New Zealand’s Pacific Coast Highway is an iconic road trip that traces the North Island's east coast from Auckland to Napier. And the very best way to see it? With a Mighty campervan hire! A campervan road trip lets you travel New Zealand in comfort and luxury while enjoying the freedom of stopping when and where you want.
To help you make the most of this must-do North Island road trip, we’ve put together an action-packed itinerary that heads as far as Gisborne and then loops back to Auckland, taking a week or so (around 1200km/16 hours driving time).
Pack your sunscreen, walking shoes, picnic blanket, and thirst for adventure as you get ready for the New Zealand road trip of a lifetime!
Auckland to Napier
Best Time of the Year
- Mount Maunganui
- East Cape Lighthouse
- Cooks Cove
- Walkway Mohaka River
Auckland to Coromandel
Distance 186km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 minutes
The first stop on your 8-day New Zealand road trip is to pick up your campervan hire from Auckland’s Mighty Campers branch at 13 Manu Tapu Drive, Mangere. Our friendly team will be waiting to help you get set up and ready for the road.
While you’re in Auckland, check out the city from its best vantage point with the incredible 360° views from the One Tree Hill summit. Now is a good time to stock up for your trip – call in at the supermarket or one of Auckland’s great farmers markets for all those must-have essentials, be sure to throw in a few treats too!
As you leave the bustling city, the first pit-stop on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip is the old gold-mining town of Thames. With its eclectic cafes, boutique shops, and waterside boardwalk, this historic spot has lots to see and do.
Next, head over SH25 to Whangamata, a charming beach town with a surfy vibe. Further south is the bustling beachside village of Waihī Beach, where you can enjoy shopping at the boutique stores and indulge in some tasty treats at one of the great cafes.
Explore the peninsula's wild side at Kauaeranga Valley, which has walking trails and back-to-nature DOC campsites. The nearby Hauraki Rail Trail offers easy cycle trips through the gorgeous Karangahake Gorge.
Where to stay: Waihī TOP 10 Holiday Park.
Image source: TNZ visual gallery - Camilla Rutherford
Coromandel to Mount Maunganui
Distance 165km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Enjoy the big-town buzz of Tauranga, where you can spend the day shopping, checking out the great array of art galleries, or visiting the popular beachside suburb of Mount Maunganui.
A sandy peninsula crowned with a 232-metre-high hill, Mount Maunganui is beach-bum heaven and a must-do on your New Zealand itinerary. Its action-packed adventures include surfing, kayaking, and indoor rock-climbing, and there's a vibrant nightlife, too. While you’re there, check out the spectacular views with a walk up the mount’s summit.
Where to stay: Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park.
Tauranga to Whakatane
Distance 88km - Driving Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Travelling east from Tauranga on your New Zealand road trip, you’ll be wowed by the rural and coastal scenery. As you pass through New Zealand’s kiwifruit capital of Te Puke, Kiwi360 offers a feast of New Zealand's fuzzy fruit. Stop for a bite to eat at the Daily Café on Commerce Lane or enjoy an ice cream at Mayfair Ice Cream Parlour on Jellicoe Street.
Next stop, Whakatane! One of the sunniest towns in New Zealand, Whakatane is a popular spot for campervan travellers. It’s also a great place to spot wild kiwi - for the best chance of seeing one, plan a night walk with the Whakatane Kiwi Trust.
Just a few minutes over the hill from Whakatane is beautiful Ōhope Beach – the ideal spot for surfing, kayaking, or just enjoying a picnic and taking in the awesome view. Before you head off, take a wander around the shops and top-up the fridge and pantry for the remote leg ahead. If you fancy a little something special, call into L’Epicerie Larder on Commerce Street – their coffee is good, and their food is oh la la!
Where to stay: Whakatane Holiday Park
Image Source: TNZ visual library - Matt Crawford
Whakatane to East Cape Lighthouse
Distance 223km - Driving Time 3 hours 30 minutes
The winding drive around the East Cape to Gisborne takes 4–5 hours but allow a couple of days for this section of your amazing New Zealand road trip if you can.
Deserted beaches, walking tracks, a macadamia nut farm, and a cashmere clothing factory – the East Cape is full of surprises. It's also rich in Māori culture – look out for beautiful, carved gates and buildings. As you drive through the township of Ōpōtiki, plan a stop at the Hukutaia Domain, where you can visit a sacred 2500-year-old puriri tree.
At the end of this leg, you’ll reach New Zealand’s easternmost point, home to the iconic East Cape Lighthouse. The historic lighthouse towers 154 metres above sea level and can be accessed by a walking track of around 700 steps – it’s a decent climb but worth it for the views at the top.
Where to stay: If you want to be the first in the world to see the sunrise, camp at the East Cape Campground.
Image Source: TNZ visual library - Eric Hanson
East Cape Lighthouse to Tokomaru Bay
Distance 100km - Driving Time 1 hour 40 minutes
The next leg of your unforgettable Pacific Coast Highway adventure takes a southerly turn and tracks through farmland to Tikitiki and the site of St Mary's Church. Among the many amazing features of this beautiful church are stained glass windows, Māori carvings, and woven flax panels.
Sacred Mount Hikurangi – the region's highest mountain at 1752m – watches over you as you drive through the rural settlement of Ruatoria, through to Tokomaru Bay. Walk the waterfront, then pop into Te Puka Tavern where you can enjoy a meal with a million-dollar view.
Where to stay: Tokomaru Bay Holiday Park
Tokomaru Bay to Gisborne
With a bright civic centre, great beaches, parks, wineries and plenty of other attractions, Gisborne is a laid-back and lovable small city. Fancy swimming with the fishes? For a truly memorable experience, book a stingray experience with Dive Tatapouri – you’ll get up close to wild short tail stingrays, eagle rays, and other sea life. Unforgettable!
Tolaga Bay/Uawa is yet another special spot in this section of your itinerary, with plenty of surprises in store. The town's wharf – the longest in the Southern Hemisphere – creates an impressive backdrop for selfies and is situated next to Tolaga Bay Holiday Park.
Just down the road, Cooks Cove Walkway offers a chance to stretch your legs along a 5.8km (return) track. This historic site is where Captain James Cook stopped in 1769 as he circumnavigated New Zealand. It’s a great spot for campervan travellers, too – with a safe cove to swim in, a hole-in-the-wall to explore, and info panels that tell the story of Cook’s historic visit.
To find out more about the history of Gisborne, pay a visit Tairawhiti Museum where you can check out the art, history, and decorative arts exhibitions throughout the nine galleries, with a special focus on Māori arts and culture.
Where to stay: Waikanae Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
Gisborne to Mohaka
Distance 130km - Driving Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Unleash your inner adrenaline-junkie with an action-packed day of adventure. Mohaka is a river rafting haven – so strap on your lifejacket, grab your oars, and get ready to paddle! Test your limits on the Mohaka River with a rafting experience you’ll never forget!
For a more laid back (but equally fun!) experience, Mohaka is also a great place to enjoy a horse trek through the countryside, a farm experience, or just to take in some of New Zealand’s awesome scenery.
Where to stay: Mohaka River Farm
Mohaka to Napier
Distance 90km - Driving Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Known as the Art Deco capital of the world, the vibrant Hawke’s Bay city of Napier is jam-packed with awesome things to see and do. Check out the vineyards and wineries, indulge yourself at one of the fantastic restaurants, bars, and cafes, and take a walk along the freshly transformed Marine Parade.
Start your day off in the best way possible with coffee and pastries at Crazy Good before checking out the art and culture scene at Space Napier. Next, enjoy Napier’s unique Art Deco scene with a guided walking tour. And to top the day off, enjoy genuine New Zealand cuisine at Pacifica on Marine Parade.
Where to stay: Napier Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park
Ready For Your Next New Zealand Adventure?
From trekking up mountain summits to feeding hungry stingrays, a Pacific Coast Highway road trip is packed full of incredible New Zealand tourist attractions. And there’s simply no better way to see them all than by campervan. Enjoy the freedom of stopping when you want, for how long you want, and with all the comforts of home on board.
There’s no better time to travel New Zealand by campervan than now, so what are you waiting for? Book your Mighty camper today.