10 Day North Island Winter Roadie | Apollo Campervans NZ
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10 Day North Island Winter Roadie

This winter roadie will take you to the amazing Central plateau ski area and the iconic NZ attractions in Rotorua, Hobbiton, Taupo and the Coromandel.

10
Days
1,204
Kms
45+
Stops
5+
Natural Hot Springs

While the South Island may be home to the Southern Alps, the North Island is home to the equally amazing Central Plateau. It is New Zealand’s volcanic, cultural and thermal capital, home to a plethora of adventure activities, along with one of the world's only super volcanos! Between the snowcapped volcanos, lakes and native forest, it is a wonderous winter road trip landscape that this itinerary makes the most of!  

You will visit the largest ski field in the country, with relaxing thermal pools around every corner and amazing views across some of the most dramatic landscapes you will ever see. What’s more, this route takes in the highlights of not one, but THREE of the Themed Highways of New Zealand, renown for showcasing the best of the best of Aotearoa. 

With bonus visits to the Waitomo glowworm cave, Hobbiton and the Coromandel Peninsula, it is a great way to spend 10 days on a winter road trip in the North Island.

Itinerary 

Day 1: Auckland – Waitomo (3hrs, 10mins, 236km) 

Day 2: Waitomo – Tongariro National Park (3hrs, 15mins, 199km) 

Day 3:  Whakapapa Ski field 

Day 4: Turoa Ski field  

Day 5:   Tongariro National Park - Lake Taupo (1hr, 10mins, 100kms) 

Day 6: Lake Taupo – Rotorua (1hr, 30mins 105km) 

Day 7:  Rotorua 

Day 8: Rotorua – Hobbiton – Tauranga (2hrs, 10mins, 142kms) 

Day 9: Tauranga – Hahei (2hrs, 45mins, 159kms) 

Day 10: Hahei – Auckland (4hrs, 30mins 263km) 

Full Itinerary 

Day 1: Auckland – Waitomo (3hrs, 10mins, 236km) 

Your first day sees you head south towards Hamilton and its wonderous world class gardens before taking some time to explore and meet the locals at Hamilton Zoo or visit the amazing Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. At 3,400ha, this is one of the world's largest fence protected, pest free areas and contains New Zealand's endemic species living how they did before the introduction of mammals. From bats to birds, reptiles to giant weta, take a walk back in time in our real-life version of Jurassic park - less the angry dinosaurs! 

After lunch, continue south towards the world famous and equally amazing Waitomo glow worm caves, locally referred to as “the land of the living stars. They dazzle, as light washes over you thanks to New Zealand's endemic glow worm species. The grotto offers ambiance and gorgeous luminescence as you explore first by foot and then by small boat through this underground wonderland. 

Highlights 

  • Hamilton Zoo 

  • Mountain Maungatautari 

  • Waitomo Caves 

Where to stay: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park is conveniently located just a short walk from the glow worm caves making it an ideal place to spend the night while you relax with the heated pool and outdoor spa.  

Apollo hint: Book in the last tour of the day at Waitomo to avoid the buses and day trippers who would have set off back to Auckland in the afternoon. 

 

Waitomo - the land of the living stars

 

Day 2: Waitomo – Tongariro National Park (3hrs, 15mins, 199km) 

Start the day with a short drive to the lovely Te Kuiti for breakfast. While there, grab a picture at its massive statue commemorating its place as the sheep shearing capital of New Zealand and say hello to the statue of Sir Colin “Pine Tree” Meads, one of our most famous and influential All Blacks. It just doesn’t get much more kiwi than that! 

Next up is a stop at the incredible Pureora Forest, home to a 760-square-kilometre rain forest with a protected 1,000-year-old majestic podocarp area. With towering totaras and rimu, matai, miro and kahikatea trees, it is full of awesome short walks for you to explore. 

You end the day in Tongariro National Park  and camp among some of the best short walks in New Zealand, a stone's throw from the ski areas of the central plateau. This is a great place to add an extra day and take on Mount Doom at one of the world's best day hikes – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing 

Highlights 

  • Sir Colin Meads Statue 

  • Sheep Shearing Monument 

  • Pureora forest 

  • Tongariro National Park 

Where to stay: Whakapapa Holiday Park is located in the stunning Tongariro National Park, just a short drive from the skifield and several hiking trails including one of the best short walks in the word – the Tongaririo Alpine Crossing. 

Apollo hint:  Pureora forest is also home to the burred forest, one of the world's best-preserved forests following a volcanic eruption of Taupo in 232AD. 

Tongariro National Park holds two UNESCO awards and is a must see

 

Day 3:  Whakapapa Ski field 

Mt Ruapehu is home to New Zealand’s largest ski field at Whakapapa. It is an ideal place to start your ski holiday thanks to it hosting “Happy Valley”, the country's largest, purpose-built beginners' facility. 

550ha of incredible terrain await you and this prestigious ski field, 30% beginner, 45% Intermediate and 25% advanced.  Its terrain is treeless making for plenty of off-piste options, with numerous chutes, bowls and drops all across the natural volcanic terrain – yes you will be skiing on a volcano! 

Aside from the amazing skiing, this field also has stunning views of the central plateau and is a popular hike in the summer months. 

Highlights 

  • Whakapapa ski field 

  • Incredible views of the central plateau 

  • Ski on a volcano! 

  • Be sure to take the sky waka Gondola over the incredible landscape to New Zealand's highest restaurant at Knoll Ridge. 

Where to stay: Whakapapa Holiday Park is located in the stunning Tongariro National Park, just a short drive from the skifield and several hiking trails including one of the best short walks in the word – the Tongaririo Alpine Crossing. 

Apollo hint: The Sky waka takes you to one of the best views of the entire central pleatau and is worth the effort even if you don't have time for dinner.

Mt Ruapehu holds two scenic ski fields including New Zealand's largest.

Day 4:  Turoa Ski field 

Like Whakapapa, the Turoa ski area is also located on Mt Ruapehu. Set on its western slopes, Turoa has the highest vertical drop (722m) of any ski area in New Zealand. Turoa is a non-for profit which means any earnings are reinvested back into this awesome ski area. 

Turua has something for everyone with 20% beginner, 55% intermediate and 25% advanced terrain available of a similar volcanic topography to Whakapapa. 

 

Highlights 

  • Turoa Ski field 

  • Take the High noon express to 1,320 meters! 

  • Incredible views of the central plateau 

  • Ski on a volcano! 

Where to stay: Whakapapa Holiday Park 

Apollo hint: Check the road, snow and field conditions HERE 

Mt Ruapehu provides a sightseeing and ski experience rolled into one

Day 5: Tongariro National Park -  Lake Taupo (1hr, 10mins, 100kms) 

Lake Taupo is the adventure capital of the north and home to some amazing experiences. After some big days skiing, feel free to have a morning soak at Otumuheke stream spa park. For thrill seekers, world class sky diving over a super volcano and white-water river rafting awaits, while those looking for a more relaxed experience can enjoy some of the best fly fishing in the world, river and lake cruises with the Mine Bay cruise or kayak a must to see the massive Maori carvings. 

This is the Volcanic highway and you are now at a Super Volano. The Lake Taupo eruption around 1,800 years ago was the largest eruption to shake the world in the last 5,000 years. It’s major eruption 27,000 years ago was so large it covered the Chatham Islands with 18cm of ash and its cloud caused red skies in China! 

Highlights 

  • Mine Bay carving tour (boat or kayak) 

  • Raft and fly Fishing the Tongariro River 

  • Sky Diving Lake Taupo 

  • Tongariro river rafting 

  • Lake Taupo cruises 

  • Otumuheke stream spa park 

Where to stay: Motutere Bay Top 10 Holiday Park is the ONLY campsite on the shores of the stunning Lake Taupo. It’s the best of both worlds, far enough away from the town to give you some peace and quiet yet only a short drive in if you want to explore the urban area 

Apollo Hint: The Lake will usually be calmer in the morning, so that’s often the best time to do a kayak or boat cruise to the Mine Bay carvings. 

Otumuheke spa park is one of many free hot springs to visit on this trip

Day 6: Lake Taupo – Rotorua (1hr, 30mins 105km) 

You have a few stops to make before you even make it to Rotorua, so don’t sleep in! Your first stop is Huka falls on the mighty Waikato River, where you can watch over 220,000 liters PER SECOND barrel over an 11m high waterfall as the full force of the might Waikato River is forced into a raging torrent of water through a 20m bottleneck.  

Ever heard of the Golden fleece terrace? This is one of New Zealand's few remaining geo-thermal hidden gems at Orakei Korako where you will also find geysers, bubbling mud pools and one of only two geothermal caves in the entire world!  

There are many short walks available in the area, with our favorite being to Kerosene creek where you can soak in the bliss under a geothermal waterfall! 

Arriving into Rotorua, head to Te Puia for a tour and hungi meal – what an ideal way to be greeted into New Zealand’s cultural heartland. Te Puia is home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and is one of the few places you can watch master carvers breathing life into their amazing works of art while also laying eyes on their geothermal park.  

The nightlights tree tops walk at Redwood Forest is a great evening walk where you can explore between massive redwoods that are over a hundred years old and is a great way to finish up your night, walking off a big meal! 

Highlights 

  • Huka Falls Lookout and walk 

  • Orakei Korako Geothermal Park 

  • Kerosene Creek 

  • Te Puia Maori institute and geothermal park 

  • Redwoods Treewalk 

Where to stay: Overnight Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park or nab up one of the 3 free spaces on the waterfront at the freedom camping area at the Rotorua yacht club or the larger freedom camping area near the Polynesian spa. 

Apollo hint: A lot of the activities in Rotorua have curtesy shuttles that leave from the CBD. This means you can get to the lakeside Freedom Camping Area at the Yacht club nice and early park up and explore, reserving yourself a spot for later! 

The Redwoods Tree Walk can be done by day or lit up at night.

Day 7: Explore Rotorua 

It’s time you fully explore the Pacific Ring of Fire! It’s a notorious mix of tectonic plate boundaries and fault lines which has provided the building blocks for both the pacific land masses and its infamous geo-thermal activity. No surprises to find that Rotorua lies right in the thick of it and with its plethora of thermal parks with bubbling hot pools, skyward shooting geysers and natural hot springs, it has earned its moniker as the thermal capital of New Zealand while also being a hub of Maori and Pacifica culture making it one of New Zealand’s top destination towns. 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a land that Papatūānuku, the earth mother has spent thousands of years sculpting and this thermal area, complete with dazzling colors and geysers reaching for the skies is quite stunning. Just down the road, you will find the secret hot and cold pools, a confluence of one heated and one natural stream where you can pick your spot and get the temperature just right for you. 

Finish off the day enjoying a Maori and Pacifica cultural show at Mitai Village along with a fabulous hungi for dinner or check out one of the fabulous eateries Rotorua has on offer. 

Highlights 

  • Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland 

  • Hot and Cold Pools 

  • Kerosene Creek 

  • Mitai Maori village 

Where to stay: Overnight Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park or nab up one of the 3 free spaces on the waterfront at the freedom camping area at the Rotorua yacht club or the larger freedom camping area near the Polynesian spa. 

Apollo hint: Check out the government gardens and Rotorua Museum, a wonderful garden to explore and a very unique colonial building, plus a great museum to get lost in! 

Rotorua is the amazing thermal capital of New Zealand

Day 8: Rotorua – Hobbiton – Tauranga (2hrs, 10mins, 142kms) 

Start the morning with a rafting experience like no other as you plunge down the highest commercially rafted waterfall (7 meters!) in the world on the Kaituna River!  

Leave the volcanic world behind and step right into that of J.R.R. Tolkien as you take your next adventure at Hobbiton. Here is your chance to experience Middle Earth from the view of a Hobbit as you explore Bag End, The Green Dragon Inn and so much more. 

Next, it’s time to head to the wonderful coastal town of Tauranga, capital of the aptly named region of the Bay of Plenty. For lunch, try out the hidden gem of Bobby’s Fish Market for some amazing locally sourced and fresh fish and chips. There are lots of things to explore in this lovely city, perhaps one of the quirkier is the wonderful collection of Hairy Maclary and friends statues on the waterfront.  

In the evening, head to Mount Manganui for a short walk “up the mount” before exploring the local nightlife and foodie scene for dinner. 

Highlights 

  • Hobbiton 

  • Kaituna River rafting 

  • Tauranga 

  • Bobby’s Fish Market 

  • Mt Manganui 

Where to stay: There is a freedom camping area located on the waterfront at Maketu or if you want to stay a little closer to the hustle and bustle, nightlife and cafes, then Mt Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park is an ideal option set against a white sand beach and the beautiful back drop of the mount. 

Apollo hint: If you are unsure which amazing place to have dinner at around the mount, check out this helpful guide on some of the awesome eateries on offer 

Take your fellowship to Hobbiton and jump into Middle-earth

Day 9: Tauranga – Hahei (2hrs, 45mins, 159kms) 

Heading into the coromandel peninsula, you will first pass through the Athenree gorge with its collection of fresh fruit and vege stalls that you can take your pick from. Next you will be arriving into Waihi, an historic mining town where you can explore the Karangahake gorge walkway with its stunning river walks and hidden swimming holes for a refreshing dip! 

Explore a plethora of beaches as you head south, including Whangamata beach, one of New Zealand’s best surf beaches with Kayak access to the amazing Whenakura Island that has a lagoon hidden away at its center! 

It’s time to head towards Hahei – a town known for some amazing attractions right on its doorstep! Make a quick check of the tides as if it is within 2 hours of low tide, head down to Hot Water Beach and dig your own hot pool right on the coast! 

Highlights 

  • Whangamata beach 

  • Whenakura Island 

  • Waihi 

  • Karangahake Gorge 

  • Athenree gorge 

Where to stay: Hahei holiday resort provides an ideal place to explore the region. It has waterfront sites that give you access right onto the stunning beach and you can walk to cathedral cove from the campsite while hot water beach is just 10 minutes' drive away. This walk also takes in the beautiful coastal trail which is the best short walk in the region and takes about an hour. Watch out for the little tufted headed Californian quail that call the hills home. 

Apollo hint: The best way to explore Whenakura Island is by Kayak allowing you to explore the hidden lagoon.  

Dig your own hot spring at Hot Water Beach

 

Day 10: Hahei – Auckland (4hrs, 30mins 263km) 

With two of the country's top attractions on your back door step, what a place to be! Hot water beach and cathedral cove are both best done on low tide. If you were unable to do Hot Water Beach last night, don’t worry as you can do both on one low tide today. Start the walk to cathedral cove around 2.5 hours before low tide which will give you ample time to explore both there and at Hot Water Beach. 

Before heading over the coromandel range, be sure to check out new chums beach, rated in the top 20 in the world by Britain's “The Observer” and is a favorite of Lonely Planets. Enjoy a golden beach with shimmering waters surrounded by New Zealand's only native palm before it’s time to head for Auckland. 

Enjoy the scenic pacific coast highway, blessed by Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea blessed this area with a breathtaking coast framed by beautiful Pohutukawa trees making it one of New Zealand's most popular destinations, while its remoteness still makes you feel like you are off the beaten track. Have one final soak in the lovely thermal pools at Miranda before enjoying the views at the seabird coast and lookout 

Finally, it’s back over the Bombay hills to the drop off at the Auckland branch. 

Highlights 

  • Hahei 

  • Cathedral Cove 

  • Hot Water Beach 

  • New Chums Beach 

  • Miranda Springs 

  • Sea Bird Coast and Lookout 

Apollo hint: If you are short of time or have an early flight, you can make a direct trip back to Auckland from Hahei to save a little time (2hrs, 30mins, 166km). 

 

Cathedral Cove is a jewel in the crown of the Coromandel

 

Ready to explore?

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