Planning Your Time
Start in Rotorua and then head down to Taupo and the National Park region. If fishing is your game, stop at Turangi. Napier and Hastings, with Hawke's Bay, is an area not to be missed. Prepare for a lengthy drive to Gisborne and the East Cape, and if you have the time (allow for 2½ hours each way and don't forget to fill the tank in Wairoa), take the rugged side road to Lake Waikaremoana. It's a little piece of heaven.
North Island's East Coast and volcanic zone include some of the country's most popular attractions. Plenty of excellent tours and bus routes hit most highlights, but having your own vehicle gives you the flexibility to seek out an untrammeled scenic spot or that lesser-known-but-outstanding winery.
Information centers known as i-SITEs are found throughout the region. They supply free information and brochures on where to go and how to get there, available accommodations, car rentals, bus services, restaurants, and tourist venues. The centers often serve as bus and tour stops, too.