On this weeklong tour of New Zealand, explore three entirely different areas of the country. Begin in Auckland, the "Big Little City," to do some sightseeing, kiwi spotting, and island touring. Then, drive to Rotorua to explore the famous geothermal areas and go mountain biking in the Redwoods Forest. Next, make your way to Napier, nestled on Hawke's Bay, and rich with Art Deco culture.

Highlights

  • Embark on a native kiwi spotting tour out of Auckland
  • Visit the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal attraction in Rotorua
  • Go mountain biking through the stunning Redwoods Forest
  • Tour the Art Deco buildings along Hawke's Bay in Napier

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Auckland & Kiwi Spotting Tour Auckland
Day 2 Auckland - Self-Guided City Tour Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Rotorua & Wai-O-Tapu Tour Rotorua
Day 4 Rotorua - Mountain Biking in Redwoods Forest Rotorua
Day 5 Drive to Napier & City Tour Napier
Day 6 Napier - Scenic Walks & Mountain Views Napier
Day 7 Departure From Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Auckland and kiwi spotting tour

Go on a kiwi spotting tour
Go on a kiwi spotting tour

Welcome to Auckland! There is much to do and see in the "Big Little City." Upon arrival, get settled at your accommodation. Then, head out on a special native kiwi spotting tour with a small group (a maximum of seven people). Discover local history, and learn what shaped the natural environment of New Zealand to how it is today. This day-into-night tour spans an afternoon and evening, returning you to your hotel at approximately 10:30 pm—a delicious picnic dinner with views of the beach and ocean over sunset is included.

This is your best opportunity to see a kiwi in the wild. After sunset, the bush environment changes. Tawharanui is home to the New Zealand brown kiwi, (few locals have seen this bird in the wild), morepork (a native owl), and weta. Much of the insect life, marine life, and some bird species are nocturnal. Since the tour continues after sundown, experience what goes on in nature in the dark. A guide will lead you through the native forest, in search of nocturnal wildlife. Note that while kiwi is very elusive, this tour projects sightings about 70 percent of the time.

Following the tour, head back to your hotel and relax before heading out for more exploration of Auckland tomorrow. 

Day 2: Auckland - Self-guided city tour

Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island

Enjoy the highlights of Auckland today on your own time. 

For long excursions, you can visit Waiheke Island. Take a scenic, 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland with a great view back toward the city as you pass other gulf islands and take in the lively activity in the harbor along the way. The island can be explored on a day trip, and you can rent a car once you get there to fully enjoy the beaches and the vineyards.

Additionally, take a scenic flight, complete with a wine tasting adventure at Man O War Vineyard. Fly from Waiheke Island over Hauraki Gulf to land on the tranquil waters of Man O’ War Bay. Relax and unwind by enjoying a range of award-winning wines with a lunch platter.

If you would rather enjoy some sightseeing around Auckland, there is plenty to do:

  • Stroll Ponsonby, which is the city’s trendiest street; enjoy a good lunch and some high-end shopping
  • Visit Parnell, New Zealand's oldest suburb famous for its galleries, cafés, restaurants, and boutique-style stores; there is also a charming French market on weekends
  • Go to Newmarket, which is ideal for classic, everyday shopping
  • Make a trip to Wynyard Quarter, a newer area with a daily fish market—try the huge mussels, or the famous oysters—then, check out one of the restored tramways, and go for a ride
  • Visit the new area known as Britomart (which is also the name of the railway station) with bars, restaurants, designer shops, and a little local market open on Saturdays
  • Go to Mt. Eden, the highest point of the city at 645 feet, where you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea and all of the volcanic cones that make up Auckland
  • Stroll Albert Park, which is right in the middle of the city and perfect for a lunch break—the Modern Art Museum is next to it, likely with free exhibits to peruse
  • Visit Mission Bay, which is a busy beach in the summertime, and also a residential area with great views 

Additionally, make sure to visit the Auckland National Museum. The museum tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific, and its people. The museum is a war memorial for the province of Auckland and holds one of New Zealand’s top three heritage libraries. It has pre-eminent Maori and Pacific collections, significant natural history resources and major social and military history collections, as well as decorative arts and pictorial collections.

The Sky Tower is a truly captivating experience, as well. At 1,076 feet high, it is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers breathtaking views for up to 50 miles in every direction. Travel up in the glass-fronted lifts to one of the three, spectacular viewing platforms. For more thrills and excitement, SkyWalk around the outside of the pergola, which is 630 feet up, or do the SkyJump off the tower.

The historic seaside village of Devonport has a charming and relaxed atmosphere, too. Stroll around the village at your leisure and visit some of its attractions, including the many art galleries, historic points of interest, and lookouts.

Day 3: Drive to Rotorua and embark on a Wai-O-Tapu tour

Wai-O-Tapu
Wai-O-Tapu

Today, pick up your rental car and drive to Rotorua, the geothermal city. Brace yourself—it’s going to smell like sulfur.

Sculptured out of the volcanic activity and thousands of years in the making, Wai-O-Tapu is considered to be New Zealand’s most colorful and diverse geothermal sightseeing attraction. You are introduced to a uniquely different natural landscape–one of the most extensive geothermal systems in the country. Following this scheduled activity, consider the below guide when crafting the rest of your day’s itinerary.

Visit the Buried Village. The excavated village offers first-hand insight into the chaos and mayhem that transpired on the night Mount Tarawera erupted. It provides an authentic representation of the people of Te Wairoa, both Maori and European, how they lived, and how they died.

Ride the Skyline Gondola high above Rotorua for stunning panoramic views over the lake and nearby towns. For a thrill, the Skyline Luge is a fun-packed, gravity-fueled ride suitable for all ages and abilities.

If you are interested in some pampering, the Polynesian Spa is New Zealand’s leading international day spa, providing a unique thermal spa experience on the shore of Lake Rotorua. It is recognized as one of the world’s top spas.

New Zealand is a country located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the tectonic plates are always moving. Nowhere is this more evident than in Rotorua on New Zealand's volcanic plateau, where geothermal activity is very noticeable, including erupting geysers, steaming fumaroles (vents), mud pools, and hot, geothermal springs. Hells Gate Geothermal Park is set on 50 acres of land with a large variety of thermal features. Walk past steaming fumaroles and mud pools violently boiling away. Follow the footsteps of ancient Maori Warriors through the swirling clouds of steam, past the hot pool where the Maori Princess Hurutini lost her life; see the violent geothermal activity of the Inferno and the Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Here, warriors would bathe in the sulfuric waters to heal their wounds after battle and remove the tapu (sacredness) of war. Hells Gate Tikitere is a unique place of extreme contrasts. You will see remarkable formations and colors, cascading hot water, unearthly vistas, and even examples of “land coral.”

A visit to Rainbow Springs Nature Park includes an informative Kiwi Encounter, an effort to save the bird, which is the national symbol, from extinction. The facility members work hard to raise and release kiwi back into the wild. Consequently, kiwis are an important part of the Rainbow Springs experience. The Kiwi Encounter is a working nursery and hatchery where kiwi are raised as part of Operation Nest Egg. Eggs are brought from the wild, and when they have hatched, and the kiwis are large enough to protect themselves from predators, they are released back into the wild.

The Agrodome offers visitors an experience like no other—seeing through the eyes of a true New Zealand farmer. This is an exciting and informative insight into the world of New Zealand agriculture, featuring 19 sheep breeds, sheep shearing, cow milking, lamb feeding, and dog demonstrations.

An evening at the Mitai Maori Cultural Experience will give you an awe-inspiring, authentic introduction to Maori culture. The natural bush setting is enthralling; see warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream, and don’t miss your only opportunity to see glow worms in their natural habitat, as well as protected kiwis.

Famous for beautiful, crystal-clear, freshwater, springs emanate from the ground and flow downstream into Lake Rotorua at Hamurana Springs. It is the deepest natural spring in the North Island. Take a scenic walk alongside the crisp waters of the stream and through a grove of redwood trees with many different bird varieties. When you reach the spring, note that people throw coins into the water to see how far down they go.

Following a day of exploration in Rotorua, enjoy the night on your own.

Day 4: Rotorua - Mountain biking in the Redwoods Forest

Redwoods Forest
Redwoods Forest

Today, enjoy a great introduction to mountain biking in the Redwoods Forest. Begin the adventure by fitting bikes and helmets to suit, and undergo a short safety and bike instruction briefing. Choose from more than 87 miles of purpose-built tracks tailored to all skill levels for a 3-4-hour ride through forest back roads, single tracks, and fun jump trails surrounded by beautiful native and pine forests.

Then, continue exploring more landmarks and destinations within Rotorua:

  • Whakarewa Forest: This beautiful, 712-acre forest can be explored on foot or by bike—it is a favorite with downhill mountain bikers
  • Blue Lake and Green Lake: Just 15 minutes southeast of Rotorua, these lakes are renowned for their striking colors, and the Tarawera road provides a nice, scenic drive
  • Paradise Valley Springs: This wildlife park mainly has farm animals (horses, deer, and goats) you can feed by hand; there is also lion, kea and possum feeding offered at different times throughout the day
  • Waikite Valley Thermal Pools: Experience the ‘Living Waters’ of the Te Manaroa Spring, the largest single source of 100 percent pure boiling water in New Zealand, with several soaking, plunging, and swimming pool options

To learn more about the local culture, visit the Rotorua Museum. The Tudor-style building that houses it was formerly a famous spa house. There is a 20-minute film about Rotorua history that includes the dramatic story of the eruption of Mt. Tarawera (perhaps not suitable for the little ones).

Day 5: Drive to Napier and take a city tour

Napier
Napier

Today, drive to Napier, which sits along Hawke's Bay. It is known as the Art Deco City because it is home to the most comprehensive collection of inner-city art deco buildings in the world, rivaled only by Miami Beach

Napier is also the home of New Zealand wine, with the oldest wineries and wine-making establishments in the country. With some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand, and mountains sheltering it from prevailing westerly winds, as well as refreshing sea breezes, Napier has a great climate for visitors and is ideal for grape growing.

Today, tour Napier. Start with a stroll around Hastings Spanish Mansion to experience a different style of architecture chosen by Hastings after the 1931 earthquake. Then, stroll Havelock North. The village was opened for settlement by the Provincial Government in 1860 and by the early 1900s, a number of architects had left their marks with unique buildings that still give the township its character. Parks and gardens, along with street trees, have given the village a distinctly lush feel.

In addition, pay a visit to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, which is the country’s largest display of aquatic life and unique wildlife. The family-friendly aquarium is home to sharks, piranhas, crocodiles, kiwis, and tuatara.

Following your day of exploration, enjoy the evening on your own.

Day 6: Napier - Scenic walks and mountain views

Te Mata Peak
Te Mata Peak

Enjoy more of Napier today. Take in the natural sights on a few adventures:

  • Visit Bluff Hill Walkway to enjoy breathtaking views of Napier and the coast on this walk, just short of 3 miles
  • Stroll the Marine Parade, the town’s finest promenade, which runs along the seafront; it is lined with Norfolk pines and is most attractive in the morning sunlight
  • Go to Te Mata Peak, which is just a short drive away, to enjoy the views; if the weather is clear, you may be able to see as far as Mt Ruapehu

Day 7: Departure From Auckland

Farewell, New Zealand!
Farewell, New Zealand!

In the morning, drive to the airport to drop off your rental car. Then, hop a domestic flight to Auckland, followed by your onward flight home. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of New Zealand: Auckland, Rotorua, & Napier - 7 Days
Map of New Zealand: Auckland, Rotorua, & Napier - 7 Days