Dunedin to Auckland in 12 days

Driving Tour

This is an absolute doozy of a road trip. Heading all the way from Dunedin in the far south up to Auckland in the North Island in 12 days. Whether you’re a first-timer to New Zealand or maybe you have decided to pick up one of our awesome relocation deals, this road trip is going to be jam-packed with amazing places to visit, things to do and Instagram moments at every turn. So, let’s strap into your awesome GO Rentals hire car and hit the road! If you’re still in the planning stage of your trip, make sure you check out the great deals on car hire in Auckland or our car rental in Dunedin– we’re not one of New Zealand’s favourite rental car companies for no reason!


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  3. Trip itinerary

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Trip Itinerary

1Dunedin to Queenstown (282kms – 3 hours 41 mins)

We’re going to kick off this road trip in style with a pretty stunning drive west across to Queenstown – the adventure capital of New Zealand. First up, however, let’s take some time to explore historic Dunedin.

For many, Dunedin is a place that gets missed off the tourist trail and it’s such a shame because it’s an absolute gem of a city. It’s full of history and has strong Scottish roots dating back to the 1850s when it is believed the settlers first arrived. We recommend spending the morning right here in Dunedin and checking out some of the following:

Toitu Settlers Museum

A fascinating museum that chronicles the social history of the city including its people, their relationships, art, fashion, culture, transport and more.

Larnach Castle and Dunedin Railway Station

Larnach Castle is New Zealand's only castle
Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle

Larnach Castle is actually one of the only castles in New Zealand dating back to the 1870s, carefully preserved and restored to the time of its creation. It also has magnificent gardens to explore. The Dunedin Railway Station is one of the most photographed railway stations in the country thanks to its exquisite Flemish style facade. It also often hosts exhibitions and galleries too.

Otago Peninsula

If you’re a lover of the outdoors and wildlife, a trip to the Otago Peninsula is a must. The opportunity to see colonies of Hoiho (Yellow-Eyed Penguin) and Royal Albatross can be experienced nowhere else in the world which makes it all the more special.

Moeraki Boulders

Made of a unique type of mudstone, the Moeraki Boulders are large spherical-like rocks that sit on the shores of the quiet Moeraki Boulders Beach on the East Coast just north of Dunedin. They are pretty mystical and you can be left wondering how they got there and how they got to be so round.

Dunedin Complete Guide

After a morning exploring Dunedin, it’s time to hit the road and head on to Queenstown. It’s a stunning drive and we’ve got a couple of great little stop-offs along the way.

Roxburgh (152kms – 1 hour 52 mins from Dunedin)

Approximately 150kms into your journey you’ll probably feel the need to stretch your legs and the small little town of Roxburgh is a great place to do exactly that. That’s because Roxburgh has a number of great walking trails for you to stroll including the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail. It is also home to the Roxburgh Dam, the first hydro dam built on the Clutha River. This has a great lookout point with great views to admire and appreciate. There are also plenty of places to eat in Roxburgh including Jimmy’s Pies, famous throughout the country.

Cromwell (72kms – 54 mins from Roxburgh)

I nice photo of Cromwell
Another great little town to discover, just under an hour’s drive from Roxburgh is Cromwell, an iconic former gold mining town that’s since been reinvented as the stone fruit capital of New Zealand. You’ll find no shortage of things to do here including walking through the Heritage Precinct, visiting the Gold Mining Centre, going on an orchard tour or even watching some racing at the Highlands Motorsport Park if dates coincide. The wineries in the region aren’t too shabby either!

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Arrowtown (47kms – 39 mins from Cromwell)

Image of the high street in Arrowtown, New Zealand

If you’ve managed to keep to schedule with the previous two stops then you can reward yourself with a final stop in Arrowtown, a short little detour off the Arrow Junction that’s well worth your time.

Similar to both Roxburgh and Cromwell, Arrowtown has strong roots from the Gold Rush Era, much of which can still be seen today. The main street of this quaint little town is a great tribute to the period with restored European and Chinese buildings from the time. Autumn is an especially nice time to visit as the tree-lined street turns a beautiful amber courtesy of the leaves all around.

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From Arrowtown, it’s only a short 20-minute drive to Queenstown, your resting place for the night.

2Queenstown and around

To put it simply, there’s not much that Queenstown doesn’t offer as a holiday destination. Great scenery, incredible food and wine, adventures, thrills and spills – the list goes on.

Sadly we can only spare one full day in Queenstown in this itinerary to make the most of it so you’ll have to be selective. That’s why we’ve done the selection for you with our top highlights that offer a bit of everything for your visit below:

The wild and wondrous

As promised, we’ve chosen to cover a range of experiences from the wild to the wondrous. In most cities, you’d be lucky to get one or the other but Queenstown gives you both!

AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Bungy
1) AJ Hackett Bungy – The pioneers of the Bungy Jump have 3 different locations to choose from (if you’re brave enough). The 3 options are The Kawarau Bridge, The Ledge and Nevis (the highest in NZ at 123 metres). Ooph!
2) Skyline Gondola – For great views (without the thrill) you can’t beat a peaceful ride on the Skyline Gondola looking over the city and the Wakatipu Basin. You’ll reach a summit of 450 metres by the end of the journey, the views from which are simply unforgettable.
3) Skiing (seasonal) – Queenstown has some fantastic slopes all within close proximity to the town centre. This includes the likes of The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Treble Cone. It has a great festive atmosphere during the ski season too which is great to enjoy.

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AJ Hackett Nevis Swing

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Some more great ideas

Those three were just to get you started and we’ve got three more cracking options below.
4) Queenstown Hill – a 3-hour walk to the peak of Queenstown Hill through an amazing pine forest is a great way to get your fix of nature. There’s also a great sculpture near the summit to grab a few selfies too.
5) Jet Boating – One of the biggest and most successful tourist attractions is the jet boats in Queenstown with a number of operators offering rides at ridiculous speeds with equally ridiculous manoeuvres. Awesome fun!
6) Kiwi Birdlife Park – You can also enjoy amazing animal encounters at the Kiwi Birdlife Park, one of the highest-rated places in the city. The Kiwis are the main stars but they also do a great conservation show during the week and have many other native species of bird too.


Queenstown has a thriving nightlife with over 150 cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. It’s a great place to be able to unwind, especially given how active you’re likely to be throughout your day of adventuring. Everything from busy clubs to quiet wine bars and late-night coffee can be found so you’re completely covered!

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Queenstown Complete Guide

3Queenstown to Wanaka (68.6km – 1 hour 12 mins)

A short drive awaits your third day of this South Island adventure and although Wanaka offers many of the same adrenaline-fuelled adventures as Queenstown, from snowboarding to mountain biking, it’s also the perfect place to relax and chill out by the side of the lake.

Rob Roy Glacier

If you do fancy a stretch of the legs, however, there are over 750km of walking tracks in and around Wanaka whether you want a short stroll or a full day hike. About an hour’s drive from Wanaka is Rob Roy Glacier, an ideal entry point to the Mt Aspiring National Park. From the Raspberry Creek car park, you will find a stunning walk up the valley that brings you outstanding views of Rob Roy Glacier. It’s about a 4 hour round trip so this one is not for the faint-hearted.

Puzzling World

A trip to Wanaka is just not the same without a trip to Puzzling World and it’s a definite favourite of the GO Rentals team. With 1.5km of passages in the ‘Great Maze’, it’s a great place to get lost for a few hours and act like a big kid as you race your mates to the four corners and back to the middle. It’s also really funny when someone gets themselves lost! Throw in a few weird and wonderful illusions like water running uphill (what’s that all about?!) and this makes for the perfect start to any day.

Wanaka Beerworks

Beer fans take note! For something a bit different, why not have a drive out to the Wanaka Beerworks where you can sample the local beers and ales as well as take a tour and find out about the history of beer making (it’s actually harder than you think!). Make sure you take home a sample selection to keep you going throughout the rest of your trip.

Cinema Paradiso

Image showing the inside of Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka New Zealand with old sofas and a seat made out of an old car

This small classic movie theatre located in Wanaka is a real find. With comfy old sofas and 3 seats in an old Morris Minor, this is a truly quirky place to spend a few hours unwinding. There is a cafe and bar serving delicious meals before, during or after the movie, homemade ice cream and some world-famous hot cookies baked fresh for every intermission. Expect a warm and friendly welcome from the staff to boot.

Mercure Oakridge Resort

After another full-on day, it’s great to relax and unwind and there’s no better place than the Grand Mercure Oakridge resort where you can make the most of the heated outdoor rock pools and spa complex. We’ve heard this sort of thing goes down really well with the ladies so why not treat the special one in your life to a day pass (you can always take the beer tour!) or even better, splash out and stay the night. Win-win.

Speight’s Ale House

A perfect place to grab a bite to eat is at the Wanaka Speight’s Ale House. A traditional Kiwi experience awaits along with the full range of Speight’s ales. Highly recommended come the fish and chips served in a traditional paper bag washed down with a pint of Speight’s Summit Lager – delicious! You wanted the full-on Kiwi experience – it doesn’t get much more Kiwi than that.

4Wanaka to Christchurch (427km – 5 hours 51 mins)

Heading out of Wanaka you will first head east before taking SH8 up towards Lake Tekapo. This is a day to really give your new GO Rentals car a run on the winding roads of Canterbury to your final destination of Christchurch and by the end of the day, you will have no doubt come up with a name for your faithful beast.

Mt John Observatory/Lake Tekapo (200km – 2 hours 40 mins from Wanaka)

The view from the top of Mt John looking down over Lake Tekapo
The view from the top of Mt John looking down over Lake Tekapo

Stargazers all over the world know Mt John and Lake Tekapo, in the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region, as one of the absolute best places to look at the stars (and even catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights – Aurora Australis).

Lake Tekapo is also famous for its unique turquoise colour, as well as its beautiful starry nights – if you can park here for the night, you will not regret it. Mt John, just above the Tekapo township, is considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world, home to 6 telescopes, including New Zealand’s biggest telescope, which can observe 50 million stars each clear night (yes, you read that right).

Akaroa (280km – 4 hours 10mins from Lake Tekapo)

Located 75km south of Christchurch and known by locals as the ‘Riviera of Canterbury’, Akaroa is a great stop off as you head north towards Christchurch. This village is located on the Banks Peninsula within a harbour of the same name and is considered “the most French town” in New Zealand, as it was the only French settlement in the country. Spend some time exploring the small town and then head to the harbour for the best fish and chips meal of your life (at least that’s Akaroa’s claim so you be the judge and let us know).

The final leg of the journey today will take you 81.3kms to Christchurch via Lyttelton.

On the approach to Christchurch, a stop off in Lyttelton is well worth the detour and it’s a great place to grab some dinner if you’re arriving late in the evening. Hit by the earthquakes, Lyttelton has now rebuilt and is a thriving village with lots of bars and cafes – there’s a great road over to Lyttelton which offers you some fantastic views looking down to the city and the harbour as well as down to the Southern Alps – a great way to end this leg of your road trip.

Christchurch Complete Guide

5Christchurch to Hanmer Springs (134 km – 1 hour 55 mins)

Day 5 of your road trip brings you to the largest city on the South Island – the Garden City. Spend the morning and early afternoon exploring this beautiful city – some of the GO Rentals team highlights are below.

The garden city

Christchurch is a great destination for skiing in New Zealand

Christchurch was named number 2 on the New York Times’ top 52 places to visit in 2014 and there are plenty of reasons for that. Following the earthquakes of 2010-11, the city has now emerged as a vibrant city with plenty to see and do. Known as the Garden City, Christchurch has an abundance of parks and gardens including the gorgeous botanical gardens. Add into this mix the tranquil Avon River and you can see why people rave so much about the city.

Eat | Drink | Shop

Christchurch is a vibrant place for eating and drinking whether you are looking for 5-star opulence or a backstreet café. Re:START is an outdoor retail space opened in late 2011 made from shipping containers. Scattered with a mix of premium brands and homegrown products, Re:START is a quirky experience that tells of the city’s resilience and ability to come back following the destruction of the earthquakes. Located within Re:START you’ll also find Quake City, a multi-media attraction that tells the story of the earthquakes that hit Christchurch and the Canterbury region.

Check out the several Gap Filler projects that volunteers have created to temporarily “activate” sites left empty by the earthquakes – you’ll be able to see some unique and really creative work that is proof of Christchurch’s charm and resilience.

Leave yourself enough time for the next leg of your journey – a 134km journey to Hanmer Springs which should take you a couple of hours. It will be well worth it when you get there we promise!

6Hanmer Springs to Picton (286kms – 4 hours 4 mins)

After a busy few days driving up from Queenstown, a day in Hanmer is just what the doctor ordered. Surrounded by the beautiful Southern Alps with crisp alpine air, relax and unwind in the award-winning thermal pools or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Hanmer Village and its surrounding areas.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa

Image showing the thermal pools at Hanmer Springs just North of Christchurch, New Zealand

The thermal pools and spa complex in Hanmer have been soothing peoples’ aches and pains away for the best part of 125 years and all those who have been before you can’t be wrong! Relax in one of 15 open-air pools or try out one of the 3 aquatherapy pools. Families and children are catered for too since a recent redevelopment has added three waterslides and a lazy river to keep even the liveliest of kids entertained.

Wai Ariki Farm Park

If getting crinkly is not your thing, there are plenty of other attractions in Hanmer and one of the best is the Wai Ariki Farm Park. Offering a hands-on experience, Wai Ariki is home to some weird and wonderful animals which are sure to keep kids and adults amused for the morning. The Tibetan Yak are a particular favourite!

After a day spent relaxing in Hanmer, we recommend hitting the road in the early afternoon for the 4-hour drive north to Picton. We recommend taking the coastal road north up SH1 which passes through Kaikoura. Here you will see some of the devastations from the earthquake that closed off Kaikoura for 12 months. If you have the time, Kaikoura is a great spot for whale watching and swimming with dolphins.

Wine tasting and much more (257kms – 3 hour 34mins)

Marlborough Vineyard
Marlborough is New Zealand’s premier wine-growing region

Marlborough is a world-famous wine region and it would be rude not to sample some of the local delights on your way through to Hanmer Springs. There are plenty of wineries that will gladly take you through their wide range of vinos from a fruity pinot noir to the flagship wine of the region, Sauvignon Blanc. There are some famous vineyards down here like Cloudy Bay but we recommend sampling some of the more boutique wineries – a great way to get around is on a bike although be careful if you have a few vinos on the way as you may get a bit wobbly (Note – this is not for the driver – passengers only)! Wine tours by bike offer bike hire or guided tours which helps as they will transport you back to Blenheim.

From Blenheim, it’s just a short hop to Picton where you will spend the night before catching the early ferry across to the North Island for the next leg of this adventure!


It might be small but New Zealand’s cool capital is jam-packed with things to do and places to see. We recommend taking the day to explore New Zealand’s cool little capital – you deserve a day out of the car after a hectic drive yesterday!


Park your car and head for a walk around the waterfront where you’ll find the fascinating Museum of Wellington City and Sea in the old Harbour Board Bond Store, complete with its opulent 1920s board room and a complete teak cabin from an 1879 steamship. It’s not far from New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa – a futuristic multi-storeyed complex that forms one of the largest new museums in the world, with numerous interactive displays.


Image of the Wellington Cable Car taking people from Lambton Quay to the top entrance of the Botanic Gardens

For the best panoramic views of the city and Port Nicholson all the way across to the Hutt Valley, head up to the lookout on Mt Victoria. The historic cannon on the summit was installed in 1877 and was fired each day as a time signal for many years. If you look down below, in the suburbs, you will spot the New Zealand Cricket Museum, located in the Old Grandstand at the Basin Reserve, not far from the Colonial Cottage Museum on the site of one of the original 1840 New Zealand Company Town acres.

Coffee culture

Grab a coffee (Wellington claims to have the best coffee in New Zealand) and visit the cool one-of-a-kind stores along Manners Mall and Cuba Street. When you’re on that street, notice the cool Bucket Fountain that doesn’t actually work the way it’s supposed to (take a close look at it and you’ll see the water doesn’t actually obey the easy bucket system and sometimes misses the buckets altogether).

Treaty of Waitangi

A visit to Archives New Zealand on 10 Mulgrave Street allows you to see the Treaty of Waitangi (the document that is considered the foundation of the country). You can also take a tour of the Beehive, the country’s parliament if you’re feeling politically inclined before taking a stroll along the waterfront, decorated with interesting sculptures and populated by numerous bars (including some decent craft beer spots).

Weta Workshop

Gollum at the Weta Workshop in Wellington

If you have some free time, we suggest a visit to the Weta Workshop, nestled away in the Miramar suburb. Weta is known worldwide for its weird and wonderful creations for film, including creatures, makeup and digital special effects for movies such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia among others.

You can take the 45-minute guided tour through the workshop, which provides unique behind-the-scenes glimpses into the work of this award-winning company.

Wellington Complete Guide

8Wellington to Whanganui (193kms – 2 hours 36 mins)

It is possible to make the drive to New Plymouth in one go, however, that is a monster day of driving and with so many things to see and do on the way, we would definitely recommend a stopover in Whanganui on the way north.

Stonehenge Aotearoa (84kms – 1 hour 14 mins)

Image of Stonehenge Aotearoa near Wellington

A great pit stop on your way north towards Whanganui is at Carterton.
Take Park Road out of Carterton and follow the signs to Stonehenge Aotearoa to see a full-scale model of Stonehenge located on the hills of the Wairarapa, pretty much as far from actual Stonehenge as anything can be. You’ll be able to learn a bit about astronomy, both ancient and modern methods, and find out more about Maori astrology too.

Palmerston North (104kms – 1 hour 24 mins)

Although it’s the biggest town between Taupo and Wellington, Palmerston is pretty quiet and this will give you a true insight into Kiwi life. With a plethora of cafes to pick from, this is a great place for morning elevenses – go on, treat yourself to one of those amazing looking muffins!

Bulls (29.8kms – 25 mins)

Bulls signpost
There’s not much to say about Bulls but you wanted quirky on this tour and quirky is what you’ll get. The only thing of note in this town is the clever (or not!) use of the town’s name by local businesses – unforget-a-bull and hospit-a-bull are two of our personal favourites – let us know yours!

Whanganui (44.1kms – 33 mins)

There’s plenty to see in Whanganui and this makes a great stopover on the way up from Wellington as it sits about halfway between New Plymouth and the capital city. We suggest a look at the Cooks Gardens, on St Hill Street, right in the centre of town. These are famous because they were the location where Peter Snell ran the famous sub-four-minute mile in January 1962 (that’s crazy fast). If you’re feeling particularly fit, you can try attempting your fastest mile time here too, right where Snell did it in front of 13,000 people.

Afterwards, take some time to wander around the Whanganui Regional Museum, on Watt Street, which displays the impressive work of Gottfried Lindauer, one of the most famous colonial artists in the country. The museum also includes one of the most important collections of Moa bones, including some complete skeletons of the extinct giant bird.

If you have time to spare, it’s good to get out on the river, New Zealand’s longest navigable river which was an important transport route for the early settlers. One of our favourite things to do is head to the Bridge to Nowhere, built in early 1936 and abandoned in 1942 without really ever going anywhere.

9Whanganui to New Plymouth (160kms – 2 hours 11 mins)

We bet you’re glad you decided on a stopover in Whanganui now! With only 2 hours of driving ahead of you again today, you can relax and stop off at places of interest along the way some of which are little pieces of New Zealand gold dust!

Patea (61.6kms – 46 mins)

The Taranaki town of Patea is famous in New Zealand for one thing – the hit Maori song Poi-E! See if you can get one of the locals to sing it for you if you’ve never heard it before – it’s an instant classic and spent a lot of time in the charts in the 80s. Other than that, the town has a rich Maori and European history so it is well worth stopping off for a nosey on your way through.

Hawera (27.3kms – 21 mins)

Hmmmmm cheese! Our penultimate stop of the day will be at Hawera, home of the southern hemisphere’s largest single-site dairy factory. We do love a bit of cheese! Around 13 million litres of milk are processed at Hawera every day – that’s a lot of calcium goodness and it’s one of the area’s big attractions along with the museum. One thing we love about Hawera is the water tower. Sure, we’ve seen water towers in other towns and cities but we love the history of this one. Built in 1914, the 54-meter high water tower was constructed after a string of fires destroyed parts of the town in 1884, 1895 and 1912. Hawera literally means ‘the burnt place’ or ‘breath of fire’ and it’s easy to see why it gets its name. It is possible to climb to the top of the water tower and the views from up there are pretty stunning.

Stratford (31kms – 28 mins)

Stratford is the last stop off of the day before we hit New Plymouth and was named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace and the town’s streets also recognise some of his most famous characters. Stratford is also home to New Zealand’s only glockenspiel clock tower where performances of Romeo and Juliet are carried out daily. See, we told you this was a guide to off-the-beaten-track activities!

New Plymouth (40.7kms – 35 mins)

It may be quite late when you get into New Plymouth but you’ll also have time in the morning to explore the city. In full bloom, New Plymouth’s rhododendrons are a sight to behold and the parks dotted around the city are a great place to take a morning stroll. The waterfront is a great place to go and grab a coffee and you can also visit the Puke Ariki Museum and heritage centre which has some great exhibits. If you’re here at the right time of the year, New Plymouth is also home to NZ Surfest, an annual surfing competition that attracts some of the best surfers from around the world. There’s also the opportunity to get on a board yourself as they run ‘learn to surf’ classes to get beginners up on their board and catching the waves. Surf’s up dudes!

10Egmont National Park and Mt Taranaki

Within easy driving distance from New Plymouth is Mt Taranaki in the Egmont National Park, a great place to explore with some fantastic walking tracks and trails.

Egmont National Park (29.1kms – 32 mins)

The Pouakai Crossing rivals the Tongariro Crossing as the best one day walk in New Zealand
The Pouakai Crossing rivals the Tongariro Crossing as the best one day walk in New Zealand

For those of you looking for something a bit more outdoorsy after all that time spent in the car yesterday, a short drive will take you to the heart of Egmont National Park, the home of the majestically conical Mt Taranaki. In the park, you will find an extensive walking track network that will take you through lush rainforests, and mossy swamps and lead you to some stunning waterfalls. The highlight for many people who visit these parts is climbing to the top of Mt Taranaki which is possible year-round for experienced hikers although it can be tricky in the winter months and we would definitely recommend a guide. The views from the top are magnificent and without a doubt, this is your chance to shine in our GO Snap Happy competition. It will take you between 6-8 hours to complete the return journey to the summit. In the winter months, the ski fields on the eastern slopes offer some nice runs for beginners and a great place to start your skiing career.

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

If you’re looking for something a little less strenuous than a hike in the National Park then the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is a great way to explore the area. The walk encompasses the sea-edge promenade for much of the way and you will be sharing the path with joggers and cyclists as this is a popular route day or night for fitness fanatics. The walkway also offers fantastic views of Mt Taranaki so be sure to take your camera.

Even if NZ Surfest is not taking place, a trip to Fitzroy beach is still worth a look to see the locals in action. If you’re feeling brave, why not take a dip and go and do some body surfing – then you can always say you have caught the waves down in New Plymouth like the pros!

Shopping and eating

Considering we are now 10 days into this trip and much of it has been off the beaten track, New Plymouth may be the place to indulge in some retail therapy. There are some great shops in the city where you can easily spend an afternoon meandering around. To cap it all off, there are some fantastic restaurants here so you can treat yourself to a delicious meal out tonight and reflect on what has hopefully been an amazing trip.

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11New Plymouth to Raglan (267kms 3 hours 19 mins)

On Day 11 of this road trip from Dunedin to Auckland, we head up the east coast of the North Island from New Plymouth to Raglan.

Waitara (16.8kms – 18 mins)

Waitara and Urenui are great places to stop off at the start of this trip up to Raglan. Waitara is the largest town in Northern Taranaki and there is plenty to do here from white water rafting and bridge swinging to something a bit more cultural and the historic Manukorihi Pa, the site of a modern Maori village featuring a magnificent Maori Meeting House.

Awakino Point (73.5kms – 55 mins)

Your journey carries on up the coast to Awakino and this is a great little stop-off point to look out over the Tasman and take in the beautiful views. Hopefully, you will have timed it right for lunch – whitebait is a speciality around these parts so make sure you give it a go.

Piopio (50.3kms – 36 mins)

Hobbit alert! That’s right folks, a trip to New Zealand is not complete without a Hobbit experience or two so we thought we had better track another one down for you and this one is a bit more of a hidden gem. Piopio was host to the biggest on-screen location in the first part of the trilogy and here you will find the area where the troll’s campfire scene was filmed. Hairy Feet offer a great little tour where they will take you into the actor’s footsteps and relive the excitement of being on set.

Te Kuiti (23kms – 17 mins)

We’re not sure about you but we can’t think of anything that’s more synonymous with New Zealand than sheep! That’s why Te Kuiti is a must-visit place when you’re down in these parts as each year they host the New Zealand shearing championships, bringing together the best shearers in the country to do battle just after Easter. If you happen to be in and around these parts at that time of the year, be sure to stop in and witness some insane shearing skills.

Waitomo Caves (15.6kms – 18 mins)

Taking the tour in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Arriving later in the afternoon is perfect for this particular activity. The Waitomo Caves have been formed by rivers and streams pushing through the soft limestone over thousands of years and are now home to some amazing sights and sounds. From the stalactites and stalagmites that grow from the floor and ceiling to the incredible glow worms that light up these underground grottos, this is a stopover not to be missed.

If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, you can always experience some blackwater rafting inside the caves where you‘ll be transported through the caves in a rubber ring. Sounds pretty cool to us!

Te Awamutu (42.6 kms – 37 mins)

The last stop of the day before we hit Raglan is in Te Awamutu. Known as the rose capital of New Zealand, November to April is a great time to visit Te Awamutu to smell the beautiful flowers in full bloom. During the season, you can take in the magnificent sight of over 2000 rose bushes in full bloom next to the visitors centre.

Notable residents of Te Awamutu include the Finn brothers Tim and Neil who are the men behind the internationally successful band Crowded House. Te Awamutu gets a mention in their debut single from their self-titled debut album ‘Mean to Me’. There’s a little bit of trivia to bore your car companions with!

Raglan (65kms – 50 mins)

Raglan is a bit of a surfing mecca to kiwis and international travellers alike. With a dramatic black sand coastline, whether surfing is your thing or not there is plenty to see and do in Raglan to cap a brilliant final full day of your 12-day road trip.

For those who are into surfing, they reckon that Manu Bay has the longest left-hand break in the world and if you are up to the task, those who have the gift of surfing can ride a wave for up to 2 kilometres – we’d be happy for 2 seconds up on the board! If surfing is not your thing, we would still recommend getting into the water and enjoying the waves with a bit of body surfing or just cooling off if it’s a hot day.

Raglan Surf Beach

For those who are not of the sea, there are loads of great walks in the area to take in the views of this spectacular coastline. A climb to the top of Mount Karioi is one for the more energetic but well worth it with views down the coastline to Mt Taranaki on fine days.

The township itself is full of character and characters – many of the locals are bohemian types in search of a sustainable way of life so a trip to one of the cafes or bars is sure to be an eye-opener if you get chatting with the locals – you might not want to leave!

12Raglan to Auckland (149kms – 1 hour 56 mins)

So, the final day of this road trip has arrived but what a beautiful place to wake up in. Raglan is a great place to explore first thing in the morning and is often a hive of activity with surfers heading out to catch a wave and morning joggers and walkers out to enjoy the magnificent views.

We have left you with a relatively short drive back to Auckland today so depending on what time your car is due back, you should have time to grab an espresso from one of the local cafes and enjoy the final morning of your holiday. You may even have time to explore Auckland if you have a late flight out or you have time once you arrive in Auckland!

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