2 week New Zealand North Island Itinerary – Wellington to Auckland
A world of ancient volcanoes and lakes, geothermal landscapes, and vibrant cities. There’s nowhere else on earth quite like the North Island of New Zealand. The North Island is far less remote and smaller than its southern counterpart. So, although you won’t be able to see everything in 14 days, you’ll still be able to see a lot. This 2 week New Zealand North Island itinerary takes you from Wellington to Auckland, showing you all the must-visit places along the way.
Table of Contents
Day 1 – 2: Wellington
Wellington is the first stop on your 2 week New Zealand North Island itinerary. Known not just as New Zealand’s political capital, but the capital of cool too, this small but vibrant city is packed full of exciting things to do.
Top things to do in Wellington
Wellington Cable Car – This historic cable car transports you from the CBD to the hillside suburb of Kelburn. From the top, there’s an amazing view of the city sprawled out below with many walks back into Wellington’s centre.
Wellington Botanical Garden – Set on a hillside, Wellington’s botanical gardens offer a pretty green space full of flowers, trees and walking trails to explore.
Cuba Street – Cuba Street is one of the most iconic streets in Wellington. With a significant bohemian feel to it, it’s the place to go for quirky shops, indie eateries and hipster cafes.
Museum of New Zealand – A must-visit for anyone wanting to learn more about this beautiful country’s history. The various exhibitions cover everything from cultural and war to natural and geographical history including an earthquake simulator!
Wellington Waterfront – Explore the ever-developing Wellington Waterfront. Home to lively restaurants and bars, historical ships docked up, Frank Kitts Park and City Gallery Wellington.
Day 3 – 4: Napier
The next stop on your 2 week New Zealand North Island itinerary is Napier. Nestled within Hawkes Bay on the east coast, this pretty coastal port is renowned for its art deco style buildings and surrounding world-class wineries.
Top things to do in Napier
Art Deco self-guided tour – In 1931 an earthquake hit Napier, and all but destroyed the city centre. The buildings were redesigned in the architectural styles of the time. They now make up the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world. Explore it all by doing your own self-guided tour with a map from tourist information!
Visit a winery – The wider Hawkes Bay region is world-famous for its wine. Experience it for yourself with a tasting session at one of the many wineries on the fringes of Napier. In particular, I would recommend Mission Estate winery. It’s the oldest winery in New Zealand and is easily reachable on the bus from Napier.
Street art self-guided tour – It’s not just the buildings that are creative in Napier, but what’s on them too. The town is home to the ‘Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans’ street art exhibition with 50 murals dotted around the town to discover. You can pick up a map from the tourist information centre which shows all the locations to help you explore.
Bluff Hill Lookout – A short (4.4km) but challenging hike that rewards you with spectacular views across Napier and Hawkes Bay.
Day 5 – 8: Lake Taupo
The magnificent Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake and is all that remains of the ancient Taupo volcano. Its shores are not only home to a collection of otherworldly landscapes and wonders but action-packed activities too. So whether you want to explore the geothermal parks and cultural landmarks, or get your adrenaline pumping with an outdoor adventure, Taupo is a must-visit in your 2 week New Zealand North Island itinerary.
Top things to do at Lake Taupo
Otumuheke Spa Park – Otumuheke Spa Park is home to several natural hot spring pools that flow into the Waikato River. Free to all, the park offers the perfect place to relax and unwind in the warm geothermal water.
Huka Falls – The Huka Falls are more like rapids than towering falls, but it’s still very impressive to see the sheer power of the water cascading down this ravine. There’s a riverside walking/biking trail you can do from the Otumuheke Spa Park to the main Huka Falls Lookout. Or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can go on a jet boat tour to the base of the falls.
Craters of the Moon – See the earth’s natural wonder at this mystical geothermal park. Its 45-minute circular walkway takes you past an abundance of geothermal features and platforms to view them from.
Cycling/mountain biking – Taupo has some of the best mountain biking in New Zealand. There are endless bike trails to explore around the lake, and plenty of shops in town to hire bikes. My favourite trails included the Tongariro River Trails, the Huka Trails and Craters of the Moon Bike Park.
Maori Rock carvings – Get up close to New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary Maori artwork at Mine Bay. This 14m rock carving can be best seen on a boat cruise or kayaking tour with plenty of them departing Taupo daily.
Day 9: Tongariro National Park (Day trip)
Taupo is the perfect base for a day trip to the beautiful Tongariro National Park, just south of the lake.
Top things to do in Tongariro National Park
Tongariro Alpine Crossing – The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered the best day hike in New Zealand. This 20km walk takes you around the volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, stunning turquoise lakes and otherworldly landscapes.
Tongariro White Water Rafting – Tackle the rapids of the Tongariro river with one of Tongariro River Rafting’s excursions.
Whakapapa Ski Area – If you’re visiting during winter and fancy some time on the slopes, the Whakapapa Ski Area makes a perfect day trip from Taupo.
Day 10 – 11: Rotorua
Known as the city of sulphur, Rotorua is the next destination on your 2 week New Zealand North Island itinerary. It lies in the heart of the North Island’s geothermal landscapes and showcases many of its most spectacular natural wonders. It’s also a cultural centre where you can learn all about Maori culture.
Top things to do in Rotorua
Wai-O-Tapu – This is New Zealand’s most popular and impressive geothermal park. The 1 – 2 hour boardwalk around the park takes you past bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, colourful lakes and erupting geysers. Be warned though, it really does smell bad here. Smelling salts or tiger balm are a must.
Kuirau Park – Experience some geothermal activity at Kuirau Park in Rotorua itself. Here you’ll find cordoned off areas of steaming earth as well as boiling and bubbling lakes.
Polynesian Spa – Enjoy an iconic geothermal bathing experience at the Polynesian Spa. With a range of hot and cold therapeutic pools and spa treatments to choose from, it’s the ultimate place to unwind and relax.
Rotorua Night Market – Every Thursday evening Tutanekai Street comes alive with street food vendors cooking up a storm. It’s all very reasonably priced too, making it the perfect dinner option even if you’re on a budget.
Skyline Rotorua – At the top of Mount Ngongotaha you’ll find this adventure-filled complex. Whether you’re mountain biking in the Rotorua Mountain Bike Park or whizzing down the Zoom Zipline or Luge circuit, there’s fun here for everyone. You can reach the complex by getting the Skyline gondola.
Day 12: Hobbiton and/or Waitomo Caves (Day trip from Rotorua)
If you’re a big fan of Lord of the Rings then a trip to the Hobbiton movie set near Hamilton is a must. At just over an hour away, you can easily book a half-day return tour from Rotorua or simply drive there yourself.
Alternatively, you could pay a visit to another of the North Island’s top attractions, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. There are many day return tours from Rotorua that include a tour of the caves and a boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto.
If you fancy visiting both of these, you can book a combined day tour that takes you to both attractions, or just hire a car and do it all yourself. If you’re not interested in visiting either then spend an extra day exploring the Taupo region, Auckland or Wellington.
Day 13 – 14: Auckland
Nestled between two dramatic coastlines, New Zealand’s largest city is your last stop on your 2 week New Zealand North Island itinerary. A melting pot of urban charm and natural landscapes, Auckland is packed full of attractions to keep you busy from sunup to sundown.
Top things to do in Auckland
Sky Tower & Skycity Complex – An icon of Auckland’s skyline, the Sky Tower and Skycity complex showcases the very best of the city’s fine dining, entertainment and thrill-seeking activities.
Mount Eden Summit – Auckland is built on the cones of 48 volcanoes, and the best way to get a view of this rugged landscape is to climb one of them. Mount Eden offers a reasonably easy walk with a sweeping view across Auckland and the coastline beyond.
Auckland Domain + Auckland War Memorial & Museum – Auckland Domain is one of the city’s largest parks. Inside its perimeter, you’ll find walking trails and gardens to explore, as well as the Auckland War Memorial and Museum.
Shopping on Queen Street & Karangahape Road – If you’re looking for some retail therapy you’ll be spoilt for choice in Auckland. For high street brands, Queen Street, one of the city’s main shopping streets, is the place to go. Or if you’re looking for indie and alternative shops, Karangahape Road, known locally as K Road, is a must-visit. On a side note, make sure to check out The Light Path whilst you’re there. It’s a disused flyover road (now pedestrian walkway) that’s painted bright pink and leads you back to the CBD.
Day trip to the Coromandel Peninsula (Hot Water Beach & Cathedral Cove) – This has got to be one of the top day trips from Auckland. Dig yourself your own thermal spa at Hot Water Beach, then explore the stunning Cathedral Cove area.
Travelling around the North Island
Intercity bus – I found the Intercity buses were the cheapest option for travelling around the North Island. Buses run 2 – 4 times a day between all of the destinations above. Plus I found every bus I caught was really comfy and clean.
Hiring a car/campervan – As the North Island is a lot smaller and les remote, I didn’t feel there was as much need to hire a car or campervan than on the South Island. That being said, it does give you much more flexibility and freedom, so if you can afford to hire, I would say go for it!
Kiwi Experience Bus – The Kiwi Experience bus is definitely the best option for solo adventurers looking to meet other travellers! All of the people you’ll meet on their bus tour network are like-minded travellers. Plus their hop on hop off bus passes are great value for money.