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10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Perth, Australia
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10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

My husband and I are planning to spend 10 days in the North Island in the second half of April. We had thought to fly from Perth to Kerikeri via Auckland, spend two nights in Paihia to see the Bay of Islands area and then spend 7 days driving from there to Wellington from where we'd fly home. Is it worth booking a self drive holiday package or best to wing it alone? We are seasoned travelers and so going it alone and booking our own accommodation/activities is what we are used to. It's just that some of the self drive holidays look great and we would avoid a lot of planning time. Other questions we have is whether it is worth taking the last leg of the journey from Tongariro/Taupo/Napier area to Wellington or should we spend further time in the north and central area and fly back from Auckland? So what would be the best route? We're in our early 50s and like a bit of luxury (looking forward to some hot pools!), great sightseeing, photography, kayaking, culture and great food (not interested in wine though). Suggestions gratefully accepted.

Christchurch, New...
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1. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

What are your interests? By April it will be getting cool around TNP - beautiful for photography & short hikes but cold nights. OTH Napier has the Art Deco architecture, wineries galore & the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Do be aware that Easter will be very busy all around NZ so you will to prebook wherever you plan to be for at leats the 5 days (Fri-Tuesday) but it is school holidays so places like Rotorua will be very busy.

New Zealand
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2. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Regarding the flying home bit, there are direct flights from Auckland, but from Wellington you need to fly via somewhere to get back to Perth.

My preference on that route is to take a domestic flight to Auckland, and then the direct Auckland-Perth flight. It means you check the luggage in Wellington and don't touch it again until you arrive in Perth where you'll clear customs.

If you fly via Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, you have to collect your luggage and clear customs there, before getting onto a domestic flight. That can be time-consuming, and in Brisbane and Sydney you need to transfer between terminals too.

Rarotonga, Cook...
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3. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Hi Deb,

Booking your own travel arrangements is a straight-forward process, including rental car and accommodation. If you have found a self-drive package that matches closely the route you envisage, maybe this method will be easier and quicker for you though? I imagine that bookings for April/Easter travel will already be gaining momentum though, for this time-frame in particular.

You will probably find rental car deals are better taken from Auckland, compared to a small regional centre like Kerikeri. As to driving further south to Wellington, once you reach Taupo, you have sufficient time and the driving route between Napier and Wellington is straightforward. Some very interesting scenery all the way.

Perth, Australia
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4. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Thank you for your replies. We have decided to fly directly into Paihia on 17 April and out of Wellington on 28 April (11 nights) and have the first part of the trip settled i.e 2 nights in Paihia, 2 nights in Auckland, 2 nights in Rotarua, but we need some help from here.

We want to do the Waitomo caves and the Hobitron and were planning to do those in the one day on the way from Auckland to Rotarua (via Hamilton?). The plan was then to spend a night at Lake Taupo, two nights at Tarungi or the Tongariri National Park, one night in Napier and then two nights in Wellington. My husband wants to do the Alpine Crossing and we want to spend a day kayaking the Whanganui River and plan to do this from Tarungi/Tongariri National Park.

Cans someone help us with the following:

1. Are 5 nights combined in Rotarua, Taupo and the Park too many as the places are close together and we would be better off skipping the night in Taupo and spending a night somewhere else (Coromondel/Bay of Plenty perhaps before Rotarua?)

2. Should we stay in the Tongaririo National Park or in Turangi (I'm not doing the Crossing and would like to spend the day relaxing or doing a short walk, spa etc)?

3. Is the route we have planned the best or should we do Napier before Tongariro/Turangi for example?

We'd be grateful for suggestions.

Christchurch, New...
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5. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

I would see your choices for accommodation for the TC as being either 2 nights in Tokaanu, where you can at least visit the hot pools, assuming your husband takes the car:

nzhotpools.co.nz/hot-pools/tokaanu-accommoda…

OR the Whakapapa area itself: http://www.skotel.co.nz where you can go for walks - and perhaps drive your husband to the start to save reliance on the shuttle service.

You would need to backtrack to Taupo to cut across to Napier

Thus:

23rd Rotorua to Tongariro (2N)

24th TC

25th TNP to Taupo (lunch) to Napier (2N). Be aware that this is ANZAC Day.

26th explore Napier (or drive towards WLG)

27th Napier to WLG

28th Fly home

Rarotonga, Cook...
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6. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Hi Deb,

You could switch your route around so that you visit Waitomo Caves on the way to Tongariro NP. Either stay in Whakapapa village (Bayview Chateau is handy for short walks and the hike), or in Turangi if you want to enjoy a day-spa.

After your alpine and river adventures, continue through Taupo to Rotorua. Hobbiton can be done as a morning tour from Rotorua city. A little back-tracking to the turnoff for Napier (north of Taupo) from Rotorua, but this may be the most stream-lined approach to the places you most want to visit.

I think you will need 2 nights at least for the Crossing and river kayaking. Although kayaking can be done on Lake Taupo on the way to Rotorua.

Since you would have visited Paihia and some of the Northland beaches, a visit to Coromandel will be out of your way. But also your 11 nights in total will be used up already on your current itinerary.

Edited: 04 March 2014, 03:14
Perth, Australia
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7. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Thank you again for your replies.

As I understand the choices they are:

1. Auckland via Hamilton to Rotarua (Waitomo on the way and Hobbiton if time), 2 nights in Rotarua (day trip to Hobbiton if missed), Rotarua to Turangi via Taupo, 2 nights in Turangi or Whakapapa village), Crossing and rafting, Turangi to Napier via Taupo, 1 night in Napier, Napier via Hastings to Wellington, 2 nights in Wellington, fly home.We are taking 2 nights in Wellington as we figure we'll get there late one day and so only have a full day there the next day before we fly home the following morning. Assuming that there will be more to do in Wellington than Napier/Hastings that is).

or

2. Auckland via Hamilton to Turangi (Waitomo caves on the way), 2 nights in Turangi (Crossing and rafting), Turangi via Taupo to Rotarua, 2 nights in Rotarua (Hobbiton on day trip), Rotarua via Taupo to Napier, 1 night in Napier, Napier via Hastings to Wellington, 2 nights in Wellington, fly home.

I think what Frangipani is saying is that route 2 is to be preferred from a driving perspective. Is this right?

Thanks again.

Rarotonga, Cook...
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8. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

I think you will gain more from option 2. which brings together the activities you are most interested in undertaking through a more orderly fashion. And less time spent back-tracking overall.

Perth, Australia
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9. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Hi again

I've done up the itinerary but am concerned that the journey from Auckand via Waitomo caves to Turangi is too ambitious for one day and won't leave enough time to smell the roses along the way.

Also, according to a drive NZ website, the driving distance in the first itinerary is 840km compared with 670km in the second alowing for a trip to Matamata on each journery.

Is there a material difference between the roads between Waitomo and Turangi as compared with Waitomo and Rotarua to justify the extra difference?

Would appreciate your advice.

Day 1

(362 Km)

Day's Itinerary: Auckland --> Waitomo Caves --> Matamata --> Rotorua

Day's Travel Time: 265 Minutes - 4 hour(s) 25 minutes(s)

Day 2

(131 Km)

Day's Itinerary: Rotorua --> Taupo --> Turangi Town Centre

Day's Travel Time: 99 Minutes - 1 hour(s) 39 minutes(s)

Day 3

(184 Km)

Day's Itinerary: Turangi Town Centre --> Napier

Day's Travel Time: 131 Minutes - 2 hour(s) 11 minutes(s)

What do you think?

Perth, Australia
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10. Re: 10 days in the North Island in April - best driving options

Sorry I meant to say the first journey is 670km and the second 840km!