Auckland to Coromandel Town road trip | Apollo NZ
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Northland & Bay of Islands

Located at the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, Northland is a land of contrasts, with ancient kauri forests, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns. This region is not only the birthplace of the nation, with significant historical sites like the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, but it also boasts some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the country, including the famous Bay of Islands.

Northland's climate, known for being subtropical, means warm, humid summers and mild winters, making it a perfect destination year-round. The Northland weather encourages outdoor activities and exploration, whether you're soaking up the sun on the golden sands of Paihia, sailing through the turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands, or driving up to the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga.

Travelling by campervan offers the freedom to explore Northland's diverse attractions at your own pace. From the historic charm of Kerikeri to the Tutukaka Coast, known for its world-class diving spots, there’s something for everyone. Take your pick of great Northland holiday parks and campgrounds along the way, ensuring comfort and convenience as you discover the stunning landscapes of this captivating region. Whether you’re interested in Māori culture, keen on adventure sports, or simply in need of a peaceful retreat amidst stunning natural beauty, Northland provides an unforgettable backdrop for a memorable campervan journey.

 

Why explore Northland & Bay of Islands by campervan

Exploring Northland by campervan is the ideal way to truly connect with the region's abundant natural beauty and rich history. With the freedom of the open road, you can navigate the diverse landscapes at your leisure. Start your day with a sunrise at Paihia, have lunch in an ancient kauri forest, and end with a sunset at Ninety Mile Beach. 

The ability to spontaneously choose your destinations each day, without the need to stick to a fixed itinerary or check-in times, means you can immerse yourself fully in whatever captures your interest. Travelling by campervan not only offers all the comforts of home, including your kitchen and bed but also supports a self-sufficient way to travel. This is a big plus in Northland, where you might want to spend several days exploring more remote areas. Plus, having your own facilities means you're never too far from a hot meal or a comfortable night's sleep, no matter where your adventures in Northland take you.

 

Things to do in Northland & Bay of Islands

You certainly won’t be short of things to do in Northland and the Bay of Islands. This popular region is bursting with activities that cater to every interest and age group. Discover Kerikeri’s historic sites, including the oldest stone building in New Zealand. Relax in the laidback setting of Russell, a charming town with a rich history. Adventure seekers can enjoy kayaking along the coast or exploring the underwater world at Poor Knights Islands. For a more leisurely pace, indulge in wine tasting at local vineyards or simply unwind on the pristine beaches of the Bay of Islands. Every corner of Northland promises memorable experiences for all.

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Popular Northland & Bay of Islands road trips & itineraries

Northland and the Bay of Islands, situated at the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, are ideal for campervan explorations rich in history, natural beauty, and adventure. With numerous scenic routes that lead to secluded bays and vibrant coastal towns, the journey itself becomes as captivating as the destinations. Well-equipped campgrounds along the way make it easy to park up and soak in the scenery or enjoy starlit nights away from hustle and bustle.

Auckland to Coromandel Town road trip
Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ Itineraries

Auckland to Coromandel Town road trip.

Keen to plan a fun North Island road trip that packs plenty of punch into a short timeframe? The road trip from Auckland to Coromandel Town ticks all the boxes! The chilled out township of Coromandel is just three hours drive from Auckland, so you can hit the road in the morning, take your time driving, and still have loads of time to explore once you get there. Even better, break up your journey with a stop in Thames along the way. To help you get started, we’ve put together this awesome three-day New Zealand travel itinerary taking you from Auckland to Coromandel. With everything from ziplining to historic walks, It’s the perfect North Island road trip for a long weekend adventure. 

 

Travel: 3 days

Route: Auckland loop

Best time of the year: Anytime

Highlights: 

  • Pohutukawa Coast scenic drive

  • Historic Thames 

  • Driving Creek Railway journey

  • New Chums Beach

  • Karangahake Gorge 

 

Day 1: Auckland to Thames

Distance: 114 km (1 hour, 30 mins). Scenic option: 128 km (2 hours)

Your adventure begins at Apollo's Auckland branch, where you'll pick up your pre-booked campervan, primed for three days of exploration and adventure. 

Today, you’ll be driving to Thames, with two route options. The direct route via SH1 offers a straightforward 1.5-hour drive without many scenic distractions – perfect if you’re eager to dive straight into your activities. Alternatively, the scenic route through Whitford and along SH 25, known as the Pōhutukawa Coast route, is especially rewarding. This driving route is adorned with beautiful pōhutukawa trees, which are strikingly vibrant during the summer months when in full bloom. It's a slightly longer drive but well worth the extra time for the breathtaking coastal views it offers. 

If you take the scenic route, consider a scenic stop at Maraetai to enjoy a quintessentially Kiwi lunch of fish and chips on the beach, soaking up the coastal views. If your travels align with a Sunday, don’t miss the Clevedon Village Farmers Market. It's an ideal spot to gather fresh, local ingredients to enjoy during your road trip. Another noteworthy detour along this drive is the Miranda Bird Sanctuary, where you can observe flocks of shorebirds that grace the coastline. To catch these avian visitors in their most active states, plan your visit around two hours either side of high tide.

Once you arrive in Thames, take time to explore its quaint town centre. The northern end, still referred to as Grahamstown, features a collection of cafés and boutique shops set against a charming colonial backdrop. A visit to the local museum is a good option if you’re keen to learn more about the area’s rich mining history. 

For your first night’s stay, park up and relax at Dickson Holiday Park. Surrounded by bush and birdsong, it’s the ideal spot to unwind and plan your next day’s adventures. 

Image: Ben Gamlin

 

Day 2: Thames to Coromandel Town

Distance: 52 km

Travel time: 1 hour

Enjoy a slow start to the day – perhaps a hot cooked breakfast and quiet coffee before you hit the road. It’s just a short one-hour drive to Coromandel Town, so take your time and soak in the scenery along the way. 

As you arrive in Coromandel Town, you'll step into a world where the rich tapestry of Māori heritage intertwines with the remnants of the 1800s gold mining era. It offers a beautifully preserved glimpse into New Zealand's historical past. Today, this quaint town serves as a sanctuary for artists and craftspeople, drawn here by the stunning natural beauty and the peaceful, inspiring atmosphere. The town's vibrant arts scene and the picturesque environment make it a perfect place for creativity and relaxation.

Here are some of the must-do activities in Coromandel Town worth adding to your travel itinerary:

  • Driving Creek Railway Tours: Experience New Zealand's only narrow-gauge mountain railway. This exceptional engineering feat carries you through a recovering native forest and up to the Eyefull Tower, offering expansive panoramic views that are truly a sight to behold. The railway's unique zigzagging and spiralling track, designed and built by potter Barry Brickell, turns this ride into a thrilling adventure through history and nature.

  • Explore local art and shops: Dedicate some time to meander through Coromandel Town’s local art galleries and boutique shops. With a community of artists celebrated for their contributions to pottery, painting, and other crafts, the town is a hub for anyone interested in the arts. Each gallery and shop offers unique pieces, many of which are inspired by the surrounding natural beauty and local culture, making them perfect keepsakes or gifts.

  • The Waterworks: Venture into an eco-friendly amusement park where creativity and conservation go hand in hand. The Waterworks features ingenious water-powered contraptions, interactive exhibits, and beautifully crafted gardens. It’s an ideal spot for an engaging, fun-filled day out, especially for those who enjoy the playful side of engineering and sustainability.

  • Go ziplining: Add a dose of adrenaline to your day by ziplining through the majestic native forest. This activity not only provides a rush of excitement but also a unique vantage point to appreciate the dense greenery and fauna of the Coromandel Peninsula. It’s an exhilarating way to experience the area’s natural beauty and an adventure that will leave you with lasting memories.

  • Historical walks and heritage sites: For those interested in history, several heritage walks around Coromandel Town highlight significant historical sites, including old mines and historical buildings. These walks provide insights into the town's past as a booming gold mining centre, allowing visitors to connect with the stories that shaped this region.

  • Waiau Falls and Kauri Grove: For a nature-filled excursion, take a short trip to Waiau Falls and Kauri Grove. The falls are a breathtaking sight, tumbling into a clear pool that invites a refreshing dip. Nearby, the Kauri Grove is a remarkable collection of ancient Kauri trees, some of New Zealand's most majestic and historically significant native trees. This area offers a serene walking trail that allows you to appreciate the grandeur of these giants up close. 

  • New Chums Beach:  Finish your day with a visit to the stunning New Chums Beach, known for its untouched, pristine beauty. Accessible only by a walking track that crosses a stream and winds through native bush, this secluded beach offers golden sands and clear blue waters—perfect for a relaxing swim or just to lounge and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.

For your stay tonight, the Coromandel TOP 10 Holiday Park is a great spot to park up, chill out, and plan your next day’s adventures.

Image: Toursim New Zealand

 

Day 3: Coromandel Town to Auckland

Distance: 169 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 30 mins

Today marks the end of your three-day New Zealand road trip, but there's ample opportunity for adventure as you head back to Auckland. 

As you head out of Coromandel, consider a slight detour to Karangahake Gorge, a spectacular natural and historical site located well worth exploring. The gorge itself is renowned for its scenic beauty, marked by the rushing waters of the Ohinemuri River cutting through steep rock cliffs. The area is also rich in gold mining history, evident in the old tunnels and railway lines that you can explore via well-maintained walking tracks. Don't miss the Windows Walk, which takes you through old mining tunnels with windows cut out to overlook the gorge – it’s an unforgettable experience. A quick tip, pack a torch for this visit – it will come in handy if you want to venture into some of the longer tunnels.

If you're a fan of antique shopping, be sure to stop in the township of Paeroa. Known as the antique capital of New Zealand, Paeroa's main street is lined with eclectic second-hand and antique stores brimming with treasures waiting to be discovered. While you’re there, take a moment to snap a photo with the iconic giant Lemon & Paeroa bottle, celebrating the home of New Zealand's beloved L&P drink.

Another cool stop on the way home is the Ngatea Water Gardens, an enchanting escape that offers a whimsical and relaxing garden experience. These expansive gardens feature quirky sculptures, water lilies, lotus flowers, and playful water features. There’s even a Can Museum featuring 10,000 different cans from all over the world. It’s a perfect spot to stretch your legs and see something just a little different! 

As you arrive back in the City of Sails, the last item on your travel itinerary is to return to Apollo’s Auckland branch to drop off your campervan. 

Ready for your next adventure? Explore more of our great New Zealand travel itineraries to plan your next great road trip across this stunning country.

READ MORE: 15 family friendly things to do in Auckland.

 

Is the Coromandel calling you?

From beautiful beaches to deep dark tunnels, this fun-filled 3-day New Zealand North Island road trip has it all. Ready to get started? Take the first step and book your Apollo campervan online today. 
Follow our easy itinerary or check out our travel blogs for more great ideas on what to see and do in New Zealand.

 

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Apollo Campervan branches

Auckland

Departing from Apollo Auckland, you’re perfectly positioned for a half-day drive to Northland & the Bay of Islands. This route ensures a seamless blend of scenic beauty and local culture, culminating in the stunning landscapes of Northland.

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Northland & the Bay of Islands sets you up for a scenic multi-day journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and into the North Island. 

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore as much of New Zealand as possible? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and take your time heading northward over an epic 10-14 days taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 

Auckland City Skyline

Auckland

New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.

 

Helpful tips for visiting Northland & the Bay of Islands

 

Climate and seasons in Northland & the Bay of Islands

Northland and the Bay of Islands are renowned for their mild, subtropical climate, making them inviting destinations throughout the year. The warm Northland weather is perfect for enjoying the region's stunning coastal areas and rich cultural heritage.

  • Summer (December to February) in Northland are warm and humid, with temperatures usually ranging from 22°C to 26°C. This season is ideal for exploring the beautiful beaches, engaging in water sports, or simply enjoying the vibrant outdoor lifestyle with alfresco dining along the waterfront. Summer is also a popular time for tourists, so expect a lively atmosphere, especially in beach towns.

  • Autumn (March to May) sees slightly cooler temperatures and less humidity, making it a perfect time for hiking and outdoor activities without the intense heat of summer. The scenery remains lush, and the less crowded attractions allow for a more relaxed exploration of the region.

  • Winter (June to August) brings cooler weather, with daytime temperatures typically between 15°C and 18°C. The cooler days are ideal for visiting historical sites and museums or enjoying some of Northland’s renowned cultural festivals. Winter in Northland is generally mild, allowing for year-round outdoor activities.

  • Spring (September to November) revitalises the region with early blooms and warmer weather, gradually heating up towards summer. This is an excellent time to witness the vibrant flora and fauna as the landscapes burst into life, making it ideal for photography and nature walks.

 

 

 

What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan road trip in Northland and the Bay of Islands means packing smartly to fully enjoy the region's mild, subtropical climate and rich outdoor and cultural offerings. From sunbathing on pristine beaches to exploring historic sites and sailing in the bay, here’s what to bring:

  • Outdoor gear: The diverse environments, from the sandy beaches of the Bay of Islands to the forested walks of Cape Reinga, call for versatile outdoor apparel. Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing that will keep you comfortable during the warm days, and don’t forget a few layers for cooler evenings — perfect for cosy nights under the stars. Durable walking shoes are essential, whether you're planning to trek through the forests or stroll around the historic towns.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan setup can significantly improve your travel experience. Consider packing a portable barbecue for enjoyable seaside grills. You may also like to hire extra camping chairs and a table when you book your Apollo campervan to create a comfortable outdoor living space wherever you park. These additions are perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure or for enjoying a meal with a view.

  • Sun protection: The Northland and Bay of Islands region enjoy plenty of sunshine, making thorough sun protection crucial. Include a high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protection sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat in your packing list. This will ensure you can safely indulge in the outdoor activities that the region is famous for, from kayaking across clear waters to lounging on the beach.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

 

Attractions and day trips in Northland

 

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a must-visit for anyone interested in New Zealand's history. As the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, it offers a deep dive into the nation's past through engaging exhibits, guided tours, and cultural performances. The beautifully maintained grounds overlooking the Bay of Islands also provide a peaceful setting to reflect on New Zealand's foundational document.

Paihia

Paihia is the vibrant heart of the Bay of Islands, known for its lively waterfront filled with cafes, shops, and galleries. It's the perfect base for exploring the surrounding islands by ferry or enjoying water sports like kayaking and parasailing. The town's relaxed atmosphere and scenic beauty make it a favourite spot for both locals and tourists.

Russell

Once known as a rowdy 19th-century whaling port, Russell has transformed into a charming seaside town. It's rich with historic buildings like New Zealand’s oldest church, and its quaint streets, waterfront promenades, and excellent restaurants offer a picturesque step back in time.

Cape Reinga

At the northern tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga offers breathtaking views where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This spiritually significant site for Māori is accessible via a scenic drive, with opportunities to see the iconic lighthouse and the famous pohutukawa tree that marks the 'leaping-off' point of spirits into the afterlife.

Ninety Mile Beach

Despite its name, Ninety Mile Beach is actually about 55 miles long and serves as one of the country’s most stunning natural highways. It’s perfect for a day of adventure, offering activities like sandboarding down massive dunes or just enjoying a leisurely drive along its vast, sandy stretch.

Kerikeri

Kerikeri is known for its fertile soils and beautiful orchards, but it's also rich in history. Highlights include the Stone Store and Kemp House, the oldest stone and wood buildings in New Zealand. The town also hosts vibrant markets and has a thriving arts scene, making it a delightful destination for culture and cuisine.

Mangonui

Mangonui is primarily known for its historic waterfront lined with heritage buildings that now house charming cafes and shops. This small fishing village is famous for its fish and chips, offering fresh seafood with a view. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxed day soaking up local flavours and sea breezes.

Whangarei

Whangarei, the northernmost city in New Zealand, offers a mix of cultural and natural attractions, including the acclaimed Whangarei Falls and the Town Basin marina filled with galleries and cafes. It's a great starting point for trips to the nearby beaches and lush native forests.

Tutukaka

Known as the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka offers some of New Zealand’s best diving and snorkelling experiences. The marine reserve's clear waters are teeming with colourful sea life and are perfect for underwater adventures. Above water, Tutukaka’s coast is dotted with secluded bays and pristine beaches to explore.

 

Where to stay in Northland & The Bay of Islands with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Northland & the Bay of Islands, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:

Northland

Bay of Islands

 

 

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