New Zealand in winter is famous for the ski resort on the South Island. The North Island becomes less popular during this season, maybe the reason why we found a great deal to fly over for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. We left straight after work on Friday and came back on the first flight to Brisbane on Tuesday morning: we could organise a full three days round trip from Auckland.
I first thought about doing the most popular attractions of the North Island: Rotorua and Taupo. However, these destinations would make great stops during a road trip crossing the island from Auckland to Wellington. Coromandel was also amongst the options. We finally chose to keep them for a later trip to this area and picked the north of the island instead.
We drove a total of 950km over three days in the North Island of New Zealand. We did two boat trips, two dives and one beautiful hike.
As we made this trip in June, the days were short, and we had to drive at night to make it fit. 1 or 2 hours of extra sunlight would make a significant impact and allow more sightseeing! Driving time from the GPS and Google Maps were always under our actual driving time because of the winding roads, the work roads and slow vehicles.
Even from a Queenslander point of view, the weather was not too cold: around 8° in the evening and up to 18° with great sunny days.
Our three-day road trip itinerary in the north of New Zealand:
Day 1: Drive from Auckland and Cruise on the scenic Bay of Islands with its lovely dolphins (1)
We chose to skip Auckland and hit the road to the Northland immediately. If you have more time, you may want to wander around Auckland. Those who like walking will be seduced by the Coast to Coast Walkway, a great way to discover more sights of Auckland City.
Day 3: Drive to Whangaroa (4) for a great hike on the east coast (Duke’s Nose), and then crossed to the west coast to watch the sunset on the beach at Ahipara (5). Then back to Auckland.
We chose not to go to Cape Reinga. From the recommendations we received, driving with a tour to 90-mile beach (yes, 90 miles…!) was one of the highlights of going to Cape Reinga. Although it is beautiful and quite an achievement to go to the most northern point of New Zealand, we did not receive positive feedback about driving ourselves to this remote area in such a short time. As we already had opportunities to drive on the beach in Queensland, we preferred to skip it and did not regret our choice.
Because of driving time and flight restrictions after diving, we could only dive on our second day. This did not allow us to optimise the itinerary, and I would have put the dive on the first or last day if possible. Otherwise, I would not change a thing. I loved the wilderness and impressive landscapes of the area we chose to explore, as well as the diversity of outdoor activities.
We only visited a couple beaches during our road trip as we can enjoy them all year round back home in Brisbane. But beach lovers should note that New Zealand may surprise them with stunning beaches near Auckland.
Have you been to the North of New Zealand? What was your highlight? Leave a comment below!
Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.