Experience the best of New Zealand's North Island, known for its rich Maori culture, subtropical beaches, and buzzing city life. Launch your nine-day tour in Auckland with a bungee jump off the Sky Tower and a dinner cruise around its twinkling harbor. Then road trip your way north to the tropical paradise of the Bay of Islands to discover pristine beaches, charming coastal towns, and the magical Waipoua Forest.

Highlights

  • Taste New Zealand's finest wines during a tour of Waiheke Island 
  • Dive to the jewel anemone-covered wreck of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship
  • Glide over the Bay of Island's 140 subtropical atolls in a helicopter ride
  • Wander through the Waipoua Forest at dusk with a Maori guide

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland Auckland
Day 2 Enjoy a Free Day in Auckland Auckland
Day 3 Drive to Paihia, Explore the Bay of Islands Paihia
Day 4 Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour Paihia
Day 5 Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Helicopter Flight Over the Bay of Islands Paihia
Day 6 Drive to Waipoua, Twilight Tour of the Waipoua Forest Waipoua
Day 7 Drive to Mangawhai Mangawhai
Day 8 Drive to Auckland, Dinner at the Sky Tower Orbit Restaurant Auckland
Day 9 Depart Auckland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland

Sunset over Auckland's skyline

Welcome to New Zealand! Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, Auckland's urban paradise is a playground for both city lovers and adventure-seekers. You may just want to kick back and relax back at the hotel while adjusting to the time change. Or, shake off your jet lag by heading to the Sky Tower and opting for a bungee jump! Whether you're an adrenaline junkie or not, the Sky Tower is an excellent place to begin exploring New Zealand's metropolis, with its panoramic views of the "City of Sails." 

If acquiring sea legs is more your thing, a sunny stroll around Waitemata Harbour will do the trick. Roughly translated to "sparkling waters" in the Māori language, the harbor features a number of sailing, cruising, and whale watching excursions. Now that you've dipped your toes in the sea or had your head in the clouds, it's time to begin your New Zealand adventure!

Day 2: Enjoy a Free Day in Auckland

Head to nearby Waiheke Island for a day in the vineyards

Perhaps you want to spend today discovering the city on foot or have a spa day at the hotel. If you're raring to go out exploring, however, you could kick your day off to a boozy start with a wine tour of Waiheke Island. Adored for its beaches, forests, olive groves, and vineyards, New Zealand's "Island of Wine" is home to a dedicated group of small-scale vineyards that produce some of the country's finest wines. Between tour stop-offs, enjoy a commentated scenic drive where your local guide will enlighten you on the island's colorful history and culture. 

If you would rather go at your own pace, you can get a taste of everything the picturesque Waiheke Island has to offer with the Hop-On Hop-Off Explorer bus tour. Stop off at one of the island's small-scale vineyards to sample some of New Zealand's most distinguished wines, feel the sand beneath your feet as your stroll along one of Waiheke's pristine beaches, or satisfy your gastronomic urge with a lunch stop at a culinary gem. 

Once back in Auckland, tuck into a gourmet feast as you cruise around the harbor and take in the capital's sights from the water. Take some sunset snaps before the skyline comes alive with twinkling lights, then sit back and relax as you gently sail toward Westhaven Marina—with canapés and drinks being brought to you all the while. Finish the evening off with dessert as you leisurely sail back to the vibrant Viaduct Harbour.

Day 3: Drive to Paihia, Explore the Bay of Islands

Explore the shoreline around the Bay of Islands
Explore the shoreline around the Bay of Islands 

Pick up your rental car, grab some famous Auckland coffee, and head for the Bay of Islands. Plan for plenty of sightseeing along the 3.5-hour journey, including a stop at the historical township of Puhoi. Its vibrant, bohemian atmosphere is a remnant of former Czech immigrants, making for an interesting insight into New Zealand's cross-cultural history. A short drive from Puhoi and you'll find yourself in the quayside community of Whangārei, where you can hike to the summit of Mount Parihaka or explore the remains of the largest fortified village in New Zealand, Māori Pā

Wind your way to New Zealand's Bay of Islands, commonly known as the "winterless north." Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life, and 140 subtropical atolls, this paradise can be explored by foot, boat, and flippers. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or sign yourself up for an ocean safari and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins.

If diving is your thing, make the descent to the 130-foot (40 m) Rainbow Warrior wreck—the Greenpeace ship that was sunk by French saboteurs in 1985. Living up to its name, rainbow-colored jewel anemones cover the shipwreck, also home to schools of golden snappers, kingfish, and John Dorys. Spend the afternoon wandering around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843, and end your day in Paihia, a charming seaside town that serves as your base for the next three nights.

Day 4: Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour

Surf down the sand dunes at Te Paki Stream Reserve
Surf down the sand dunes at Te Paki Stream Reserve

If you fancy learning about Māori culture and experiencing the thrills of sand surfing, sign up for a full-day tour of Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach. You'll journey to the very tip of New Zealand's North Island with your local driver and guide providing entertaining commentary and thought-provoking insights along the way. Highlights include skirting along the sand-swept shores of Ninety Mile Beach in a purpose-built coach and surfing down the massive sand dunes at Te Paki Stream.

You'll end your day at Cape Reinga, New Zealand's northernmost point. In Māori tradition, Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) is where spirits would depart on their long journey back to the hawaiki (homeland). Feel the power of this special place and drink in the panoramic views as you stand beneath the iconic lighthouse, watching the Tasman Sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean collide far below.

Day 5: Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Helicopter Flight Over the Bay of Islands

Admire the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe
Admire the world's largest ceremonial war canoe

Soak up the rich history and culture of one of New Zealand's most important historic sites with your visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Here, you will learn about the impact of New Zealand's founding treaty—made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori chiefs—in a visit to the Te Rau Aroha Museum of the Price Citizenship. You can later partake in a Māori cultural performance, visit one of their traditional carved meeting houses at Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, and admire the craftsmanship of a Waka Taua—the world's largest ceremonial war canoe.

Before you say goodbye to the Bay of Islands, experience it from the sky in a helicopter flight. With its crystalline shoreline, white sandy beaches, and sub-tropical islands, it's arguably the best coastal and island scenery in New Zealand, making it well worth the 30-minute helicopter ride. Be dazzled by bird's-eye views of the famous Hole in the Rock, glide over the remote coastline on the eastern side of the Cape Brett Peninsula, and return toward the Kerikeri Inlet, the Black Rocks, Waitangi, and Paihia.

Day 6: Drive to Waipoua, Twilight Tour of the Waipoua Forest

Be inspired by a twilight tour of the Waipoua Forest

Leave the Pacific Ocean behind you and head west toward the Hokianga Harbour—known as the birthplace of the nation. Bordered by the wild Tasman Sea, the salty-aired seaside townships of Omapere and Opononi offer the perfect ice cream pitstops. Follow the route south into the Waipoua Forest, where you will see the massive, awe-inspiring kauri trees. Stretch your legs at any one of the numerous signposted walks along the way.

After you've settled into your hotel, head back out to experience the magical Waipoua Forest at night in a spectacular four-hour twilight tour. Learn about the rich birdlife and fauna that inhabit the forest, including the carnivorous kauri snail. You'll also get to experience the deep spiritual respect the Māori people have for this enchanted woodland. Your Māori guide will brief you on the protocols for your visit, and once formal greetings have been made, you will be allowed to meet the giant Tane Mahuta, or "Lord of the Forest"—the oldest Kauri tree in the world.

Day 7: Drive to Mangawhai 

Visit local holiday spot, Mangawhai Heads

Set off from Waipoua and make the leisurely drive southeast to Mangawhai Heads and Mangawhai Village, a favorite vacation hotspot for New Zealanders. If you fancy a day by the sea, choose between surfing, fishing, swimming, or kayaking, or spend a relaxing morning bird-watching and walking among the sand dunes.

Make sure to stock up on gifts while you're here; home to a thriving arts and crafts community, Mangawhai Heads and Mangawhai Village have a range of beautiful handicrafts to choose from, as well as vineyards, olive groves, and chocolate from the popular chocolatiers, Bennetts of Mangawhai. Stay the night in your Mangawhai hotel—your last stop before heading back to Auckland in the morning.

Day 8: Drive to Auckland, Dinner at the Sky Tower Orbit Restaurant

Enjoy 360-degree views from Auckland's Orbit restaurant

Try to tear yourself away from the idyllic Mangawhai region and head back south toward Auckland. The route offers plenty of scenic countryside through the farming regions of Wellsford and Warkworth. If time allows, take a little detour to Matakana or the Tawharanui Peninsulas—it's well worth the effort, particularly if you arrive in time for one of their farmer's markets. As you approach the heart of Auckland, you will pass through the suburbs of the North Shore before crossing Harbour Bridge to your final destination.

Leave on a high—literally—by spending your last evening at Orbit, a restaurant soaring 620 feet (190 m) above the city in Auckland's Sky Tower. Reminisce on your New Zealand adventures as you tuck into an adventurous, kiwi-inspired menu and soak up the revolving, 360-degree views of the city.

Day 9: Depart Auckland

Panoramic view of Auckland
Panoramic views of Auckland
Depending on your flight, you may have some extra time to explore more of this vibrant metropolis. After you've parted with your rental car at the airport depot, it's time to catch your flight back home. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Unwind in New Zealand's Winterless North - 9 Days
Map of Unwind in New Zealand's Winterless North - 9 Days