Overview

A great value tour that gives you plenty of time to discover the regions at your own pace, this 11 Day North Island Highlights Self Drive itinerary allows you to experience the major visitor centres of North Island of New Zealand. Go on a day trip to the stunning Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland from where you will travel south to the art deco city of Napier passing through Rotorua.

Carry on further south and spend a night in the charming wine-growing town of Martinborough before rounding it out in New Zealand’s vibrant capital for two nights. Leaving Wellington, the Northern Explorer train will take you back to Auckland through the extraordinary range of scenery of central North Island.

 

Auckland - Rotorua - Napier - Martinborough - Wellington - Auckland

Map of 11 Day North Island Highlights Self Drive
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View itinerary for day 11
Arrive in Auckland
Explore Auckland
Auckland to Rotorua
Explore Rotorua
Rotorua to Napier
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay
Napier to Martinborough
Martinborough to Wellington City
Explore Wellington
Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland
Depart Auckland

Day 1

Arrive in Auckland

Day 2

Explore Auckland

Day 3

Auckland to Rotorua

Travel Time: 2 hrs 35 mins

Distance: 220 kms

Day 4

Explore Rotorua

Day 5

Rotorua to Napier

Travel Time: 2 hrs 25 mins

Distance: 210 kms

Day 6

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

Day 7

Napier to Martinborough

Travel Time: 3 hrs 20 mins

Distance: 271 kms

Day 8

Martinborough to Wellington City

Travel Time: 1 hr

Distance: 73 kms

Day 9

Explore Wellington

Day 10

Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

Day 11

Depart 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.

Stay 2 nights in Auckland

Collect your rental car 
 

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. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Great Tastes Half day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Stay 2 nights in 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mitai Maori Village

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. 

Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE.

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

Stay 2 nights in Napier

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. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Gannet Safaris

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

As you leave the rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay you'll be greeted with some of the country's richest dairy farmland in the Manawatu Gorge. Continue on through the Wairarapa region. As you drive south, a visit to historic Greytown is a must do. Take in the the restored Victorian buildings and make time for a cup of tea at one of its quaint cafes. Leaving state highway 2 you will cross over the Ruamahanga River into Martinborough wine country - your destination for the day.  

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour

Stay 1 night in Martinborough

Today you will cross the Rimutaka Ranges as you make your way to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Often compared to Melbourne, Wellington is vibrant cultural hub. At one kilometre squared, the city centre (easily traversed on foot) has an international feel and is peppered with underground art shows, alleyway cafes and New York style delis.

Stay 2 nights Wellington

Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.

For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour

The Northern Explorer Train 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. 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.

Stay overnight in Auckland

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

Day 1, Arrive in Auckland

Arrive in 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.

Stay 2 nights in Auckland

Day 2, Explore Auckland

Explore Auckland
Collect your rental car 
 

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. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Great Tastes Half day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

Day 3, Auckland to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua

Travel Time: 2 hrs 35 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Stay 2 nights in 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Forest Canopy Tours

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mitai Maori Village

Day 5, Rotorua to Napier

Rotorua to Napier

Travel Time: 2 hrs 25 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. 

Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE.

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

Stay 2 nights in Napier

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. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Gannet Safaris

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

Day 7, Napier to Martinborough

Napier to Martinborough

Travel Time: 3 hrs 20 mins

Distance: 271 kms

As you leave the rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay you'll be greeted with some of the country's richest dairy farmland in the Manawatu Gorge. Continue on through the Wairarapa region. As you drive south, a visit to historic Greytown is a must do. Take in the the restored Victorian buildings and make time for a cup of tea at one of its quaint cafes. Leaving state highway 2 you will cross over the Ruamahanga River into Martinborough wine country - your destination for the day.  

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour

Stay 1 night in Martinborough

Day 8, Martinborough to Wellington City

Martinborough to Wellington City

Travel Time: 1 hr

Distance: 73 kms

Today you will cross the Rimutaka Ranges as you make your way to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Often compared to Melbourne, Wellington is vibrant cultural hub. At one kilometre squared, the city centre (easily traversed on foot) has an international feel and is peppered with underground art shows, alleyway cafes and New York style delis.

Stay 2 nights Wellington

Day 9, Explore Wellington

Explore Wellington

Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.

For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary Night Tour

Day 10, Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

Northern Explorer Scenic Train Wellington to Auckland

The Northern Explorer Train 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. 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.

Stay overnight in Auckland

Day 11, Depart Auckland

Depart 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
Motel Accommodation from NZ$2,653 per person

* PLEASE NOTE*

Price is per person and based on two adults travelling together and sharing a rental car and accommodation.

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:

10 nights accommodation

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

Car hire

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

Private airport transfers

Private train station transfers

Northern Explorer Scenic Train from Wellington to Auckland

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.

Itineraries

All itineraries can be amended or combined with other itineraries. Please advise amendments when requesting a 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 residents.

Optional Extras

Explore Auckland

Great Tastes Half day Kumeu Wine Country Tour with Lunch

Leave the city and heading northwest to Kumeu Wine Country, Auckland's Heritage Wine Region. Enjoy lunch at a contemporary vineyard, sample world-renowned wines and marvel at the rugged surf-fringed coastline nearby. Your first stop is award-winning Soljans Estate Winery. Utilising both traditional and modern techniques, Soljans produce varied and richly flavoured wines. Built with sunshine in mind and a distinct Mediterranean-style, the onsite restaurant showcases fresh seasonal produce from around the region.

Harbour Bridge Climb

The only bridge climb in New Zealand, this spectacular AJ Hackett walking tour is the ultimate way to experience the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Custom engineered walkways provide a safe and enjoyable experience - meaning this activity is suitable for all ages. As you're guided along the curving archways you'll be greeted with a 360 degree, panoramic view of the sparkling Waitemata harbour. See the best of the city from above and learn all about the secrets of the bridge!

Half Day Wine Tour, Martinborough

Visit wonderful vineyards such as Te Kairangi Wines, Tirohana Estate, Cabbage Tree Vineyard and Martinborough Vineyard on this half day tour of the premium wine region of Martinborough. Taste the wines, learn about the development of the region, its people and characters from knowledgeable guides.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Matamata

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.

Explore Napier

Gannet Safari

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.

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 and 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.

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.

Explore Rotorua

Mitai Maori Village

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and see warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. 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.

Rainbow Springs and Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter

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.

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.

Highlights

Northern Explorer Scenic Train from Wellington to Auckland

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.

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11 Day North Island Highlights Self Drive

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