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New Zealand North Island Itinerary, 5 Days | Travel Guide from a Local (2024)

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Are you looking for a New Zealand North Island itinerary for 5 days? Then you’ve come to the right place!

As a proud Kiwi and North Island resident, I’ve lived in New Zealand for 27 years and had the pleasure of exploring this incredible part of Aotearoa on countless road trips. Whether you’re seeking stunning natural beauty, vibrant cities, or unique cultural experiences, the North Island has it all.

My extensive knowledge of the North Island, gained through years of exploration, makes me an expert when it comes to planning your next adventure. I’m here to guide you on a 5 day North Island itinerary that will help you make the most of your visit, ensuring it’s an unforgettable experience from start to finish.

North Island Itinerary 5 day highlights

  • Day 1 – Start your journey in Auckland and spend a night enjoying the vibrant Viaduct atmosphere
  • Day 2 – Drive to Rotorua, stopping by Hobbiton on the way
  • Day 3 to 4 – Make your way to the stunning Coromandel Peninsula and spend two days here
  • Day 5 – Return to Auckland

🤩 Looking to hire a car for your trip, I recommend checking out Discover Cars to easily compare different companies and their prices!

New Zealand North Island Itinerary: 5 days

New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 days

Welcome to the enchanting land of New Zealand’s North Island, where adventure, natural wonders, and a dash of Kiwi charm await you!

In just five short days, I invite you to embark on an unforgettable journey that will leave you breathless (and maybe even questioning your return flight). From epic geothermal wonders in Rotorua to the vibrant streets of Auckland, this itinerary is designed for those who want to squeeze every drop of excitement out of their visit.

Day 1 New Zealand, North Island Itinerary: Visit Auckland’s Piha Beach, the Sky Tower and the Viaduct

Piha Beach

Piha Beach, New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 days

Piha Beach is an absolute gem and a must-do for first time visitors to New Zealand. If you’ve just picked up your rental car, imagine this: after a scenic drive from Auckland, you’ll arrive at the black-sand beauty of Piha in about an hour.

Depending on your timing, you can either drop your bags at your accommodation or simply leave them in the car, because as soon as you set foot on Piha’s shore, you’ll be mesmerised by its wild, rugged beauty and you’ll want to make the most of your time here.

Think dramatic waves crashing on the shore, and lush greenery all around. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or even some sunbathing if the sun is out. If you decide to go swimming do take extra care as it can be quite rough. I would definitely recommend swimming between the flags and not going out too deep.

Piha Beach is the ideal day trip distance from Auckland so I’ve been here plenty of times. It’s a big, spacious beach. The sunsets are a real treat if you happen to be here in the evening. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone looking for a relaxed beach experience.

🤩 Would you rather sit back and relax while someone else does the driving? You can book a guided tour with transport from Auckland here

Auckland’s Sky Tower

Auckland Sky Tower, New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 days

Auckland’s Sky Tower is a must-visit for first-time Kiwi explorers. Expect amazing 360-degree views over the city from this 328m high structure and if you’re not afraid of heights, views of what’s below you too!

You can literally stand on a glass floor and gaze down at the world below. But if that’s not enough, there’s Bungy jumping off the tower, which takes the thrill to a whole new level. Imagine the view on the way down as you fall 192 metres! If you don’t want to jump you can take part in the SkyWalk instead where you walk around a 1.2 metre wide platform while in a harness.

Once your heart rate gets back to normal, you can head to one of the tower’s restaurants for a bite to eat or grab a drink at the SkyBar. The dining options are as impressive as the view, making it a perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a delicious meal with a killer backdrop.

When I last visited the Sky Tower I decided to make it a special night by heading to Orbit 360, the restaurant at the top of the tower which slowly spins so you can enjoy the view from every angle. Let me tell you, the food there was nothing short of amazing.

🤩 Book your Sky Tower admission ticket here


The Viaduct

Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 days

Once you’ve finished visiting the Sky Tower, Auckland’s Viaduct is also located in the CBD and is worth a visit while you’re in the area.

It’s one of my favourite places to go when the sun is out and let me tell you, it’s got that cool, laid-back vibe that you’re going to love. It’s the kind of place where you can stroll along the waterfront and soak in the views while discovering a treasure trove of great bars and dining spots.

Whether you’re in the mood for fresh seafood, international cuisine, or just a casual drink, the Viaduct has you covered. It’s right by the water, so you can enjoy your meal or drink with a picturesque view that’s pretty hard to beat.

The whole atmosphere is just buzzing with energy, and it’s the perfect place to unwind, enjoy some local flavours, and immerse yourself in the Auckland scene. Some of my favourite restaurants in Auckland are located here, I would highly recommend White & Wongs, Hello Beasty or Saint Alice (the mushroom pizza is divine).

Otherwise, Dr Rudi’s has a great atmosphere if you just feel like grabbing a drink, there are some outdoor tables where you can enjoy a view of the marina and even some bowling lanes down the back. Coops is also a good option for affordable pub food and drinks if you need something a bit more budget-friendly, the frozen margaritas are a must-try!

Day 2 New Zealand, North Island Itinerary: Hobbiton, Te Puia Geothermal Valley and Polynesian Spa’s hot pools

Hobbiton

Hobbiton, North Island New Zealand

On the morning of day 2, make your way to Rotorua and stop at Hobbiton along the way. It’s a 2 hour drive from Auckland so it’s a perfect halfway point. A visit to Hobbiton is like stepping into a whimsical dreamland. This enchanting movie set, nestled amidst the rolling hills of Matamata, offers a one-of-a-kind experience.

As you meander through the lush, meticulously maintained landscape, you’ll be captivated by the meticulous attention to detail in every hobbit hole, garden, and bridge. It’s like a real-life Middle-earth, where you can explore the iconic settings from the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” film trilogies.

From Bag End to the Green Dragon Inn, every corner of Hobbiton is a work of art. The guided tours provide a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes stories and interesting tidbits, revealing the craftsmanship and dedication that went into creating this fantasy world. For fans and non-fans alike, it’s a magical journey through movie-making history and a chance to immerse yourself in the charm of the Shire.

Whether you’re enjoying a pint at the Green Dragon or admiring the picturesque landscapes, Hobbiton offers an experience that’s both enchanting and memorable, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring New Zealand.

🤩 Learn all about Hobbiton with this 2.5 hour movie set walking tour!

Te Puia Geothermal Valley

Pohutu Geyser, Te Puia Geothermal Valley, situated in Rotorua

After your visit to Hobbiton, you’ll continue on to Te Puia Geothermal Valley, situated in Rotorua. The drive will take you about an hour.

Te Puia Geothermal Valley is a geothermal park where you can experience the raw power of nature with bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers, and unique geothermal features. Here is where you’ll find the famous Pohutu Geyser which frequently erupts 30m into the air. You can even see it from outside the park!

Te Puia is not just about geothermal wonders; it’s deeply intertwined with Maori culture. The valley is home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, showcasing traditional wood carving and weaving.

Consider taking a guided tour to get insights into the geothermal wonders and Maori traditions. Knowledgeable guides share stories about the cultural significance of the area and its natural phenomena. I would recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes as the ground can be uneven at times.

Due to the geothermal activity, there’s a distinctive sulfuric smell in the air. Don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience and you’ll now know what we Kiwis mean when we say “smells like Rotorua”!

🤩 Book a guided tour and tickets to Te Puia Geothermal Valley here

Polynesian Spa’s hot pools

After an adventurous day, take some time to relax at Polynesian Spa’s hot pools! You’ll find a variety of different hot mineral pools here, with different temperatures too – perfect for relieving your tired muscles.

What’s special about Polynesian Spa’s pools is they are sourced from two different springs, the Priest Spring and the Rachel Spring. The mineral-rich waters are believed to have therapeutic properties.

It’s a good idea to book ahead so you don’t miss out on your preferred time, during peak times these pools can get pretty busy.

In addition to the hot pools, Polynesian Spa offers a variety of spa treatments, including massages and wellness therapies. Consider combining your hot pool experience with a spa treatment for the ultimate relaxation.

🤩 Book your Polynesian Spa Hot Spring experience here


Day 3 New Zealand, North Island Itinerary: Drive to Coromandel Peninsula, Surf or Swim at Whangamata Beach and Explore Whanagamata Town

Drive to Coromandel Peninsula

In the morning make the two-hour drive to Whangamata in the Coromandel Peninsula. You might want to grab some breakfast in Rotorua before you hit the road, otherwise, Tauranga is a good place to spot for a bite to eat.

Whangamata is a typical New Zealand beach town with a relaxed vibe. Located on the Coromandel Coast, the town is surrounded by native bush, crystal clear waters, and of course the iconic white sand beach.

I have visited Whangamata many times and it’s one of my favourite beach towns in New Zealand.

It’s a great spot for first-time visitors and seasoned travellers to New Zealand as there’s plenty to see and do. It’s known as one of the more popular towns in the Coromandel Peninsula so it has a great variety of accommodation options and is a good place to stay the night – you’ll be so relaxed you’ll definitely want to stay longer though!

Explore Whangamata Town and Hit the Beach

Whangamata Beach, New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 Days

Whangamata is known for its surf break, it’s a great place to rent a board and practise, or just relax on the sand in the sun. It’s also a great swimming beach, with clear blue water and white sand.

Visitors and locals alike can spend their days enjoying a variety of activities, from swimming and surfing in the sea to exploring the nearby bush trails. There is also a great range of cafes, restaurants, and bars to enjoy, all with a laid-back atmosphere.

Every time I visit Whangamata, I’m always amazed by the stunning scenery and the warm hospitality of the locals. It’s definitely a place I would recommend to anyone looking to experience the best of New Zealand.

In the evenings, you can watch the sunset over the beach or join in the fun at one of the town’s many pubs. Whangamata truly offers the perfect combination of beach vibes and serene nature, making it the perfect place to relax and recharge.

🤩 Whangamata has plenty of gorgeous holiday homes to stay in, book one here!

Day 4 New Zealand, North Island Itinerary: Cathedral Cove, Hahei and Hot Water Beach

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 Days

It’s time to hit the road again and make your way towards Hahei to visit Cathedral Cove. The drive takes an hour so you won’t have to wake up too early in order to make the most of your day here.

Visiting Cathedral Cove for the first time is a must for any traveller in New Zealand. To get there, you can either kayak or take a boat cruise – either way, the stunning views will take your breath away.

Unfortunately, the walking track to Cathedral Cove from Hahei is currently closed due to the bad storms last summer, so you’ll have to find an alternate way to get there. If you want to miss the crowds, I would visit in the morning when it’s still quiet.

However you choose to get there, the beautiful landscape and stunning views will make it an unforgettable experience. Don’t forget your togs because it’s a great swimming spot!

Hahei

Visiting Hahei Beach in New Zealand is a must-do for travellers! And since you’re already in the area after visiting Cathedral Cove, it would be crazy not to sit back and take in the magic of Hahei as well so make sure you allow time to enjoy both.

This cute beach town is home to a lovely beach with perfect white sands and crystal blue waters that make it a great spot for swimming. The atmosphere is also very relaxing, with a calm and serene atmosphere that will make you feel right at home.

No doubt you’ve probably worked up a bit of an appetite! There are some local cafes in Hahei so if you need to grab some lunch, this is a good place to have something to eat. Hahei Beach Cafe is a popular spot.

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach, North Island Itinerary

Visiting Hot Water Beach is an unforgettable experience and one of the many fantastic free activities in the Coromandel Peninsula. It’s the perfect activity for first-time visitors to New Zealand. To get the best out of the experience, make sure to plan your visit two hours on either side of low tide. This is when the naturally heated mineral water will be accessible.

To find the hot water you’ll want to make your way towards the rocks at the southern end of the beach. Every time I’ve been here there’s been other people already digging a hole in the sand to reach the hot water so you won’t have any trouble finding the right spot. You definitely need to check the tide timetable before you plan your visit, as you can only experience the hot springs when the tide is out.

Don’t forget to bring a spade – if you don’t have one, you can easily hire one from the local store. When you’ve got your spade, you’ll be ready to dig a hole in the sand and create your very own pool of hot water.

I really enjoy visiting Hot Water Beach, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to end a day of exploring the area. It’s also a pretty unique activity that you won’t experience anywhere else. It can get busy during the summer months, but it’s definitely worth it!

🤩 I would highly recommend booking a night at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, this is where I usually stay when I visit Hot Water Beach and it never disappoints!

Day 5 New Zealand, North Island Itinerary: Drive back to Auckland, Eat Fish and Chips on the Beach, Visit Auckland Botanical Gardens

Drive back to Auckland

It’s time to make your way back to Auckland and how much you can squeeze into your last day will really depend on how much time you have before your flight. To drive back to Auckland from Hot Water Beach the journey will take you a little over 3 hours.

Before you hit the road, grab some breakfast at one of the local cafes such as Hot Waves Cafe.

Eat Fish and Chips on the Beach

Before you leave New Zealand, or the North Island even, you can’t miss eating fish and chips on the beach. We Kiwis think our fish and chips are pretty damn good. Those who know me well, know it’s one of my favourite meals!

In the summer months, you can’t beat heading to the local fish and chip shop, getting some takeaways and heading down to the beach to eat by the water. It’s a true Kiwi activity.

I would recommend heading to Kohimarama, it’s quieter than Mission Bay and the local fish and chip shop here is very reasonably priced compared to others in the area.

There are plenty of other beaches in Auckland that are worth visiting too if you have the time.

Auckland Botanical Gardens

new zealand north island itinerary 5 days 1

If you still have some time up your sleeve then you could consider a quick visit to the Auckland Botanical Gardens. With its stunning range of flora and fauna, it’s a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and simply relax.

From native New Zealand plants to exotic species, you’ll be amazed at what this wonderful spot has to offer, plus it’s located just 20 minutes from the airport and it’s free to visit!

Best Time to Visit North Island, New Zealand

The best time of year for overseas visitors to visit the North Island in New Zealand is during the late summer and early autumn months of February to April. During this period, visitors can enjoy mild temperatures and sunshine as they explore the island’s many attractions.

The beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula are especially stunning during this time of year, with white sand, crystal-clear water, and plenty of space to relax and take in the beautiful views.

I love the late summer and early autumn months in New Zealand because outdoor activities like swimming, snorkelling and fishing are especially enjoyable. The long days are great because they give visitors plenty of time to explore all the area has to offer.


Getting Around North Island, New Zealand

Exploring the North Island of New Zealand is best done by car, as public transport can be limited in this part of the world. Renting a vehicle will give you the flexibility to go where you want and when you want, and there are plenty of scenic routes to explore.

Be aware that the roads in the Coromandel Peninsula are quite windy, so be sure to allow extra time in your journey so you don’t feel rushed. This will also give you time to enjoy the breathtaking views and experience the unique culture of the local area.

🤩 Looking to hire a car for your trip? I recommend checking out Discover Cars to easily compare different companies and their prices!

FAQs – New Zealand North Island Itinerary, 5 days

How many days in North Island, New Zealand?

coromandel peninsula coastline

You can see a decent amount of North Island, New Zealand in 5 days, but I would highly recommend extending your trip and staying longer. There is so much to explore in New Zealand, with the North Island offering plenty of sights and attractions.

New Zealand is bigger than people think and there are many hidden gems spread across the North Island. From stunning beaches to lush forests to geothermal parks, the North Island is an incredible place to explore.

Take your time and take in all the amazing landscapes and culture. There is something for everyone and trust me, you won’t regret extending your trip to experience all that the North Island has to offer! And if you need more ideas for the best places to visit in the North Island, don’t worry I’ve got plenty.


How much money do I need for 5 days in North Island, New Zealand

If you’re looking to travel to North Island, New Zealand for five days, you’ll want to have a budget that allows for some flexibility. New Zealand is not a cheap place to travel, but there are several ways to make your trip more affordable.

Staying in holiday parks or campgrounds is an excellent option, as it can reduce the cost of accommodation significantly. Hotels are mainly found in the bigger cities, but smaller towns often have holiday homes available to book that can be incredibly cost-effective if you’re travelling in a group.

If you want to eat out, dinner and drinks would cost you around $80 – $100 NZD for a couple, this does get a bit cheaper the further away from the larger cities you get. For lunch you could expect to pay $40 – $60 NZD per couple if eating at a restaurant or cafe.

In New Zealand we have a lot of local bakeries which are a great cheaper alternative and good if you need to grab something on the go.


Final Thoughts: New Zealand North Island Itinerary 5 days

Visiting the North Island of New Zealand for 5 days is an amazing experience. With its breathtaking landscapes, stunning national parks, and cultural experiences, this area offers something for everyone.

From the beaches in the Coromandel Peninsula to the geothermal wonders of Rotorua, the North Island has plenty to offer visitors. With 5 days, you’ll get to experience some of the finest that New Zealand has to offer, however, I would highly recommend a longer stay if possible to take in all the beauty this area has to offer.

Planning a trip to New Zealand’s North Island can be an exciting, fun, and unforgettable experience. But there’s no need to stress about planning the perfect 5-day itinerary – I’m here to help!

My custom itinerary planning services can help you create a unique trip tailored specifically to your budget and interests. With my help, you can create an itinerary that maximizes your time in New Zealand and ensures that you get the most out of your trip.

So don’t wait any longer – reach out to me today and let’s start planning a New Zealand adventure that you’ll never forget!

Enquire about my Custom Itinerary Planning Services

I totally understand how time-consuming planning a trip can be! It takes thorough research and planning to ensure your dream trip comes to life. That’s where I come in!

As a New Zealand travel blogger who has explored over 20 countries, I bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. Let my travel planning services, combined with my local expertise guide you seamlessly through your dream New Zealand adventure.

Connect with me today, and let’s craft the trip of a lifetime together! Anticipate a prompt response—I aim to address all enquiries within 24-48 hours. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

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