Today on the first day of your New Zealand itinerary, you arrive in New Zealand's largest city, Auckland.
Auckland is a bustling city with a population of around 1.4 million. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
Often referred to as the "City of Sails", Auckland has two natural harbors, and a warmer climate than many other areas of New Zealand, allowing locals and visitors to make the most of it's wonderful location.
Check in to your accommodation, collect your car, and have a good rest. Tomorrow your adventure begins.
As befits a city of this size, Auckland has lots to see and do, and you will find it one of the highlights of your New Zealand itinerary.
One of Auckland's most popular attractions is Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, which was the world's first walk through, tunnel aquarium. Here you can see over 60 species of fish, including rays and sharke, and breeding colonies of gentoo and king penguins.
Auckland's Sky Tower is the Southern Hemisphere's tallest building, at 328 meters. The high-speed elevators take visitors to three observation decks, in 40 seconds, where you will enjoy 360 degree views of Auckland and surroundings.
Waiheke Island is the most populated and accessible of the Hauraki Gulf islands, and is a 30 minute ferry ride from Auckland. The island has several beautiful beaches, and numerous cafés and restaurants.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from Auckland to the beautiful Bay of Islands (3.75 hours drive).
The Bay of Islands have been a tourist favorite for decades. Aptly named, the region features stunning coastal scenery and various small sea side townships such as Russell and Paihia.
Accommodation options are many and varied, particularly in Paihia. A water view is always recommended if your budget allows.
Today in your New Zealand itinerary you are free to explore the Bay of Islands.
Recommended activities are:
* visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Described as the "birthplace of the nation", the historic Treaty of Waitangi was signed here in 1840. The Treaty House and carved meeting house are not to be missed. Maori arts and craft exhibitions, and Maori cultural shows are a feature of the grounds.
* take a cruise to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock, a cave that is large enough to accommodate large boats.
* visit Russell. Once known as the "Hellhole of the Pacific", Russell was notorious for it's brothls, alcohol, and lawlessness. Russell was also New Zealand's capital for a brief period.
Accessed by a short ferry ride from Paihia, Russell is now a charming sea side village with various waterfront cafés and craft shops.
* take a kayak trip in the bay. Calm, clear waters are ideal for kayaking and there are a number of operators offering guided kayak tours.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you south from the Bay of Islands to the equally picturesque Coromandels (5 hours drive).
The Coromandel Peninsula extends north for 85 kilometers from the western end of the Bay of Plenty. 40 kilometers wide at it's broadest point, the peninsula Shelters the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland lies on the western side of the gulf and can be seen in fine weather.
Check in to your hotel and then you are free to explore.
Perhaps one of the most popular and unusual attractions in the Coromandels, is Hot Water Beach. A natural hot water spring at the Southern end of the beach is accessible only two hours each side of low tide. The water can be very hot, and finding a spot at the right temperature can be a challenge, particularly on an incoming tide.
The region is well known for its beautiful beaches, and Cathedral Cove is one of the better known spots. The beach has two parts, linked by a cave (Cathedral Cove), and is reached via a well kept track. The journey takes around 45 minutes.
Thames, the largest settlement on the peninsula, has an old world feel, and the architecture in the main street is very 1900s. If you are interested in the region's history, Thames Historical Museum is well worth a visit.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from the Coromandels to the seaside resort of Mt Maunganui (2.5 hours drive). Located on the Bay of Plenty, Mt Maunganui has some of New Zealand's best surf beaches.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Mount Maunganui, with beach front location recommended.
There is also plenty to see and do in the area.
Whale watching and swimming with the dolphins gives you a chance to get close to local marine life, and there are a number of tours available in the area.
A "must see" is White Island, located in the Bay of Plenty. White Island is made up of three volcanic cones, and is one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes. Tours to the island can be made by boat or helicopter, and can include a crater walk if desired. Hard hats and gas masks are supplied, and although tremors are common, the last major eruption was in 2000. There have been no eruptions while visitors have been on the island. The steam from the island is often visible from the mainland.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you inland to the thermal resort of Rotorua (1.5 hours drive).
Rotorua is one of New Zealand's major tourist attractions, and apart from the thermal attractions, the area is also well known for its Maori cultural displays.
Rotorua is located on the bank's Lake Rotorua, which is the North Island's second largest lake at 80 square kilometers.
Find a hotel, and relax for the evening.
Today on your New Zealand itinerary you are free to explore Rotorua. There is lots to see and do in Rotorua, and your time there will be one of the highlights of your New Zealand itinerary.
Perhaps the main attraction is Te Puia, the New Zealnd Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, which includes Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. Attracting over half a million visitors annually, this is one of New Zealand's main tourist attractions. Here you will see Maori cultural displays, Maori arts and crafts, including intricate carvings, a fully carved whereui (meeting house), and the world famous Pohutu geyser.
Other points of interest in Rotorua are:
* the Skyline Gondola and luge ride. Cable cars take the 900 met journey to the top of Mt Ngongotaha (487 meters) where you will enjoy stunning views of Rotorua and surroundings. The luge ride is great fun as you ride your kart down one of three tracks. Then return to the top by chairlift, and do it all over again!
* Hell's Gate / Tikitere, which is considered to be the most active of Rotorua's thermal areas, contains an active mud volcano and hot waterfall.
* the Polynesian Spa, located lake side, has a selection of hot pools overlooking the lake.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the Waitomo Caves (2.5 hours drive).
Check in to your hotel then head to the famous Waitomo Caves. The complex includes the unforgivable Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave, and the spectacular Glowworm Caves. The caves are a must see, and you will marvel at the display as thousands of tiny glowworms radiate their gentle glow. Expert guides will provide expert commentary on the caves history as you make your way through the complex.
If you crave something a little more adventurous, why not try black water rafting. 3 or 5 hour adventures will have you jumping, weaving, abseiling, and tubing through Ruakuri Caves glowworm lit waters.
The operator, the Black Water Rafting company, has been in operation for over 20 years, and has guided over half a million visitors through this underground wonderland.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the Taranaki region's major center, New Plymouth (2.5 hours drive). Located on the west coast of the North Island, New Plymouth is somewhat unique, in being a coastal city which has a mountain within 30 minutes drive. Mount Taranaki (also known as Mount Egmont) stands at 2,518 meters and allows visitors to New Plymouth to snowboard, ski, and surf, all on the same day.
You will find a wide range of accommodation and things to do in New Plymouth.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the lovely lake side town of Lake Taupo (4.5 hours drive). Find your accommodation then explore after lunch.
There is an abundance of activities in Lake Taupo. As New Zealand's largest lake, Taupo offers a wide variety of water based things to do. The area is famous for trout fishing, and the Tongariro River is Lake Taupo's main spawning river, famous for the size and quality of its fish. Mountain biking, hiking, and bungy jumping are all available in Taupo. The region is also home to Huka lodge, one of the finest luxury lodges in the world. Offering world class accommodation, facilities, location, and service Huka Lodge is something special.
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to Whakatane (2.5 hours drive). Located on the eastern side of the Bay of plenty, Whakatane offers visitors all that is good about the Bay of Plenty. Here you can go whale watching, swimming with dolphins, deep sea fishing, visit the active volcanic White Island, mountain bike and hike.
Gisborne, located on the east coast, is a 3.5 hour drive.
Located at the north end of Poverty Bay, Gisborne can lay claim, at least for part of the year, to being the first city in the world to see the morning sun.
Gisborne has a wide range of accommodation, and lots to see and do. Deep sea fishing, trout fishing, diving, kayaking, heli tours, hiking, rafting, wine tours, and steam train journeys are just some of the activities available in Gisborne and surroundings.
Today, your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the art deco town of Napier (3 hours drive).
Napier is located on beautiful Hawke's Bay, and has a population of around 60,000. Perhaps best known for the 1931 earthquake which leveled the town center, Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time, and now hosts an annual Art Deco weekend each February, which joins thousands of thousands to the area.
There is lots to see and do in Napier and surroundings. Goring and mountain biking are popular, but visitors can also take scenic tours, visit local wineries (the famous Gimblett Gravels wine region), and enjoy Napier, hailed as a "Gourmet Food and Wine" destination.
The region has lots to offer visitors, and like most kiwi destinates, provides wonderful photo opportunities (make sure that you have a large capacity memory card on your camera).
Today on your New Zealand itinerary you travel to New Zealand's capital, Wellington (4.5 hours drive).
Check in to your accommodation and relax for the afternoon.
Days 19 & 20.
Set on the edge of an amazing harbor, and surrounded by rolling hills, Wellington is a beautiful, bustling city of around 200,000. Wellington is also the departure point for the Interislander ferry, linking Wellington with the South Island port of Picton.
Wellington is home to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Located on the waterfront in downtown Wellington, Te Papa offers visitors a unique collection of arts and exhibitions which showcase New Zealand's proud heritage, culture, and growth. Te Papa is not to be missed. If museums are your thing, Wellington also offers the Colonial Cottage Museum, the New Zealand Cricket Museum, the Museum of Wellington, the Wellington Cable Car Museum, the Bank of New Zealand Museum, and the Bedplate Press Printing Museum. Something for everyone.
A great way to view Wellington is by cable car. The car travels from Lambton Quay in the city center, to the top of Upland Road, where you will find the lookout, an observatory, and the Cable Car Museum. From the lookout you take in spectacular views of the city center and harbor. Cable cars depart every 10 minutes and you can take a car back down to the city, or walk down through gardens and the historic Bolton Street cemetery, emerging near the New Zealand Parliament.
Along with the usual New Zealand activities such as hikes, kayaking, mountain biking, and bungy jumping, Wellington offers visitors: winery tours, an endless supply of restaurants, bars, and cafés, 4wd tours, seal colonies, and much more.
Unfortunately all good things must end, and today you fly home.
We hope that you enjoyed this North Island New Zealand itinerary, and that you return one day to see the rest of this wonderful country.