This is a self-drive with a difference, off the beaten tracks deep into the wildest, most spectacular landscapes in New Zealand. An itinerary combining the best of road drives and days spent at a slower pace on hiking trails is perhaps the most perfect way to make the most of a country with so much natural beauty. All the driving routes have been carefully selected to take in the best views, and the hiking trails, likewise, lead visitors right into the country’s outstanding natural beauty. Walking through these spectacular landscapes is the most rewarding way of experiencing them, of being at one with them. The trails wind through varied terrain, from coastlines to rainforests, volcanic valleys and glaciers, all different, all glorious.
Days 1-2: Depart UK
After your included airport lounge access, board your flight for New Zealand and dream of all the walking and driving ahead of you.
Day 3: Arrive Auckland
Transfer to your hotel, which is just a short walk away from Viaduct Harbour, lined with bars, cafes and superyachts.
Day 4: Coromandel Peninsula
Approximate driving time 3 hours, 170 km
Once you’ve picked up your hire car you’re free to hit the road and explore the fascinating West Coast on your way to Coromandel. It’s a gorgeous destination, but there’s so much to see on the way, not least the gannet colony at Muriwai. The black sand beaches are hard to resist, as are the vineyards and cafes in the west. Head southeast and the landscape becomes subtropical as you reach the Coromandel Peninsula, a place of dreamy forests, white sand beaches and secluded coves. Coromandel town is just as appealing, full of gold mining history and set on a natural harbour.
Stay: Anchor Lodge (Superior)
Day 5: Coromandel Peninsula
Coromandel Coastal Walkway, grade 2, pre-booked walk
You’ll be picked up from your hotel and taken to the starting point of the track on the northern tip of the peninsula. Fletcher Bay is a charming starting point for what is one of the best coastal walks in the country, traversing farmland and native bush, and offering sweeping views over the ocean and islands. Choose a sweet bay for a refreshing swim before your pick up at the end of the walk.
Stay: Anchor Lodge (Superior)
Day 6: Whangamata
Approximate driving time 2 hours, 110 km / Wentworth Falls Track, grade 2, 2.5
Enjoy driving across the Coromandel Peninsula, lined with so many beaches to choose from if you fancy stopping for a swim or a stroll. If its low tide at Hot Water Beach you could dig your own thermal pool – the water really is piping hot. The walk between Hahei Beach and Cathedral Cove is short with especially sweet views – the great arched cove never fails to impress. Then, continue driving along the East Coast, with stops at long and lovely Opoutere Beach, over five km of white sand stretching along gentle surf. There’s a breeding ground for rare native sea birds at the southern end, well worth a visit. Back in the car, wind your way to Wentworth Valley near Whangamata, where there are a variety of walks between one and six hours to chose from, with the loop to the waterfalls the most popular. Be sure to save some time to enjoy your extremely charming B&B for the night.
Stay: Copsefield B&B (Standard)
Day 7: Rotorua
Approximate driving time 3.5 hours, 175 km
Drive along the East Coast, savouring the sights. The route will take you through Te Puke, which is the centre of Kiwi fruit farming – the visitor centre will tell you all you need to know about the national fruit. Back in the car, continue to Rotorua, part of New Zealand’s Volcanic Zone and hectic with geysers and bubbling mud pools, vividly coloured pools, hot water pools… and hot waterfalls. The region is also rich in Maori culture, with plenty of opportunities to learn more about their traditional way of life. It’s all a photographer’s paradise, and one of your hosts at the boutique and rather beautiful B&B here is a professional photographer happy to share tips on the best photographic locations in the area.
Stay: 124 On Brunswick B&B (Standard)
Day 8: Rotorua/Te Urewera National Park
Whirinaki Waterfall Track, grade 2, 3-4 hours
Whirinaki Forest is perhaps New Zealand’s most beautiful, with a mystical feel, clear rivers and ancient trees that reach staggering heights. Today’s walk takes you through this enchanted place, one of the world’s last prehistoric rainforests, dense with native trees including kahikatea, totara, miro and tawa. Look out for birds flitting among the broad branches, this conservation area is renown for rare breeds.
Stay: 124 On Brunswick B&B (Superior)
Day 9: Tongariro National Park
Approximate driving time 4 hours, 220 km
There are two stunning stops on the drive between Rotorua and Tongariro National Park. It’s hard to chose between them, but either one will delight. The Sacred Waters of Wai-O-Tapu are famous for their almost psychedelic pools and surreal volcanic surroundings. Waimangu Volcanic Valley is spectacular too, one of the world’s youngest geothermal systems, with a steaming landscape, silica terraces and pristine lakes including Rotomahana (the North Island’s deepest), Frying Pan Lake (one of the world’s largest hot pools). Tongariro National Park on the volcanic plateau, is a fitting final destination today, itself full of dramatic scenery, not least fabulous views of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in the film of the Lord of the Rings), and Mt Ruapeho. You'll stay at the foot of Ruapeho for the next two nights.
Stay: Ruapehu Country Lodge B&B (Superior)
Day 10: Tongariro National Park
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, grade 4, (7-9 hours), or Sunrise Walk, grade 2, (2 hours pre-booked walk)
The guided Sunris...
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