The coastal journey from Auckland to Napier is known as the Pacific Coast Highway. This route shows you some of the North Island’s most beautiful and remote areas. With your Auckland Airport car rental it’s the ideal way to get off the beaten track.
Once you have had your fill of marine adventures and city attractions, head south and east to the Coromandel region. The road there closely follows the coast, so expect fantastic views across the ocean. The beach town of Whitianga offers great seafood, plus fishing, surfing and swimming.
South from Whitianga, ensure you make time to visit Cathedral Cove. It’s a bit of a walk to the secluded beach but well worth it. Also, stop at Hot Water Beach and dig your own natural spa in the sands at low tide.
Enroute to Tauranga you pass through Waihi, a historic gold mining town and the Athenree Gorge. Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty is a relaxed harbour city. Stroll the Stand where you can enjoy live music and good food, and explore the surf beach of nearby Mount Maunganui, popular with holidayers.
Continue to follow the east coast down the North Island, with sprawling views over the horizon of the sea. On the way is Te Puke. The town of Te Puke is synonymous with kiwifruit – look out for the giant fruit sculpture.
Whakatane has one of New Zealand’ sunniest climates. There are historic Maori sites, a museum and observatory. Visit White Island, the country’s most active volcano, by sea or air.
From Whakatane to Gisborne, you will have a lot to stop and see. Ohope is a coastal down with 10km of beach, perfect for swimming, walking, surfing and fishing. The gentle rolling foothills of the Urewera Ranges make for pleasant surrounds as you progress down the East Cape. Tikitiki is home to an iconic Maori church and Waipiro Bay has multiple historic marae. At Tolaga Bay you can walk along the famous wharf, which is more than half a kilometre long.
In Gisborne, the first city to see the sun each day, soak up the wine, the culture, and make the most of the surfing.
From Gisborne you can either continue along the coast or head inland. Once you reach Napier, you can explore the Art Deco architecture and the surrounding wineries. Vineyards here are complemented by top notch cuisine, either at the onsite cafes and restaurants, or back in the city. Nearby Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest gannet colony.