Five Day Lower North Island Itinerary

From Wellington to Taupo and back!

Five Days around the Lower North Island

You’ll have a variety of attractions to experience as you meander around the lower North Island. Starting in Wellington, you’ll drive over the Rimutaka range to Martinborough. In addition to its famous vineyards, this region boasts amazing food, architecture and beaches that make the trip worth it. Driving to Taupo offers beautiful scenery, complete with geothermal parks and plenty of places to fish. You’ll pass by several volcanoes as you drive the Desert Road headed towards Palmerston North.

Take in all the amazing views in your own private motorhome picked up a directly from its owner. Make the most of having a link to the local community by getting recommendations on the best places to visit, and by staying in holiday parks and campgrounds along the way to get a taste of the local culture. Keep in mind that you can begin this round trip wherever you choose, with the regional availability that Mighway offers.

Day One - Wellington to Martinborough

80km, ~1 hour

Just over an hour away from the Wellington International Airport, Martinborough is a nearby destination that makes for a great first stop. On the way, you will experience the beauty of the Rimutaka Range as you head towards Featherston. While there, stop by C’est Cheese to sample cheese from all over New Zealand.

Martinborough is a beautiful, quaint area with over 20 wineries. The village square makes for a natural starting point to explore the area, on foot or bike. Most of the vineyards in this area are family-owned and operated, so every glass comes with its own unique, local flair. This has helped to make this area a must-do for the wine connoisseur. To make sure you get the most out of your day here, take a guided tour, which will help you hit all of the highlights and sample as much as you can.

Day Two - Martinborough to Hastings

280km, ~4 hours

This route, known as the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, is a bucket list for the wine lover. Following the signposts (easy to spot -- look for grapes!) takes you through three separate wine regions. Scenic coastlines and rural towns dot the landscape, giving you a picturesque view as you make your way along. 

As you pass through Carterton, make sure you stop to pick up souvenirs before heading to Stonehenge Aotearoa -- a modern-day version of the real thing. Heading north you can visit Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, which houses a wide variety of native New Zealand fauna, including the rare white kiwi.

Hastings is up next, a beautiful city full of parks and orchards. An earthquake in 1931 leveled much of Hastings and nearby Napier at the time, and it was rebuilt in the contemporary Art Deco style. To learn more about the earthquake and other historical events related to this area, there are several museums worth visiting here. 

Day Three - Napier to Taupo

150km, ~2 hours

This short drive offers an amazing and impressive amount of scenery, which goes through a wide variety of settings. Take the time to check out the Waiarua Falls and the hot springs at the Waipunga River before making it to Taupo. Once there, this resort offers an amazing setting on New Zealand’s largest lake. This spot is excellent for trout fishing and has many world-class restuarants.

This scenic route along Lake Taupo is one of the most beautiful on this whole itinerary, and you’ll enjoy the opportunities to stop along the way to take pictures, have a picnic, or fish. Trout fishing is big business around here, and you’ll see more evidence of that as you approach Turangi, New Zealand’s trout fishing capital.

Day Four - Taupo to Palmerston North

250km, ~3 hours

If you enjoy fishing, Turangi is a dream come true, and just about anywhere you go will offer you the chance to land the big one. For those that like to play in the water instead of fishing in it, there are also hot springs to enjoy and rafting opportunities. Tongariro National Park is also near here, which has many attractions of its own, including the Tongariro Crossing hike.

Leaving Turangi, you’ll eventually make your way to Palmerston North, a large provincial city with some great attractions. This city is a history lover’s dream, with much of the original downtown still appearing as it did almost a century ago. There’s plenty to do in this historic area as you discover interesting stores and cafes. Make sure you also take the time to check out the local rose gardens and museums.

Day Five - Palmerston North to Wellington

150km, ~2 hours

You’ll pass through several town and villages headed back towards Wellington. Stop by the owl sanctuary in Shannon, enjoy the shopping in Levin, and check out the rare bird sanctuary in Kapiti Island, off the coast of Waikanae.

All of this before heading back into Wellington to finish your trip. Walk around the downtown area and explore everything from museums, to secondhand bookstores, to the Weta Workshop Cave! Here you'll find an awesome display of sculptures and props from 'Lord of the Rings' and other films, as well an exclusive documentary and souvenirs.