How to spend a week on North Island New Zealand

The dilemma: you want to visit New Zealand, but you’re almost out of holiday? While many people favour devoting a month or more, it is possible to see the best of North Island New Zealand in a single week. You won’t see everything, of course, but you will get a flavour of what the island has to offer which will suffice until your return. Why not hire a car and follow our suggested route for a one week itinerary?

One Week Itinerary in North Island New Zealand

Day 1: Wellington

Begin your week long North Island New Zealand adventure in the Kiwi capital, Wellington. Ride the cable car up to Kelburn to admire the city from above before strolling down via the botanical gardens. The Te Papa museum, devoted to Maori history also has interesting exhibits on New Zealand’s physical landscape. End the day in buzzing Cuba Street, a part of the city packed with bars, restaurants, galleries and vintage shops.

Wellington at dawn. North Island New Zealand
Wellington at dawn: Photo Flickr Aidan / CC BY 2.0

Day 2: Kapiti Coast

It’s only an hour or so’s drive from the capital to the beautiful Kapiti Coast. There’s plenty to fill your day, including the excellent Tramway Museum in Queen Elizabeth Park near Paekakariki and the Southward Car Museum in Paraparaumu. Day visits are also possible to Kapiti Island, a protected reserve, known for its birds. Look out for little spotted kiwis and parakeets amongst others.

Kapiti Island Clouds. North Island New Zealand
Kapiti Island Clouds: Photo by Andrew McMillan / CC BY 2.0

Day 3: Art Deco Napier

Next up of your North Island New Zealand trip is Art Deco Napier, one of South Island’s most northerly destinations. It’ll take you about three hours to reach, which means you’ll be there in time for lunch. Spend your afternoon taking a walking tour of its historic buildings, constructed in a similar style after the town was flattened in a severe earthquake in 1931. Focus on the triangle of streets that contain the greatest concentration of architectural gems: Clive Square, Dickens Street and Browning Street.

View of Napier from Bluff Hill. North Island New Zealand
View of Napier from Bluff Hill by Robyn Gallagher / CC BY 2.0

Day 4: Taupo

A couple of hours inland, you’ll find yourself in Taupo, a lakeside town with a laid back feel. Feeding the lake is the Waikato River, which is where you’ll find Huka Falls. Get your thrills on a ride on the famous Huka Falls Jet. With speeds of up to 50 miles an hour and a 360° spin, a ride on the water is an exhilarating experience. Follow this with a visit to Craters of the Moon where you’ll see the atmospheric fumaroles and mud pools of this otherworldly location.

Huka Falls Jet. North Island New Zealand
Huka Falls Jet

Day 5: Rotorua

Nearby Rotorua is a mecca for those seeking a taste of New Zealand’s geothermal attractions. Spend your day at the Te Puia New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute where you’ll enjoy the spectacle of a Maori show and gain an insight into their cultural heritage. Nature is at her most breathtaking here, with plopping mud pools and the dramatic eruptions of Pohutu Geyser which shoots scalding hot water thirty metres into the air.

Pohutu geyser blows. North Island New Zealand
Pohutu geyser blows

Day 6: Hot Water Beach

Three hours north of Rotorua you’ll find Hot Water Beach. Break your journey at sleepy Katikati where the town’s walls have been livened up with a series of colourful murals and in Waihi, where you’ll find evidence of New Zealand’s gold mining heritage. Continuing to the Coromandel, explore the impressive coastal scenery of Cathedral Cove before having a soak in nature’s seaside hot tubs, dug out of the sand at Hot Water Beach, just a few minutes down the coast.

Cornish Pumphouse, Waihi. North Island New Zealand
Cornish Pumphouse, Waihi

Day 7: Auckland

Where else to end your week’s trip than in New Zealand’s largest city? Cosmopolitan Auckland has much to offer. In a day, make sure you don’t miss the chance to ascend the Sky Tower to get a look at the cityscape from above. Back at street level, catch one of the frequent ferries for the short hop over to Devonport, a historic gem, before returning to the city’s marina to admire the yachts. Chill out and reflect on your week in the charming Ponsonby neighbourhood just outside the city centre.

The view from Mount Victoria over Devonport, with Auckland in the background by Follash (public domain) - See more at:
View from Mount Victoria over Devonport, with Auckland in the background by Follash (public domain)

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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