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North Island of New Zealand by Motorhome

This motorhome trip will allow you to discover the highlights and attractions of the North Island of New Zealand. From Auckland, which is the starting point and the largest city of the country, the trip will take you north to Cape Reinga and, over the central part of the North Island, to the coastal cities on the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.

Your route

  • from / to Auckland
  • 14 - 21 days / 2,750 km
  • Best time to travel: October to April (or even all year round)

Arrival in Auckland and collection of the camper

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city with a population of over 1.4 million people, and it has the largest airport in the country. There are two domestic terminals and frequent flights to various destinations on the North Island and the South Island. The special feature of Auckland is that the urban scenery can be found only half an hour from the beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and a dozen of enchanted holiday islands. Waiheke Island can be reached by taking a short ferry ride. Other nearby islands include Rangitoto Island and Tiritiri Matangi Island.

The mild climate and often sunny weather, Polynesian culture as the backdrop, the passion for great food and wine, and attractive shopping venues make Auckland a small but versatile metropolis of multicultural vitality. Auckland is a city by the water with all advantages and superb opportunities for water sports of all kinds. The most popular pastime activity of the residents of Auckland, also known as the “City of Sails,” is sailing. Take an evening stroll around the port or recreate the unique lifestyle by trying water sports, seafood, and admiring the scenic sunset backdrop.

Highlights & Tips

Sightseeing in Auckland
The 328-metre Sky Tower offers spectacular glass lifts that will take you to stunning observation decks. For those particularly daring, there is a possibility to participate in sky walking or sky jumping. In Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World you can admire sharks and penguins from a close distance. There are also daily cultural performances of the Maori – these are held at the Auckland Museum. Also, the Auckland Zoo is a place where you can find many species of native wildlife.

Suggested route: Auckland – Whangarei – Russell

Stage distance: approx. 230 km

From Auckland, you will travel in the direction of Whangarei and then, to Russell, just a short ferry ride from Paihia. With its quiet location, the charming, elegant village was the target of sailors, whalers, and traders in the 19th century. Today, contemplative Russell is still a popular destination for sailors and yacht captains, who are looking for safe anchorage and calm weather. Craft galleries, cafés, and restaurants are inviting the tourists for a stopover.

Highlights & Tips

Experience colonial history
You can learn more about Russell’s past by visiting the local museums and taking a walk against the backdrop of its colonial architecture. The historic buildings include “Pompallier” Mission and the Church of Christ – these may still have the bullet holes from the Maori wars.

Russell – Cape Reinga

Suggested route: Russell – Kaitaia – Cape Reinga

Stage distance: approx. 230 km

From Russell, you will head for the State Highway #1 towards Kaitaia and next, along Ninety Mile Beach, to the northernmost extremity of the North Island. Ninety Mile Beach extends from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga, along the west coast of the Aupouri Peninsula.

Cape Reinga is a place of special cultural and spiritual significance for the Maori. “Reinga” is the place of “crossing,” from which – according to Maori legends – the souls of the dead start their final journey to the homeland of their ancestors (Hawaiiki). There is also a pohutukawa tree growing in the area. It is roughly 800 years old.

Highlights & Tips

Long beach experience
Ninety Mile Beach is actually 88 kilometres long and can be used as a road, but only for four-wheel vehicles. The best way to experience the beach route from Kaitaia is to participate in a bus tour. For security reasons, avoid renting cars on the beach.

Lighthouse on Cape Reinga
From the lighthouse, you can admire a wide panorama. North of the cape, you will see how the Tasman Sea enters the Pacific Ocean. Both areas collide and stir up the water currents.

Cape Reinga – Kerikeri

Suggested route: Cape Reinga – Mangonui – Kerikeri

Stage distance: approx. 190 km

From Cape Reinga, you will head along the same route first, parallel to Ninety Miles Beach and then, on the State Highway #10, over Mangonui. You will drive along the coast towards Kerikeri. It is the largest settlement located in the Bay of Islands. It is situated in the sub-tropical Northland Region. Kerikeri offers an overnight stop before heading towards the middle part of the North Island. There are many shopping venues, especially when it comes to food and wine.

Highlights & Tips

History in Kerikeri
Kerikeri, also called the “cradle of the nation,” is known for two of the oldest buildings in New Zealand. One is called the Mission House, which was constructed in the period 1821-1822, as well as the Kemp House that is the oldest preserved wooden house in the country. In addition to the Kemp House, there is the Stone Store, constructed in the period 1833-1836, which is New Zealand’s oldest building and was originally a storehouse for the Mission. The reconstructed settlement of Rewa presents the history of the Maori as well.

Kerikeri – Cambridge

Suggested route: Kerikeri – Whangarei – Auckland – Cambridge

Stage distance: approx. 385 km

The slightly longer route to Cambrigde leads back through Auckland, as the narrowest part of the North Island, between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, offers no alternative route. Those who would like to admire a more diverse landscape, can alternatively take the Kaipara Coast Highway (#16) from Wellford, which costs some more time.

Cambridge is a majestic, tree-lined town with approximately 16,000 inhabitants. “The Town of Trees” has its nickname from the impressive selection of exotic trees, which add some unique ambience to this English-style city. Cambridge leads the visitors through numerous heritage trails to various historic buildings. It will also be a pleasant shopping experience.

Highlights & Tips

Hobbits and sheep
Near Matamata, about 40 km east of Cambridge, there is a picturesque private grazing land. You can visit the remains of the filming location of “The Lord Of The Rings” and learn more about a typical New Zealand sheep farm.

Cambridge – Waitomo – Rotorua

Stage distance: approx. 200 km

Cambridge is located about 60 km from Waitomo and, its homonymous highlights, the Waitomo Caves. The Waitomo Caves with the surrounding area are famous for the possibility of participating in spectacular underground rafting and for the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves with thousands of fireflies. These small creatures create a magical underworld. Their luminosity is one of the greatest attractions of New Zealand.

The next stage of the journey is approximately 140 km away. Rotorua is known for the connection with spiritual Maori culture and the ubiquitous geysers and hot springs. Here, you can find numerous wellness options and outdoor adventures like fishing, kayaking, water skiing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, parachuting, jet boating, and zorbing.

Highlights & Tips

Light magic in the dark
The Waitomo Caves are unique in New Zealand and worth paying a visit.

Maori culture and geothermal energy
Te Puia is known as New Zealand’s leading Maori culture and geothermal centre. The area has long been an important part of the history of Rotorua. A visit will offer a unique insight into art, craft, music, food, and skills of the local Maori.

Rotorua – Gisborne

Suggested route: Rotorua – Kawerau – Whakatane – Opotiki – Gisborne

Stage distance: approx. 275 km

From Rotorua to Gisborne, the trip goes through Eastland where you will have the opportunity to experience Maori culture, history, good food, top wineries, and stunning beaches. Eastland is a region where the first Polynesian canoes landed and where Maori and Europeans met for the first time. It happened on the east coast of the North Island. It is a stunning region with a beautiful coastline and the Te Urewera National Park, a paradise for nature lovers.

As the world’s easternmost city, Gisborne is the first place that experiences the sunrise each morning. Therefore, it is also one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand. Gisborne has around 46,000 inhabitants and is the centre of the region. It can boast of beautiful beaches, farms, bushland, wine-growing areas, and untouched wilderness surrounding the city. Gisborne itself is considered to be a “living museum,” due to the history of Maori and Europeans. The today’s location of Gisborne is where Captain James Cook arrived on Endeavour in October 1769 for the first time. Now, you can find there two monuments in this historic seaside resort. They remind people about the English navigator. After the discovery of New Zealand, it remained unexplored until 1642. Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, was able to achieve this.

Highlights & Tips

The Te Urewera National Park
More than 650 species of native plants thrive in the Te Urewera National Park. Bird lovers can find many native forest birds in the park, including endangered species such as kiwi, kokako, kaka, hawk, or blue duck. During a brief stopover, you can enjoy the beauty of this national park on one of the many hiking trails – for example, during a 2-hour tour around Lake Waikareiti. In the near vicinity of another lake, Lake Waikaremoana, there is a comfortable and fully equipped motor camp.

The longest pier in New Zealand
One of the highlights on the coast of Eastland is the longest pier in New Zealand. It can be found in Tolaga Bay, about 50 km north of Gisborne.

Gisborne – Napier

Suggested route: Gisborne – Wairoa – Napier

Stage distance: approx. 215 km

From Gisborne, you travel south in the direction of Hawke’s Bay and then, to Wairoa located on the coast leading to Napier. Around 56,00 people inhabit it. In the city centre, you can find many buildings in the art deco style, parks, and a botanical garden. Galleries and museums complete the urban landscape. The art deco architecture of the city was reconstructed after a devastating earthquake that took place here in 1931. In the area around Napier, there are kiwi plantations and many wineries, with wine that is value-for-money even for the gourmets.

Highlights & Tips

Wine in and around Napier
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region and home to the oldest wineries that have been operating in this area for more than 140 years. Today, Hawke’s Bay is the second largest wine-growing area in New Zealand. You can book guided tours that will take you through the vineyards or explore them on your own.

Napier – Wellington

Suggested route: Napier – Palmerston North – Wellington

Stage distance: approx. 320 km

The longest stage of the trip goes from Napier, on the southern end of the North Island, to the New Zealand capital of Wellington. Wellington is the second largest metropolitan area in the country with a population of around 450,000. Due to the strong winds in the coastal region, the place is known as the “windy city.” In addition to many shopping facilities, there are museums and galleries available as well as many venues connected with art and culture. Various restaurants and cafés fill in the urban landscape.

The vital sightseeing points are a stroll through the shopping area of Lambton Quay, taking a photo in front of the Parliament House, the seat of the Parliament, or a visit to the National Museum Te Papa. A visit to the botanical garden is also recommended. Those who would like to have an overview of the city can take a ride on a funicular, which will take you to a beautiful vantage point.

Highlights & Tips

Exploring Wellington
The two branches of the i-SITE Visitor Centre provide the visitors with information brochures on the attractions and current events in Wellington.

Wellington – Wanganui

Suggested route: Wellington – Paraparaumu – Wanganui

Stage distance: approx. 195 km

From Wellington, you will travel along the coast towards Wanganui. The city has got approximately 40,000 inhabitants and is located at the mouth of the Whanganui River, the longest navigable river in New Zealand. In the beautiful city centre of Wanganui, you will find magnificent historic buildings and the Victoria Avenue, one of the most beautiful streets in New Zealand. By following one of the hiking trails (Wanganui City Heritage Walks), you can familiarise yourself with the history of the city.

Highlights & Tips

Spectacular scenery from above
By taking the Wanganui City Bridge, you will come across the pedestrian tunnel, Durie Hill, which leads to the Durie Hill Elevator. Once at the top, you need to take a couple of steps to the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, from where you can have a magnificent view of the surrounding area of Wanganui.

Wanganui – New Plymouth

Suggested route: Wanganui – Hawera – New Plymouth

Stage distance: approx. 160 km

From Wanganui, you will travel north-west, parallel to the coast, in the direction of New Plymouth. In Hawera, you can take either the longer route to the coast (#3) or the shorter route (#45), which passes through Egmont National Park. You will find there Mount Taranaki, a dormant volcano located in the centre of the circular national park. It offers many hiking opportunities.

Nature cultivated by the dwellers of New Plymouth is something worth seeing. The place is known for its parks. The large Pukekura Park, with a little less than 50 ha, and the lovely Brookland Park, with its rhododendron garden, are both a must-see – and not only for flower and garden enthusiasts. Nature and culture coalesce in the Museum Puke Ariki. What is more, there is St Mary’s Church, which is New Zealand’s oldest stone church.

Highlights & Tips

Experience nature in national parks
Both in the Egmont-National Park, which is located near the route, and in the Whanganui National Park (a detour is required), you can admire the impressive New Zealand’s flora and fauna. The Whanganui National Park offers a special attraction: The Bridge to Nowhere.´

New Plymouth – Auckland

Suggested route: New Plymouth – Hamilton – Auckland

Stage distance: approx. 360 km

After this slightly longer last stage, you will reach the starting point of the trip, namely Auckland. Prepare your sightseeing plan beforehand so that there is plenty of time to see Auckland and, after returning the campers, a few days to enjoy New Zealand from its urban side.



Top holiday areas: New Zealand