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North Island Southbound Highlights 

9 days from Auckland to Wellington

Journey south through New Zealand’s North Island from Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’ to the quirky capital city of Wellington.  Along the way you’ll encounter Maori culture in Rotorua,  explore the Art Deco architecture and vineyards of Napier and travel at a relaxed pace allowing you to really soak up the atmosphere of each destination.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 9 days/8 nights from Auckland to Wellington
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Hotel 3 star (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

This Tour Also Features

  • Includes: 8 breakfasts
  • Includes: Private airport transfers
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(twin share, low season)
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Auckland Sky Tower, New Zealand
Rotorua, New Zealand
 

North Island Southbound Highlights - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive into Auckland the 'City of Sails'
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Day 2: Explore Auckland and surrounds
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Day 3: Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua
Accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 4: Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides
Accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua

Day 5: First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke's Bay
Accommodation: Pebble Beach Motor Inn, Napier
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Day 6: Discover the Art Deco architecture, vineyards and gannets of the Hawkes Bay
Accommodation: Pebble Beach Motor Inn, Napier

Day 7: Drive south through the Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa region to Wellington City
Accommodation: Hotel Ibis Wellington
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 8: Uncover the charms of Wellington City, including the quirky cafes and fascinating museums
Accommodation: Hotel Ibis Wellington

Day 9: Depart Wellington today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 6 kms / 4 miles : 0.1 hours

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive into Auckland the 'City of Sails'

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Sailing Cruise including Lunch with Explore

With a fleet of large purpose-built sailboats, the Pride of Auckland Company operates on the sheltered waters of the Waitemata Harbour. As you relax on the deck of a 50ft sailing monohull yacht, take in the spectacular Auckland landscape while you enjoy your picnic lunch. See the harbour bridge from below as you try your hand steering the helm. Relax and settle in for unforgettable 90 minute experience.

Your accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Located on Hobson Street, downtown Auckland the hotel offers apartment style convenience with hotel facilities.
Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 2

Day 2 - Explore Auckland and surrounds

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 - Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

This spectacular AJ Hackett walking tour is the only bridge climb in New Zealand - and the ultimate way to experience the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. All walkways are custom engineered and gentle sloping archways mean this activity is suitable for all ages. As you're guided to the top you'll be greeted with a 360 degree, panoramic view of the sparkling Waitemata harbour. See the best of the city from above and learn all about the secrets of the bridge!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Great Tastes Half Day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

Today you'll be leaving the city and heading northwest to Kumeu Wine Country, Auckland's Heritage Wine Region. Enjoy lunch at a contemporary vineyard, sample world-renowned wines and marvel at the rugged surf-fringed coastline nearby. Your first stop is award-winning Soljans Estate Winery. Utilising both traditional and modern techniques, Soljans produce varied and richly flavoured wines. Built with sunshine in mind and a distinct Mediterranean-style, the onsite restaurant showcases fresh seasonal produce from around the region.
Continuing on, you'll visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony - one of the few mainland nesting sites in the world. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Tasman sea you'll have breathtaking views of the beach and ocean beyond. Your final tasting is at West Brook Winery, one of New Zealand's oldest. These wines reflect true varietal character and their unique regional origins.

Your accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

Located on Hobson Street, downtown Auckland the hotel offers apartment style convenience with hotel facilities.

Meals included: Breakfast

Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland City

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 3

Day 3 - Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Visit the actual Hobbiton movie set and immerse yourself in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Set in the heart the Waikato farming region your two hour tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque Matamata sheep farm. You'll then be guided into Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and the Party Tree while hearing behind-the-scenes tales insight into the making of the films.

Your accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua

The Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua enjoys a location that is second-to-none on the very shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua, adjacent to the world famous Polynesian Spa complex and just a short stroll to all the attractions in Rotorua.

Meals included: Breakfast

Sudima Lake Rotorua

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 4

Day 4 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides

Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.
Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

At Rainbow Springs you'll have the chance to see some of New Zealand's native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. Come face to face with, and learn more about, New Zealand’s precious wildlife. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand's living dinosaur can also be seen here.
Go behind the scenes with New Zealand's national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Canopy Tours - The Original Canopy Tour

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees.
In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mitai Maori Village

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and see warriors in traditional dress who paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance that tells the story of the Maori people, their past, carvings, and ta Moko -Tattoo art. Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat and be amazed by the spine tingling Haka finale. Truly an experience to remember.

Your accommodation: Sudima Lake Rotorua

The Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua enjoys a location that is second-to-none on the very shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua, adjacent to the world famous Polynesian Spa complex and just a short stroll to all the attractions in Rotorua.

Meals included: Breakfast

Sudima Lake Rotorua

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 5

Day 5 - First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke's Bay

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.

Your accommodation: Pebble Beach Motor Inn, Napier

Pebble Beach Motor Inn offers luxurious ocean front accommodation situated perfectly on the Napier's Marine Parade. Just a stroll from the many attractions, restaurants and cafes.

Meals included: Breakfast

Pebble Beach Motor Inn, Napier

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

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 6

Day 6 - Discover the Art Deco architecture, vineyards and gannets of the Hawkes Bay

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 - 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

The Grape Escape Half day wine tour visits some of the Hawke's Bay's famous wineries and is designed for casual imbibers and wine aficionados. Meet like - minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantastic wines. Taste great wines made with passion and learn of the areas unique growing conditions. Take home great tasting wines and memories. Visit 4 - 5 local wineries and taste Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Also try some of New Zealand's finest cheeses matched with wine. Walk amongst the vines and learn about Terroir.

Your accommodation: Pebble Beach Motor Inn, Napier

Pebble Beach Motor Inn offers luxurious ocean front accommodation situated perfectly on the Napier's Marine Parade. Just a stroll from the many attractions, restaurants and cafes.

Meals included: Breakfast

Pebble Beach Motor Inn, Napier

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 7

Day 7 - Drive south through the Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa region to Wellington City

Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.

Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

Your accommodation: Hotel Ibis Wellington

Hotel Ibis Wellington is ideally located in Featherston Street in the heart of Wellington City and easy walking distance to Wellington's famous cafe lifestyle.

Meals included: Breakfast

Hotel Ibis Wellington

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.1 hours

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North Island Southbound Highlights - Day 8

Day 8 - Uncover the charms of Wellington City, including the quirky cafes and fascinating museums

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 - Middle Earth Film Locations Half Day Tour

In a small group, you will head out to the Valley to explore the filming locations for Rivendell where Frodo recovered from his knife attack; the River Anduin where the Fellowship voyaged to Amon Hen; the Gardens of Isengard, where Gandalf rode to see Saruman and the site of the orcs felling the trees; see the quarry used for the filming of Helms Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. Then back to the City to visit the Mount Victoria lookout and Buckland Forest where you can take a "shortcut to mushrooms", "get of the road" and hide where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders before taking a run to the Buckleberry Ferry and discovering Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment along the way.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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: Hotel Ibis Wellington

Hotel Ibis Wellington is ideally located in Featherston Street in the heart of Wellington City and easy walking distance to Wellington's famous cafe lifestyle.

Meals included: Breakfast

Hotel Ibis Wellington

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Day 9 - Depart Wellington today

Depart Wellington today

Choose to explore more of Wellington's sights before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 6 kms / 4 miles : 0.1 hours

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