10-day North Island road trip with kids | Apollo NZ
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Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

A New Zealand campervan holiday through the Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki region offers an unforgettable experience. Rich in natural beauty and cultural significance, this special part of New Zealand offers travellers a unique blend of urban charm and rugged wilderness. If you love exploring arts and culture, you’ll be spoilt for choice in this region. You may even like to follow the Coastal Arts Trail which spans 300 km between New Plymouth to Palmerston North. The trail is peppered with galleries, sculptures, studios and more. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the mystical Bridge to Nowhere, accessible through the verdant Whanganui National Park, offering an unforgettable journey into New Zealand's remote backcountry. 

Transitioning westward, the landscape dramatically changes as you enter Taranaki, dominated by the iconic, conical shape of Mount Taranaki. This region is a magnet for adventurers and nature lovers alike, with New Plymouth at its heart – a coastal city known for its sunny climate, thriving arts community, and surf-friendly beaches. The coastal walkway stretching from Bell Block to Port Taranaki offers spectacular sea views, perfectly complementing the city’s dynamic cultural venues and eateries.

 

Why explore Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki by campervan

Exploring Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki by campervan offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the heartland of New Zealand's North Island. It also makes it easy to change your itinerary on the fly. Whether it's spending an extra day enjoying the surf in New Plymouth, exploring the hiking trails around Mount Taranaki, or parking beside the scenic Whanganui River for a spontaneous picnic, the choice is yours. The ability to set your own pace and schedule makes a campervan ideal for discovering the hidden gems of these regions.

Travelling by campervan not only brings the comforts of home on the road, such as your own bed, kitchen, and living space, but also eliminates the hassles of constant packing and unpacking. This is especially valuable in regions like Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki, where attractions are spread out. Having your necessities with you means you're always ready for the next adventure. 

 

Things to do in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki offer activities for all ages, from nature excursions to authentic cultural experiences. Explore Palmerston North's gardens and arts scene, Whanganui's historic riverboat cruise, or brave the surf at New Plymouth's beaches. Immerse yourself in the local culture with visits to museums, galleries, and artist studios. Whether it's outdoor excitement or cultural enrichment, this fascinating region provides something for everyone.

 

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Popular Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki road trips & itineraries

Stretching down the lower west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki are prime destinations for road trippers seeking a mix of culture, nature, and adventure. Easily accessible from major urban centres like Wellington and Auckland, the drive itself showcases the dramatic shift from urban landscapes to the lush, green countryside of Manawatu and the striking volcanic features of Taranaki. These routes not only offer breathtaking views but are dotted with a variety of attractions, making every stop an opportunity for discovery. 

 

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 Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki 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 road trip. 

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Long Hire Offer

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Apollo Campervan branches

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to the Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki region sets you up for a scenic journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and onto the North Island. 

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore the South Island before heading north? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days taking in some of the great southern highlights before crossing the Cook Strait by ferry.

Auckland

Set off from Apollo Auckland and kick off your exploration of this region in New Plymouth – just a few hours drive away. Make your way down the west coast taking in the charming townships, rolling rural landscapes, and rugged coastline as you venture south.  

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 Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

 

Climate and seasons in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Stretching hundreds of kilometres, this expansive region offers distinct seasonal experiences, making it an attractive destination year-round for visitors looking to enjoy a variety of landscapes and activities.

Manawatu-Whanganui enjoys a mild, temperate climate with moderate rainfall, making it pleasant for travel most of the year.

  • Summers (December to February) are warm with temperatures averaging around 22°C, ideal for exploring the great outdoors and the region's rivers and parks.
  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler temperatures and a beautiful change in foliage, particularly in the bush-clad hills, providing perfect conditions for hiking and photography.
  • Winter (June to August) can be cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 10°C, but it is generally mild compared to other regions, with occasional frost in sheltered areas.
  • Spring (September to November) sees the landscape rejuvenate with bursts of flowers and greenery, making it a lovely time for visiting the many gardens and reserves.

Taranaki is known for its more dynamic weather patterns, due to the presence of Mount Taranaki, which can attract clouds and cause quick changes in weather.

  • Summers here are pleasant with temperatures similar to Manawatu-Whanganui but expect more frequent rain showers that keep the surroundings lush.
  • Autumn sees stable weather, ideal for outdoor activities as the forests display a vivid array of autumn colours.
  • Winter in Taranaki can be wet, with more pronounced rainfall, and the mountain often receives snowfall, offering spectacular views and winter sports.
  • Spring brings a rapid growth of new foliage and is particularly spectacular as rhododendrons and other blooms erupt around the mountain's base.

 

 

 

What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan journey through Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki requires thoughtful packing to make the most of the diverse climates and activities available in these regions. Here’s what you should consider bringing along:

  • Outdoor gear: given the varied terrain from river valleys to volcanic mountains, pack versatile outdoor gear. Lightweight, breathable clothing will serve you well during warmer months, while waterproof and windproof layers are essential for the unpredictable weather near Mount Taranaki. Sturdy hiking boots are a must for exploring the rugged landscapes and numerous walking trails. With the stunning natural beauty and wildlife in both regions, a good camera can help you capture memorable landscapes and native birds. Binoculars will also enhance your experience, especially when visiting coastal areas and bird sanctuaries.
  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan experience can significantly improve your comfort during the trip. Consider including a portable heater for the cooler evenings, especially during winter months in Taranaki. A reliable GPS and physical maps can help navigate the more remote areas. Additional camping chairs and a table can also be handy for scenic stops along the coast or in forest parks.
  • Sun protection and rain gear: The regions' varying weather conditions call for both sun protection and rain gear. Pack a high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protection sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield against the strong New Zealand sun. Also, include a durable rain jacket and waterproof trousers to stay dry during sudden rain showers, particularly prevalent in Taranaki. For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

 

Nearby attractions and day trips from Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Manawatu-Whanganui

Whanganui River cruise or kayak

Experience the tranquil beauty of the Whanganui River by taking a leisurely cruise or paddling a kayak. This historic river offers stunning views of lush landscapes and provides a quiet escape into nature, perfect for a relaxing day on the water.

Whanganui National Park

Home to native forests and scenic waterways, Whanganui National Park is popular with hikers and walkers. The park is also home to the Bridge to Nowhere Walk, a 3 km return (around 1.5 hours) easy walk popular with visitors to the area.

Forgotten World Highway

The Forgotten World Highway, running through remote, mystic landscapes, offers a journey back in time. This historic route passes through rugged terrain, dense forests, and small forgotten towns, making it a unique adventure for road-trippers.

Bushy Park

Bushy Park Ecological Sanctuary, near Whanganui, is known for its rich biodiversity and protected native forest. The 100-hectare reserve is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the region, including a 500-year-old rata. The park's predator-free status allows visitors to encounter rare and endangered birds such as the hihi and saddleback in their natural habitat.

Nearby attractions and day trips from Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Dominating the landscape, Mount Taranaki offers challenging hikes and spectacular views from its summit. The symmetrical volcano is a striking feature of Egmont National Park, drawing climbers and photographers alike.

New Plymouth Coastal Walk

The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is a spectacular 13-kilometre path that stretches from Ngamotu Beach to Bell Block, offering panoramic views of the Tasman Sea. This award-winning walkway is ideal for walking, jogging, or cycling featuring iconic landmarks like the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which resembles a breaking wave or whale skeleton.

Pukekura Park

New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park is a beautifully landscaped garden featuring lakes, waterfalls, and exotic plants. It hosts the famous Festival of Lights, transforming into an enchanted evening wonderland.

Dawson Falls in Egmont National Park

Dawson Falls is a spectacular 18-metre waterfall located within Egmont National Park. The area around the falls offers picturesque walking tracks that wind through lush native bush, ideal for a short, scenic hike.

 

Where to stay in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:

Manawatu-Whanganui

Taranaki

 

 

 

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