10-day North Island road trip with kids | Apollo NZ
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Hawke's Bay

Looking for a New Zealand campervan holiday destination that ticks the boxes for sunshine, adventure, great food, and perhaps a little history and culture? You can’t go past Hawke’s Bay. This stunning region offers a taste of the good life amidst some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Whether you’re into adventurous hikes, wine tasting, or family fun, you’ll find plenty of great things to do in Hawke’s Bay.  

The appeal of the Hawke's Bay region lies not only in its charming townships such as Napier and Hastings but also in its natural attractions. The Hawke’s Bay weather is among the best in New Zealand, boasting plenty of sunshine that ripens grapes in its world-renowned vineyards and warms its expansive beaches. This climate makes the region a year-round destination for visitors looking to explore the outdoors whether on bike trails, on foot through its scenic reserves, or along its stunning coastlines.

Travelling by campervan allows you to take in everything Hawke's Bay has to offer at your own pace. Wake up to ocean views, spend your days discovering local markets or touring iconic wineries in Hawke’s Bay. In the evenings, enjoy relaxed sunset meals prepared in your campervan kitchen. And with plenty of Hawke’s Bay accommodation for campervan travellers, you’ve got the freedom to explore far and wide.

 

Why explore Hawke’s Bay by campervan

Exploring Hawke's Bay by campervan offers an unparalleled opportunity to dive deep into the region's offerings at your own pace. From the freedom to wander through the sunlit vineyards of Hawke’s Bay to parking along the coastlines near Napier, your campervan allows for a flexible, immersive travel experience. 

Travelling by campervan comes with heaps of perks that make the trip even better. Fancy cooking up some local produce from a roadside stall? You've got your own kitchen right there. Tired of hauling suitcases in and out of hotels? That's not an issue when your campervan acts as your base. You can also pack all the gear you need for outdoor fun – like hiking packs or surfboards – without worrying about space. And let’s not forget the convenience of having your own bathroom, which means no more hunting for public restrooms. It’s all about making your holiday as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.

 

Things to do in Hawke’s Bay

Hawke's Bay is a playground for explorers, foodies, and culture enthusiasts alike. Immerse yourself in the rich history and Art Deco architecture of Napier. Sample some of New Zealand's finest wines. Or simply explore the natural beauty of the region's landscapes and coastlines. Whatever you’re keen to see and do, there's something here for everyone. 

Things to do Hawkes Bay Things to do Hawkes Bay

Things to do Hawkes Bay

From Art Deco delights to world-class wineries, there's no shortage of unforgettable places to visit in Hawke’s Bay. And there’s...
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 Popular Hawke’s Bay road trips & itineraries

Located on the eastern coast of New Zealand's North Island, Hawke's Bay is easily accessible from major cities including Auckland and Wellington. Setting off from Napier, the heart of Hawke's Bay, you can delve into the area's renowned Art Deco architecture, explore the dramatic cliffs of Cape Kidnappers, or indulge in a tasting tour through its famous vineyards. Whether coming down from Auckland or making your way up from Wellington or even the South Island, Hawke’s Bay is perfectly poised to offer an unforgettable New Zealand road trip. 

10-day North Island road trip with kids
Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ Itineraries

10-day North Island road trip with kids.

Thinking about treating the kids to a campervan New Zealand road trip around the North Island? Lucky them! From hot pools and Hobbits to treetop walks and waterfalls, the North Island of New Zealand is a paradise for a family campervan holiday

To help you plan a road trip that takes in the best highlights, we’ve put together this fun-filled 10-day New Zealand road trip travel itinerary. You’ll kick off your adventure in Auckland before heading south to chill out in the Coromandel. Then it’s on to the tourist hot spots of Rotorua, Taupō, and Tongariro before heading northward again through Mt Maunganui. 

The kids will be kept well and truly busy with each destination offering an opportunity to see and do something new. Your campervan road trip experience with Apollo will become a treasured memory for years to come. Ready to plan the ultimate New Zealand road trip? Let’s get started…

 

Travel: 10 days

Route: Auckland loop

Best time of the year: Anytime

Highlights: 

● Digging hot pools at Hot Water Beach

● Coastal views on Coromandel Walkway

● Geothermal wonders in Rotorua

● Family fun at Taupō Lakefront

● Touring the Hobbiton Movie Set

● Dolphin watching in Tauranga Harbour

 

Day 1: Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula

Distance: 158 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 30 mins

Your NZ road trip adventure begins at Apollo’s Auckland branch, where your comfy motorhome will be ready and waiting for your 10-day family road trip. Today is a nice and easy 2.5-hour drive out of Auckland to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, a popular spot known for its natural beauty and historical intrigue. 

The drive itself offers a scenic introduction to what lies ahead, with winding roads that showcase the lush landscapes of the North Island.

Make your first stop in Thames, a charming historic town known for its rich gold mining past. It’s the perfect spot to stretch your legs and enjoy lunch, perhaps in one of the quaint cafes that line the old-world streets.

As you reach the Coromandel Peninsula, head straight to one of its most unique attractions, Hot Water Beach. Here, during low tide, you can dig your own spa-like pool in the sand, warmed by natural geothermal waters just below the surface—an ideal way to unwind after the drive.

After a day of exploring, unwind at Coromandel TOP 10 Holiday Park, a cosy retreat with modern facilities and friendly staff.

TOP TIP: Check out our guide on how to entertain kids in a camper

 

Day 2: Coromandel Peninsula

It’s day two, time to relax and explore the Coromandel Peninsula's captivating landscapes. Start your morning with a trip to the Coromandel Coastal Walkway, renowned for its stunning coastal views that will leave you in awe. This easy walk is particularly suitable for kids, offering gentle trails that meander along the coastline and through lush greenery, perfect for those memorable family photos.

Next, venture into the heart of the Coromandel Forest Park, a natural playground offering a variety of short bush walks. These trails are ideal for a leisurely day out with the family, with plenty of spots for a quiet picnic surrounded by native flora and fauna.

In the afternoon, head out onto the water with a glass-bottom boat tour around Mercury Bay. This unique experience allows you to gaze into the clear waters below, spotting marine life without getting wet. It’s an educational and engaging activity that brings the underwater world right to your feet, making it a highlight of your New Zealand North Island itinerary.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Day 3: Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua

Distance: 208 km

Travel time: 3 hours, 10 mins

On the third day of your New Zealand North Island road trip, the drive from Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua will take you through some of the North Island's most diverse landscapes. As you head south, the vistas transition from coastal to rural, revealing the rolling hills and lush farmlands typical of the Waikato region. 

Along the way, plan a stop in Waihi, a town famous for its gold mining history. Here, you can explore the still-operational Martha Mine, or enjoy a scenic walk along the Karangahake Gorge Track, which combines natural beauty with remnants of the region's historical mining past.

For Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fans, an optional detour to the Hobbiton Movie Set is definitely worth the extra 20-minute drive. 

Once you arrive in Rotorua, immerse yourself in New Zealand’s rich Māori culture and remarkable geothermal activity at Te Puia. Here, you can witness the spectacular Pohutu Geyser, explore mud pools, and enjoy cultural performances.. 

As the day winds down, Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park is the perfect place to park up and enjoy a good night’s rest.

 

Day 4: Rotorua

There’s so much to see and do in Rotorua that we suggest taking another full day to explore the city. One of the top attractions is the Redwoods Treewalk. Stroll through the majestic Redwood Forest on suspension bridges and platforms built high above the ground. This elevated perspective offers a unique vantage point and connects you intimately with the ancient, towering trees. The walk is both peaceful and awe-inspiring, suitable for all ages, making it a perfect family outing.

After a morning amidst the treetops, unwind at the Polynesian Spa, a world-renowned facility known for its therapeutic mineral waters. Overlooking Lake Rotorua, the spa offers designated family areas, ensuring that visitors of all ages can enjoy the soothing benefits of the hot mineral pools.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Day 5: Rotorua to Taupō

Distance: 80 km

Travel time: 1 hour

Continue your New Zealand North Island road trip as you travel from Rotorua to Taupō. This brief yet visually stunning drive connects two of the North Island's renowned geothermal hotspots, offering a route lined with spectacular natural scenery.

As you near Taupō, one of the must-see highlights is Huka Falls, where the immense force of the water is both a visual and auditory spectacle. The vibrant turquoise of the water creates a striking contrast against the lush green backdrop as it forcefully makes its way through the rocky gorge.

Once in Taupō, take the time to unwind at the Taupō Lakefront. This inviting area is ideal for a relaxing afternoon by the lake, offering activities ranging from gentle kayaking to leisurely lakeside walks. It's a great spot to recharge and enjoy the scenic surroundings with your family. While you’re in Taupō, don't miss out on visiting the Craters of the Moon, a geothermal park that offers an easy walk through a fascinating landscape dotted with steaming vents and bubbling mud pools. It's a great way to get up close to the dramatic geothermal forces that shape this unique region.

For your stay, the Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park is a great spot to park up, chill out, and plan your next day’s adventures.

READ MORE: 15 must-dos in New Zealand’s North Island.

 

Day 6: Taupō to Tongariro National Park

Distance: 97 km

Travel time: 1 hour, 20 mins 

The drive from Taupō to Tongariro National Park takes you through some of the central North Island's most striking landscapes. The route is dotted with rugged hills and expansive views that prepare you for the dramatic scenery of Tongariro National Park.

Before reaching the park, plan a stop in Turangi, the trout fishing capital of New Zealand, to visit the Tongariro National Trout Centre. Here, interactive exhibits provide a fascinating look at freshwater ecology and the life cycle of trout. It’s an educational experience that will captivate both young and old. There’s even the opportunity to catch a trout, smoke it, and eat it!

Once you arrive in Tongariro National Park, one of the best family-friendly activities is the Taranaki Falls Track. This relatively easy walk takes you through diverse landscapes, including native bush and near the volcanic features of the park. You’ll also be treated to the spectacular sight of Taranaki Falls tumbling over an ancient lava flow.

If visiting in winter, don’t miss the chance to explore the Whakapapa Ski Area, where families can enjoy snow play and beginner skiing. It’s a great spot for introducing children to the snow in a safe and fun environment, making it a highlight of your New Zealand trip itinerary.

For your stay, the Tongariro Holiday Park provides a cosy base to explore all that this stunning region has to offer. 

 

Day 7: Tongariro National Park to Mt Maunganui

Distance: 248 km

Travel time: 3 hours, 15 mins 

Today, you’ll transition from the rugged terrains of Tongariro National Park to the refreshing seaside at Mount Maunganui, with a drive taking just over three hours. 

As you reach Mount Maunganui, dive into a day of beachside fun at Mount Maunganui Beach, a spot popular for its broad sands and inviting waters. It’s the perfect setting for a family day out where you can play on the beach, swim, or just chill under the sun.

For a change of scenery, head over to McLaren Falls Park, a lovely location ideal for picnicking and exploring. The park is a beautiful area to explore, offering peaceful walks through well-maintained paths and the opportunity to see charming waterfalls.

Put your feet up tonight at the welcoming Mt Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Day 8: Mt Maunganui

Today, spend another leisurely day exploring the sights and sounds of Mount Maunganui. Start your day at the Bayfair Shopping Centre, the largest shopping complex in the Bay of Plenty. Here, you can indulge in a variety of shopping options, from high-street brands to specialty stores. It’s also a great place for dining, with numerous eateries serving up everything from quick bites to sit-down meals.

After some shopping, head over to Pilot Bay for an afternoon in the fresh seaside air. This sheltered bay is ideal for water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding. With its calm waters, it's perfect for beginners or families with children who want to try out these activities without venturing too far into the open sea.

Cap off your day with a dolphin-watching tour or a scenic cruise around Tauranga Harbour. These tours offer a fantastic opportunity to connect with the marine environment and see local wildlife in their natural habitat. 

 

Day 9: Mt Maunganui to Auckland

Distance: 205 km

Travel time: 3 hours, 15 mins 

As your New Zealand North Island road trip begins to wind down, the drive back to Auckland from Mount Maunganui takes just over three hours. This route brings you through the heart of the Waikato region, known for its lush, rolling hills and rich agricultural land.

If you missed it earlier in your journey, a stop in Matamata is highly recommended for a tour of the famous Hobbiton Movie Set. This magical experience lets you step into the picturesque world of Middle Earth, where you can explore the Shire and see the iconic Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, and more.

Another delightful stop is the Hamilton Gardens, an expansive park that features a collection of themed gardens from around the world. Each garden is designed to reflect different civilisations and historical settings, making it a visually and intellectually stimulating visit. Enjoy a leisurely picnic or a light lunch at the café and give yourself plenty of time to wander through these stunning landscapes.

Once you arrive in Auckland, a visit to Auckland Zoo is a fantastic way to spend the afternoon. The zoo houses a diverse range of animals from across the globe and offers engaging exhibits that are educational and fun for all ages.

As the day winds down, enjoy the beachside vibes at Takapuna Beach Holiday Park

 

Day 10: Auckland

Your final day in Auckland marks the conclusion of your New Zealand North Island road trip. Spend this day exploring key attractions that offer insights into New Zealand's rich marine life and cultural heritage.

Begin your morning at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium, a pioneering aquarium that provides an immersive experience into the underwater world. The aquarium features interactive exhibits, including live encounters with penguins and shark diving. It's an excellent place for families to learn about marine conservation and see a variety of marine species up close.

Next, visit the Auckland Museum, where you can delve deeper into New Zealand’s history and cultural dynamics. The museum's extensive collections showcase everything from Māori and Pacific Island artefacts to exhibits on New Zealand’s natural and military history. 

Top off your North Island road trip with an afternoon at Butterfly Creek, conveniently located just a few minutes drive from Apollo’s Auckland branch. Butterfly Creek offers a host of attractions including tropical butterfly houses, a Dinosaur Kingdom, and farmyard animals. It’s a great place for some fun and relaxation, especially for families with children.

Dropping off your campervan at Apollo's Auckland branch marks the end of your incredible journey across New Zealand. 

 

Is the North Island of New Zealand calling you?

From Hobbits to dinosaurs, our New Zealand North Island road trip has it all. Ready to get started? There's no reason to wait, book your Apollo campervan online today and set the stage for an unforgettable family campervan holiday.

 

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Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore New Zealand by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan adventure. 

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Apollo Campervan branches

Auckland

Departing from Apollo Auckland, you’re perfectly positioned for a half-day drive to Northland & the Bay of Islands. This route ensures a seamless blend of scenic beauty and local culture, culminating in the stunning landscapes of Northland.

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Northland & the Bay of Islands sets you up for a scenic multi-day journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and into the North Island. 

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore as much of New Zealand as possible? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and take your time heading northward over an epic 10-14 days taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 

Auckland City Skyline

Auckland

New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.

 

Helpful tips for visiting Hawke's Bay

 

Climate and seasons in Hawkes

Hawke's Bay is known for its consistently warm and dry climate, making it a favoured destination throughout the year. The region's weather complements its reputation as one of New Zealand's premier wine-growing areas, with long, sunny days that nurture vineyards and invite outdoor adventures.

  • Summers (December to February) in Hawke's Bay are typically warm and dry, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C. This is the perfect time for beach outings at places like Waimarama or Ocean Beach, and for enjoying al fresco dining in Napier or Hastings. The warm weather also makes this a peak season for exploring the region’s numerous vineyards and wineries.

  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler temperatures and the landscape bursts into vibrant colours, especially in the vineyards where the leaves change hues against a backdrop of crisp blue skies. The mild weather is ideal for hiking and cycling through the region's parks and reserves.

  • Winter (June to August) sees cooler days with temperatures generally between 10°C and 15°C. Although colder, the days are often clear and sunny, providing perfect conditions for visiting indoor attractions like the Art Deco buildings in Napier or the Hawke's Bay Museum.

  • Spring (September to November) rejuvenates the region with fresh blooms and gradually warming temperatures. It's an excellent time to witness the orchards in blossom and to enjoy the late spring events that celebrate the region’s produce and wine.

Hawke's Bay's sheltered position in the rain shadow of the central mountain range means it receives less rainfall than many other parts of New Zealand, but packing a rain jacket is still advisable. The pleasant climate in spring and autumn, along with the vibrant seasonal changes, make these particularly delightful times to visit.

 

 

What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan adventure in Hawke's Bay calls for smart packing to make the most of the region's sunny climate and abundant outdoor activities. From relaxing on its beautiful beaches to touring its famous wineries, here’s what you should consider bringing along:

  • Outdoor gear: Hawke's Bay's varied landscapes, from coastal paths to vineyard trails, demand versatile outdoor gear. Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing to keep cool during warm days, and include a layer or two for the cooler evenings – perfect for enjoying a night under the stars. Sturdy walking shoes are a must, whether you’re exploring the streets of Napier or hiking the trails at Te Mata Peak.
  • Campervan add-ons: To enhance your campervan experience, think about including a few extras. A portable barbecue is great for cooking up local produce as you enjoy panoramic views of the bay, and additional camping chairs and a table will make your setup outside the van more comfortable and inviting.
  • Sun protection: Given Hawke's Bay's reputation for being one of the sunniest areas in New Zealand, good sun protection is essential. Pack a high-SPF sunscreen, sunglasses with UV protection, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun, ensuring you can safely enjoy the great outdoors throughout your trip. For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

Attractions and day trips in Hawke's Bay

 

Napier

A city reborn from the 1931 earthquake, Napier is renowned for its beautifully preserved Art Deco architecture. Strolling through the city, visitors can enjoy vibrant street art, boutique shops, and waterfront cafes that make Napier a cultural gem worth exploring.

Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers is famous for its dramatic coastal cliffs and as the home to the largest mainland gannet colony in the world. A guided tour offers a chance to see these magnificent birds up close and enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak provides panoramic views of Hawke's Bay and is a must-visit for anyone wanting to capture the beauty of the region from above. Hiking trails range from easy to challenging, catering to all fitness levels.

Wineries

Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's oldest wine regions, famed for its Bordeaux blend reds and rich Chardonnays. Visiting local wineries for tastings and tours is an indulgent way to experience the area's gourmet offerings.

Art Deco Tours

Take a step back in time with an Art Deco tour in Napier. These guided tours, often available on foot or by vintage car, highlight the city's unique history and architectural heritage, celebrating the style that defines the region.

Beaches

Ocean Beach and Waimarama Beach are pristine stretches of sand perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and long beach walks. Both beaches offer a tranquil escape with stunning ocean views, ideal for a relaxing day by the sea.

Havelock North

Havelock North is a picturesque village known for its artisanal food scene, boutique shopping, and the lush Te Mata Park. Its charm and scenic setting make it a delightful stop for those exploring the greater Hawke's Bay area.

 

Where to stay in Hawke's Bay with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Hawke’s Bay, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:

Napier

Wider Hawke’s Bay

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