- Hike up Mount Eden in Auckland for a sunset over the cityscape
- Feel like a giant in Matamata's Lord of the Rings' set of Hobbiton
- Discover hot waterfalls, bubbling mud, and steaming vents in Rotorua
- Hike in Tongariro National Park and meet three active volcanoes
|Day 1||Arrive in Auckland||Auckland|
|Day 2||Explore Hobbiton in Matamata; Rotorua||Rotorua|
|Day 3||Hell's Gate, Buried Village, and Whakarewarewa Forest||Rotorua|
|Day 4||Taupo: waterfalls, prawns, and Craters of the Moon||Tongariro region|
|Day 5||Hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing||Tongariro region|
|Day 6||Return to Auckland; Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Auckland
Welcome to the "Big Little City" of Auckland! Settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the day to explore New Zealand's largest city. Start at Mount Eden, for a nice overview of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea to get your bearings. Next, explore the trendy Ponsonby Road for high-end shopping or a good restaurant, or go to Ponsonby Central directly—a Kiwi favorite on the weekends. Art enthusiasts may appreciate a visit to New Zealand's oldest neighborhood, Parnell, to discover its galleries and cafés, before hopping on a 50-year old restored tram to ride through the Wynyard Quarter.
Days 2: Explore Hobbiton in Matamata - Rotorua
Leave Auckland behind and drive south for a couple of hours to Rotorua. Stop along the way to explore Matamata, the bucolic setting for "The Shire" featured in Peter Jackson's, The Lord of the Rings films. Meet your guide and begin the two-hour tour to learn how the Waikato farmland was transformed into the Shire. Drive through the 1,250-acre sheep farm with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges. Your guide will then escort you through the ten-acre site recounting fascinating details of how the Hobbiton set was created.
Continue the short distance to the geothermal city of Rotorua. Settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the day to explore your surroundings. For a short film on Rotorua's history that includes the dramatic story of the Mount Tarawera eruption in June 1886, visit the Rotorua Museum In the evening, spend some time at the Mitai Maori Village for an authentic introduction to Maori culture, before checking out the glow worms in their natural habitat as well as protected kiwis in Rainbow Springs Nature Park.
Days 3: Hell's Gate, Buried Village, and Whakarewarewa Forest
This morning drive around Lake Rotorua to Hells Gate Geothermal Park for an up-close experience of Rotorua's geothermal activity, including erupting geysers, steaming fumaroles (vents), mud pools, and hot geothermal springs, as well as discover the largest hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere, Kakahi Falls. From there, visit the Buried Village of Te Wairoa for insight into the chaos that occurred on the night Mount Tarawera erupted. Continue a little further south to Wai-O-Tapu for a colorful and diverse geothermal sightseeing attraction.
Afterward, visit either Kerosene Creek or Waikite Valley Thermal Pools for a soothing soak in the thermal waters, before drying off and returning to Rotorua. Stop just outside of Rotorua at Whakarewarewa Forest to explore the park and its amazing otherworldly ferns and redwoods.
Days 4: Taupo: waterfalls, prawns, and Craters of the Moon
Today you will continue your journey south to Taupo. Offering something for every interest, start with a visit to the country's most popular natural attraction, Huka Falls. From there, visit Wairakei Terraces to discover how the Maori used to live in this geothermal wonderland. Next, meet Shawn the Prawn in Huka Prawn Park to learn about the prawn's lifecycle. You'll hand feed baby prawns, fish for them, and if you're a seafood lover, feast on fresh ones. Stop for another great photo opportunity of boiling mud pools and steaming vents at Craters of the Moon.
Upon your return to Taupo, you may like to take a cruise of Lake Taupo, relax on the beach at Acacia Bay, visit the Rose Gardens, or rent some equipment to go trout fishing.
Day 5: Hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing
This morning you will drive south along Lake Taupo to New Zealand's oldest (and the world's fourth oldest) national park, Tongariro National Park. Recognized by UNESCO as one of 28 World Heritage Sites, Tongariro has three sleeping volcanoes, Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe. Stop at the Volcanic Activity Centre on your way into the park to learn about the volcanoes and geothermal zones through interactive and educational displays.
Trampers may appreciate a 12-mile (19.4 km) hike of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that takes you between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe ("Mount Doom" in Lord of the Rings). If the distance is daunting, there are alternative routes from 30 minutes to nine hours.
Day 6: Return to Auckland - Depart
This morning you will return to Auckland for your flight home (5 hours). If there's time before your departure, complete any last minute souvenir shopping or visit the Modern Art Museum next to Albert Park.