New Zealand Road trip

3 days road trip in the North Island

New Zealand has been one of my favourite countries. From backpacking in the South Island to visiting some of the spectacular places, I have traveled in New Zealand extensively. During one of the travels, I spent 3 days in the North Island.

During one of the long weekends, my friend and I decided to do a road trip in the North Island specifically traveling to Tongariro national park. I was very excited but was nervous as well. This was the first time I was attempting to drive 850+ kilometres in 3 days. I had never driven a car on a highway, let alone such a long drive. I had to start somewhere and hence had agreed to go on this drive.

I was the only one driving for the whole trip as my friend did not know how to drive.

We drafted a tentative itinerary and after the bookings, we were set to go. We did stick to the plan, bit by bit, but the number of kilometres and the time of the drive increased as we had underestimated them.

I have also backpacked in the South Island for 10 days, read my post Backpacking in South Island.

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Flights to Auckland

Auckland is one of the major cities in New Zealand. There are frequent flights between Sydney and Auckland. Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main flight providers and Jetstar is the budgeted airline.

Watch out for deals on Jetstar website. There are plenty of amazing and cheap tickets, especially when you travel off peak season.

3 days road tripping in the North Island

Day 1 (Friday) – Auckland to Taupo

After reaching Auckland, we picked up the car from eZi car rentals and started for Taupo at about 4 PM. It took us a while to get out of the city as we had a bit of a problem in understanding the roundabouts and the GPS. We had decided to take constant breaks every one hour. The first break that we took was at Waikato to have our dinner. Even though Waikato is a small little town, it was very lively even at 7 PM.

Auckland to Waikato - 110 kilometres.

After having our dinner, we started for Taupo. My GPS had a little bit of glitch and took us through some country roads where we were lost. But this was a good thing as we had the opportunity to see the Aurora Australis (The Southern lights), Woohooo! We saw the beautiful orange lights along the horizons. Wow, it was stupendous. Unfortunately, we could not take pictures as we were awestruck and we just admired the beauty of the sky changing colours.

We reached Taupo at 12 AM and called it a night. And at Taupo, we stayed at Taupo Haka lodge backpackers.

Waikato to Taupo - 195 kilometres.

Day 2 (Saturday) – Taupo to Tongariro National Park

Since we had had a hectic start of our trip on day 1, we started our second day at 7:30 AM. The view from our room was so beautiful with the autumn colours.

Taupo Haka lodge backpackers
View from our room at Taupo Haka lodge backpackers

We started for Tongariro National Park at 9 AM from Taupo. The distance between the Taupo and Tongariro National Park was close to 100 kilometres. The landscapes along the way was breath taking.

Taupo to Tongariro National Park - 100 kilometres.

We were welcomed by the beautiful volcanic mountain, Mount Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park. Since, we did not have sufficient time to do the Tongariro Alpine crossing, we decided to do a 6 hour return walk to the Lower and Upper Tama lakes in Tongariro. The walk provided us with the astonishing and amazing views of the volcanic mountains in the national park, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe.

I also had to add some bit of drama to my walk, so I turned on my Bollywood music on full volume. Of course with headphones on. I danced like nobody was seeing while walking to the lakes.

After walking for close to 2.5 hours, we reached the first milestone, Lower Tama lake. Oh my God! It was stunning. The pictures captured here does not do any justice of the beauty we witnessed. The second milestone was the Upper Tama lake. The walk from Lower Tama lake to Upper Tama lake is quite steep and takes up to an hour. But the walk is definitely worth as the Upper Tama lake is even more beautiful than the Lower Tama lake.

Upper Tama Lake in Tongariro National Park
Upper Tama Lake

After enjoying the views of the two volcanic mountains and the two lakes, it was time to head back. The sunsets along the way was very impressive. The last 30 minutes of our walk was the highlight of our walk, we walked under the Milky Way and that was the memorable moment of my day. For some magical reason, I have always been fascinated of the Milky Way.

At Tongariro, we stayed at Youth Hostel Association (YHA) Tongariro National Park.

Day 3 (Sunday) – Tongariro National Park to Auckland

Starting our day lazily, we were set out to explore the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal wonderland in Rotorua. The distance between Tongariro National Park and Rotorua was about 185 kilometres.

Tongariro National Park to Rotorua - 185 kilometres.

The Wai-O-Tapu geothermal wonderland is definitely a wonderland which must not be missed. It is an active geothermal area at the southern end of the Okataina Volcanic Centre. Wai-O-Tapu supposedly means ‘sacred waters’ in Maori.


New Zealand has many geothermal parks, another one to visit is Waimangu Volcanic valley.

After lunch, we started from Wai-O-Tapu to Auckland. The distance between the two places was close to 258 kilometres. We made a quick photo session at the Lake Taupo.

Rotorua to Taupo - 80 kilometres.

For some unknown reasons, my GPS by passed all the highways and took us through the country roads. The drive was fantastic.

Day 4 (Monday) – Auckland to Sydney

We dropped the car at the eZi car rentals and took an early morning flight from Auckland to Sydney. I landed in Sydney to a wet Sydney morning.

Closing Notes

I will definitely remember this road trip for a long time. I had driven 850+ kilometres in just 3 days and was super elated to complete my first self driven road trip. The views and the drive were stunning and I definitely suggest driving in New Zealand because of its landscapes and scenaries.

Have you driven in New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below.

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