The North Island of New Zealand is an ideal spot to spend a week traveling with young kids. With a number of destinations in close proximity to Auckland, you can be sure to get to spots that will appeal to both you and the rest of the family. Lord of the Rings meets stunning Lake Taupo meets glow-worms meets beautiful beaches - perfect.
This week long trip has you arriving and departing from Auckland. The drive times are kept to a minimum - ideally nothing longer than three hours. Read on to find out how you can take the family on a North Island one week adventure. This itinerary assumes you've got your own car or campervan, and if you need help finding the best deal - we can help!
Day One: Auckland to Waitomo (Driving Time: Approximately 2-3 hours)
After collecting your campervan from Auckland, get out of the city and head south to the green farmland of Waikato. The Waikato region of the North Island is best known for rolling green hills dotted with more sheep than you can count, the Lord of the Rings' village of Hobbiton and magical underground experiences at the Waitomo Caves. Spend the night in Waitomo - enjoy your time above ground before you go subterranean tomorrow.
Day Two: Waitomo Caves to Taupo (Driving Time: Approximately 2 hours)
Under Waitomo's green farmland you'll find a maze of caves and underground rivers. In Maori, wai translates to water and tomo translates to hole - and that's what you'll get to explore on day two of your North Island family itinerary. The Waitomo Caves were carved over thousands of years of erosion by underground streams through soft limestone rock. These caves and tunnels have stalactites growing from the ceiling and galaxies of illuminous and stunning glow worms.
Lake Taupo is a massive, water-filled volcanic crater that formed nearly 27,000 years ago. The town of Taupo sits towards the northern end of the Central Plateau with sweeping views of the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. There are heaps of water-based activities to keep you busy on a visit to the region: you can go trout fishing in the lake or surrounding rivers, kayaking or if it's during the warmer months you can simply go for a swim. For a family-friendly option, we suggest you check out the famous Huka Falls. The Huka Falls are formed by the Waikato River flowing north from Lake Taupo between riverbanks less than 100 metres apart. Just prior to Huka Falls, the river enters a skinnier and shallow ravine of glacial rock resulting in an incredible display of force.
Suggested Activity: Head out for a jet boat ride on the mighty Waikato River.
Day Four: Taupo to Rotorua (Driving Time: 1 hour)
Today you'll head north to Rotorua - home of exploding geysers, boiling mud baths and steaming bodies of water, the earth seems most alive in this North Island town. Maoris settled in the Rotorua region in the 14th century and still today, Rotorua is home to many Maori historical tours and performances. You have today to explore Rotorua. Suggested Activity: Get up close personal with native New Zealand birds and sheep - ask us about a package deal.
You might want to consider taking the kids to a Maori cultural performance this evening to experience cultural performances and local Maori meal - a hangi.
Day Five: Rotorua to Matamata (Driving Time: 1 hour)
Leave Rotorua today for Lord of the Rings country in Matamata. Once you arrive, you just about have to go on a tour of the Hobbiton village. Your tour starts with a drive through a picturesque 1,250 acre working sheep farm (there are 13,000 sheep and 300 beef cattle on the property) with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges. The Hobbiton movie set has been returned to its natural state, however hobbit holes and some structures from the film set are still present. Your tour guide will escort you through the ten acre site recounting fascinating details on how the Hobbiton movie set was created.
Overnight in Matamata before setting off to the beaches of Coromandel the following morning.
Day Six: Matamata to Hahei
Today you'll set off for the white sand beaches and secluded coves of the Coromandel Peninsula. This is arguably one of the North Island's most beautiful spots, and you'll spend the night in one of the gems of the Coromandel - Hahei Beach, the gateway to Cathedral Cove. From beautiful Hahei Beach you can walk to Cathedral Cove - a naturally formed archway that resembles a Cathedral. Be sure to check the tide charts and also head to Hot Water Beach. Hire a shovel from a local shop, and dig yourself a hole at the beach for your own all-natural hot pool - it's a North Island must-do experience.
Day Seven: Coromandel
Today you'll continue north on the Coromandel Peninsula, before looping back south down through Coromandel Village and onto Thames. Spend the night anywhere along the peninsula, and you'll be set up for a 2 - 3 hour drive back to Auckland on your last day. Check out Wotif for the best deals on Coromandel accommodation.
On your way around the peninsula, we suggest stopping to check out the Driving Creek Railway where local Kiwi Barry Brickell spent 15 years building this narrow gauge (15 inches) railway on his 22 h.a. patch of land just outside of Coromandel Town. On the train journey up to the 165 metre summit, the truly-amazing Driving Creek Railway train runs up steep grades, across four trestle bridges, along two spirals, a double switchback, and even through two tunnels before finishing at the Eye-full Tower. The trip is about 60 minutes long and passes artworks and regenerating native forest – more than 15,000 natives have been planted, including thousands of kauri.
Day Eight: Depart Auckland
Your North Island family adventure ends today, and it's off back to Auckland where you can catch your flight home. Are you interested in booking a self-guided 7 day North Island Family tour? Get in touch with us and we'll organize a trip that includes vehicle rental and activities along the way at a discounted rate. Contact us here or see here for an example.