10 day Lower North Island New Zealand itinerary

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This New Zealand itinerary takes you to all the best spots on the lower half of New Zealand's stunning North Island.

From the cultural delights of Wellington, to the wineries and art deco architecture of Napier and Hawkes Bay.

See New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo.

Take in the thermal and Maori cultural attractions in Rotorua, and be blown away by the famous Waitomo Caves.

Come and see the beautiful North Island!

Handy Tips

1) You can view your interactive route map at the bottom of the page

2) Feel free to hire a car and use this itinerary as a guide, or fill out the form at the bottom of the page to talk to one of our local experts about a fully packaged self drive tour.

3) Place your cursor on a picture for a description of the picture.



Day by day -  click on each day for more detail, then when you finish just click on your browsers back button to return here

Day 1 - arrive in Wellington

Day 2 - Wellington to Napier & Hawke's Bay

Day 3 - Napier to Taupo

Day 4 - Taupo to Rotorua's thermal wonderland

Day 5 - explore the wonders of Rotorua

Day 6 - Rotorua to the famous Waitomo Caves

Day 7 - Waitomo to New Plymouth

Day 8 - New Plymouth to Wellington

Day 9 - explore Wellington

Day 10 - fly home



Day 1 Wellington

Welcome to New Zealand's North Island.

Today you arrive in Wellington , New Zealand's capital.

Do you need to hire a car or camper?

Did you know that we have access to all of the major rental brands? With a huge range of vehicles to choose from, at market leading rates, we have the perfect car or camper to suit your needs and budget.

To see our full range and to check availability, just click here.

Wellington's Copthorne Oriental Bay

Where to stay in Wellington

If you are collecting your car from the airport, there are a range of hotels close by.

One of the most popular is the Airport Motor Lodge, which is less than half a kilometer from the airport. You can read reviews, check availability and make your bookings here.

If you are looking for something with a great view, the Copthorne Oriental Bay is a favorite of our. It's about five kilometers from the airport, but has great views over the harbor, and is close to cafes and restaurants.

You can search for other accommodation close to the airport by clicking here.

Or to search all Wellington accommodation just click here.



Day 2 Napier / Hawke's Bay

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you North along State Highway 2 to Napier (4.5 hours drive).

Relaxing on the Napier Afternoon Wine Tour

Where to stay in Napier

Napier is a lovely sea side town and has a variety of beach front hotels and apartments.

One of the more popular hotels is the Shoreline Motel, with awesome views directly over the ocean. It's a great spot and only a short walk to the town center.

Time to explore

Located on beautiful Hawke's Bay , Napier, and nearby Hastings, were devastated by a massive earthquake in 1931, in which 258 people were killed. Approximately 40 square kilometers of today's Napier, was undersea before being raised by the quake.

Following the quake, the town was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the era, and Napier is now recognized as one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the world.

There is plenty to see and do in Napier. Popular activities are:

* take a guided Art Deco tour of Napier

Napier buzzes on Art Deco Weekend

* Art deco weekend, held each year in February, is a festival of food, wine, music, vintage car displays, and all things art deco

* visit the many local wineries. Recognized as a producer of fine wines, Hawke's bay offers wine buffs a wide range of choice, and perhaps the best way to sample the local vintage is on an organized wine tour.

* visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand, located on Marine Parade Napier

* hire a bike or take a guided cycling tour of the area

Our pick

The Afternoon Wine Tour visits four wineries and concludes with wine, cheese and biscuits high up on a hill overlooking Hawke's Bay. Beautiful views, great wines, and highly recommended.

Search other Hawke's Bay activities

You can search a range of activities and read customer reviews here.



Day 3 Taupo

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from Napier to the lovely lake side town of Taupo (2 hours drive).

Where to stay in Taupo

The iconic Huka Lodge - we thank them for use of this image

Accommodation options abound in Taupo. Try for a lake view room if budget allows. There is nothing better than sitting on your balcony with a beer or glass of New Zealand wine, and gazing at this wonderful landscape.

We have to admit that we have a soft spot for Baycrest Lodge. Nice clean, spacious rooms, and lake Views. And we love the heated rock pool.

Another highly rated hotel is Sails on the Lake.

For a real treat, the exclusive Huka Lodge overlooks Huka Falls.

Huka Lodge has been "home" to an endless stream of celebrities and royalty over the years, and offers guests an almost unrivalled hospitality experience. Exceptional service, superb accommodation, and fine cuisine using the best of local produce, make Huka Lodge one of the finest in the world,

Jetboating at Huka Falls

There's lots to see and do in Taupo

Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake, with a surface area of 616 square kilometers. It is also the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in Oceania.

A noted trout fishery, the area is popular with anglers and boat owners. New Zealand's longest river, the mighty Waikato River flows from Lake Taupo.

Here are some suggested activities in the Taupo region:

* trout fishing-as one of New Zealand's premier trout fishing destinations, Taupo also offers some of the best trout fishing in the world. Do it yourself, or better still, take a guided tour and learn from the experts. Catch your own dinner. What could be better!

* take a leisurely cruise on Lake Taupo to view the Maori rock carvings. It's a great way to see the lake and the carvings are amazing.

The Maori Rock Carving Cruise from Taupo

* Craters of the Moon is a geothermal area offering steaming vents, and boiling mud,

* Huka Falls-although only 3 metres high, over 200,000 litres per second roar over the falls,

* Tongariro Crossing, universally described as "the best one day walk in the world", offers spectacular scenery, dramatic volcanic landscapes and amazing vistas. Parts of the film Lord of the Rings were filmed here, and if you are feeling energetic, this could very well prove to be a highlight of your New Zealand itinerary. You can walk the Crossing unguided and there are drop off/pick up services available - view details.

Our pick

Huka Falls is a must see experience, and our favorite way to see it is on the thrilling jetboat ride that takes you up to the falls.

Whitewater rafting on the Tongariro River

It's hard to know which is more thrilling, the roar of the jetboat or the roar of the falls!

Check it out here.

And, if you crave even more thrills, you can combine a jetboat ride with a whitewater rafting adventure. Click here to learn more.

Here's some more suggestions

There's a whole range of activities and tours available in the region. To read those important customer reviews and to check availability and prices, just click here.



Days 4 & 5 Rotorua

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to New Zealand's premier thermal resort of Rotorua (1 hour drive).

For great views, the Skyline Gondola is a must

Rotorua - where to stay?

There are heaps of accommodation options in Rotorua.

We recommend the Millenium because of its central location and great lake views (make sure though to ask for a lake view room). There is also a restaurant, bar, spa, and hot pools on site, making it a great package, and a relaxing spot to unwind after a day exploring the region.

You can search through a wide range of Rotorua hotels, read reviews, and make bookings here.

It's time to explore Rotorua

Te Puia at Rotorua is home to the National Carving School - picture courtesy Eric Lindber

Today you are free to explore Rotorua . Rotorua is a bustling centre, famous for it's geo-thermal activity. Home to bubbling mud pools, geysers, sulphur crusted lakes, and an ever present smell of sulphur, Rotorua is a fascinating place, and a must see on your North Island trip.

Built on the shores of Lake Rotorua (at 80 square kilometres, the North Island's second largest lake), Rotorua is a beautiful town, best viewed from the Skyline Gondola, which transports visitors to the top of Mt Ngongotaha (487m).

There is lots to see & do in Rotorua, but always popular are:

* the luge at the top of Mt Ngongotaha. Three separate tracks wind their way down the hill side, and you will become addicted to the thrill provided by the small sit on carts. When you reach the bottom, a chairlift returns you to the top to do it all over again. Great fun, if a little expensive.

The Champagne Pools - pic courtesy Chris McLennan

* Rotorua Museum of Art and History. Winner of numerous awards, the museum should be one of your first stops in Rotorua. The museum focuses on the history and culture of the area, in particular that of the local iwi (tribe), Te Arawa. The museum houses many artefacts, four original 1908 mud baths, a tribute to B Company of the 28th (Maori) Battalion who lost over 600 men in battles during World War 2, and a presentation on the Tarawera eruption of 1886.

* Te Puia. Visited by over half a million people each year, Te Puia combines Maori cultural experiences and geothermal action in one location. Music and dance shows, weaving and carving, including some large ornate timber pieces, and the welcoming Maori hosts, allow visitors a unique insight of maori culture. Te Puia is also home to the New Zealand maori Arts and Crafts Institute. The thermal area has a variety of boiling mud pools, steaming vents and geysers. New Zealand's largest geyser, Pohutu, erepts regularly, reaching heights up to 30 metres.

* Tamaki Maori Village is an authentic recreation of traditional Maori life. If you have the chance, try the authentic Hangi, a meal cooked in the earth. Delicious!

* Wai-o-Tapu is a geothermal smorgasboard of activity. Active for over 150,000 years, the area offers boiling mud pools and springs, a series of amazing colored lakes, and a geyser, the Lady Knox Geyser, erupts promptly at 10.15 a.m. each day.

* trout fishing is popular in the area, and guided tours are available. Book a guided fly fishing tour and learn from the experts.



Day 6 Waitomo Caves

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from Rotorua to Waitomo, home of the Waitomo Caves (2.5 hours drive).

The amazing glowworms at Waitomo Caves

Where to stay for the Waitomo Caves

Waitomo village is fairly small, but there are still a range of accommodation choices in and around the village. You can check them out here.

The nearby township of Te Kuiti also has a few choices. You can check availability and see the range here.

The Caves

The Waitomo Caves are one of New Zealand's most popular attractions.

The complex includes the unforgettable Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave, and the spectacular Glowworm Caves.

The caves are a must see, and you will marvel at the display as thousands of tiny glowworms radiate their gentle glow. Expert guides will provide expert commentary on the caves history as you make your way through the complex.

Blackwater Rafting Waitomo Caves

There are a range of tours available which you can view here.

Our favorite is the glowworm cave tour. Gently drifting through the cave whilst thousands of tiny glowworms twinkle above is something you will never forget.

Need something a little more thrilling?

If you crave something a little more adventurous, why not try black water rafting. 3 or 5 hour adventures will have you jumping, weaving, abseiling, and tubing through Ruakuri Caves glowworm lit waters. The operator, the Black Water Rafting company, have been in operation for over 20 years, and have guided over half a million visitors through this underground wonderland.



Day 7 New Plymouth

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the Taranaki region's major centre, New Plymouth (2.5 hours drive).

Located on the west coast of the North Island, New Plymouth is somewhat unique, in being a coastal city which has a mountain within 30 minutes drive.

Mount Taranaki (also known as Mount Egmont) stands at 2,518 metres and allows visitors to New Plymouth to snowboard, ski, and surf, all on the same day.

You will find a wide range of hotels and things to do in New Plymouth.

What a location. New Plymouth with Mount Taranaki in the background

What's there to see in New Plymouth? Here's a few suggestions:

* take a walk. There are several notable walks like the award winning Coastal Walkway, a thirteen kilometer track that follows the stunning coastline

* visit the Len Lye Centre/Govett-Brewster Art Gallery for perhaps New Zealand's finest display of contemporary art

* have a game of golf. With seven courses in the region, there's lots of choice. The New Plymouth Golf Club has been home to four New Zealand Open championships and offers stunning views

* go for a surf at one of the many beaches in the area

* ski in the colder months at Manganui Skifield

Other suggestions are horse riding, indoor carting, kayaking, wind surfing and fishing, to name a few.



Days 8 & 9 Wellington

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from New Plymouth back to New Zealand's capital, Wellington (4.5 hours drive).

The stunning Maori meeting house inside Te Papa

Check into your accommodation (see Day 1 for our accommodation tips).

Wellington awaits!

Today on your New Zealand itinerary you are free to explore Wellington.

With a strong cafe culture, Wellington has literally hundreds of dining options, with various harbour front eateries providing excellent food and views.

Our top things to see and do in Wellington

Highly recommended are:

* a visit to Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. As New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa is a must see on your trip.

The Wellington Cable Car - pic courtesy Ian Trafford

Spread over five floors, and crammed full of New Zealand artifacts, interactive displays and hands on child friendly exhibits, Te Papa will occupy you for many hours.

* a trip on the Wellington Cable Car takes you 122 meters up Kelburn Hill to a wonderful viewing area, overlooking Wellington. Here you can also visit the Wellington Cable Car Museum. As an alternative to catching the cable car back down, a walk will take you through the Botanic Gardens.

* take a relaxing walk along Wellington's beautiful waterfront, and stop at one of the many cafes or restaurants.

Weta Caves Workshop

* no visit to Wellington would be complete without a visit to the Weta Caves Workshop. Come and learn about the works of Peter Jackson and his team. There's a range of tours available - click here to view.

* visit Zealandia, an amazing eco park close to the city center. This tribute to New Zealand's flora and fauna is a great place to pass a few hours, and to learn about the unique New Zealand environment.

* cycle the Rimutaka Rail Trail

* visit a winery. The nearby village of Martinborough is home to various wineries - our top winery tour pick is this one. It even includes a train trip!



Day 10 - home.

Unfortunately, today your New Zealand vacation comes to an end and you fly home.

We hope that you have enjoyed this New Zealand itinerary, and that you will return in the future to see more of this spectacular country.

We welcome your feedback.


To learn more about the regions covered in this New Zealand itinerary, click here.



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