Our Week in New Zealand’s North Island: a Budget Itinerary

We spent a week (6 days) in New Zealand’s north island. Here’s our itinerary, along with some highlights from each day, for inspiration or just entertainment!

north island new zealand itinerary
Our route through the North Island

Day 1: Auckland Airport –> Kauaeranga Valley


Arrived at Auckland Airport (from Hong Kong)

Picked up rental car (booked the cheapest option through Compare New Zealand Rental Vehicles Ltd)

Bought camping gear at The Warehouse (near the airport), a cheap department store

Drove 1 hour, 45 minutes to Kauaeranga Valley


Slept in our new tent at the Trestle View Campground, the closest campsite to the Pinnacles trail head

Day 2: Pinnacles (a.k.a. Kauaeranga Kauri Trail)


Hiked the Pinnacles (6.5 hours roundtrip). Absolutely gorgeous hike with awarding views at the top of the pinnacles. Nice bathrooms near the hut.

selfie on pinnacles hike


Slept like babies at the Trestle View Campground

  • Alternate option: Sleep at the Pinnacles Hut for $15. It’s really nice with dorm-style bunk beds (fits up to 80 people) and kitchen facilities, about a 3 hour hike from the parking lot (Kauaeranga Valley Road end). Great option for bad weather, or if you don’t have a tent, but have a sleeping bag. More info here.

Day 3: Kauaeranga –> Rotorua


Drove 2 hours to Rotorua


Slept at Rock Solid Backpackers, a really nice hostel in Rotorua, for $50 (private double, shared bathroom) and utilized their glorious showers & free wifi

Day 4: Rotorua –> Tongariro National Park


Free “foot spa” in Kuirau Park (near intersection of Arawa and Ranolf streets)

foot spa rotorua
Nothin like a hot coffee and foot bath to start the day!

Redwood Forest: hiked the green trail. Gorgeous 1.5 hour hike

redwood forest rotorua

Alternate options:

Hot springs:

  • Our choice if we’d gone: Waikite Hot Pools: $16.50 NZD/$11.56 USD per person, open until 9pm. On the way to Tongariro; less touristy than pools in Rotorua
  • Free: Twin Streams and Kerosene Creek are hot springs along the way from Rotorua to Tongariro. Be cautious at Kerosene creek; we heard bad stories about car theft from there
  • More upscale: Polynesia Spa in Rotorua for $29 NZD ($20.32 USD). Tip: Avoid from 6-10pm, when all the folks in nearby hotels go and it gets extremely crowded


Slept at Skotel Alpine Resort, conveniently next to the Tongariro Visitor Center (called the Whakapapa Visitor Centre).

Day 5: Tongariro –> Wellington


Hiked to the Taranaki Falls (2.5 hours roundtrip)

Alternate Options:

  • Tama Lakes
    • Adding this onto the Taranaki Falls hike would take 5 hours total
  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing
    • One of the most famous day-hikes in New Zealand, if not the most famous, takes you 6-7 hours


Tent camped at Camp Elsdon in Porirua, a quick 30 minute drive from Wellington

camping near wellington
Happy camper

Day 6: Wellington


Hiked to Mt Victoria; stopped at a LOTR spot for a photo

Quick stop at the Weta Cave (we only did the free “mini-museum,” which was extremely mini)

Enjoyed some craft beer tasting at Garage Project

garage project brewery wellington
You can purchase liters of draft beer for cheap!


Tent camped at Camp Elsdon

I hope you enjoyed reading about our week in the North Island! Stay tuned for our post about our South Island itinerary.

Do you have any questions? Need suggestions? Ask below!

4 Comment

  1. Craig says: Reply

    it all looks great including the Garage Project beer 🙂

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      It was, and Wellington has really good beer!

  2. Trevor says: Reply

    Is that LOTR spot the actual place where they filmed the hobbits hiding from the ring wraiths in the movie?

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      It sure is! It was marked on the trail 😀

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