You’ve got 72 hours to explore New Zealand’s North Island, aka the world’s 14th largest island, where do you start?
With an itinerary that wraps New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, Māori folklore and geothermal wonderlands into one neat, long weekend package.
From tasting, trekking, climbing and even nosediving (literally) right into some of the North island’s most popular destinations, we’ve prepared the ultimate long weekend guide, all achievable within a few hours’ drive of Auckland Airport.
Get prepped for take-off
Begin your New Zealand trip where all good adventures start, Brisbane Airport.
With over 40 flights each week direct to New Zealand with all your favourite airlines, you’ll be connected with our closest neighbour in as little as three hours – just in time to finish a movie from the inflight selection.
9 AM: Coffee and fresh pastries
First things first, start your day with a coffee fix.
Forget coffee from a chain-franchise, there’s a locally-owned coffee scene brewing in Auckland, where you'll find baristas slinging shots of speciality and hand-roasted coffee gold from their inner-city laneway locations.
10 AM: Gain a fresh perspective from the iconic Sky Tower
Rather than hitting the streets on foot, the best way to get a lay of Auckland’s land is from above.
Standing 328m above ground level, the Sky Tower is the tallest building in New Zealand, offering panoramic views up to 80km in every direction.
If you’re after an adrenaline rush you can book a SkyWalk around the outside of the building, or for those who are extra daring, plunge down 53 floors at 85kph with nothing but a wire with SkyJump.
12 PM: Visit Rangitoto Island
Lace-up your hiking boots, strap on your backpack and jump on the next ferry headed for Rangitoto Island, it’s time to explore.
Rangitoto is home to the largest of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones, just a 25-minute cruise from the mainland.
Take to the Summit Track for a one-hour hike to pass through the world’s largest Pohutukawa Forest as well as the island’s lava caves.
Armed with a torch you can navigate your way through the twisting lava tubes before continuing up to the summit peak to finish off the hour-long hike with views over the Hauraki Gulf.
4 PM: Take your taste buds on tour in Auckland City
Return to the mainland in time for sunset, it’s time to wind your way through the city’s laneways, which unfurl like a haven for foodies.
After dinner with a view? Head down to the Viaduct Harbour, Auckland’s waterfront hospitality district and try The Crab Shack for a tasty seafood dinner on the wharf.
Hang around into the evening to experience the bustling nightlife of the laneways and their hidden bars like the Satya Spice and Chai Shop, and Pineapple on Parnell before staying the night in Auckland City.
9 AM: Road trip to Rotorua
Hire a car and spend the day getting lost in Rotorua, New Zealand’s geothermal wonderland, a three-hour drive south from Auckland City.
12 PM: Immerse yourself into the Māori lifestyle
Rotorua is home to a rich Māori culture where the spirit of manaakitanga (hospitality) is kept alive, immersing visitors in traditional customs, performances, and cooking techniques.
Book a lunchtime tour at Tamaki Māori Village just south of Rotorua and begin with a whakatau ceremony, before cooking a fried bread burger for lunch as the village shares stories of their history.
3 PM: Visit the geothermal sites and soak in the hot pools
Walking through Rotorua you’ll find bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers, and natural hot pools.
Bring along your bathers for a rejuvenating soak in Hell’s Gate, a mud spa nature reserve just outside Rotorua.
Mud baths have been used for generations to ease muscle and joint pain and Hell’s Gate’s pools feature three types of therapeutic thermal mud, black, white and grey.
After you’ve coated yourself in the revitalising mud, relax into a sulphur spa overlooking the native bushland or dive into a refreshingly cool spring-fed waterfall.
5 PM: Stay the night
Make the most of your time in Rotorua and book accommodation for the night.
Flemington Lake View Bed and Breakfast overlooks Lake Rotorua and offers a peaceful way to end the evening, just a five-minute drive from Hell’s Gate.
Otherwise, head to downtown Rotorua for dinner. If you’re there on a Thursday night, Rotorua’s Night Market is held weekly from 5pm – 9pm, dishing up a variety of local and ethnic cuisine.
If you’ve got more than a long weekend up your New Zealand holiday sleeve you might like to explore more of the Lake District, visiting the famous Waitomo caves and glow-worm grotto and taking a thrilling zipline tour through the forest.
9 AM: Hit the road and explore Lake Taupō
Before saying Kia Ora to New Zealand, make one final pitstop to Lake Taupō.
With pristine clear waters, plunging to a depth of 186m, Lake Taupō is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia and well worth the visit.
To explore the landscape, take one of the Huka Falls walking tracks around the lake and onto the banks of Waikato River where you’ll find yourself at Huka falls, New Zealand's most photographed waterfalls.
It’s an easy one hour walk to the falls, which have been naturally formed by the pressure of the river, being forced through the narrow 15m wide volcanic canyon.
12 PM: Feel the wind in your hair bungy jumping
See how New Zealand earnt its reputation for adventure by diving head-first into Taupō with New Zealand’s only cliff-top bungy.
Not for the faint-hearted, the cantilevered bungy platform is 47m above the crystal-clear Waikato River.
You can take the plunge solo or strap in with a friend for a tandem jump, you’ve even got the choice of being dunked into the water below.
2 PM: Explore Taupō town
Finish off your day in Taupō town, soaking in the atmosphere at the foothills of its mountainous backdrop.
What better way to top off your final hours in the North Island than a craft beer and Kiwi inspired cuisine at Plateau Bar & Eatery right in the heart of Taupō?
From Taupō, it’s around a 265km drive to Auckland Airport or 380kms to Wellington Airport for your return journey home – just enough time to start planning your next trip.
PLAN YOUR TRAVEL
BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT
It may have been awhile since you last flew overseas. It's a fantastic time to remember the basics of international travel as well as learn about what's changed.
We can’t wait to welcome you back to Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal, see you soon!