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U.S.FTC GUIDELINES PLEASE NOTE: we act as an affiliate for several companies that feature on our website. In some cases we may earn a commission from referrals to those companies. For further information please refer to our Privacy and Disclaimer policies which can be found in the "US" tab.

15 day Upper North Island New Zealand itinerary

Use this itinerary as a guide to plan your trip

Welcome to the top of the North

Your 15 day New Zealand itinerary takes you from the "City of Sails", Auckland, to all of the must see spots on the beautiful upper North Island.

From Rotorua's amazing thermal attractions and Maori cultural delights, to the stunning bays and beaches of the Coromandels and the Bay of Islands.

Come and see why this amazing island is so highly rated by people from around the world.

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.

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 Auckland

Day 2 - explore Auckland, "City of Sails"

Day 3 - Auckland to the Bay of Islands

Day 4 - explore the Bay of Islands

Day 5 - Bay of Islands

Day 6 - Bay of Islands to Auckland

Day 7 - Auckland to the Coromandels

Day 8 - explore the stunning Coromandels

Day 9 - the Coromandels

Day 10 - Coromandels to Mount Maunganui & the Bay of Plenty

Day 11 - Mt Maunganui to Rotorua

Day 12 - explore Rotorua"s thermal wonderland

Day 13 - Rotorua to Waitomo Caves

Day 14 - Waitomo Caves to Auckland

Day 15 - fly home

Day 1 Auckland

Today on the first day of your New Zealand itinerary, you arrive in New Zealand's largest city, Auckland. Auckland is a bustling city with a population of around 1.4 million. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.

Enjoy Auckland's amazing harbour on a romantic dinner cruise - click to learn more

Often referred to as the "City of Sails", Auckland has two natural harbors, and a warmer climate than many other areas of New Zealand, allowing locals and visitors to make the most of it's wonderful location.

Do you need help with a car or camper van?

We have access to all the leading rental companies and can arrange your ideal car or camper van at market leading rates.

To search our range of vehicles, check availability and make your bookings just click here.

Where to stay in Auckland

Check out the view from the Auckland Hilton!

As you would expect of a city this size, Auckland has a huge range of accommodation, with everything from hostels to five star luxury resorts.

You can search through available options and read customer reviews by clicking here.

Our favorites

If you hop on over to our dedicated Auckland page, you can find some of our recommendations for the more highly rated hotels (the ones that our customers love).

Just click here.

So check in to your hotel, collect your car, and have a good rest. Tomorrow your adventure begins.

Day 2 Explore Auckland

As befits a city of this size, Auckland has lots to see and do, and you will find it one of the highlights of your New Zealand itinerary.

One of Auckland's most popular attractions is Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, which was the world's first walk through, tunnel aquarium.

Penguins at Kelly Tarlton's in Aucklan

Here you can see over 60 species of fish, including rays and shark, and breeding colonies of gentoo and king penguins.

Auckland's Sky Tower is the Southern Hemisphere's tallest building, at 328 meters. The high-speed elevators take visitors to three observation decks, in 40 seconds, where you will enjoy 360 degree views of Auckland and surrounds. And if you are feeling brave, you can take a Skywalk around the exterior of the tower, or even a Skyjump!

Waiheke Island is the most populated and accessible of the Hauraki Gulf islands, and is a 30 minute ferry ride from Auckland. The island has several beautiful beaches, and numerous cafes, restaurants and wineries.

There are a range of tours of the island available. You can read more here.

Day 3 Auckland to Bay of Islands

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from Auckland to the beautiful Bay of Islands (3.75 hours drive).

Inside the Waitangi Meeting House - pic courtesy Destination Northland

Northland is home to the beautiful Bay of Islands, which have been a tourist favorite for decades.

Aptly named, the region features stunning coastal scenery and various small sea side townships such as Russell and Paihia.

Where to stay

There are so many accommodation options in the Bay of Islands.

We always recommend a water view if your budget allows.

Here are some direct links for accommodation options in the major centers:

Paihia (best for the Waitangi Treaty Grounds)




Days 4 & 5 Bay of Islands

Days 4 and 5 on your New Zealand itinerary leave you free to explore the Bay of Islands. You can view a range of activities HERE.

Sail the Bay of Islands on the tall ship R Tucker Thompson

Recommended activities are:

* visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Described as the "birthplace of the nation", the historic Treaty of Waitangi as signed here in 1840. The Treaty House and carved meeting house are not to be missed. Maori arts and craft exhibitions, and Maori cultural shows are a feature of the grounds. You can book your day pass and tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds here.

* take a cruise to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock, a cave that is large enough to accommodate large boats.

* get out on the water on one of the many cruises available. These include tall ships, high speed catamarans, and even overnight cruises. All provide a unique experience in this beautiful water wonderland. You can see a range of cruise options, read customer reviews, and make your bookings here.

Bay Of Islands Hole In The Rock

* visit Russell. Once known as the "Hellhole of the Pacific", Russell was notorious for it's brothels, alcohol, and lawlessness. Russell was also New Zealand's capital for a brief period.

Accessed by a short ferry ride from Paihia, Russell is now a charming sea side village with various waterfront cafes and craft shops, and it's a great place to spend a few carefree hours.

* take a kayak trip in the bay. Calm, clear waters are ideal for kayaking and there are a number of operators offering guided kayak tours.

Day 6 Auckland

Today your New Zealand itinerary returns you to Auckland.

Day 7 Auckland to Coromandel Coast

Today you head to the lovely Coromandel region (2.5 hours drive).

Snorkeling at Cathedral Cove - pic courtesy Tourism Coromandel

The Coromandel Peninsula extends north for 85 kilometres from the western end of the Bay of Plenty. 40 kilometres wide at it's broadest point, the peninsula shelters the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland lies on the western side of the gulf and can be seen in fine weather.

Where to stay in the Coromandels

The Coromandel Peninsula is reasonably compact so you never have to travel too far to see the main points of interest.

If New Chum's Beach and Hot Water Beach are on your list of "must see" spots, then Whitianga would be the most central location for access to both beaches.

Here are some links for accommodation in the main centers:

* for accommodation in Whitianga

* for Thames hotels and motels

* Coromandel Town hotels

* Whangamata places to stay

* OR search the whole Coromandel region

Days 8 & 9 Explore the Coromandel Coast

Perhaps one of the most popular and unusual attractions in the Coromandels, is Hot Water Beach.

Coromandel Hot Water Beach Copyright Tourism Coromandel

A natural hot water spring at the Southern end of the beach is accessible only two hours each side of low tide. The water can be very hot, and finding a spot at the right temperature can be a challenge, particularly on an incoming tide.

The region is well known for its beautiful beaches, and Cathedral Cove is one of the better known spots. The beach has two parts, linked by a cave (Cathedral Cove), and is reached via a well kept track. The journey takes around 45 minutes.

New Chum's Beach is a hidden gem, voted as one of the "World's Top 10 Beaches". There are no roads or buildings nearby, and the walk to the beach takes around 45-60 minutes.

Beautiful New Chum's Beach - pic courtesy Destination Coromandel

Accessed from the north end of Whangapoua beach, the trail takes you through native scrub and forest before revealing one of the most pristine beaches you will ever see. It's simply stunning.

Thames, the largest settlement on the peninsula, has an old world feel, and the architecture in the main street is very 1900s. If you are interested in the region's history, Thames Historical Museum is well worth a visit.

Day 10 Coromandel Coast to Mount Maunganui

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from the Coromandels to the seaside resort of Mt Maunganui (2.5 hours drive).

Mount Maunganui - pic courtesy Chris McLennan

Located on the Bay of Plenty, Mt Maunganui has some of New Zealand's best surf beaches. There is a wide range of places to stay in Mount Maunganui, with beach front location recommended.

There is also plenty to see and do in the area.

Whale watching and swimming with the dolphins gives you a chance to get close to local marine life, and there are a number of tours available in the area. A "must see" is

White Island, located in the Bay of Plenty. White Island is made up of three volcanic cones, and is one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes. Tours to the island can be made by boat or helicopter, and can include a crater walk if desired. Hard hats and gas masks are supplied, and although tremors are common, the last major eruption was in 2000. There have been no eruptions while visitors have been on the island. The steam from the island is often visible from the mainland.

Day 11 Rotorua

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you inland to the thermal resort of Rotorua (1.5 hours drive).

Rotorua's Skyline Gondola - pic courtesy

Rotorua is one of New Zealand's major tourist attractions, and apart from the thermal attractions, the area is also well known for its Maori cultural displays.

Rotorua is located on the bank's of Lake Rotorua, which is the North Island's second largest lake at 80 square kilometers.

Rotorua accommodation

Rotorua boasts a wide range of accommodation with something for all tastes and budgets.

We have to admit that we like the Millenium. It's in a nice central location and many of the rooms have beautiful lake views (make sure to ask for a lake view). There is also an on site restaurant and bar, and to soothe your aching joints, they also have hot pools and a spa.

You can read customer reviews and find your perfect Rotorua accommodation here.

Day 12 Explore Rotorua

Today on your New Zealand itinerary you are free to explore Rotorua. There is lots to see and do in Rotorua, and your time there will be one of the highlights of your New Zealand itinerary.

Champagne Pools at Waiotapu Rotorua image courtesy Chris McLennan

Perhaps the main attraction is Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, which includes Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.

Attracting over half a million visitors annually, this is one of New Zealand's main tourist attractions.

Here you will see Maori cultural displays, Maori arts and crafts, including intricate carvings, a fully carved wharenui (meeting house), and the world famous Pohutu geyser.

Other points of interest in Rotorua are:

* a visit to the beautiful Rotorua museum, where you can learn all about the history of the region

* the Skyline Gondola and luge ride.

The National Carving School is located at Te Puia Rotorua - pic courtesy Eric Lindber

Cable cars take the 900 metre journey to the top of Mt Ngongotaha (487 metres) where you will enjoy stunning views of Rotorua and surrounds. The luge ride is great fun as you ride your kart down one of three tracks. Then return to the top by chairlift, and do it all over again!

* Hell's Gate/Tikitere, which is considered to be the most active of Rotorua's thermal areas, contains an active mud volcano and hot waterfall.

* the Polynesian Spa, located lake side, has a selection of hot pools overlooking the lake.

Tamaki Maori Village shows what life was like for the traditional Maori people

* Tamaki Maori Village for an authentic presentation of traditional Maori life (the Hangi feast, cooked in the ground is yummy!).

Still not sure what to see and do in Rotorua?

Our best advice is to carefully read customer reviews. With limited time, there's nothing worse than wasting time on a poor attraction (not that New Zealand has many of those!).

You can read reviews and search through a whole range of attractions, tours and activities right here.

Day 13 Rotorua to Waitomo Caves

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the Waitomo Caves (2.5 hours drive).

Glowworms at Waitomo Caves

Where to stay for the Waitomo Caves

Although the Waitomo village is quite small, there are still a few good accommodation choices in the village and surrounds. You can check them out here.

Nearby, the township of Te Kuiti (around 4,000 residents) also has several places to stay. You can see what's available and read customer reviews here.

Time to explore the Waitomo Caves

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.

Underground at Waitomo Caves

Expert guides will provide commentary on the caves history as you make your way through the complex.

Our recommendation

Perhaps the most popular tour is this one which takes you meandering through the caves on a serene boat ride to see the famous glowworms. You will never forget the sight of thousands of these tiny creatures twinkling above you. Amazing.

We have a range of cave tours available which you can view HERE.

Craving something a little more daring?

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 14 Return to Auckland

Today on your New Zealand itinerary you return to Auckland (3 hours drive).

You can use your afternoon to catch up on some of those things that you missed out on earlier in your trip.

Accommodation near the airport

If you need accommodation close to the Auckland airport, here's a selection of hotels.

Day 15 Fly Home

Unfortunately your New Zealand itinerary concludes today as you fly home.

We hope that you have found this New Zealand itinerary helpful. We welcome your feedback.

To learn more about the regions covered in this 15 day North Island New Zealand itinerary click here.


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