If you’re on a tight time schedule and you want to fit in as much as you can in the North and South Island then getting from Wellington to Auckland in 4 days is going to be a challenge with so much to do but 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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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).
2Wellington to Taupo (370km – 5 hours 5 mins)
Heading north out of Wellington, we’re going to take a slightly longer route towards Palmerston North, with a pit stop in Carterton.
Stonehenge Aotearoa, Carterton (28.7kms – 23 mins from Martinborough)
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.
Whanganui (193km – 2 hours 41 mins)
From Carterton, we have just short of 3 hours to drive before we hit our next destination, Whanganui.
There is 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.
Hop back in your GO Rentals car for the last trip of the day up to Taupo which should take you around 3.5 hours.
3Taupo to Auckland – (279km 3 hours 18 mins)
Having arrived pretty late in Taupo the previous day, a new dawn awaits with plenty of options in this town situated on the shore of New Zealand’s largest lake.
Make sure you stop at the Huka Falls, a set of incredibly impressive waterfalls along the Waikato River, with about 220,000 litres of water flowing per second (that’s a lot of water). Next, stop at the Huka Prawn Park (Karetoto Rd) for a visit (you’ll need a couple of hours if you want to take the tour) and some seafood deliciousness.
Lake Taupo itself is pretty impressive and, not far from the township, along the Desert Road, you’ll get to see Mount Ruapehu (Mount Doom for you Lord of the Rings fans) and its neighbouring (and equally impressive) volcanoes.
The Desert Road itself is worth the drive as the scenery is not something you’ll find anywhere else (alpine deserts such as this one are a rare sight anywhere else in the world) so take your time to soak in the views.
Although this is a guide to off-the-beaten track adventures it would seem wrong if we failed to mention the amazing skydiving to be had over Lake Taupo. The views are simply stunning as you plummet from 13,000 feet heading towards the lake. A further bonus is that Taupo Tandem Skydiving is a GO Play partner and will kindly offer you a 5% discount for the pleasure of throwing yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane!
Use your GO Play card here
Taupo to Rotorua (81.3km – 1 hour 8 mins)
After a hectic morning spent in Taupo, it’s time to hit the road and head north to Auckland. There’s a quick stop off on the way in Rotorua where you can easily spend a couple of hours, taking in the delights of the geothermal wonderland. With only a couple of hours to spare, these are our top tips:
Probably the best place to check out the geothermal rumblings including the world famous champagne pools and the Lady Know Geyser. And…Wai-O-Tapu is a GO Play partner so you get all this geothermal fun with a 10% discount. Result.
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
Zorbing – 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!
Use your GO Play card here
We didn’t like to mention it before but what’s going on with that smell?? A geothermal wonderland it might be but it comes at a price. After a couple of hours here the smell of sulphur may well have overwhelmed you so it’s time to hit the road to your final destination on this 4 day adventure – Auckland.
Pokeno Ice Cream (141kms – 1 hour 56 mins)
After dealing with the sulphuric smells of Rotorua for a couple of hours we figure you deserve a treat and Pokeno ice cream will certainly deliver. 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.
After this little stop off, you only have another 52kms to Auckland which should see you there in just over half an hour.
Having arrived pretty late the night before, wake up to the sights and sounds of 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 for one last trip out in your lovely little hire car. A perfect place to end this trip 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.
There are so many things to do in the big little city that getting lost for a day won’t be a problem.
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