If you’re on a tight time schedule and you want to fit in as much as you can in the North Island then getting from Auckland to Wellington in 4 days is going to be a challenge. With so much to see and do, we’re pretty confident we’ve mapped out a great little adventure for you. No time for hanging around – let’s GO!
- Route map with key locations
- Recommended vehicle for this trip
- Trip itinerary
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Although you’ve only got 4 days to get yourself down to Wellington, it would be rude not to check out NZ’s largest city, home to 1.3 million people and known as the City of Sails. After a nice stroll in downtown Auckland, checking out the Viaduct area and maybe grabbing a bite to eat it’s time to get to know your new hire car a little better. A perfect place to start is to head out west through the suburbs and out to the Waitakere Ranges. With heaps of tracks through the lush forest, there is plenty to keep you busy here. If walking is not your thing, keep driving through the forest and end up at one of the superb west coast beaches like Piha or Muriwai. The surf’s good out there and the black volcanic sand makes for an interesting day at the beach.
If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home but still fancy a drive out, head on out to Devonport or even up to one of the North Shore’s laid back locations like Browns Bay where you can grab a coffee and watch the world go by.
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2Auckland to Taupo – (279km – 3 hours 18 mins)
So, it’s time to get this show on the road and head out to explore the North Island proper. Pack up your bags and saddle up – today we head to Taupo.
Pokeno Ice Cream (52.1kms – 36mins from Auckland)
We know it’s only been half an hour since you left Auckland but it’s already time for a pit stop – an ice cream pit stop. The Pokeno store is renowned for the biggest ice creams in the country. Pokeno Takeaways, on Great South Road, will sell you a 15-scoop ice cream (yes, you read that right). Treat yourself.
Pokeno to Rotorua (179km – 2 hours 11 mins)
Right, now you’ve filled up on ice cream it’s time to crack on and head to the first big stop of the day – Rotorua. After the 2 hour drive, you’ll be ready for a stop off and there’s lots to keep you entertained in Rotorua. The first thing you’ll notice is the smell (and no, that wasn’t your mate in the back!). Rotorua is New Zealand’s thermal wonderland and that is the smell of sulphur.
With only a few hours to spare in Rotorua, there are a few things you can get stuck into – these are three of our highlights:
Wai-O-Tapu – probably the best place to check out the geothermal rumblings including the world-famous champagne pools and the Lady Know Geyser.
Use your GO Play card here
Te Puia – a great place to learn about Maori culture including a performance at the Marae. You also have a chance to check out the rare Kiwi bird at the live enclosure – one not be missed
Basically this means chucking yourself down a hill in a giant inflatable ball – not much more to it but it is a lot of fun! Zorb are a GO Play partner too so discount card at the ready!
Rotorua to Taupo (81.3km – 1 hour 8 mins)
Well, if you’re like us you will probably have had enough of that smell by now so it’s time to hit the road to your final destination for the day – Taupo. A great stop off on the way into Taupo is the rather impressive Huka Falls. Here you will see water flowing at a rate of 220,000 litres per second (that’s a lot by the way) down to the Waikato River below. We don’t think a salmon has ever made it up there but we’ll leave that up to you to debate.
Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake and is a pretty impressive sight. Hopefully you’ve arrived of the Rings fan, make your way out of town along Desert Road where you will get to see views of Mount Ruapehu which is probably better known as Mount Doom.
Finally, why not round off your action packed day with a skydive over the lake. The views are sensational as you plummet from 13,000 feet and Taupo Tandem Skydiving is a GO Play partner who will give you a 5% discount for the pleasure of throwing yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane!
3Taupo to Wellington (370km – 5 hours 5 mins)
Whanganui (258km – 3 hours 27 mins from Taupo)
From Taupo, we have over three hours to drive before we hit our next destination: Whanganui.
There’s plenty to see in Whanganui so you’ll have to be a bit selective. We suggest a look at the Cooks Gardens, on St Hill Street, right in the centre of town. These are famous because they were the location where Peter Snell ran the famous sub-four minute mile in January 1962 (that’s crazy fast). If you’re feeling particularly fit, you can try attempting your fastest mile time here too, right where Snell did it in front of 13,000 people.
Afterwards, take some time to wander around the Whanganui Regional Museum, on Watt Street, which displays the impressive work of Gottfried Lindauer, one of the most famous colonial artists in the country. The museum also includes one of the most important collections of Moa bones, including some complete skeletons of the extinct giant bird.
Stonehenge Aotearoa (193km – 2 hours 41 mins from Whanganui)
We’re going to continue south to Wellington along a slightly longer route, past Palmerston North, with a pit stop in Carterton.
Take Park Road out of Carterton and follow the signs to Stonehenge Aotearoa to see a full scale model of Stonehenge located on the hills of the Wairarapa, pretty much as far from actual Stonehenge as anything can be. You’ll be able to learn a bit about astronomy, both ancient and modern methods, and find out more about Maori astrology too.
It’s been quite the journey but here we are – New Zealand’s capital. Wellington is small but has no shortage of things to see. Head for the CBD, park your rental car and wander around the small streets.
Grab a coffee (Wellington claims to have the best coffee in New Zealand so check for yourself), visit the cool one-of-a-kind stores along Manners Mall and Cuba Street. When you’re on that street, notice the cool Bucket Fountain that doesn’t actually work the way it’s supposed to (take a close look at it and you’ll see the water doesn’t actually obey the easy bucket system and sometimes misses the buckets altogether).
A visit to Archives New Zealand, on 10 Mulgrave Street, allows you to see the Treaty of Waitangi (the document that is considered the foundation of the country). You can also take a tour of the Beehive, the country’s parliament, if you’re feeling politically-inclined, before taking a stroll along the waterfront, decorated with interesting sculptures and populated by numerous bars (including some decent craft beer spots).
Before you head to the airport to drop off your car, we suggest you park on Wexford Road, on the north-eastern side of the airport. On a typical windy Wellington day, you’ll have the chance to see what you escaped from, making the very wise decision to drive down from Auckland. Planes taking off and landing in Wellington often sway a little more than they should – a little scary for passengers on the plane, a bit of fun for you safely watching from the comfort of your rental car on safe ground.