Danu Travels

Hello! We are Dan and Manu, an international couple from Australia and Germany. Through our articles we share our travel knowledge and personal experience with you. We hope to help you with your travel planning, inspire you to add new places to your travel list and contribute to you having the best time when abroad.

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Hope you are well! We are currently back at home in Sydney. Due to the current situation we are limiting in person contact, however we love to meet you virtually 🙂

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New Zealand North Island

New Zealand’s North Island in 2 weeks

July 12, 2020

New Zealand’s North Island has such a different landscape to offer than the South Island. The roads are mainly flat and comparably straight. Then – out of nowhere – you approach a massive volcano shooting out in the background. The more north you go, the more hills begin to appear…Welcome to volcano country!

Quite central of the island, you’ll find yourself in the heart of geothermal activity. It seems like having landed on a different planet! The North Island not only offers incredible landscapes but also carries much of the country’s native culture – the Maori culture. In this blog post we have outlined an itinerary for you to see most of New Zealand’s North Island in two weeks.

This is our travel itinerary from Wellington to Auckland – done in our campervan. We have included time for grocery shopping, places to do laundry at and some shower opportunities. Download the app Campermate for an even easier roadtrip experience.

🚗 = Duration of Drive

🥾 = Duration of Hike

 🛏 = Place to Sleep*

New Zealand’s Capital

Day 1 & Day 2 – Wellington

New Zealand’s capital is also known as ‘Windy Welly’ due to high winds on most days of the year. If you like to start your day in a cute cafe with some delicious breakfast and great coffee, we recommend café NEO: super nice staff, amazing vegan breakfast, free brew coffee refills with your brekkie 🙂

Here are some of the things to do in this city:

  • Waterfront
  • Te Papa Museum
  • Cuba Street
  • Capital City Food Market 
  • Mt Victoria
  • Cable Car
  • Botanic Gardens 
  • Weta Cave 

Time for grocery shopping – leave Wellington on the 2nd day in the early afternoon to get closer to your next destination

🛏 1st night in Wellington (we stayed at the CPG hotel, as Manu worked for the CPG Hotel Group at the time and got a staff discount for us. However, there are many hostel or Airbnb options) Shower & laundry opportunity

🛏 2nd night on the way to Mt Taranaki (eg. Mana Bay $0 🚗 3.5hrs)

Volcanoes and Geothermal Activity

Day 3 – Mt Taranaki

  • get up early and make your way to Mt Taranaki – the Dawson Falls Visitor Center to be exact 🚗 1hr
  • from here it is just a 10minute walk to the Dawson Falls. We also recommend the Wilkies Pool Loop Track for a beautiful walk 🥾 1hr
  • continue to the Mangorei Track Trail Head 🚗 ~1.5hrs, leave your Van at the car park and walk up to the Pouakai Hut 🥾 2hrs, for an overnight stay
  • walk to the Pouakai Reflective Tarns 🥾~15min, relax and enjoy the fantastic views. There are more walks to do eg. to the Henry Peak Lookout

🛏 Pouakai Hut for $15pp or Camping (if you have a lightweight tent)

Tip: check if there is a bed available in the hut before walking to the tarns as it is first come first serve. If the hut is full, have a look at the Pouakai Tarns, then walk back down and check the Campermate App for the best campsite option for you.

Day 4 – Mt Taranaki & Tongariro National Park

  • we hope you are luckier than we were with finding a bed available and get to see the sunrise at Pouakai Tarns. Make your way back down to the car park after 🥾~2.5hrs
  • drive to the northern end of Lake Managamahoe 🚗 20- 30min for some picture-perfect views
  • after lunch, head off to Tongariro National Park 🚗3.5-4hrs 
  • depending on how much time you have left, you can pick a short walk to do. The Taranaki Falls Walking Track 🥾2hrs or Ridge Walking Track 🥾 30-40min sounded appealing to us.

🛏 Manahuia Campsite ($13 pp) 

Day 5 – Tongariro National Park

  • hopefully the weather conditions are perfect and allow you to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing 🥾 7-8hrs. Click here for everything you need to know about this highlight of New Zealand’s North Island 🙂
  • shower + sauna opportunity at Skotel Hotel for $10pp

🛏 Manahuia Campsite ($13pp)

Day 6 – Lake Taupo & Rotorua

  • make your way to Lake Taupo 🚗 1.25hr. This Lake is actually an active volcano. We recommend booking the ‘Early Bird’ Sailing Tour with Sail Fearless for 9.30am to see the beautiful Maori Carvings

Time for laundry and grocery shopping at Pak’nSave or Countdown while waiting on your clothes to wash & dry

  • soak in the natural hot springs at Taupo’s Otumuheke Spa Park
  • check out the Huka Falls
  • continue further to Wai-o- Tapu- Thermal Wonderland 🚗 1hr. On your way there or back you can stop at Kerosene Creek for another dip in geothermal water.  
  • at night you can join a Maori Culture experience (pre-booking is required). As we love learning about different cultures – especially ones which are so in tune with nature – and as we don’t mind supporting institutions that put in effort to keep cultures alive, we booked the ‘Te Puia Evening Experience’. While we learned some interesting things, this event wasn’t for us. It felt very much tailored to tourists and it was more about some great buffet style dining experience than cultural authenticity. The Tamaki Maori Village Evening Experience was recommended to us by travellers, afterwards. We wished we would have known this before – at least you do now 🙂

🛏 Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park ($20pp) – hot shower, kitchen facilities and pools included

Falls, Beaches and Forest

Day 7 – Rotorua & Tauranga

  • visit the geothermal Kuirau Park in the morning
  • leave Rotorua towards Omanawa Falls 🚗1hr 🥾30min
  • continue to Kaiate Falls 🚗 30min 🥾 1hr
  • drive to Tauranga 🚗~30min, explore the downtown area and walk up Mt Maunganui for beautiful views over the city and ocean front 🥾 45min

Options for the evening:

  1. you can either stay downtown for some ‘Kiwi nightlife’
  2. finish off your day with the ‘Waimarino Kayak Tour‘ to see glow worms (Departure: 6.30pm; Duration: 3.5hrs) and stay the night in the area 🛏 eg. Wairoa River Road Reserve ($0) 
  3. or continue driving towards the Coromandel Area 🚗2hrs (with a 10min detour to Owharoa Falls) 🛏 Paku Drive Carpark ($0)

Day 8 – Beaches 

  • this day will be a very slow paced day. Depending on what you decided to do the day before, driving to your next destination will either take you 🚗 ~2.5hrs or ~0.5hrs
  • walk from Hahei Beach to Cathedral Cove & Te Hoho Rock 🥾1.5hrs
  • enjoy some homemade ice cream or other delicious homecooked food in cute garden athmosphere at Eggsentric Cafe & Restaurant
  • visit the Hot Water Beach

Tip: check out the tide times for Hot Water Beach and visit at the start of low tide – plan your day around it. Take a big shovel with you (maybe even pick one up from Tauranga to save some costs) and dig your own hot pool on the beach.

🛏 eg. Paku Drive Carpark $0 or Tui Terrace $0 (shower opportunities nearby)

Day 9 – Coromandel Forest Park 

  • Drive to the Coromandel Forest Park and park at Kauaeranga Valley Road End 🚗 ~1.5hrs
  • Pinnacles Walk 🥾8-9hrs circuit (inform yourself at the visitor center about the track; ask for a map) 

🛏 Low cost campsite in Coromandel Forest Park ($13pp) or BrownStreet car park($0) grocery shopping at Pak’nSave nearby

North of the North

Day 10 – Bay of Islands

  • get ready for a long drive past Auckland to the Whangarei Falls 🚗 4hrs 🥾 30min
  • and further to Bay of Islands (Paihia) 🚗 ~1hr. Some of the things you can do in the area: the Paihia Lookout, relaxing at the beach, visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, exploring the different bays
  • in Kerikeri 🚗 ~30min, you can also visit the Kororipo Heritage Park and the Rainbow Falls nearby

🛏 eg. Puketi Recreation Campsite 🚗30min ($8pp)

Day 11 – Cape Reinga

Today you will be driving all the way up north, to the most northern point of New Zealand’s North Island.

  • make your way to Te Paki – Giant Sand Dunes 🚗 2.5-3hrs. You can hire a boogie board there for $15 and slide down the dunes
  • Cape Reinga 🚗 20 minutes. This place is sacred to the Maori people as it is the gateway for the spirits to the underworld. Please be respectful

🛏 eg Rarawa Beach Campsite ($15pp- cold shower available) or further down south if you prefer

Day 12 – Long Drive & Ancient Trees

Be prepared for another long day of driving (~6 or 8hrs in total) to get back down. Taking the same route as the one you took up would be about an hour faster, however, we preferred driving through the Waipoua Forest:

  • stop at the cute town of Hokianga Harbour 🚗 2.5hrs
  • visit the ancient Kauri tree ‘Tane Mahuta‘ – ‘God of the Forest’ 🚗 40mins

🛏 Depending on the distance you’d like to drive that day and your budget you can either camp at Port Albert ($0) 🚗 2.5hrs or Piha Camping Ground (~$20pp) 🚗4hrs

Auckland Area

Day 13 – Piha/ Auckland

You can either drive straight to Auckland or spend a(nother) night near the beach in the little surfer town Piha.

This is what you do in Piha:

  • walk along the Black Sand Beach. Here you find the lion-shaped Lion Rock and Taitomo Rock
  • drive to the second parking lot at Kitekite Falls for a small, beautiful forest hike to the falls 🥾 1hr
  • visit the Karekare Falls 🚗15minutes
  • have coffee at the cute Piha Café owned by a lovely young family

🛏 Piha Camping Ground (~$20pp) – great hot showers

Day 14 – Auckland

Finish your two weeks on New Zealand’s North Island in Auckland – the country’s biggest city. Here you can walk along the modern waterfront, check-out the SkyTower, visit a museum…for more ideas head to Auckland’s Tourism, Events and Economic Development website.

We started and finished our New Zeland adventure with dinner at Mexico Britomart. It’s such a great vibe and the food is amazing 🙂

* most campsites mentioned in this article are for self contained Campervans only. Click here to read what this means and to get more information about buying and selling a Campervan in New Zealand