along the way. It takes longer than driving directly to Napier, but this is a trip worth spending a few weeks doing.

Napier is one of NZ's most famous towns, and it's all due to an earthquake back in 1931. Many of the buildings in the city were destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Today, you can see the stamp of the Art Deco era clearly in many of the buildings. With wineries and an aquarium on offer, Napier has plenty of places to explore.

Tom Parker Fountain, Napier

East Cape

The East Cape route runs between Gisborne and Opotiki and is an ideal choice for those wanting to drive along the coast. Reach the easternmost point of the North Island that most travellers don't bother venturing to. 

If you're a keen hiker, one of NZ's Great Walks is along the way - Lake Waikaremoana. This multi-day hike is fully worth it for the beautiful scenery.

Auckland → Bay of Islands

Starting from Auckland, drive north to reach the Bay of Islands in around 3 hours. This is a quick trip, perfect for a long weekend getaway or the beginning of a longer journey.

Not only will you get to experience the stunning Northern coastline, but you may even spot some dolphins as you drive. 

As it's such a short trip, you'll have plenty of time to make some detours along the way. Around halfway through, you'll notice the turn off to Waipu. This small Scottish town is home to an excellent museum with plenty of history about the area. 

Whangarei is the largest town you'll pass along the way, making it the ideal place to stop in for lunch or a much-needed coffee. It's just over 2 hours' drive from Auckland, and it's a lovely place to stay overnight if you wish. 

If you have time and are a fan of scuba diving, Poor Knights Marine Reserve is worth a visit. This is one of NZ's top diving locations, thanks to the many underwater caves that are in the area, ready to be explored. 

Once in the Bay of Islands, we recommend a visit to the treaty grounds of Waitangi, head off on a dolphin cruise, jet skiing, or try your hand at fishing. 

Bay of Islands

Auckland → Wellington

The drive from Auckland to Wellington takes around 8 hours without stops. However, simply driving from one place to the other would defeat the purpose of a classic NZ road trip! There are plenty of exciting places that you will want to stop in along the way, so allow at least a week for this journey.

Take a slight detour to Taupō to visit the sparkling clear lake and go bird spotting in the ancient forests. Taupō also boasts geothermal valleys with refreshingly warm hot springs. You can also visit the iconic volcanoes found in Tongariro National Park.

Keep heading north and take the turnoff to Rotorua to see the bubbling mud pools and the incomparable thermal lakes. Don't let the sulphur smell put you off - visiting this town is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

If you have plenty of time to spare, keep heading up to Tauranga, a coastal city known for sunshine and its waterfront location. You'll also be just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Hamilton, a city that's famous for its otherworldly botanical gardens. Plus, this area is close to Hobbiton, a must-see for Lord of the Rings fans.

Forgotten World Highway

Want to head somewhere that tourists don't think to go? The Forgotten World Highway is an iconic drive, but one that isn't as popular as other journeys. Enjoy seeing colonial bridle paths, scenic mountain views, and a winding river on your trip.

With just 2 hours and 15 minutes of driving time, this is a wonderful journey for those who love to go at a leisurely pace, making plenty of stops along the way. 

If you enjoy going off the beaten track, this one is for you. Start in Taumarunui and spend a bit of time there before venturing off on the highway. Kayaking, fishing, and jet boating are some activities you can do here. 

Next, head to Whangamomona. There's not much to do there except visit the local pub while you stretch your legs. Finish off your journey in Stratford after taking a detour to see the 'Bridge to Somewhere', a 90-minute walk through the bush.

Auckland → Cape Reinga 

It's recommended that you set aside at least four days for your journey from Auckland to Cape Reinga. Not many people make the journey to the very top of the North Island, but Cape Reinga's stunning views make it all worth it.

If you're planning on making trip #3 - Auckland to Bay of Islands, why not combine the two and tack on an adventure up to Cape Reinga afterwards? Stop at 90 Mile Beach along the way for a well-deserved stretch of the legs. This beach is not quite 90 miles long but is famous for being one NZ's longest beaches.

Another excellent place to stop on this NZ road trip is the Ancient Kauri Kingdom. View incredible hand-crafted Kauri wood carvings and fuel up for the rest of the trip at the local café.

Top Spots to See in the North Island


Auckland is New Zealand's biggest city, and it's definitely a must-see if you've never been. Visit the viaduct for gorgeous views of the harbour and pay the iconic Sky Tower a visit.

Bay of Plenty

If beaches are your thing, you need to make it over to the Bay of Plenty. This is also an area with rich Māori heritage and plenty of outdoor adventures.

Coromandel Peninsula

Best known for Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, the Coromandel Peninsula is home to lush green forests and stunning coastlines, making it a popular road trip destination.

Hawke's Bay

Step into the past with the region's main town of Napier, which is full of striking Art Deco architecture. This region is also known for its numerous vineyards and wineries.


Lord of the Rings fans need to visit Hobbiton at least once in their lives. See the famous film sets and spot views you'll recognise from the movies.

Northland and the Bay of Islands

Up in the Northland, you can find plenty of idyllic bays where you can while away the days swimming and surfing.


Rotorua is famous for its geysers and mud pools. This unique experience is definitely one that you need to see at some point in your life! 

Waiheke Island

If you get to Auckland, Waiheke Island is just a ferry ride away. Go there to visit the glorious beaches and vineyards.


You can't go on a North Island road trip without getting to the capital city at some point. Wellington is full of hipster flair with arguably the best coffee in the country, plenty of excellent food, and funky street art. 

Need a new vehicle or caravan for your North Island adventure?

If you are ready to take off on an epic North Island road trip but can't afford a new vehicle or caravan upfront, Stadium Finance has got your back! We offer vehicle and caravan loans at competitive interest rates to people all over New Zealand.

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