Auckland to Gisborne

This journey’s all about the East Coast of the North Island with a return leg that takes you through the middle.

You’ll start in the country’s biggest and most happening city, Auckland, then head East through the Coromandel, down to Gisborne and Napier then back through the big lake in the middle of the island – Lake Taupo. Keep your camera at the ready and don’t be afraid of taking a dip in a roadside river or untouched beach.

Location start and finish:

Auckland to Gisborne

Time Recommended:

5-7 days

Key Locations:

Auckland, Napier, Rotorua, Taupo, Gisbourne

So we start in Auckland. A quick heads up about the AK – nearly half of the country live here. It’s a massive contrast to the rest of the country with its suburbs and CBD.

There’s a lot of fun to be had in this big little city though. A trip out west to see the rugged West Coastblack sand beaches of Piha, Karekare, Bethells or Muriwai is a must.

Image by Lucky Rentals

The central city offers water front good times with bars, restaurants and ferries to Waiheke – an island paradise with sumptuous vineyards. Drive over the magnificent Harbour Bridge to the North Shore too – you’ll see a cracking view of the city and get to visit some beautiful suburban beaches.

If you can pull yourself away from the City of Sails then head south east to the Coromandel Peninsula. Driving through Thames will let you experience the sunny, Pohutukawa tree lined coast – stop off for an ocean swim whenever you feel like it to freshen up. Once you’re at the Coromandel the options for beach adventures are endless.

New Chums, one of the world’s top rated beaches, can be found if you make the trek over from Whangapoua. There’s also the pristine beauty of Cathedral Cove near Hahei and the natural warm water beach pools of Hot Water beach. Get exploring and spend a couple of days at your favourite.

From the Coromandel we reckon get driving down the coast and don’t stop til Opotiki. Here you can slow down and enjoy a gentler pace of life. Again, there’s a stunning beach with some decent waves on the right swell. You might want to try and catch your dinner too, Opotiki is a great fishing spot.

Next you’re going to put your campervan through its paces through navigating the infamous Waioeka Gorge. This stunning piece of State Highway 2 lets you follow a river rapid on the way to Gisborne. Gizzy’s a stunning coastal NZ town that boasts some of the best waves and grapes in the country.

Image by Lucky Rentals

If wine or surfing isn’t your thing you can always hurl yourself down the natural rock slide on a body board or relax next to the river that runs through the central city. 

We reckon head down the coast to Napier.

The Art Deco capital of the world is a timeless treat. The gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers is worth a drive and again, this is a region where you’re mad if you don’t try a glass of the local wine. The Church Road vineyard is well worth a visit to soak in the history and a stunning Pinot Noir. If you’re around on a Saturday stock up the van with some of the local produce at the Napier farmers’ market.

From Napier we head to Taupo.

The giant lake is actually a huge volcano – but don’t worry it hasn’t erupted since 181 AD! There’s a cute little lakeside town to check out before you hit the slopes of Mt Ruapehu or get smashed about in the Huka Falls or take a cruise round the lake. If you’re up for a trekking adventure then make sure you give the Tongariro Crossing a go. There’s even more adventure to be had if you set off across the alpine region and the central plateau. Make sure you give the lakeside hole-in-one challenge a go too!

Image by Lucky Rentals

Rotorua’s next on our inland journey.

You’ll smell Rotorua before you see it. The place has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity so there’s plenty of natural geysers mud pools and hot springs. Make sure you take a trip out to Kerosene creak too and get a swim in the naturally warm river that’s just a little bit off the beaten tourist track. The local Maori culture of the city can offer loads of cultural experiences. You’ll want to try a feast of the local cuisines from a steaming pit known as a Hangi.