- 11 Days -

North Island Self Drive

We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!


Auckland ◦ Waitomo Caves ◦ The Tongariro Crossing ◦ Capital city Wellington ◦ Weta Studios ◦ Wine growing regions, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay ◦ Geothermal wonderland and cultural center of Rotorua ◦ Hobbiton Village




per person.


This price is based on two persons sharing a room and includes accommodation and the use of a rental car. Prices will vary according to your actual travel dates and accommodation choices.

Days 1 to 3


Auckland is not only the biggest city in New Zealand, it's also the gateway to some amazing local scenery and experiences. From its location on Auckland Harbor it's easy to visit most of the 50 islands in the adjacent Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. Auckland is an ideal starting point for any New Zealand trip, be it to enjoy great scenery, fascinating local culture, or fine food and wines.

If you have the time, you can select activities from the options below to create your own Wish List.

Day 3

Drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park

  • 214 Miles
  • 4 Hours

This will be a long day of driving, but with many interesting activities to enjoy along the way. The highlight for most will be the world famous Waitomo Caves. A great start to your self drive North Island tour.

Days 3 to 5

Tongariro National Park

This massive high country plateau, a World Heritage Park, is an incredibly diverse region of tussock grassland, wild rivers, forests and birdlife with the three volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu dominating the landscape. There are great walking and biking trails, white water rafting, some of the best trout fishing in the world and the highlight of any visit, the Tongariro Crossing. The ultimate destination for any adventurer.

Day 5

Drive Tongariro National Park to Wellington

  • 195 Miles
  • 4 Hours

Instead of taking the the main road south, follow the beautiful Whanganui River Road for 80 miles, passing rural landscapes and enjoying forest and river views until you reach the town of Wanganui. From Wanganui, rejoin the main road south for an easy drive, following the coastline and reaching the capital city of Wellington two hours later.

Days 5 to 7

Trendy Wellington, Capital City

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the country's most cosmopolitan city. Since the opening of the new National Museum "Te Papa" it has become an increasingly popular destination for international visitors and food lovers will appreciate the large number of excellent boutique cafes and ethnic restaurants that are a feature of the city.

Day 7

Drive from Wellington to Napier

  • 200 Miles
  • 4 Hours

This will be the longest day of our North Island itinerary, a 4 hour drive, traveling North to Napier. Highlights will include great scenery over the winding hills of the spectacular Rimutaka Ranges, charming country towns and boutique vineyards.

Days 7 to 9

Art Deco Napier, Wine Country

This is the Hawkes Bay, the first wine growing region established in New Zealand and today, producing some of the countries finest wines. The restaurants, chic cafes and wine tasting opportunities in this peaceful and sun drenched corner of the North Island make it a favorite destination for discerning visitors.

Day 9

Drive from Napier to Rotorua

  • 136 Miles
  • 2 3/4 Hours

Today you join the spectacular Thermal Highway to Taupo, climbing through forest-covered mountains offering great views. At times the road is winding so care is needed. After reaching Taupo the relaxing drive to Rotorua completes a wonderful day.

Days 9 to 11

The Geothermal Wonders of Rotorua

Rotorua is one of the most important cultural centers for the Māori people of New Zealand. It's also internationally known for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot spring spas.

Day 11

Farewell New Zealand

  • 134 Miles
  • 2 1/2 Hours

Today you drive to Auckland Airport to connect with your homeward flight to the USA. An early start will give you plenty of time to visit Hobbiton before you continue to the airport. Kia Ora New Zealand and please return one day soon.

We are currently making some changes and improvements to our website.

Until this is completed, please email us with your intended date of travel and the number of days you will have to explore our beautiful country.

We will respond with some exciting ideas within 24-hours

Send this to [email protected]

Rangitoto Island Hike

Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto is a large uninhabited and extinct island volcano, just a 25 minute ferry ride from the city. 

Take a ferry from the downtown Ferry Terminal and on arrival make your way to the summit, an easy walk of about one hour from where you will enjoy spectacular views of the harbor and city. On the trail, pass through black volcanic lava fields covered by fern glens and the largest forest of native pōhutukawa trees in the world. 

Because it flowers between December and January, the pōhutukawa is New Zealand's Christmas tree and the brilliant crimson flowers that envelop the tree over these months make for a beautiful sight. 

In 2011, after years of intensive predator eradication programs, the island was declared predator-free. This has seen New Zealand native birds return to the island in large numbers, including Kākāriki and Bellbird as well as the cheeky Kākā. Tui numbers have also soared as have Fantail, Grey Warbler, Silvereye, Saddleback, Whitehead and Morepork (New Zealand’s only surviving native owl).

A tip for visitors. New Zealand birds are extremely shy, so you'll not see many as you walk the main trail to the summit. Take a side track on the trail, find a quiet spot and wait for 5-minutes. You'll be amazed at what you'll see if you remain patient. On no account should you try and feed the birds. 

Views of Auckland city from the volcanic rock island.

The walk to the summit includes a forest of native trees and ferns.

A pair of beautiful pōhutukawa trees on a beach north of Auckland.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: Ferry $21.00 Return
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Waiheke Island Vineyards

Beautiful white sand beaches, vineyards and outstanding scenery are just some of the attractions of Waiheke Island. 

After a 45 ferry ride from downtown Auckland, you'll be greeted by your local guide, followed by a scenic tour of the island and tastings at three local boutique vineyards. 

A two-hour lunch stop at a village café or one of the vineyard restaurants completes an interesting and relaxing day. 

Relaxing on Waiheke Island, with Auckland visible in the distance.

  • Allow: Full Day 10:00 am to 4:45 pm
  • Cost: $80.00 + Ferry $24.00 + Lunch
  • Age: 18 +
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Auckland's Best Market Day

Matakana Markets, Artist's Studios and Beaches

Matakana is a great place to visit on any day of the week. Nestled on the banks of the picturesque Matakana River, it's just a 40 minute drive from Auckland.

The Saturday morning Matakana Farmers' Market is a showcase for local artisans, growers and farmers. What better start to your New Zealand vacation than a delicious breakfast with freshly brewed coffee and homemade baking before browsing through the offerings at the farmers market across the road! 

After a stop at the village you can also visit one of the artist studios found in this peaceful corner of the world or drive to one of our favorite nearby beaches, located within a nature reserve and offering some nice walking trails and beach walks. Visit a local vineyard for lunch before returning to the city.

This picturesque beach is the perfect spot for a walk after breakfast.

Recently retired New Zealand Prime Minister John Key enjoying a morning shop at Matakana Markets.

  • Allow: Half to a full day
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Island Conservation Visit

Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf is one of New Zealand's most important bird conservation projects, a place where you can walk among rare native birds and animals in their natural habitat. Over the years more than 300,000 native trees have been planted on the predator free island by volunteers and a number of threatened bird species and small animals reintroduced. These include the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the fascinating and ancient lizard-like tuatara that pre-dates the dinosaurs. 

A volunteer guide welcomes arrivals and explains the island's history and forest restoration.  

Tuatara have grown in population since being introduced to the predator free island in 2003.

  • Allow: Full day
  • Cost: $60 including Guided Tour and Ferry from Downtown Auckland (75 minutes each way)
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
Add to Wishlist

Auckland Coastal Trails

This is a terrific opportunity to experience some of New Zealand’s best walking tracks along the trails of the wild West Coast, just 45 minutes from Auckland. Your guide for the day will also take you to waterfalls and rainforest scenery that will take your breath away! A basic level of fitness is required as are good walking shoes.

Gorgeous views of Auckland's wild West Coast make the scenic walk up to the top well worth it.

The must see Karekare falls with its beautiful surrounding rainforest.

  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: $209.00 per person includes transport, snacks, hot/cold drinks and a delicious picnic lunch, taxes and park fees.
  • Age: 18+
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

The Auckland Art Gallery

In 2007 the original Auckland Art Gallery was completely closed for 4 years while it underwent extensive renovations. Since reopening it has established itself as one of the country's most iconic buildings. This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of traditional and contemporary international works of art. The gallery is located right in the heart of the city and also boasts the largest permanent collection of New Zealand art. Their popular cafe is a great place to enjoy a coffee or lunch and the back entrance looks out on Albert Park and the adjoining University of Auckland. A nice place for a stroll to admire the historic fountain, bandstand and flower gardens.

Auckland Art Gallery

The stunning entrance to the gallery.

AKL Art Gallery.

The beautifully restored Wellesley Gallery in the Heritage Building. 

  • Allow: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: Free. Charges may apply to special exhibitions
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
Add to Wishlist

America's Cup Sailing

Auckland, also known as 'The City of Sails' is the city that provided the core of the team that first won the America’s Cup in 1995 in San Diego. Here's your opportunity to feel the thrill of sailing an authentic America’s Cup yacht. Take the helm to help steer, work hard on the grinders to hoist the mainsail or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Join the crew and help steer the impressive yacht around Auckland harbor, a must do for yachting enthusiasts. 

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $120.00
  • Age: All (no children under 10 years permitted)
  • Best time: November to April
Add to Wishlist

City Walking Tours

We can help you arrange a free self-guided walk around the city or for a more in-depth experience, you can walk with an expert guide to discover some of the hidden treasures of Auckland City. From the must-see highlights and picturesque views, to the trendy backstreets and cultural offerings, there will be a range of experiences on offer and stories about how this young city emerged from a narrow volcanic isthmus to become a bustling, cosmopolitan city on the edge of the world.

Britomarkt is Auckland's waterfront precinct and with heritage buildings,new architecture, eateries, health and beauty and designer boutiques it's a must see on any walking city tour.

  • Allow: 90 minutes
  • Cost: Guided from $28.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Surf Town Raglan

If you depart from Auckland nice and early you'll have time to include a drive of one hour round-trip to the colorful seaside town of Raglan, the place made famous by film-maker Bruce Brown in his legendary surfing documentary 'The Endless Summer' A must-do for anyone with even the vaguest connection with surfing. We have a blog about our visit to Raglan here.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: No Charge
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
Add to Wishlist

The Tree Church

In 2011, local resident Barry Cox decided to construct a unique church on his remote rural farm, made of living trees. He never imagined it ever becoming a tourist attraction but there's been so much interest in his project that his Tree Church Gardens is now available for public viewing. Enjoy first-hand the living Church, the labyrinth walk and the extensive gardens. Read about our visits to the Tree Church in our blog - North Island Highlights - The Tree Church & The Warden

  • Allow: An hour
  • Cost: $8.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

The Waitomo Caves

This is one of the iconic visitor attractions on any New Zealand vacation itinerary. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa is unique to New Zealand and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as your expert guides explains the Caves' historical and geological significance. A highlight of a visit to Waitomo Caves is the river boat ride under the thousands of magical glowworms.

The boat tour takes you into the cave past the thousands of magical glowworms.

The guided tour continues inside the caves with information and history about the amazing rock formations.

  • Allow: Guided Cave tour takes 45 minutes
  • Cost: From $35.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Ultimate Waitomo Caves

The Black abyss Cave Tour

The Black Abyss is the ultimate Waitomo adventure, the caving tour of choice for natural born adrenaline junkies and those who want to experience the thrill of an amazing underground adventure. It starts with a descent into the seemingly bottomless black depths of the glow worm studded Ruakuri Cave. This next five hours will be an expedition that combines abseiling the 35 metre 'tomo', some climbing, whizzing down a flying fox and then cave-tubing underneath brilliant glow worm canopies. An unforgettable journey of the very best that Waitomo has to offer. At every stage you're accompanied and supported by experienced caving guides from 'The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.' who know nearly every square inch of this environment, one that is unique to the world. 

To quote a colleague who completed the Black Water Abyss "This was the most amazing adventure of my New Zealand vacation. I was still bouncing off the walls several weeks later at the memory of it all"

  • Allow: Half a Day
  • Cost: From $205.00 per person
  • Age: Teens thru to Adults of all ages
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

The Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is widely regarded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand and is ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world. This will be a long day and a tiring one, so you'll need to be moderately fit. Ever present as you walk is the brooding Mount Ngauruhoe, used by filmmaker Peter Jackson as the Land of Mordor and  'Mt Doom' in his Lord of The Rings movies.

A great look at the magnificent Mt Ngauruhoe, digitally enhanced by Peter Jackson to create 'Mt Doom'

Multi colored lakes are a highlight of the walk.

Walking on layers and layers of ancient lava flow, this is an unforgettable a one day trek.

Well maintained pathways make access to the summit accessible to all.

  • Allow: Full day including an early start
  • Cost: Park Entry Free - Return transport to start point and from end point $45.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Tongariro River Rafting

The is one of New Zealand's best river rafting experiences. After an on-shore safety briefing and paddle instructions with an experienced guide you begin your white water rafting journey on grade 3 rapids – an ideal grade for experienced paddlers or first-time rafters. In 2.5 hours you navigate over 60 roller coaster rapids with your expert guide at the helm and treated to sights only accessed by raft.

Navigating one of the 60 white water rapids. 

Taking in the scenery on gentler parts of the rafting journey.

A calmer part of the stunning Tongariro River.

Easy to see why its one of New Zealand's best white water rafting experiences.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: From $125.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

The Taranaki Falls Walk

Taranaki Falls is a 20-minutes drive away from National Park Village where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. An easy 2 hours loop, the Taranaki Falls Walk leads to the waterfalls lookout, and then to the waterfall's base. The track is awesome! The first part of the track goes through the alpine grassland with amazing views of the volcanoes. The second part of the loop goes through the beech forest with some river crossings (all bridged) and small waterfalls.

Views from within the beech forest.

View from the base of the Taranaki waterfall.

Waitere stream looking towards Mt Ruapehu from the bridge above Taranaki Falls.

The views of the Falls from the top make the 2 hour loop is well worth the walk.

  • Allow: Trail Time 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Lake Rotopounamu Trail

This beautiful lake is a 25 minute drive from the town of National Park where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. From the Rotopounamu car park it's just a 20 minute walk to the lake or 2 hours if you choose to walk around the 3 mile loop trail. Beautiful Rotopounamu (the greenstone lake) is nestled into the side of Mt Pihanga and is a favorite place for birdwatchers, walkers and swimmers. 

View of the 'hidden' lake from the summit above.

The lake attracts lots of bird life often seen on the beach or in the surrounding  forest.

The 3 mile loop trail around the lake has stunning forest scenery.

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
Add to Wishlist

Pipiriki, Whanganui River

Just 25 minutes south of Tongariro is a side road to Pipiriki, the access point one of the most remote and beautiful rivers in New Zealand, The Whanganui River. You'll travel by jet boat exploring magnificent forest scenery, deep ravines covered in mosses and an array of native ferns.

The ravines and river banks make for stunning scenery.

Travelling down the river on a jet boat.

The stunning scenery with moss lining the riverbanks.

  • Allow: One hour drive return. 45 minutes on the river
  • Cost: From $80.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - April
Add to Wishlist

The Bridge to Nowhere

This option will require an extra day to be added to your vacation, but it's a choice you will never regret. Stay overnight at The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge deep in the Whanganui National Park wilderness, perched high above the river and accessible only by jet boat, canoe, by foot or helicopter. The canoe journey downstream, back to Pipiriki is simply breathtaking.

The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge with its gorgeous wild surroundings.

Map of the showing the Lodge within Whanganui National Park.

Canoeing down the Whanganui river.

Jet boating to the lodge from Pipiriki.

  • Allow: Overnight
  • Cost: From $255.00 - includes; dinner, accommodation, breakfast, tour and jet boat transfer between the Lodge and Pipiriki.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - April
Add to Wishlist

Hemi Matenga Reserve

At the town of Waikenae, an hour and a half south of Whanganui is a pleasant forest walk, situated at the nearby Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve. The shortest forest trail takes just 30 minutes, but if you have time there's also an easy, well signposted walk to the summit at 1300 feet that will take you an extra hour. From here there are excellent views of the surrounding countryside and out to nearby Kapiti Island. To learn more, click here.

A stream coming down the summit at Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve.

The different tracks available around the Scenic Reserve.

View of Kapiti Island and Waikenae from the summit. 

  • Allow: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Kapiti Island Nature Reserve

Forest covered Kapiti Island, 3 miles off the coast north of Wellington, is our favorite island nature reserve. It's one of the oldest and most secure publically accessible nature reserves in the world. Free of all introduced pests and predators, visitors can expect to see many endemic bird species, some of which are no longer found on the New Zealand mainland. You can visit Kapiti Island for just a day or to truly experience all the island has to offer, make an overnight stay. Some of the beautiful birds you will seee on Kapiti include -  

Kaka, Weka, Little Spotted Kiwi (if you stay overnight), Tieke (Saddleback), Kokako, Hihi (Stitchbird), Ruru (Morepork), Tui, Korimako (Bellbird), Kakariki, Kereru, Toutouwai (North Island Robin), Popokatea (Whitehead), Piwakawaka (Fantail)

  • Allow: One or Two days
  • Cost: One Day from $100, Overnight $300
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Wellington - FREE OFFER

New Zealand Vacations director Jerry Bridge also owns the company "What To Do in Wellington" and Jerry says that as long as he's in town (which he usually is) he will personally provide all New Zealand Vacations customers with an exclusive and free personalized tour of Wellington, visiting the main points of interest and some "off the beaten path" places as well. All you'll be responsible for are entry fees at the places you choose to visit. Thank's Jerry and your "What To Do in Wellington" team.

Wellington's famous inner city slice of bohemia, Cuba Street.

Cuba Street - shopping, dining and street performers. And home to some quirky cafes serving excellent coffee.

The Wellington Cable Car runs from downtown and offers exceptional views of the city.

Wellington's "solace  of the wind' statue looks out over the harbor.

Easily accessible from the city, Mount Victoria lookout offers 360 degree scenic views.

A stunning view of Wellington city seen from Mount Victoria.

  • Allow: Tailored to your needs
  • Cost: Free, as long as Jerry is in town when you visit.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Te Papa National Museum

Te Papa is a state of the art modern museum, bringing together under one roof both the Maori & European history of New Zealand. It is New Zealand's national museum, the largest cultural project in New Zealand's history, completed in 1998 at a cost of $317 million. At the museum, you will encounter Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, through authentic portrayals of their traditions and living culture, including an opportunity to visit a unique Marae (communal meeting place). Then there's the geology, the geography and other exhibitions that will give you interesting insights to New Zealand. The best introduction to Te Papa is to take a 90 minute guided tour that explains Maori culture and treasures, art and New Zealand's colonial history.

Opened in 1998 and designed by local architect Ivan Mercep of Jasmax Architects.

'The Great War' exhibition was created by Te Papa and Peter Jackson's Weta workshop.

Te Papa displays a large collection of native plants, sea creatures, birds and native animals.

An authentic and inclusive marae (Maori communal meeting place) is found on level 4. 

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: $10.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Zealandia Wildlife

The Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary is an outstanding example of efforts to save New Zealand most endangered native birds and animals. We suggest a visit in the late afternoon to hear the dusk chorus of the birds or consider a night tour for a special experience. This will be the best opportunity on your itinerary to see such a wide variety of beautiful native birds and other native wildlife.

Pukeko, one of NZ's most interesting looking native birds, can be found roaming freely around the reserve. 

Explore the sanctuary by torchlight experiencing rare and endangered species that only appear at night.

On a night tour your group might see some of the 130 little spotted kiwi who call Zealandia their home.

Tuatara, the rare and unique NZ native, is one of Zealandia's most popular inhabitants.

Your guides use their knowledge of birdsong, habitats and flora to find track down the unique birds & animals.

Kakariki or New Zealand parakeets are easily found due to their vibrant colors.

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: From $18.50
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
Add to Wishlist

The Weta Workshops

Although famous for their award winning work on movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, the Weta Workshop has a creative portfolio that spans a large number of other blockbuster movies and gaming properties. These include The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla and DOTA2. Anyone with even the slightest interest in movies and gaming should visit this fantastic 65,000 square foot multi–disciplinary facility..

Weta Workshop is a mini museum and small shop celebrating some very big movies.

Taking photos is prohibited within the workshop but the foyer has plenty of incredible sculptures on display.

Waiting to greet you outside, the amazing stone trolls will make the perfect selfie for any Hobbit fan.

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: From $25
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
Add to Wishlist

Towns of Wairarapa

A special feature of todays drive are the rural landscapes and small towns you will encounter along the way. American film director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar, The Termintor) chose to make his New Zealand home in the Wairarapa district. Our favorite place is Greytown, with many beautiful examples of Victorian architecture and some excellent cafes. This part of New Zealand, centered at the town of Martinborough also has over 25 boutique vineyards and some fabulous restaurants, tempting those who might like to add a day to their itinerary to savor the local delights!

  • Allow:
  • Cost:
  • Age:
  • Best time: All year
Add to Wishlist


A full-scale working adaptation of the world famous Stonehenge in England has been built right here in Aotearoa (New Zealand) allowing you to experience the wonders of the stone circles. You will discover how stones, posts and shadows were used to unlock the mysteries of the earth and sky to form a cornerstone to the rise of civilization. Situated close to the town of Carterton.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: From $16
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
Add to Wishlist

Mount Bruce Wildlife

Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is a sanctuary for wounded and endangered New Zealand wildlife. It's also home to a rare white North Island Brown Kiwi, the only one in captivity. Wander through the interactive gallery and watch the lizard like Tuatara being fed at 11.30am daily. In the Kiwi Nocturnal House you might see a kiwi chick being fed in the nursery or if you are really lucky, witness a hatching!

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: $14.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Classic Vineyards Tour

Guided Vineyards tour - Havelock North and Cape Coast Wineries

Visit up to 7 of this region's finest wineries and enjoy easy cycling on some stunning, off road trails following the beautiful Tuki Tuki River and the coast. 

Your cycle starts at the small, boutique winery of Red Barrell in the village of Havelock North where you have the opportunity to taste their wines before continuing on to Black Barn Vineyards. Here you can visit the vineyard gallery featuring some great New Zealand art. 

If you happen to be in town over the summer, make sure you check the concert schedule for the annual Black Barn outdoor amphitheatre concerts. Past guests have included English rocker Rod Stewart, Canadian Bryan Adams and UB40 (early bookings an absolute must!). 

A short ride will then take you to Te Mata Estate winery before joining the Landscapes Trail for a scenic, off road cycle to the coast through stunning orchard country. 

On arrival in the coastal village of Haumoana enjoy visits to the rustic Beach House winery, Elephant Hill Estate, Clearview Estate and Te Awanga Estate. 

Lunch is available at either Elephant Hill or Clearview before your return transfer to your accommodation. 

  • Allow: 4-Hours. Total cycling distance 10-miles.
  • Cost: From $241.00 per person.
  • Age: 20+
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Food & Wine in Style

A Twilight Odyssey

Your late afternoon progressive dinner starts with a scenic drive through the vineyards as your guide talks about the Hawkes Bay region and its world class wines.

At your first stop enjoy a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at the Vidal Estate. 

Sunset from the summit of Te Mata Peak.

Then it's summit of Te Mata Peak. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views, 1300 ft above sea level while enjoying a glass of bubbles and watching the setting sun.

Then proceed to Craggy Range Vineyards or Elephant Hill Vineyards for the main course served with wine. 

Finish a fun-filled evening with dessert and dessert wines at the country’s oldest and grandest winery, the Mission Estate.

  • Allow: 5 Hours - Afternoon
  • Cost: From $275.00 per person.
  • Age: Adults
  • Best time: November to April.
Add to Wishlist

Art Deco Napier

In 1931 Napier was almost completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake. An interesting outcome of interest to visitors from the USA is that after the earthquake, a delegation visited Santa Barbara in California which had been rebuilt after their terrible earthquake of 1925. As a result of this visit the city fathers decided that Napier would be rebuilt in the Spanish Mission style of Santa Barbara, but although examples of this style are still to be found, it was the Art Deco style of the 30's that eventually prevailed. 

  • Allow: One Hour
  • Cost: Downloadable Self-guided Walk Brochure $6:00. One hour guided walking tour $17.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Cape Kidnappers Gannets

This is the world's largest and most accessible colony of gannets birds where over 6,500 breeding pairs make their homes. Travel from Napier in a specialized air conditioned 4x4 vehicle to these amazing nesting grounds, a 'must see' for any visitor.

  • Allow: 4-5 hours
  • Cost: From $75.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

Waipunga Waterfalls

Roughly halfway on todays drive between Taupo and Napier, make a stop at the beautiful Waipunga Falls and the Waiarua Falls. Both waterfalls are clearly signposted and easy accessible with great views from the car park. 

The Waipunga Falls, easily accessible, about half way between Taupo and Napier.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

The Huka Falls

Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake and it empties into the country's longest river, The Waikato, at the mighty Huka Falls. At this point the banks of the falls are just 300ft part, so the view and the sounds of the falls are truly spectacular. Don't miss it, just off the main road before arriving at the town of Taupo.

The magnificent Huka Falls - well worth the stop.

The viewing and information platform is a great standpoint for photos.

For the more adventurous an exciting jet boat ride is another way to view the falls up close.

  • Allow: 30 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Kayak on Lake Taupo

This kayak lake tour includes a visit to a series of huge stone carvings on the lake, created by master Maori carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell. No experience is necessary - the kayaks are safe and easy to use and all trips are guided and full instruction is given. A truly a unique trip and one you will remember.

Kayak's get you up close what's been hailed as an extraordinary work of art, only visible from boat or kayak.

A Taniwha or water monster is beautifully carved into the rock.

  • Allow: 4 Hours
  • Cost: $75.00 including full instruction, top quality kayaks and gourmet refreshments.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
Add to Wishlist

The Polynesian Spa

This is a historic natural hot mineral springs spa that for 3 years in a row was selected by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world's top ten Medical & Thermal Spas. There are twenty-seven hot mineral pools in the Lake Spa offering a complete range of body & skin therapies. Visitor options range from family pools to private luxury seclusion. Lie back, relax, enjoy!

Feeling that natural healing!

It doesn't get more relaxing than an invigorating mud bath.

  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: From $30.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Traditional Maori Feast

Mitai Māori Village

There are many options available in Rotorua for enjoying a traditional Māori feast. We selected this particular one becasue, quite simply, it's the best.

Guests are welcomed to Mitai Māori Village by the arrival of warriors in their war canoe. Within the village, guests are entertained with the performing dances of the Māori, including the poi, and of course the war cries of the haka. 

By the time they leave, guests will have an understanding of the Māori art of ta moko (tattoos) and they will remember their journey to the sacred pools and the glow worms - and of course, not forgetting the delicious food cooked in the earth oven - the Hangi as it is called by the Māori people.

A warrior announces the ceremonial arrival of the canoe.

Delicious food taken from the hot earth oven, the hangi.

  • Allow: 3-hours from late afternoon
  • Cost: $95.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Stargazing and Dinner

Skyline Rotorua Gondola, Stargazing and Stratosfare Dinner

Explore constellations, look for a shooting star and discover planets invisible to the naked eye with the Skyline Rotorua Stargazing experience. Ngongotaha is one of the top eight locations in New Zealand for stargazing where the dark clear skies blanketing Rotorua make for a breathtaking experience. Keen stargazers have the opportunity to access a 'hidden world' not seen by the naked eye, and impossible to see in many other locations around the world. 

Skyline Stargazing takes visitors to a specially-constructed area high above the Gondola, where there is no trespassing light, allowing for an unbelievably clear view of the night sky. Top-of-the line telescopes give stargazers the chance to view an amazing array of stunning sights, from the iconic Southern Cross, to nebulas, planets, the Milky Way and other galaxies. 

After taking-in the beauty of the night sky, settle down for dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant.

There's something out there ...

The world is turning.

  • Allow: All evening
  • Cost: $96.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

The Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is located 20 miles south of Rotorua, providing a chance to explore spectacular scenery in New Zealand’s most colourful volcanic zone. See unique volcanic features as you walk at your own pace along well defined tracks. At 10.15am each day there's the opportunity to learn the history and mechanics of the famous Lady Knox Geyser. A presentation by an expert guide in the natural amphitheatre, is an opportunity to see the geyser erupt by dropping a surfactant into the opening of the vent, followed by a jet of water spraying into the sky, reaching heights of up to 65 feet.

Lady Knox Geyser

A lunar landscape? No, it's Wai-O-Tapu.

The beauty of nature, in this case a hot one!

  • Allow: 3-4 hours
  • Cost: $25.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Volcanic Valley Visit

The Waimangu Valley

The strange geological formations, the forests and the lakes of Waimangu Valley always creates a sense of wonder for visitors. This is a place of constant geothermal activity and tremendous heat, creating steam, geysers and streams bubbling away at 125 degrees! We recommend a cruise on the incredible cobalt blue Lake Rotomahana, where stories will be told of the violent eruptions of 1886 that formed the Waimangu Valley and the natural beauty that it created. You can also read about our visit to Waimangu Valley in our blog - North Island Highlights - Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

The incredible geothermal waters.

Walks through the forests make for amazing views of the cobalt waters.

Cruising Lake Rotomahana brings you up close to the geothermal wonders.

  • Allow: A minimum of 1-2 hours
  • Cost: From $52.00, including optional cruise
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Māori Village Visit

Whakarewarewa - Guided Tour and Cultural Show

For over 200 years the local Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao tribe have welcomed visitors into their 'backyard' and allowed them to experience at first hand the culture of one of Rotorua's most enjoyable attractions. The village and geothermal delights of Whakarewarewa Village are where you'll relive the history of their village, with stories from experienced Māori tour guides who will share the stories from their pasts. After enjoying the geysers, mud pools and hot springs, be sure to call at Te Puia, New Zealand’s Māori Cultural Centre, located just 5 minutes away. This 150-acre site is also home to the official 'New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute' a great place to consider the purchase of quality Māori art effects.

The geysers at Whakarewaerewa village.

Te Puia showcases Moari arts, craft and culture.

Te Puia, NZ Moari Arts and Craft Institute.

Wood carving seen at the Institute.

  • Allow: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: Whakarewarewa - $25.00. Te Puia From $32.00.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Forest Canopy Tour

Over the past two years this new activity has taken Rotorua by storm and is now on the must-do list for most visitors. It takes customers on a journey that provides unprecedented views of a magnificent native New Zealand forest. From as high as 72 feet above the ground, safely secured in harnesses, clients travel along an exhilarating 1-mile course. This course is a network of ziplines, tree to tree swing bridges, treetop platforms and walking trails. The highlight for many is stepping out of the canopy from a magnificent 500 year old native Rimu tree and travelling 700 feet above a long forgotten forested valley to finish at the hidden landing platform. 

Jane from our office did the forest canopy tour last year and she thought it was great fun. The all Kiwi staff were friendly, knowledgeable and obviously serious about safety issues and this gave her the confidence to try the zipline experience, which she rated as a 5-star thrill.

The tour guides are a wealth of knowledge about the rain forest's history and future.

Swing bridges provide a view over the ferns and forest floor.

  • Allow: 3-hours
  • Cost: $90.00
  • Age: From teenage to adult
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist

Rainforest Eco Experience

Whirinaki Rainforest Walk

Previously the domain of only the most experienced hikers, the untouched wilderness of the magnificent Whirinaki Rainforest is now accessible on a full-day guided walk. Regarded by many as one of the finest one-day walks in the country. 

This is where towering rimu,totara, matai, miro and kahikatea trees, some of them 800 to 1000 years old are found. These ancient giants of New Zealand’s podocarp tree species reach for the sky, to heights of over 200 ft. Beneath the forest canopy wonder in awe at the rich diversity of native vegetation and birdlife amidst the spectacular scenery of rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls.

The team here at New Zealand Vacations recommend this tour as a highlight of any New Zealand vacation. The diversity and richness of the Whirinaki Forests is unequalled.

We have an interesting blog about Whirinaki that provides more background information.

The full day guided walk has tracks and bridges leading into the otherwise untouched forest.

Cascading waterfalls are a highlight for many on the guided walk.

  • Allow: Full day. Approximately 7- hours
  • Cost: $205.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
Add to Wishlist