Overview

Leaving Auckland, the City of Sails, on a 9 Day North Island Highlights Self Drive with Northern Explorer Train. Discover the North Island’s top visitor cities like Rotorua and its thermal attractions, Napier with its well-preserved Art Deco architecture, and Wellington City, the world’s coolest little capital. Take the Northern Explorer scenic train on returning to Auckland. You will have plenty of time to experience the regions by yourself on this great value tour.

Itineraries

All itineraries can be amended or combined with other itineraries. Flights can be included from Australia if required. Please advise amendments when requesting a quote.

"Would like to thank you for arranging our Trip to the North Island. It was wonderful but actually we felt that it could have been a little longer!!!"

- Pornrapee A.

Auckland - Rotorua - Napier - Wellington - Auckland

Map of 9 Day North Island Highlights Self Drive with Northern Explorer Train
View itinerary for day 1
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View itinerary for day 9
Arrive Auckland
Explore Auckland City
Auckland to Rotorua
Explore Rotorua
Rotorua to Napier
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay
Napier to Wellington City via Masterton
The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland
Leave Auckland

Day 1

Arrive Auckland

Day 2

Explore Auckland City

Day 3

Auckland to Rotorua

Travel Time: 2 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 220 kms

Day 4

Explore Rotorua

Day 5

Rotorua to Napier

Travel Time: 2 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 210 kms

Day 6

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

Day 7

Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

Travel Time: 4 hrs 15 mins

Distance: 322 kms

Day 8

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

Day 9

Leave Auckland

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland City

Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

Suggested Activity: Auckland Jet Boat Tour

Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture, humming with life. Take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.

Walk to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and lose yourself in one of the 800 regional national parks on offer or grab a book and relax on a deserted beach. Head up the Sky Tower, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) and have a meal in the 360 degree revolving restaurant. Scale the outermost perimeter of the Harbour Bridge - or test your stomach and bungy off both. To end your day, catch a cab to Ponsonby Road and sample some upmarket culinary delights.

Suggested Activity: Americas Cup Yacht Sailing

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton Film Set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

 

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.

Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.

Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.

Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of 222,000 litres of water spilling down the narrow 11 metre drop.

For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twilight Odyssey Progressive Wine and Dinner Tour

With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. For the truly enthused, ride along on a Grape Escape winery tour to make the most of the local yield. Those into architecture can hop aboard a 1930’s car and take in the city’s prominent Art Deco landmarks. Hire a bike and cycle the trails or grab your sunscreen and head down to one of the golden sandy beaches that form the larger Hawke's Bay. Try a diverse range of produce and take an orchard, cheese, honey, or chocolate tour. End on a high with a tractor ride to view the largest mainland gannet colony in the world, located at Cape Kidnappers.

Suggested Activities:

  • Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour
  • Gannet Safaris

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.

Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

The Overlander is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Wellington - New Zealand's arts and culture capital and Auckland - New Zealand's largest city. 

Private transfer Auckland train station to hotel

A private transfer will meet you from your train and drive you to your Auckland accommodation.

You will be collected from your Auckland hotel and transferred to the airport to meet your departing flight.

Day 1, Arrive Auckland

Arrive Auckland

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland City

Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

Suggested Activity: Auckland Jet Boat Tour

Day 2, Explore Auckland City

Explore Auckland City

Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture, humming with life. Take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.

Walk to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and lose yourself in one of the 800 regional national parks on offer or grab a book and relax on a deserted beach. Head up the Sky Tower, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) and have a meal in the 360 degree revolving restaurant. Scale the outermost perimeter of the Harbour Bridge - or test your stomach and bungy off both. To end your day, catch a cab to Ponsonby Road and sample some upmarket culinary delights.

Suggested Activity: Americas Cup Yacht Sailing

Day 3, Auckland to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua

Travel Time: 2 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 220 kms

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton Film Set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

 

Day 4, Explore Rotorua

Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.

Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.

Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

Day 5, Rotorua to Napier

Rotorua to Napier

Travel Time: 2 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 210 kms

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.

Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of 222,000 litres of water spilling down the narrow 11 metre drop.

For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twilight Odyssey Progressive Wine and Dinner Tour

Day 6, Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

With is mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. For the truly enthused, ride along on a Grape Escape winery tour to make the most of the local yield. Those into architecture can hop aboard a 1930’s car and take in the city’s prominent Art Deco landmarks. Hire a bike and cycle the trails or grab your sunscreen and head down to one of the golden sandy beaches that form the larger Hawke's Bay. Try a diverse range of produce and take an orchard, cheese, honey, or chocolate tour. End on a high with a tractor ride to view the largest mainland gannet colony in the world, located at Cape Kidnappers.

Suggested Activities:

  • Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour
  • Gannet Safaris

Day 7, Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

Travel Time: 4 hrs 15 mins

Distance: 322 kms

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.

Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

Day 8, The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

The Overlander is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Wellington - New Zealand's arts and culture capital and Auckland - New Zealand's largest city. 

Private transfer Auckland train station to hotel

A private transfer will meet you from your train and drive you to your Auckland accommodation.

Day 9, Leave Auckland

Leave Auckland

You will be collected from your Auckland hotel and transferred to the airport to meet your departing flight.

Additional Information

Pricing

Cost per Person

 Twin/Double
4-Star Accommodation from NZ$2,643 per person

* PLEASE NOTE

Price is based on two adults sharing a rental car and accommodation (twin/double-share).

Prices are estimates only, and are subject to availability and exchange rates when booking, seasonal or holiday price surcharges (such as Christmas/New Year and Easter); as well as special events that may be on. Please forward a request and we will be happy to forward a quote.

Payment

  • Deposit: 20% of the package cost or NZ$250 per person (whichever is the greater) at time of booking
  • Full Payment: 45 Days before travel
  • Airfares (if applicable): Paid in full at the time of booking

Cancellation Charges

  • Cancellation Fees up to 100% can apply after booking. Extra deposits or full payment may be requested to cover these charges prior to booking
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Includes

Includes:

 8 nights accommodation

  • 2 Nights Auckland
  • 2 Nights Rotorua
  • 2 Nights Napier
  • 1 Night Wellington
  • 1 Night Auckland

6 days rental car hire

  • Rental car insurance: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible.
  • Rental car: GPS navigation unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

Private train station transfers

Private airport transfers

Northern Explorer Scenic Train from Wellington to Auckland

Mitai Maori Village Concert & Buffet Dinner

All breakfasts (4-star accommodation only)

Options

Travel Insurance

If you are going overseas, then travel insurance is a necssity. Compare rates and polices online and get a free travel insurance quote.

Accommodation

There is a choice of accommodation available on all packages, which depending on locations, includes motels, 3 star hotels, 4 star hotels, boutique lodges & hotels and luxury lodges and hotels. We are happy to quote on alternate accommodation requests.

Airfares

International flights can be included from Australia for all Australian resident

Optional Extras

Auckland Jet Boat Tour, Auckland

Enjoy a ride on Auckland’s only Twin V8 Boat on the Waitemata Harbour seeing many of Auckland’s iconic landmarks including the Sky Tower, Harbour Bridge, Chelsea Sugar Works, Rangitoto Island & Hauraki Gulf.

Once leaving Auckland Viaduct the pace changes rapidly. Your experienced Jet Boat Skipper will whisk you into the Hauraki Gulf for views of historic Devonport and North Head. Be sure to take advantage of some local information and photo opportunities as you cross to the other side of the Harbour. Prepare yourself to race past Bean Rock towards the Rangitoto Volcano with a few spins and high-powered stops around Okahu Bay on the way.

The ride lasts approximately 30 minutes. When time is limited, what better way to experience Auckland, better known as the city of sails, than from the water in an action packed adventure.

Americas Cup Yacht Sailing, Auckland

The America's Cup is the ultimate yachting regatta - and the world's oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy. Usually reserved for billionaires and professional yachties, you now have the opportunity to partake in this elite sport. During your two hour sailing adventure you’ll become part of the crew. Either take the helm, try your arm strength on the grinders or simply sit back and enjoy the action as you tack and gybe your way across the harbour. No experience is required for this trip, however children under 10 years are not recommended.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Rotorua

Become immersed in The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata - in the heart the lush Waikato farming region, your two hour tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films.

Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter, Rotorua

At Rainbow Springs you’ll have the chance to see some of New Zealand’s native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand’s living dinosaur can also be seen here.

Go behind the scenes with New Zealand’s national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.

Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees.

In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it.

Polynesian Spa Thermal Mud Polish & Aix Spa Massage, Rotorua

Rotorua's Polynesian Spa offers a unique thermal spa experience on the shore of Lake Rotorua. Voted a World Top Ten Spa (medical and thermal spas) by readers of the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller magazine 2004-2007, this is the ultimate in relaxation and regeneration. Begin your spa treatment with a pre-therapy soak in the deluxe lake spa. Enjoy tranquil bathing and lake views in four shallow alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures (36˚C to 42˚C). Here you are surrounded by revitalising native New Zealand flora, natural rocks, the sound of two waterfalls and a grotto. The pools are filled with soothing alkaline mineral water leaving your skin soft and supple. You will then be treated to the popular 'mud massage' a signature service of Polynesian Spa. Your therapist will exfoliate your body with the unique Rotorua mud polish to remove dry skin. You'll then rinse off the polish under a warm shower followed by a massage using organic coconut oil while the water is running, leaving your skin feeling soft and hydrated and your body relaxed. You can then return to the deluxe lake spa for a post treatment soak.

Twilight Odyssey Progressive Wine and Dinner Tour

Take a scenic drive through the wine growing district, participate in an interactive wine tasting at Sileni Estate or Vidal Estate, indulge in gourmet platters with top local produce, champagne sunset on Te Mata Peak (sunset in summer & overlooking the glimmering lights of the twin cities in winter), main meal at Vidal Estate, Sileni Estate or Craggy Range wineries, visit New Zealand's oldest winery, the Mission Estate, for dessert and coffee, finish with being dropped off at a location of your choice - perhaps some of Napier's top waterfront nightspots. A night full of entertainment and fun.
The Twilight Odyssey Tour starts at approximately 5:30pm and continues to approximately 11:30pm and includes Sightseeing of the region with Fully Guided Commentary, Progressive Three Course Meal at NZs Top Winery Restaurant, Wine Tasting, Champagne, Wine with Dinner, Dessert Wine, Tea & Coffee.

Gannet Safaris

Drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga and join Gannet Safaris Overland and the world’s largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Gannet Safaris has been guiding visitors over Cape Kidnappers for over 35 years and their safaris are the only way to be driven right to within a few feet of these remarkable birds. You will travel in comfort in air conditioned 4 x 4 wheeled vehicles, through Cape Kidnappers Station - traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, through stands of native bush, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke Bay right across to Mahia peninsular. The 36km, three hour trip includes a commentary by your tour guide / driver on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. On arrival at the gannets you can stretch your legs and take in the scenery from your position at the brink of the cliffs edge - 100 metres above the ocean. Here your driver / guide will serve you refreshments whilst you enjoy watching the gannets perform around you.

Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

The Grape Escape Half day wine tour visits some of the Hawke's Bay's famous wineries and is designed for casual imbibers and wine aficionados. Meet like- minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantastic wines. Taste great wines made with passion and learn of the areas unique growing conditions. Take home great tasting wines and memories. Visit 4 – 5 local wineries and taste Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Also try some of New Zealand's finest cheeses matched with wine. Walk amongst the vines and learn about Terroir.

Highlights

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train Auckland to Wellington

The Northern Explorer is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Auckland - New Zealand's largest city, to Wellington - New Zealand's arts and culture capital. Along the way you pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from panoramic windows or open air viewing decks allowing you the best possible views. All carriages feature large panoramic windows giving sweeping views of the magnificent North Island. The Observation Carriage includes a mix of seating including lounge style seating. The lounge style seating is arranged at the very rear of this glass backed carriage enabling you to enjoy a totally unique Northern Explore experience.

Mitai Maori Village Maori cultural show and dinner, Rotorua

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. See warriors in traditional dress and glowworms in their natural habitat. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance that tells the story of the Maori people, their past, carvings, and ta Moko -Tattoo art. Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat and be amazed by the spine tingling Haka finale. Truly an experience to remember.

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9 Day North Island Highlights Self Drive with Northern Explorer Train

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