10-day North Island road trip with kids | Apollo NZ
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Wellington and the Wairarapa

Looking for great cafes, unique wildlife encounters, and boutique shopping? You’ll find it all and more in the Wellington and Wairarapa region. Wellington, the nation's capital, buzzes with an infectious energy, boasting an arts scene as vibrant as its famed coffee culture. Enjoy a relaxing breakfast overlooking Wellington’s beautiful harbour. Spend an afternoon meeting the wildlife at Wellington Zoo. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll love sampling the tasty offerings at Wellington’s renowned cafes and eateries. 

Just a short drive away, the Wairarapa region unfolds with its charming townships, renowned wineries, and lush rural landscapes. Once you’ve ticked off your list of things to do in Wellington, hit the road and start exploring everything on offer in the Wairarapa. We’re talking wineries, cycle trails, artisan producers, and spectacular coastlines boasting unbeatable stargazing.  

No matter what time of year you’re planning your campervan holiday in New Zealand, Wellington and Wairarapa stand out as year-round destinations. In summer, Wellington's waterfront comes alive, perfect for sun-drenched strolls and alfresco dining, while the Wairarapa's golden beaches beckon for lazy afternoons and vibrant sunsets. Autumn transforms the landscape into a tapestry of reds and golds; it's the best time to meander through the Wairarapa's vineyards, savouring the region's renowned pinot noir amidst the fall foliage.

 

Why explore Wellington & Wairarapa by Campervan

There’s no better way to discover Wellington and Wairarapa than with an Apollo campervan. Be as spontaneous or structured as you like. Take your time, travel at your own pace, and truly immerse yourself in everything on offer in this special region. With your own kitchen, bed, and bathroom onboard, travel by Apollo campervan is all about freedom and comfort. A road trip through Wellington and the Wairarapa in a campervan is all about the freedom to go where you want when you want. With a campervan, your plans are as flexible as your mood, allowing you to soak up moments that you'd miss if you were rushing to meet hotel or tour schedules.

Travelling by campervan isn't just about getting from A to B; it's about the experiences along the way. It's about impromptu picnics at breathtaking overlooks, morning coffees with views that beat any café, and nights spent under a blanket of stars. Fancy spending an extra day exploring a hidden gem you've stumbled upon? Go for it. Every turn in the road offers new possibilities, and with a campervan, you're in the driver's seat!

A campervan holiday in New Zealand, especially through areas like Wellington and the Wairarapa, is a journey into the heart of what makes this part of the world so special. And it's all yours to explore!

 

Things to do in Wellington & Wairarapa

Wellington and the Wairarapa are bursting at the seams with activities and sights, catering to every taste and interest. If you’re enjoying a family holiday, you’ll find plenty of great family-friendly things to do in Wellington that promise fun for all ages. And if you’re a foodie looking for a taste of something new, you’ll find no shortage of must-try food in Wellington. Venture into the Wairarapa, and you'll find a peaceful escape with wine tours, scenic hikes, and charming country towns waiting to be explored. 

Top 15 things to do in Wellington Top 15 things to do in Wellington

Top 15 things to do in Wellington

In this helpful guide, we share 15 of the must-do Wellington activities worth adding to your travel itinerary.  But first …

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Popular Wellington & Wairarapa road trips & itineraries

Positioned at the southern end of New Zealand's North Island, Wellington and the Wairarapa region are perfectly placed for unforgettable road trips. Starting from Wellington, you can easily navigate your way through the scenic routes that lead to the Wairarapa, where vineyards, coastlines, and quaint towns await. Whether you're coming from the North Island's urban centres or making the crossing from the South Island, these regions offer fantastic campervan road trip experiences with a variety of itineraries to suit every traveller’s taste. Here are a few worth checking out:

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. 
 

Apollo Campervan branches

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Wellington takes you along some of the South Island’s most scenic coastline. There’s a fair bit to see and do along the way, so be sure to take your time and perhaps plan an overnight stay in Kaikoura. This journey includes crossing the Cook Strait by ferry.

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore more of the South Island? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days heading northward, including crossing the Cook Strait by ferry. You may even like to plan an epic road trip and continue on to Auckland. You can arrange to drop off your camper at any of our three branches. 

Auckland

The North Island is packed full of sights and experiences, so why not tick off a few with a road trip from Apollo Auckland to Wellington? The beauty of a campervan trip is that you can stop when you need to, change your route, or take a detour if you spot a signpost pointing to something you’d like to see. 

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 Wellington & Wairarapa

 

Climate and seasons in Wellington & The Wairarapa

Wellington and the Wairarapa showcase New Zealand's dynamic climate, offering a spectrum of seasonal experiences.

Wellington, known for as the ‘windy city’, presents a temperate maritime climate.

  • Summers (December to February) are pleasant with temperatures averaging around 19°C to 21°C, ideal for beach visits and outdoor cafes.
  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler, calm days, perfect for exploring the city's vibrant arts scene.
  • Winter (June to August) sees temperatures drop to 6°C – 12°C, a time when the region's cultural events come to the forefront.
  • Spring (September to November) revitalises the city with mild temperatures and blooming gardens.

The Wairarapa, while sharing Wellington's temperate traits, often enjoys more pronounced seasonal contrasts, especially in the more rural areas. Expect crisp, frosty mornings in winter, transitioning to warm, dry summers ideal for vineyard tours. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, though June and July can be wetter, making the lush landscapes even more vivid.

 

 

 

 

What to pack

An adventure through Wellington and the Wairarapa in your campervan calls for thoughtful packing. Given the varied climates and the awesome variety of outdoor activities available, ensuring you have the right gear can make all the difference. From essential outdoor apparel to campervan must-haves and sun protection, here's what you should consider packing.

  • Outdoor gear: The great outdoors of Wellington and the Wairarapa invite exploration, so outdoor gear is important. Pack layers to adapt to the changing weather – think breathable fabrics for warm days and insulated, waterproof options for cooler, wetter conditions. Sturdy walking shoes are a must for those planning to tread the numerous trails or wander the vibrant city streets.
  • Campervan add-ons: To make the most of your campervan experience, consider packing some add-ons. A portable barbecue can elevate your dining under the stars, while extra camping chairs and a table (these can be added to your campervan hire) can make your outdoor setup more comfortable.
  • Sun protection: New Zealand's sun can be surprisingly intense, so ample sun protection is essential. A broad-spectrum sunscreen, UV-protected sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat should be on your packing list. 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 Wellington

Paekakariki & The Escarpment Track

Just a short drive from Wellington, Paekakariki serves as the gateway to The Escarpment Track, one of the region's most exhilarating walks. This trail offers stunning views of the Kāpiti Coast and the Tasman Sea, making it a favourite among hikers. The track's challenging stair sections and swing bridges add to the adventure, providing a rewarding experience with panoramic vistas at every turn.

Kāpiti Coast & Kāpiti Island

The Kāpiti Coast, with its beautiful beaches and quaint towns, is perfect for a leisurely day trip. For a unique adventure, take a boat to Kāpiti Island, a nature reserve that's home to some of New Zealand's most rare and endangered birds. The island's rich history and conservation efforts, combined with its natural beauty, make it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

Somes Island

Located in the middle of Wellington Harbour, Somes Island (Matiu) offers a peaceful escape with a rich history. Accessible by ferry, this predator-free scientific reserve boasts a unique blend of natural and historical attractions, including well-preserved WWII-era relics. It's an ideal spot for picnics, short walks, and wildlife spotting, especially for those interested in conservation and history.

Days Bay and the Remutakas

Days Bay, accessible by a scenic ferry ride from Wellington, is known for its vibrant arts scene, cafes, and swimming beach, making it a popular spot for relaxation and recreation. For the more adventurous, a drive through the Remutaka Ranges offers breathtaking views and access to a network of trails in the Remutaka Forest Park, perfect for hiking and biking enthusiasts.

 

 

Nearby attractions and day trips in the Wairarapa

Castle Point Lighthouse

Perched on a scenic clifftop, Castle Point Lighthouse stands as a beacon of beauty in the Wairarapa region. This historic lighthouse, accessible via a short, scenic walk, offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the vast Pacific Ocean. It's an ideal spot for photography, wildlife watching, and soaking in the serene beauty of one of New Zealand's most picturesque locations.

Pūtangirua Pinnacles and Cape Palliser

The Pūtangirua Pinnacles, with their eerie, towering rock formations, offer a landscape that feels like stepping onto another planet. These geological wonders, coupled with a visit to nearby Cape Palliser, where you can climb New Zealand's tallest lighthouse, make for an unforgettable day trip full of adventure and natural beauty.

Greytown

Greytown is a charming Victorian country village known for its well-preserved heritage buildings, boutique shopping, and artisanal eateries. Strolling through the tree-lined streets, you'll find a delightful mix of antique stores, galleries, and cafes that exude a quaint, laid-back vibe. It's the perfect destination for those looking to unwind and indulge in the slower pace of rural New Zealand life.

 

 

Where to stay in Wellington & The Wairarapa with a campervan

Exploring Wellington and the Wairarapa in a campervan offers the ultimate freedom to discover New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and townships at your own pace. When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds that cater to every need. Here are a few worth adding to your travel itinerary:

Wellington

Wairarapa

For more great family friendly campsites and holiday parks, check out our guide to the best family friendly campgrounds near Wellington.

Top 15 things to do in Wellington Top 15 things to do in Wellington

Top 15 things to do in Wellington

In this helpful guide, we share 15 of the must-do Wellington activities worth adding to your travel itinerary.  But first …

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