Discover New Zealand's North Island with Avis
Drive between Wellington and Auckland with Avis and you'll see why New Zealand is rightly famous for weird and wonderful scenery.
Ever met anyone who doesn’t like New Zealand? Not likely. This isn’t just one of the world’s most beautiful countries, endowed with quirky nature on a grand scale, but one of the friendliest too. Add good wine, great food and tranquil roads, and you have a holiday to remember.
Get driving and tread lightly across the island by renting an electric car: Avis has added close to 100 electric cars to its New Zealand fleet at Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch airports. Ranging from a small electric SUVs like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kona Electric to a Tesla 3 sedan or the new Tesla Y SUV, the cars deliver a greener driving experience in this very green and pleasant land.
Plan Your Trip with Avis
Take to the road in an Electric Vehicle with Avis.
Te Papa Museum (Image credit: WellingtonNZ).
Day 1: City to Country
With Avis’ innovative Digital Check In, you can minimise contact, speed up the collection process and soon be beyond Wellington airport. If you’re an electric-car first timer, Avis will get you going with simple operating guidance, and provide a quick-start guide to take with you on your journey.
A 15-minute drive brings you into the city. Make a beeline for the outstanding Te Papa Museum, whose high-tech, interactive displays take you through New Zealand history, geology and wildlife: you can attempt a virtual bungee-jump and ride on a whale’s back.
For lunch, stroll into Hannah’s Laneway, where a one-time shoe factory has been transformed into a gourmet hub. Enjoy a weekend fine-dining brunch at Shepherd – mushroom toast with truffle, cabbage pancake with duck – or wander from artisan bakery, pizzeria and taco stand to chocolatier and brew bar as the fancy takes you.
Hannah's Laneway (Image credit: Nicola Emonds and WellingtonNZ).
The sleek interiors of Hyundai's IONIQ 5 electric vehicle.
If you aren’t distracted by Wellington’s newfound street buzz, then the ride in the red cable tram up to the botanic gardens is a Wellington classic. Later, as you head out of town, stop for a look at the Beehive (New Zealand’s parliament building) and Old St Paul’s Cathedral.
Turn your car towards Otaki, which has a magnificently windswept beach and short leg-stretching hikes in the Tararua Range, and on to Palmerston North, a small city centred on The Square, around which you’ll find boutiques and cosy cafés. Sports fans will want to check out the New Zealand Rugby Museum, which has rare and historic rugby memorabilia and entertaining interactive displays.
Check into well-located, apartment-style Quest Palmerston North. Dine in the beautiful courtyard of an historic building at Aberdeen restaurant, which serves contemporary New Zealand cuisine. Alternatively, Arranged Marriage restaurant serves scrumptious southern Indian cuisine, including dosas, kormas and a delectable lamb-pepper masala.
The stunning Mine Bay on Lake Taupo (Image credit: Love Taupo).
Huka Lodge, perched on the banks of the gorgeous Waikato River (Image credit: Huka Lodge).
Day 2: Rivers and Lakes
New Zealand is well equipped with charging stations (including at your hotel), so if you’re driving an electric vehicle, charge up for the day. You’ll be able to travel approximately 300 kilometres at 80 per cent charge – and all wonderfully quiet kilometres with no engine noise.
It’s a three-hour drive to Taupo. Almost every drive in New Zealand is gloriously beautiful and this one is no exception, sliding through lush green countryside and, after Waiouru, providing great outlooks onto snow-capped Mt Ruapehu.
Before that though, stop at Mangaweka, whose nearby Mokai Gorge featured in The Lord of the Rings. Ride through it on the Rangitikei River, either on a scenic raft drift or white-water kayak, as 200-metre cliffs loom above. If you’re peckish, fuel up at Duke’s Roadhouse, which has a small menu (burgers, Reuben sandwiches, soups) big on flavour.
As you drive onwards, the road meets the southern end of vast and scenic Lake Taupo, where volcanic soils, altitude and a cold climate combine to create good Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Stop by at sustainable Floating Rock Vineyard for a wine tasting and (if you haven’t eaten yet) a gourmet pizza. Adjacent Streamblock has a gorgeous setting and olive trees as well as vines.
At the northern end of the lake, Taupo is an unassuming town perhaps, but has a superb lakeside location. Take a cruise or kayak on the lake if you have time, or follow the hiking trail along the Waikato River for a pleasantly easy stroll.
Taupo has numerous accommodation options, but if you’re ever going to splurge, do it by checking into Huka Lodge, which sits serenely on the swan-paddled and emerald-green Waikato River. Established as a rustic fishing lodge, it’s now a luxury retreat surrounded by lush gardens. Enjoy canapés and drinks followed by a multi-course, fine-dining dinner of oysters, salmon or Southland lamb in its restaurant as you relax and listen to the river gurgle past.
Mount Ruapehu looms on the horizon (Image credit: Camilla Rutherford and NZ Tourism).
Biking along the Huka Falls trail near Tupo (Image credit: Fraser Clements and Tourism NZ).
Day 3: Hot Pools and Hobbits
Drive between Wellington and Auckland with Avis and you'll see why New Zealand is rightly famous for weird and wonderful scenery. As you set off from Huka Lodge, stop just minutes away to see thundering Huka Falls and the nearby Craters of the Moon, where mud boils and the earth steams. Weird volcanic landscapes reach a crescendo 40 minutes’ drive north at Wai-OTapu Thermal Wonderland, pockmarked with fumaroles, sulphurous pools and burping mud lakes. A little further on, just before arriving in Rotorua, Pohutu Geyser puts on a show 20 times a day, shooting boiling water 30 metres into the air.
Rotorua is at the heart of Maori culture. At historic Whakarewarewa living village you can enjoy carving and weaving displays, and Maori music and dancing. Have lunch at breezy Terrace Kitchen, which sources ingredients from its own garden for stylish Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as grilled fish, chicken with white-bean hummus, or glazed octopus. More informal Capers Café is perennially popular for its chorizo omelettes and salmon bagels.
Getting up close and personal with Maori culture in Rotorua (Image credit: Fraser Clements and Tourism NZ).
Enjoying the terminal waters of Rotorua (Image credit: Miles Holden and Tourism NZ).
Rotorua might be best known for its volcanic landscapes, but is also terrific for zip-lining, mountain biking and hiking in surrounding redwood forest or along lovely Lake Tarawera. You could easily spend a day or two more here, and luckily the Avis App allows you to extend your car rental if the spirit takes you. Otherwise, turn your car north towards Auckland, pausing at Hobbiton Movie Set, 50 kilometres before Hamilton, to see the sheep farm that stood in for The Shire in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Stop by and visit the enormous walk-through aviary of Hamilton Zoo. Meanwhile, plant lovers will appreciate the roses, camellias and rhododendrons of Hamilton Gardens: Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese and other garden styles are also showcased, making this exquisite spot one of New Zealand’s top attractions.
Just under two hours' drive from Hamilton brings you into Auckland. With Avis' new cross-island process, you can continue your EV journey via ferry over Cook Strait to the South Island, or explore anew the route back to Wellington, enjoying more of New Zealand's Middle-earth magic along the way. You may never want to return to the mundane world again...
Be electrified by New Zealand's North Island novelty and be driven by better at avis.com.au