Springtime Road Trip through New Zealand

Ready to turn the dream escape into reality? New Zealand is waiting for you this spring. Filled with attractions that will fill your cup, our relaxing New Zealand road trip itinerary from the North Island to the South Island guides you through an awe-inspiring getaway of tranquillity and wonder. Wind your way through spectacular landscapes, picturesque towns and villages and stunning stretches of coastline – and let the beauty of springtime New Zealand take your breath away.


Take a dive at Poor Knights Island. Image from Miles Holden.

Our road trip begins in Tutukaka, a coastal paradise on the North Island known for its white-sand beaches and marine adventures. To kick off your trip, take a dive boat out to the spectacular Poor Knights Islands marine reserve, one of the world’s most renowned dive sites. Explore the vibrant underwater world and witness colourful marine life in crystal-clear waters.

Where to stay

One of the best road trip hacks is to find accommodation that is within easy distance of major attractions. Situated near Tutukaka Marina and one of the best dive sites in the world, Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka certainly ticks that box.


Whangārei Falls. Image from Forte Foundry on Unsplash.

31 km / 30 mins southwest of Tutukaka

Head south-west to Whangārei, New Zealand’s northernmost city, surrounded by lush forests and picturesque waterfalls. Take a short walk to witness the breathtaking Whangārei Falls cascading over basalt cliffs framed by native bush. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and a refreshing swim in the natural pool below.

Where to stay

Enjoy views overlooking Whangārei Harbour at Comfort Hotel Flames Whangārei with studio accommodation set amongst lush tropical gardens. 


Auckland Skyline. Image from Zac M-W on Unsplash.

156 km / 2 hours south of Whangārei

Heading further south will bring you to New Zealand’s largest and most vibrant city. One of the top things to do in Auckland is exploring the iconic Sky Tower. Ride an elevator to the top for panoramic views of the city and its beautiful twin harbours against a backdrop of ancient volcanic cones. Enjoy a delicious meal at the revolving restaurant as you watch the city lights twinkle to life.

Where to stay  

You’ll find modern, spacious accommodation at the Quality Hotel Lincoln Green, a scenic drive from the beautiful west coast beaches and sporting the popular Good Home Gastro Pub.


Lake Taupo! Image from Tourism NZ & Chris McLennen.

270 km / 3 hours south of Auckland

Next stop on the list is Taupō in the heart of the North Island. Famous for its vast lake formed by a volcanic crater, the town is surrounded by spectacular natural wonders. Experience the thrill of a jet boat ride on Lake Taupō and get up close to the mesmerising Maōri rock carvings at Mine Bay or take in the thundering power of the majestic Huka Falls.

Where to stay

Find places to stay centrally located in the heart of Taupō or amid the landscaped gardens of a rolling vineyard.


Grab a bite at Mission Estate Winery. Image from Mission Estate Winery.

142 km / 2 hours south of Taupō

Located in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay region, Napier is renowned for its elegant Art Deco architecture and thriving wine culture. If you’re wondering what to do in Napier, visit the Mission Estate Winery, New Zealand’s oldest winery, for a wine tasting experience in stunning vineyards. Savour the region’s world-class wines while taking in the picturesque surroundings.

Where to stay

Quality Inn Napier is centrally located and an ideal option for exploring the town’s charms. Close to Westshore Beach, Comfort Inn Westshore Beach is another great option situated near Ahuriri Estuary Wildlife Reserve.

Palmerston North 

182 km / 2.5 hours south of Napier

As you continue your journey south, make a stop in Palmerston North on the banks of the Manawatū River, nestled between dramatic mountain ranges. Explore the Riverside Walkway, a shared pathway that winds through beautiful forests, gardens and picnic spots with views of the city. You can also enjoy a relaxing paddleboat ride on the tranquil lake at the Victoria Esplanade Gardens.

Where to stay

Enjoy a memorable stay in the city centre at Quality Suites Central Square, with popular attractions on your doorstep. Situated near the beautiful Manawatu River, Comfort Inn Kauri Court is another great option. 


138 km / 2 hours west of Picton

After you disembark in the picturesque town of Picton at the top of the South Island, head west towards Nelson on the Tasman Bay. Known for golden beaches and abundant sunshine, Nelson boasts a thriving creative culture with galleries, museums and art and craft markets. One of the top activities in Nelson is a visit to the open-air museum at Founders Park, exploring quaint streets lined with heritage buildings set in beautiful, established gardens. 

Where to stay

For some classic English-style the stylish and character-filled The Honest Lawyer, Ascend Hotel Collection is a sure bet with sweeping views of the Waimea Estuary, Tasman Bay and the distant mountains. 


Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Image from Jade Stephens on Unsplash.

409 km / 5 hours south of Nelson

Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, is famous for its beautiful parks and gardens. Spend some time exploring the 21-hectares of the world-famous Botanic Gardens, and enjoy a leisurely punt ride along the Avon River that weaves through the city. For panoramic views of the city and the Southern Alps beyond, take a ride on the iconic Christchurch Gondola to the top of nearby Mount Cavendish and explore the walking trails at the summit.

Where to stay

Surrounded by rose gardens near the heart of town, Quality Hotel Elms is a great base for exploring. Quality Suites Amore is conveniently located near Riccarton Bush farmers market, and Econo Lodge Canterbury Court offers spacious accommodation in the event’s precinct of Christchurch. 


162 km / 2 hours south of Christchurch

The beachside port of Timaru is located on the beautiful Caroline Bay. For things to do in Timaru, take a guided tour to a protected rock art site at the Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre, where you can learn the history of ancient Māori through the region. Timaru also offers one of the best free viewings of little blue penguins in New Zealand – at sundown each day you can watch as the penguins return to their burrows at Caroline Bay.

Where to stay

Put your feet up at the Comfort Hotel Benvenue, just a few minutes stroll from Caroline Bay, the CBD, the Aquatic Centre and Aigantighe Art Gallery. 


Aurora Australis is absolutely stunning! Image from thatphotoguynl from Unsplash.

402 km / 5 hours southwest of Timaru

Last stop on the list is Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city at the bottom of the South Island. This city has a charming old-world feel with its grand Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco heritage buildings. Invercargill is also the perfect base for exploring nearby Stewart Island and witnessing the night-sky phenomenon Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights). 

Where to stay

Stay close to all the action. The Comfort Inn Tayesta is ideally located, just a three-minute drive to Invercargill’s CBD.

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