The Best Auckland Road Trip Itinerary: Must-See Destinations and More!

best Auckland Road Trip Itinerary

As Auckland is nestled between two gorgeous harbours, it is a brilliant departure point for a coastal road trip. So, once you’ve explored the delights of the City of Sails, why not take the opportunity to venture further afield? Outlined below is our take on the ultimate Auckland road trip itinerary. If you follow this route, it will take you to some must-see destinations, as well as some hidden gems that most tourists to the North Island of New Zealand don’t get to see.

Auckland Road Trip Itinerary

This adventure starts and ends in Auckland and, of course, requires you to have access to a vehicle. If you don’t, you might want to consider hiring an SUV or 4WD from a reputable Auckland car hire company at the airport. The route outlined below covers a distance of around 1600 km, not including any detours you might do. It can take you anywhere from a week to ten days to complete, depending on how much time you want to devote to it. The great thing about this route is that you can do it any time of the year. As you will be travelling, essentially in a loop, you can choose to do this Auckland road trip in the following order or reverse.

Leg 1: Auckland to Bay of Islands (4 hours, 240 km)

Situated in the upper northeastern reaches of the North Island are 144 stunning islands that make up the aptly named Bay of Islands. Those who enjoy aquatic pursuits like sailing, boating, fishing, kayaking, paddling and snorkelling, will be in their element here as plenty of opportunities abound. 

Auckland Road Trip Itinerary guide

However, the region should have a big pull for history buffs as it was where the Treaty of Waitangi, which is widely regarded as the document that founded the country, was signed at what is now the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. In addition, there are plenty of charming villages and waterfalls to explore, and a trip to Ngawha Springs to enjoy the geothermal hot pools is also recommended.

Leg 2: Bay of Islands to Coromandel Peninsula (6.5 hours, 407 km)

The beautiful Coromandel Peninsula is separated from the eastern boundaries of Auckland by the Hauraki Gulf. Home to some of the best coastal scenery on the North Island, don't be surprised if you spend a substantial amount of time just staring out in wonder at the beaches, cliffs and azure waters of the South Pacific Ocean that define it. Checking out Hot Water Beach and embarking on the spectacular coastal walk to Cathedral Cove are 'must do' activities here. If you can tear yourself away from the coastline, you will also discover volcanic hills among the native rainforest, where several wooden houses remain intact from the gold rush days back in the 1880s.

Leg 3: Coromandel Peninsula to Napier (6 hours, 418 km)

Napier is a beautiful coastal city with a population of around 65,000. It is in the eastern part of the North Island, roughly in its middle part. After being destroyed by an earthquake in 1931, the city's rebuilding brought several art deco buildings to the fore, including the magnificent Daily Telegraph Building, which features an iconic zigzag pattern. Elsewhere, the Pania of the Reef statue, which resides on the waterfront Marine Parade promenade, is an enduring symbol of the city, depicting a Maori maiden. If you love wine, you'll enjoy the opportunity to check out several of the wineries in the surrounding Hawkes Bay region.

Leg 4: Napier to Waitomo Caves (4 hours, 297 km)

A visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves allows you to enjoy one of the most amazing travel experiences New Zealand has to offer. Accommodating a population of Arachnocampa luminosa, a specific species of glowworm that is only found in Aoeteoroa, this cave forms part of the Waitomo Streamway system, which also includes Tumutumu Cave, Lucky Strike, and Ruakuri Cave.

Auckland Road Trip Itinerary

Visitors have been coming here since the late 1880s to be wowed by the sight of thousands of glowworms twinkling above them as they moved serenely along the caves by boat. It is a magical site that will break you out into goosebumps.

Leg 5: Waitomo Caves to Hamilton (1 hour, 68km)

The beautiful city of Hamilton sits on the banks of the spectacular Waikato River in the Waikato Region of the North Island. It is just a 90-minute drive from Auckland, which would be the last leg of this road trip. Hamilton is known for its massive public park, Hamilton Gardens, where, you'll find several tranquil gardens arranged in different styles, including traditional Maori, Japanese, and Italian Renaissance. Affectionately known as 'The Tron', it is an easy-to-navigate city on foot and is known for its excellent cafe and dining scene. It counts The Waikato Museum as one of its major cultural institutions, complete with numerous exhibits of Maori artefacts and artwork. At the same time, the ArtsPost gallery showcases the best of local art. The city of Hamilton is also known for its excellent nightlife, including several fantastic bars and nightclubs, many of which are located in and around Victoria Street, the city centre.

What about you, have you ever been to Auckland? Feel free to share any tips & advice below!

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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