Buckle up and get ready to explore Auckland and the Bay of Islands on the ultimate New Zealand road trip! From stunning beaches, majestic mountains, and vibrant cities, this 7-day journey will take you through some of the country’s most iconic attractions.

From exploring vibrant cities and discovering untouched beaches on the south island to soaking in hot springs and taking part in cultural tours, you will experience the best of both land and sea. Whether you’re taking in the views from atop the Sky Tower or admiring the incredible marine life at Goat Island, you will be amazed by all that this magical country has to offer.

Auckland to Paihia (Bay Of Islands) Distance

For the ultimate New Zealand experience, take the scenic route for your 7-day road trip from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands. This journey will take approximately 4 hours, covering 265 km. With a few hours of driving each day, this itinerary allows for plenty of time to enjoy the sites along the way. Each stop is sure to bring unforgettable memories as well as opportunities for exploration.

Campervan on road in New Zealand

Quick stats

265km trip distance

7 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Day 1: Auckland to Whangaparaoa

Travel Time: 45 minutes
Whale breaching in New Zealand

Located just 45 minutes from Auckland, Whangaparaoa is an idyllic first stop on your journey. This hidden gem of the North Island is known for its crystal-clear views out to the Bay of Whales and frequent sightings of dolphins and orcas. Spend your first day exploring Manly Beach and Shakespear Regional Park before continuing on your seven-day road trip through the North Island’s spectacular landscape.

Sightseeing #1: Big Manly Beach

Big Manly Beach is perfect for the whole family – from its sandy beach that invites swimming, kite surfing and other watersports activities to the cliff’s panoramic views visible during low tide. Furthermore, it provides a playground and BBQ area for families to enjoy as well! There are also marked areas with buoys delineating two large designated swimming zones and one ski lane exclusively assigned to boats. Both trailer parking and vehicle access are available; no boat access onsite, however.

Sightseeing #2: Shakespear Regional Park

Shakespear Regional Park is the perfect place for families to relax and unwind. Take your loved ones on a leisurely stroll across the peaceful sheep paddocks or simply gaze at breathtaking cliff-top views. Nature enthusiasts can explore this protected area, filled with native animals and plants safeguarded by an expansive two-kilometre fence.

Day 2: Whangaparaoa to Matakana

Travel Time: 45 minutes
Vineyard in North Island, New Zealand

A few hours away from Whangaparaoa lies Matakana, a famous foodie heaven known for its weekend farmer’s market, boutique food shops and spectacular vineyards. Settled in the 1840s, the picturesque Matakana has a proud history, a strong sense of community, and over 30 boutique vineyards, olive groves and restaurants. Visitors to this region can take advantage of all it has to offer, with its locally-grown produce, local cafes and popular destination of weekends for many Aucklanders. From olive oil tastings to world-class wine tours and more – the Matakana region has something for everyone to enjoy.

Sightseeing #1: Sculptureum

Founded in 2017, Sculptureum offers art enthusiasts and sightseers alike the chance to explore over 800 works of art displayed across 6 galleries and 3 delightful sculpture gardens. Nestled just outside of Matakana, only an hour away from Auckland, visitors are welcomed to a truly unique artistic experience amongst pieces from some of the world’s greatest artists, including Picasso, Chagall, Rodin, Chihuly and Cezanne. The paths and gardens that meander throughout the venue offer breathtaking views set against a backdrop of colourfully planted trees.

Sightseeing #2: Te Hāwere-a-Maki / Goat Island

Boasting spectacular crystal clear waters and lush vegetation, Goat Island, or Te Hāwere-a-Maki as it is known to Ngāti Manuhiri, is a spiritual location of significance due to the fact that their ancestral canoe Moe Karaka landed here. Located in Matakana, this small island (only 1 hectare/2.5 acres) has become one of Auckland’s most popular spots for snorkelling and diving, making it New Zealand’s first marine reserve.

Day 3: Matakana to Te Arai

Travel Time: 30 minutes
Surfing in New Zealand

On Te Arai’s white sand beaches, surfers and paddleboarders will find ideal conditions, while swimmers will delight at the various spots the beach has to offer. It also has a sheltered quarry swimming hole sure to entice them into the clear waters. Behind its sand dunes, a huge campground provides motorhomes and self-contained vehicles with homely stays. Avid birdwatchers will also be in for a treat as this area is host to several species, such as the New Zealand Fairy Tern and the Northern New Zealand Dotterel.

Sightseeing #1: Te Arai Beach

Te Arai Beach is a gem nestled amongst the North Auckland Coastline. It is renowned for its pristine white sand and excellent surfing conditions, with many ranking it as one of the best surf spots in the Auckland region. Swimming here is safe, making it perfect for families who want to enjoy a day out by the beach. Here you can take time to appreciate the stunning Tuscan-style rolling hills that give this area its unique atmosphere. Sightseeing in Te Arai starts at this beautiful beach, and there’s no better way to relax than to take some time and enjoy it.

Sightseeing #2: Forestry Beach

Forestry Beach, the neighbour of Te Arai Beach, is slowly becoming more well-known each summer. It is the perfect place for those looking to escape the crowd and find some privacy. Even though it is a bit of a drive away from Auckland, it can be worth taking in other picturesque beaches around the area for an ultimate day out. A hidden gem, Forestry Beach offers tranquillity and excitement for visitors; aside from its clear waters and white sand beach, you may also enjoy fishing and surfing activities in this area.

Day 4: Te Arai to Mangawhai

Travel Time: 15 minutes
Heading out to surf as the sun rises. Waipu Cove, New Zealand

Spanning between Kaiwaka and Waipu and being only 105km away from Auckland, Mangawhai – a magical northern-most town in the Northland region – is a popular tourist destination praised for its white beaches, great surfing and fishing spots, gorgeous scenery and thriving local art community. In addition to its gorgeous beaches, the surrounding area offers fresh-water lakes, world-class golf courses, a French chocolate factory, boutique vineyards, farmers’ markets and various art trails or annual festivals to explore.

Sightseeing #1: Mangawhai Cliff Walk

A leisurely stroll along the Mangawhai Cliff Walk is sure to provide a remarkable experience. From the shoreline, you make your way up to an incredible lookout point that offers breathtaking views of Bream Head and Tāwharanui Peninsula – with distant sights of Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island/Aotea. As you ascend through picturesque farmlands and native forests be on the lookout for whales or sharks passing by!

Sightseeing #2: Mangawhai Heads Beach

Overlooking towards the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, Mangawhai Heads Beach is a picturesque beach that offers a large range of recreational activities for visitors. It’s known for its great surf conditions. However, the calm harbour and estuary waters also provide plenty of opportunities for a leisurely swim. The wildlife in this area is stunning, you could even be lucky enough to come across some dolphins if you’re observant. As soon as you arrive, you will witness an impressive white clay formation that stands proudly in front of the beach as its centrepiece and adds to its natural allure.

Day 5: Mangawhai to Whangārei

Travel Time: 1 hour
Campervan in a native lush rainforest in New Zealand

Whangārei boasts crystal clear beaches, stunning vistas and a laid-back lifestyle. Here, travellers will find plenty to do – shops and services, parks, walking track trails and even hot springs near Mount Parihaka. Spend some time on one of its many sandy strips before heading downtown for an array of local eateries or down to the Harbour for a spot of fishing. Whether you’re looking for total relaxation or beach-side adventures – the city with 100 beaches offers it all – making it an ideal stop on your Auckland to Bay of Islands road trip.

Sightseeing #1: Whangārei Falls

Nestled in the bustling city of Whangārei lies a tranquil 24-metre waterfall with its iconic “curtain” pattern cascading over lush native bush land. Here, you can witness an array of birdlife, including Kukupa/Native Wood Pigeon, Tui and Riroriro/Grey Warbler. With easy accessibility and reliable flow year round, coupled with its picturesque beauty, it is no wonder why visitors flock here to experience this serene atmosphere for themselves.

Sightseeing #2: Whangārei Quarry Gardens

Whangarei Quarry Gardens is a green jewel hidden in the core of Northland, New Zealand. This unique destination allows you to explore its beautiful subtropical gardens, native forest walks, waterfalls and streams. Along the way, you’ll discover quarry ruins and tunnels as well as an impressive display of New Zealand native and exotic species. The sheer beauty of this charming site is thanks to the hard work of volunteers, businesses and other organisations who have devoted their time and energy to creating this lush oasis in an unlikely place.

Day 6: Whangārei to Kawakawa

Travel Time: 45 minutes
Glow Worms in New Zealand Cave

As you continue your 7-day Auckland to Bay Of Islands Road Trip, day 6 brings you to Kawakawa. Made famous by its Austrian resident Friedensreich Hundertwasser and his creative designs, Kawakawa boasts the distinctive open-air toilets known as the Hundertwasser Toilets. As you drive through the town, these magnificent structures stand out with beaming colours, intricate mosaics and unique copper elements. The vibrant cobblestones add an artful touch that perfectly completes this spectacular work of art, punctuating a memorable stop along your journey.

Sightseeing #1: Waiomio Glowworm Caves

Located in the heart of the Waiomio Valley, these caves feature bizarre karst features, spectacular stalactite formations, and an awe-inspiring display of thousands of luminous glow worms in the Milky Way Cavern. These caves also house other hidden chambers like the Waiomio Night Sky, where the glow worms are so close it almost feels like you can reach out and touch them. For those looking for a more personal experience, guided tours are also available for visitors to really get an up-close look at New Zealand’s famous limestone cave system.

Sightseeing #2: Kawakawa Public Toilets by Hundertwasser

The Kawakawa Public Toilets, designed by acclaimed artist Hundertwasser and opened in 1999, are a sight to behold. Boasting his signature vibrant tile collages and curvaceous lines in miniature, these toilets offer art lovers a rare opportunity to experience the visionary style of the artist while still being able to make use of the amenities. Visiting tourists have been known to flock here not just for practical reasons but also to capture an image that perfectly encapsulates the unique style of this Austrian creative genius.

Day 7: Kawakawa to Paihia

Travel Time: 15 minutes
View of the calm turquoise South Pacific Ocean from the beautiful Urupukapuka Island, Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

During the final leg of your road trip along State Highway 11, you’ll arrive at Paihia – an iconic destination in the Bay of Islands that is known as its gateway. Paihia features a rich blend of activities and amenities with its beachfront location, busy wharf, range of accommodations and delicious dining options available. Get ready to explore some of New Zealand’s most beautiful islands by departing from the wharf for sea kayaking tours, fishing expeditions or a ferry ride to Russell. Other highlights include Cape Brett’s historic ‘hole in the rock’ and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds just down the road from Paihia offer a unique opportunity to understand New Zealand’s history.

Sightseeing #1: Piercy Island

Perched off New Zealand’s North Island lies Piercy Island, a rock populated by gannets and other sea birds. Captain Cook named it after one of his Lords of the Admiralty – Motukokako. With its majestic 60-foot (18 m) hole at sea level formed over centuries, this is an exquisite destination for all travellers! You can explore this remarkable place with several tour options, such as jet boats that make their way through ‘The Hole In The Rock’ when conditions allow. Don’t miss out on experiencing Piercy Island’s spectacular beauty!

Sightseeing #2: Urupukapuka Island

Urupukapuka Island is famous for its large range of archeological sites, with many being well-preserved. Visitors are able to explore and learn about some of the pre-European history on an interpretive short walk. For those wanting a ‘back to nature’ experience, there is ample opportunity to camp on this east coast island while admiring its amazing scenery and native birds. Visitors can enjoy swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking in the calm waters or exploring remote beaches away from any crowded areas. It’s certainly one of the most picturesque places in New Zealand.

Happy Exploring!

People relaxing next to campervan on side of road in New Zealand

For more information on hiring a campervan in Auckland, speak to the Travellers Autobarn Team or get a free online quote today!

For other amazing road trip ideas on the New Zealand North Island, please visit our North Island Road Trip section. Happy Exploring!

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