This tailor-made self-drive has been designed to showcase the best of New Zealand's North Island. Driving distances are short, giving you ample time to take in the ever-changing scenery, from the cobalt blues and tropical greens of the stunning Bay of Islands to the multi-coloured pools of thermal Rotorua and the deep plummy reds of the Hawke's Bay vineyards. While time has been left for independent exploration – half the fun of a self-drive holiday – our New Zealand specialists have chosen a few of their favourite excursions and built them into the itinerary. Any aspect of the itinerary can be tailored to your interests. If, for example, you've longer to spend, ending in Wellington leaves you perfectly poised to cross the Cook Strait into New Zealand's sensational South Island.
Days 1-2: UK/AucklandBegin your holiday in style with included VIP airport lounge access before your to New Zealand, arriving in Auckland on day three.
Days 3-4: Waiheke Island
Arrive in Auckland where you'll be met and transferred to the city's ferry terminal for the short journey to Waiheke Island, the second-largest island in New Zealand's stunning Hauraki Gulf. With its beautiful beaches, forests, vineyards and olive groves, Waiheke is a wonderful introduction to laid-back North Island life, with winery tours, nature walks, bird watching, fishing, sailing and kayaking all on offer. What's more, if you choose our deluxe option, you'll stay in a delightful boutique hotel, overlooking the white sands of Oneroa.
Stay: Onetangi Beach Apartments (Superior) or The Boatshed (Deluxe)
Day 5: Waipoua/Hokianga
Leave Waiheke Island this morning as you board a ferry back to Auckland to begin your drive through the North Island, heading first to the settlement of Waipoua. Situated on the west coast of Northland, Waipoua is home to some of New Zealand's largest kauri trees. Thought to be around 2,000 years old, the largest of these forest giants measure some 50 metres tall and 14 metres wide. In the evening you'll join a local guide for a twilight tour, visiting the oldest and largest known kauri trees on earth – Te Matua Ngahere (the Father of the Forest) and Tane Mahuta (the Lord of the Forest). You'll also learn about the significance of these trees to the Maori people and, with luck, encounter some nocturnal wildlife along the way.
Stay: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga (Superior)
Days 6-7: Bay of Islands
Driving northwest, you'll reach the sandy beaches and calm waters of Opua in the subtropical Bay of Islands. This group of 144 islands is found just off the east coast of New Zealand's northern stretches, where swimming, sailing and dolphin encounters are enjoyed year-round. There's history here, too, with the colonisation of New Zealand officially recognised in 1840 at the Waitangi Treaty House. The following day you'll be treated to a wildlife cruise through the ultra-scenic Bay of Islands, keeping your eyes out for dolphins and whales. You'll even pause at the majestic Hole in the Rock. If you travel between October and March, there's the option to upgrade to a Dolphin Eco Experience, which gives you the opportunity to swim with a dolphins in their natural environment.
Stay: Seaspray Suites (Superior) or The Sanctuary @ Bay of Islands (Deluxe)
Day 8: Auckland
Depart your hotel and return to Auckland. Here, you'll have a chance to explore the North Island's main city's many attractions – there's the famous Sky Tower, well-heeled Viaduct Harbour and a range of charming neighbourhoods such as Ponsonby, rich with cafés, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.
Stay: Heritage Auckland (Superior) or Hotel Grand Windsor (Deluxe)
Days 9-10: Coromandel
Skirt the Hauraki Gulf around the Firth of Thames and through the Coromandel Forest Park to arrive at Whitianga on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. Highlights here include Cathedral Cove, named after the impressive arch of rock that spans the sandy beach, and Hot Water Beach, which gets its name from the hot spring water that bubbles beneath the sand. Bring a spade and you can dig yourself a hole to create your own heated beach bath.
Stay: Brenton Lodge (Superior) or 970 Lonely Bay (Deluxe)
Days 11-12: Rotorua
Continue to Rotorua, home to two of New Zealand's geothermal gems – Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, with its Lady Knox Geyser and effervescent multi-coloured pools. Th next day is left free for you to explore, or perhaps to take an optional helicopter trip to White Island, New Zealand's most active volcano. Adrift in the Bay of Plenty, it's an otherworldly landscape of ruined sulphur mines and huge crater lakes spewing steam and ash. Then, in the evening, enjoy a Te Po cultural experience, taking in the New Zealand national carving and weaving schools, visiting the Kiwi House for a close encounter with New Zealand's famous flightless bird and exploring Rotorua's mud pools and geysers. The day ends with a Maori feast and a tour of the explosive Pohutu Geyser.
Stay: Regent of Rotorua (Superior) or Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel (Deluxe)
Day 13: Taupo
South-west of Rotorua is New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo, another natural beauty spot with picture-book volcanic cones on all sides. You'll arrive via the famous Thermal Explorer Highway. Walking by the lake is a gentle pleasure, though many people choose to see the lake from the air, on a scenic flight or even on a skydive – the town is New Zealand's skydive capital. Other attractions include world-class trout fishing and trips to see the raging Huka Falls along with the chance to walk between the many steaming vents at the otherworldly Craters of the Moon.
Stay: Anchorage Resort (Superior) or Acacia Cliffs Lodge (Deluxe)
Day 14: Hawke's Bay
The Hawke's Bay area is not only New ...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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