- Go sightseeing in Auckland and ferry to explore Waiheke Island
- Visit the stunning beaches and coves along the Coromandel Peninsula
- Go on a unique glowworm cave tour by kayak in Tauranga
- Discover the geysers and mud pools and visit the native kiwi in Rotorua
- Stroll Te Papa National Museum and the Beehive in Wellington
|Day 1||Arrival in Auckland and Self-Guided Tour||Auckland|
|Day 2||Auckland - Sky Tower & Devonport||Auckland|
|Day 3||Auckland - Waiheke Island Day Trip||Auckland|
|Day 4||Drive to Coromandel Peninsula, Beaches & Coves Tour||Coromandel|
|Day 5||Coromandel - Visit Hot Water Beach and Karangahake Gorge||Coromandel|
|Day 6||Tauranga - Glowworm Cave Kayaking Excursion||Tauranga|
|Day 7||Tauranga - Town Exploration||Tauranga|
|Day 8||Rotorua - Wai-O-Tapu, Buried Village, & Hells Gate||Rotorua|
|Day 9||Rotorua - Rainbow Springs Nature Park & Agrodome||Rotorua|
|Day 10||Rotorua - Skyline Gondola & Polynesian Spa||Rotorua|
|Day 11||Mairenui Farm - Visit & Stay||Mangaweka|
|Day 12||Wellington - Te Papa & Beehive Tours||Wellington|
|Day 13||Wellington - Scenic Walk, Cable Cars, & Botanic Gardens||Wellington|
|Day 14||Departure from Auckland|
Day 1: Arrival in Auckland and self-guided tour
Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival in Auckland, get out on the town to do some exploration. Some ideas include the following:
- 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
Tomorrow is another free day at your leisure to explore more of the city.
Day 2: Auckland - Visit the Sky Tower and historic Devonport
Continue enjoying more of Auckland at your leisure today.
First, visit the Sky Tower, 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.
Next, make your way to the historic seaside village of Devonport, which 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.
Circle back to any sights you missed yesterday, and enjoy a nice dinner and a night out on the town in Auckland.
Day 3: Auckland - Waiheke Island day trip
In the heart of Auckland’s sparkling Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island is a picturesque blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards, and olive groves. Waiheke is just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland and has an international reputation for food and arts. There’s a great range of activities on Waiheke, from mountain biking to wine tasting.
With hot, dry summers and stony soils, Waiheke is a perfect growing ground for a variety of grapes. Boutique wineries produce high-quality wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc, and more recently, chardonnay. Waiheke’s vineyards, wineries, and olive groves are spread across the island, and many offer tasting sessions. Some suggestions include the below:
- Passage Rock
- Mudbrick Vineyard
- Te Motu Vineyard
From rugged, bush-clad bays to white-sand beaches, Waiheke’s scenic coastline boasts a diverse range of waterside retreats. Whether you’re after a quiet hideaway, lively watersports or a family-friendly shore, Waiheke has plenty to offer. The most accessible from the ferry is Oneroa, the most impressive is Onetangi, and a popular favorite is Palm Beach.
With a large population of writers, poets, and artists, Waiheke is one of New Zealand’s most important artistic centers. Local and international artists have chosen Waiheke as the base for their studios, and visitors can see a mix of sculptures, ceramics, and paintings. The Waiheke Community Art Gallery is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting visual arts and crafts. The gallery exhibits works by local, national, and international artists, and the shop offers a range of reasonably priced art and gifts.
Day 4: Drive to the Coromandel Peninsula and tour the beaches and coves
Wake up and hit the road to Coromandel today, a favorite holiday destination of Aucklanders, with its scenic coastlines and great beaches.
Spend two days in Coromandel at your leisure. Visit Cathedral Cove, which is named after the cave located there. The area is very popular with tourists, and is a good spot for swimming—it’s a marine reserve. There is a 1.5-hour walking track from the northern end of Hahei Beach, and it’s also possible to walk from the local council car park at the top of the headland between Hahei and Gemstone Bay. You can also get there by boat or kayak.
Make a stop at Whangapoua and New Chums Beach, too, known as one of the top-rated beaches in the world. Despite its reputation, this locale is still considered a stunning, not-to-be-missed hidden gem.
Enjoy the evening at your leisure, and prepare for more exploration tomorrow.
Day 5: Coromandel - Visit Hot Water Beach and Karangahake Gorge
Today, feel free to visit the beaches you may have skipped yesterday. Or you can make your way to Hot Water Beach, where some volcanoes develop large, underground reservoirs of superheated water. Over time, this water will escape to the surface—cooling on the way. There are two fissures at Hot Water Beach issuing water as hot as 147F° at up to 4 gallons per minute. This water contains large amounts of salts—calcium, magnesium, potassium, fluorine, bromine, and silica. Bring your bathing suit if you’d like to take a dip along the way. It’s also nice here at night, under the stars, if the tide is right.
In addition, plan a stop at Karangahake Gorge, which is located on SH2, between Paeroa and Waihi. The site of the original Gold Rush in 1875 and steeped in gold mining history, it’s now a more peaceful location offering visitors a perfect place to explore. Follow the old railway formation and walk the popular Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, alongside the sparkling Ohinemuri River. Seek out the gold trails in the spectacular Waitawheta Gorge, as well.
Day 6: Tauranga - Glowworm cave kayaking excursion
Today, explore Tauranga, the largest city in the Bay of Plenty and one of the fastest-growing population centers in the country.
Begin your discovery at Mount Maunganui, also known as "The Mount," which is the colloquial name for the relaxed beach town that occupies a peninsula at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. The peninsula is actually a huge sandbar, with a sheltered bay on the inner harbor side and a magnificent surf beach on the ocean side. At the very tip of the peninsula is a dormant volcano, Mauao, which rises to 755 feet above sea level. There's a choice of tracks leading to the summit, some more challenging than others. Huge views of the harbor, beach, and the Pacific Ocean make the effort totally worthwhile.
Then, embark on an evening glowworm kayaking tour. This is a truly unique experience; while you can see glow worms elsewhere in New Zealand, and you can paddle a sea kayak in many places around the world, this is the only place when the two combine. The fun tour is accompanied by refreshments, beautiful scenery, fantastic birdlife, and, of course, awesome glowworms.
Day 7: Tauranga - Town exploration
Today, continue your exploration of Tauranga. Take a stroll around Downtown Tauranga. Here, you will find several historically significant areas to view during a scenic walk around the area.
The waterfront area known as The Strand is modern and always buzzing, and is home to a number of cafés, restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs.
Easy to spot almost everywhere you go, Tauranga Harbour provides the urban area with an attractive waterfront setting. You might want to ask to book a swim with the dolphins or go on a dolphin-watching tour. Other options to get out on the water include kayaking and fishing charters.
In terms of local spots, places worth visiting include McLaren Falls or the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park.
Day 8: Rotorua - Wai-O-Tapu, Buried Village, and Hells Gate Tours
Today, 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.
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.”
Day 9: Rotorua - Visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park and the Agrodome
Today, visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park, which 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.
Then, head to the Agrodome, which 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.
Day 10: Rotorua - Skyline Gondola ride and Polynesian Spa
Today, 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.
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.
Day 11: Mairenui Farm - Tour and stay the night
Mairenui Farmstay offers you a chance to immerse yourself in true New Zealand farm life with the Sweet Family, who has worked the land for more than100 years.
Your stay will allow you to rest and relax in this peaceful spot, as well as partake in a farm visit with a family member. A petanque pitch and tennis court are available, and you can also swim in the nearby river or fish for native trout. Other activities possible in the wider area include rafting, kayaking, horse riding and more.
Day 12: Wellington - Discover Te Papa National Museum and the Beehive
Make your way to Wellington today, which is set on the edge of a stunning harbor and surrounded by rolling hills. Wellington is known as the city with the most cafés/bars per person, alongside New York.
Visit Te Papa National Museum to start. New Zealand's bold and innovative national museum is an interactive and visitor-focused museum experiences and offers free entry. Learn about native geology and the natural environment. Hear the stories of New Zealand's indigenous people, the Māori, who are celebrated in Te Papa's permanent exhibitions, while Te Papa's Marae is a vibrant contemporary meeting house and a living communal center—unique for a museum.
Next, stroll the Beehive, Parliament House, and Parliamentary Library. The Beehive is the executive wing of the Parliament House that was built in the 1970s. Parliament House itself was finished in the 1920s and is where New Zealand’s parliament meets. The Parliamentary Library (circa 1899) is a photo-worthy pit stop.
Enjoy the evening at your leisure, and continue enjoying more of Wellington tomorrow.
Day 13: Wellington - Scenic walk, cable Cars, and Botanic Gardens
Today, continue your exploration of Wellington. Visit the museum if you did not make it yesterday, and enjoy some of the outdoor sights today.
Take the City to Sea Walkway, a rich and varied walk from one end of the city into the surrounding suburbs and hills, and then to the rocky shores of the south coast. It sports wonderful views of Cook Strait and Kaikoura Ranges. The walk takes approximately 4 hours.
Get a panoramic view of the city from the top of Mt Victoria Lookout, and watch as the Interislander sails into the harbor and the planes fly in and out of the airport. In addition, one of Wellington's most popular tourist attractions is the cable car ride. The cars run from Lambton Quay, in the commercial heart of the city, tunnel under the corporate towers of The Terrace, and emerge in Kelburn.
If you enjoy flora, visit the Botanic Gardens, which is a great place for a scenic walk, as well as a picnic lunch. Following the day's activities, enjoy a nice dinner on your final evening in New Zealand.
Day 14: Departure from Auckland
Today, return your rental car and make the transfer to the airport for your departure flight home out of Auckland. Until next time!