17 April, 2020
Last updated on 10 February, 2022
Posted by Spaceships Crew
Where can you find some of the earth’s most incredible beauty and adventure? New Zealand, of course! Amazing sceneries and countless hidden treasures are just lying at your feet as soon as you enter our beautiful little country. One of the amazing road trips that can be done is driving from Auckland to Napier via the Pacific Coast Highway. So hop into your campervan, and explore and experience great outdoor adventures.
The Mighty Pacific Coast Highway
The spectacular North Island’s Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) goes from Auckland to Napier via The Coromandel peninsula. There's so much to do and see and this blog post will be your inspiration.
Auckland to Napier by campervan
This route is from Auckland to Napier, via Whitianga, Tauranga, Gisborne and Napier, also called the Pacific Coast Highway. With your camper van as your transportation and home, you come and go as you please, live under the stars and soak up the sun every single day, no worries.
First stop: Thames
Thames is an enclave of artists, craftspeople, boutiques, cafés, and an open market on Saturdays with artisan cheeses, bread, vegetables, fruit, arts, crafts, and dried dog treats. Bring your own bags.
Kauaeranga Kauri Trail (Pinnacles Walk)
Behind the town in the magnificent Kauaeranga Valley is the famous Pinnacles Walk, leading to the Pinnacles Hut. Multiple trails provide for tramping and hiking. Enjoy amazing views of the Coromandel Peninsula. The track can be completed as a day or overnight walk.
Hauraki Rail Trail
The Hauraki Rail Trail is a relaxed cycling track following the old railway lines, with views of the Firth of Thames, lush Hauraki Plains, and a rocky gorge scattered with ancient gold mining relics. You’ll face the Karangaheke Gorge, the Falls Retreat, and go through the longest tunnel in NZ.
A secret beach
Leaving Thames but before Coromandel Township, take a quick detour to one of the world’s top twenty beaches. You’ll head a few minutes north, to Whanapoua. Grab your camera and make the trek to New Chums Beach. Accessible only by foot or boat, stay an hour or two and savour the fantastic views.
Hot Beaches of the Coromandel - Whitianga
The best things to do in this beach town are the Kauri Grove Walk, surfing and surf casting. Fire up the barbie and try your hand at deep sea fishing.
You could break your duck on the famous banana boat or horse ride along the old packhorse trails. The Whitianga Scallop Festival is in September, with sixty wine and food stalls. Try your luck at the scallop shucking contests.
Hahei Beach & Cathedral Cove
A coastal playground with snorkelling, swimming, and diving. And, of course, the famous Cathedral Cove or Te Whanganui-A-Hei as it's officially called. At low tide, pick up the walking trail from Hahei Beach, ending at the cove.
A must-see on your Auckland to Napier road trip: Cathedral Cove
Hot Water Beach
With high surf, cafés, and art galleries, the big draw here is Hot Water Beach. At the southern end of the beach, show up two hours on either side of low tide, and dig. Naturally, heated mineral water will bubble up and fill the spa pool. Relax in the warm bath.
Afterwards, head to Hot Water Brewing for some amazing craft beers and yummy food. Sit, back, relax and enjoy the relaxed Kiwi lifestyle in the Coromandel. It doesn't get better than this.
Voted the best beach in New Zealand
Whangamata, with a rainforest backdrop, has the safest swimming in NZ, best surfing breaks, a four-kilometre beach, swimming in the harbour; a ton of charter fishing boats; mountain biking; hiking and hunting. With its shops, cafés, and restaurants, it’s also the best shopping centre in the area.
The glow of Tauranga
Tauranga provides the unique experience of swimming with dolphins and visiting a glow worm cave. Glow-worm caves are scattered throughout NZ. What makes this one magical is that you paddle a sea kayak through the glow worm canyon. Explore Tauranga and enjoy everything this city and its surroundings has to offer.
Whakatane & White Island
Whakatane combines nature and culture with exclusive experiences. You’ll find dedicated mountain bike parks, kayaking, surfing, deep sea fishing, sea bird colonies, and Whale Island where you can dig for hot pools.
Back on the Pacific Coast Highway, your journey to Napier continues by way of Gisborne. This Eastland region is the world’s first place to see the sunrise every day, so plan your trip to experience this impressive sight.
In Gisborne and the Eastland area, you can surf year-round, visit wineries, hike, go horse trekking, river and deep-sea fishing. Walking to the lighthouse puts you at the easternmost part of the easternmost city on earth. The biggest advantage of beach life and surfing in Gisborne is that there are fewer people around so often you'll have the beach and the ocean to yourself. More awesome surf spots on the North Island can found in our blog post 'How to find the best waves for surfing in NZ' .
Beach & surf life in Gisborne: endless beaches and not many people around
Napier is the last leg of this adventure from Auckland to Napier via the Pacific Coast Highway. The sunny climate, coastal plains, and vineyards make this a favourite with Kiwis.
It’s home to over thirty vineyards, many with restaurants and cafés on site. You can tour Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony, one of two left in the world. Due to recent landslides, the beach access from Clifton is closed until further notice. However, you can still access to see the Gannet colony but only via Gannet Safaris Overland. Or enjoy the Mohaka River. area for a day of horse trekking, fishing, and rafting.
Napier is an Art Deco explosion. There are Art Deco walks, coastal walks and the Arataki Honey Visitors Centre. Every Sunday a market is opened in the Napier city carpark.
The route from Auckland to Napier is just one of the amazing routes to do in New Zealand. Have a look at this list with the best road trips in New Zealand to get more travel inspiration. It's your once-in-a-lifetime trip so these itineraries and tips will help you to plan your personalised ultimate New Zealand road trip.