Experience some of New Zealand’s most unique features on this epic North Island itinerary. In one week you’ll drive along a stunning coast, see dolphins, visit wineries, picnic on black sand beaches and travel deep into the geothermal and volcanic heart of the country.
Day 1: Auckland – Paihia
Depart early, taking the Twin Coast Highway from Auckland and heading north to Paihia, an excellent base to explore the Bay of Islands. Visit the Treaty House at Waitangi, a place that marks the birthplace of modern New Zealand. Then catch the afternoon cruise and set off in search of dolphins and other marine life, journeying right to the end of Cape Brett Peninsula to the famous Hole in the Rock on Motukokako Island.
After a hectic day spend the evening on the waterfront enjoying fresh seafood and New Zealand wine.
Day 2: Cape Reinga and the Far North
Arrive early at Kaitaia, the main town of the Far North. We suggest arranging a bus tour from here for a tour to Cape Reinga and on the Ninety Mile Beach (only 4WD cars can access this ‘beach highway’).
The Cape is of great spiritual importance to Māori, who believe it is the jumping off point for the souls of their departed loved ones making their way back to their mythical homeland of Hawaiki. The lighthouse is a spectacular spot to see the meeting of the two oceans – Pacific and Tasman. Guided or on your own, make sure you visit the giant Te Paki sand dunes for unlimited fun sand boarding.
On the way back to Paihia stop at the stunning Doubtless Bay and enjoy dinner at the Mangonui Fish Shop – one of the best in the country.
Day 3: Auckland West Coast Beaches
Northern adventures complete, head back to Auckland and to the black sand beaches of the west coast, famous for their wild surf and rugged beauty. Muriwai’s clifftop platforms overlook the gannet colonies that come to life from August to March and offer sweeping views out to the Tasman Sea. Stretch your legs on a walk to the Kitekite Falls in Piha before wrapping up the day with fish and chips on the beach and a spectacular west coast sunset as the backdrop.
Day 4: Waiheke Island
More beaches! Only today they will be white sand ones and coupled with wineries. Park your rental car in the city centre and take the ferry to Waiheke Island, voted by Lonely Planet as one of the best island multiple times. Enjoy wine tasting, spectacular food and water activities. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. Waiheke has a knack of being the highlight of everyone’s New Zealand visit.
Day 5: Auckland – Rotorua
Leaving the cityscape of Auckland, you’ll cross Waikato’s rolling farmland when travelling south to Rotorua, a place that is always steaming with excitement and wows visitors with its geothermal wonders.
Take the Skyline gondola for beautiful views of the city before zipping down in a cart on a luge track. You may have time to squeeze in a zorb (where you’re pushed down a hill in a giant plastic ball!) or a relaxing stroll in the Whakarewarewa Forest before being whisked away for an authentic Māori culture experience at Tamaki Māori Village. The evening provides a fascinating insight into Māori traditions, song, dance and a hangi (traditional Māori fare).
Day 6: Explore Rotorua
Volcanic activity is very much a part of the past and present of Rotorua. Enjoy the explosive beauty of this region by visiting one of the many geothermal areas. Rotorua is also the adventure hub of North Island. Agroventure Adventure Park features more thrills than you can cope with in one day, including bungy, shweeb and swoop. Soak your adventure weary bones in Polynesia Spa’s thermally heated pools before driving to Taupo, an hour south of Rotorua.
Day 7: Explore Taupo
Enjoy a scenic boat ride or kayak to the Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings. This 10m high rock carving took four summers to complete and is regarded as one of the best works of art by a local artist.
Take a scenic flight for a bird’s eye view of this stunning region before rounding off your North Island holiday with a thermal mud wrap and relaxing soak in a naturally heated spa.