This New Zealand North Island 7 day itinerary is the fast paced, super family friendly one that I created for our dream trip to New Zealand.
It’s packed full of activities that you may have thought as off bounds for a trip with kids in tow. It’s exciting, fun and a round up of the best highlights of the North Island.
We went in March and had the most amazing one week in New Zealand on the North Island. We then had a few weeks on the South Island.
Your New Zealand North Island Itinerary 7 days Edition
This New Zealand North Island 7 Day Itinerary is broken down into day by day plans, including what to see and do, and where to stay, and also includes tips that I picked up along the way.
Honestly, if you’re planning your own North Island itinerary and you’re travelling to New Zealand with children you’re going to have the best time! And if you have the chance to up your North Island itinerary to 10 days you won’t be disappointed – any extra time you can wrangle from work is worth it. That said, if you’re travelling both islands I’d still recommend more time on the South Island.
Day 1 – Auckland to Ramarama
Aim to land in Auckland during the morning. Arrange to collect your motorhome at the airport, that way you don’t have to faff about with a taxi.
Tip: If you have more days to spare consider booking an airport hotel so you can catch up on sleep and deal with the jetlag before having to drive a motorhome. Alternatively, catch a 30-minute taxi to Auckland city centre to see the sights before the rest of this itinerary. And if you have waaay more time, consider driving up to Bay of Islands (c. 3hr 30m drive) – they look beautiful.
For an easy, filling lunch en route, go to Carl’s Jr. It has a big free parking lot so you don’t have to stress about where to park your motorhome and it’s right next to the supermarket. It’s basically at a retail park.
The burgers are incredible – way better than Mcdonalds or BK in my opinion. The veggie burger is a veggie patty filled with kumara, potato, sundried tomato and spinach and comes with cheese, tomato, lettuce, dill pickles, Aioli, special sauce and crispy onion straws. It’s amazing, especially when paired with the criss cut fries.
From Carl’s Jr head across the parking lot to the supermarket. Stock up on food, drink and any toiletries for your trip. How much will depend on what sort of motorhome you have. We could comfortably manage 3-4 days worth for our family of 4 in Jordy.
Tip: Pak’n Save is right by Auckland airport and is one of the more budget options. It’s pretty big and is comparable to a Tesco.
Once you’ve loaded everything in and feel comfortable driving, carry on to Ramarama Country Caravan Park, stopping on the way for fuel if you need it. It’s about a 25-minute drive, so nothing too strenuous. Check-in to your pitch and chill (aka try to fight the jet lag!).
Where to Stay
Ramarama Country Caravan Park is a quiet campsite with a playground, outdoor pool, good, clean hot showers and kitchen space. I paid $45 for our powered pitch.
Day 2 – Ramarama to Rotorua
It’s a slow morning to give you a chance to get used to the new timezones. At about 10/10.30am drive about 2 hours to The Shire’s Rest. It’s the closest official car park for the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours. The parking lot is free and there’s loads of room for big motorhomes.
You don’t need to be a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies or books to enjoy this tour. I’m yet to stay awake through one, let alone all of them, and I loved it. The tour shows you around some of the (outdoor) film sets, which take in beautiful views. And if that’s not enough, you get a free beer at the end!
Tip: Pre-book your tickets online for this activity. You’ll need to choose a timed slot. They run throughout the day. I’d recommend around 2pm.
Enjoy lunch in your motorhome – that’s what it’s for after all! If you can’t be bothered, walk a few minutes to The Shire’s Rest café. They have loads of seating, both inside and outside, and a good range of food (including veggie options).
15 minutes before your slot head to the check-in desk to grab your tickets and then join the queue. You’ll be in a big group scheduled for that particular slot. Hop on the bus and meet your tour guide. Ours was really friendly and funny, so even though I didn’t have a clue about the cast and scenes, I found it fascinating and entertaining.
After a short drive you’ll get off and walk around the sets. It’s buggy friendly, though little ones will probably be happy toddling about – there’s enough stops and starts for them to cope. The tour finishes at the pub, where you can choose one of three alcoholic drinks or one non-alcoholic drink.
My two are also oblivious to the movies, but they loved seeing the funny doors and little houses. They thought it was a big fairy garden. Big thumbs up from us.
Afterwards drive just under an hour to Rotorua. Head straight to your campsite so you can enjoy dinner in your motorhome.
Where to Stay
There are loads of choices in Rotorua. We stayed at Willowhaven Holiday Park for 2 nights because it’s near a lot of the main attractions. It also offers lakeside views and when the sun comes up in the morning it looks beautiful.
There’s a small playground, kitchen, BBQ and hot showers. I paid $46 for a powered pitch.
Day 3 – Rotorua
Next up on this North Island NZ itinerary, drive 5 minutes to the Skyline Rotorua Luge, aiming to arrive for 8.45am so you can be one of the first on when it opens at 9am. We pretty much had it to ourselves when we went. The parking lot is free and there’s big bays for campers and motorhomes.
Think of the luge like a go-kart. You ride a cable car up the mountain, then ride the luge down. Once you get to the bottom you ride the chairlift back up to the luge start point and go again (and again!). It’s SO much fun! We did it three times!
Riders under 110cm ride in the same ‘kart’ as an adult, so for our 2 and 4 year old that meant they rode with us. The boys teamed up and the girls teamed up and we raced to the end. I’m not sure who squealed and screamed more, but we all absolutely loved it.
You control how fast or slow you go and it’s all pretty simple.
Tip: There’s also a Skyline Luge on the South Island in Queenstown which offers better views, but I think the Rotorua track is more fun.
Grab lunch in the café at the top. It has great views of Rotorua and offers both inside and outside seating. Alternatively, head back down for lunch in your motorhome.
From here drive around half hour to Hell’s Gate Geothermal Spa. It’s the only one in Rotorua that has a mud pool and allows young kids into it.
You can choose from loads of relaxing spa treatments. Given we were visiting as a family we opted for a 1 hour package that allowed all of us to enjoy the mud pool, before dipping into the sulphur spa. The kids loved pretending we were little, muddy pigs, but it’s more than just a laugh.
The mud is said to purify and gently exfoliate skin leaving it smooth for up to six weeks.
Tip: Take all your jewellery off, even wedding rings and earrings, unless you’re happy for them to change to black!
Hell’s Gate is said to have the second largest mud volcano in the world, erupting every 6 – 7 weeks. It’s also said to be the most active volcanic zone in New Zealand, with magma just 2.5 kilometres below the ground.
Tip: If you have more time and perhaps without kids, opt for one of the packages that includes a tour of the site. You’ll need around 3 hours to make the most of it.
From here it’s a 30-minute drive back to Willowhaven Holiday Park. Get changed ready for your free transfer for an evening at Tamaki Māori Village. It’s a chance to learn about the Māori culture, watch performances and enjoying a Māori dinner.
This attraction and activity is rated really highly on TripAdvisor and on numerous blogs. However, it was my least favourite thing during our whole three week trip to New Zealand. It just felt a bit touristy and gimmicky to me, not to mention my 2 year old was petrified. Have a look at the link and make your own decision.
Tip: If you don’t fancy it, I’d suggest chilling at the campsite and carrying on that relaxing feeling from the spa. And if you do go, set up your motorhome ready for bed (shut the blinds, lower the bed etc) as it’ll be late when you get back and that way you can just transfer the kids.
Day 4 – Rotorua to Waitomo
Leave around 9.30am to drive just under 2 hours to Waitomo. Head to Waitomo Village Road and you’ll see loads of free roadside parking. The spaces are big enough for motorhomes and there’s a little playground to keep little ones entertained.
Enjoy lunch in the motorhome or out on the picnic bench by the playground.
Walk across the road to join the Spellbound Glowworm and Cave tour. Most people go black water rafting to see the glowworms, which isn’t really possible with young children. Spellbound offer a softer option.
Explore two separate caves by foot and also enjoy a 20-minute gentle boat ride into the cave. You’ll see loads of twinkly glowworms. The kids thought they were a blanket of fairies!
Tour groups are limited to 12 people, so it isn’t too overwhelming for little ones. And although it’s a long tour – just over 3 hours – it’s split between little bus rides, walks to see glowworms, walks to see giant beetles and bugs, not to mention ancient bones and the boat ride, so it feels more manageable.
We loved it and felt grateful we could see the iconic New Zealand glowworms on a family trip.
Tip: Forget the buggy and carrier if your children can walk. It’s too pokey and dark down there. It’s easier to carry them as and when you need to (which wasn’t often in our case).
Next, drive around half hour to Aramati Gardens, your lovely pitch for the night.
Where to Stay
We booked our powered pitch at Aramatai Gardens through Campable. It’s a private spot only open for a few guests. It’s super cheap (only $15 a night) and in the most lovely location.
You can explore their five acres of gorgeous gardens, complete with two big lily ponds, a fruit and nut orchard and birds. There are also horses, sheep and cute little ducklings.
The owners are super kind and welcoming, letting our little ones see the animals getting fed and playing on their tree swing and giving us fresh eggs for breakfast.
Tip: Use promo code CAMPWELCOME to receive a 5% discount at Campable.
Day 5 – Waitomo to Tongariro
It’s an early start today. Aim to leave at 8am to drive 90 minutes to Huka Falls. It’s clearly signposted (as everything seems to be in NZ) and there are loads of parking spots. Ignore the ‘Park and Walk’ lot and carry on down the hill to the one signposted ‘Huka Falls Lookout’.
Enjoy the milky turquoise rushing river and follow the fenced pathway to the viewing points. You’ll be able to watch the thrill boats whizzing about and up to the falls. The kids loved it here.
Tip: It’s buggy-friendly, but if they can walk you probably don’t need to bother with it as it’s such a short, enclosed distance.
From here it’s only a few minutes drive to the Aratiatia Rapids, where you can watch the damn open at 10am, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm. It lasts for around 15 minutes each time. Unless it’s something your kids would be massively into I’d skip it. We had less time at the Huka Falls because we watched the damn and to be honest it was a big let down.
Enjoy an early lunch in your motorhome or make a lunchbox up for the kids to enjoy en route.
Drive around 90 minutes to Tongariro National Park. You’ll probably have heard of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing; an awesome, grueling and exciting hike. However, it’s super tough for adults, let alone young kids, so instead I’d recommend enjoying some of the other walks in the area.
Park (for free) on the road that leads up to the Whakapapa ski resort. The track is in Whakapapa Village on SH48. It starts 100m below the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre on Ngauruhoe Place. Walk from here to Taranaki Falls (again, it’s clearly signposted).
It’s a 2 hour loop track, taking you through beautiful shrublands and forests, over a narrow gorge and up to the falls which tumble 20 metres over the edge of a large andesite lava flow which erupted 15,000 years ago. We found that because the scenery and track changed so much our 4 year old was happy (for the most part!) walking.
I’d recommend stopping at the falls to enjoy some well-earned snacks.
You can choose which direction you do the loop. If you choose the lower trail first you’ll have to go up lots of steps (that’s what we did) and if you choose the upper trail first you’ll have to go down lots of them.
Tip: Leave the buggy (due to all the steps) and take a carrier if you need something.
It’s a 90 minute drive back to the next campsite, so depending on how long the walk takes you, either hit the road or feast up and then go. We did the latter because we worked up an appetite and didn’t fancy that drive with whinging.
Where to Stay
Awastone Riverside Camping is probably my favourite campsite that I experienced. The location is beautiful – as the name suggests it’s right by the riverside. It’s really modern and well designed, with a small, but lovely kitchen, communal hang out space, a café and really nice showers, including a family bathroom. I paid $48 for a powered pitch by the riverside.
Day 6 – Awastone to Wellington
Just because you’re travelling with kids doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. This morning enjoy a Papa Gorge family whitewater rafting trip. Yes, really!
Float through numerous rapids, beautiful swimming pools and fossil rock.
Grab lunch in the onsite café or in your motorhome.
It’s time to head further south to the capital city of New Zealand – Wellington. It’s a 2hr 30m drive. Whether you explore Wellington today depends on what time your ferry is tomorrow. You’ll find my Wellington recommendations further down.
Where to Stay
Capital Gateway Motor Inn is just a five minute journey from the ferry port, which will be handy for your last day. It’s right by a main road, so it’s easy to catch the bus into the city centre (to save parking stresses) and to restock at the supermarket.
The family shower block is really nice too.
Tip: Make sure you have some cash for the bus.
Day 7 – Wellington
Hop on the bus to the city centre. Head to the touristy Cuba Street for nice shops stocking homewares and gifts on the more alternative, holistic side of things. I could have spent a fortune on oils for my diffuser and tarot cards. There’s also a few playground and splash pads dotted along the street to help keep the kids entertained.
Down by the waterfront you’ll find a big playground – Frank Kitts Park. Just watch out for cyclists and the water’s edge as there’s no fencing on some parts. Grab gelatos from nearby Kaffee Eis. Just bear in mind that a single scoop in NZ seems to be the equivalent of a double in the UK!
Grab a fish and chips lunch at nearby Crab Shack or at one of the other restaurants in this little square. I’d also highly recommend a beer from Munchen: Food Hall & Bier Haus. Sit outside and soak up the sun, while little ones run about.
Ride Wellington Cable Car, which is actually a railway funicular – New Zealands only one. A 5-minute ride will lead you to the Botanical Gardens.
Alternatively, if the weather is rubbish or it’s your kind of thing, head to Te Papa. It’s a super kid-friendly museum filled with dinosaurs, animals and more. We skipped it, but it’s recommended by every guide book.
Where to Stay
Either stay at the same spot and then in the morning catch the earliest ferry to the South Island, which is usually around 8am. Alternatively if you’re short on time, condense some of today’s activities into day 6 and use day 7 to travel. That’s what we did.
And there you have it. A New Zealand North Island 7 Day Itinerary to help you have the most incredible family trip to New Zealand.
Read More About Our Family Trip to New Zealand
- The Lowdown on our Epic Family Holiday to New Zealand
- The Cost of Our Trip to New Zealand
- Everything you Want to Know About Family Motorhome Hire in New Zealand
- Our South Island Itinerary
- Family Packing List for New Zealand in March
- Flying to New Zealand With Kids via Economy, Skycouch and Business Class
- Flying NZ-UK in Business Class With Kids
- How We Got Stuck in New Zealand
Flying NZ-UK in the Coronavirus Pandemic
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