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North Island Budget Road Trip Ideas

north island budget road trip

New Zealand - it's a mecca of stunning and awe-inspiring scenery. From the pristine locations to the endless places to feast your eyes on, it's the perfect place for a road trip. The only downside to this dreamy destination is the cost. If you are looking to go on a road trip, it's easy to feel put off after doing a bit of research into the price associated with travelling around New Zealand's North Island. Luckily, there is no need to fret. It's possible to travel around the North Island of New Zealand on a budget and VroomVroomVroom is going to show you how.

Money Saving Tips

  • Nature = free: Think about it - more often than not, nature is free and luckily, New Zealand is full of it! Most travellers come to New Zealand for this very reason - to immerse themselves in the stunning scenery that New Zealand boasts. What this means it that it's a win-win! From Cathedral Cove to Tongariro Crossing, nature is abundant (and free) on the North Island.
  • Accommodation: The main thing that can blow the budget is accommodation. The easiest money saving solution to this problem is camping or travelling in a campervan. The first option is renting a car and camping and the second is campervanning around New Zealand. There is a reason that these options are extremely popular and that is because there are countless free campsites on the North Island ;that are simply stunning. Pick up your car hire in Auckland and start your road trip from there.
  • Food: Food is a big money waster and in New Zealand it can be expensive depending on where you go. If you are camping or campervanning, you can still cook your own food along the way at campsites, rest stops, parks, beaches etc. Once you have picked up your rental in Auckland, stop at New World or Countdown and stock up on essentials!
  • Rent an economy car: Make sure to rent an economy car that is fuel efficient and within your budget. To ensure this is the case, figure out your daily spend budget for a car and see how many days you can afford. Usually economy cars have better fuel efficiency than bigger cars which means you will not only save on the car but the fuel as well. The drive from Auckland to Tongariro Crossing is approximately 6 days. You can shorten the amount of places you visit or extend this time period depending on your budget.
  • Get insurance: Make sure to get insurance! Although this is an additional upfront cost, you will be saving a lot if you damage your car - it's better to be safe than sorry. Click here to learn more about insurance.
  • Be careful of kilometre limits: Don't rent a car or campervan with kilometre limits. If you go over kilometre limits, the cost can add up quickly so it's best to avoid this. The distance between the top of New Zealand in Cape Reinga to Wellington is approximately 1,064 km. Keep this in mind when travelling.

Recommended North Island Road Trip Itinerary

Day One: Immerse yourself in culture and food in Auckland

auckland skyline during sunset


  • Coast to Coast walk
  • Museum & Art Gallery
  • Night markets
  • Silo Park
  • Light Path Walk
  • One Tree Hill
  • Mount Victoria
  • Auckland Botanic Gardens
  • Piha black sand beach

Where to stay:

  • Free camping: Ray's Rest Camping Reserve
  • Hostel: Nomads

Cheap eats: Barilla Dumpling and Better Burger

Day Two: Experience Cathedral Cove and natural wonders in the Coromandel Peninsula

cathedral cove at sunrise


  • New Chums
  • Hot Water Beach
  • Karangahake Gorge
  • The Pinnacles
  • Mount Paku
  • Cathedral Cove

Where to stay:

  • Free camping: Cathedral Cove Recreation Reserve (campervan only) or Waiomu Domain Beachfront Reserve
  • Hostel: On the Beach Backpackers Lodge

Cheap eats: Central Seafood Fish and Chips and The Wharf Coffee House and Bar

Day Three: Stop in at the world famous Hamilton Gardens and explore the city

hamilton botanical gardens


  • Riverside Walkway
  • Hamilton Gardens
  • Explore the city centre
  • Waikato Museum

Where to stay:

  • Free camping: Hamilton Common Rest Area
  • Hostel: Backpackers Central Hamilton

Cheap eats: Vegan Buffet and The Chilli House

Day Four: Check out Geothermal Wonders in Rotorua

hot thermal spring at rotorua


  • Geothermal Wonders
  • Redwoods Forest
  • Whakarewarewa Forest
  • Waiotapu Thermal Reserve
  • Te Puia
  • Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley
  • Hell's Gate - largest hot waterfall
  • White Island Volcano

Where to stay:

  • Free camping: Lakefront Drive
  • Hostel: YHA Rotorua Backpackers

Cheap eats: Herbs and Spice Thai and Capizzi Pizzeria

Day Five: See the stunning Waitomo Caves and check out nature at its finest

marokopa falls north island


  • Ruakuri Bush Walk
  • Marokopa Falls
  • Waitomo Great Walk
  • Opapaka Pa Walk
  • Mangapohue Natural Bridge
  • Sir Edmund Walkway
  • Pureora Timber Trail

Where to stay:

  • Free camping: Waitomo Campground Free Self Contained Campervan Parking
  • Hostel: YHA Juno Hall

Cheap eats: Waitomo Homestead and Roseland Waitomo Caves

Day Six: Visit one of the oldest national parks at Tongariro Crossing

emerald lakes tongariro national park


  • World Heritage Site
  • Emerald Lakes
  • Rich in culture and scenery
  • Volcanic peaks
  • Craters and mountain springs
  • Blue lakes
  • Red craters

Where to stay:

  • Free camping: Mangahuia Campsite
  • Hostel: YHA National Park

Cheap eats: Tussock and Fergussons Cafe

Map of Auckland to Tongariro Crossing National Park Road Trip

Do you know that you can download this map directly to your phone? Press the box symbol located on the top-right corner of this map to open in your Google Maps app. Now you can easily access this map on your next road trip adventure from Auckland to Tongariro Crossing.

Travel time and distance: 4 hours and 20minutes / 338 km

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