Epic 3 day Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand

There is a lot packed into this short trip but I guarantee it’s very doable (because we recently did it all!) – tried and tested! I have partnered with Expedia.com.au to bring you the ideal itinerary for people who want to see and do as much as possible in 2-3 days when visiting the North Island of New Zealand, starting and ending your trip in Auckland There is a lot packed into this short trip but I guarantee it’s very doable (because we recently did it all!) – tried and tested!

You’l; likely arrive arrive in Auckland, from here, hire a car and drive from Auckland to Rotorua, which is an approx 3-4 hour drive. Check into your hotel in Rotorua and head to the Lone Star for dinner (I would suggest making a booking as it can get pretty busy!).

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Champagne pool in Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland in Rotorua New Zealand. Rotorua is known for geothermal activity geysers and hot mud pool located around the Lakes of Rotorua.

Road Trip! Go from 100 degree Geothermal Activity to Snow top mountains

Day 1

(Make sure to pack a jumper!) *Snowy mountains are visible in Winter but not in Summer.

Wake up bright and early (7-7:30am) and have a big brekky because this is going to be a bussssssy day! Head over to Wai-O-Tapu where you can check out some very cool but very smelly geothermal activities, cost of entry is $32.50 per person (adult).

The Lady Knox Geyser erupting daily at 10.15am, which is located just around the corner from the main entry point – outside of the park.

I would recommend Wai-O-Tapu over Te Puia which costs $51 per person entry, the main feature is famous Pohutu Geyser, which is pretty cool but its pretty expensive just to see some water shooting out of he ground.

The Geyser at Wai-O-Tapu isn’t nearly as impressive in size as the one at Te Puia but hey… size isn’t everything haha!

Bubbling Hot Mud Pool in Rotorua New Zealand from Aerial View by Drone. Rotorua in North Island of New Zealand is known for geothermal activity and hot mud pool locating around the Rotorua Lake.

Huka Falls

After you’ve had your fill of smelly natural features, grab a quick refreshment and jump back into the car…. You’ll be heading to Huka Falls next! Huka Falls is approx. 47km drive through beautiful green scenery.

Don’t take the first Huka Falls turn you see as you will end up at the prawn fishing park, which isn’t nearly as interesting as the falls… continue on until you see a sign for Huka falls. The falls are pretty impressive with 220,000 litres of water per second rushing through the small canyon.

If you have the time and money, take a quick 9minute flight over the falls which showcases the mighty Huka Falls, Taupo Township, and the Taupo boat harbour heading back via the crystal clear waters of the Waikato River and loop around Aratiatia hydro power scheme and back over the Wairakei geothermal steam field and back to the helipad – for a cost of $99 NZD per person.

You can either go for a short walk around the Huka falls areas otherwise head over to Craters of the Moon (kind of across the main highway road), if you haven’t got your fill of geothermal activity, its an $8 entry fee for an hour walk.

Powerful Huka Falls on the Waikato River near Taupo North Island New Zealand.

Lake Taupo

A short wander and lunch at Lake Taupo which is approx. 5km drive. Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake with a surface area of 616 square kms!

There are some lovely little cafes and restaurants along the lakes edge, it’s a beautiful place to recharge your batteries for your next leg of this epic road trip.

Hiking wanderlust adventure man hiker alone looking at sunset nature landscape of mountains and lakes during summer. Travel outdoors freedom lifestye.


Once you’re down with lunch its time to head to Tongariro National Park (near Mordor aka Mount Ngauruhoe for those Lord of the Rings fans), the end goal is to end up at the top of Whakapapa Ski Field. The plan is to stay here the night.

Mount Doom and the South Crater in the winter Tongariro Alpine Crossing New Zealand

***Tips for a great road trip: stop off at random tourist stops along the way, you’re there to check out the sites so check them out! Don’t be afraid to go off your set itinerary… have fun!

Tip: If you are in Rotura over the weekend pop to the Kuira Park flea market in the morning – Everyday Saturday from 7am to 1pm at Kuirau Park off Ranolf Street.

Whakapapa Ski Field

Optional Day 2 – in Winter

Today will be a slightly more relaxing day as you will be staying in one spot instead of driving around however it wont be boring as you will be skiing for the day at Whakapapa Ski Field and then driving back to Rotorua to stay there for the night.

Note: If you are travelling during summer chance are, you aren’t going to see snow top mountains or get to ski however the less the scenery is pretty amazing! In Summer Day 2 will be a “free day” where you can relax.

Ski lift to the top of Mount Ruapehu ski field the highest mountain in the North Island of New Zealand (2020m above sea level) located in Tongariro National Park.


Day 3

Epic 3 day Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand

This is your last day in Rotorua so we’ll make sure it’s an exciting one! You’ll need to get up somewhat early and have some breakfast then head over to Skyline Rotorua by 9am where you’ll spend the morning Luging and maybe taking a few turns on the zip line.

I’d recommend a min of 7 luge rides; trust me you will wish for more! As their slogan says, once is never enough! – so true!!

ROTORUA NZL :Skyline Gondola Cableway in Rotorua North Island New Zealand.

Lunge Track in Rotorua 

There are 3 Luge tracks available – Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced. The intermediate track is pretty good for all ages (I saw kids the size of the luge go flying past me!) and the beginner track is a nice scenic track, I’d suggest doing this one first or last.

You’ll likely be starving after the morning of luging excitement so stop for some lunch either at Wendy’s or Gold Star Bakery which has won more awards than they have space on their walls!

Just make sure to check the type of pie you picked on the packed as I picked a butter chicken pie – from the slot- and got a surprise bacon and egg pie!

ROTORUA NZL Man ride on Skyline Rotorua Luge. Skyline Luge is a gravity fuelled fun ride. Invented in New Zealand in 1985 and having hosted over 30 million rides worldwide.


Matamata New Zealand : Hobbiton movie set created for filming The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies in North Island of New Zealand. It is opened for tourist who visit New Zealand.

is Hobbiton in Matamata – 79km drive –  (if you are truly not a fan of Lord of the Rings then you can give this a miss however I’d highly recommend it, it’s a fun experience and you get to see a few sets from the movies.

Sadly you cant go as a self guided tour as it is located on private property and they want to preserve the set for future visitors. The entry fee and tour costs $79 NZ per person for adults and $39.50 per person for kids between 9-16 years old (children younger go in for free with a full paying adult).

Tours usually leave every 15-30mins and bookings can be made online, over the phone or when you arrive at the Shire (there are other pick up points but we found this one the easiest as we were driving).

Epic 3 day Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand

During the tour you get to visit the “Shire set” from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, you get to see Frodo’s house and Sam’s house and other cool little hobbit holes, near the end of the tour you go to the Green Dragon to have a free drink (ale, cider or tea or coffee) and relax by the fire or go for a Wander around the near by lake.

The tour takes about 2 hours which gives you plenty of time to take lots of photos and ask the guide a lot of questions. The guides are great and provide heaps of information about the set, the movies and a few fun facts.

Time to head to Auckland to check into your hotel, grab some room service and relax, you’ve earnt it! Matamata to Auckland is a 176km drive.


Auckland New Zealand. Bungee jumping man from Auckland sky tower.

Today is going to start with an adrenaline rushing activity and ending with a nice relaxing meal….

Once again (sorry!) it’s time to get up early but not too early (you get a mini sleep in), have a small breakfast as your first stop will be the Skytower…. You will be jumping 192m off of a perfectly good building – yes I said jumping off it. Don’t chicken out, this is a fantastic experience! Book in for the day’s first jump at 10:15am with a 10am check in.

Once you check in and get weighed (probably the most depressing part haha! Along with your weight being written on your hand!), they will fit you with a cute little jump suit and your life saving harness and up to the top you go.

You’ll wait in a small room while the trusty Skyjump guys get everything ready. They will come grab you, check your harness and take some photos, then they will walk you out to the platform, hook you up to the Skyjump device (aka the thing that keeps you from going squish on the side walk) and they say “I’ll give you a count down and on 1, let go of the bars and step out”.

Just do it, don’t think about it it’s terrifyingly fun. The whole experience from check in to jump completion only takes about 45mins to an hour (the jump itself takes 11 seconds) but it goes quick and cost is $225 per person (Adult pricing)! However if you are a big chicken then you can do the Skywalk where you walk around the edge of the Skytower.

Helicopter wine tasting and island hopping

Helicopter - Epic 3 day Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand

Heletranz Heliport where a helicopter will whisk you away to Man-O-War Winery on Waiheke Island, you’ll spend about an hour there enjoying a wine tasting and walking along the beautiful beach until you pilot summons you and takes you to Mudbrick Vineyard for a fabulous 3 course lunch and some wine tasting if there’s time and then back to Auckland either via helicopter or you can choose to take the ferry back to get a different view.

Beautiful Half moon bay in Waiheke in New Zealand

Head back to your hotel to relax and freshen up, get dressed up in your “Sunday finest” as you’ll be having dinner at Orbit (make sure to make a booking well in advance as the window side tables can book out quickly!). Orbit is at the top of the Skytower (don’t worry you don’t have to jump off again!)

Auckland city skyline at night with city center and Auckland Sky Tower the iconic landmark of Auckland New Zealand.

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Epic 3 day Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand
Epic 3 day Itinerary for the North Island of New Zealand


  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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