TOUR CODE: NENISD
Trip Type: Semi-Independent Journey
Experience the most iconic and spectacular sights of the volcanic North Island with this spectacular five-day Self-Drive tour. Arrive in bustling Auckland to explore the city and perhaps enjoy some shopping. Continue to the hub of the rich and fascinating Maori culture, Rotorua, via the Waikato, a rich region, stopping in at the Rainbow Springs Nature Park and meeting some adorable Kiwi birds at a conservation project. Journey through the dramatic Waimangu volcanic valley, arriving at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand and an adventure hotspot. It is also home to the magical Huka Falls and the Waikato River. From here, journey to the magical Waitomo glow worm cave, and then onto Auckland, where the tour concludes.
Arrive in Auckland, and meet our local representative at the airport for your private transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to explore the ‘City of Sails’ as Auckland is known.
In the morning, join a small group Auckland City tour. Our small group 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. The afternoon is at your leisure.
AUCKLAND/ROTORUA (143 MILES, APPROX. 3 HOURS DRIVE) (B/D)
After breakfast, pick up your rental car from a nearby station. Drive 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. Welcome to Middle Earth! 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.’ Here you join a small 90-minute guided tour that 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, a region rich with geothermal activity releasing hydrogen sulfide, giving the area its distinctive smell. Depending on the weather, you may likely smell Rotorua before you arrive. In the afternoon, visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua, 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 natural kiwi conservation in action. This tour leads to the hatchery and nursery where young chicks are hatched and raised, over 2000 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 cook 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.
ROTORUA/TAUPO (63 MILES, APPROX. 1.5 HOURS DRIVE) (B)
After breakfast, head South towards Taupo on State Highway 5, adequately named “Thermal Explorer” highway. Pause at any geothermal wonders along the way, such as Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu Valley, or Craters of the Moon near Taupo. We have included a self-guided walk and cruise at 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 geothermal features such as steaming volcanic crater lakes and unique ecology, and rare botany. Take a leisurely boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana, the newest of New Zealand’s extensive, naturally formed lakes. It is the result of the 1886 Mt. Tarawera eruption that exploded the lake 20 times its former size. The lake has a geothermal system with an unusual thermal activity that can only be seen from the boat. Today Lake Rotomahana is an unspoiled, natural wilderness area protected from development. Reaching Taupo, you will enjoy splendid views of Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere. Weather permitting, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngaurohoe can be seen in the distance.
In the late afternoon, experience a Lake Taupo 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. Being a large, comfortable, covered catamaran, this is an excellent cruise for all weathers.
TAUPO/WAITOMO CAVES/AUCKLAND (211 MILES, APPROX. 4.5 HOURS DRIVE) (B)
After an early breakfast, drive through one of New Zealand’s greenest places and richest agricultural regions. Pass land with lush grass for raising cattle, thoroughbred horses, and vast stands of exotic timber. This part of New Zealand’s North Island is only sparsely populated. This 2 hours’ drive is one of the most beautiful and remote in this part of the country. In Waitomo, join a small group, guided tour through the famous glowworm caves. Waitomo in Te Reo Māori means ‘where the water disappears into a hole in the ground.’ Several different caves are open to the public, each with distinctive features. The Waitomo Glowworm Cave is the best known and though technically not ‘worms,’ but a species of fungus gnat endemic to New Zealand. They are luminescent both during the larval stage and imago. Your local guide explains the history of these sacred grounds and the ‘glowworms’ biology. It will lead you onto a spectacular boat ride through the majestic ‘Cathedral’ with millions of luminescent larvae, a truly magical experience.
After your tour, drive back to Auckland Airport for your onward flight or to Auckland downtown for an individual extension.
Meals: B= Breakfast D=Dinner
Per person, based on double occupancy
|Oct 01 - Dec 10||$1,599|
|Jan 08 - Mar 31||$1,599|
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