Experience the contrast of cosmopolitan cities and windswept coastlines on New Zealand's North Island with this eight-day adventure. Kick back and relax as you connect between Auckland, Paihia, and Rotorua by scenic Intercity and tour buses, experiencing geothermal wonders, twinkling caverns, and dense forest canopies along the way. Highlights include an immersive Maori forest feast, a scenic cruise around the Bay of Islands, and a tour through the Tolkien-inspired landscapes of Hobbiton.


  • Dive deep into Maori history and heritage through museums and fun activities
  • Witness a cavern full of glowworms at the Waitomo Caves
  • See Hobbit houses and rolling hills at the Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Zipline and walk through an ancient forest canopy in Rotorua
  • Explore the North Islands' concentrated geothermal activity at Te Puia

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Intercity Bus to Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Māori Waka Canoe Excursion Paihia
Day 3 Guided Tour of Ninety-Mile Beach & Cape Reinga Paihia
Day 4 Hole in the Rock Cruise, Intercity Bus to Auckland, Sky Tower Dinner Auckland
Day 5  Transfer to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves & Te Puia Rotorua
Day 6 Rotorua Forest Canopy Tour, Māori Feast & Performance Rotorua
Day 7 Transfer to Auckland via Hobbiton Movie Set Auckland
Day 8 Depart Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Auckland, Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise

Sail through the Waitematā Harbour on a sunset cruise

Welcome to New Zealand! You'll be spending the next eight days seeing New Zealand's North Island, known for its geothermal activity, vibrant Māori culture, and adventure sports. Kick off the trip by landing in Auckland, situated on the mighty Northland Peninsula that juts straight into the ocean where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. Your driver will be waiting to take you to your accommodation for the night at the airport. Drop off your bags and get ready for a night to remember. 

Your first experience in the "City of Sails" is on a dinner cruise through Waitematā Harbour. See firsthand how Auckland got its nickname as the ship weaves in and out of the sailboats, making your way toward the Westhaven Marina, the largest yacht marina in the Southern Hemisphere. Start with canapés and drinks before the main course arrives. You'll also enjoy dessert as the sun dips into the sea and the city starts to twinkle in the diminishing evening light. Take in the views of the skyline, admiring the iconic Sky Tower—you'll be seeing the city from its precipice in just a few days.  

Day 2: Intercity Bus to Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Māori Waka Canoe Excursion

Learn more about New Zealand's Māori heritage at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Today, you're headed for the idyllic Bay of Islands! You'll hop on a scenic and comfortable Intercity bus, passing lush landscapes and seaside villages for about 3.5 hours before you reach the beach town of Paihia. This city, perched between rolling hills and turquoise ocean, is a great base for exploring the Bay of Islands and New Zealand's rich Māori heritage.

Your first stop is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the British government met with Māori chiefs to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. There are two museums on-site to explore, including the Te Rau Aroha Museum of the Price of Citizenship and the Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi. Each highlights Māori history and heritage while also telling the story of the Treaty of Waitangi from multiple perspectives. 

You're in for a special treat this afternoon as you meet with the Ngapuhi people and have the privileged opportunity to climb aboard a ceremonial warship of the Māori, the Waka Taua. Paddle in unison down the Waitangi River as you hear more about the Māori ancient history and legends. Your first stop by canoe is at the Haruru Waterfall before continuing on to a marae, or meeting ground, where you'll learn traditional chants and see a haka performance.

Day 3: Guided Tour of Ninety-Mile Beach & Cape Reinga

See where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet at Cape Reinga

Day three is all about experiencing the seaside beauty of the Bay of Islands. After meeting your guide, start with a drive out to Ninety-Mile Beach. This stretch of windswept sand is actually considered a highway, and you'll get to drive out on it in your purpose-built vehicle, which is well-equipped for this 4WD adventure. A short distance away are the towering Te Paki Sand Dunes. You can test your metal by trying some sand surfing down these movable mountains that flow into the Te Paki Stream.

This afternoon, arrive at the northernmost point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. Walk out to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, admiring where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide, and learn from your guide about the importance of this spot to Māori culture. It's from here that Māori souls are said to travel back to their celestial homeland, making it one of the most significant spiritual sites in the country. After the tour, you'll have the evening free back in Paihia—grab dinner with a view and make sure to catch one of the region's famous sunsets.

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Day 4: Hole in the Rock Cruise, Intercity Bus to Auckland, Sky Tower Dinner

Cruise through Hole in the Rock on a morning boat tour

Spend the morning out on the water with a cruise to Hole in the Rock. You'll glide through the beautiful Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, taking in island scenery and craggy cliffsides along the way. Once you arrive, you'll be awed at the sheer size of this geologic wonder, soaring into the sky almost 500 feet (148 m). If conditions permit, you'll be able to sail through the hole itself, once a Māori rite of passage before battle. Keep your camera at the ready and look out to the horizon in search of bottlenosed dolphins and whales.

This afternoon, you'll step back aboard an Intercity bus and make the 3.5-hour trek back to Auckland. Rest up along the way, taking in the agricultural heartland of northern New Zealand. Later tonight, a dinner to remember awaits at the Auckland Sky Tower. You'll be treated to a three-course meal that highlights the best of Kiwi cuisine, from fresh seafood to locally raised steak, at Orbit 360° Dining. Enjoy panoramic views over the city and ocean as the restaurant rotates once every hour. 

Day 5: Transfer to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves & Te Puia

Witness glowworms in the Waitomo Caves

Head south today as you board a mini-bus bound for Rotorua. It's roughly a four-hour drive from Auckland, but you'll break up the trip with some fun stops and guided tours. First up are the Waitomo Caves. , where you'll be guided into caverns filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Step into a boat, and cruise down the cave system's river and into a glowing glowworm grotto, where these bioluminescent creatures create a spectacular light show along the rocky walls and celing. This once-in-a-lifetime experience can only be had in New Zealand, as the glowworms are unique to this region of the world. 

Back on the road, you'll stop again as you near Rotorua for an introduction to the region's famous geothermal activity at Te Puia. Also known as the Rotorua Geothermal Park, this area features burbling mud pits, explosive geysers, and colorful hot springs. Don't miss the chance to see New Zealand's national animal, the kiwi bird, at the nearby Kiwi Conservation Centre. Afterward, your driver and guide will take you on a spin around Rotorua itself, also known as "Sulphur City," before dropping you at your hotel. 

Day 6: Rotorua Forest Canopy Tour, Māori Feast & Performance

Explore ancient forest canopies on a zipline adventure

New Zealand is known for its adrenaline-inducing adventures, and today you'll dive right into these thrill-seeking activities at the Rotorua Forest Canopy Tour. Zipline through the trees as you experience the dense flora and fauna of an ancient redwood forest, crossing swinging bridges and taking the stairs to nowhere on a three-hour excursion. Your trusty guide will lead you up to tree platforms that connect the valleys via zipline, letting you in on their knowledge of this unique ecosystem along the way. 

After you've worked up an appetite in the treetops, head to the Tamaki Māori Village for an evening of traditional Māori cuisine and performances. Witness dancing, vivid storytelling, and music in the forest amphitheater before making your way by torchlight to the three-course feast. The menu and cultural shows change based on the season, but your meal will focus on locally grown and caught ingredients, like fresh seafood and mānuka honey, cooked in traditional ways.

Day 7: Transfer to Auckland via Hobbiton Movie Set

Be transported to the Shire on a Hobbiton Movie Set tour

Your minibus and guide will take you back to Auckland today, but not before one last quintessential New Zealand experience. En route, you'll make a detour into Middle-earth for a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. Perfectly preserved from its days as the filming location for the Shire capital of Hobbiton, you'll pass the home of Bilbo and Frodo at Bag End and other famous landmarks from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" films. Cross over the double-arch stone bridge and explore the interior of a comfortable Hobbit hole, then grab a second breakfast at the Shire's Rest or Green Dragon Inn

Take some time to pick up a few Hobbit souvenirs before boarding the bus back to Auckland, where you'll be dropped at your hotel. If you have the energy to venture out on the town on your final night, don't miss the opportunity to dive into Auckland's buzzing food scene. Stroll down Karangahape Road, known for its vibrant Asian cuisine, or take the 40-minute ferry over to Waiheke Island, also known as "Wine Island," for plenty of tastings and farm-to-table fare. 

Day 8: Depart Auckland

Say goodbye to beautiful Auckland

Your eight-day New Zealand adventure draws to a close today. When the time comes, a private driver will be waiting outside your accommodation to take you to the airport. Board the plane and watch as Auckland's glittering skyline and sparkling bays fade into the clouds. See you next time! 

Other Great 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 eight days in New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.


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Map of See New Zealand's North Island by Bus: Auckland, Paihia & Rotorua - 8 Days
Map of See New Zealand's North Island by Bus: Auckland, Paihia & Rotorua - 8 Days