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 10 days, you can:

  • Watch the sun rise over one of NZ’s most beautiful beaches
  • Surf a world famous a West Coast wave
  • Marvel at glowworms in a sprawling underground cave system
  • Zip through the canopy of a native forest
  • Learn the mighty haka (a Maori war dance)
  • Free fall over Australasia’s largest freshwater lake
  • …and so much more!

Buckle up for the ultimate North Island road trip!

Days 1 & 2: Coromandel Peninsula
A beach lover’s paradise

Kick things off by driving just a couple hours south of Auckland, where you’ll find one of New Zealand’s most beloved holiday destinations. Hahei, a tiny beach town on the Coromandel Peninsula, is nothing short of paradise and it’s the perfect home base for your first couple nights. When the tide’s right, hit nearby Hot Water Beach to dig your own all-natural spa pool in the sand. Start your free day off by watching the sun rise on Hahei Beach, before heading to the famous Cathedral Cove by way of boat tour, sea kayak or on foot. It’s so magical that its iconic rocky cliffs and white sand coves were used in one of the Narnia films!

Stray New Zealand - Hahei - Cathedral Cove
Jump for joy at Cathedral Cove

Day 3: Raglan
Artsy West Coast surfer town

It’s time to move on from the east coast to the west, travelling to New Zealand’s surf mecca Raglan, a laid back town awash with long haired surfer dudes and hippy chicks. Most renowned for its black sand beaches and legendary left-hand surf break, if you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, this is the place to do it! After a little dryland practice, the Raglan Surf School will take you to the best spot for beginners and guarantee you will stand up before the lesson ends. Aside from the beach, Raglan is also one of the best places to find an amazing cup of coffee – try a Raglan Roast for your local java hit. If you somehow find yourself needing a little break from the sun and surf, check out Bridal Veil Falls, an epic 55m waterfall hidden down a short bush track that’s only a 20 minute drive outside town.

Raglan Surf School surf lesson - Stray New Zealand
Surf’s up in Raglan!

Day 4: Waitomo (on route to Rotorua)
A stunning cave network filled with glowworms

Not too far from Raglan one of the country’s coolest natural wonders lies hidden under the rolling green hills of Waitomo. You can spend a good chuck of your next travel day exploring the underground wonders of Waitomo’s massive cave network. Kitted out in a thermal wet suit and jazzy pair of white gum boots, the team at Waitomo Adventures will take you abseiling into a dark abyss and scrambling over rocks in search of the tiny twinkling glowworms that call these caves home.

Haggis Honking Holes black water rafting Waitomo Adventures - Stray New Zealand
Get Wet and Wild searching for glowworms with Waitomo Adventures

Day 4 (continued): Rotorua
The adventure capital of the North Island

Your next port of call is Rotorua, the North Island’s top geothermal hot spot and hub for all manner of adventure activities. There is a lot to see and do around Rotorua, so it’s completely understandable if you decide you need more than just one day here! Aside from the iconic Zorb and incredible white water rafting on offer, those keen for a high flying adventure should definitely check out the Rotorua Canopy Tours, a thrilling zipline adventure through native bush that is equal parts fun and educational. Rotorua is also the best place to treat yourself to a little pamper session at one of the city’s natural geothermal spas or for movie buffs to access the famous Hobbiton Movie Set, the real set used in those little Lord of the Rings films. It’s impossible to be bored in Rotorua!

Ziplining with Rotorua Canopy Tours - Stray New Zealand
Just hanging out with Rotorua Canopy Tours

Day 5: Lake Aniwhenua
Where a beautiful story of hope awaits

After hanging out in a major tourist destination like Rotorua, you’ll probably feel ready to experience a more authentic slice of New Zealand culture, so it’s the perfect time to venture off the beaten track to the the shores of Lake Aniwhenua. The local family-owned and operated Kohutapu Lodge is all about showcasing their Maori tribal heritage, which includes taking guests to see the oldest Maori rock carvings in the country, teaching the haka and cooking up an amazing hangi dinner, a traditional feast cooked in an underground over. The real highlight here is hearing how your hosts aim to promote this decidedly non-touristy region to visitors in the hopes that it will give the entire community a boost, especially for the sake of the local school kids.

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

Day 6: Taupo
Check out Australasia’s largest lake

If you came to New Zealand in search of a real adrenaline rush, your next stop at Taupo is where you will find the ultimate thrill: a skydive over the Great Lake Taupo! You’ll probably be screaming a little during the free fall plunge from the plane, but remember to take in the spectacular views of the nearby mountains of Tongariro National Park once the parachute opens and you’re gently sailing back to earth. If skydiving is a bit too extreme, there are plenty of earthbound options in Taupo, including mountain biking, hiking, sailing on the lake and even bungy jumping. The impressive Huka Falls are well worth a visit too and accessible enough to fit in with your other Taupo activities.

Skydive Taupo - Stray New Zealand
Skydive in Taupo

(Note to those short on time: Taupo is one of the best places to turn around and head back to Auckland if you only have one week to play on the North Island – the return drive from Taupo to Auckland is approximately 3.5 hours.)

Days 6 (continued) & 7: High Country Station
Get off the beaten track and visit NZ’s heartland

No trip to New Zealand would be complete without experiencing life on a real working station, so carry on across the Central Plateau to get well and truly off the grid at Blue Duck Station. This working sheep station does double duty as an eco-conservation pioneer dedicated to protecting the native environment for its namesake, the whio (blue duck). Note that it is a long drive in, so plan to spend two nights at Blue Duck so you have a full free day to explore this magical destination. For entertainment, you have the option to go horseback riding over rolling green hills, check out farm life with a 4WD buggy ride around the farm, kayak on the winding Whanganui River or assist with pest and predator eradication. 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!

Stray NZ - Blue Duck Station - SunriseNZ17_wright11473_WEB

Day 8: Tongariro National Park
One of the best one day hikes in the world

From Blue Duck, it’s only a short drive to reach the heart of the Tongariro National Park and starting point of the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing. There’s a reason people rave about this 19km hike. While it’s certainly tougher than your average walk in the park, you’ll be easily distracted with snapping photos as you walk through an alien-looking active volcanic area and right alongside the real life ‘Mt Doom’, Mt Ngauruhoe. Just be sure to take plenty of snacks, water and easily removable layers and you’ll be fine. Nothing will beat the sense of accomplishment you feel after finishing either!

Tongariro Crossing - Ultimate North Island Roadie - Stray NZ

Day 9: Wellington
The coolest little capital city

Your North Island road trip won’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 if you want to finish you roadie with a big night out.

Wellington on a good day - Stray New Zealand

Day 10: Return to Auckland (or let the Kiwi adventure continue!)

On your final day, you could choose to finish in Wellington or journey back to Auckland. Relax knowing that you’ve completely maximised your time and experienced the very best destinations the North Island has to offer. However, if you have 3-4 more days up your sleeve, you could venture up to Northland to explore the top of the country and go dolphin watching in the Bay of Islands or head to the remote East Cape area to see a coastal region still largely untouched by tourism.

And if you’ve already fallen in love with New Zealand and want to see even more, you can always catch a ferry from Wellington across the Cook Strait and carry on with an ultimate South Island roadie!

A video’s worth a thousand words – here’s a sneak peek of what to expect when you road trip around the North Island with Stray!

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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