Movie-loving families can step right into the world of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" on New Zealand's North Island. This fun 10-day itinerary combines Middle-earth highlights like the Hobbiton movie set and Weta Cave Workshop with a range of other active, outdoorsy adventures that parents and kids will love. Go zip lining on Waiheke Island, check out Rotorua's geothermal attractions, meet farm animals in Tauranga, and much more.


  • Spend time on the beaches of Waiheke Island and the Coromandel
  • See how movies were made at the Hobbiton movie set
  • Spot rare wildlife in Wellington's Zealandia Sanctuary
  • Tour the Weta Workshop special effects studio

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Coromandel Day Trip, Sky Tower Dinner Auckland
Day 3 Waiheke Island Day Trip, Adventure Activities Auckland
Day 4 Drive to Tauranga, Explore Waterfalls & Parks Tauranga
Day 5 Drive to Rotorua, Geysers, Lakes, Culture & Forest Canopy Rotorua
Day 6 Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Cultural Dinner Rotorua
Day 7 Drive to Napier, Explore Napier & Gannet Safari Napier
Day 8 Drive to Wellington, Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Wellington
Day 9 Wellington Cable Car, Observatory & Wētā Workshop Tour Wellington
Day 10 Depart Wellington  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland, Dinner Cruise

Auckland's skyline
Auckland's skyline

Welcome to Auckland! Your driver will meet you at Auckland Airport and transfer you to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, you may have the chance to get out and about on day one. For a leisurely introduction to the "City of Sails," check out the Viaduct Harbour, with fun playgrounds, food courts, and the kid-friendly National Maritime Museum. Kids got the energy to burn? Walk to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mount Eden, and take in soaring views of the Hauraki Gulf, or enjoy the views from the Sky Tower, standing at just over 1,000 feet tall (328 m).

In the evening, older children will enjoy a dinner cruise on Auckland's Waitematā Harbour. Watch the city twinkle after the sun dips below the horizon. You'll be treated to a drink and canapés, followed by the main course and a tasty dessert. Kids can keep an eye out for the harbor's plentiful marine life, including dolphins. 

Day 2: Coromandel Day Trip, Sky Tower Dinner

Relax on the beach at Cathedral Cove

Today, take a day trip to the Coromandel Peninsula, with its many gorgeous beaches and sea caves. At Whitianga Wharf, board your boat, which will take you to Cathedral Cove and nearby islands. Go on a snorkeling excursion in the marine reserve and spot many species of fish. If you'd prefer to stay dry or you have young kids who don't swim, no worries—enjoy the vibrant underwater scenery on an onboard TV. You can also opt to spend time on the glorious beach at Cathedral Cove, which kids of all ages will love playing on.

After returning to Auckland, enjoy a special meal that even hard-to-impress kids will love at Orbit 360° Dining at the top of the Sky Tower. It does a full rotation once every hour and provides panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. The restaurant serves New Zealand cuisine in a three-course set menu.

Day 3: Waiheke Island Day Trip, Adventure Activities

Fly through the treetops on Waiheke Island

Every member of the family will enjoy hanging out on Waiheke Island today. Take the 40-minute ferry ride from central Auckland to the island, from where you can see great views back toward the city. Waiheke is dotted with wineries, which the parents will love. Many are located on expansive grounds with great views and space for kids to play.

Kids can let off some more steam at Waiheke Island's EcoZip Adventures. This adventure park has flying fox zip lines and an immersive forest walk. Glide 650 feet (200 m) on dual zip lines into stunning original and regenerating native bush. As you walk back to the base, your guide will tell you about the local flora and fauna and the conservation of this area. Although there's no age limit, kids need to be at least 66 lbs (30 kg) to ride the flying fox. Return to Auckland later on the ferry.

Day 4: Drive to Tauranga, Explore Waterfalls & Parks

Explore the McLaren Falls Park

Pick up your rental car this morning for the start of the self-driving segment of your trip. This is ideal for families as you can stop whenever and wherever you need. Drive from Auckland to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty region, a scenic three-hour journey.

In Tauranga, choose from a range of nature-focused tours depending on your family's interests and energy levels. Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty, so there's a lot to see and do. Explore Mount Maunganui, a relaxed beach town popular with surfers, or hike Mauao, a dormant volcano. In downtown Tauranga, take a stroll in The Stand, a modern waterfront area with lots of places to eat. Tauranga Harbour is a great spot for swimming, dolphin-watching tours, kayaking, and fishing charters.

If you have plenty of time, take a short trip outside the city to McLaren Falls and Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park. McLaren Falls is known for its waterfall hike, where kids will love spotting glowworms after dusk. Marshalls Animal Park is a great option for younger kids or those who love animals. Within McLaren Falls Park, walkways guide you to close-up encounters with domestic and exotic animals. Children can feed and play with emus, giant African ostriches, Texas longhorns, several breeds of sheep, deer, goats, birds, pigs, and various horses. The park also has flying foxes, a playground, and sometimes bottle-fed lambs, kids, and piglets.

Day 5: Drive to Rotorua, Geysers, Lakes, Culture & Forest Canopy

Check out Rotorua's geothermal attractions

Continue your journey inland to Rotorua, a journey of about an hour. Situated on a lake of the same name, Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity and Māori culture, both of which will be fascinating to kids of all ages. At one of Rotorua's many geothermal parks, explore geysers, bubbling mud holes, steaming vents, and sulfurous pools while learning how volcanic activity below ground creates this spectacular show above the surface. 

If you have kids over the age of six, take a three-hour canopy tour through Rotorua's native forest. Explore via an extensive network of trails, tree platforms, swing bridges, and zip lines. Take in sweeping views of the dense forest and surrounding hills along the way, accompanied by a guide who'll share their passion and knowledge of the forest. 
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Day 6: Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Cultural Dinner

Visit the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata, Waikato

This might be the day that fans of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" have been waiting for. Travel to the Waikato town of Matamata to take an unforgettable tour of the Hobbiton movie set. Even young kids who haven't seen the movies can appreciate the fantastical landscape and miniature village. On a two-hour walking tour, see the intricate sets that were created for the movies, and hear stories from the filming. Visit the Shire's iconic Hobbit Holes and the Mill, then stop at the Green Dragon Inn for a complimentary Southfarthing ale, cider, or ginger beer.

After returning to Rotorua in the late afternoon, participate in a very special dinner and a show at Mitai Māori Village. This family-run cultural center offers an authentic experience featuring the Te Arawa people, a Māori iwi (tribe) who were the original inhabitants of the Rotorua Lakes region. Kids will love learning more about the culture through personal interactions. This unforgettable outing includes outdoor excursions and performances complimented by a traditional hāngī, or pit-cooked dinner. After dinner, embark on a guided bush walk and look out for the electric blue pinpricks of light from glowworms.

Day 7: Drive to Napier, Explore Napier & Gannet Safari

Stunning scenery on today's drive
Stunning scenery on today's drive

Get ready for an epic drive through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. You can stop to check out more geothermal parks along the way, including Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu, and Craters of the Moon. Wai-O-Tapu has picturesque pools colorful with natural minerals and an impressive geyser that erupts daily. At Waimangu, see the world's largest hot spring and geyser, as well as the pale blue Inferno Crater Lake. Kids will enjoy seeing science lessons come to life.

Continue to Taupo, set upon a huge lake that is a giant crater formed by a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago. On the way into town, stop at Huka Falls for the spectacular sight of hundreds of cubic meters of water spilling down a narrow, 36-foot (11 m) drop every second. If you have adventurous kids, ride a jet boat to the base of the falls.

Head through Taupo and climb through the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down to the coast toward the Art Deco capital, Napier. Enjoy some free time in this attractive city. One option that kids will enjoy is a 1930s vintage car tour (parents can appreciate the city's Art Deco landmarks and learn why there are so many.) If you have older, active kids, rent a bike and pedal along some of the 124 miles (200 km) of cycling trails in Hawke's Bay. Younger families might like to park at a gorgeous beach, such as Ocean Beach or Waimarama Beach.

Wildlife and bird-loving families shouldn't miss a gannet safari. Just outside Napier, Cape Kidnappers is home to a large, accessible gannet colony. Joining an organized safari tour is the only way to reach these remarkable birds. Travel in a 4WD vehicle to the edge of the cliff, where you'll be able to see the birds. Keep a close eye on kids, as the cliff is 328 feet (100 m) above the ocean!

Day 8: Drive to Wellington, Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary

See the rare tuatara, New Zealand's living dinosaur, at Zealandia

Make the journey south to Wellington via the pastoral Manawatu and Wairarapa regions. Stop for lunch in Masterton or Martinborough, home to boutique wineries where parents can pick up a bottle to take away with them. Continue over the Rimutaka Range and along Wellington's magnificent natural harbor.

After reaching your hotel, spend the afternoon exploring the capital in a way that appeals to your family. Parents and kids of all ages will find plenty to occupy them at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa), with many interactive, kid-friendly exhibits that bring New Zealand history, geology, and culture to life. A stroll along the waterfront near Te Papa is always a good idea, too, as there's space for kids to play and some cool sculptures to check out.

This evening, visit the 500-acre (225 ha) Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary, close to central Wellington. The sanctuary is surrounded by a predator-exclusion fence and protects animals like kiwi, tuatara, and tiny Maud Island frogs. The best time to visit on a guided tour is at night: led by a guide and a flashlight, you can come face-to-face with one (or more!) of the 100+ nocturnal bird species that live in Zealandia. Kids will enjoy the thrill of searching for rare birds and animals after dark.

Day 9: Wellington Cable Car, Observatory & Wētā Workshop Tour

Ride the Wellington Cable Car

Check out more of Wellington's family-friendly attractions today, starting with the Wellington Cable Car. Ask your kids to keep a lookout for the artistic LED installation in the tunnel. The short journey takes you to the Kelburn Lookout and the Cable Car Museum, which will interest kids who are into vehicles and machinery. You'll also be near the Space Place at Carter Observatory. Check out the multimedia exhibitions, astronomical artifacts, and digital planetariums. If your kids are feeling energetic, walk downhill to the city through the beautiful Wellington Botanic Gardens.

In the afternoon, embark on a three-hour tour of the Wētā Cave Workshop. Visit the workshop's museum and see the characters, props, and sets from films such as "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings," "The Legend of Zorro," and "Master and Commander." Watch artists at work on costumes and sets and see how fantasy comes to life. Even kids who haven't seen all of these films will enjoy the experience; note that some of the props and accessories may be frightening for younger children (think orcs and trolls from "The Lord of the Rings").

Day 10: Depart Wellington

Check out the LOTR-themed sculptures at Wellington Airport

Today your North Island tour comes to an end. Depending on your flight time, you may be able to do some last-minute exploring in Wellington. The central Cuba Street Mall is always an interesting place for a stroll; young kids will enjoy the colorful Bucket Fountain. The nearby, small Wellington Chocolate Factory does good hot chocolates, and kids will enjoy seeing the chocolate being made.

At Wellington Airport, pass some time before your departure checking out the massive sculptures associated with "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." A fitting end to this trip around New Zealand. Safe travels!

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Map of New Zealand's North Island Nature & Middle-earth Family Tour - 10 Days
Map of New Zealand's North Island Nature & Middle-earth Family Tour - 10 Days