Experience the natural beauty of the Bay of Islands, from forests of ancient kauri trees and clear blue lakes to mystical waterfalls and caves filled with glow worms.. Discover the Poor Knights Islands during a full-day boat cruise. Snorkel, swim, kayak or just sit back and relax on deck, watching the “fish cam” to see what’s going on beneath the boat.. Come face to face with unforgettable natural wonders during a day in Tongariro National Park, where you can hike, mountain bike or soar overhead in New Zealand’s largest gondola.. Discover the famous sulphur hot pools of Rotorua, then sit down to a dinner you won’t forget – a traditional Maori hangi meal cooked underground with hot stones.
As Maori legend goes, New Zealand’s North Island was heaved out of the ocean by the demigod Maori on a fishing trip, then his brothers carved out pieces of their giant catch, creating the peaks, rivers and valleys that make up the island today. Discover this rugged landscape with a rich cultural history on an in-depth 14-day adventure. Soak up sun in the Bay of Islands’, walk through Coromandel Forest Park, sink into hot pools in Rotorua, marvel at the massive Lake Taupo, explore the varied landscapes of Tongariro National Park and sip local wine in Napier. Travel with a local leader and discover New Zealand’s beauty beyond the obvious.
Welcome to New Zealand’s North Island! Your Bay of Islands adventure begins in Auckland at 8am. Meet up with your local leader and new travel companions then hit the road towards the Kauri Coast, eventually arriving at the Kai Iwi lakes. Take some time to discover the area surrounding these clear freshwater lakes and soak in the views over a picnic lunch, then continue on to the Waipoua Forest. Explore shady trails that weave through towering kauri trees and visit Tane Mahuta, a giant kauri tree believed to be up to 2500 years old. Drive on to the coastal settlement of Opononi then hop aboard a water taxi to the Opononi sand dunes. There’s nothing here but water and sand, so sit back and enjoy some peace and quiet, surf the giant sand dunes or take a dip in the ocean. Return to Opononi where you’ll spend the night.
Leave Opononi behind and continue your journey east. First stop off at the mystical Rainbow Falls on the Kerikeri river, then pay a visit to Mission Station, a historic site where Maori first invited visitors to live among the and the oldest house in New Zealand. You’ll then take a step back in time during a guided tour at Te Ahurea, a former Maori village which now serves as a site for cultural and historical education, and if time permits, you’ll also swing by the Wharepuke Sculpture Park. Arrive in Paihia and enjoy a free afternoon to get to know this charming coastal town and its surrounding areas. You may like to uncover some more of New Zealand’s story at the historically significant Waitangi Treaty Grounds, head out on a cruise around the Bay of Islands in search of bottlenose dolphins, or get active on one of the area’s many scenic walking or mountain biking tracks. Your leader will be on hand to help arrange activities and can also suggest some great spots for dinner tonight in Paihia.
Rise and shine for another day exploring the gorgeous Bay of Islands. Start the day with a scenic ferry ride to Russell – this tiny town packs a big historical punch and was New Zealand’s first ever capital. It was also the site of the country’s first European settlement and many historic buildings still stand today. After a morning exploring this fascinating seaside township, begin your drive towards Tutukaka. Stop off along the way in the little town of Kawakawa – this place is famous for its quirky and colourful public toilets designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser – rest stops don’t get much cooler than this! You’ll also visit the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves to explore a hidden world of unusual rock formations and thousands of luminous creatures. Discovered in the 17th century by the chieftainess of the Maori tribe Ngati Hine, the caves are still run by her direct descendants today. Tonight will be spent in the delightful town of Tutukaka which sits on a truly stunning stretch of coast.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Bay of Islands without visiting some islands! Off the shores of the Tutukaka coast you’ll find the Poor Knights Islands, a rugged series of islets with a history stretching back 11 million years. Today you’ll come face to face with the wild beauty of these islands during a full-day boat trip. You’ll have the chance to snorkel, swim, kayak, explore ancient caves and learn about the geological and natural history of the islands. It’s not uncommon to spot marine life from the boat, including dolphins, whales, and even orcas if you’re really lucky. If you’d prefer to put your feet up today, the boat is kitted out with plenty of seating and viewing areas, plus a “fish cam” so you can see what’s going on beneath the surface without leaving the comfort of the boat!
Say goodbye to the Bay of Islands and return to Auckland. If time permits, stop off at New Zealand's first certified B Corp brewery for a delicious and sustainable lunch. A welcome meeting will take place at 6pm this evening to welcome any new travellers joining you for the next leg of your adventure. If there's time to spare, you may like to find out what it takes to become a sporting legend during an interactive All Blacks experience, or discover the native plants at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. After your meeting, perhaps enjoy dinner with your group at a local restaurant, followed by a walk around the harbour with your local leader.
Coromandel - Whitianga
Say goodbye to Auckland this morning and make tracks for Hot Water Beach. Here you’ll discover a natural phenomenon where warm mineral water bubbles up from beneath the sand, just metres away from the chilly Pacific Ocean. While here you may like to dig a hole to create your own natural hot tub and enjoy a soak as the ocean laps at the shore. After some fun at the beach, continue to Cathedral Cove, famous for its beautiful stone arch. Snap a few pictures at this stunning spot, then drive on to Whitianga, a gorgeous town on the Coromandel Peninsula. On arrival, enjoy some time to get to know the area. Perhaps take a walk around the town, following heritage signs so you can learn about historic sites as you go. Your leader will be able to recommend some great spots for dinner this evening.
The Coromandel - Rotorua
After breakfast this morning, make the drive to Coromandel Forest Park. From here you’ll set out on the Billygoat Circuit hike, taking four to five hours. Cross a swing bridge over the Kauaeranga River, pass the Billygoat Falls, hike down to Webb Creek then climb for incredible views of the Kauaeranga Valley, Hauraki Plains and Billygoat Basin. Stop off for a picnic lunch and take a moment to soak in your totally natural surroundings. After your hike, hit the road and drive to Rotorua. Famed for its sulphur mineral pools, you may notice a distinct smell as you pull up to this fascinating town, but it’s all part of the experience!
Wake up to the unmistakable aroma of Rotorua and enjoy a day to explore all this place has to offer. Speak to your leader about the numerous geothermal activities available to you today – you’re never far from a good soak in Rotorua! You may like to have a walk around Lake Rotorua, or perhaps check out the Rotorua museum within the beautifully manicured Government Gardens. If you’d like to meet New Zealand’s most famous flightless bird, pay a visit to the country’s leading Kiwi hatchery. Step into a nocturnal house to see how these endearing creatures behave once the sun goes down. More than a third of Rotorua’s population is Maori, and this evening you’ll get to sit down to a true Maori experience during a traditional hangi dinner. Hangi is the process of cooking food in an underground pit using heating rocks, which makes for an interesting and delicious meal.
Tongariro National Park
Start the day with a visit to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, an otherworldly landscape home to lush plant life, volcanic craters and gigantic natural hot springs. Set out to explore the area on a self-guided walk, then continue on to the Huka Falls, an incredibly powerful cascade of water flowing from Lake Taupo. Take some time to marvel at the might of the falls before carrying on towards Lake Taupo, where you may like to enjoy an optional lunch and take in views of New Zealand’s largest lake. Return to the road and drive to Tongariro National park, the oldest national park in New Zealand and a place of great spiritual significance to the Maori people.
Tongariro National Park
Enjoy a full day to explore the wonders of Tongariro National Park. Home to three active volcanoes, bubbling mud pools, vibrant green lakes and rare wildlife, the park has no shortage of truly amazing things to discover. Speak to your leader about the options available to you today – there are walks and hikes to suit all fitness level and interests, there are incredible mountain biking trails, or you may like to ride New Zealand’s largest gondola, the Sky Waka, over the active Mt Ruapehu and past ancient lava flows and waterfalls. No matter what you choose to do, this is sure to be a day to remember.
Leave the sights and sounds of Tongariro National Park behind as you continue your journey and drive on to Napier. After being destroyed by an earthquake in the 1930s, the town was completely rebuilt and today serves as an open-air gallery for Art Deco architecture. Settle in on arrival then get to know one of Napier’s best loved assets – wine. Visit three local wineries, learn about their produce, drink in some incredible views and of course taste what all the fuss is about. You’ll also enjoy some tasting platters of regional delights, plus some local coffee if the wine has you feeling a little sleepy! This evening you’ll be staying at a wonderful, sustainable eco-lodge.
Your eco-lodge is not only focused on sustainability, but also regenerating the land while farming. After a fresh breakfast made with produce grown on site, tour the farm to learn how the owner has improved the health of the soil and its animals, and how the farm strives for a positive impact on the land and surrounding community. Follow the farmer as pigs are fed, eggs collected, cows milked and livestock shifted. In the afternoon head south to Waimarama for a chance to get to know the history of Maori tribes in the area with a local Maori guide. Waimarama beach was one of the stopping points of the great migratory canoe Takitimu in Maori tradition, and you’ll see why and where the Maori stayed, establishing the Hakikino fortress in the nearby hills. You’ll also drop into a native plant nursery and conservation area to understand how the Maori here are working to protect, restore, and reserve areas of remaining bushland.