One week North Island New Zealand gateway. Volcanoes, caves and movie adventure

7 days

New Zealand is a small country, but not a secret that it's one of the most beautiful to visit. When I was composing my trip, many people were asking why I chose North Island and not South Island. Simply because it's an amazing place and has many natural wonders and attractions to see and explore that the North Island doesn't have. This is very different to what you see North, but totally another type of adventures. It's more about volcanoes, thermal activities, hot springs, the movie farm, caves and others. Here is my suggestion to spend several days in the North Island. Believe me, it's not enough, you need to add more days to cover other cool places or simply do another trip later to discover this picturesque country. Now, let's start our six day trip.


Day 1, stop 1 — Auckland arrival

Arrive in Auckland airport and take a car. You would better to rent a car rather than rely on public transport that would do your trip extremely problematic. Book the car in advance, check online and you might get a good deal for off season time. I always prefer to arrive in the evening to sleep, recover from the fly and be fresh and full of energy for the next day, when I literally could call the start of the vacation. So book a room near the airport to spend a night.

Day 2, stop 1 — Cathedral Cove

Fresh and recovered from your fly start with exploring Coromandel peninsula. Two hours drive would take you to the sacred pretty place on the planet - Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove
Hahei, New Zealand

I love coves. It's like the nature created a corner where you can feel safe and away from everything. The Cathedral Cove in New Zealand North island is one of the most beautiful I've seen. I regret that I didn't plan enough time to stay there. Naturally formed a rock ...

Day 2, stop 2 — Hot Water Beach

! Make sure you check the low tide before going there. I saw a few people who came from far, but missed so important hours. After the lovely walk to the cove have some lunch. You could find a cafe in a closeby town like Hahei or near Hot Water beach that is just 10 minutes drive. Then take your towels, swimming suits, a spade and go to the beach.

Hot Water Beach
Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

This place is a hidden gem. As we found out not even all New Zealanders know about it. This beach is so different to all other beaches I've ever seen. In the first glimpse, you might think that you come to the ordinary beach, but be prepared and come here ...

Day 2, stop 3 — Night stay

The day should have been marvelous. Hope you would have a lovely weather to fully enjoy the beach. Now it's time to have a rest. Have some dinner and stay a night in a pre-booked place. I would suggest choosing something close to your next day destination.

Day 3, stop 1 — The Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm

Depends on where you booked your night, you would need to drive for 30-60 minutes to the farm. There is no pre-booking required, although, I'm not sure about a high season. There are also 2 nice cafes in the ticket center and on the site to have a lunch after the tour.

The Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm
Matamata, New Zealand

The Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm is one of the key filming locations that was constructed for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit series. Today it's also one of the most visited tourist attraction in New Zealand North Island. Peter Jackson, the creator of the movies, came ...

Day 3, stop 2 — Rotorua check-in

Drive for around an hour to Rotorua, a place is worth saying several days to cover major attractions. Book your stay in advance and do a check in.

Day 3, stop 3 — Polynesian Spa and evening relax

Evenings you could spend in the spa. That is so great they have them opened till 23:00. You could explore during the day and relax in the evening. Go to Polynesian spa to have relaxation evening in thermal pools.

Spa and thermal hot pools in Rotorua
Rotorua, New Zealand

Swimming in hot thermal pools, having mud bath or spa experience is the number one thing to do in Rotorua. This what you have to go for. Rotorua area has unique hot water springs with sulphurous geothermal water that are very good for health and have a positive effect in ...

Day 4, stop 1 — Wai-O-Tapu or Waimanalo volcanic valley or others

Spend a day or half a day exploring Rotorua volcanic areas. There are a few places to select from with a different level of difficulties, time to spend and varieties of things to see. All of these places have cafeterias to have some lunch.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Rotorua, New Zealand

Wai-O-Tapu, which means “sacred waters” when translated from Maori, is an amazing active geothermal area in New Zealand. It is located close to the Reporoa caldera in the Taupo Volcanic Zone and is just 20-30 minutes drive from Rotorua.

Because of tense geothermal activity happening beneath, this area is not ...

Day 4, stop 2 — Tamaki Maori Village

Pre-book in advance tickets and go for an evening show with Maori people. I recommend evening show because there are not many things to do when it's dark in this quite part of the world. So spend your day in nature and evening for entertaining.

Tamaki Maori Village
Rotorua, New Zealand

Kia Ora! Tamaki Maori Village and their show are a great way to get to know Maori culture closer. Some people say it's a fake, but what do you expect? Of course Maori, people do not leave in tribes anymore, but the whole evening is a great presentation of their ...

Day 5, stop 1 — Spa spa spa

Mud bath and New Zealand volcanic mud treatment is not something you could do everywhere. I really recommend giving your body a chance to get the best for this short trip. Book in an advance mud bath or facials or thermal pools or other. If you are not in this type of time spending, skip it and go for discovery :)

Spa and thermal hot pools in Rotorua
Rotorua, New Zealand

Swimming in hot thermal pools, having mud bath or spa experience is the number one thing to do in Rotorua. This what you have to go for. Rotorua area has unique hot water springs with sulphurous geothermal water that are very good for health and have a positive effect in ...

Day 5, stop 2 — Kuirau park

The great place to see how local people spend their time. This is one of the best parks for various activities in Rotorua.

Kuirau Park
Rotorua, New Zealand

Kuirau Park is a wonderful free public park in the center of Rotorua where you can experience and do a lot of things locals do. There are volcanic thermal activities such as hot water springs and small mud boiling pools that are for observation only and are safe as there ...

Day 5, stop 3 — Rotorua city walk

Rotorua is an interesting place, take a city walk that covers nice places and might include different activities depending on your interests.

Rotorua city walk via Lakefront walk, Sulfur point, Government Gardens and the Rotorua Museum
Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua has a great big 26km walk covering many great places around. I'm suggesting a short part in the city as part of your trip to see Rotorua center and Rotorua lake beauty. We had very limited time and didn't do whole walk as we underestimated it. It's really pretty ...

Day 6, stop 1 — Buried Village

History is something that must be remembered in any trip. Only old stories and acknowledgment of past events will reveal you the country and the place itself. This is an interesting and unusual museum to visit. Go there in your morning or after lunch time.

Buried Village of Te Wairoa
Rotorua, New Zealand

When I found this place as a possible destination, I decided that it would be another small and boring museum and I didn't what to go there. Fortunately, it was a rainy day that broke our other planes and we decided to visit Buried Village of Te Wairoa. I'm so ...

Day 6, stop 2 — Blue and Green lakes

Another free natural attractions. Chek the article and plan your stay here, as there are plenty of activities over there.

Blue and Green lakes in Rotorua
Rotorua, New Zealad

Blue and Green Lakes are water pools formed in old volcanic craters with free access for all. They got their names by the colour of the water. Green lake is purely for observation. It has always been a sacred place for Maori people. Blue lake is a great place to ...

Day 6, stop 3 — I would indulge myself and go to Polynesian Spa again

Understanding that soon vacation would be over and hot thermal pools would be just memories, would force anyone to rush and indulge them self again. Do it for one more evening.

Day 7, stop 1 — Waitomo glowworm caves

Wake up early, this would be your long day. The beauty you see this day you would never forget. So make sure you have enough time to explore. From Rotorua drive for around 2 hours (140km) to Waitomo caves. Book your tour and wait for the adventure.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Waitomo, New Zealand

Waitomo Caves are part of big cavern system under Waitomo village in North Island New Zealand that have largest in the world population of glowworms (Arachnocampa Luminosa). Only here you could see them lightening whole cave with blue bright dots in the darkness forming a complete cover for the ceiling. ...

Day 7, stop 2 — Ruakuri Reserve walk

Here you might have some lunch in the nearest cafe that are especially for tourists in terms of food variety and prices. Then drive for 20 mins to Ruakuri Reserve and do a quick track.

Ruakuri Reserve Walk
Waitomo, New Zealand

New Zealand has many lovely tracks for hiking. Ruakuri walk loop is very short and very beautiful. During this 45 minutes spectacular walk, you will see a lush forest, caves, speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites), you will walk through rock arches, bridges over Waitomo Streams.

The real gem of this track ...

Day 7, stop 3 — Marokopa falls

After the short but incredibly impressive track drive for 35-40 minutes (30km) to Marokopa falls. Enjoy the scenic drive and New Zealand landscapes.

Marokopa Falls
Waikato, New Zealand

Marokopa falls near Waitomo are very picturesque and must see once you are in this region. It's 30m high waterfall well known for its beauty and fresh water. This is one of the most beautiful and spectacular that I've seen so far. Again, we were not very lucky with weather ...

Day 7, stop 4 — Natural Bridge

On the way back from the falls do a short stop near the Natural Bridge. It's just 5-10 minutes drive. Unfortunately, we came there when it was too dark and rainy. I was not able to take pictures to add this as an article, but this place is not to miss. It takes only 20-25 minutes altogether and you would see a stunning nature creation - Natural Bridge.

Day 7, stop 5 — Stay a night

Book your overnight stay close to Hamilton. There are a lot of affordable options. Have some dinner there and some rest.

Day 8, stop 1 — Hamilton Gardens

We booked our flight afternoon to have some time to say good buy to New Zealand and enjoy its beauty one more time. The last stop I recommend to do is the beauty created by nature and people. Hamilton Gardens is a free attraction that must be visited

Hamilton Gardens
Hamilton, New Zealand

Hamilton Gardens is a free public park at the heart of Hamilton, New Zealand. Difficult to imagine that just 50 years ago it was an empty bleak city rubbish dump. It has been magically transformed to a beautiful place that also shows aspects in gardening of different nations and time. ...

Day 8, stop 2 — Fly home

It has been a lot for that short one week trip. Time to fly home. Drive for one and half hours (115km) to the airport, return your car and that's it, time to plan your next trip ;)