TOUR CODE: NCNISD
Trip Type: Semi-Independent Journey
Take in the best of New Zealand’s captivating north island with this 11-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 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 to Lake Taupo along the scenic ‘Thermal Explorer’ drive to enjoy an action-packed day and visit the mighty Huka Falls. Continue 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.
Upon arrival, our local representative will welcome you at the airport for your private transfer to your Auckland City hotel.
The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore the ‘City of Sails’ as Auckland is known.
In the morning, join a small group to experience the best sights of Auckland on an Auckland City tour. This tour is a journey of discovery, designed to explore the history and sights and see how Aucklanders live and play. Travel up Queens Street, Auckland’s prime shopping mile, through the inner-city park, known as the Domain. Continue through the picturesque suburb of Ponsonby with its historic buildings before heading over the Harbor Bridge to Auckland’s North Shore. Stroll on one of the beautiful white sand beaches where there is time for a coffee before continuing up to the summit of Mt Victoria with its stunning panoramic views of Auckland City and historic Devonport. You then travel back over the Harbor Bridge to view Westhaven Marina, one of the largest marinas in the Southern Hemisphere. After the tour, enjoy the afternoon at your leisure.
WAIHEKE ISLAND (B/L)
After breakfast, head down to Auckland’s ferry terminal (walking distance) and take the ferry (approx. 45 mins sailing) to Waiheke, known as New Zealand’s ‘Island of Wine. Upon arrival in Waiheke, join a small group and experience a combination of the best food and wine this charming island has to offer. You stop at three award-winning vineyards and an olive grove, plus 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.
After breakfast, pick up your rental car from a nearby station. Heading south on State Highway 1, you pass through the South Auckland suburbs of Papatoetoe and Manukau before ascending the famous Bombay Hills, separating greater Auckland from the mighty Waikato region. Descending Bombay Hills, turn off onto State Highway 2. You enter the green rolling hills of rural Waikato, New Zealand’s most significant dairy-producing area and named after New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato. Turn off State Highway 1 and turn east onto State Highway 27 towards Matamata and Rotorua. Just outside the small town of Matamata lies the Hobbiton Movie Set. Here you join a small, guided 90 minutes tour. Located on an active 1250-acre sheep farm, this is where Sir Peter Jackson has found the perfect location for JRR Tolkien’s phantasy world of ‘Middle Earth.’ The guided tour starts with a drive through the picturesque farm with spectacular views across the towering Kaimai Ranges. Take a look at Bag End, where Frodo’s and Bilbo’s adventures began, and visit the 44 permanently constructed Hobbit Holes before visiting The Green Dragon Inn, the mill, and the Party Tree.
Continue your drive to Rotorua. The Rotorua region is rich with geothermal activity releasing hydrogen sulfide, giving the area its distinctive smell. Depending on the weather, you will likely smell Rotorua before you arrive. In the afternoon, visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua. Rainbow Springs is set amongst flourishing native forest and natural springs and is home to the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa, the world’s most successful kiwi hatchery. We combine the guided park tour with a ‘behind the scenes tour of the hatchery to see real kiwi conservation in action. This tour leads to the hatchery and nursery where young chicks are hatched and raised, over 2,000 chicks to date, before being released back into the wild. In the evening, experience a traditional Māori evening at Mitai Village for an introduction to Māori culture and food. Mitai Village is nestled in a natural bush setting just outside of Rotorua. You witness the arrival of the ‘waka’, the ancient warrior canoe on the Wai-O-Whiro stream, and your guide explains all the secrets to cooking a traditional ‘hangi’ and the traditions’ ta moko’, Māori 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.
After breakfast, a short 5-minute drive will get you to Te Puia, home to the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere, Pohutu Geyser, as well as the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. The best way to experience Te Puia is on this guided walk alongside a beautiful landscape of uncovered natural bush and mud pools. Discover the hidden corners of this incredible geothermal valley and experience the pure adrenaline rush of standing next to one of Mother Nature’s true natural wonders and hearing the roar of an eruption even before you see it. Observe the skill and creativity of the artists in the indigenous arts and crafts wananga (school). From here, head South towards Taupō on State Highway 5, adequately named “Thermal Explorer” highway. Pause one of the geothermal wonders along the way, such as Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu Valley, or Craters of the Moon near Taupō. Continue to Taupo, en-route visit the famous Huka Falls. Reaching Taupō, you will enjoy splendid views of Lake Taupō, the largest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere, and weather permitting, you can see Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngaurohoe in the distance.
In the late afternoon, experience a Lake Taupō sunset cruise where you enjoy a picturesque view of the town by water. Relax with a drink from the bar and listen to some Kiwi classical music before arriving at the carvings to witness a fantastic view as the Māori Rock Carvings lit up by floodlights. A wonderful evening tour with an opportunity to relax and socialize in a beautiful setting.
Leaving Taupō behind while heading east on State Highway 5, the road is flat and straight and cuts through seemingly endless forests. This soon changes at Rangitaiki to curvy and steep ascends. The major entertainment here is the fantastic scenery. There is a little bit of everything – rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains, and huge vistas. Once passing Mohaka River, the landscape changes into gently rolling hills, and the first wineries and fruit orchards, for which Hawkes Bay is so famous, start to appear in Glengarry and Eskdale.
In the afternoon, join a small group guided walking tour where you learn everything about the Art Deco style, the earthquake that destroyed the city, and hear stories of the people that led the rebuild. You will stop at the majestic Napier Municipal Theatre – a unique experience available through the local Art Deco Trust, where you will get to have a look inside the beautiful interior. Then on to Ahuriri, where you will visit one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand, the National Tobacco Company building. You will return to the Art Deco Center in Central Napier, filled with a new appreciation for the city and the people who survived New Zealand’s worst natural disaster in modern times.
NAPIER & HAWKES BAY (B)
After breakfast, set out for a full-day small-group Panoramic Country & Food tour. From here, your eyes will feast upon the marriage of architecture and New Zealand’s natural landscape when you visit three local wineries. Hawkes Bay is renowned as a locavore’s haven. You will get an insight into running an organic orchard on stunning grounds and learn how high-quality produce is grown.
Mission Estate Winery is New Zealand’s oldest winery, established by monks in 1851. Mission Estate is famed for its Cabernet Blends and their Chardonnay. Craggy Range, beneath the majestic Te Mata peak, is one of New Zealand’s premium wineries and Craggy Range has won many international awards for their Merlot and Shiraz cultivated on the famed ‘Gimblett Gravels’ patch of vines in Hawkes Bay. The Black Barn Winery is a small boutique wine producer nestled in the hills of the charming town of Havelock North. Their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are among the best in New Zealand. Enjoy lunch at leisure at one of three premium wineries, and you will be driven to the lookout above Te Mata Peak and cast your eyes over the Pacific Ocean and back over the rolling hills of Central Hawke’s Bay.
We recommend taking the more scenic and less busy State Highway 50. This road leaves Napier via some of the best wineries in New Zealand just outside of Hastings. In Takapau, State Highway 50 merges with State Highway 2, connecting Auckland with Wellington. Stop at the small town of Dannevirke with its proud heritage of Scandinavian settlers or stop at Pukaha National Wildlife Center (formerly known as Mt Bruce Wildlife Center), A 942-hectare forest and wildlife conservation center. Masterton is the first of 5 quaint and charming towns in the Wairarapa, one of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir wine-producing regions. Continue on State Highway 2 and visit Carterton, Greytown, or Featherston along the way before turning left onto State Highway 53 towards Wairarapa’s best-known little town, charming Martinborough. The afternoon is at your leisure in Martinborough.
Learn from your local expert guide while walking through the vines for the success story of Martinborough wines from the humble beginnings in the late 1970s to the world-class products of today. You will enjoy wine tastings, a delicious lunch at a local vineyard, and breathtaking scenery along the way. In the late afternoon, self-drive from Martinborough to Wellington. We head west towards Featherston, rejoin busy State Highway 2 in Featherston to Wellington. From here, it is getting curvy with steep ascends to the Remutaka Hills – beware of tight corners and often fast-changing weather conditions. Don’t forget to stop at the marked ‘scenic lookout’ on top of the pass for panoramic views before descending through thick forests. From Upper and Lower Hutt, we drive past some of the most populated suburban cities in the wider Wellington region. Take in beautiful views of Wellington Harbor as State Highway 2 leads you into New Zealand’s Capital.
Be part of a small group Capital Tastes Tour with a ‘foodie twist’ in the morning. Discover unique tastes in New Zealand’s coffee capital as your guide introduces you to the city, its eclectic architecture, art, and history while sampling local, artisan flavors on this comfortable walking tour. Stroll behind the scenes at some of Wellington’s favorite food places with your local expert guide to taste hidden culinary treasures and meet some of the makers behind some of the city’s best food. The tour includes, depending on weekdays, visits to local food producers such as coffee roasters, artisan chocolatiers, gelato makers, a fresh food market, and other local food producer treats. In the afternoon, join a small group tour to visit New Zealand’s unique National Museum – Te Papa. Experience the living and breathing culture of the Māori people and the living and breathing taonga of te iwi taketake (first peoples of the land). From great journeys across vast oceans to hopeful visions for the 21st century, these taonga speak to historical and contemporary Māori perspectives. This is the ideal tour for those looking for an introduction to Māori culture and to hear intimate stories and gain a deeper understanding of New Zealand’s indigenous people.
WELLINGTON DEPARTURE (B)
Self-drive back to Wellington Airport and return your rental car before boarding your onward flight.
Meals: B= Breakfast L=Lunch D=Dinner
Per person, based on double occupancy
|Oct 01 - Dec 10||$3,999|
|Jan 08 - Mar 31||$3,999|
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