Do you only have one week in New Zealand? Check out this New Zealand North Island itinerary for 7 days, with all you need to know to organize the perfect New Zealand road trip from Auckland to Wellington.
Home to some of the best landscapes in the world, yet so isolated, New Zealand is on many people’s bucket list, and one of the best ecotourism destinations in the world. There are so many things to do in New Zealand you could spend a year in the country and not see everything.
Saying that, you can do a good tour of the country in a week. This might mean having to stay on just one island, because while it’s not difficult to travel between the North and South islands, it will essentially add an extra day of travel onto your trip. Staying on the same island will help keep costs down too, because you won’t have to pay for an extra flight or ferry, which can be expensive.
To help you best plan your journey around New Zealand, here is an itinerary for one week on the North Island. This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything there is to do, but it’ll let you take in the highlights. Anyway, you can always go back a second time to see the rest!
Day 1 – Auckland
Auckland is the largest urban area in New Zealand, and is near the northern tip of the North Island. It’s probably where you’ll fly into, and a suitable place to start your trip. From here, you can work your way down. Although there’s far more than you could do in one day, these are some of the best sights. Make sure you pack some comfy walking shoes though!
Visit the Auckland Museum. There is always a great range of exhibitions on show, giving you a taste of the local history. Entry is quite cheap, and gives you access to all exhibitions.
⇒ BUY HERE your entry ticket for the Auckland Museum
Kayak to Rangitoto Island. This is Auckland’s youngest volcano with great hiking trails including the Summit Track, which will bring you through lava fields and the world’s largest pohutukawa forest.
⇒ Go on a kayak + hike day trip to Rangitoto Island (book here) or a scenic seaplane flight to see Rangitoto Island and Auckland from the sky (book here).
Go up the Sky Tower for 360-degree views of the city. If you are particularly brave, you can even bungee jump off the 53rd floor platform!
⇒ BUY HERE in advance a General Admission Ticket. You can also buy a SkyWalk Auckland with Sky Tower Entry Ticket where you will walk around an exterior ledge 192 metres above the ground (book here) or a SkyJump Auckland with Sky Tower Entry Ticket where you will safely jump from 192 metres (book here).
Taste out-of-this-world ice cream at Giapo. Having ice cream at Giapo in Auckland is not your usual experience: here ice cream is art, with creations that go from two halves of a heart put together to a cone topped with a giant chocolate squid created with a 3D printer. Crazy, right? This post-modern ice cream, other than being delicious, is the most instagrammable ice cream you’ll find in Auckland and the whole New Zealand.
Ice cream is made with 100% natural ingredients, most of which are sourced locally, and they also have vegan-friendly and gluten-free ice cream, so no worries if you are on a special diet. There’s always a queue here, but it’s well worth it. You can taste flavors before choosing the one, so go and try them all! If you are really reeeally into ice cream, you can even reserve in advance a kitchen tour or a tasting experience where you’ll try all sort of ice cream stuff. This is definitely one of the best desserts you can have in Auckland!
Climb Mt. Eden. This is a dormant volcano, and the highest point in the city. It has stunning views of the area, and is well worth a visit.
⇒ If you have limited time, join this half-day tour that includes Auckland’s most important attractions including Mt. Eden.
Where to stay in Auckland
After much research and reading plenty of reviews, I’ve picked for you the best places to stay for all budgets during this road trip. Check them out!
Day 2 – Auckland to Rotorua
Rotorua is the next big stop on your journey. It takes about 3 hours to get from Auckland to Rotorua. Make a day of the journey with a couple of stops that are unmissable on the way.
Your first stop should be Hobbiton. This is the set from the Lord of the Rings movies, and is still set up exactly as it was in the films. You can opt for a tour of this fictional destination, which include all the information you need on filming and the location. And if you’re feeling tired after the tour, take a stop at the Green Dragon Inn. You never know, you might even run into Merry and Pippin! It’s not a cheap tour, but one you really shouldn’t miss.
Your next stop should be Mitai Maori Village on the outskirts of Rotorua. Here you’ll find guided bush walks, cultural performances, and a traditionally cooked Maori meal. This is an amazing destination and the closest you’ll come to experiencing New Zealand’s rich cultural heritage.
⇒ BUY HERE your ticket for the Evening Cultural Experience at Mitai Maori Village.
Where to stay in Rotorua
Day 3 – Rotorua
The city of Rotorua is located on the banks of a lake of the same name. It’s best known for its geothermal activity and its rich Maori heritage. Again, there’s so much to do here, but these are the highlights of the city.
Visit Te Puia Thermal Park. This is the place to go to experience the amazing geothermal activity that makes this area famous. There are several geysers in the park, some of which erupt at least once an hour. There will also be the chance to see a Kiwi, and take in the sights of Maori architecture.
⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Get lost in the Whakarewarewa forest. The perfect place to go hiking and mountain biking. This forest is almost primordial, and has remained mostly unchanged for centuries. It’s home to a diverse range of plants and animals, and is one of the best sites in the country for outdoor activities.
There are several companies in the city that offer white water rafting trips. Possibly one of the most extreme ways to take in the scenery, this won’t be for the faint of heart but it’s definitely a lot of fun! ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Take a trip on the Skyline gondola. An incredible way to see all that Lake Rotorua has to offer. Take a trip in one of the spacious gondolas and take in the spectacular views of the surrounding area.
⇒ Book your ticket HERE.
Day 4 – Rotorua to Taupo
The journey from Rotorua to Taupo is quite short, and should only take about an hour. Taupo is a town on the banks of Lake Taupo, and so most activities will be water based. However, there’s also plenty of opportunity for shopping, and some great places to eat. Here are some of the best things to do:
Visit a spa. The local geothermal activity has given rise to a number of spas, so why not spend the day relaxing at one?
Check out the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, which are only accessible by water. Local indigenous populations carved rocks on the bank of Lake Taupo, and it’s definitely something you need to see. You can either take a tour boat, or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can kayak instead.
Explore the Huka Falls. Take in the stunning views over these waterfalls. This is a great hiking trip if you’re feeling energetic, or you can take a helicopter tour instead if you have some cash to splurge or it’s a special occasion. Definitely something you won’t ever forget!
⇒ Are you the ultimate adventure seeker? Then take a look at this package of activities in Taupo that includes bungee jumping, sky diving and rafting all in one day! CHECK IT OUT
Where to stay in Taupo
Day 5 – Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, and can easily be reached as a day trip from Taupo. There is an incredible diversity of wildlife in the park, and some of the best views you’ll find on the island. There’s also opportunity for skiing and quadbiking, along with some beautiful but challenging hiking trails.
Easily the best part of the park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is a 20km trail that leads across three of the volcanoes in the park. This isn’t a trip to be taken lightly, as the walk can be demanding, and the weather unpredictable. If you do want to give it a go, make sure you come prepared. It’s worth it though, as the views stretch for miles and will leave you speechless.
Day 6 – Taupo to Wellington
Wellington is the last stop on this tour, and is located at the very southern tip of the North Island. The journey takes about 5 hours, but you should stop on the way at Hawke’s Bay and Napier.
The region of Hawke’s Bay (which contains Napier) is a must-see for wine connoisseurs. It’s famed worldwide for its award-winning wines, and there are plenty of places to go tasting. You can also join a sightseeing tour through Hawke’s Bay and Napier.
If you’re looking for other activities, there are plenty of great hikes to do in the region such as the Lake Waikaremoana Track or in the Kaweka Forest Park. These are some of the best things to do in New Zealand! Alternatively, you could also spend the day relaxing on the beach at Ocean Beach, Waimarama Beach, or Mahia Peninsula.
Napier is a city with an interesting heritage. A massive earthquake in 1931 meant most of the city had to be rebuilt, and so it’s become one of the best examples of Art Deco design in the world. The city embraces this heritage, and takes amazing care of its buildings. There are plenty of sites to see, and places to eat. One of the best ways to spend the day is to just walk around taking it all in.
⇒ If you’re into the Art Deco, why not joining this 2-hour Art Deco Guided Walk around Napier?
Day 7 – Wellington
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, and the second most populous area. Again, there are more things here than you could do in one day (stay more if you can), but these are some of the best things to do in Wellington.
Go on a Lord of the Rings location tour. If you’re a fan on the films, then this tour is for you. This takes a full day, but gives you a chance to see many movie locations, along with learning the history and information about the movies. Definitely a lot of fun. ⇒ CHECK IT OUT
Visit Old St. Paul’s. This is a very old cathedral made of wood. It’s worth visiting just to marvel at the architecture and its rich cultural heritage.
Take part in a Weta Workshop tour. The Weta Studios are one of the leading special effects studios in the world, and the tour gives you access to all the behind the scenes. The ticket price includes travel to and from central Wellington, and is a great choice for movie buffs. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Head to the Mount Victoria Lookout for incredible views over the harbor and the city.
⇒ Join the Wellington City Sights and Coastline 2.5-Hour Tour, where a local will show you the main attractions of Wellington (including Mt. Victoria). BOOK IT HERE
Where to stay in Wellington
New Zealand is an incredible country, and is definitely worth visiting. The landscape is very diverse, and is home to some unique wildlife. There’s a lot to do and you should spend way more than one week in New Zealand (and stay at one of the best luxury treehouse cabins in the world on the South Island!), but follow this itinerary and you will have a great week traveling the North Island and taking in the highlights!