Following your answer to a question about New Zealand's South Island (Tripologist, November 7), we are travelling to the North Island in February for two weeks and would appreciate a relaxing driving itinerary that allows us to stay a few days in each interesting place.
- M. Whiddett, Canberra.
After a few days spent poking about in Auckland - with Devonport, the Maritime Museum, Waiheke Island and the Scenic Drive through the Waitakere Ranges on the highly recommended list - head north to the Bay of Islands.
The main accommodation base is Paihia but do yourselves a favour and find somewhere to stay in the lovely little town of Russell, New Zealand's first European settlement. The Waitangi Treaty House and a scenic cruise through the islands are the must-dos here, with fishing, golf, diving and sea kayaking just a few of many other options. Instead of heading back to Auckland via the same route, if time allows, take State Highway 12, which passes through a section of rainforest along the west coast. Go straight through Auckland and turn off towards Thames, at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula. This is a gorgeous part of the country that New Zealanders would rather keep to themselves; a blunt thumb ridged by a spine of volcanic peaks with fine beaches along the east coast.
Drive north as far as Coromandel township, then cross the peninsula and find somewhere to stay around Whitianga. Continue south to Rotorua and explore the gushing, hissing wonders of New Zealand's volcanic heartland and do not miss the scenic cruise on Lake Tarawera.
From Rotorua head south to Lake Taupo, round the eastern shore of the world's second-largest crater lake and aim for Tongariro National Park. The park's volcanoes still belch fire and brimstone, creating an eerie, lunar landscape. If you feel like a stroll, the Tongariro Crossing is possibly the finest one-day walk in the country.
The final stop is Wellington, where you hand in your car keys and spend the time you have left wandering around this likeable and cultured capital, which also has some of the country's best dining.