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Oct 14, 2023

8 min. read

It takes me mere minutes to fall hard for Waiheke Island. I'm sitting in the white sand at Onetangi Beach, amid dazzling turquoise waters, vivid red and purple wildflowers and boldly painted food trucks serving up smash burgers and fresh ceviche. But it takes me much longer to experience all that northern New Zealand has to offer.

Some destinations are simply too special to rush through. I don't want to have to choose between restful beach days and exciting cultural experiences, both of which northern New Zealand boasts plenty. So, I've planned a leisurely long stay—a travel trend on the rise thanks to more flexible time-off plans and remote-work scenarios.

Long-stay vacations make it more worthwhile to travel great distances. After all, it’s not easy to make it to Aotearoa, or “land of the long white cloud,” as New Zealand is known in Māori. It takes more than 13 hours on a flight from Vancouver to Auckland, and you might need a day or two to get over jet lag.

And although the North Island is relatively compact (it’s a little larger than the island of Newfoundland), its winding hilly roads can add to your driving time, and unpredictable weather can sidetrack even the best-laid plans. Before traversing the North island, choose a home base.

I recommend starting your journey in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand and a hub for travellers. Rent a car and head south to the city of Rotorua and its numerous tourist attractions, then north to explore stunning subtropical beaches and fascinating historical sites.

Modern building entrance with distinctive angular canopy illuminated at twilight.

What To Do in Auckland

The city’s corporate core has many hotels and apartments for rent, but you can also opt for a charming bungalow or spacious villa in the trendy suburbs of Ponsonby or Grey Lynn. Your urban forays must include the Auckland Art Gallery, shopping the flagship stores of New Zealand's best designers in Britomart and a sunset hike up Mount Eden. Spend evenings in the neighbourhood bars and restaurants near your rental. Ponsonby Central is a lively marketplace with more than 20 restaurants and bars to choose from. And you'll find Grey Lynn locals enjoying oysters and wine at Lilian.

Pick a sunny day to take the 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland to picturesque Waiheke Island for glimpses of olive groves and vineyards, pristine white-sand beaches and brilliant blue waters around every bend. Reserve a Saturday morning for the famous Matakana Village Farmers’ Market, which is worth the hour-long drive north of the city, especially if you make time to visit Matakana Oysters and Sawmill Brewery.

Glow worms illuminating a cave ceiling with their bioluminescent light.

Top Attractions in Rotorua

One could easily spend a week or more sightseeing in and around Rotorua, which is almost three hours south of Auckland. Known for its geothermal activity and (sometimes strong) sulphur smell, this city also boasts world-class mountain biking trails. Get hands-on at a geothermal reserve and mud spa, go on a treetop walk in a redwood forest and watch a Māori cultural performance. From Rotorua, it’s an easy day trip to iconic tourist attractions, such as the Hobbiton movie set and the eerily lit Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

Exploring Northland

In the subtropical Northland region, about three hours north of Auckland, are beautiful orchards of persimmon, kiwifruit and mandarin trees—and more picture-perfect glorious beaches. Take a scenic hike through a forest of majestic kauri trees, past stunning waterfalls. Stop by the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the country’s Declaration of Independence was signed in 1835. Admission tickets are good for two consecutive days, so you can take in, at your own pace, the site’s heritage buildings and two museums to find out more about Māori history and culture.

Stay a week or longer in each of these regions to explore the bounty of beaches and charming small towns. Sample local seafood and buy handmade souvenirs at the The Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri. Or, visit the laid-back town of Russell and sip drinks at the historic Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand's oldest licensed hotel. Having enough time to visit a destination’s must-see attractions and stumbling upon under-the-radar local gems—that’s the best part of the long-stay vacation.

A serene waterfall cascading into a tranquil blue pool surrounded by lush vegetation.

Before You Go

  • Canadian passport holders need an approved electronic visa waiver, called a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA), to board their flight. Note that the application process can take more than 72 hours.

  • Travellers planning to stay longer than three months must apply for a visitor visa, which takes at least 44 days to process.

  • In New Zealand, travel insurance is required for some visa categories and is recommended for visitors using the NZeTA visa waiver.

  • It's best to purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your tickets. CAA vacation package plans include full coverage to protect you from the costs of medical emergencies, trip cancellation and delays, as well as lost or damaged baggage. CAA offers single- and multi-trip plans to cover international or interprovincial travel.

  • Choose the right travel insurance. Visit caasco.com/travelprotected to get a quote.


We can help get you there.

CAA Travel Consultant can work with you to plan and book your long-stay vacation. Call 1-844-370-9876 to learn more.

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