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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour 

21 days from Auckland to Auckland

This fabulous tour of the North Island captures everything that is special about the region.  You’ll visit beautiful beaches and bays in Northland and the Coromandel, the wine regions of Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough and the cultural heartland of Rotorua. There is also time to explore our two largest cities, both vibrant but offering very different experiences. In Auckland you’ll sail a yacht on the harbour and in Wellington visit the wildlife sanctuary within the city, home to some of our rarest wildlife. There is so much to see and do during this holiday and when you’re tired after a day exploring, you’ll be greeted by your hosts at the welcoming lodges and bed and breakfasts that make up this package.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 21 days/20 nights from Auckland to Auckland
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Boutique lodges & hotels (Can be customised? YES )
 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible
 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers
 Tour pack: Includes detailed driving instructions, maps, guide books and much more
 This tour can be customised to suit you precisely - just request here
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Lake Rotorua, New Zealand
Gannet colony, Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand
 

21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive Auckland
Accommodation: Eden Villa

Day 2: Explore Auckland by land and water
Accommodation: Eden Villa

Day 3: Cross the Harbour Bridge and head north to the balmy Bay of Islands
Accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 230 kms / 143 miles : 3.3 hours

Day 4: Discover the gems of the Bay of Islands or the culture at Waitangi
Accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Day 5: Explore Northland on a flying and driving scenic tour
Accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Day 6: Head cross country to the Hokianga Harbour and down the Kauri Coast
Accommodation: Mangawhai Lodge Bed and Breakfast
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 264 kms / 164 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 7: Mangawhai to Kuaotunu Bay on the Coromandel, stopping at Driving Creek Railway on the way
Accommodation: Kuaotunu Bay Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 295 kms / 183 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 8: Travel past the bays and white sandy beaches of the Coromandel to Tairua
Accommodation: Harbourview Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 56 kms / 35 miles : 0.9 hours

Day 9: Travel along the Bay of Plenty before turning inland towards the lakes of Rotorua
Accommodation: Black Swan Boutique Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 180 kms / 112 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 10: Explore Rotorua and discover the unique Maori culture at Te Puia
Accommodation: Black Swan Boutique Lodge

Day 11: Rotorua to Napier where you're treated to a special wine and dining experience
Accommodation: McHardy Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Day 12: Explore Hawkes Bay and visit the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony
Accommodation: McHardy Lodge

Day 13: Drive south through the Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa region to the boutique vineyards of Martinborough
Accommodation: Peppers Parehua, Martinborough
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 271 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours

Day 14: Explore the Wairarapa and Cape Palliser
Accommodation: Peppers Parehua, Martinborough

Day 15: Travel over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington
Accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 73 kms / 45 miles : 1.0 hours

Day 16: Explore Wellington and this evening visit Zealandia wildlife sanctuary
Accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

Day 17: Wellington to Tongariro National Park
Accommodation: Ruapehu Country Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.0 hours

Day 18: Take a scenic flight over Tongariro National Park, then explore the many short walks in the area
Accommodation: Ruapehu Country Lodge

Day 19: Drive north through the King Country to the limestone rock formations of Waitomo
Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 151 kms / 94 miles : 1.8 hours

Day 20: Explore the Glow Worm Caves this morning, then drive to Auckland
Accommodation: Eden Villa
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 110 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 21: Depart Auckland today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive Auckland

Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Your tour documentation pack and support

Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities - along with relevant brochures and information. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support - details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.

Welcome to Auckland City

Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

Your accommodation: Eden Villa

Eden Villa is an historic villa located in a quiet street in Mt Eden, just a short drive from downtown Auckland. Nearby Mt Eden Village, offers a great selection of cafes and restaurants. Guests at Eden Villa can feel at home whether relaxing in the spacious garden or sitting by the fire in winter. All rooms are beautifully appointed with modern en suite bathrooms.
Eden Villa

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Explore Auckland by land and water

Choose from our great range of late model rental cars for your driving holiday

Today you’ll take to the road for your New Zealand Self Drive holiday, so take a look through the great selection of late model vehicles available and take your pick.  To help you on your way GPS is included with all rentals.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Explore Auckland City

Surrounding a natural harbour, New Zealand's largest metro area offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests meld with a lively urban culture. Grab a coffee downtown and watch the sailboats glide from the Viaduct or head harbourside and take the helm of an America's Cup Yacht.

Catch the Quickcat to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience. Clear the cobwebs with a little exercise and hike the summit of Mt Eden -  Auckland's highest volcano. Pack a picnic and choose one of 800 regional national parks to explore. Hunua Falls - located within the Hunua Ranges - is one not to be missed. If relaxing is more your style, find a good book and head out to a deserted beach. Try Orewa - located an hour north of the city - or stay a little closer and head to Cheltenham Beach in Devonport.

Make time to ascend the Sky Tower or The Harbour Bridge and spike your adrenaline by bungy jumping off either (or both!). Finish on a high with dinner at one of the many trendy eateries to be found on Ponsonby Road.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - The TasteBud Tour - Auckland Food Tour

Join The Big Foody for a fabulous morning of discovery around Auckland. The city sits in the middle of two oceans providing incredible seafood and delicious fresh produce. Auckland is a multicultural exciting city with a fantastic collection of award winning restaurants and cafes . The Tastebud Tour takes you around the city centre and out to the suburbs where you will visit local producers, farmers markets, cafe's, restaurants, speciality shops and much more. Your experienced, passionate and fun tour guides will give you a day you will thoroughly enjoy!  Each tour has enormous flexibility to allow for personal tastes and special interests.  Client feedback sums up this tour “I wish we had done this tour when we first came to Auckland. I would have known so much more of what to expect and look for in the rest of New Zealand. The Tastebud tour is not only about the food, it’s about the people, the places and the sites - it’s a must in Auckland!”

 

America's Cup Sailing Experience with Explore

The world's oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy, the America's Cup is the ultimate yachting regatta. Usually reserved for billionaires and professional yachties, you now have the opportunity to partake in this elite sport. During your two hour sailing adventure you’ll become part of the crew. Either take the helm, try your arm strength on the grinders or simply sit back and enjoy the action as you tack and gybe your way across the harbour. No experience is required for this trip, however children under 10 years are not recommended.

Your accommodation: Eden Villa

Eden Villa is an historic villa located in a quiet street in Mt Eden, just a short drive from downtown Auckland. Nearby Mt Eden Village, offers a great selection of cafes and restaurants. Guests at Eden Villa can feel at home whether relaxing in the spacious garden or sitting by the fire in winter. All rooms are beautifully appointed with modern en suite bathrooms.

Meals included: Breakfast

Eden Villa

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 3

Day 3 - Cross the Harbour Bridge and head north to the balmy Bay of Islands

Auckland to Russell, Bay of Islands

The drive from Auckland to the Bay of Islands normally takes around three and a half hours - but plan to take a little longer for there are many things to see along the way. Stretch your legs in Puhoi, New Zealand's only Bohemian settlement. Go through Warkworth, and Whangarei and see the world famous hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa. Arriving into Russell via the Opua Ferry, you'll be greeted by lush bush-clad hillsides dropping to golden sandy beaches

Your accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 230 kms / 143 miles : 3.3 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 4

Day 4 - Discover the gems of the Bay of Islands or the culture at Waitangi

Explore the Bay of Islands

Made up of over 140 subtropical atolls, New Zealand's Bay of Islands is renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate. Commonly known as the 'Winterless North' this tropical paradise is the ideal holiday destination. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or cool off during a ‘swim with dolphins’ ocean safari. If diving is your thing, take the morning to descend the Rainbow Warrior - The Greenpeace flagship sunk by French saboteurs in 1985. Wander around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843. Learn about our culture in historic Waitangi, the site where The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the Maori and European settlers dictating the terms by which New Zealand would become a British colony. Finally, before you leave take a travel day to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Sail the R Tucker Thompson tall ship

Experience the unique opportunity of sailing on a working tall ship, in one of the most spectacularly beautiful parts of New Zealand, the Bay of Islands. You don't often get the chance to sail on a working tall ship, help set the sails or take the helm, but on the Tucker, you are welcome! With harnesses provided if you want the challenge of climbing the rigging or out on the bowsprit to ride the waves. If you would like to relax, that's fine too - enjoy the delicious food and chat with our friendly crew. Enjoy complimentary freshly baked scones from the galley, a lunchtime swim and island stopover in a sheltered bay and a delicious BBQ lunch served on board.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dolphin Eco Encounter

Dolphins are fascinating creatures, and in the Bay of Islands we are blessed with their presence all year round. This eco cruise gives you the chance to get into the water and swim with dolphins as they play in their natural environment (conditions permitting). You'll also cruise the many secluded islands of the Bay and gain an insight into this historically significant region. This intimate half-day cruise seeks out the many playful dolphins within the sheltered waters of the Bay You will look out for bottlenose and common dolphins, baleen whales, orca, seals, fish, penguins and other sea and bird life. The experienced crew have specialist knowledge of dolphin behaviour - join them in searching for those tell-tale splashes from our purpose-built dolphin watching boat Tutunui.

Your accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Arcadia Lodge, Russell

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 5

Day 5 - Explore Northland on a flying and driving scenic tour

Cape Reinga Scenic Aeroplane Flight and Guided Tour

Today experience the beauty of the North from both air and land. Take a spectacular scenic flight to Cape Reinga over Whangaroa Harbour and the Rangaunu Harbour as well as Coopers Beach, Doubtless Bay and Ninety Mile Beach. The tour also includes a visit to the Cape Reinga lighthouse, and the option to slide down giant sand dunes on sleds.

Your accommodation: Arcadia Lodge, Russell

Arcadia Lodge is a Russell landmark, a turn of the century home and luxury bed and breakfast overlooking Russell's tranquil Matauwhi Bay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Arcadia Lodge, Russell

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 6

Day 6 - Head cross country to the Hokianga Harbour and down the Kauri Coast

Bay of Islands to Mangawhai via Waipoua

Heading west from the Bay of Islands you leave the Pacific Ocean and soon and arrive into the Hokianga and the wilder seas of the Tasman. The small townships of Omapere and Opononi have a great seaside feel and the perfect place to stop for an ice cream. The route now heads south and into the Waipoua Forest, home to the massive Kauri trees. Make sure you allow time to take a few short walks that are signposted as you pass through the region. Not to be missed is the 5 minute loop to view the largest of all the trees Tane Mahuta.  Heading back across country the Matakohe Kauri Museum is an award winning museum and has extensive displays of the regions logging, farming and social history.   As you leave the Kaipara Harbour behind you'll head east to the seaside destination Mangawhai, home to beautiful beaches, vineyards and olive groves.

Your accommodation: Mangawhai Lodge Bed and Breakfast

Mangawhai Lodge offers bed and breakfast accommodation with spectacular sea views of Mangawhai Heads. Enjoy the nearby swimming beaches or explore the local galleries and vineyards.

Meals included: Breakfast

Mangawhai Lodge Bed and Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 264 kms / 164 miles : 3.4 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 7

Day 7 - Mangawhai to Kuaotunu Bay on the Coromandel, stopping at Driving Creek Railway on the way

Mangawhai to Coromandel Township and Kuaotunu

Leaving the idyllic Mangawhai region behind you head south on State Highway 1 back towards Auckland, the city of sails. The route takes you through the farming regions of Wellsford and Warkworth. Pass through the suburbs of the North Shore before crossing the harbour bridge and into the heart of Auckland City. Once you leave the city boundaries the landscape changes to rolling lush farmland. The fertile Hauraki Plains are one of New Zealand's largest dairy producing regions. The Thames Estuary is a haven for wildlife in particular shore birds and a short detour to Miranda (well sign posted) is worthwhile to see the large flocks of godwits and oyster catchers amongst others. Arriving into the old gold town of Thames follow the scenic route north to Coromandel Township along the Pohutukawa Coast (part of the Pacific Coast Highway). This is one of the most spectacular drives in the region and not to be missed. Coromandel Township was named after HMS Coromandel which visited the bay in 1820 to collect spars. Although the timber trade was providing the towns inhabitants with work in the early 1800's, it was the gold rush of the 1850's that contributed to the towns success and growth. The first gold strike, by Charles Ring, in 1852 was short lived when it was discovered the precious metal had to be hacked from rock with hand tools. Later in 1869 alluvial gold was found at Tokatea Hill and the boom started in earnest. The population soared to a staggering 10, 000 people compare with today's estimate of just 1,400. Old buildings from these pioneering times can still be seen in the picturesque little town and there is also a gold mining museum. Craft shops and cafes also line the street. About 3 kilometres north is Driving Creek Railway, a narrow gauge track that can take you into the heart of the Coromandel and its regenerating kauri forest.  From Coromandel you head east to the small holiday settlement of Kuaotunu.

Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour

Driving Creek Railway and Potteries has become a Coromandel icon. The dream of Barry Brickell was to establish a pottery workshop on his land. Using a railway he would have access to the clay on the land and the pine kiln fuel. Over the next 15 years the railway developed until in 1990 it was finally licensed to carry fare paying passengers and ever since thousands of visitors have made the trip to Coromandel to experience this unique attraction. The 1 hour return train trip on the innovatively designed trains takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts as it climbs up to the mountain-top terminus. The pottery is still producing and you can watch the artists at work as well as purchase items.

Your accommodation: Kuaotunu Bay Lodge

Kuaotunu Bay Lodge offers affordable luxury in a true New Zealand style. Spacious rooms have ensuites and private decks to enjoy the coastal scenery or wander through the garden to the beach.

Meals included: Breakfast

Kuaotunu Bay Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 295 kms / 183 miles : 4.1 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 8

Day 8 - Travel past the bays and white sandy beaches of the Coromandel to Tairua

Kuaotunu to Tairua

Heading down the east coast you pass through the town of Whitianga and from here you can take the small foot ferry over to Cooks Beach and Flaxmill Bay. A little further south is the famous Hot Water Beach and the holiday town of Hahei. Cathedral Cove is a popular walk and is well worth the effort to view the massive limestone formation aptly named on the golden sand beach. Tairua is also a great location and Paku Hill offers spectacular views over the natural harbour and the Pacific Ocean.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Coves, Caves and Coastline Cruise from Whitianga

Explore the volcanic coastline with its many caves, blowholes and golden beaches all from the comfort and safety of an ex coastguard 28 ft cruiser. Departing from Whitianga Wharf journey past the towering Shakespeare's Cliffs and historic Cooks Beach. Visit Cathedral Cove and the islands in the marine reserve. There is also a chance to swim with the abundant fish in the reserve (on board snorkel gear provided - dont forget your swimsuit and towel). For those who prefer to stay dry an underwater camera relays images to an onboard TV.

Your accommodation: Harbourview Lodge

Harbourview Lodge in Tairua aim to provide you with the comforts of home while holidaying on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula.

Meals included: Breakfast

Harbourview Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 56 kms / 35 miles : 0.9 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 9

Day 9 - Travel along the Bay of Plenty before turning inland towards the lakes of Rotorua

Tairua to Rotorua via Tauranga

Today you'll be leaving the Coromandel Peninsula and passing through the town of Whangamata, a popular tourist destination for Kiwi holidaymakers and home to one of the best beaches in the region. Stop in Wahi to view its operational open cast gold mine - just follow the signs to a unique vantage point overlooking the Martha Mine. For rail enthusiasts, be sure to take a trip on the Goldfields Railway along its historic and scenic track. Continue on through the Bay of Plenty and the portside city of Tauranga. Your driving route now takes you along the Pyes Pa Road to Rotorua. If Lord of the Rings is your thing take a detour along State Highway 29 to Matamata, home to the fictional Tolkien village, Hobbiton. As you arrive into Rotorua take in the spectacular lake views along with clouds of steam rising from multiple geysers across the region.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Orakei Korako Hidden Valley with Volcanic Air Safaris by floatplane

On this spectacular scenic flight you'll take a floatplane over the Crater Lakes District and the volcanic rift of Mt Tarawera. You'll then continue south via the Waimangu and Waiotapu Thermal Park to land in the Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako. Transfer by boat across the lake to explore the hot springs, gushing geysers and natural beauty of this geothermal wonderland before rejoining your aircraft for the return trip to Rotorua.

Your accommodation: Black Swan Boutique Lodge

Black Swan Boutique Lodge combines old world charm with a modern funky twist. Set in one acre of outstanding gardens on the edge of Lake Rotorua, the lodge is an intimate retreat just a short drive from the centre of Rotorua.

Meals included: Breakfast

Black Swan Boutique Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 180 kms / 112 miles : 2.6 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 10

Day 10 - Explore Rotorua and discover the unique Maori culture at Te Puia

Te Puia - Steambox Interactive Maori Experience and Lunch and Cultural Performance

Begin this unique cultural experience by viewing a traditional performance in the Marae, a Maori meeting house. Listen to beautiful harmonies, see the seductive poi dance and experience the powerful Haka - a fearsome Maori war challenge. You will then choose from a variety of meats and vegetables for your Steambox lunch. The Steambox cooking method utilises the steam and hot water naturally available within thermally active landscape. Historically, this method has been used by early Maori settlers, and is a traditional way of preparing a meal. While your food is being cooked in the Ngā Whā steam vent, You will be taken on a guided tour of Te Puia thermal reserve. Beginning with an interactive flax weaving session, you'll learn to weave flax before exploring the geothermal valley including the Kiwi house, mud pools and bubbling hot springs. Return in time for your steaming lunch - eaten as you enjoy an impressive view of the geyser terrace.

Your accommodation: Black Swan Boutique Lodge

Black Swan Boutique Lodge combines old world charm with a modern funky twist. Set in one acre of outstanding gardens on the edge of Lake Rotorua, the lodge is an intimate retreat just a short drive from the centre of Rotorua.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Black Swan Boutique Lodge

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 11

Day 11 - Rotorua to Napier where you're treated to a special wine and dining experience

Rotorua to Napier

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.
Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of hundreds of cubic metres of water spilling every second down the narrow 11 metre drop.
For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner

Take a scenic drive through the vineyards as you learn about the region and its wines. Enjoy a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at Vidal. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views from Te Mata Peak while enjoying a glass of bubbles as the sun sets from 399m above sea level (overlooking the glimmering lights of the Twin Cities in winter).

Your accommodation: McHardy Lodge

This beautifully restored, single storey 1890's residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city. A 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

McHardy Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 12

Day 12 - Explore Hawkes Bay and visit the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures

On this unique four hour eco-adventure you will get to experience one of the largest and most accessible mainland gannet colonies in the world. You'll be pulled on a trailer from the back of a vintage tractor along the beach to the Black Reef Colony - where you'll have the chance to see the birds in their natural habitat. Depending on the season, visitors can witness new-born chicks through to four month old gannets preparing for their first ever flight, which will take them all the way to Australia. Continuing on to the Cape, you'll break for 90 minutes which enables visitors the chance to picnic, swim or enjoy a scenic walk to the Plateau Colony.

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. A trip to Mission Estate, touted as the the birthplace of NZ wine, can't be missed. For the truly enthused, head out on a tour of the vines. We recommend the to make the most of what's on offer. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city's architecture - including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world. If you're after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices, and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. End on a high with another ride, this time in comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony - the largest of its kind in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Napier Whirlwind Tour

This 2 1/2 hour tour takes in all the history, from early settlement, through to the huge 1931 earthquake and the rebuilding of the City to the Art Deco Capital of the World to what it is today. You also visit the historic area of Ahuriri, National Tobacco Building and the famous Mission Estate Winery. As you return to Napier City, you will also tour an Art Deco Housing Estate. Experience many stops for photos from lookouts to famous landmarks etc. This is a compact tour, it is really for those that are spending the one night here in Napier and still wish to see the City highlights.

Your accommodation: McHardy Lodge

This beautifully restored, single storey 1890's residence is nestled in a quiet cul de sac on Napier Hill, a great location from which to explore the Art Deco city. A 5 star boutique Bed & Breakfast experience with unparalleled facilities and luxurious rooms.

Meals included: Breakfast

McHardy Lodge

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 13

Day 13 - Drive south through the Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa region to the boutique vineyards of Martinborough

Napier to Martinborough

As you leave the rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay you'll be greeted with some of the country's richest dairy farmland in the Manawatu Gorge. Continue on through the Wairarapa region and stop in the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, where you can see some of New Zealand native animals.Take another break in Masterson, and visit the interactive Woolshed Museum to learn about sheep farming in New Zealand. As you drive south, a visit to historic Greytown is a must do. Take in the restored Victorian buildings and make time for a cup of tea at one of its quaint cafes. Leaving state highway 2 you will cross over the Ruamahanga River into Martinborough wine country - your destination for the day.  
 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour

Visit wonderful vineyards such as Te Kairangi Wines, Tirohana Estate, Cabbage Tree Vineyard and Martinborough Vineyard on this half day tour of the premium wine region of Martinborough. Taste the wines, learn about the development of the region, its people and characters from knowledgeable guides.

Your accommodation: Peppers Parehua, Martinborough

On the edge of Martinborough lies Peppers Parehua – a meticulous sprawling country estate, with large sweeping gardens, luxury accommodation and panoramic views. Each unique cottage has been individually designed with attention to detail that has to be seen to be believed.

Meals included: Breakfast

Peppers Parehua, Martinborough

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 271 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 14

Day 14 - Explore the Wairarapa and Cape Palliser

Cape Palliser and the South Coast

Just around 45 minutes south of the town of Martinborough will bring you to one of the most spectacular coastlines in the country. Rocky shores and tiny settlements feature as you head towards the magnificent views from the Cape Palliser lighthouse. New Zealand fur seals make these rocky shores and outcrops their home and offer some great photo opportunities. The small township of Ngawi is also quite a unique spot. As you approach you will be forgiven for thinking it's a massive graveyard for old tractors but in fact it's a bustling fishing community. Crayfish are the main catch and massive tractors and bulldozers are used to haul the boats from the water and over the pebble beach. Heading back towards Martinborough a detour to the Lake Ferry Hotel and some local seafood is highly recommended.

Your accommodation: Peppers Parehua, Martinborough

On the edge of Martinborough lies Peppers Parehua – a meticulous sprawling country estate, with large sweeping gardens, luxury accommodation and panoramic views. Each unique cottage has been individually designed with attention to detail that has to be seen to be believed.

Meals included: Breakfast

Peppers Parehua, Martinborough

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 15

Day 15 - Travel over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington

Martinborough to Wellington City

Today you will cross the Rimutaka Ranges as you make your way to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Often compared to Melbourne, Wellington is vibrant cultural hub.Home to the nation’s centre of government. Legislation happens in the aptly named ‘Beehive,’ an executive wing attached to the Houses of Parliament. At one kilometre squared, the city centre (easily traversed on foot) has an international feel and is peppered with underground art shows, alleyway cafes and New York style delis. Take in the boardwalk view as you stroll to Te Papa Museum or indulge your cinematic side exploring Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award winning design studio for Lord Of The Rings. For a taste of vintage fashion, spend some time (and dollars!) on Cuba Street browsing the boutiques. Work off last night’s dinner with a cycling tour of Oriental Bay and undo your good work with a Hokey Pokey ice-cream in the sun. For those heading further down, the capital is where you board the ferry crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island.

Your accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

The Bolton Hotel is a contemporary apartment hotel in the heart of Wellington's CBD. This hotel has 142 guest rooms and suites are furnished in a contemporary style and feature Sky Digital television, movies on demand, high-speed Internet (including WiFi), a personal bar, and air-conditioning.

Meals included: Breakfast

Bolton Hotel Wellington

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 73 kms / 45 miles : 1.0 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 16

Day 16 - Explore Wellington and this evening visit Zealandia wildlife sanctuary

Wellington City

Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.

Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.

Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. If you're a foodie at heart, a two hour round trip to Martinborough is a must do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Walking Gourmet Food Tour

With your knowledgeable and entertaining Zest Guide, explore Wellington's foodie quarters and some of their favourite food places on this delicious introduction to the culinary capital. Visit a boutique coffee roastery or specialty cafe. Enjoy tastings at Wellington's best specialist food places including trying regional cheeses, honey, chocolates and much more, tasting at every stop. Savour a delicious, light tasting lunch with matched New Zealand wines at a top Wellington restaurant. During the tour, your guide can also introduce you to many other aspects of the Capital, ranging from iconic city architecture, sculptures and fantastic places to shop and eat. Walking time is approximately 90 minutes, all weather, over 5 hours.

Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour

Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley - just 10 minutes from the central city.

Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost.

Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley - so your chances of seeing one is very good.

Your accommodation: Bolton Hotel Wellington

The Bolton Hotel is a contemporary apartment hotel in the heart of Wellington's CBD. This hotel has 142 guest rooms and suites are furnished in a contemporary style and feature Sky Digital television, movies on demand, high-speed Internet (including WiFi), a personal bar, and air-conditioning.

Meals included: Breakfast

Bolton Hotel Wellington

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 17

Day 17 - Wellington to Tongariro National Park

Wellington to Whakapapa Village

The drive from Wellington to Tongariro takes you via the Kapiti Coast and the seaside towns of Plimmerton, Paekakariki and Paraparaumu are worth a short detour. Heading north you pass through the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving onto the central plateau. A little further the military town of Waiouru also hosts the Army Museum, an incredible collection of New Zealand’s military history and a memorial to its servicemen. Skirting Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites, and clouds permitting you can see the 2,500 metre peak of the still volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu. You might recognise the symmetrical shape of Mt. Ngauruhoe as this was used as the scenery of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Tongariro is New Zealand's oldest national park, established in 1887 after the Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV gifted the sacred peaks to the nation. It was also only the fourth place on earth to be given recognition as a World Heritage area. At the heart of the park are three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are considered the two most active composite volcanoes in the world with the latter erupting as recently as 1995 and 1996 sending ash up to 30, 000 feet into the air.
Despite the barren and sometimes inhospitable environment, the region abounds with flora and fauna. Alpine herbs and flaxes thrive on the upper slopes while dense beech forests cover the lower regions. New Zealand's only native mammals, the short and long tailed bat make their homes here.
The Tongariro Crossing is one of New Zealand's Great Walks and there are many other tracks and trails to suit all capabilities. Also lying within the park is two of New Zealand's largest ski fields, Whakapapa and Turoa.

Your accommodation: Ruapehu Country Lodge

Each room has an outdoor courtyard which looks across the expansive gardens. You will love drinking your coffee or tea while breathing in the fresh country air. You're also just a short drive from the alpine village of Ohakune and 15 minutes from Tongariro National Park.

Meals included: Breakfast

Ruapehu Country Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.0 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 18

Day 18 - Take a scenic flight over Tongariro National Park, then explore the many short walks in the area

Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane

Take a scenic flight over New Zealand's oldest National Park and world heritage site for a spectacular view of this unique volcanic landscape. See all three volcanoes - Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu as well as the iconic Emerald Lakes, the Blue Lake and the Tama lake. Climbing to 10,000 ft, you'll also view the active Mount Ruapehu crater lake, and spot some of the landscapes used in the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Walking tracks in and around Whakapapa Village, Tongariro National Park

There are a plethora of walks in and around Whakapapa Village and Tongariro National Park. From short 15 minute hikes to longer 5 hour treks, there is something for every level of fitness. All established tracks are maintained by the Department of Conservation and before heading out on a walk, it is best to check the track conditions and suitability at the local DOC information office in the centre of the village. Below are a selection of the best walks to do:

  1. Whakapapa Nature Walk,15 min loop track
  2. Mounds Walk, 20 min one way
  3. Tawhai Falls, 20 min one way
  4. Ridge Track, 340 min return
  5. Taranaki Falls, 2 hour return
  6. Whakapapanui Walk, 2 hour return
  7. Tupapakurua Falls Track, 5 hour return

Your accommodation: Ruapehu Country Lodge

Each room has an outdoor courtyard which looks across the expansive gardens. You will love drinking your coffee or tea while breathing in the fresh country air. You're also just a short drive from the alpine village of Ohakune and 15 minutes from Tongariro National Park.

Meals included: Breakfast

Ruapehu Country Lodge

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 19

Day 19 - Drive north through the King Country to the limestone rock formations of Waitomo

Whakapapa Village to Waitomo

Head through National Park and across rich rolling farmland to the limestone regions of Waitomo and the famous Waitomo Caves complex.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hairy Feet Scenic Film Location Tour

Visit the stunning farm location at Mangaotaki Rocks Piopio - near Waitomo - where the troll and campfire scenes in 'The Hobbit' were filmed. You'll see the towering limestone cliffs, massive rock formations and primeval forest that make up the location for Staddle Farm and Trollshaws. You can also have your photo taken in the exact spot where Bilbo received his magical sword 'Sting' from Gandalf. You'll join a personally guided tour of several key filming locations including the site where the Orcs and Wargs began attacking and the 'exit from the cave' containing the troll hoard.

Your accommodation: Kamahi Cottage

Kamahi Cottage is a luxury country cottage, farm stay and self-contained 5 Star Bed & Breakfast just 30 minutes from Waitomo Caves. Ideal as an intimate romantic retreat or weekend getaway, it’s peaceful and private with stunning views. The setting is a large and lovely country garden on a typical New Zealand Sheep and Beef farm.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Kamahi Cottage

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 151 kms / 94 miles : 1.8 hours

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21 Day Ultimate North Island Tour - Day 20

Day 20 - Explore the Glow Worm Caves this morning, then drive to Auckland

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Explore a 30 million year old cave network spread across three levels. You'll travel deep underground through the limestone caves viewing stalactites and stalagmites as well as and hearing about the caves historical and geological significance. You'll then hop into a boat and glide silently through the glow worm grotto - a galaxy of tiny living lights.

Waitomo to Auckland City

The lush farmland of the Waikato and the limestone hills of the Waitomo region provide some great scenery as you head north. Visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House en route for a great look at some of New Zealand's native birds in particular our famous flightless namesake.

Your accommodation: Eden Villa

Eden Villa is an historic villa located in a quiet street in Mt Eden, just a short drive from downtown Auckland. Nearby Mt Eden Village, offers a great selection of cafes and restaurants. Guests at Eden Villa can feel at home whether relaxing in the spacious garden or sitting by the fire in winter. All rooms are beautifully appointed with modern en suite bathrooms.

Meals included: Breakfast

Eden Villa

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 178 kms / 110 miles : 2.1 hours

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Day 21 - Depart Auckland today

Depart Auckland today

Explore more of vibrant Auckland city before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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- Ultimate North Island Explorer, Staying in Motels

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