The Self Drive North Island Adventurer Itinerary


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Welcome to Auckland!

Welcome to Auckland!. Today is a day to relax from your flight as the next twelve days will provide some of the most pristine landscapes and thrilling experiences imaginable. Auckland City is situated amongst a cluster of extinct volcanic cones, next to a large harbour that bustles with life, both on water and on land. The Auckland isthmus straddles a slim piece of land with coastline facing both the Pacific Ocean, and, on the wild West Coast, the Tasman Sea. 

You will be transferred to your accommodation on arrival and after checking into your hotel, relax and take a stroll around our beautiful city, explore the highly acclaimed Waterfront Restaurant Quarter or choose one of the many activities available to give a more in depth understanding of Auckland and the surrounding area.

Some Activities and sightseeing options if you have time:

Explore Waiheke Island     Island Kayaking Adventure     America’s Cup Sailing
Auckland's Sky Tower Relax on the Beach Rangitoto Island Cruise & Walk
West Coast Wine Tour Whale and Dolphin Safari Muriwai Surf Beach

Accommodation Auckland - 1 night

Located in the heart of cosmopolitan Auckland, the recently refurbished Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland is New Zealand's largest hotel and within walking distance to Queen Street and Viaduct Harbour with fine dining, shopping and entertainment venues at your doorstep. The hotel features 452 elegant, oversized guest rooms and suites that will ensure comfort and convenience.
Grand Millennium Hotel


Bay of Islands - A Coastal Paradise

Collect your car this morning and make your way North. This sub-tropical region has the finest maritime park in New Zealand with 144 islands, secluded bays, and an abundance of marine life including marlin, whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species. It is one of the most picturesque and popular holiday sites in New Zealand. It combines great fishing, amazing Sailing and other water sports with some of New Zealand's most significant historic sites. One of the most popular attractions is the Hole in the Rock, off Cape Brett. You can take a boating trip through the hole in a huge rock outcrop. Also popular are Dolphin Swimming and diving trips to the sunken Rainbow Warrior Wreck or a round of Golf at Kauri Cliffs.

Approximate Distance: 243 kms | 150 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 40 mins

Accommodation Paihia - 1 night

The Waterfront Apartments offer an all-suite luxury within Paihia, an oasis of tranquility. Located just steps away from Paihia’s restaurants and wharf, a great base to explore the Bay of Islands.All suites feature a relaxed contemporary design for indoor and outdoor entertainment and relaxation, perfect Paihia accommodation for both couples and families.

Waterfront Apartments - Paihia


Relaxing Island Sailing Adventure

This is a sailing paradise and unsurprisingly a favourite cruising ground for many a keen Kiwi sailor. So enjoy the Bay of Islands the way the locals do, on a boat with a small group of like-minded people, spend carefree days in an incredible setting doing the things you enjoy, take in the natural beauty at a leisurely pace.

This is an all-inclusive sailing expedition gives you three magical days of kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and exploring. Enjoy the diversity of the Bay of Islands first-hand and learn about the area’s fascinating history. It’s the perfect start to your New Zealand holiday. 

No other trip will let you explore this unique area in quite the same way.

Sample Itinerary Day 1: Depart Paihia wharf at 8am. Spend the morning at sea, catching fish and spotting wildlife. Lunch stop at Roberton Island followed by a walk to a lookout and swimming/snorkelling. Afternoon sail to Oke Bay for our overnight stop. Evening kayak/ beach combing and bbq dinner.

Accommodation: 2 Nights Aboard The Sailing Ship Manawanui

The next two days will be spend on a boat. The journey will take you and your family onto the ocean and on to uninhabited islands. Explore the destinations by kayaking, snorkeling and walking. She is a 72 ft (22 m), 1981 John Pugh cutter-rigged steel ketch. A proven go-anywhere boat, she is designed for comfort and safety and has been around the world twice. 

Sailing in the Bay of Islands.


Day 2 of your Sailing Adventure

Sample Itinerary Day 2: 8am breakfast followed by a sail to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock. Hike to Cape Brett lighthouse followed by fishing and a sail to Deepwater Cove. Snorkelling in the marine reserve in Deep Water Cove. Sail to Waewaetorea Island. Sunset dinner on deck. 

NB: This is a sample itinerary. The routes and activities are entirely weather dependent. Basically, the cruise is best described as island-hopping, with a few hours of passage making followed by an exploration of our destination and a good meal.


Day 3 of your sailing adventure

Sample Itinerary Day 3:  8am breakfast followed by a walk to the top of Waewaetorea for a panoramic view of the Bay of Islands. A few hours spent relaxing on the beach,kayaking, snorkelling. Sail to the Black Rocks to harvest green-lipped mussels for lunch. Fresh seafood lunch followed by a sail in the afternoon seabreeze back to Paihia. Arrive Paihia around 3.30/4pm. Then its a very short 1 hour drive to Tutukaka.

Approximate Distance: 89 kms | 55 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour

Accommodation: Tutukaka - 2 nights

Pacific Rendezvous Resort is situated on a 26-acre peninsula overlooking the Tutukaka Harbour entrance. All apartments have a view of the sea, either an ocean view or a harbour view. Some of the best beaches are found on the Tutukaka coast - we especially recommend the stunning Whale Bay. 

A standard room at the Pacific Rendezvous overlooking the Tutukaka Harbour.


Coromandel - Beautiful Beaches and Native Bush

The Coromandel Peninsula lies east of Auckland, on the other side of the Hauraki Gulf. An impressive, heavily forested mountain range runs right up the middle of this peninsula - it’s bordered on each side by kilometres of spectacular coastline. On the west coast, there’s a never-ending parade of beaches, coves and harbours lined with pohutukawa trees. The eastern side is furnished with an amazing collection of white sand and surf beaches. The past can also be found in the charming colonial architecture and historical buildings preserved in several towns around the region. The coastal nature of the Coromandel makes it a brilliant choice if you like to fish, surf, dive, snorkelling, swim or wander along beaches. For contrast you can head for the hills and hike the trails in the-forest.

Approximate Distance: 403 kms | 250 miles  Total Driving Time: 5 hours 30 mins

Accommodation Hahei - 2 nights

Hahei Bed & Breakfast is a quiet and luxurious place to relax, specifically designed for your comfort. Enjoy beautiful gardens, a large swimming pool, sun-drenched decks, spacious guestrooms, views - both rural, sea and out to the off-shore islands.
Corromandel B&B


Kayaking Beautiful Cathedral Cove

This sea-bound spine of ancient eroded volcanoes protects the placid waters of the ‘City of Sails’. It also serves as a favourite holiday hideaway for busy Aucklanders and a Mecca for visitors seeking peace and solitude. The dramatic unspoilt coastline is the main drawcard, being perfectly suited to sea kayaking. Scenic bays and hidden coves have fascinating rock gardens and golden sand beaches tucked away behind glorious limestone sculptured headlands. Cathedral Cove at Hahei is a ‘Blue Lagoon’ fantasy scene and further south magical thermal springs bubble up through the sand at the beautiful Hot Water Beach. This volcanic coast is stunning. Paddle through amazing sea caves, explore offshore islands, snorkel the marine reserve. When conditions & tides allow, we have the option of paddling spectacular volcanic remains rarely seen by other travellers that are littered with caves, tunnels & blowholes.That is why you will love the Self Drive New Zealand North Island Adventurer, you have the freedom to explore an area as and when you want to.

Recommended excursions in and around the Coromandel:

Dive the Aldermans               Soak in the Lost Springs      Visit Cathedral Cove
Soak in Hot Water Beach   Rainforest Rail Journey Explorer Cruise
Water Works Park Guided Sea Kayaking  Kauri Forest Guided Hike


Travel to Geothermal Rotorua

Rotorua, the heartland of New Zealand, is the host to some of the world’s most incredible forces. Surrounded by the unmistakable smell of sulphur, geysers and clouds of steam magically appear around the city giving it an incredible 'other worldly' feel. Here lives wonders like the Pohutu geyser, which erupts 20 times a day and can spout up to 100 feet. All around this geothermal hotspot there are mud pools that bubble and belch, warm geothermal pools and ponds and hot spring bath’s that create a kaleidoscope of colour.

With a deep-rooted Maori cultural heritage spanning from the 14th century, Rotorua is still considered Maori cultural centre of New Zealand. The first Maori inhabitant’s constructed villages and made use of the thermal areas boiling water. This natural resource successfully aided them in the use of cooking and warmth for houses, eliminating the dependence of fire. Here you can explore the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people.

Approximate Distance: 215 kms | 135 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours

Accommodation Rotorua - 1 night

Relax in Rotorua at the Silver Fern Accommodation and Spa, located just minutes away from the city centre and close to the tourist attractions, cafes, restaurants and golf courses. Silver Fern offers spacious, light and secure suites with a private spa pool or double spa bath to enjoy on those cold nights. Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, Sky TV and DVD/CD facilities during your stay. A continental or cooked breakfast can be delivered to your room every morning of your stay and an 11am check out will make your stay in Rotorua totally memorable.
Silver Spoon Rotorua.


Raft the Kaituna River Then Travel to Great Lake Taupo

Grade 5 White Water Rafting - The 'Mighty Kaituna River'

The Kaituna River offers the most exhilarating white water rafting in New Zealand and is ranked a grade 4/5. Why? This river begins at the outlet of Lake Rotoiti and the sheer volume of water escaping the lake has created 15 fast and furious rapids - the adrenaline just keeps on pumping until you hit the highest commercially rafted waterfall known, “The Tutea Falls” at 7metres (23ft) - you couldn’t ask for a better finale! The Kaituna River is a pool drop river, which means there is the excitement of the rapids and then time to pull yourself together before tackling the next inevitable set. The rapids are not the only draw card; the flora and exposed geological history provide an equally breathtaking experience as you drift through steep gorges and native bush. With two guides taking care of the more technical aspects (Like steering the boat) you can focus on perhaps the more important aspects (like holding on!). Believe it or not, around 70% of the people trying this have never rafted before - so adventurous beginners are welcome – Yeehaa!!

Impressive is the word best used to describe Lake Taupo, after all, it is the biggest volcanic crater in the World! Lake Taupo is set amidst clean, green countryside, spectacular mountain scenery, beautiful native bush and some of the largest pine forests in the Southern Hemisphere. Thermal activity in this region includes natural hot pools and springs, steaming craters and boiling mud pools. Taupo is the North Island adventure equivalent of Queenstown! Visit the Huka Falls look out and the Prawn Farm, take a jet boat down the Waikato river to see the Huka Falls or even better do the full on Rapids Jet experience for a real thrill, partake in the new Zealand craze of Bungy Jumping, Sky Dive from 15,000 ft (cheapest in the world and most of our staff have done it!), take a fast boat around Lake Taupo to view the rock carvings and much more.

Approximate Distance: 100 kms | 62 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 15 mins

​Accommodation Taupo - 1 night

Bella Vista Motel Taupo is situated on the fringe of the Lake Taupo town centre. This location means it is just a short stroll to the lakefront, cafes, restaurants and shopping district.
Bella Vista Taupo


Moonlight Tongariro Crossing

The 12 mile Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered to the best hike in New Zealand and deservedly so! This hike has you on the top of Red Crater watching the sun rise in unique lighting and with the peaceful, still, quiet moments of the dawn and we usually have the luxury of few other walkers and the place mostly to ourselves.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing starts at the Mangatepopo Valley and the first 2 hours of the trek is an upward gentle gradient to Soda Springs. The track leads up to the Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe saddle and it is steep which is why this section is taken slowly to ensure we all enjoy the spectacle and scenery. At the South Crater we take a break and photos and then we then traverse up the side of Tongariro to the famous Red Crater summit.

After taking in the view of the active Red Crater with the Otarere and Rangipo deserts in the background, we descend to the Emerald Lakes for lunch, refreshments and a well-earned break. From here we divert up and over Mt Tongariro to its summit which offers a great photo opportunity of the Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu peaks. Once you are at the top of a mountain, the only way off it is downhill and because the main throng of walkers have already passed through, we take the main track back over Mt Ngauruhoes pyroclastic flows with sunset views of Mt Taranaki, 150 kms away.

We are now back at Mangatepopo and the finish … EASY! This is a fully guided small group trip, no previous experience is necessary but you do need to have a good level of fitness to fully enjoy this day. 

Approximate Distance: 100 kms | 62 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hours 20 mins

Accommodation National Park - 1 night


Chateau Tongariro Hotel is nearly as iconic a landmark as the mountain itself, located in Whakapapa Village, at the heart of Tongariro Nation Park. The hotel embraces the history and tradition of the Dual World Heritage status National park, offering you timeless elegance in the accommodation. 

Chateau Tongariro Hotel


Drive to Waitomo - Caving Expedition

The green rolling landscapes of the Waikato region that lies to the south of Auckland form some of the most fertile land in New Zealand, yet this is one region in particular which holds more than just surface appeal… literally. For Waikato also boasts an extensive labyrinth of underground caverns that formed millions of years ago and are now a major tourist attraction. To the south of Hamilton, the small and pleasant town of Waitomo is the focal point of the region’s subterranean wonders. The caves at Waitomo are one of New Zealand's most commanding wonders – a celebration of nature's work over the last one hundred thousand years. There are hundreds of miles of labyrinthine caves, glow-worms, under ground lakes, stalactites and stalagmites, and all manner of limestone crustaceans - a lost world waiting to be discovered. Above ground, the area around Waitomo is also popular for horse riding and bush walking.

The Lost World Caving  – Waitomo

This is Waitomo’s ultimate adventure and it is dramatic! The day starts with a 100 meters abseil (330ft) - the world’s longest commercial caving abseil and it takes at least fifteen odd minutes, to get you into the Lost World – and that is just the beginning! 

Approximate Distance:  142kms | 90 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 45 mins

Accommodation Waitomo - 1 night


Come and stay in tranquility with this eco-friendly, self-sufficient retreat in the Wild West of the North Island. Your hosts Biddy and Rich welcome you to their 1666 acre working sheep and cattle farm. Experience the peace and tranquility whilst absorbing stunning mountain and limestone views of the central North Island close to Waitomo Caves. 


Return to Auckland Airport to Depart

Approximate Distance: 180 kms | 112 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 25 mins

Haere rā and Bon Voyage!
There maybe time for some last minute sightseeing or shopping before making your way for your outbound flight. We know you will love the Self Drive New Zealand North Island Adventurer and our promise was to make your travels in New Zealand as hassle-free and hospitable as possible - ensuring that today you leave with a memory card full of photos, and huge smiles when recalling your time in New Zealand! Have a great homeward journey, farewell and hope to see you again soon in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Ready to find out more? Talk to us here in New Zealand about the 'Self Drive New Zealand North Island Adventurer' - We Guarantee it will be the Experience of a Lifetime!

Profile picture for user Aimee
What Aimee says about this tour: For clients who want total adrenalin and action on their tour. From moonlit mountain tops, cruising the islands on a yacht, bungee jumps, rafting waterfalls to closeups with glow worms. This excites and delights the most adventurous soul.
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