The Ultimate North Island Road Trip

If you’ve been dreaming of a once-in-a-lifetime New Zealand adventure that gives you a taste of the very best the North Island has to offer, look no further!

In just 8 days, you can:

  • Enjoy the “City of Sails”, Auckland
  • Relax in a geo thermal spa
  • Take your pick of white knuckle adventure activities
  • Learn more about Maori culture and enjoy a traditional “hangi” feast
  • Learn the “haka” (a Maori war dance)
  • See New Zealand’s largest lake & mighty Huka falls
  • Spend a couple of days at a 7,200 acre high country eco-farm
  • Walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Cycle a 4 hour bike trail
  • Stay in the world’s coolest capital, Wellington
  • …and much more!

Buckle up for the ultimate North Island road trip!

Days 1 & 2: Auckland to Rotorua
Get ready for adventure

Take the time to explore Auckland, the “city of sails” before starting your Stray tour of North Island. We kicked things off by driving south to Rotorua.  Before we got there, we stopped at Whakarewarewa Forest to walk through the huge California  Redwoods.  “Roto-vegas” as it’s known, is home to to all the NZ adventure activities you can think of, like bungee jumping, white water rafting, zip lining and more, which is great, as we got to spend a whole day and extra night in Rotorua. The geo thermal spas are not to be missed.

Day 3: Lake Aniwhenua
Getting in tune with Maori culture

After a proper blow-out in Rotorua, we headed a little further south to the calm and tranquility of Lake Aniwhenua. We stayed at the beautiful Kohutapu Lodge, right on the lake shores. The Lodge is run by a local Maori family, who teach visitors about Maori traditions and culture, and at the same time, are using tourism to support their local community.

We saw ancient Maori rock carvings, learnt more about the history and culture, as well as having a go at some traditional crafts and games. We also learned the famous Maori war dance, “the haka” (anybody who has watched the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team will be familiar with the power of this) and shared a traditional “hangi” feast. As well as being a fantastic meal, Kohutapu Lodge delivers lunches to local school children.

Learn the Maori haka at Lake Aniwhenua - Stray New Zealand
Learning the Maori Haka at Lake Aniwhenua

The real highlight here is hearing how your hosts aim to promote this decidedly non-touristy region to visitors in the hope that it will give the entire community a boost, especially for the sake of the local school kids.

We finished an incredible day swapping stories around the fire – in one of the most peaceful places on earth.

Day 4 & 5: Blue Duck Station
Find your inner farmer!

We left Lake Aniwhenua after breakfast, but New Zealand’s natural wonders certainly didn’t end there. We took a morning dip in the scarily named Kerosene Creek – I was looking for the No Smoking signs! To our relief, we weren’t in oil, but a naturally hot river, hence the name.

From there, we continued our journey, taking in Lake Taupo. North Island may not be that big, but this crater lake is impressive. It covers an area of 616 square kilometres, with the distance around the lake a staggering 193 kms. It drains into the Waikato River – our next stop on the journey.

We stopped again to take in Huka Falls. It is impossible to describe this in words. The sheer power of 220,000 litres of white water PER SECOND crashing down an 11 metre gorge has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

After an unforgettable day of natural wonders, we arrived at Blue Duck station, a 7,200 acre farm set high in the mountains. It was another night of great food and a few drinks around the fire.

We spent the next day at Blue Duck Station. There is an amazing 4 wheel drive tour through the mountains, with views of the peaks of three mountains. It is like being on top of the world. There is also horse riding at sunrise or hikes along the trail. I didn’t see the rare, native Blue Duck, from which the station takes its name, but maybe next time.

Stray NZ - Blue Duck Station - SunriseNZ17_wright11473_WEB
See the sunrise on horse back at Blue Duck Station

Whatever you do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling in love with this Kiwi paradise – it’s the kind of place you’ll want to tell everyone you meet about after you’ve been here!

Day 6: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The best one day hike in the world

This North Island Stray Tour just seems to get better and better. Day 6 saw us back on the bus to the Tongariro National Park. We hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – described as one of the best one day walks in the world.

Tongariro Crossing - Ultimate North Island Roadie - Stray NZ
Jumping on volcanoes on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

You can see why. You are walking through mountains. It is like being on a quest in Lord of the Rings, hiking alongside the real life ‘Mt Doom’, Mt Ngauruhoe. Over high plateaux, looking down over blue lakes and valleys, the scenery really takes your breath away. Top tip: take a couple of extra layers and plenty of food and drink with you. You’re going to need keep warm and those energy levels topped up.

Powderhorn Chateau
Powderhorn Chateau

The accommodation was nearly as special. The Powderhorn Chateau is a lodge style hotel, but after a day’s hiking, relaxing in the pool followed by a couple of beers in the bar was just what we needed. I am fairly confident that I can speak for all our small group of intrepid Stray Mates – we slept well that night…

Days 7 & 8: Wellington
The coolest little capital city

We got up next morning to a hearty breakfast, refreshed after our hike. Which was just as well, because first on the agenda today was a 4km cycle trail! It’s not as tough as the hike, for sure, and actually a good way to get any stiffness out of your legs. It’s an easy but spectacular bike ride along the Old Coach Road, and it’s unguided, so you can go at you own pace.

Your North Island road trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop in the ‘coolest little capital’ in the world, Wellington, at the southern tip of the island. Wellington packs a lot of character into its downtown district, with heaps of cool restaurants, bars and cafes along Cuba Street and Courtenay Place.

You’ve got a couple of free activity options to fill your afternoon too: browse through the exhibits at Te Papa National Museum, climb to the top of Mt Victoria for panoramic views of the city and its harbour or take a more relaxing walk along the waterfront and Oriental Parade. Wellington’s craft brewery scene has boomed in recent years, and the bar scene definitely won’t disappoint. Well it would be rude not to finish you tour with a big night out!

Wellington on a good day - Stray New Zealand
Views of Wellington and the harbour

If you’ve fallen in love with North Island and want to see even more, take one of the Stray all New Zealand tours and cross the Cook Strait to see South Island and the whole of magical Aotearoa.

LisaT profile picture

Lisa T

Originally from Delaware, USA. Favourite Stray stop: Blue Duck Station (New Zealand). Fun fact: her knowledge of sci-fi, Disney and British literature make her the Queen of Trivia.

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New Zealand is a tiny country that packs a scenic punch! Explore New Zealand the 'Stray' way - getting further off the beaten track, seeking out one-of-a-kind experiences and meeting a bunch of epic fellow adventurers.
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