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11 Day - North Island Discovery & Exploration Tour

11 Day - North Island Discovery & Exploration Tour

Take your time and relax with a glass of wine or on one of our sunny remote beaches and opt for a walk through dense rainforests, near our stunning local hideaways.

Want to experience an authentic farm stay and discover off-the-beaten-track locations? Like to experience the immense power of an active volcanic area and learn about our unique heritage? Then this is the tour for you. It combines the highlights of the North Island with some of our remote hidden treasures in the countryside.

Day 1: Auckland arrival
  • Day for relaxing and discovering the city of sails,
  • Or: Tour of Waitakere Ranges
Day 2: Auckland - Waiheke Island or overnight on Island
  • Ferry to Island, winery and food tour
  • Or: E-Bike along the bays
Day 3: Auckland - Coromandel Peninsula
  • Water gardens, white sandy beaches, Cruise to Cathedral Cove
Day 4: Coromandel – Mt Maunganui/Tauranga
  • Karangahake Gorge walkSunset Kayak and Glow-worm experience
Day 5: Mt Maunganui – Whakatane
  • Boat trip to an active volcano, Maori Culture
  • Or: helicopter flight to White Island 
Day 6: Whakatane – Gisborne - Napier/Hawkes Bay
  • Te Urewera Ranges, Art deco city and area, Te Mata Peak
Day 7: Hawkes Bay - Wairarapa – Martinborough 
  • Winery and food tour
Day 8: Martinborough – Rangitikei Valley
  • Farm-stay, scenic rafting & BBQ Lunch in a remote canyon
  • Or: Helicopter through Canyon
Day 9: Rangitikei Valley - Taupo
  • Volcanoes, Tongariro National Park, Wairakei Terrasses
Day 10: Taupo/or Rotorua - Matamata - Cambridge or Rotorua
  • Hike in Geothermal area, Evening banquet at Hobbiton Movie Set   
  • Or: visit Rotorua
Day 11: Rotorua or Cambridge – Waitomo – Auckland
  • Waitomo Cave Eco-tour and hike, Waterfalls
Plan Your Tour


Private guided tour for ten nights

Category: Culture, Active
Location: North Island
Departing/Finishing: Auckland
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, Luxury Serviced Apartments
Next Departure: Departs Daily


Day 1: Auckland arrival

Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture, and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping, and you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland, our largest and most diverse city. Discover the diverse range of cafes and restaurants offering cuisine from around the globe. Visit the Seafood market in the bustling Wynyard Quarter and wander around the boutique market and deli. Finally, soak up diverse shopping experiences and a delicious café culture on the ultimate shopping day in the city – Auckland style.

Or: The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is where pristine bush, thriving native wildlife and rugged black sand surf beaches come together. The ‘wild west’ feels like another world away but is only a 40-minute drive from the city centre. With over 250 kilometres of walking tracks, the ranges are a wonderful place to explore on foot, surrounded by spectacular scenery. My favourite scenic spots, like Karekare Falls, are very accessible.

Accommodation: Auckland or Waiheke Island

Day 2: Auckland - Waiheke Island

Take a short ferry ride and visit the jewel of the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island. The Island is a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves, farmland and golden beaches. You’ll find beautiful galleries and craft boutiques in this homeland of artists. In addition, there are plenty of places to enjoy a good coffee or a taste of New Zealand's fresh Pacific Rim cuisine. The white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi slope gently down into the Hauraki Gulf. They are perfect for swimming, kayaking, strolling along or having a picnic in the sun. The island also boasts more than a dozen high-quality vineyards, many with relaxed restaurants onsite.

Enjoy succulent fresh oysters, award-winning olive oil and other locally-produced speciality foods, accompanied by wines from some of the Island’s top boutique vineyards. Your guide will provide entertaining and informative commentary along the way.

Or: Exploring the island by bike is a beautiful way to experience the relaxed vibe of the place and soak up the local culture. Be sure t  bring your swimwear in Summer to make the most of the gorgeous, safe swimming beaches around the island.

Accommodation: Auckland or Waiheke Island

Day 3: Auckland - Coromandel Peninsula

Visit Rapaura Water Gardens, an example of a man in harmony with nature. Abundant native bush and ferns, birds (Tui's, Fantails, Silver Eyes and Wood Pigeons), meandering walk over bridges and streams and a bush walk to a cascading waterfall. There are seasonal displays of native and exotic flowers. Irises and Bog plants in spring, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, followed by Orchids, Begonias, Hydrangeas and Water Lilies from November to April. All interspersed with garden art.  

The Coromandel, renowned for its pristine beaches, misty forests and laid-back vibe, is one of New Zealand's most popular holiday destinations. A binocular view across the gulf from Auckland, The Coromandel is everything that a big city isn't. It is rustic, unspoiled and relaxed, with a mountainous interior cloaked in the native rainforest and over 400 kilometres of dazzling white sand beaches. Sit and relax in a warm, bubbling pool at Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your spa for two hours on either side of low tide. 

Cathedral Cove is arguably one of the most picturesque spots (and there are many) in The Coromandel. Take a cruise and explore one of the world's most stunning pieces of coastline, including Cathedral Cove, sea caves, volcanic rock formations and pinnacles, plus the marine reserve above and below the surface. Sit back and watch the incredible marine life through the glass panels or take the plunge and snorkel amongst the fish.

Accommodation: East Coast Coromandel Peninsula

Day 4: Coromandel - Bay of Plenty/Tauranga

Situated at the base of the Coromandel Range, the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi, giving access to impressive remains from the mining and railway eras. This walkway features historic railway remains in a stunning natural gorge setting, including two steel truss bridges and a 1 km rail tunnel. It provides access to the relics of historic gold mining. 

Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty and one of the fastest-growing population centres in the country. It is also just a 15-minute drive from one of New Zealand's most famous beach towns, Mount Maunganui. Downtown Tauranga has several historically significant areas to view during a scenic walk around the neighbourhood. The Strand waterfront area is modern and always buzzing and is home to several cafés, restaurants, and pubs. Tauranga's harbour is in evidence almost everywhere you go, providing the urban area with an attractive waterfront setting. 

From the base of Mount Maunganui, a white sand surf beach stretches as far as the eye can see. Catch a wave or cruise the many cafes. "The Mount" is the colloquial name for Mount Maunganui, a relaxed beach town that occupies a peninsula at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. The arm is a huge sandbar, with a sheltered bay on the inner harbour side and a magnificent surf beach on the ocean side. At the very tip of the peninsula is a distinctive peak - Mauao - which rises to 230 metres above sea level. 

Just before sunset, you arrive at Lake McLaren and get into your Waka (Māori canoe). Then you paddle across the lake to a high-sided canyon at the top of the lake. It is here you will see the glow worms. This tour is great fun, with beautiful scenery, birdlife and excellent glow worms.

Accommodation: Bay of Plenty

Day 5: Bay of Plenty - Whakatane

For around 55 days a year, Whakatane records the highest temperature in New Zealand. This sunny town is known for fishing trips and volcano visits. Whakatane is also known for its fishing – more yellowfin tuna are caught here than anywhere else in the country.  

Just offshore is White Island, a spectacular active volcano that can be visited by launch or helicopter. Guided tours of the island necessitate a gas mask and a hard hat. Explore the sulphurous crater and its moon-like surface while viewing active steam vents in this constantly changing environment. The crater lake is continually changing in depth and temperature, so the landscape is different from one day to the next. 

Whakatane is also very close to Ohope Beach, a 10km white sandy beach with a small settlement and perfect for camping, surfing, walking and relaxing in the sun. The beach is nestled among the Pohutukawa tree with the offshore backdrop of volcanic islands Whakaari (White Island) and Motuhoroa (Whale Island).  

Ohiwa Harbour is one of the natural jewels of the region. The surrounding hills are dotted with pā sites, including Tauwhare Pā. In addition, Ohiwa is a haven for birdlife -- godwits migrate from Alaska every season to nest on its shores. 

Accommodation: Whakatane

Day 6: Whakatane - Te Urewera - Hawkes Bay

Te Urewera is primarily a forested, sparsely populated, rugged hill country. The Te Urewera protects the largest area of native forest remaining on the North Island and is home to nearly all species of New Zealand native birds. It is the historical home of Tūhoe, a Māori iwi (tribe) known for their stance on Māori sovereignty. There are short walks near the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre and the holiday park at Lake Waikaremoana. The area's natural features include beautiful waterfalls and one of the country's most enormous rata trees. 

Gisborne is the first city in the world to greet the sun each morning, and it has a reputation for great food, wine and surf beaches. Kaiti Beach is the site of Captain Cook's first landing in New Zealand (9 October 1769); nearby is picturesque Te Poho O Rawiri Marae. If you're interested in Maori culture, Gisborne is an essential port of call on your itinerary – old traditions are still evident in many parts of the city. For example, oral history records Titirangi (Kaiti) Hill as the point of arrival for the migratory waka (canoe), Horouta, which brought the first Maori to the area.

A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. As a result, Napier's city centre feels like a time capsule - the seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary. Take a walk around the city centre, admire the different buildings, and peruse some of the many local antique shops.

Te Mata Peak is at the western boundary of the wine-producing Heretaunga Plains and stands nearly 400 metres above sea level. From the summit of the peak, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Ruahine, Kaweka, Maungaharuru Ranges, and Cape Kidnappers. 

Or: Visit the G
annet Colonies. Cape Kidnappers, a half-hour drive from the cities of Hastings and Napier, visitors can get within a few feet of the world's largest, most accessible mainland gannet colony, at the top of the Cape's sheer and barren cliffs.

Accommodation: Hawkes Bay

Day 7: Hawkes Bay - Wairarapa - Martinborough

Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second most significant wine-producing region, with over 100 vineyards and more than 80 wineries producing both innovative and classic wine styles. Most of Hawke’s Bay’s wineries produce less than 200,000 litres per annum and are family owned, providing an authentic boutique experience to complement award-winning wines. Visit a selection of vineyards in the area. 

Departing Hawke’s Bay, your tour takes you through the rural regions of Manawatu. Wairarapa is a region of big skies, broad valleys and small towns full of character. It is also a bonafide food and wine lover’s paradise. Its vineyards are at the heart of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail and produce some of the world’s best pinot noir.   

Bring your appetite to Martinborough, where Pinot Noir and excellent restaurants promise to ease you into a delighted state of mind. Martinborough features over 20 wineries packed with colonial charm, most within cycling and walking distance of the quaint village square.

Accommodation: Martinborough

Day 8: Martinborough - Rangitikei Valley

Drive deeper into farming country to the remote Mokai Valley, where the picturesque Rangitikei River meets the rugged Ruahine Ranges. The location is set at the edges of the crystal clear waters of the Rangitikei River, amongst the beautiful native flora and fauna, which provides a stunning and picturesque backdrop.

At your unique farm stay,  help is always needed to collect the eggs and feed the chickens, pigs, deer, goats, dogs & puppies, rabbits, possums, sheep, llamas, and turtles. Plus, any extras, especially in spring, when bottle-feeding the orphan lambs.  

Take a scenic rafting trip through gentle rapids, crystal clear waters, vertical gorges and the unbelievable scenery of the Rangitikei River. Raft under the Bungy bridge and visit a secret waterfall. You will have time to stop for a picnic lunch and swim. Then, float quietly through Middle Earth, scenes from the movie Lord of the Rings.

Or: take a scenic helicopter flight from your BBQ location at the remote river back to the Lodge.

Accommodation: Rangitikei Valley

Day 9: Rangitikei Valley - Tongariro National Park - Lake Taupo

The Tongariro National Park encircles the volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu and features some of New Zealand's most contrasting landscapes. Tongariro National Park – covering almost 80,000 hectares – was gifted to the nation by Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV in 1887. Over a hundred years later, the park was awarded dual World Heritage Site status. Emerald lakes, alpine meadows and hot springs surround the largest volcanoes on the North Island, offering an environment of stunning diversity. All three volcanoes are very much alive, with Mount Tongariro erupting as recently as August 2012. But this doesn’t deter people from skiing down the slopes and hiking to the craters – a monitoring system provides early warning of eruptions. 

The park's most celebrated activity is the 'Tongariro Alpine Crossing', a one-day trek traverses the otherworldly terrain along the slopes of all three mountains. Steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes make the walk an unforgettable experience.

Lake Taupo, the largest Lake in this country and the world’s largest volcanic crater was created in one giant explosion nearly two thousand years ago. It darkened the sky in Europe and China. According to Maori legend, the lake is the pulsating heart of Maui's fish (New Zealand's North Island). Taupo is famous for its fishing and its trophy-sized trout. 

Maori highly valued the waters and clays of Wairakei for their healing powers and therapeutic benefits. Visitors can now bathe in a series of hot thermal pools rich in minerals, uniquely situated below magnificent silica terraces that provide a ‘feel back in time’ sensation, leaving you warm long after you have gone the water.

Accommodation: Lake Taupo

Day 10: Lake Taupo - Matamata - Cambridge

Come and explore a volcanic world of gushing geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pools and some of the next world's most fantastic silica terraces. Wander through the Hidden Valley and visit the thermal Ruatapu Cave, which extends more than 36m down into volcanic tuff to the 'Waiwhakaata' or 'Pool of Mirrors' hot pool at the bottom. Marvel at the number of boiling springs and the vibrant colours around you, or take a native bushwalk through this untouched geothermal paradise. 

Matamata is a rural town at the base of the scenic Kaimai Ranges. It is well known for its thoroughbred industry, dairy farming heritage, and historic Firth Tower Museum. Since the launch of the Lord of the Rings movies and the subsequent opening of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, Matamata has become a vibrant visitor destination, attracting visitors worldwide. 

In the evening experience, the Hobbiton Movie Set as you have never seen it before with a guided tour through The Shire at dusk. You will be treated to a banquet in the Green Dragon and sample traditional Hobbit fayre! 

Cambridge is a majestic tree-lined town at the heart of New Zealand's rural heartland. Cambridge is blessed with trees, parks, and gardens that provide a stunning palette of colours as the seasons change. Cambridge also has two of the country's most beautiful waterways – the 'mighty' Waikato River and Lake Karapiro with swimming, rowing, kayaking, jet boating, skiing, cruising and fishing available to all within minutes of the town centre. Cambridge is also well-suited to those who enjoy a walk or like to get on a bike – either for a gentle ride or to compete against the world's best cyclists. And if horses are your thing, Cambridge is the Equine Capital of New Zealand. Some of the world's best racehorses have been bred here, while many thoroughbreds and standardbred trainers are based in the district.

Alternative: Rotorua is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, and showcasing our fascinating Maori culture. Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland. 

Accommodation: Cambridge, Lake Karapiro

Day 11: Cambridge - Waitomo - Auckland

Travel through the lush green rural farmland of the Waikato region. The rich and fertile pastoral land of the Waikato is one of New Zealand's major dairy-producing and horse-breeding areas and hosts incalculable stands of exotic timber. 

Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers. The area's name comes from the Maori words wai (water) and tomo (hole). A walking or boat tour is the easiest way to see the Waitomo Caves. However, if you're into adventure, try the unique experience of Black Water Rafting - you'll crawl, swim and float through the caves on a rubber tube.

Take an authentic, real-deal caving adventure with untouched Glow Worm caves and stunning limestone formations in their purest form—no fancy gadgets like electric lights or handrails. We want happy worms. This guided tour is for a small group so that you can enjoy an up close and personal experience at your own pace. 

We will drive you back through the Waikato and back to Auckland.

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