North of the North Island Road Trip
The South Island of New Zealand is one of the world’s premiere and most popular road trip destinations. A star in its own right and criminally underrated is its northern sibling; the North Island, just like Luke Hemsworth, Danni Minogue and Phillip Matera.
To show you how good this area of the world is, we’ve compiled a bit of a road trip for you to hit this summer that takes in places in the north of the north island - forgoing half of the island. These are only places from the centre of the island and up, starting from Lake Taupo.
Waikato to Rotorua
1. LEGENDS OF THE PEAK
If ever there was a country made for an off-road running festival, it’s New Zealand. This one is the ultimate. Legends of the Peak is set amongst the tallest trees in the world - redwoods - in the extraordinary Whakarewarewa Forest, and involves four different events, suited for both elite competitors and mad chillers. At the end of the event, there’s a proper festival – sip on a well-earned beverage, cop some live music, see your friends and whānau cross the line after an epic adventure.
November 10 - 11
From Rotorua to Taupō
2. Craters of the Moon
Most countries around the world have one or two impressive natural resources that wow travellers, whereas New Zealand has about 50. One of these is the geothermal walkway at Craters of the Moon, a cratered valley of other-worldly proportions, featuring bubbling craters and steaming vents. Take one small step for man after the other, and remind yourself that this outrageous slice of landscape is in fact still on Planet Earth.
From Taupō to Bay of Plenty
3. GINDULGENCE FESTIVAL
Gindulgence is New Zealand’s premier gin festival, with events in 2023 at Tauranga (November 4), Nelson (November 18) and Wellington (January 20 – 21). The Tauranga one is the one we’re choosing to focus on – set amongt the beaches and volcanic cones of one of New Zealand’s oldest cities, there’ll be free tastings, distiller talks, cocktails and live music. Leave the car keys in your hotel room and grab yourself a G & T in the sun – what a vibe.
"It's a dangerous business Frodo, going out your door.
"You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
Alright, we know: Hobbition isn’t really the nowhere-near-the-beaten-track sort of vibe you subscribe to get lost for - it’s actually one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations. But it’s popular for a reason, and we’re fairly certain Bilbo Baggins and get lost are akin when it comes to travel and adventure. Walk the charming paths and green hills of The Shire, grab a pint at The Green Dragon Inn, get a photo in front of a hobbit hole and boog under the Party Tree like it's your Eleventy-First birthday.
5. GET SOME WAVES, AND GET SOME FOOD
New Zealand’s answer to Byron Bay is located about 30 minute’s drive west of Hamilton, on the country’s north-west coast. Raglan is a great option for those looking for a little bit of bohemian luxury in rugged natural surroundings. It’s also ideal for those looking to catch a wave, with New Zealand’s longest point break on offer here. At the end of the day, hit up Ulo’s Kitchen – a funky, family-run Japanese restaurant is undoubtedly the trendiest place to eat in the region, with a DJ deck, eclectic décor, fresh food, local craft beer.
6. Night vibes in Auckland
You’ve made it to the big smoke. You’re near the end of your road trip, but it’s not a road trip without getting absolutely lit at least once – fortunately Auckland has you covered. New Zealand’s largest city is in a vibe in a few areas but we reccommend K’ Road, an up and coming section where chilled sundowners and proper disco boogs are equally achievable. Madam George is a modern Peruvian restaurant where you can sample exquisite fare, and a great place to start. Caretaker is an intimate New York-style drinking lounge, and if you’re still going strong later on, InkBar is drum and bass operation open until very late.
7. THE ARK
The chequered flag to your road trip is on the northern tip of the island – but this is no frantic to dash to the finish line.
We love The Ark – a small houseboat with its own lake, situated in a tiny corner of the world named Kerikeri, a quaint village with an even quainter pub and a winery.
It's a little wooden shack docked onto the wharf of the lake, with a deck to sit out and read, drink or get a tan, or maybe all of those. Go for a dip in the lake, and forget about notifications – Zuckerberg can’t get you out here.