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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour 

8 days from Auckland to Auckland

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 White Island Volcano. 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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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 8 days/7 nights from Auckland to Auckland
 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

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Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Rotorua geothermal area, New Zealand
 

The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive Auckland
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor 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: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
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 island of White Island, here you'll land and get to explore
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 4: A short drive along the Geothermal Highway to Lake Taupo
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels Taupo
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: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 187 kms / 116 miles : 2.3 hours

Day 6: Head north through the King Country to the limestone caves of Waitomo
Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 151 kms / 94 miles : 1.8 hours

Day 7: Return to Auckland, where you'll have time to catch up on anything you missed first time round
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor 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

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The Volcanic Centre self drive 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Fullers Auckland Harbour Cruise

Today Cruise the sparkling waters of Aucklands Waitemata Harbour. You'll learn about the most well-known city landmarks, including a stopover on dormant volcano Rangitoto. You'll see spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and Devonport's historic naval base as well as enjoying the Bean Rock Lighthouse with a complimentary hot drink and sandwich.

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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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua

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.

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.

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: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Rotorua's largest 4 star deluxe hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Millennium Hotel Rotorua

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

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 3

Day 3 - Take a fantastic scenic flight to the surreal volcanic island of White Island, here you'll land and get to explore

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.

White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris

Today take an exhilarating helicopter flight north over Hell's Gate Thermal Valley to active volcano, White Island. Land inside the crater and enjoy an hour long guided tour. See the main erupting crater, active steam vents known as 'fumaroles', hot streams and vibrant sulphur formations. You'll also be able to view the remains of the old sulphur mine and see the deposits left behind.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Rotorua's largest 4 star deluxe hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Millennium Hotel Rotorua

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 4

Day 4 - A short drive along the Geothermal Highway to Lake Taupo

Rotorua to Taupo

Your drive today takes you through the heart of the Central North Island volcanic plateau. Make time to visit geothermal regions Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waimangu Volcanic Valley, before arriving into Taupo, which sits on New Zealand's largest lake - Lake Taupo. Take a short detour to view the Huka Falls - the largest volume waterfalls in New Zealand and choose to ride the Huka Jet for an added thrill. See nearby Craters of the Moon geothermal reserve with great walking tracks around its many boiling pools and steaming vents.

Hukafalls 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: Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels Taupo

Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels Taupo enjoys a magnificent location right on the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake.

Meals included: Breakfast

Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels Taupo

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

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 5

Day 5 - Skirt the edge of Lake Taupo and cross the Desert Road to Tongariro National Park

Taupo to Whakapapa Village 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.
Tongariro National Park is also a World Heritage Site. 3 active volcanoes form the backbone of this spectacular region. Hiking, fishing, climbing, mountain biking, scenic flights or simply taking a drive to the top of the ski field road at Whakapapa are some of the most popular ways to enjoy the region.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.

Your accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Bayview Chateau Tongariro, nestled at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, was completed in 1929 and still retains many of its original features. It is one of New Zealand's few hotels located in a World Heritage Park and offers the most prestigious accommodation in the region.

Meals included: Breakfast

Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 187 kms / 116 miles : 2.3 hours

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 6

Day 6 - Head north through the King Country to the limestone caves 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.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave tour

For over 100 years Waitomo Glow-worm 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 Glow-worm Caves
Formed over 30 million years ago there are two levels to the Waitomo Glow-worm 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 glow-worms, 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: 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

Kamahi Cottage

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

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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour - Day 7

Day 7 - Return to Auckland, where you'll have time to catch up on anything you missed first time round

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.

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 - 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: 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

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

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Day 8 - Depart Auckland

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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