5-day Central 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:

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. 
 

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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