COMPREHENSIVE NORTH ISLAND SELF-DRIVE
NEW ZEALAND

Auckland – Paihia - Rotorua – Taupo – Napier – Martinborough - Wellington

Overview

TOUR CODE: NCNISD

Independent Journey

Take in the best of New Zealand’s captivating north island with this twelve-day self-drive tour. Arrive in bustling Auckland, taking in the many sights and impressive views. From here, take the ferry on to Waiheke Islands, with its beautiful vineyards, beaches and farmland, before journeying on to Paihia via the indulgent hot springs of Waimera. Paihia is ideal for taking in the mesmerizing beauty of the Bay of Islands, perhaps even spotting some playful dolphins along the way. Journey on to Rotorua, the heart of Maori culture in New Zealand. Learn more about this rich culture, and enjoy the bubbling mud pools and hot springs, created due to the volcanic landscape. Nearby, observe the scenic Waimangu volcanic valley, and stop by the Kiwi Encounter to meet New Zealand’s loveable national bird. From here, continue on to Lake Taupo along the scenic ‘Thermal Explorer’ drive, to enjoy an action-packed day and visit the mighty Huka Falls. Continue on to Napier with its art deco architecture and Hawkes Bay vineyards. From here, journey through one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions, Martinborough, before arriving back in the foodie hotspot of Wellington, where the tour concludes.

What’s Included

  • 11 nights hotel accommodation
  • Compact car rental includes unlimited mileage, full insurance and GPS
  • 11 breakfasts and 1 lunch
  • Arrival private transfer from airport to hotel in Auckland
  • Entrance fees and sightseeing tours as specified in itinerary
  • Hotel taxes and GST

Itinerary

DAY 01

ARRIVE AUCKLAND

Arrive in Auckland, you will be welcomed by our local representative at the airport for your private transfer to your hotel in the city center.

 

In the afternoon, join us for an extensive city tour along Queens Street, Karangahape Road and fashionable Ponsonby. Cross the famous Auckland Harbour Bridge and enjoy views over Hauraki Gulf and Auckland Skyline. Continue to the revitalized Silo Park waterfront precinct and Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park developed around an extinct volcano. After a brief tea stop at boutique shopping area of Parnell Village, continue along scenic waterfront route of Tamaki Drive before finishing with the scenic highlight of the tour – Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park with its formal gardens, tranquil atmosphere and stunning views over Eastern Bays, Auckland City and Waitemata Harbor. An admission ticket to Auckland Sky Tower (own visit) is included. Duration is 3 hours.

DAY 02

AUCKLAND/WAIHEKE/AUCKLAND (B/L)

In the morning take a ferry and in less than 50 minutes you reach Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke is a picturesque blend of vineyards and olive groves, beaches, farmland and forest. On this full day tour, you experience a combination of the best food and wine this charming island has to offer. You stop at 3 award winning vineyards and an olive grove, you will also have a chance to indulge in locally produced foods such as mouth-watering preserves and world class olive oils. Lunch is included at the famous Stonyridge Vineyard. Return in the afternoon by ferry to Auckland CBD. Evening at your own leisure.

DAY 03

AUCKLAND/PAIHIA (143 MILES, APPROX. 2.5 HOURS DRIVE) (B)

After breakfast, pick up your rental car and start your scenic drive over the Auckland Harbour Bridge towards the bays and beaches of Auckland’s North Shore. The motorway will quickly sweep you northward, until the suburban scenery gives way to peaceful farmland. You will pass Hatsfield’s Beach before coming across Waimera, which means ‘hot water’ in Maori. The hot springs are the main attraction in this small, seaside village. Continue through Dome Forest into the rural service town of Wellsford. Stop in Whangarei at its beautiful harbor where you find stylish cafes and restaurants. Arrive in Paihia in the afternoon.

DAY 04

PAIHIA (B)

The resort town of Paihia is the perfect base for exploring the Bay of Islands. Today, join the original ‘Cream trip’ that once started as a mail- and supply delivery service route by boat for local residents. You enjoy stunning views of the islands as you travel through these islands while the boat stops for making deliveries. Stop at the stunning Hole in the Rock at Motukokako Island before continuing to see dolphins in their natural environment. If conditions are suitable, you can go swimming alongside these inquisitive creatures (pre-booking required, supplement applies). Alternatively try bottom-netting, hanging on the net as the boat glides through the water. Step ashore at Otehei Bay on stunning Urupukapuka Island where you can relax on the beach, go for a swim or enjoy your own picnic. Return to Paihia at around 4 pm. This evening is free at leisure.

DAY 05

PAIHIA/ROTURUA (279 MILES, APPROX. 6 HOURS DRIVE) (B/D)

This driving day leads you via the Western Coast of Northland, through Kaiwaka and Wellsford, to the wine district of Kumeu. Continue southwards over the Waitakere Ranges and reach Auckland. After passing through Auckland enjoy the

green rolling hills of The Waikato, a region rich in farming and agriculture where you arrive in the afternoon in Rotorua, the cultural heart of the North Island.

 

Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present. The city is also the tribal home of the Te Arawa people who settled in its lakeside geothermal areas more than 600 years ago. Rotorua is also known for its shooting geysers, bubbling mud pools and natural hot springs as well for showcasing the fascinating Maori culture.

 

In the evening joins us on a traditional Maori experience at Mitai Village, our preferred partners and friends, for an authentic introduction to Maori culture. Mitai Maori Village is nestled in a natural bush setting just outside of Rotorua. You witness the arrival of a ‘waka’, the ancient warrior canoe on the Wai-o-whiro stream and your Maori guide explains you all the secrets to cook a traditional ‘Hangi’ and the traditions of ‘ta moko’, Maori tattoo art. A cultural performance displaying weaponry and combat, coupled with the beauty of the poi dance, will finish with the highlight – the spine-tingling Haka. A traditional Hangi dinner rounds off an unforgettable evening with the Mitai family. You will have the opportunity to meet with the village chief during the evening.

DAY 06

ROTURUA (B)

After breakfast, a scenic short drive take us to Waimangu volcanic valley, the world’s youngest geothermal system. This eco-experience is set in pristine New Zealand bush and encompasses beautiful Lake Rotomahana. See up close fascinating geo-thermal features such as steaming volcanic crater lakes as well unique, ecology and rare botany. Take a leisurely boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana, the newest of New Zealand’s larger, naturally formed lakes and is the result of the 1886 Mt. Tarawera eruption which exploded the lake 20 times to its former size. The lake has its own geothermal system with amazing thermal activity that can only be seen from the boat. Today Lake Rotomahana is an unspoilt, natural wilderness area, protected from development. In the afternoon visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park and Kiwi Encounter. Rainbow Springs is a fun-packed and educational experience for every New Zealand visitor. We combine this visit with a unique ‘behind the scenes’ tour of ‘Kiwi Encounter’, a unique New Zealand attraction dedicated to the conservation of the national icon, the kiwi. The guided tour leads you to the hatchery and nursery where young chicks are hatched and raised before released back into the wild. You will also visit the ‘Forest Floor Café’ where the kiwi chick diet is prepared and finish the tour by wandering through the nocturnal area where adult and juvenile kiwi roam around in a moonlit atmosphere.

DAY 07

ROTORUA/LAKE TAUPO (62 MILES, APPROX. 1.5 HOURS DRIVE) (B)

After breakfast, we leave Rotorua on one of New Zealand’s 10 scenic highways, the ‘Thermal Explorer’ towards Taupo. Stop at one of the many geothermal attractions along the way. After an hour, you reach Taupo which sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. Lake Taupo was formed after a giant explosion (believed in 186AD). The lake is nowadays the world’s largest volcanic crater. Taupo township has become a major holiday destination for locals- and foreign tourists alike. Taupo has also been dubbed “Adventure Capital of New Zealand”, mainly for its offerings to those wanting to try bungee-jumping, jet-boating or Skydiving.

 

The mighty Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, enters a shallow ravine of hard volcanic rock just before Huka Falls. The effect is nature’s large-scale equivalent of a fire hose feeding into a very fine nozzle.

See and feel Huka Falls from a different perspective and board a Jetboat. Combining 360 spins and passing nature by incredibly close at disorienting speeds before reaching the awe-inspiring majesty of the Huka Falls. Before proceeding to Taupo township stop at Huka Falls for a photo opportunity to see how the falls look like from landside perspective. Rest of the afternoon and evening at your own leisure.

DAY 08

TAUPO/NAPIER (87 MILES, APPROX. 2 HOURS DRIVE) (B)

After breakfast continue your journey on the ‘Thermal Explorer’ Highway towards Napier. The major entertainment on the road from Taupo to Napier is the fantastic scenery. There’s a bit of everything – rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. At Tarawera we recommend a stop for the hot springs.

 

After a massive earthquake in 1931, Napier was rebuilt, in the then predominant Art Deco Style, in less than 2 years. Today Napier is worldwide one of the most beautiful and best preserved Art Deco cities We have arranged an expert guide from Napier’s “Art Deco Trust” for a guided walking tour in the afternoon where you can learn all about the devastating earthquake, the rebuild efforts and the now protected Art Deco Buildings including the stories behind some of the landmark sites. The evening is at your own leisure.

DAY 09

NAPIER/MARTINBOROUGH (168 MILES, APPROX. 3.5 HOURS DRIVE) (B)

The Region of Hawkes Bay and Napier is not only famous for its Art Deco architecture but also for a landscape that retains an ‘untouched’ feel. Hawkes Bay is also one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest regions, making it a leading wine producer, in particular red wines – cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, but also some quite stunning whites.

 

Join our local Hawkes Bay expert on an intimate, informative morning tour through this fascinating part of the North Island and visit some local vineries and take in the breathtaking scenery from Te Mata Peak, where you have a bird’s eye view of the entire region, from the plains to the Pacific Ocean.

 

In the afternoon continue South on the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail towards Martinborough in the Wairarapa Region.

 

The Wairarapa is a delightful mix of wineries, antiques, food and historic charm. The main town here is Martinborough which has become the gourmet capital of the lower North Island and is home to 25 boutique vineyards and several fabulous restaurants. Martinborough’s wineries are mostly family owned and home to some of the best Pinot Noir’s in the world. Many of these wineries have open cellar doors and there is no need for appointments, just pop-in and taste some of their amazing wines (most charge a small free which will be reimbursed upon purchase of a bottle).

DAY 10

MARTINBOROUGH/WELLINGTON (56 MILES, APPROX. 1.2 HOURS DRIVE) (B)

We believe the best way to get around Martinborough and its wineries is by bicycle and we have pre-arranged for you the bikes. Spend the morning and early afternoon at your own pace, pedaling between award winning vineyards, meandering along country roads and exploring this quaint wine village. Sample boutique wines and linger somewhere special with a pre-arranged delicious picnic of local deli fare. In the afternoon, continue your drive towards Wellington. After the town of Featherston you climb up and over the Rimutaka Range with great views in every direction. After the mountains, descend through the picturesque Hutt Valley and then on a fast-moving motorway right to New Zealand’s Capital city.

 

Wellington is being called ‘the coolest little capital in the word’ by Lonely Planet and we are sure this doesn’t refer to the often-windy conditions. Nestled between a sparkling harbor and rolling green hills, Wellington is renowned for its arts, heritage, culture and native beauty. Over the last couple of years Wellington has also made itself a name for an outstanding gastronomy – including trendy coffee shops, creative restaurants and a vibrant bar scene.

We will have this evening at your own leisure.

DAY 11

WELLINGTON (B)

Given Wellington’s increasing popularity as a ‘foodie destination’ we have arranged for you a ‘Capital Tastes Tour’, expertly guided by a renowned food- and gastro expert. You discover unique tastes in New Zealand’s coffee capital and get an introduction to the city, architecture and history, all while sampling local, artisan flavors. Stroll behind the scenes at some of our favorite Wellington food places and taste hidden culinary treasures and meet some of the makers behind some of the city’s best food. This tour includes some light walking.

 

In the afternoon, visit New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa. This is much more than ‘just’ a museum but an innovative and interactive destination within Wellington. It showcases New Zealand’s great treasures and stories, its unique natural environment, Maori culture, art heritage and fascinating history.

 

You take an in-depth, expertly guided tour to discover all about Maori culture. From historic, artistic and contemporary perspectives, this tour will enrich your understanding of what makes New Zealand’s Maori culture unique.

DAY 12

WELLINGTON DEPARTURE (B)

Drive to Wellington Airport where we will return our rental car before boarding our flight back home.

Meals: B= Breakfast        L=Lunch      D=Dinner

Contact us at (800) 988-4833 or Email us to Book this Trip NOW!

Dates & Prices

Per person, based on double occupancy

    Land Only
    2020SuperiorDeluxe
    Jul 01 - Sep 30$2,699$3,199
    Oct 01 - Dec 31$3,199$3,799
    2021
    Jan 01 - Mar 19$3,199$3,799
    Prices listed are per person, based on double occupancy and subject to availability. This is a land only package without airfare. Tour prices include hotel taxes and service charges. (LO/021520/C-10)

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