By Ellen Morgan
Published: Tuesday, April 6, 2021
From its frosty peaks and rugged hillsides to lush valleys and rushing rivers, New Zealand is like a picture-book brought to life. Experience it all with a week on the North Island.
Just a 4-hour flight from Adelaide, a trip to New Zealand feels like stepping into another universe – a spectacular one at that. Like peeking through the glass façade of a sparkling snow globe, looking out the plane window upon landing feels just a little bit magic.
Once you arrive, let the crisp fresh air switch you into holiday mode (perhaps with the help of a little pinot) and get your camera ready for a snap or seven.
We’d recommend at least a week (or longer) to make the most of Te Ikaa-Māui, also known as the North Island.
If you’re as excited as us with the news that Australians will be able to travel to this spectacular country from 19 April without mandatory hotel quarantine, we’ve put together an itinerary travelling from Auckland to Wellington, to help inspire your next journey.
Moving down the island to a new location each day, the jam-packed itinerary gives you a little snapshot of each spot.
Want to travel a little slower? Simply stay a while longer in some destinations and skip others on your journey down. Make sure not to rush and drive safely.
Start your journey by flying to Auckland from Adelaide, easing into your holiday by soaking up some city sights. But first, pick up a car from Thrifty, with locations in Auckland city and at the airport. If you’re an RAA member, you can save with a 15 per cent member discount.
New Zealand’s most populous city, Auckland is also its very own region. With 48 dormant volcanos, two harbours and a vibrant food and wine culture, you could easily spend the whole seven days here. Thrill-seekers can get stuck into one of the many adrenaline-inducing bucket list to-dos, like bungy jumping off Sky Tower or into Waitemata Harbour.
But if slow and steady is more your pace, why not try taking a stroll through the Matakana Farmers Market or embark on a cruise out on the picturesque Hauraki Gulf?
If you have some time to spare, hop across to Waiheke Island, which boasts a huge range of stunning wineries as well as a popular zip-line. Stay the night in Auckland before making the drive to your next destination.
Whether you’re a fan of Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings novels or not, a visit to New Zealand isn’t quite complete without a trip to the Matamata district – home of Hobbiton.
Just over two hours south-east of Auckland, you can explore Matamata in your own vehicle or book a tour of the movie set.
Rolling green hillsides and towering trees form part of the working farm that houses Hobbiton – a spectacle in itself.
Originally built in 1999, the hobbit village is the brainchild of director Peter Jackson and Tolkien himself. It remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, with a range of tours on offer, giving visitors the chance to explore the delightfully pretty and adorably cosy world of hobbits.
Visit sweet little homes and other community buildings – there’s even a tour that involves a banquet at the pub. Just remember to duck your head under their doorways.
Stay the night in Matamata – there are a couple of spots to rest your head near Hobbiton if you’ve had a few too many Green Dragon pints or you’re weary from your journey. The only way to see the movie set is with a tour.
Just under an hour’s drive from Matamata, Rotorua is your next stop-off. The city is located in the aptly named Bay of Plenty region, and there’s plenty to see and do here. Your first stop? The famous Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park.
For more than 800 years, the park has been utilised for its relaxing and healing properties. You can book a range of experiences from a dip in the mud baths to hot springs, sulphur spas and plunge pools. There’s even a Māori carving experience on offer.
After something a little more exhilarating? Why not raft along spectacular Kaituna River and face the seven-metre drop at Tutea Falls?
After all the excitement, stay in the city of Rotorua for the night.
Another hour south of Rotorua is beautiful Lake Taupo. The largest freshwater lake in Australasia, its average depth is 100m and it’s home to a variety of fish and bird species.
If you’re up for a paddle, Lake Taupo is the perfect place to get out on the water and soak up the scenery. Whether you’d like to take it in by kayak or boat, the vistas are a sight for sore eyes. The giant Māori rock carvings at Mine Bay are a bucket-list site, only visible from the water.
You could also drop a line and fish for some trout (they’re abundant in these waters) or take to the skies for some sky diving over the lake (we hear the view is pretty special).
Don’t want to leave? Stay the night here and bask in the beauty just a little bit longer. There’s even accommodation along the lake so you can enjoy the views from your balcony or bedroom window.
Meander further south and find yourself in Tongariro National Park – a World Heritage-listed site and the oldest national park in the country.
Appearing almost prehistoric in parts, the park is brimming with natural beauty, from forests and fields to streams and snow-capped peaks. Make sure you charge the camera before today’s trip.
The entrance to the park is Whakapapa – an alpine village – which houses the information centre as well as a holiday park, convenience store, cafes, restaurants, a bar, shelters and toilets.
Start here and head off on a range of walks, from easy-access tracks suitable for children and wheelchairs to longer hikes and treks. Autumn is a great month for walks and day hikes, according to locals.
Camp or stay the night at the on-site holiday park or make your way down to the next location for the night – Paraparaumu. A word of warning – the drive is three hours, so make sure to leave enough daylight to travel safely, or simply choose to stay another day and skip the next destination if you want a longer hike.
Whether you wake to the sound of waves or travel down after the sun rises, any time of day in Paraparaumu is a delight.
Take a day trip to Kapiti Island, which lies just 5km off the coast. The whole island is a nature reserve, home to a variety of endangered bird species. A popular destination for nature lovers, it’s best to book well in advance, as only a limited number of people are permitted on the island at any one time.
If you don’t have time to make the early boat trip, stay in Paraparaumu and hit the beach, try for a hole in one at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club or step back in time at the popular Southward Car Museum.
Foodies – you’re in luck. There’s a passionate community of food producers here, so you can sample (and take home) delicious delights from chocolate and olives to beer and coffee.
Stay here for the night or head on down to Wellington for your final day of exploring.
Just 45 minutes’ drive south of Paraparaumu lies the country’s capital – Wellington. Nestled on a scenic harbour, it’s flanked by towering hillsides that cocoon the city centre. Beautiful to look at and fascinating to explore on foot, the city has something for everyone. Food, wine and entertainment abound.
Indulge in a meal out for your last day, and make sure to take some goodies home with you. There are a stack of coffee roasteries that call the city home, plus the acclaimed Wellington Chocolate Factory, so you’ll be sorted when it comes to gifts for all your envious family and friends back home.
For families, the national museum – Te Papa – is a fun-filled interactive experience, and the Wellington Zoo is conveniently located within half an hour of the city centre.
Hop on a plane home from here (usually via Auckland) or drive the trip back up if you can take the holiday time.
Our top tip? Remember to pack an extra block of Wellington chocolate to aid the post-holiday blues.