With few other modes of transport available in remote New Zealand, your own vehicle is the best way to get around. It gives you the freedom to go where you wish, explore the little nooks and crannies that make the country so fascinating and the spectacular scenery makes for anything but a boring drive. Plus, if you’re hire a larger vehicle, you can fold down your bed and save plenty of bucks on your accommodation. If you’re sold up a road trip through New Zealand’s North Island, then grab a north shore car rental and be sure not to miss these spots that are only accessible by road.
Coromandel Peninsula. After you’ve had your fill of Auckland, hit the road and work your way along the beautiful 3-hour journey to the Coromandel Peninsula. That may feel like a long way, but trust us when we say it’s worth the trip. Expect beautiful stretches of sandy beach, tumbling coastal forests and secluded little spots. Settle in for a few days of hiking and mountain biking. Alternatively, hop on kayaks to glide along the ocean’s surface.
Waitomo. Your trusty car is ready again to whisk you away to the village of Waitomo. Though it’s charming in its own right, most people visit to descend into the underground caves to see the natural phenomenon of millions of glowworms. While you’re there, swing by the Otorohanga Kiwi House to see the rare species that gives the country its nickname.
Bay of Islands. While the Bay of Islands might not be a hidden gem, the 144 islands that make up the archipelago are simply astonishing. Once you’ve dropped off your north shore car rental, hop on the ferry service to head out to the islands where you can see all manner of wildlife from playful dolphins to waddling penguins. One of the best ways to see the islands is onboard rental kayaks.
Tongariro Crossing. Back in your car, you can drive down to the Tongariro Crossing, one of the most challenging and rewarding day hikes in New Zealand. Starting at well over 1,100 meters above sea level in the Mangatepopo Valley, you’ll spend a full day crossing volcanic rock, glistening lakes and winding trails. If you’re going to do just one thing, make it this.
Mount Maunganui. More beachy fun can be had when you drive into Mount Maunganui, a town squeezed onto the peninsula off Tauranga Harbor. This high natural sandbar protects the harbor on one side, but on the other you have one of New Zealand’s most consistent Pacific swells. If you can drag yourself away from the golden beach and waves, lace up your walking boots to hike up the zigzagging trails to the peak of Mauao, a 230-meter-high hill that towers over the ocean.
Napier. When you drive into Napier, you’ll find a town that teems with Art Deco architecture which was built after a devastated earthquake destroyed it in the 1930s. If you’re staying in town for a few days, drive out to the surrounding vineyards to learn about the techniques of wine production and of course, sample some vintage red and whites.
Rotorua. It’s hard to talk about Rotorua without mentioning North Island’s Rotorua. When you drive into the area, you can discover the many natural wonders which make the area so special. Expect bubbling mud pools and steamy geysers. It’s also a cultural center for the country’s Maori culture.