New Zealand is known for exploring, tramping and sightseeing, but you’d be surprised how you’ll still find places to visit that you’ve never seen, even after your 5th visit! This should not be surprising, given the absolute wealth of untouched beauty that surrounds. It is truly a magical place unlike any other. With national parks, their lush nature, and off-the-beaten-tracks locations surrounding us on all sides, we are truly spoilt with an abundance of choice.
Here is a 7-day guide on places to see and things to do, whether you are coming to New Zealand for the first time or you’re needing a little extra inspiration for your next trip. This itinerary is all within reasonable driving distance packed with experiences and destinations that are family-friendly for you to experience most of what the North Island has to offer.
Day 1: Coromandel – Hot Water Beach
The first destination I’ve had my heart set out to head to is the Coromandel. It’s known for its beautiful blue coastlines and known for its iconic hot water beaches! If you have 3-4 days to spend in this area, snaga Glamping pod at Shelley Beach Coromandel Holiday park for stay where you’ll be rewarded with a marvelous view right out your front door. This cozy cabin is a perfect space for two equipped with everything you’ll need to enjoy your experience in the Coromandel.
Take a day trip to the Cathedral cove where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to lace up the shoes and tackle some trails with beautiful checkpoints. Don’t forget to bring your own shovel and head to the Hot Water Beach during low tide to dig yourself your very own natural hot tub!
Day 2: Rotorua – Mountain Biking & Secret Spot Hot Tub
Nature is calling! Get some fresh air and walk high amongst 118 year old Redwoods on a 700m walkway. By day, walk amongst the 75-metre-tall Redwoods through eco-suspended bridges for a surreal experience above the forest floor. If you fancy an adventurous day, head over to Mountain Bike Roturoa and ride through the redwoods providing both easy and challenging trails for a jam-packed experience right in the woods. If you’re looking for an experience up top for panorama views of Rotorua, heading to Skyline Rotorua is a must on the Gondola. (hot tip: arrive early to skip the long queues!)
Relax the mind, nourish the skin and relieve tired muscles all in one place…end the day by treating yourself to a family-friendly experience at the Secret Spot Hot Tubs. The best thing? It’s accomodating for both small private groups or large groups set right in the forest where you can enjoy the views over a drink at their bar or complimentary water. After your soak, there are delicious smashed burgers from Blue Smoke BBQ Rotorua awaiting and outdoor seating for further relaxation allowing you to make precious memories with your travel companions!
Day 3: Taupo – Huka Falls
No visit to the North Island is complete without taking a trip to the iconic Taupo. It’s no wonder why every visitor ends up falling deeply in love with this place! From diverse landscape, activities galore and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, exploring this place is our idea of the perfect day trip. This destination is easily spotted on everyone’s New Zealand bucket list!
Drink in the wild air at Huka Falls. The powerful and colourful waterfall with 220 thousand litres pouring down per second, you’ll experience the very best of air and water thrills here. But perhaps you need a dopamine outburst? Try the Huka Falls Jet experience for a ride in the mighty river for a up close and personal time. It’s one of the most visited natural attractions and it’s no surprise with its perfect instagramable spot capturing the dreamy turquoise-colored water, even the photos don’t do the falls justice! It is a view and experience you must see and feel at least once in your life.
A trip to Taupo doesn’t just end there. Don’t forget to visit the Maori Rock Carvings Cruise, snapping a photo at the #LoveTaupo sign and of course having a dip at Otumuheke Steam.
Day 4: Hawkes Bay – Te Mata Peak
Not much beats a view like the one at Te Mata Peak, especially at sunrise with the sun breaking through a gap on the horizon to cast a golden glow. Do some nature bathing at this stunning park in the Hawkes Bay region where you’ll meet the sleeping giant, reminding us all about how tiny we are in this gigantic and magnificent world. Hike up to the peak and feel the buzz as you admire the spectacular 360 views of Hawke’s Bay. Or if you’d like to take the shortcut, you can always drive up to the top and have a beautiful picnic watching the sunset-rolling hills. There are multiple different tracks up this summit suitable for all ages. Not only does this experience provide some fresh air and exercise, but some insights to learn about the deep cultural relevance and history of this special place.
For stay, book a few nights at The Family Farm Mangarara which is one of my favorite stays so far! This eco-cottage is family-friendly perfect for large groups or a couples getaway. Here you will be emerged in regenerative agriculture where you can learn from a community of people that share the same values in leading a more sustainable journey. This private space is emerged right in nature and is a stone’s throw away from a lake with complimentary kayaks to enjoy the outdoors. With a large deck, outdoor games, indoor fireplace, and projector movie screen, the entertainment is sorted for a fantastic and educational getaway.
Day 5: Palmerston North – Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worm Cave
Grab your gumboots and waterproof gear to the most underrated glow worm cave based around a 40-minute drive from Palmerston North. This experience is great for a rainy day where you’ll go through a short walking track through a little cave tunnel. Here you’ll find an oasis with natural water trickling sounds and speckles of glow worms in the lush greenery. You don’t hear much around town about this spot but it is truly a New Zealand gem and one of our favorite spots!
Finish off those sore legs with a donut at Crafted & Co as your reward and get cosy, kick back those legs, and watch a film at Focal Cinema for a movie session. This family-owned business provides a one-of-a-kind theatre experience with comfy sofa couches, limited seating for space and distance, and food service while you’re enjoying your film of choice.
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