5-day Central 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. 

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

5-day Central North Island road trip with kids.

Ready to pack up the kids and explore the best of New Zealand’s Central North Island by campervan? Great idea! From glow worms and volcanoes to Hobbits and hot pools, the North Island of New Zealand is packed full of great activities for a family campervan holiday

To help you plan a road trip that takes in the best highlights, we’ve put together this action-packed 5-day New Zealand road trip travel itinerary. You’ll kick off your campervan adventure in Auckland before heading south to Middle Earth where you can see some movie magic. Then it’s on to the scenic hot spots of Taupō and Tongariro before you go underground at the Waitomo Caves. Phew, that’s a whole lot of fun packed into five days! 

Ready to plan the ultimate New Zealand road trip? Let’s get started…

 

Travel: 5 days

Route: Auckland loop

Best time of the year: Anytime

Highlights: 

● Picnicking at the Hamilton Gardens

● Exploring magical Hobbiton Movie Set 

● Marvelling at the powerful Huka Falls 

● Catching and smoking trout in Turangi 

● Walking through the ethereal Waitomo Glowworm Caves 

● Discovering tropical butterflies and dinosaurs at Butterfly Creek

 

Day 1: Auckland to Matamata

Distance: 158 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Your adventure begins at Apollo’s Auckland branch where you'll pick up your pre-booked campervan, all set for five days of exploration across the Central North Island. As you journey south from Auckland, your first taste of the North Island’s charm comes with a stop at the enchanting Hamilton Gardens. Here, you can stroll through beautifully themed gardens from around the globe – ideal for a leisurely lunch break amidst lush landscapes.

Continue your NZ road trip to Matamata where you can immerse yourself in the magic of Middle Earth with a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. This iconic location offers a behind-the-scenes look at where the famous The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies were filmed. Walking through the Shire is a surreal experience, with its picturesque landscapes and detailed hobbit holes.

After a day of adventure, park up for the night at Opal Hot Springs and Holiday Park

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

 

Day 2: Matamata to Taupō

Distance: 126 km

Travel time: 1 hour, 50 mins

Today you’ll be heading to the heart of the North Island, Taupō. There’s loads to see and do along the way, so plan an early start. 

First up, make a splash at Huka Falls. Here, you can watch the Waikato River force its way through a tight rock corridor, creating a thunderous and spectacular waterfall. It’s a great spot for some photos or just to feel the mist on your face. Just around the corner, drop by the Huka Honey Hive, where you can taste some of New Zealand’s sweetest honey and see how it’s made. If you’re up for a bit more fun, swing by The Huka Prawn Park next. It’s a quirky spot where you can try your hand at prawn fishing. Kids love it, and so do the grown-ups.

Once in Taupō, chill out with a cruise on the lake. It’s a peaceful way to take in the views and soak up the holiday vibe. Afterwards, head over to DeBretts Hot Pools for a soak. These thermal pools are just the ticket for relaxing those muscles and having a good soak as a family.

Finish off your day by strolling through Taupō’s local shops. It’s a great chance to pick up some unique keepsakes. Whether it's artsy crafts or a piece of New Zealand’s greenstone jewellery, there’s plenty to catch your eye.

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.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Day 3: Taupō to Tongariro National Park

Distance: 97 km

Travel time: 1 hour, 20 mins

Today’s leg of your road trip from Taupō to Tongariro National Park weaves through rugged landscapes that shift dramatically as you approach one of New Zealand’s most famous national parks.

Plan a stop about halfway in Turangi, a tiny township known as the trout fishing capital of New Zealand. It’s the perfect place to take a break and stretch your legs. If you’ve got a bit of extra time, pop into the Tongariro National Trout Centre. Here, the kids can actually catch their own trout, which can be smoked right there for a fresh, delicious lunch. It’s both fun and tasty – a real adventure for the little ones.

Once you hit Tongariro National Park, get ready to dive into nature. A great family-friendly walk is the Taranaki Falls Track, an easy 6 km loop that offers stunning views and the chance to see the impressive waterfall that cascades over an ancient lava flow. It’s just the right mix of adventure and manageable walking for all ages.

If you’re visiting in winter, a must-do is a day in the snow at the Whakapapa Ski Area. Whether it’s your first time seeing snow or you’re seasoned snow bunnies, there’s plenty of fun to be had. From snowball fights to sledding, it’s a winter wonderland that provides a cool contrast to the more temperate parts of your trip.

Tonight, plan a cosy stay at the Tongariro Holiday Park where you can relax surrounded by views of the picturesque mountains.  

 

Day 4: Tongariro National Park to Waitomo Caves

Distance: 159 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Today, you’ll be going from the heights of Tongariro National Park to the depths of the Waitomo Caves – a magical spot and a must-do on any North Island road trip itinerary.  

A great place to stop along the way is Te Kuiti, known as the Shearing Capital of the World. This small town also honours New Zealand rugby legend Sir Colin Meads with a life-size bronze statue, celebrating his contributions to the sport and his roots in the local area. Take a moment to appreciate the statue and the small park around it, an ideal spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch and perhaps explore some local shops for unique souvenirs.

As you arrive in Waitomo, get ready for an unforgettable underground adventure at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Here, a guided tour will lead you through stunning limestone formations and into the Glowworm Grotto, where the ceiling is dotted with the luminescent glow of thousands of glowworms. This natural light display is truly a sight to behold, creating a star-like illusion that lights up the caves. Beyond the glowworms, Waitomo offers some awesome adventurous activities like black water rafting, cave abseiling (rappelling), and exploring other limestone caves with their impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Put your feet up tonight at the welcoming Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park

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

 

Day 5: Waitomo Caves to Auckland

Distance: 190 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 30 mins 

Today's the day you wrap up your epic North Island road trip, driving from Waitomo back to Auckland. The trip north is an easy drive with some great places to stop and stretch your legs one last time.

As you head north, swing by Otorohanga for a peek at some classic Kiwi culture with its quirky Kiwiana displays – everything from giant gumboots to pavlovas. Don’t skip the Otorohanga Kiwi House while you’re there; it's a cool spot to check out New Zealand's iconic kiwi birds and other local wildlife.

Arriving in Auckland, if you’re looking for a peaceful way to wrap up your trip, head to the Auckland Botanic Gardens. The gardens offer a beautiful, tranquil environment for a leisurely walk or a relaxing picnic. 

Alternatively, for a bit more excitement, visit Rainbows End, New Zealand’s premier theme park, where thrilling rides and attractions await, offering fun for the whole family.

Before you drop off your camper, make one final fun stop at Butterfly Creek, which is conveniently located near Apollo’s Auckland branch. It’s packed with attractions for everyone – from tropical butterflies to farm animals. 

Finally, swing by Apollo’s Auckland branch to drop off your camper. You’re done! You’ve just finished an awesome road trip packed with great memories, fun adventures, and loads of pics to prove it. Time to start planning the next great roadie? Check out more of our great New Zealand travel itineraries for inspiration. 

READ MORE: 15 family friendly things to do in Auckland.

 

Is the North Island of New Zealand calling you?

From volcanoes to caves, honey-tasting to trout fishing, this amazing 5-day New Zealand North Island road trip has it all. Ready to get started? Take the first step and book your Apollo campervan online today. 
Follow our easy itinerary or check out our travel blogs for more great ideas on what to see and do in New Zealand.

 

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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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