Most Scenic Road Trip Routes on New Zealand’s North Island

There’s no doubt about it, New Zealand is a country made for road tripping. There are few places on earth that are as extraordinarily beautiful, with a range of different natural and man-made sights to visit and explore. While some may opt for a coach tour, having your own car offers you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Want to stop at one of the secluded little beaches for a quick dip, or perhaps make a detour to one of the vineyards to learn about the wine production (and taste test the wine)? It’s all possible when you take a of the New Zealand self-drive holiday. Here are some of the most scenic road trip routes on New Zealand’s North Island.

Tongariro Crossing New Zealand

If you’re looking to explore the North Island on your own self-drive tour, you can’t do better than the journey up from Auckland to Cape Reinga and the 90 Mile Beach. En route, be sure to make a stop at the charming little town of Paihia and hop across to the spectacular Bay of Islands. While you’re there, you can go sailing along the pretty coast, or jump in the crystal blue waters to swim with wild pods of dolphins. Continue to follow 90 Mile Beach all the way up to the most northerly point of New Zealand and be sure to leave some time for sand boarding and exploration of the ancient Kauri Forests inland. To do this road trip justice, you’ll need at least 3 to 4 days, but the more time the better.

Travel Photos NZ - Auckland Cityscape

If you’re looking for something a little more active, this road trip circuit might be just the ticket. Start your New Zealand self-guided tour in Rotorua and drive out west to Raglan where you can try your hand at surfing with the rest of the locals. Don’t worry if you haven’t perfected your board skills, there are plenty of schools to choose from. Continue to Waitomo where you can ohh and ahh at the famed Waitomo glowworm caves. Plus, there’s plenty more outdoor activities to try out, from boat trips to hiking. Make a last stop at Taupo, the largest lake in the country, or if time permits, take the walk over the Tongariro Crossing.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse, New Zealand

The Coromandel Peninsula is arguably one of the country’s most spectacular natural wonders in New Zealand. If you’ve got 3 to 4 days spare, you won’t want to miss the scenic peninsula and its amazing beaches. Leaving south from Auckland, you’ll quickly begin to hug the edge of the Firth of Thames before heading north again up through the peninsula. Be sure to stop in the Coromandel Forest Park, which contains the famous hot water beach where you can create your own natural hot tub, as well as the impressive Cathedral Cove. Be sure to bring your camera because you’re not going to want to miss catching snaps of these natural wonders.

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

While you may be able to drive between Rotorua and Gisborne in just a few hours, those with a few days to spare can transform the route into one of the most pleasing road trips on the North Island. Few visitors ever head east of Rotorua, so if you’re interested in getting off-the-beaten-path, this may very well be for you. First, take the route towards the town of Whakatane where you can stay overnight before hugging the coastline stopping at Te Kaha, Waihau Bay, and Tokomaru Bay. Just a little further south is Gisborne, one of the best places to surf in the country. Make a full circuit by driving inland back to Rotorua where you began your journey.

Kiwi Crossing road sign and volcano Ruapehu in NZ

Looking for more on New Zealand? A New Zealand South Island Winter Roadtrip / What to Expect when Travelling New Zealand in Winter / Hooker Valley Track: New Zealand’s Prettiest Day Hike / The Perfect Family Holiday: New Zealand by Camper Van.

This post was written in collaboration with New Zealand Travel Organiser.
All opinions, as always, are our own.