As you leave the interisland ferry from Wellington to Turangi, you will head first to Levin. Turn right onto the highway from the Wellington ferry terminal following signs to SH1 and SH2. You will soon come to a junction where you take a left onto SH1. At that junction, the alternative is to continue straight ahead onto SH2, which will take you to Lower Hutt.
There is a dump station on the right as you head north before the intersection where SH1 and SH2 separate, which is really handy if you are heading south, so you can dump waste before taking the ferry.
Travelling out of Wellington to Levin via SH1, you leave the urban hill areas to drive along the coast. Close to Wellington you go through several seaside towns - one of the first is Paremata where you can stop for supplies and to refuel.
Further north as you head north to Paraparaumu, you will travel along the coast with lush green hills on your right - it's very pretty and you can take any of the raods off to the left to visit the beaches of the Kapiti Coast, such as that at Pukerua Bay and further north, Raumati Paraparaumu, Waikanae and Otaki beaches.
Although SH1 is the main route north and does have some dual carriage ways, it is often a single lane highway that has a speed limit of 50km/hr as you pass through smaller towns. Accidents are common on the roads of the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington, so please take care. If you want to look out to Kapiti Island, drive to one of the beaches - don't just stop on the main road (the traffic is just too busy for this to be safe).
North of Paekakariki you will travel through farmland as you leave the coast. It's still lush with areas of native rain forest. The road also becomes wider with many areas with two lanes making passing easy if there has been a traffic build up.
If you haven't stocked up already there is a huge retail park at Paraparaumu. Further north in Otaki, there are plenty of shops as well and these include many outlet stores - so a chance for brand items at reduced prices. This can mean increased traffic on the weekends as everyone wants a bargain!
Just south of Levin, you can take a right to SH57 which will take you to Palmerston North and Hastings and Napier.
Levin is the first large town/city you meet north of Wellington on this route - it has supermarkets, a post office, banks, service stations and all you need to stock up if you are running low on supplies. We passed through on a grey rainy day and so the view was limited but on a good day you will get mountain views.
North of Levin the landscape is of rolling farmland. Look out for the roads to your left that go to the beaches, such as Waitarere, Foxton and Himatangi. As you pass through townships such as Foxton, be prepared to slow down to 50km/hr. Look to the left as you pass through Foxton to see the windmill which is a local attraction and in the town's main road.
At Sanson, you will head left to join SH3 briefly before it continues to Wanganui (also spelt as Whanganui). Taking a right at Sanson will take you to Palmerston North. At Bulls, you will join up with SH1 again. As you leave Bulls, look out for the signs telling you if the roads ahead are open for traffic - if not, find another route sooner rather than later.
From Bulls the terrain becomes more hilly but is still lush and very pretty to drive through. There is some spectacular scenery as you drive along the Rangitikei River on the way to Taihape which is a relatively large town if you need to stock up or need a bank or fuel.
As you leave Taihape, check the roads are open and if not, adjust your route accordingly. As you drive north you will be aware that you are climbing up to the central plateau. You will initially see glimpses of the volcanic mountains, Ruapehu, Ngarahoe and Tongariro, as you head to Waiouru.
From Waiouru you can take SH45 towards Taumarunui via Ohakune, but to get to Taupo, continue on SH1 and take the desert road and drive through the Tongariro National Park where the volcanoes rise majestically on your left. There isn't any desert but there is lots of tussock and is quite barren if you ignore the mountains (as if). The views from Waiouru and northbound are spectacular - even in January, there was snow on the mountain caps. From Rangipo the landscape becomes green and lush as you descend towards Lake Taupo on a winding road.
You will reach Turangi which is the first place you can stop for food or fuel for a while. Turangi boasts that it is the trout fishing capital of the world so there are lots of places designated for anglers. Look out to see what roads are open or phone for information on 0800 444 449. You can take SH41 from here and follow Lake Taupo on the western shores heading up to Tokoroa and bypassing Taupo township if you want. We took the scenic eastern route along the lake to Taupo township.