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6 Best North Island Road Trips

30 September 2021

It is a dream for many Kiwis to head out on the open road and explore some of the most scenic routes in New Zealand. It’s so important to get outside of your own city and make the most of living in such a gorgeous country, and one of the best ways to take an NZ road trip is with a campervan.

Head off with everything you need all packed neatly into your vehicle so you can relax and focus on enjoying the scenery! Plus, if you have a campervan, you have the ability to be more spontaneous about where you stay. If you’re thinking of taking a North Island road trip, keep reading find out the best places to go.

Why Use a Campervan for Road Trips?

We all know that road trips are about the journey and not just the destination. An NZ road trip is all about choosing the most scenic route so that you can pull over and snap a picture for Instagram, stop for ice creams that drip down the cones, and blast the radio along the way.

The best way to arrange the ultimate North Island road trip is by buying a campervan. Don’t squish yourselves into a car with barely any room for your luggage. Not only will the trip be less fun, but you’ll also end up shelling out tons of money on accommodation.

Campervans are a much better choice because it’s your vehicle, accommodation, and hang out area all rolled into one! You will be able to set the pace of your own journey, pulling over to stop whenever and wherever you like. Get a self-contained campervan to sleep wherever you choose – simply find a stunning spot to spend the night and wake up in the morning to the magnificent view.

There are plenty of incredible journeys you can take on your NZ road trip, as both the North and South Island are packed with some amazing spots to visit. When you’re done with one destination, simply pack up the van and move on to the next! No need to coordinate and return rental cars, pay for accommodation, leave the motel by 10 am, or book flights. Go wherever the winds take you in your very own campervan.

6 Best North Island Road Trips

1. Auckland → Napier

Take the Pacific Coast Highway to go at a relaxed pace from Auckland to Napier. This will bring you through Gisborne, Tauranga, and the Coromandel Peninsula along the way. It takes longer than driving directly to Napier, but this is a trip worth spending a few weeks doing.
Napier is one of NZ’s most famous towns, and it’s all due to an earthquake back in 1931. Many of the buildings in the city were destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Today, you can see the stamp of the Art Deco era clearly in many of the buildings. With wineries and an aquarium on offer, Napier has plenty of places to explore.

best north island road trips

Tom Parker Fountain, Napier

2. East Cape

The East Cape route runs between Gisborne and Opotiki and is an ideal choice for those wanting to drive along the coast. Reach the easternmost point of the North Island that most travellers don’t bother venturing out to.

If you’re a keen hiker, one of NZ’s Great Walks is along the way – Lake Waikaremoana. This multi-day hike is fully worth it for the beautiful scenery.

3. Auckland → Bay of Islands

Starting from Auckland, drive north to reach the Bay of Islands in around 3 hours. This is a quick trip, perfect for a long weekend getaway or the beginning of a longer journey.

Not only will you get to experience the stunning Northern coastline, but you may even spot some dolphins as you drive.

As it’s such a short trip, you’ll have plenty of time to make some detours along the way. Around halfway through, you’ll notice the turn off to Waipu. This small Scottish town is home to an excellent museum with plenty of history about the area.

Whangarei is the largest town you’ll pass along the way, making it the ideal place to stop in for lunch or a much-needed coffee. It’s just over 2 hours’ drive from Auckland, and it’s a lovely place to stay overnight if you wish.

If you have the time and are a fan of scuba diving, Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve is worth a visit. This is one of NZ’s top diving locations, thanks to the many underwater caves that are in the area, ready to be explored.

Once in the Bay of Islands, we recommend a visit to the treaty grounds of Waitangi, head off on a dolphin cruise, jet skiing, or try your hand at fishing.

bay of islands road trip nz

Bay of islands

4. Auckland → Wellington

The drive from Auckland to Wellington takes around 8 hours without stops. However, simply driving from one place to the other would defeat the purpose of a classic NZ road trip! There are plenty of exciting places that you will want to stop in along the way, so allow at least a week for this journey.

Take a slight detour to Taupō to visit the sparkling clear lake and go bird spotting in the ancient forests. Taupō also boasts geothermal valleys with refreshingly warm hot springs. You can also visit the iconic volcanoes found in Tongariro National Park.

Keep heading north and take the turnoff to Rotorua to see the bubbling mud pools and the incomparable thermal lakes. Don’t let the sulphur smell put you off – visiting this town is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

If you have plenty of time to spare, keep heading up to Tauranga, a coastal city known for sunshine and its waterfront location.

You’ll also be just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Hamilton, a city that’s famous for its otherworldly botanical gardens. Plus, this area is close to Hobbiton, a must-see for the Lord of the Rings fans.

5. Forgotten World Highway

Want to head somewhere that tourists don’t think to go? The Forgotten World Highway is an iconic drive, but one that isn’t as popular as other journeys. Enjoy seeing colonial bridle paths, scenic mountain views, and a winding river on your trip.

With just 2 hours and 15 minutes of driving time, this is a wonderful journey for those who love to go at a leisurely pace, making plenty of stops along the way.

If you enjoy going off the beaten track, this one is for you. Start in Taumarunui and spend a bit of time there before venturing off on the highway. Kayaking, fishing, and jet boating are some activities you can do here.

Next, head to Whangamomona. There’s not much to do there except visit the local pub while you stretch your legs. Finish off your journey in Stratford after taking a detour to see the ‘Bridge to Somewhere’, a 90-minute walk through the bush.

6. Auckland to Cape Reinga

It’s recommended that you set aside at least four days for your journey from Auckland to Cape Reinga. Not many people make the journey to the very top of the North Island, but Cape Reinga’s stunning views make it all worth it.

If you’re planning on making trip #3 – Auckland to Bay of Islands, why not combine the two and tack on an adventure up to Cape Reinga afterwards? Stop at 90 Mile Beach along the way for a well-deserved stretch of the legs. This beach is not quite 90 miles long but is famous for being one of NZ’s longest beaches.

Another excellent place to stop on this NZ road trip is the Ancient Kauri Kingdom. View incredible hand-crafted Kauri wood carvings and fuel up for the rest of the trip at the local café.

Top Spots to See in the North Island

Auckland

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, and it’s definitely a must-see if you’ve never been. Visit the viaduct for gorgeous views of the harbour and pay the iconic Sky Tower a visit.

Bay of Plenty

If beaches are your thing, you need to make it over to the Bay of Plenty. This is also an area with rich Māori heritage and plenty of outdoor adventures.

Coromandel Peninsula

Best known for Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, the Coromandel Peninsula is home to lush green forests and stunning coastlines, making it a popular road trip destination.

Hawke’s Bay

Step into the past with the region’s main town of Napier, which is full of striking Art Deco architecture. This region is also known for its numerous vineyards and wineries.

Hobbiton

Lord of the Rings fans need to visit Hobbiton at least once in their lives. See the famous film sets and spot views you’ll recognise from the movies.

Northland and the Bay of Islands

up in Northland, you can find plenty of idyllic bays where you can while away the days swimming and surfing.

Rotorua

Rotorua is famous for its geysers and mud pools. This unique experience is definitely one that you need to see at some point in your life!

Waiheke Island

If you get to Auckland, Waiheke Island is just a ferry ride away. Go there to visit the glorious beaches and vineyards.

Wellington

You can’t go on a North Island road trip without getting to the capital city at some point. Wellington is full of hipster flair with arguably the best coffee in the country, plenty of excellent food, and funky street art.

Campervan Travelling Tips

Time of Year

Luckily, the weather in the North Island tends to be less extreme than that of the South Island. You’ll find that winters are milder, and you may still be able to travel comfortably across the winter months.

When planning your trip, consider setting dates to avoid the school holidays if possible. Not only would there be more traffic on the roads during school holidays, but many of NZ’s most gorgeous spots will be filled with families making the most of the break.

If you’re set on a beachy holiday, travel during summer to experience the best sunshine. If you’re thinking of a more relaxed scenic trip, spring and autumn and both great times of year to see the country too.

Trip Length

Your trip length will largely depend on how much time you have to spare. There are just about limitless North Island road trips you could head off on, so the trip length is entirely up to you.

You could take three months to explore the North Island or just choose some week-long getaways. It also depends on the pace you want to travel at.

For a more relaxing and spontaneous journey and to make the most of having the flexibility of a campervan, allow for far more time than it takes to drive somewhere. That way, you can have plenty of chances to stop and stretch your legs or even stay overnight if you find somewhere you like.

Choose Whether to Stay at a Campground

Camping across the North Island is a tradition upheld by many Kiwis. However, if you have a self-contained campervan, you don’t necessarily need to stop at campsites. It can be nice to do a mix of both – parking up wherever you like and also visiting a few campsites along the way.

When you choose to camp, you’ll have access to more facilities (like a full shower!), and this is also a great way to meet people and make friends during your travels.

What to Pack

Once you buy your campervan, you’ll need to kit it out with all of the right equipment. Here are some of the basics you will need:
Kitchen items for both cooking and eating

  • Bedding
  • Towels
  • Clothes hangers and pegs
  • First aid kit
  • Toiletries
  • Cold and wet weather gear
  • Portable camping stove if your caravan doesn’t have cooking facilities
  • Jumper leads and a spare tyre
  • Power inverter – so that you can charge your phone

Create a Budget

You will only have a certain amount that you can afford to spend on your trip. It’s a great idea to sit down beforehand and create a budget to make the most of your money. You don’t want to overspend at the start and have to head home early.

Costs you’ll want to include are money for campsites, petrol, groceries, takeaways, and souvenirs. Don’t forget to get your campervan serviced before you go to help ensure that you stay safe on the road.

Get full insurance for your campervan before you set off as well, just in case something does go wrong. You won’t regret doing this, as if you get into a crash on the road, your insurance will cover the cost of repairs.

Hiring vs Buying a Campervan

Tossing up whether you should hire a campervan or just bite the bullet and purchase one? This can be a tricky decision to make for many avid travellers. However, if you love to travel a lot, taking long weekend trips and getting out of the city every time you get a break from work, most people find buying a campervan worth it.

Hiring a campervan is relatively expensive – you can easily end up paying the cost you would have just to buy one if you take multiple trips over the next couple of years. Don’t regret your decision to rent – buying a campervan offers you easy access to the great outdoors and everything that New Zealand has to offer.

Buying a New vs Used Campervan

Now that you’ve decided to buy a campervan, it’s likely that you’re considering whether buying a used one is a good idea. New campervans are certainly enticing but far out of most people’s budgets.

The good news is that by heading to a car yard like Stadium Cars, you are not only buying from a reputable dealership, but you can also view and test drive your campervan before you buy it.

Get Help With Procuring Wheels

If you are ready to begin some of the best adventures of your life but don’t have the funds to buy your dream campervan, Stadium Finance would love to help. We have helped many kiwis to get some wheels under them with our excellent range of campervan loan options.

With reasonable interest rates and friendly service, buying a campervan has never been more accessible. Instead of saving up the money to buy one outright, with our loans, you can pay off your campervan in instalments and get out on the road faster.

Why Choose Stadium Finance?

We know that you’re itching to get started on your next journey, so here at Stadium Finance, we make loan decisions within 24 hours. This enables you to make a quick purchase – you could be driving away in your new campervan as soon as tomorrow!

We also offer flexible payment options to suit your budget and pay cycle, as well as highly competitive interest rates.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you to explore our beautiful backyard here in NZ.

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