Auckland to Napier Drive: Your Road Trip Itinerary

Auckland to Napier Drive: Your Road Trip Itinerary

A road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway is the perfect way to explore New Zealand because you can stop off to check out the amazing scenery, natural wonders, and adventure attractions around the country. We’ve mapped out a route that will take you on a 7-day road trip down the North Island of New Zealand so you can take your time in each city and see all the interesting destinations in between.

Getting Ready for Your Adventure: Planning Your Road Trip

Although New Zealand is a temperate climate, you’ll get the best weather for your Auckland to Napier road trip in the warmer months of December to March. However, the regions are also pleasant during Autumn and Spring. Travelling in these months means you’ll avoid the Winter cold. 

To see all the best places across the North Island, you’ll want to hire a car so you can stop along your route. Whether you’re travelling light and want to save money on your car hire or you need space for a crowd, we’ve got plenty of rental options. Check out our rental cars and vans to find the vehicle for you to travel around New Zealand. 

Before you head out on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, make sure you research the road rules and are familiar with New Zealand’s driving conditions. We’ve put together some handy safe driving tips.

Day 1: Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula

For the first day of your North Island road trip, check out Auckland city before heading to New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. The drive will take about 4.5 hours travel time (290 km).

See Stunning Views of Auckland from the Sky Tower

Begin your journey at Auckland’s Sky tower to get great views of New Zealand’s largest city.

Dine beside the Harbour at the Viaduct

Take in the beautiful Auckland Harbour while you eat lunch at one of the Viaduct’s many delicious restaurants before setting off on your New Zealand holiday.

Enjoy the Biggest Ice Cream in New Zealand at Pokeno

Head south on New Zealand’s State Highway 1 to Pokeno for a giant ice cream - the perfect place to stop on a hot day!

Day 2: Coromandel 

Visit the Coromandel Township

Step back into New Zealand’s mining history in the Coromandel Township, where you can see wood carving, hear about the great fire of 1895, and learn about its rich heritage.

Check Out Whitianga

Travel about an hour south to Whitianga, where you can take a horse ride along the old packhorse trails or explore the area on a boat tour.  

Relax at Hot Water Beach

Visit Hot Water Beach at low tide and dig your own spa pool in the sand. Then sit back and take in the beautiful ocean view.

Marvel at the Famous Cathedral Cove

Experience one of New Zealand’s most spectacular coastal walking tracks at Cathedral Cove, and see the iconic rock archway used as a filming location for The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian. 

Day 3: Coromandel to Tauranga 

From Coromandel, head down to Tauranga, which is about 3.5 hours (210 km) along New Zealand’s Pacific Coast Highway, or travel inland to check out the sights along the way.

Explore the Karangahape Gorge Historic Walkway

Take a detour along your route to Tauranga to explore the stunning scenery at Karangahape Gorge. This walkway takes you along the gorge and through an old train tunnel and is a perfect picnic lunch spot.

Discover Waihi’s Gold Mining Heritage

If you’re interested in exploring what life was like during New Zealand’s gold rush, you’ll love visiting Waihi’s gold mines.

Live your Lord of the Rings Fantasy at Hobbiton

Your trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without checking out Hobbiton. Take a guided tour through Bag End, Bilbo Baggins’ house, and the whole town built for Hobbits. 

Day 4: Tauranga to Rotorua 

Continue your journey travelling down the North Island to Rotorua, which is only about 1 hour 45 minutes from Tauranga (90 km).

Climb the Iconic Mount Maunganui

Before leaving Tauranga, visit Maunganui Beach to enjoy the beautiful golden sands and blue water. Climb Mount Maunganui to get some of the most fantastic views in New Zealand.

Enjoy Geothermal Wonders and Māori Cultural Experiences at Te Puia

From Mount Maunganui, head to Te Puia to explore its geothermal wonderland, full of spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, and natural wonders. Then, learn all about Māori culture from Te Puia’s cultural experiences. Check out Wai o Tapu and Lady Knox Geyser while you’re in Rotorua, too.

Get an Adrenaline Rush at Velocity Valley

Get your thrills by checking out the adventure activities and attractions at Velocity Valley. Ride the jet boat, try bungy jumping, or go on the extreme swing to get your heart racing!

Unwind at Polynesian Spa

Relax after an action-packed day in the Polynesian Spa’s hot pools, warmed by Rotorua’s geothermal activity. This amazing experience is one you won’t want to miss while you’re in New Zealand.

Day 5: Rotorua to Gisborne 

Continue your journey down the North Island by heading to Gisborne. Although it’s a detour, Gisborne is well worth seeing as it’s the first city in the world to see the sunrise every day. The drive takes about 3 hours 40 minutes (275 km).

Stop Off in Whakatane

From Rotorua, head toward New Zealand’s East Cape to the town of Whakatane. Soak in the spectacular coastal views in New Zealand’s sunshine Capital.

Go Mountain Biking and Kayaking

Explore New Zealand’s beautiful natural setting of Raukumara Forest Park by going kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, or walking along the scenic trails.

Get your Surfing Fix at Ōhope Beach

Take advantage of New Zealand beach life at Ōhope’s surf beach. Go for a little walk on the beach or swim in the surf to cool off on a warm day.

Day 6: Gisborne to Taupo

Travel on toward Lake Taupo, which is New Zealand’s largest lake and about 4.5 hours (330 km) away from Gisborne.

See the World’s First Sunrise

After you spend the night in Gisborne, wake up for the sunrise and be amongst the first in the world to greet the new day. 

Bask in the Sun at Wainui Beach

Before leaving Gisborne, spend the morning strolling Wainui Beach before carrying on your route.

Witness the Mighty Force of Huka Falls

Nature lovers will be amazed by the spectacular Huka Falls, just a few minutes outside the town of Taupo.

Experience the Gravity-Defying Shotover Jet

Get up close to Huka Falls by hopping in a jet boat for a truly thrilling experience.

Day 7: Taupo to Napier

Continue your Auckland to Napier road trip by travelling southeast toward Hawkes Bay. Napier is about 2 hours from Taupo (145 km). Known for its beautiful coastal walks, horse trekking trails, gannet colony, and Te Mata Peak with its spectacular views, there’s so much to do and see in Hawkes Bay.

Take an Incredible Art Deco Tour

Rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1931, Napier is New Zealand’s Art Deco capital. Take a guided tour of the city to learn about its history and unique architecture.

Visit an Award-Winning Winery

Hawkes Bay is famous for its vineyards, so why not take a wine tour while you’re in Napier? Taste some of New Zealand’s best wine and dine in style at one of the winery restaurants.

Drop By the Arataki Honey Visitors Centre

Take a short drive out of town to the Arataki Honey Visitors Centre and learn about one of New Zealand’s most well-known products.

Making Memories with RaD Car Hire

Whether you enjoy a walk along the beach, a scenic drive, sightseeing, or thrill rides, New Zealand’s North Island has it all. Begin planning your holiday by booking a car through RaD Car Hire Auckland Airport or RaD Car Hire Napier so you can discover all the interesting sights and scenery along the way to Hawkes Bay. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How long is the drive from Auckland to Napier?

Depending on your route, the drive time from Auckland to Napier is around 5 hours 20 minutes without stopping (415 km driving distance). However, you can make your trip more memorable by driving along New Zealand’s scenic Pacific Coast Highway and spending the night in the cities along your route to Hawkes Bay.

What is halfway between Auckland and Napier?

The approximate halfway point on the Auckland to Napier driving route is Rotorua. 

When is the best time to visit Auckland and Napier?

We recommend visiting Auckland and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand’s Spring or Autumn for a pleasant climate and less busy crowds. For the sunniest weather and the best opportunities to swim or hike, visit Auckland and Napier in the summer months. 

Can I pick up my rental car in Auckland and drop it off in Napier? 

Yes, you can! If you’d like to hire a car to drive from Auckland to Napier, you can arrange a one-way hire with RaD NZ. Of course, this is subject to vehicle availability in the North Island. A one-way fee and minimum rental period may apply.

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