In this 5-day itinerary, I wanted to give you a snapshot guide of what to do on the North Is if you are traveling by campervan. Of course, you could take this suggestion and grow it quite easily, but for the sake of fitting as much as I can into one piece, let’s keep it simple and work on an 5-day adventure through the North Is.
Anyhow, without further ado, here’s a rundown of what to do when you get here.
Auckland, is the largest city in New Zealand, so it is no surprise that there is an abundance of things to do, see and places to go. Built as a harbour city, the views are pretty spectacular, and spending half a day walking along the foreshore is pretty easy to do. Assuming that you have not yet picked up your campervan, there are a myriad of hotels and places to stay – from the budget, all the way through to the completely decadent. No matter you stay though, getting around the city is pretty easy, so worry not where you are, and think more about where you want to go. A few suggestions from us include:
- View the city in all its splendour from the Sky tower
- Enjoy some time out at Cornwall Park
- Get your culture on at The Auckland Art Gallery or visit Aotea Square which is decorated in public art and which often has open air concerts
- Visit the Volcanic Island that is Rangitoto Island
- Visit Queen street for your shopping needs
- Climb up Mount Victoria
- Sample the many different restaurants and bars the city has to offer
If you know anything about New Zealand, then you know a trip to the North Island would not be complete without a visit to a location which was in the movie “Lord of the Rings”. Whilst this could mean checking out Mount Doom (aka Mt. Ngauruhoe), or one of the many waterfalls through the North, in this instance why not take a look at Hobbiton, given just how close it is to Auckland (if you get up early and leave by 7, you will be here by around 930).
Hobbiton was once an old sheep farm, but since the movie, has become iconic (for great reason) for its houses built into the side of hills. Whilst it is not the cheapest activity you will undertake (around $80NZD for an adult), it is definitely worth a visit, especially for families or movie buffs. In two hours you will be guided around the set, get to take countless photos and end up back at the pub for a complimentary beer.
Once you’ve refreshed yourself, pile back into your campervan and drive towards Rotorua, an easy 55-minute drive away. Whilst the scenery is definitely worth checking out, it is the activities here that make Rotorua truly unique. And for something truly different, why not try your hand at Zorbing, because Rotorua is the original home of Zorbing. Yes, the pastime that sees you bundled inside a large inflatable plastic ball and rolling down a hill or across water awaits you here in Rotorua. But make sure you take your costumes and a towel as you will get wet inside the ball.
But that is not a problem, because afterwards, you can take a short drive over to the Polynesian Spa. These thermal springs come from deep underground and are said to possess healing qualities, which is perfect for those battered and sore from Zorbing. Whether you like the temperate to be warm, or volcanic (see what we did there?), with roughly a dozen different pools to choose from, there is something for everyone. There is an admission fee, but given the uniqueness of these pools, it is money well spent.
At the end of the day, head over to the south shore of the Lake and find the campervan grounds which are in a truly awesome location. You may want to get there before 330pm though in the busier months as the park can get full.
Extra options for day 3
If you have found you knocked over the two-day time pursuits quicker than expected, why not head just out of town to Waimarino. You have to drive for about an hour or so, but if you can get there for the dusk tour, you can take part in something truly magnificent – a glow worm kayaking tour. Cruising around in your kayak you can see these glow worms in their native habitat and there is something truly magical about it.
Alternatively, if you don’t want a long drive, you may want to head over to the Tamaki Maori Village to eat a traditional Maori buffet and watch as the performers give you an insight into the traditions and heritage of this beautiful and timeless people.
From Rotorua we suggest heading over to the West coast and visiting Whanganui. Surrounded by volcanic mountains, Mount Taranaki, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro this little coastal town is something to behold. In winter they are covered in snow and truly spectacular, but equally in summer they are just as pretty with their snow-capped peaks and a dotting of clouds around the summit.
If you do get here in Summer, then head on down to the beaches. Unlike many parts of the southern hemisphere, these beaches are not all white or yellow sand, but a remarkable black-iron colour, due in large to the surrounding volcanic activity eons ago. Whether you want to fish, surf (South beach is probably the best bet for these two activities) or just relax in the sun there are 4 different beaches to choose from, so you will never run out of options.
Wellington lies south from here, some two and a half hours drive. However, there is no need to head straight there as there are a multitude of activities to occupy you on your way. A few options to consider include:
- A detour to Palmerston North to visit the Rugby New Zealand Museum
- An adventure through the beautiful Akatarawa Forest
- As an aside, you may want to have rented a 4wd campervan for this particular detour.
- Tickling your tastebuds in the vineyards (and there are plenty, let us assure you) of Martinborough
Alternatively, you could just head straight through and get stuck into what is truly a busy and worthwhile city. We are recommending a few days here, so once you land get ready to get your feet moving so you can fit in as much as possible.
that’s right, once you arrive in Wellington there is an absolute multitude of things to do. To make it easy we have listed a few things we recommend below:
If you were a fan of Hobbiton, or are a movie buff, then Weta Workshop is where you need to go. Here they showcase the art of prop and costume making and some of the behind the scene effort to make special effects
Check out the views
If you are a photographer at heart, then head to the top of Mount Victoria for 360 degree, uninterrupted views of the city.
Get a dose of Cardio
Take advantage of the provided track, hire a bike and then go explore the beautiful coastal road out to New Zealand’s first lighthouse located at Pencarrow Head.
Take your tastebuds on an adventure
Why you may ask? Well try this fact on for size: Per capita, Wellington has more bars and restaurants than New York City. Plus, there is ready access to fresh produce from nearby farms and very seafood, so the food here is really, really good. A few places to try out include Forresters Lane for good cocktails, Prefab for wholesome, tasty and affordable café style food, Tequila Joes on Wednesday nights for all you can eat Wings, Havana Bar for $12 mojito’s on Friday afternoons, or Husk which is a cool little café which does great brunches, but which turns into a craft beer place by night.
For more check out the Wellington New Zealand website.
Saunter down Cuba Street
Home to hipsters, artists and those seeking to get off the mainstream track, Cuba street offers up a range of things to do, from great shopping, to street entertainment, café food and more, you can lose yourself for hours here
Learn about the Maori Culture
As one of the oldest people in the world, it would be remiss of you to not learn more. The Te Papa museum is the spot to do it (plus it is free). With interactive displays, this museum is quite unlike any others we’ve seen before. Leave yourself a good 3 hours to make the most of this treasure trove of information.
Take a day trip to Malborough or Hutt Valley
Depending on your preference you can do some wine tasting again, or perhaps take a trek through the gorgeous Hutt valley, a short drive out of the city.
And that is a Wrap
The North Island has so much more to do than we have covered off, but we will have to cover that off in another blog. After all, there is so much to see and do in New Zealand (check out our thoughts on thing to do in the South Island) that 1-week campervanning around is never going to be enough. Feel free to share your traveling tips with others below or check back again for more travel adventures.