Summertime in New Zealand
is replete with that universally-revered phenomena: long weekends. Christmas and New Years Eve both come with two public holidays, but the fun continues even once the revelry has died down, with Waitangi weekend and the anniversary weekends for various regions. Kiwis have 3-day holidays (and road trips) down to a fine art - and if you have a limited time in the country, you might like to take a leaf out of their book by embarking on one of these three great three-day road trips from Auckland. Pick up an Auckland Airport car hire
and you’ll be on your way to adventure!
1 . Go North
Once you have your wheels, hit State Highway 1 heading north. The long, sandy beaches at Waipu and Ruakaka are a great place to stop, and you shouldn’t pass the city of Whangarei
without a stroll by the river basin.
Once a few hours from Auckland, you’ll notice the pace of life slowing down as the laid-back Northland vibe takes over. The Bay of Islands makes an obligatory stop, a wonderful place to stay for a night and offering all kinds of watersports - including the famous jet boat trip out to the “Hole in the Rock” rock formation.
Another highlight of the far north, and a great spot to spend a day or two, is Doubtless Bay and the Karikari Peninsula - there’s nothing quite like the stunning views from Karikari Estate winery, or the unspoilt white sands of Puheke Beach. Across on the western side of Northland, Opononi on the Hokianga Harbour is worth a visit if you have the time. The towering sand dunes seen across the estuary can be reached on a ferry for hours of sand-surfing fun.
Of course, if you’re heading this way on your three-day road trip you must make the journey to the top of New Zealand. Cape Reinga is an important place in Maori spiritual traditions, and desolately beautiful with its white lighthouse and rocky point dividing the Tasman Sea from the Pacific Ocean. Don’t leave without a detour to 90 Mile Beach, which doesn’t quite live up to its name in length (it’s more like 90 kilometres) but is quite spectacular nonetheless.
2 . Coro Bound
The Coromandel is a peninsula of sandy beaches, pretty coves and bush-clad hills which shelters Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf from the east. It’s just far enough from Auckland to feel like you’ve escaped the city, and not too far that you have to drive for more than a few hours - the perfect destination for a three-day road trip!
Thames is the gateway to the peninsula, a sizeable town with supermarkets and other stores where you can stock up for your road trip. The coast to the north of Thames has a string of tiny towns and sheltered beaches which are very safe for swimming when the tide is in. Head that way and you’ll eventually reach the town of Coromandel, a centre for artists and other creative types.
Across on the eastern side of the Peninsula, you’ll find the twin towns of Tairua and Pauanui, which face each other across a narrow estuary. Continue north to visit the amazing and famous Cathedral Cove, an iconic filming location for the Chronicles of Narnia movies. It’s a 30-minute walk to get to the cove, but well worth the hike! Nearby are Hahei and Cook’s Beach, both charming holiday towns with nice beaches. Fish and chips on the beach one night during your trip is almost obligatory!
Head past the bustling regional centre of Whitianga and you’ll come across Kuaotunu and Matarangi, more beachside towns which swarm with holidaymakers. From nearby Whangapoua you can walk to the beautiful and secluded New Chums Beach. If you’re willing to head off the beaten track a little, you can continue north towards remote Cape Colville.
3 . Central Highlights
are fantastic destinations for visitors to New Zealand, showcasing some of the central North Island’s best assets. Spend a night in each city for a memorable 3-day road trip from Auckland with just the right ratio of driving and downtime.
First stop is Rotorua, 3.5 hours’ drive from Auckland. It is a centre of tourism, and can be identified as you drive in by its pungent sulphurous smell - the city is built on and around thermal hotspots. Visitors report that they quickly get used to the scent once the fun starts! Said thermal activity provides some unique attractions, from bubbling mud pools to natural hot springs and steaming alien landscapes. There are many places you can go to enjoy this natural wonder. Cultural attractions are another highlight of Rotorua, specifically encounters with the native Maori way of life - performances, displays, cooking demonstrations and more. Whakarewarewa Thermal Village is a great place to start, involving both aspects.
It’s a short hop from Rotorua to Taupo, destination number two for this little road trip. Drive into town and you’ll soon find yourself on the shores of New Zealand’s biggest lake, a very pretty spot. Activities on offer in Taupo include a range of watersports, bungy jumping from a beautiful spot over the Waikato River, hiking and biking, and browsing the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars of the lovely town centre on the lake. Don’t leave without a stop at Huka Falls, a spectacular set of rapids close by Taupo where the mighty Waikato River squeezes itself through a narrow canyon.
It’s four hours or so back to Auckland from Taupo. If you have the time, take a detour along state highway 30 and 39 to visit the amazing limestone caves at Waitomo.
So there you have it - a trio of great options for a trio of days road tripping out of Auckland, gateway to New Zealand. Pick your route, grab a car rental
and get into that long weekend spirit!