Australia / New Zealand / Asia

5 Day North Island New Zealand Itinerary: Discover Hidden Gems

Are you looking for a North Island New Zealand 5-day itinerary? Then look no further!

The North Island of New Zealand is a destination that is renowned for its volcanic landscapes, rich Maori heritage, and stunning beaches.

The island has a unique blend of natural wonders and traditional experiences. It is the perfect destination if you love the great outdoors and want to learn about different cultures.

Sadly, it can be quite difficult to organize a trip in that area without knowing it. For this reason, I have asked my friend Charlie of She Roams the Globe to help me out with this post.

She is an expert on all things New Zealand – and knows all the hidden gems and visitor’s favorites. To make the planning easier for you, we have poured all her knowledge into this post.

This 5-day road trip itinerary is designed to give you the time to appreciate each place fully so you can enjoy the magic of New Zealand North Island.

Let’s get to it!

stunning cove cathedral in new zealands north island a total hidden gem you should put on your road trip itinerary.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Read my disclaimer for further information.

picture of north island in new zealand with lots of mountains and lush green rain forests
North Island Basics
☀️ State: New Zealand
💶 Currency: New Zealand Dollar
🕡 Time Zone: GMT+12
🙍🏻 Language: English, Māori
🗲 Voltage: 230/240 Volts 
🙍🏻 Population: 3,922,000


North Island New Zealand Itinerary 5 Days: at a Glance

  • Day 1 – Auckland
  • Day 2 – Coromandel Peninsula
  • Day 3 – Coromandel Peninsula
  • Day 4 – Hobbiton & Rotorua
  • Day 5 – Rotorua
New Zealand North Island Road Trip Map on Google Maps covering the most important stops on the island for a 5 day itinerary
New Zealand North Island Road Trip Map

How to Get Around North Island

Whether you’re exploring the North Island or the South Island the easiest way to get around New Zealand is by rental car. I recommend picking one up as soon as you land at Auckland Airport. 

Having your own wheels will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace. It is the best choice for this 5-day itinerary of North Island. You can also take this road trip as a guided tour, but a self-drive tour around North Island is the most fun.

New Zealand roads are well-maintained and the picturesque routes are a road-trippers dream. Honestly, the views are worth the trip alone!

Make sure your camera battery is charged, you will be using it a lot on this road trip through New Zealand.

Day 1: Auckland

Where to Stay
picture of people on beach in auckland
QT Auckland
  • Restaurant
  • Valet Parking
  • 5 ***** Hotel
  • Air Conditioning
  • Terrace
  • Room Service

The bustling city of Auckland is where you will be kicking off this 5-day itinerary of the North Island. It will offer you a first glimpse of New Zealand’s North Island.

Known as the “City of Sails,” Auckland rests between two expansive harbors, and its glistening waterfront is filled with sailboats.

While it’s not the capital, Auckland holds the title of New Zealand’s largest city. You’ll have plenty of activities to choose from during your stay!

My favorite activities in Auckland are Devonport, Ponsonby, and the Sky Tower. Keep on reading to find out more.

Devonport

Devonport is located just a short ferry ride from Auckland’s busy center. It is a charming seaside suburb with old-world charm. Victorian and Edwardian architecture line the streets.

Historic wooden buildings will make you feel like you have stepped back in time. Here you’ll find boutiques, cafes, and bars all with stunning views of Auckland’s skyline.

A 30-minute walk or a 5-minute drive from the main street will take you to North Head. It is one of the oldest volcanic cones in Auckland.

From the top, you’ll get stunning views across the ocean and the surrounding islands. You’ll also find old military tunnels and guns that have been there since the 19th century.

stunning skyline of auckland from devonport neighborhood

Ponsonby

Ponsonby is a vibrant suburb of Auckland. It is known for its boho vibe and historic architecture. Over recent years this area has evolved into one of Auckland’s trendiest neighborhoods.

In the heart of Ponsonby is Ponsonby Road. There you’ll find boutique shops, hip cafes, and chic restaurants. It’s a perfect place for a wander and you’ll find everything from high-end fashion to unique local crafts.

In the afternoon the bars and beer gardens come to life. It’s a popular place to spend the evening.

cute little cupcakes in a cafe in ponsonby in auckland amazing spot to visit

Sky Tower

The Sky Tower is pretty hard to miss and stands tall in Auckland’s skyline. It’s actually New Zealand’s highest building. You need an admission ticket to enter the building.

There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or someone who prefers dinner with a view (or both!).

For those who prefer a white-knuckle experience, you can book the Sky Walk. It is a thrilling walk around the outer edge of the Sky Tower. There is also the Sky Jump where you fall 192 m with just a wire attached!

If you prefer a more relaxed experience, there’s nothing better than enjoying a meal while looking over the city.

picture of the sky tower from auckland from below in front of clear blue sky

Day 2: Coromandel Peninsula

Where to Stay
hahei beach in north island new zealand
Hahei Beach Bach
  • Amazing Location
  • Modern & Comfy Rooms
  • BBQ Facilities
  • Tennis Courts
  • Free Parking
  • WiFi

The Coromandel Peninsula is a must-visit destination on any 5-day North Island itinerary.It is easily one of the most picturesque locations in New Zealand.

It is known for its unspoiled beaches, rolling hills of lush forest, and outdoor activities! Even locals love to come here for their holidays!

picture of north island in new zealand with lots of mountains and lush green rain forests

Cathedral Cove

An iconic destination in the Coromandel is Cathedral Cove. It has not only captured the hearts of travelers but also played a role in the film The Chronicles of Narnia!

Cathedral Cove is renowned for its dramatic, naturally formed archway. It reminds of, you guessed it, a cathedral!

Although Cathedral Cove is the star of the show, you’ll also find white sandy shores backed by thick green forest. It is a perfect place for a few hours of relaxation.

Sadly, the walking track to Cathedral Cove was damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle and won’t be open through 2023/2024.

There are still plenty of ways you can reach this beautiful spot from Hahei either by water taxi, boat tour, or kayak.

stunning cathedral cove in coromandel peninsula in north island new zealand

Hot Water Beach

Just a short drive from Hahei will take you to one of my favorite stops on this trip, Hot Water Beach.

This offers a totally different beach experience. In this spot, you will be digging your very own hot spring!

You’ll need to time your trip well. You need to go two hours away on either side of low tide, as this is when the patch of sand above the hot water is exposed.

You’ll need to rent a spade from the shop in the car park and make your way to the section of the beach to start digging.

There’s usually a small group of people here so they can help if you need it. Soon you’ll notice the warm water bubbling from beneath you, slowly filling your pool.

I do recommend finding a spot where the waves can splash into your warm water as it can get very hot in some areas.

small hole on a beach filled with water from hot springs in new zealand

Day 3: Coromandel Peninsula

The next day of this 5-day North Island Itinerary will be spent on the Coromandel Peninsula. Whenuakura Island and Karangahake Gorge are on the plan of the day.

Be surprised by these hidden gems – and make sure to bring your camera.

Where to Stay
coromandel peninsula
Racecourse Motel Paeroa
  • Comfy Rooms
  • Family-Friendly
  • BBQ Area
  • Free Parking
  • Great Location

Whenuakura Island

Whenuakura Island is also known as Donut Island. It is a hidden gem located just off the coast of Whangamata.

You can probably imagine how the island got its name. The doughnut shape was created by a volcanic blowhole collapsing many years ago.

From the outside, the island looks like any of the other islands, but looks can be deceiving!

When you look inside the center of the island, you’ll find a hidden turquoise lagoon surrounded by rugged cliffs.

You can access it through a small opening. You will need to book a guided tour to enter the lagoon.

The island is also part of a wildlife reserve and is rich in Maori history.

stunning drone shot of whenuakura island in north island new zealand.

Whenuakura Island

At the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula is Karangahake Gorge. This place is a dream for outdoor lovers and history enthusiasts.

The gorge was once home to a gold mine. Throughout the area, you will find old mining relics and tunnels that you can explore.

Here you’ll find various hiking trails of varying lengths and different ranges of difficulty.

The most popular walks in Karangahake Gorge are:

  • Crown Track to Dickey’s Flat – 1 hour
  • Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway – 4 hours
  • Karangahake Windows Walk – 1 hour
  • Owharoa Falls Walk – 5 minutes

Each walk is accessible from the main car park where you’ll also find the Talisman cafe.

Karangahake Gorge on the southern end of coromandel peninsula hiking track on a bridge over some water in between two cliffs on each side

Day 4: Hobbiton & Rotorua

Where to Stay
lonely lake in rotoura
Regent of Rotorua Boutique Hotel
  • 2 Swimming Pools
  • Free Parking
  • Restaurant
  • Stylish Rooms
  • WiFi
  • Room Service

Whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not, a trip to the Hobbiton movie set is a must for any New Zealand trip.

For this reason, I have included it in this 5 day North Island New Zealand itinerary.

Hobbiton Movie Set

Nestled between the rolling hills of New Zealand’s Waikato region lies the Hobbiton movie set. It is also known as The Shire.

Back in 1998, Peter Jackson discovered this enchanting location by helicopter. He was drawn in by its resemblance to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The decision to make it the home for filming was sealed by the sight of one lone tree at the top of the lake. It later became the iconic ‘Party Tree.’

When you visit, you’ll be spoiled for choice with a range of experiences. The most popular is the movie set tour, where you can wander about the charming Hobbit holes and end with a drink at The Green Dragon Inn.

Alternatively, you might wish to book a more in-depth adventure. You can choose between the Evening Banquet Tour or the Second Breakfast Tour, where you not only explore the set but also enjoy a Hobbit-style meal.

Rotorua

Rotorua is rich in Maori culture and a hotspot for geothermal activity. The area sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is one of the most active regions in the world.

It is nicknamed Hell’s Gate due to its boiling mud pools and steaming geysers. And there is no shortage of unique things to explore.

Don’t be surprised if you get the occasional smell of sulfur, you soon get used to it!

Te Pā Tū Maori Village

Te Pā Tū Māori Village is situated in the heart of Rotorua. It offers an immersive experience of the rich heritage and traditions of the Māori people.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a traditional powhiri. This is a Māori welcome ceremony, to begin your journey through the village.

Here, you’ll witness the powerful haka, engage in Maori customs, and enjoy a hearty hangi feast. This is a traditional Māori meal cooked in an earth oven.

You’ll also find two other Maori villages in Rotorua which are Mitai and Whakarewarewa.

Polynesian Spa

If you have the time for a little R&R and love luxury travel, then the Polynesian Spa is a great way to unwind between activities.

Overlooking Lake Rotorua, the spa’s pools are fed by the area’s geothermal waters and there is the choice to soak in either an acidic pool or an alkaline pool, each comes with its own benefits!

You can also choose to indulge in one of the many spa treatments ranging from mud wraps, massages, and facials. The mud used in many of the treatments is packed full of minerals due to the area’s volcanic activity.

The busiest times are between 4 pm- 8 pm so I recommend coming earlier if you’re looking for a quieter experience.

stunnig huge hot springs in new zealand in between mountains in vibrant colors of yellow and green and orange

Day 5: Rotorua

On the last day of the 5-days in North Island New Zealand itinerary, we will be headed to the Wai O Tapu Thermal Park and the Whakarewarewa Forest.

These are the perfect last stops on a fun road trip through New Zealand’s North Island.

Wai O Tapu Thermal Park

Wai O Tapu, which is Maori for sacred waters, is New Zealand’s most vibrant geothermal park. Itis home to bubbling mud pools, colorful springs, steaming ground, and craters.

It honestly feels like you’ve landed on another planet!

Be sure to visit Lady Knox geyser which erupts at 10.15 am each day. Then, it will be throwing water up to 20 m into the air.

Another favorite spot of mine is Champagne Pool. Its mineral-rich water is brightly colored with vivid orange and green hues.

You’ll need to allow yourself a couple of hours so you can explore the whole park at a comfortable pace. Lastly, I recommend arriving early to beat the crowds!

Whakarewarewa Forest

The Whakarewarewa is often referred to as simply ‘The Redwoods.’ This towering forest has plenty of different activities to enjoy.

A must-do activity is the Redwoods Treewalk, it is one of my favorites.

This 700 m eco-walk crosses 28 swing bridges and gives you a birds-eye view of the 120-year-old forest. You can opt for either the daytime or the nighttime tour.

If you opt for the night tour the trees will be decorated with twinkling lights creating a more magical atmosphere!

There are plenty of normal walking routes through the Californian Redwoods and there are designated paths for walkers and cyclists. There are even mountain biking trails for the dare-devils out there!

How Long Do You Need For The North Island?

The answer to this will vary from person to person and the places you’d like to visit. It also depends on how quickly you want to move between places.

This 5-day itinerary covers some of the best spots on New Zealand’s North Island. It is perfect if you’re short on time. However, if you have more time then of course you could venture even further.

Places like Lake Taupo, Lake Tekapo, Northland, and Wellington are also bucket list locations for the North Island. To reach all of these, you will need at least 10 days in New Zealand’s North Island.

North Island New Zealand Bucket List

What’s The Best Time To Visit The North Island?

The best time to visit the New Zealand North Island will vary depending on what you want to see.

For this itinerary, the best time of year will be in spring, which is September to November, and summer, which is December to February.

While the winters in New Zealand can be stunning. But they do get pretty cold. The outdoor activities that will be involved in this trip would be most enjoyable in the warmer months in my opinion.

The colder months (June-August) are great if you enjoy winter sports and snowy mountains as New Zealand is home to many ski resorts.

Is New Zealand Safe?

New Zealand is generally considered a safe place to travel. Violent crime is pretty low, but petty crimes like theft can happen, especially in touristy spots. According to 2021 data, the homicide rate was around 1 per 100,000 people, which is way lower than the global average.

However, be cautious with outdoor activities. New Zealand is famous for its natural beauty, but that comes with risks like unpredictable weather or rugged terrain. So if you’re going hiking or doing water sports, always follow local guidelines.

Overall, it’s safe, but like anywhere, keep your wits about you.


Do you need travel insurance in North Island? Yes, travel insurance in North Island is highly recommended. 
Unsafe roads, water sports accidents, and food poisoning are only a few examples of when travel insurance could come in handy. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.

Conclusion – The Best New Zealand North Island 5-Day Itinerary

This brings us to the end of your 5-day itinerary through New Zealand’s North Island.

I love the North Island and highly recommend this journey. Each stop brings its own unique charm and offers the perfect blend of natural wonders and rich cultural experiences.

And for those who can’t get enough of exploring, there’s more to discover in this beautiful country.

Consider a visit to the South Island, the tropical Northland, or the vibrant city of Wellington. These are all bucket-list destinations in New Zealand, and with a bit more time, you can explore them all.

If your next stop is Australia, consider visiting the Stunning Blue Mountains near Sydney.

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends most parts of the year abroad at various destinations with her husband.

She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.

FAQ: North Island New Zealand Itinerary 5 Days

How many days do you need to see North Island New Zealand?

In 5 days you can cover the basics of North Island. I’d say about 7-10 days is ideal for exploring New Zealand’s North Island. You can hit Auckland, Rotorua, and Wellington, and still have time for beaches and hobbits! Of course, if you’re really into nature or culture, you might wanna stretch it a bit longer.

Is it worth going to the North Island of New Zealand?

North Island is a gem with a mix of city vibes and natural beauty. Think Auckland’s cool cityscape, Rotorua’s geysers, and Wellington’s artsy scene. Plus, you’ve got amazing beaches and the Hobbiton movie set if you’re a Tolkien fan. So yeah, it’s totally worth a visit for a bit of everything.

What is the best time of year to visit NZ North Island?

The best time to visit North Island is late spring to early autumn, so around November to April. You get warm weather, perfect for beaches and outdoor stuff. December to February is peak tourist season, though. So, if you like it a bit quieter but still nice, try November or March. Either way, you’re in for a treat!

Can you see New Zealand in 5 days?

Seeing all of New Zealand in 5 days? No, that’s a stretch. But you can get a taste! Pick either North or South Island and focus on a few key spots. Like, if you go North, you could do Auckland and Rotorua, maybe a quick Hobbiton tour. It’ll be a whirlwind, but you’ll catch some highlights for sure.

Can you drive from north to south island New Zealand

No, you can’t drive straight through from North to South Island because there’s water in between, but you can take a ferry with your car. The ferry ride usually goes from Wellington in the North Island to Picton in the South Island. It takes about 3 to 3.5 hours. Once you’re on the other side, you can continue driving. Pretty smooth, just needs a bit of planning!

Where are the hot springs in North Island new zealand?

Rotorua is a big name for hot springs, like the Polynesian Spa. There’s also Taupo, where you’ll find hot spots like Otumuheke Stream. Up north, near Whangarei, there’s Ngawha Springs. Each place has its own vibe, so whether you’re into the touristy scene or something more laid-back, you’ll find a good fit.

What are some hidden gems in North Island NZ?

First, check out the Coromandel Peninsula, especially Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. For a nature escape, try the Waipu Caves; they’ve got glow worms and are less crowded than the famous Waitomo Caves. Ever heard of the Forgotten World Highway? It’s a scenic road trip with barely any people. Lastly, Raglan’s a surfer’s paradise but not super touristy.

What are the best beaches in North Island NZ?

Piha Beach near Auckland is famous for its black sand and big waves. Mount Maunganui in Tauranga has golden sand and great surf. For something quieter, try Whangamata; it’s a small-town vibe with killer waves. Oh, and don’t forget the Bay of Islands—think crystal-clear water and loads of tiny, secluded beaches.