Around North Island of New Zealand
This road trip can be done in 5 days with multiple destinations, leaving from Auckland and arriving back to Auckland. This trip skips east coast, as some things there require summer weather. I planned a perfect trip to see everything l wanted but was worried will l be able to make it in time to return my rental car, but this plan gives your trip a lot of flexibility and you're able to see how it is possible.
Day 1 - I picked up my rental car from New Zealand city centre and had of to my road trip. But, roadtrip is nothign without the right snacks and food. So my first stop was to the grocery stores a bit outside Auckland city where parking is easy and shops are cheaper. Without the stop my first drive was to Hunua Falls (1h). After that you want to leave from Hunua Falls (by 11.00 if low tide in Hot Water Beach is between 15-16, so leave 4 hours before low tide) and head to Cathedral Cove (2 h), where you have a beautiful beach destination. Something that you can not miss, with amazing rock formations and caves. Here you need 1 hour for return walk plus time for sightseeing and enjoyment. My next destination was Hot water beach, only 13 minutes away from Cathedral Cove. You want to arrive here in low tide, check the official low tide by google. This is something you can not miss and is the perfect way to relax for your trip and understand the wonders of New Zealand. Hot Water Beach is a beach where you experience the hotness of this volcanic ground. The water coming underneath you is boiling hot and will burn you if you stick your fingers deep in the sand. I tried and definitely don't recommend sticking your fingers deep in the sand. Good thing was l had ice cold ocean next to me, to where l ran with my burning fingers. You will need a shovel, don't think you wont. You can not use your hands, cause the water coming underneath is just too hot to handle.The deeper you dig the better pool you create for yourself, the idea is to mix the freezing ocean water with the boiling hot volcanic water ( it is not from volcano lol but it is hot because New Zealand is 'build' on volanic grounds, that warms up this water). Prepare to chill and have beverage with you. Even in the winter, have bikinis ready cause, you'll be sweating as you chill in this pool you created.
In the evening you can start heading towards Matamata (2,5h drive), there is a nice hostel you can park and sleep at.
Day 2: starts with Hobbiton movie set tour, it is a magical place even if you're not a fan of the trilogy. Our tour lasted about 2 hours and came with a beverage at the end. We had a beautiful sunny day and the tour guys really go beyond to provide fun experience. After Matamata l head to Huka Falls, to where you can drive through Rotorua thermal pools or straight to Huka Falls (1,5h-2h depending if you detour through Rotorua). Huka Falls was very impressive, the power of the water is quite something. This is a place where you can spend a longer day walking along the river or even have a water sport experience in the Huka Falls.
Day 3 started with a drive to Tongarigo national park, where I recommend visiting information centre and choose the walks and hikes you wish to do. I spend 2 days exploring Tongarigo national park and did some long hikes I say. It's so amazing there! I drove a bit outisde the national park and slept in my car. Macdonald's accommodated me for the evening meal and charging my phone (;
I spent days 3 and 4 in Tongarigo exploring waterfalls and amazing nature.
Day 5 l started with a drive to marokopa falls (3h) from Tongarigo national park area. After the long hikes was nicer to have a bit longer drive to rest my legs before heading to the day full on. From Marokopa falls it is a short 10 min drive to Mangapohue natural bridge. Then a drive back to Auckland starts with one last stop at Bridal Veil Falls (2 hours here and another 2 hours back to Auckland. Day 5 might be a lot of driving and you might want to plan for a 6 day roadtrip, cause there is so many other sights to see.