The north island at it's best. Explore Auckland, it's amazing harbor and islands and city life. Head north to the bay of islands with it's warm weather, stunning coastline and en route stop and learn about the Maori and European history and how New Zealand become the country of today. Visit Waipoua forest and the massive Kauri trees, Rotorua for geothermal attractions and finish at Napier, relax by the coast or sample one of the region's fine wines.
- Round-trip International Economy airfare from Los Angeles
- Add-on airfares available from other cities
- Domestic New Zealand flight
- 8 days car rental
- 9 nights boutique accommodation - Auckland x2, Bay of Islands x2, Dargaville x1, Rotorua x2 Napier x2
- ** Sightseeing options and packages are available **
Day 1 - Depart US
Ask about our options with Premium Economy and Business class airfare.
Day 2 - Cross International Date line
Day 3 - Arrive Auckland
Welcome to New Zealand! Spend your first day in Auckland - explore or relax. Don't think of Auckland as a city, even though it's New Zealand's largest. Think of it as half urban, half marine - a cosmopolitan experience wrapped up in a fascinating water world and surrounded by over 50 islands.
Day 4 - Auckland
Explore Auckland at your leisure or consider adding one of our tour options - Some of our favorites:
- Auckland City Revealed (Half Day)
NZ's largest and busiest city is set on 48 dormant volcanic cones and lies between two harbours: the sparkling Waitemata and the brooding Manukau. The tour begins with a drive up Queen Street, past Auckland University and through Auckland Domain to Ponsonby. Head over the harbour bridge to the North Shore and enjoy a stroll on Narrow Neck Beach in historic Devonport. Re-board the coach for a trip up to the summit of Mt Victoria for stunning panoramic views over Auckland City, then travel back over the harbour bridge to Westhaven Marina. Finish with a visit to Auckland Fish Market before continuing on to the Viaduct Harbour.
- Bush and Beach - Coast and Rainforest Tour
Visit Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, with panoramic views from the sweeping decks extending from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Next, your guides walk you through Auckland’s coastal rainforest to the West Coast Beach with soft black sand, enjoy a kiwi style picnic lunch before moving onto untouched original rainforest with mature 1000 year old Kauri trees, where 70 percent of the world’s native plants are found nowhere else in the world.
- Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise
Board your Explore Group vessel at Viaduct Harbour, Auckland to commence an Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise. Dine on the Waitemata Harbour, an experience not to be missed in Auckland. Enjoy great sailing and as the sun sets watch the night lights of the cityscape come alive. Sail where the wind takes while enjoying Auckland's city highlights; including sailing under the Harbour Bridge and other well-known landmarks along the harbours edge. The crew's local knowledge will give you the best harbour sailing experience Auckland has to offer. Cruise concludes at approximately 2.5 hours after commencement, back at Viaduct Harbour Auckland.
Day 5 - Auckland to Bay of Islands
Collect rental vehicle and drive north to Bay of Islands.
Auckland to Orewa 36 km (23 miles) Approximately 0.5 hour
At the beginning of your journey, you’ll drive over the Auckland Harbour Bridge towards the bays and beaches of Auckland’s North Shore. The town of Orewa spreads along the edge of a large, white sand surf beach. You can explore bush trails at the northern end of the town, visit the friendly shopping centre or dive into the waves for a refreshing swim.
Orewa to Warkworth 27 km (17 miles) Approximately 0.5 hour
Driving north, you’ll pass Hatfield’s Beach before coming across Waiwera, which means ‘hot water’ in Maori. The hot springs are the main attraction in this small, seaside village. Enjoy native forest and farmland scenery all the way to Warkworth, a pretty town located on the banks of the Mahurangi River.
Warkworth to Whangarei 99 km (68 miles) Approximately 1.25 hour
A drive through the Dome Forest will lead you into the rural service town of Wellsford. From here you can take a side trip to Pakiri - a great beach for surfing and horse treks. Whangarei is a subtropical city on the edge of a beautiful harbour. At the Quayside Town Basin complex you'll find stylish cafes and restaurants, as well as museums, art galleries and shops. Be sure to visit Whangarei Falls.
Whangarei to Paihia 71 km (44 miles) Approximately 1 hour
A series of small settlements will lead you north. From here the road to the Bay of Islands becomes quite twisty, but you’ll enjoy some delightful scenery along the way. The resort town of Paihia makes an excellent base for exploring the Bay of Islands. Catch a cruise to the outer islands or a ferry to the charming township of Russell. The historic Treaty House at Waitangi marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation.
Day 6 - Bay of Islands
Explore the Bay of Islands at your leisure or consider adding one of our tour options - Some of our favorites:
- Half Day Walking Adventure and Cruise
Stop at two of the islands in the bay, first for a short visit to either Roberton or Moturua Island, both of which offer stunning views of the Bay and beyond. Next, stop off at the northern end of stunning Urupukapuka Island with its white sandy beaches, rolling hills and a sanctuary for native birdlife of all kinds. New walking tracks have made the island accessible to hikers of all abilities. Enjoy a six-kilometre walk through amazing coastal scenery and remote beaches towards Otehei Bay. You will have plenty of time to soak up the views and swim in New Zealand's warmest water. Walking maps are provided.
- Swim with the Dolphins
Encounter these intelligent and playful mammals in their natural environment. Get the Swim with the Dolphins experience in the warmest waters in New Zealand. Cruise picturesque islands while searching for dolphins. Once we find a pod of dolphins, Department of Conservation regulations will determine whether a swim is possible. Swimming is optional however you need to be a confident swimmer.The high speed catamaran is purpose built for dolphin watching and swimming and offers easy access to the water and ample viewing areas including observation decks and side opening windows.
- Waitangi Treaty Ground Pass
The Day Pass includes admission to the Treaty Grounds, entry to the Museum of Waitangi, entry to the introductory film, a 50 minute guided tour and a 35 minute cultural performance. During the guided tour you learn more about the history, the stories, the personalities and events that shaped New Zealand as a nation. The cultural performance starts with a spine tingling challenge outside, followed by a full performance inside the carved Meeting house including waiata (singing), poi, stick games, Maori weaponry display and the famous haka
Day 7 - Paihia to Dargaville
Paihia to Kerikeri 23 km (14 miles) Approximately 0.55 hour
The road leading into Kerikeri is bordered by orchards. Roadside stalls offer the chance to buy seasonal fruit. Kerikeri is a town of things to do. You’ll find galleries, cafes and vineyards, gourmet food shops, several golf courses and historic sites such as the Stone Store and the Mission House. There are superb bush walks in the area – Rainbow Falls is a perfect picnic spot.
Kerikeri to Kaitaia
Scenic side trips on the road to Kaitaia include Matauri Bay (the resting place of the Rainbow Warrior) and Tauranga Bay. Nearby Whangaroa Harbour is a game fishing mecca. Further north, the beautiful beaches of Doubtless Bay will tempt you with white sand and crystal clear water. Sailing, sea kayaking, horse treks and golf are some of the other activities available in this district. If you have time, make the trip to the Cape Reinga lighthouse - then you can say you've been to the very top of New Zealand.
Kaitaia to Dargaville
The backcountry route to Dargaville takes you past the Herekino Forest, where you can stretch your legs on the Kaitaia Walkway. In Kohukohu you'll find some charming historic buildings. A vehicular ferry will carry you over the harbour to Rawene, a great stop for coffee and crafts. Further on is Opononi, where you can arrange to go sand dune surfing. Your next adventure is the awesome Waipoua Forest, home of New Zealand's largest kauri trees.
Day 8 - Dargaville to Waitomo
Dargaville to Auckland
Travel across the river plain to Matakohe’s kauri museum, where you’ll discover the district’s fascinating history. In the village of Maungaturoto you can explore antique and craft shops. At Brynderwyn you’ll turn towards Kaiwaka, a village known for its Dutch cheese. Further south is Wellsford, where you’ll take a right towards Helensville. The hilly rural road provides amazing views of the Kaipara Harbour and surrounding farmland. There are hot springs at Parakai if you have time to spare. At Kumeu you’ll turn towards Waitakere, where you’ll embark on a beatiful scenic drive through the Waitakere Ranges. Auckland will reveal itself as you drive down from Titirangi village.
Auckland to Hamilton
As you cruise down the southern motorway, suburban scenery gradually gives way to the farmland of South Auckland, an area favoured by bloodstock breeders. The Waikato River will accompany you for much of your journey through the green countryside. The city of Hamilton is carved in two by the mighty Waikato River. Excellent restaurants and cafes can be found at the southern end of the city’s main street.
Hamilton to Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Caves region is famous for its subterranean splendour. Beneath the surface of this ancient limestone region is a series of vast cave systems decorated with stalactites, stalagmites and glow-worms. Some caves open to the public, and are easy to walk through, others require specialised caving equipment.
Explore Waitomo at your leisure or consider adding one of our tour options - Some of our favorites:
- Glowworm Caves
Inside the ancient limestone caves live tiny insects whose iridescent light has amazed visitors of the Glowworm Grotto for over 100 years. Guided walks lead visitors through the amazing Cathedral, a high ceiling cave with acoustics to rival the most modern arena, to a small boat. From here the boat is towed across the water to where hundreds of tiny lights flicker on the cave roof above.
- Black Water Rafting
The Black Labyrinth is the original classic adventure. Tube down the 'hidden' waterfall, through rocky chutes and vaulted limestone galleries and emerge in the Waitomo forest.
- Lost World - Abseiling
Abseil 100m into this unique and spectacular chasm - the descent takes around 30 minutes and is followed by a dry caving trip exploring huge chambers en route to the surface. See giant speleotherms, including flowstone and spagatites, the famous glowworms and all manner of weird and wonderful rock sculptures. There's a 30m ladder climb and walking along narrow ledges, at all times protected by specialist safety equipment and systems. Unbelievable
Day 9 - Waitomo to Rotorua
Waitomo Caves to Rotorua
Your journey to Rotorua will take you through a mixture of farmland, lakeland and forest. You’ll know you’ve arrived in the city of Rotorua when you see (and smell!) the geothermal steam plumes of Whakarewarewa. Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so there’s evidence of volcanic activity everywhere you look. Explore the geothermal areas and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people
Explore Rotorua at your leisure or consider adding one of our tour options - Some of our favorites:
- Discover Rotorua
Experience Te Puia, a place of Maori culture and a thermal wonderland of impressive geysers and boiling mud pools. Explore Rainbow Springs Nature Park, which showcases native flora and fauna as well as the New Zealand Kiwi. Then see NZ's agricultural industry in action with a sheep shearing display and sheep dog trials at the Agrodome.
- Te Puia Steambox Lunch
Visitors can choose what they want to have cooked for their lunch before heading out on a special guided tour. As they participate in an interactive session, learning how to weave a flower, and tour the carving and weaving schools, their food is placed in a Nga Wha (steam vent) Puapua, which is located in the geothermal area that is the backdrop to the famous Pohutu Geyser. Heading down into the geothermal valley to the mud pools and hot springs, the tour concludes when, after watching their lunch being lifted from the Nga Wha, guests sit and enjoy a steam box picnic lunch on the geyser terrace.
Zorbit - you are safely harnessed inside the Zorb before being sent rolling head over heels down the straight track. Like an astronaut in training you will have a sense of weightlessness and G-force as you make your way down hill. In the Zydro (Hydro) ride we add water (warm in winter, cool in summer) into the Zorb so you can slip, slide, or spin (no tumbling) inside as the Zorb hurtles down the hill.
Your guide will escort you through the ten acre site of where the Lord of the Rings movie set used to be. Your guide will explain all about what was needed to create the Hobbiton set and tell stories about what went on during filming. Check out the Hobbit holes from the film set. After viewing the Bag End, you can pet and feed the hand reared sheep and hand bottle feed lambs.
Day 10 – Rotorua to Napier
Rotorua to Taupo
The road to Taupo will keep you entertained with its unusual, volcanic geography. You’ll also drive through large tracts of plantation pine forest. Take a side road to a geothermal park, where you’ll discover geysers, silica terraces and craters of boiling mud. The resort town of Taupo sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake, which is well stocked with sizeable trout.
Taupo to Napier
The major entertainment on the road from Taupo to Napier is the fantastic scenery - rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. The town of Eskdale heralds your arrival in Napier. In 1931 a devastating earthquake nearly levelled this city. It was rebuilt in the style of the times, and is now considered the Art Deco Capital of the world. The vineyards of Hawke’s Bay are all within easy reach of Napier. Another attraction is the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers
Day 11 – Napier
Napier at your leisure or explore Hawke’s Bay. Some of our favorites (additional cost):
- Half Day Wine and Gourmet
Savour some internationally acclaimed wine and relax where art meets science amongst a wealth of scenery on this fabulous odyssey. Take a behind the scenes look at a winery with a chance to learn from a local wine maker, learn about wine and food matching at one of New Zealand's top winery restaurants and indulge in gourmet platters with top local produce including meats, seafood, vegetables, cheese, olives, breads and dips.
- Half Day Maori Culture and Heritage
Join your guides to experience a spiritual welcome into the world of Maori. Spend time talking with Maori about their lives and find yourself drawn into their lives and into their world on a deep level. Experience a formal welcome (powhiri) and delve into Maori life, both past and contemporary. On the sands of a glorious Hawke's Bay wilderness beach resides an extraordinary Maori elder (quia) who lives an inspired life in the rhythms and age old customs of the Maori culture; an inspirational woman who carries the mana (respect), courage and relentlessness to keep the culture alive. Meet this remarkable woman on land that has been passed down from her ancestors since the beginning of time. Listen to her fascinating reality how things are and what is important to them, their connection to the land, the importance of whakapapa (lineage) and life amongst her people.
- On Yer Bike Winery Tour
This tour offers a fun one-day cycling experience, giving you the opportunity to enjoy tasting some of Hawkes Bay's finest wines, while at the same time taking in the superb scenery of the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle wine growing regions. The terrain is flat and very easy cycling. Scenery includes vineyards, olive groves, orchards and farmland. Most of the cycling is off-road following the wineries bike trail with a detour through a working vineyard. The route covers around 20km and gives you the opportunity to visit up to eight wineries depending on the day you do the tour.
Day 12 – Depart for US:
||Now-31 March 2017|
*From pricing is valid for departures until 31 March 2017 for purchase by 31 March 2017. Prices are per person based on double occupancy departures from Los Angeles. Add-on fares are available from other cities. Certain black out dates apply on the accommodation and tour value add offers - check with your Aspire consultant. Seats are limited and may not be available on every flight. Hotels are subject to availability. All prices reflect a discount for purchases made by cash/wire transfer/check, please see terms and conditions for credit card payments. There are no discounts for payment made by credit cards. Cancellation penalties and other restrictions apply.