The Volcanic Centre self drive tour
8 day North Island Self Drive, from Auckland to Auckland
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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour

A tour through the heart of the North Island highlighting its incredible diversity. Experience the rich culture of Rotorua and its volcanic past and present with a trip by helicopter to Mt Tarawera. Visit Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand and then the North Island's World Heritage area of Tongariro National Park. The tour finishes with a visit to the world famous Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave before heading back to Auckland.

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Itinerary details at a glance

North Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$3,626 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Auckland

8 days/7 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 25 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive into Auckland the 'City of Sails'
Accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Day 2: Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua
Accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 3: Take a fantastic scenic flight to the surreal volcanic area of Mt Tarawera, here you'll land and get to explore
Accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Day 4: A short drive along the Geothermal Highway to Lake Taupo
Accommodation: Beechtree Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 75 kms / 47 miles : 0.8 hours

Day 5: Skirt the edge of Lake Taupo and cross the Desert Road to Tongariro National Park
Accommodation: Skotel Alpine Resort
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 133 kms / 82 miles : 1.6 hours

Day 6: Head north through the King Country to the limestone caves of Waitomo
Accommodation: Palm Court Motel Otorohanga
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 171 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 7: Return to Auckland, where you'll have time to catch up on anything you missed when you arrived
Accommodation: Sudima Auckland City
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 110 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 8: Depart Auckland

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

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 1
Private Transfer Auckland Airport to Auckland Accommodation

You will be met at the Auckland airport by the driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland

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 28 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Harbour Sailing Dinner Cruise with Explore

This unique on-water sailing and dining experience is not to be missed while you're in Auckland. Enjoy smooth sailing on the Waitemata Harbour - then watch this photogenic city come alive with twinkling lights. Enjoy your meal as you sail around the beautiful Auckland Harbour taking in the view as the sun slowly sets. You'll be treated to canapes and a drink as you set off towards Westhaven Marina. Choose between dining in the downstairs cabin or on deck to take in the iconic sights of the Auckland Harbour. To finish the evening off, savour your dessert course as you leisurely sail back to Auckland's vibrant Viaduct Harbour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - All Blacks Experience

See what it takes to make, shape and be an All Black. Experience first-hand the excitement and emotion of game day. Discover the stories behind some of world rugby’s most famous players, moments and matches.
This guided experience introduces you to the game of rugby before being lead through state-of-the-art displays combining sound, images, interactive technology and hands-on activities. Discover New Zealand’s deep passion for our national sport, experience the full force of the All Blacks haka, tackle interactive zones where you can try out your kicking, catching, line-out and accuracy skills against legendary All Blacks.

Your accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of Auckland’s bustling shopping, arts, dining and entertainment precincts and opposite the New Zealand International Convention Centre.

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 2
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.

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 from Shires Rest

Become immersed in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata in the heart of the lush Waikato farming region, your tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films. Spend time wandering through Bagshot Row before being led inside a Hobbit Hole to view the detailed interiors, designed to provide an authentic glimpse into the dwelling of a Hobbit.

Te Pā Tū Evening Maori Cultural Experience

New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, presenting Te Pā Tū. Feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pā (village) blanketed by towering Tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheatre. Te Pā Tū shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across 4-hours of celebration and feasting. These events change with each season of the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar.

Your accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Silver Fern Suites & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and is close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.
Meals included: Speciality Dinner

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

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 3
Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. Geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to one of the Maori Villages should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Spike your adrenaline at Velocity Valley Adventure Park on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Alternatively, head up the Rotorua 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.

Mount Tarawera & Orakei Korako Thermal Explorer by Helicopter

Combine the thrill of landing on Mount Tarawera with a flight that includes spectacular aerial views of Rotorua's stunning crater lakes, the renowned Tarawera Falls and the vibrant Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu geothermal reserves.
Leaving Wai-O-Tapu, descend to follow the Waikato River to the hidden valley of Orakei Korako. Once landed, you will ferry across the river and begin your land-based tour. Experience hot springs, gushing geysers and the natural beauty of this geothermal wonderland. The return flight takes in views of farmland and the Paeroa mountain range before flying over Rotorua City and returning to the lakefront pier.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a spectacular showcase of New Zealand’s most colourful and unique geothermal elements sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity. You are introduced to a uniquely different natural landscape – the key to what you see lies below the surface – one of the most extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand, extending over 18-sq. km. Enjoy viewing unique volcanic features as you walk at your own pace along well-defined tracks. Relax in the first-class Visitor Centre, home to the Gift Shop and Café facilities. Visit the Mud Pool, the largest in New Zealand, it was originally the site of a large mud volcano which was destroyed through erosion in the 1920s. See the history and beauty of the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15 am every day. Lady Knox Geyser provides a unique opportunity to see an eruption to heights of 10 to 20 metres.

Your accommodation: Silver Fern Suites & Spa

Silver Fern Suites & Spa is located just minutes from Rotorua's city centre and is close to popular thermal attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Suites have a private spa pool or double spa bath for you to unwind and relax.

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 4
Rotorua to Taupo

Today drive through the heart of the Central North Island volcanic plateau. Visit the geothermal regions Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waimangu Volcanic Valley, before arriving into the town of Taupo, which sits on New Zealand's largest lake - Lake Taupo. Just north of the town are the Huka Falls and a short detour to view is highly recommended, as is a visit to the nearby Craters of the Moon geothermal reserve.

Huka Falls Jet Boat Ride

The Huka Jet is 30 minutes of pure fun and exhilaration, skimming close to cliffs, sliding past trees, feeling the adrenalin of full 360 degree spins. The excitement continues right up to the base of the foaming Huka Falls, where you get a spectacular water level view to New Zealand's most visited natural attraction. Nothing compares to watching 220,000 litres per second tumbling over the cliff face towards you.
The water from the mighty Huka Falls runs down the Waikato River through a series of Hydro Power Stations. You'll get a view of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station in the comfort of a powerful Chevrolet V8 jet boat. This unique Geothermal Power Station uses underground geothermal activity to produce hot steamy water. The Waikato Rivers beautiful environment is varied and unique and is New Zealand's longest river flowing north from our largest lake, Lake Taupō.

Your accommodation: Beechtree Motel

Beechtree Motel offers luxury, modern apartment and motel style accommodation. Just a five minutes stroll to cafes, restaurants and the Taupo lakefront.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 75 kms / 47 miles : 0.8 hours

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 5
Taupo to Ohakune via The Desert Road

Following the lake edge the drive takes you to the township of Turangi, rated as one of the worlds best trout fishing locations. Just on the main road south of the town is the National Trout Centre run by the Department of Conservation. You can explore the process of hatching trout to stock New Zealand's rivers and lakes.
Continuing onto the high central plateau you drive what is commonly known as 'the desert road'. 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.
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.  Ohakune is a great base for exploring Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Site. Three active volcanoes form the backbone of this spectacular region and some ways to enjoy the park include Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, scenic flights or simply taking a drive to the top of the ski field road at Whakapapa.

Your accommodation: Skotel Alpine Resort

Located in the tussock on the edge of the Whakapapa Village in the heart of the Tongariro National Park The Skotel Alpine Resort offers a wonderful atmosphere and well equipped rooms to relax and enjoy the region from.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 133 kms / 82 miles : 1.6 hours

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 6
Ohakune to Waitomo

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

Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Aranui Cave tour

For over 100 years Waitomo Glowworm Caves have attracted people from all over the world to this subterranean wonderland. An ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos, and amazing stalactites and stalagmites.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Formed over 30 million years ago there are two levels to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves which are 16 metres apart. The upper level is dry and includes the entrance to the cave, the Catacombs and the Organ Loft. The lower level consists of stream passages and the Cathedral. As you glide quietly beneath the lights of thousands of glowworms, it is only the gentle sound of dripping water that reminds you that you are deep underground and not beneath a star filled sky.
Aranui Cave
Located in Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, Aranui is a dry cave. There is only one entrance to Aranui and without a river flowing through, it houses very little life past the entrance. However, just inside the entrance is a colony of cave wetas. Aranui is famous for its beautiful arrays of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and unusual formations.

 

Your accommodation: Palm Court Motel Otorohanga

Palm Court Motel is conveniently located 200 metres from cafes, restaurants, village shopping and the railway station. Stay just a few minutes drive to Waitomo Caves, Black-Water Rafting, Adventure Tours, Kiwi House and the golf course.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 171 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 7
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.

Auckland Sky Tower Admission

Standing at 328 metres (just over 1000 feet) - the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers panoramic views of the Auckland landscape. Travel in the glass-fronted lift to one of three spectacular viewing platforms, or for a little more excitement do a SkyWalk - an outside loop around the pergola 192 metres (just over 600 feet) above ground. If you're really bold, Take the quick way down and SkyJump off the tower - a controlled free fall to the base.
Inside, the Sky Lounge offers coffee and light meals while the iconic Orbit Restaurant is Auckland's only 360 degree revolving dining experience.

Your accommodation: Sudima Auckland City

Conveniently located within easy walking distance of Auckland’s bustling shopping, arts, dining and entertainment precincts and opposite the New Zealand International Convention Centre.

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

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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: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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