Auckland to Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Gisborne and Taupo, return – 3 or 4 Days
This is an unforgettable journey through a part of New Zealand’s North Island that few include in their itinerary. The East Coast is the setting for one of New Zealand’s iconic films: Whale Rider, and with stunning scenery, hot pools, pristine beaches, and in the urban centers, wine tastings and art, you might find you need to extend your long weekend travel plans to take it all in.
Tauranga – Mount Maunganui
Leave Auckland city behind; head south and enjoy the drive through the Bombay Hills to Karangahake Gorge. Only an hour and forty minutes away from the big city, this narrow gorge is a stunner. Stop and stretch your legs, perhaps take the Karangahake Tunnel Walk.
From here you skirt the ancient beauty of the Kaimai Ranges, to the city of Tauranga, an hour away. Set on the coast, this is the biggest city in the Bay of Plenty. After checking into your accommodation, check out the lively arts scene or take a stroll along the waterfront.
Nearby Mount Maunganui is a chill little surf town. Climb ‘the Mount’ to watch the sun rise over the sea before setting off on day two.
Say goodbye to the mount and head for SH2, and follow it along the Bay to Whakatane. This is the place to book a fishing charter or a horse trek. Don’t miss the French café, L’Epicerie, on the Strand for brunch.
Just out of town is Awakeri Hot Springs – a journey back in time with old school camping and cabins. A soak in the pools is perfect after a morning in the car.
Continuing on, forty minutes south-east out of Whakatane, is Opotiki and a crossroads. You have a choice here. Take a side-trip the scenic way around the East Cape, about five and a half hours of NZ landscape very few get to experience or, cut across on State Highway 2 direct to Gisborne – two hours.
East Cape – side trip
Time seems to stand still up the East Cape. With a strong local community, Māori culture and history are in evidence throughout this strikingly beautiful land.
Further down the coast, Tolaga Bay is known for its 660m long wharf, a remnant of its lively trading past. Right at the beach front is the Tolaga bay Holiday Park or stay at the Tolaga Bay Inn.
One of the sunniest places in the country, Gisborne is a great place to do a wine tour or soak up that sun on the beach before heading back to your accommodation for the night.
Minutes away from the centre of town are the organic wine estates, Millton Vineyards and Winery, and Wrights Wines. Both offer cellar door service. Wrights also does gourmet platters, making it a lovely late lunch stop.
Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sunrise. A walk on the gorgeous beach is a welcome way to greet the day!
After welcoming in the day, your drive to Taupo takes you along the picturesque coast of northern Hawkes Bay, before heading inland to Lake Taupo, four and a half hours from Gisborne. The first glimpse of the deep blue of Lake Taupo after miles of verdant green bush will take your breath away.
Wairakei Resort is a favourite of many travellers. Five kilometres from Taupo in the Wairakei Thermal Valley, it has two hot pools, hot tubs and 9-hole golf course. Craters of the Moon, a stunning geothermal walkway, and Huka Falls are both nearby.
Return to Auckland via Hamilton
From Taupo it’s an easy two-hour drive north to Hamilton, the Garden City.
For the perfect last stop, visit Hamilton Gardens, or head to Zealong Tea Estate, New Zealand’s only tea plantation, for a tour and high tea before drawing your road trip to a close with the hour and half drive back to Auckland city.
Whether you’re travelling in a campervan, SUV, or something small and zippy for your Auckland to Taupo trip, ___Mode wishes you happy travels!