North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer
Auckland to Auckland
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer

Explore the North Island's major visitor cities from Auckland, City of Sails, to Rotorua, the art deco city of Napier and the coolest little capital in the world, Wellington City. Return to Auckland on board the Northern Explorer scenic train. A great value tour with plenty of time to self explore the regions.

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Quick Itinerary Details

North Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,497 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Auckland

9 days/8 nights

Hotel 4 star

 Rental car included

 Viewed 101 times in the last 7 days

Tour Inclusions

- Private Transfer Auckland accommodation to Auckland Airport
- Private transfer Wellington hotel to train station (IST)
- Private Transfer Auckland Train Station to Auckland accommodation
- Private Transfer Auckland Airport to Auckland accommodation
Meals included: 8 breakfasts, 1 dinner
Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Auckland City
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Day 2: Explore the 'City of Sails' or take a day trip to idyllic Waiheke Island
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Day 3: Drive south through the fertile farmland of the Waikato to Rotorua, this evening enjoy a vibrant Maori Culture experience
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 4: Your day in Rotorua could be spent exploring the geothermal wonder or thrilling adventure rides
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Day 5: First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke's Bay
Accommodation: Art Deco Masonic Hotel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Day 6: Discover the Art Deco architecture, vineyards and gannets of the Hawkes Bay
Accommodation: Art Deco Masonic Hotel

Day 7: Travel through the Wairarapa wine country and over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington
Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 8: Take the scenic Northern Explorer train journey back to Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Day 9: Depart Auckland today

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 9 day tour starting in Auckland

Day 1 - Welcome to Auckland City
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 1
Private Transfer Auckland Airport to Auckland Accommodation

You will be met at the Auckland airport by the driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

Welcome to Auckland

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 get out onto the water to experience the best views of the city.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!
Day 2 - Explore the 'City of Sails' or take a day trip to idyllic Waiheke Island
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 2
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation

Navigating New Zealand can be done easily in two ways. If you have a smartphone, you will be able to connect it to the USB of your rental car and your maps and other apps will display on the screen in the centre console of your vehicle, with the sound coming through the car speakers.
If you don't have a smartphone, chat to us to ensure we book you a car with a portable GPS system. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

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. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour, try your hand at sailing an America’s Cup yacht or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.
Walk (if you're that way inclined) 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 - America's Cup Sailing Experience with Explore

Participate as crew on an authentic America's Cup yacht. Take the helm, exert energy on the grinders or sit back and enjoy the action and scenery as y...

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Participate as crew on an authentic America's Cup yacht. Take the helm, exert energy on the grinders or sit back and enjoy the action and scenery as you sail the beautiful Waitemata Harbour. Experience the excitement of sailing, no experience necessary. Feel the thrill of the wind in your face as you tack and jibe. These powerful and highly engineered race vessels are usually the domain of billionaires and elite professional yachties but this unique two-hour sailing experience offers everyone the opportunity to sail these Grand Prix racing machines. America's Cup is the world's oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy and ultimate yachting regatta. Experience it first hand sailing these remarkable vessels on the harbour that hosted the America's Cup in 2000 and 2003.

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Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3 - Drive south through the fertile farmland of the Waikato to Rotorua, this evening enjoy a vibrant Maori Culture experience
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 3
Auckland to Rotorua

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.

Te Pā Tū Evening Maori Cultural Experience

New Zealand’s Most Awarded Cultural Attraction, Tamaki Māori Village presents TE PĀ TŪ. Feast on song, drama, tradition, and divine seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pā (village) blanketed by towering Tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheatre. Te Pā Tū shares Māori history, traditions, and cultural aspirations across 4-hours of celebration and feasting. These events change with each season of the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar. 

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 4 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent exploring the geothermal wonder or thrilling adventure rides
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 4
Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. Geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to one of the Maori Villages should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Spike your adrenaline at Velocity Valley Adventure Park on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Alternatively, head up the Rotorua Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.
Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - National Kiwi Hatchery Tour

The National Kiwi Hatchery Tour is a special opportunity to gain insight into and view this highly regarded conservation centre. Developed with the vi...

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The National Kiwi Hatchery Tour is a special opportunity to gain insight into and view this highly regarded conservation centre. Developed with the visitor experience in mind, the hatchery boasts special viewing opportunities and is hosted by kiwi expert guides who ensure guests leave fully informed and all questions answered. Learn all about New Zealand’s intriguing national icon and the efforts of the kiwi husbandry team, see and discover what it takes to hatch and rare chicks, and if you’re lucky see baby chicks in person!

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, t...

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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. 

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Polynesian Spa Lake View Private Pool

The geothermal mineral waters of the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua are sought after the world over as one of the top 10 spas in the world. Indulge your ne...

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The geothermal mineral waters of the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua are sought after the world over as one of the top 10 spas in the world. Indulge your need for a little luxury and enjoy some time in a Private Deluxe Pool, with stunning 360 degree views over Lake Rotorua, you will be left in peace to soak your cares away. Available for blocks of 30 minute hire with a minimum of two adults, this is the perfect activity to enjoy a relaxing afternoon with your partner.

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Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5 - First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke's Bay
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 5
Rotorua to Napier

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 hundreds of cubic metres of water spilling every second 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 Progressive Dinner Tour

Join an extraordinary 3 course progressive dinner that transports you in luxury comfort from one winery restaurant to the next, enjoying wonderful foo...

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Join an extraordinary 3 course progressive dinner that transports you in luxury comfort from one winery restaurant to the next, enjoying wonderful food and sampling wine to accompany it. Add to this the stunning sunset or evening views from the summit of Te Mata Peak and a wonderful, memorable evening awaits.

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Your accommodation: Art Deco Masonic Hotel

The Art Deco Masonic Hotel occupies a significant historic building on Napier’s waterfront and has been richly refurbished in keeping with the Art Deco architecture. With its central location and decadent décor, this is the best place to experience what Napier is famous for.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Day 6 - Discover the Art Deco architecture, vineyards and gannets of the Hawkes Bay
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 6
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. A trip to Mission Estate touted as the birthplace of NZ wine can't be missed. For the truly enthused head out on a tour of the vines. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city's architecture including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world. If you're after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. End on a high with another ride, this time in a comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony - the largest of its kind in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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 ...

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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!

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

This wine tasting tour is designed for casual imbibers and wine aficionados. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantas...

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This wine tasting tour 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 outstanding wines and wonderful memories. Join a fun filled wine tasting afternoon in the sun driving through absolutely stunning scenery. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of this region's fantastic wine. Visit four to five wineries and enjoy a cheese platter on the grounds of the Ngatarawa Vineyard beside the lily pond.

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Your accommodation: Art Deco Masonic Hotel

The Art Deco Masonic Hotel occupies a significant historic building on Napier’s waterfront and has been richly refurbished in keeping with the Art Deco architecture. With its central location and decadent décor, this is the best place to experience what Napier is famous for.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7 - Travel through the Wairarapa wine country and over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 7
Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour

Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success a...

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Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley, just 10 minutes from the central city.
Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost. Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley, so your chances of seeing one are high!

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Your accommodation: Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay

Located on Wellington's premier Oriental Parade, overlooking the stunning Wellington Harbour, Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay is the perfect base to explore the city. Just 10 minutes away are the city's shopping and entertainment centre. Te Papa Museum, Live Theatre in Courtney Place, and many of the city's finest restaurants and bars are also close by.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 8 - Take the scenic Northern Explorer train journey back to Auckland
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 8
Private transfer to Wellington train station

You will be collected from your hotel and transferred to Wellington train station to meet your train.

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train: Wellington to Auckland

The Northern Explorer 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. 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 Explorer experience.

Private Transfer Auckland Train Station to Auckland accommodation

You will be met at the Auckland Train Station and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9 - Depart Auckland today
North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer - Day 9
Private Transfer Auckland Accommodation to Auckland Airport

You will be met at your Auckland accommodation by the driver and transferred to the airport.

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North Island 9 day Highlights with Northern Explorer

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Remember - we can create this itinerary with any style of accommodation or customise to suit your interests and timeframe. Just contact us here.

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