Auckland is awakening to blue skies this morning but motorists are urged to take care as showers are expected and residents are likely to take to the roads early for the long weekend break.

Authorities expect possible traffic bottlenecks on the motorways as desperate Aucklanders escape the city for the first long week break since the country went into alert level 2.

Floods are also possible in the Coromandel Peninsula and the wet weather will stick around for most of the North Island all weekend.

Heavy rain watches are in place from this afternoon until early Monday in Northland, north Auckland and Coromandel, according to weather forecaster MetService.

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"People are itching to get out and about now we're in alert level 2, but unfortunately mother nature doesn't always play along," MetService said.

Auckland can expect showers today and a top of 18C, before heavier rain comes in on Sunday afternoon for a high of 17C. Monday is set for a high of 19C and possibly heavy rain in the morning.

Queenstown is set to welcome back the domestic tourists with mostly fine weather this long weekend. Photo / 123rf
Queenstown is set to welcome back the domestic tourists with mostly fine weather this long weekend. Photo / 123rf

Those heading to the Coromandel and Northland are likely to run into even heavier rain.

Whitianga has a chance of heavy downpours on each of the next three days and highs of 17C tipped for today and Sunday and 19C on Monday, MetService says.

Whangārei is forecast for a mostly fine high of 19C today. Possible heavy rain forecasts have been pushed back to Sunday and a high of 17C. More rain is expected on Monday but the temperature is expected to get to 20C.

Authorities have called for extra calm on northern roads after there were 10 crashes in an eight-hour period of heavy rain on Wednesday.

Tauranga is set for possible heavy rain over each of the next three long weekend days with highs of 17C-19C forecast.

Hamilton can expect lighter rain and lower temperatures than Auckland across the long weekend.

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Napier and the east coast south of Gisborne can also expect rain for most of the long weekend.

Wellington is set for morning rain today and a high of 14C, before a mostly fine Sunday and rainy Monday with highs of 15C.

In the South Island, conditions are expected to be much better.

Christchurch can expect a cloudy long weekend with periods of fine sunshine and highs of 14C and 15C.

The many Kiwis heading back to Queenstown this long weekend are in better luck.

The adventure hotspot can expect a run of mostly fine and sunny days with highs of 12C, but chilly overnight lows below freezing.

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Last Queen's Birthday weekend, there were six fatal crashes and 115 injuries across the country, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said.

Nearly 40 per cent of crashes involved single vehicles where drivers lost control or ran off the road.

This Queen's Birthday is the last chance for a long weekend away before winter sets in and NZ Transport Agency Auckland operations manager Rua Pani tipped: "We could be in for a very busy weekend on the roads".

"It may have been some time since people last drove a significant distance, so it's important they check their vehicles are safe and roadworthy and that they be fully prepared for the journey.

"That means leaving more time for their travel, checking the road conditions before they leave and driving to the conditions once on the road."

Last night, a series of crashes caused delays across the Auckland motorway network after thousands of holidaymakers fled the city for the first alert level 2 long weekend.

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Auckland motorist Ben Gibson sent the Herald photos of queues in the northbound lanes of SH1 at the Johnstones Hill tunnels, near Puhoi, the main route to the holiday spots of North Auckland and Northland.

"It's starting to build," he told the Herald on his way from Auckland to Whananaki for the long weekend.

"Titirangi to Wellsford, it has taken two hours and five minutes. Slow spots were on the Northern Motorway ... around the bays, then Redvale, Johnstone Hill tunnel. Warkworth was pretty bad, and then coming into Wellsford. No accidents just busy."