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This epic road trip explores much of New Zealand’s dramatic North Island which was the setting for many of the scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Beginning in Auckland in the far north, the journey heads southward through forests and lakes before terminating in the capital city of Wellington.
Below is the step-by-step itinerary with links to TripAdvisor where you can research more about each destination and find great hotel deals and compare prices.
Begin the trip in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and a sailors dream in that it straddles two major bodies of water; the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west.
From Auckland first head northward into one of New Zealand’s increasingly popular Huapai and Kumeu wine growing regions taste some its outstanding dry Sauvignon Blanc wines.
Continue further south and then west toward the Tasman Sea until you reach the small coastal town of Port Waikato, a holiday destination popular among surfers and sport fishers. Head just south of the town to view some of the locations where some of the scenes from The Lord of Rings films were shot and if you’re lucky you might find some dinosaur fossils along the way.
Now head back toward the center of the north island and then south until you reach Hamilton, New Zealand’s fourth largest city situated along the Waikato River. While there visit some of Hamilton’s most popular tourist attractions including the Base, New Zealand’s second largest shopping center, the Hamilton Gardens and the Hamilton Zoo.
From Hamilton head southeast toward the Rotorua District, a major tourist destination due to its geothermal activity which includes numerous geysers and vibrantly colored mud pools.
Further south lies Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand and one of the most popular tourist destinations attracting over 1 million visitors each year. The lake was formed as a result of a supervolcanic eruption 27,000 years ago that created a caldera that then filled with water.
Now it’s on to Foxton, once a major producer of New Zealand flax that was used in the production of rope and twine. A town oddity it an operating windmill, the de Mollen Windmill which is modeled after 17th century Dutch windmills and which grists flour which can be purchased in the mill’s souvenir shop.
Complete your journey in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city located at the southern tip of the north island on Cook Straight, the body of water separating the two islands that comprise New Zealand. Spend a few days in Wellington exploring the city and take a ride on the Wellington Cable Car up into the hills for great views of the city and surrounding countryside.
This road trip is one of National Geographic’s Drives of a Lifetime. Find out more about the New Zealand North Island road trip and other ultimate road trips on the National Geographic Traveler Website or purchase the beautiful hardcopy book of 500 ultimate road trips from the National Geographic online store for only $40. Buy Now