On this short-yet-eventful tour of New Zealand, experience both the city and island life. Begin in Auckland, and take a scenic dinner cruise along the local harbors and marinas. Then, travel to the Bay of Islands and enjoy time in Paihia. Swim with dolphins, lounge on Te Ti Beach, and visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for a guided history tour and a cultural performance. The trip concludes with an excursion into the Waipoua Forest, with its famous trees and acclaimed Matakohe Kauri Museum.


  • Embark on a dinner cruise around Auckland's scenic harbors and marinas
  • Swim with dolphins and spot them from aboard a catamaran at Hole in the Rock
  • Tour the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, learn the history, and see a cultural performance
  • Discover the stunning native trees lining the Waipou Forest

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland & Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Travel to the Bay of Islands Paihia
Day 3 Bay of Islands: Dolphin Cruise & Waitangi Guided Tour Paihia
Day 4 Visit Waipoua Forest & Travel to Matakana Mahurangi
Day 5 Depart Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland & Dinner Cruise 

Take in the Auckland sunset aboard a dinner cruise
Take in the Auckland sunset aboard a dinner cruise

Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival at the airport in Auckland, your private driver will take you to your accommodation. Meet with a travel representative to go over your trip pack, which contains everything you need for the duration of your stay, including 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, including how to get in contact with your travel representative, 24 hours per day.

Auckland is New Zealand's self-proclaimed "City of Sails" and 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 who are more adventurous. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of more than 800 regional and national parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls, and native forests.

Tonight, go on a harbor dinner cruise, which is a unique dining experience on the water.  Enjoy smooth sailing on Waitemata Harbour, then watch the city come alive with twinkling lights. Your experienced crew will talk about Auckland's highlights, and you can even try your hand at steering the boat.

Indulge in canapés and a drink as you set off toward Westhaven Marina. Choose between a formal dinner in the downstairs cabin, or take in the iconic sights of Auckland Harbour while you eat on the deck. Enjoy your meal while taking in the view as the sun slowly sets, followed by a decadent dessert.  Select from a three-course menu catered by Degree Gastrobar, a renowned Viaduct Restaurant.

Day 2: Travel to the Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands

In the morning, collect your rental car with GPS navigation, and make your way to the Bay of Islands.

The trip from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands takes around 3.5 hours, but give yourself some leeway for stops and sightseeing. As you pass through Puhoi, take in the bohemian atmosphere of this historical township. Stop for a breath of fresh, salty air in Whangarei, and take another break at Kawakawa, home to the world-famous Hundertwasser toilets. Enjoy the native bush surroundings and take in the endless golden beaches as you arrive in the central Bay Of Islands, Paihia.

Check in to your hotel, which is close to Paihia's best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, with its beautiful waters and wildlife.

Day 3: Bay of Islands: Dolphin Cruise & Waitangi Guided Tour

Learn about the Maori at Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Learn about the Maori at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Today, enjoy more of the Bay of Islands. Commonly known as the "Winterless North," New Zealand's Bay of Islands is made up of more than 140 subtropical atolls. It is known for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life, and idyllic climate. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or cool off during a "swim with dolphins" ocean safari. Or, take a morning drive to the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace flagship sunken by French saboteurs in 1985. Wander around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843. You can also take the time to travel to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

For an exciting excursion, go on a dolphin cruise to Hole in the Rock. Once aboard, take in the stunning views as you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over Piercy Island/Motukōkako, popularly known as the "Hole in the Rock." According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space.

Keep an eye out for common, and bottlenose dolphins, whales, and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by the Department of Conservation for dolphin-viewing, and the crew has years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, as well as the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.

You can also join a Waitangi Treaty Grounds guided tour and enjoy a cultural performance. Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the local Maori and the British government. Take advantage of a two-day pass that allows you access to the grounds, and includes admission to the Museum of Waitangi, a guided tour, and a Maori cultural performance. During your guided tour, learn about the history of the treaty, and discover the stories and events that shaped New Zealand. The cultural performance inside the carved meeting house includes waiata (singing), poi (a display of Maori weaponry), and the haka (a war dance New Zealand is known for).

Day 4: Visit Waipoua Forest & Travel to Matakana

Views of Opononi
Views of Opononi

Heading west from the Bay of Islands, leave the Pacific Ocean to soon arrive at the Hokianga and the wilder seas of the Tasman. The small townships of Omapere and Opononi have a great seaside feel and offer the perfect place to stop for ice cream.

The route then heads south and into the Waipoua Forest, home to the massive kauri trees. Make sure you allow time to take a few short walks that are signposted as you pass through the region. The 5-minute loop to view the largest of all the trees, Tane Mahuta, is not to be missed. Heading back across the country, the Matakohe Kauri Museum is an award-winning venue and has extensive displays of the region's logging, farming, and social history. Just a short drive from Warkworth, toward the coast, is the small township of Matakana. A little further, spot the often-deserted beaches of the Tawharanui Marine Reserve.

Check in to your accommodation on the Mahurangi East Peninsula, overlooking the beautiful Kawau Bay, in the heart of the wonderful Matakana Coast Wine Country area, and enjoy your final night in New Zealand.

Day 5: Depart Auckland

Farewell, Auckland!
Farewell, Auckland!

Today, make the short, one-hour drive back to Auckland. Drop your rental car at the airport depot, and continue your onward journey home with beautiful memories of the Land of the Long White Cloud

More New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other New Zealand itineraries, explore different ways to spend five days in New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.


Map of Northern New Zealand: Auckland, Bay of Islands & Matakana - 5 Days
Map of Northern New Zealand: Auckland, Bay of Islands & Matakana - 5 Days