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15 Day Budget Friendly North Island Road Trip Itinerary

A New Zealand campervan holiday around the North Island is a fantastic way to enjoy some of the affordable and fun things to do in the top half of the country. Travelling in a Mighty campervan means you can enjoy comfort and luxury as you see the sights while saving on the cost of expensive accommodation. With a bit of forward planning and budgeting, you can see more and save more too! To help get you started, we’ve put together a great 15-day travel itinerary packed full of free or low-cost things to do in the North Island.

Travel

15 days


Route

Auckland-Wellington-Auckland

1506km


Best Time of the Year

Anytime

Highlights

  • L&P Statue
  • Mt Maunganui
  • Rotorua mud pools
  • Te Papa Museum
  • Waitomo Caves
  • Hamilton Gardens

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 13 14 15

Day 1
Auckland

The first stop on your exciting 15-day North Island campervan holiday is at Auckland’s Mighty Campers branch to pick up your campervan. Pick up your pre-booked campervan from our branch near the airport, where our friendly team will help you get set up and ready for the road.

Spend the day visiting some of Auckland’s highlights, including a ferry ride to Devonport from Auckland City. It’s a quick trip across the harbour where you can wander the boutique shops, enjoy an ice cream, and take in the beautiful harbour views. While you’re there, take a walk up Mt Victoria, one of Auckland’s 53 volcanoes.

Before heading off on your next leg, park up for the night at Orere Point TOP 10 Holiday Park in Papakura.

Day 2
Auckland to Tauranga

On day two, it’s time to leave the big smoke and head to Tauranga. At a little over 2.5hrs drive along SH2, you can afford to take your time, enjoy the scenery, and make a few stops along the way.

The Martha Mine Pit in Waihi is a great place to stretch your legs (it’s free, too!). Take the stairs from the footpath or, if you’ve brought your bike with you, head to the cycle trail (at the right of the stairs along the footpath). The 4km loop track starts at the pumphouse and rises to the edge of the open pit – have your camera at the ready.

Plan a stop in the tiny township of Paeroa where you can spend hours fossicking through the antique stores for a bargain before getting a selfie with the famous L&P statue.

Once you reach Tauranga, spend a night at the Tauranga Tourist Park, just 4km from the city centre.

Image source: TNZ visual library - Camilla Rutherford

Day 3
Tauranga

Tauranga is a great place to explore by campervan with lots to see and do within a relatively small area. Be sure to add a visit to Mt Maunganui to your trip planner. Take a walk up the mount and, in summer, enjoy a swim at this popular beach. You can also enjoy a dip in the cooler months with a warm soak at the Mount Hot Pools. These saltwater hot pools are super soothing and a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon. General admission is around $20, with discounts for seniors, children, and families.

After a great day of activity, park up your campervan and enjoy a relaxed night at the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park.

Image source: TNZ visual library - Camilla Rutherford

Day 4
Tauranga to Rotorua

Distance 80km - Driving Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Before you leave Tauranga, plan an ice-cream stop at Papamoa and check out one of the best beaches in the bay. Then enjoy a short but scenic drive to New Zealand’s thermal wonderland, Rotorua.

Before you arrive in Rotorua, schedule a stop at Okere Falls Track. Stretch your legs along the 1.2km (return) track and take in magnificent waterfalls and lush native bush views.

Spend the night at the Rotorua Family Holiday Park.

Day 6
Rotorua to Taupo

Distance 80km - Driving Time 1 hour

Pack up the campervan and get ready for another short but activity-filled road trip today as you head out of one amazing destination and straight into another! Taupo is a short one hour drive from Rotorua, with a few key stops along the way.

One of the must-dos is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, located at 201 Waiotapu Loop Road, just out of Rotorua. Plan to spend a good few hours here as you wander through the ancient, colourful landscape that forms this geothermal wonder. Try and time your visit to see the Lady Knox Geyser come to life at 10.15 am.

A little further along your travels, make a stop at Lake Ngakoro Waterfall – this thermal waterfall is super hot, so don’t be tempted to take a swim!

Once you arrive in Taupo, head to Taupo DeBretts holiday park, where you can enjoy a relaxing night’s stay as well as a soak in the onsite hot pools (for a surcharge).

Image source: TNZ visual library - Graeme Murray

Day 8
Taupo to Hawke’s Bay

Distance 170km - Driving Time 2 hours 20 minutes

Ready for a change of scene? Great! Today it’s time to go west and head to the sunny Hawke’s Bay. Renowned for its award-winning wines, bountiful fruits, and mild climate, this unique part of New Zealand is a foodie’s haven.

Halfway along your journey, you’ll find the Opepe Scenic and Historic Reserve, a site noted for the 1869 New Zealand Land Wars. Learn about the reserve’s dramatic history as you explore native bush along one of the two walking tracks – the 1.5km northern loop or the longer 3km southern loop.

For the perfect picnic stop, set your GPS for Trelinnoe Park, about 1.5 hours drive from Taupo, on Napier-Taupo Road. This stunning 30-acre park is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful woodland gardens and is home to a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, and natives. Magnificent at any time of year!

Settle in for the night with a comfy stay at the Affordable Westshore Holiday Park.

Image source: TNZ visual library - Matt Crawford

Day 9
Hawke’s Bay

Renowned for its beautifully restored Art Deco buildings, the Hawke’s Bay township of Napier is brimming with fun things to do for all ages. A great place to start is along Marine Parade – a 3km stretch along the waterfront offering everything from an aquarium and gardens to a skate park and mini golf.

Another fun, free thing to do in Hawke’s Bay is a visit to Te Mata Peak. The park is loaded with walking and cycling tracks and is home to century-old giant redwood trees. Climb the summit (4km loop) and take in the 360° views.

Grab a bottle of local wine (there’s plenty to choose from!) and set up camp for the night at the Hawke’s Bay Holiday Park.

Image source: TNZ visual gallery - Graeme Murray

Day 10
Hawke’s Bay to Wellington

Distance 331 km - Driving Time 4 hours 35 minutes

As you reach the 10-day mark of your unforgettable New Zealand campervan holiday, it’s time to head to Wellington, the southernmost point of your journey. Along the way, you’ll be passing through the Wairarapa townships of Eketahuna, where you can grab a selfie with the giant kiwi, and Masterton, where you can treat the kids to a ride on the miniature train at Queen Elizabeth Park.

Once you’ve arrived in Wellington, head to the Cuba Street Motorhome Park. Park up and take a short walk to the central hub of Wellington for dinner at one of the many great restaurants.

Day 11
Wellington

Take in the city from one of the best vantage points with a ride up the cable car. At the top, take a wander through the Wellington Botanic Gardens or look to the skies at the Wellington Space Place observatory. A trip to Wellington wouldn’t be complete without planning a visit to Te Papa Museum, and if you’re there on a Sunday, head along to the Harbourside Market for breakfast or lunch.

Enjoy freedom camping at the Evans Bay Marina Carpark (self-contained vehicles only).

Image source: TNZ visual library - Miles Holden

Day 13
Ohakune

Less than 20 minutes drive from the Ohakune TOP 10, Waitonga Falls is Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall and well worth the short drive out for a visit.

If you fancy going to greater heights, head up Mount Ruapehu. There are great views to be had in summer, while in winter, you can enjoy a spot of skiing or just have some fun in the snow. Take note that Mighty campervans are not able to use ski access roads from 1 June to 31 October. For a more relaxing drive to the summit, park up at National Park and catch a shuttle.

Day 14
Ohakune to Waitomo

Distance 179km - Driving Time 2 hours 15 minutes

The previous day was all about mountain highs, now it’s time for the complete opposite with a journey underground in Waitomo. But first, stop a little over halfway on your journey and say hi to the friendly, furry faces at Nevalea Alpacas. Pick up some cosy winterwear while you’re there!

Once you arrive in Waitomo, it’s time to go to great depths with a visit to the Waitomo Caves. This magical spot is famous for its vast cave network and dazzling displays of glow worms. For a free option, check out the Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk.

Put your feet up at the warm and welcoming Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park.

Image source: TNZ visual library - Camilla Rutherford

Day 15
Waitomo to Auckland

Distance 193km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 minutes

As your incredible 15-day North Island campervan holiday comes to a close, it’s time to head back to your starting point in Auckland. But there’s still time to enjoy a few low-cost or no-cost stops on your last leg.

One of the best is a visit to the Hamilton Gardens, on Hungerford Cres, Hamilton. The 54-acre park has more than 20 themed gardens, so plan several hours to enjoy them all.

Afterwards, stop at Ruakura Berry Farm for a refreshing ice cream to enjoy as you head back to Auckland to drop off your campervan at Mighty Campers.

Ready to book your North Island road trip? 

From glow worms and alpacas to beautiful beaches and waterfalls, yes, New Zealand’s North Island has it all! And best of all? It’s all well within budget when you plan a few key stops along the way – and, of course, when you travel in the comfort and freedom of a Mighty camper. Ready to get started? Book your Mighty camper today.

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