Northern Explorer Family Adventure
North Island Self Drive from Auckland to Auckland
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Northern Explorer Family Adventure

Explore Auckland City with a spectacular full day tour before heading north to the tropical Bay of Islands. Includes a swim with the dolphins (age restrictions apply) and a full day tour to Cape Reinga. Head south through the magnificent giant Kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest and onto the beaches of Matakana. Then the adventure capital of the North Island. A Maori concert and hangi dinner, a day trip to the Lord of the Rings site at Hobbiton plus much more. Explore the Waitomo Caves before heading back to Auckland City.

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Tour summary and feature

North Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,868 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Auckland

12 days/11 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 22 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Auckland city. Accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Day 2: Enjoy a Spectacular Auckland half day tour. Accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Day 3: Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the balmy Bay of Islands. Accommodation: Sea Spray Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

Day 4: Swim with the Dolphins and explore Bay of Islands. Accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Day 5: Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga day tour. Accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Day 6: Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast. Accommodation: Snells Beach Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 7: After passing through Auckland you'll reach the rich green Waikato countryside then the Rotorua lakes. Accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 287 kms / 178 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 8: Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides. Accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Day 9: Day tour to Hobbiton Village. Accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Day 10: Rotorua to Waitomo where you'll venture underground to explore the Waitomo Caves. Accommodation: Palm Court Motel Otorohanga
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 294 kms / 182 miles : 3.8 hours

Day 11: Follow the Waikato River north back to Auckland. Accommodation: CityLife Auckland
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 110 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 12: Depart Auckland today.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 12 day tour starting in Auckland

Day 1 - Welcome to Auckland city
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 1
Private transfer Auckland airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Auckland accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

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You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

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 take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Fullers Auckland Harbour Cruise

Escape the city centre and cruise the sparkling waters of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour and learn about the most well-known city landmarks. Sail under ...

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Escape the city centre and cruise the sparkling waters of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour and learn about the most well-known city landmarks. Sail under the Harbour Bridge and take in views of the Sky Tower, the city skyline, Rangitoto Island, North Head as well as the Bean Rock Lighthouse with a complimentary morning or afternoon tea.

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Your accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.
Day 2 - Enjoy a Spectacular Auckland half day tour
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 2
Auckland Morning Highlights Tour Including Sky Tower with GreatSights

Experience the best of Auckland's city highlights with a half-day scenic tour, followed by a trip up the famous Auckland Sky Tower.
Travel around the city centre and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge with its stunning views of the harbour and city skyline. Visit the Viaduct Harbour and Auckland's famous Queen Street, and enjoy the lush grounds of the Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park. Pause for morning tea in charming Parnell Village, a historic suburb which has been transformed into a unique boutique shopping experience. The tour continues along the waterfront to the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park, named after a much-respected Prime Ministers of New Zealand. With panoramic views of the harbour and beautiful formal gardens, it's a great spot to take photos. After a scenic trip back along Tamaki Drive to the city, arrive at Auckland's Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand at 328 metres high. Prepare yourself for breathtaking 360 degree views from the observation deck of this Auckland landmark. On a clear day you'll be able to gaze as far as 80 kilometres in all directions – it's the perfect way to get to know the city of Auckland and its surroundings.

Your accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.
Day 3 - Leave Auckland over the harbour bridge, then travel north to the balmy Bay of Islands
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 3
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 system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Auckland to Paihia, Bay of Islands

The trip from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands takes around 3.5 hours but give yourself some leeway for stops and sightseeing. As you go through Puhoi, take in the bohemian atmosphere of this historical township. Stop for a breath of fresh salty air in Whangarei and take another break at Kawakawa - home to the world famous Hundertwasser toilets. Enjoy the native bush surrounds and marvel at the endless golden beaches as you arrive into central Bay Of The Islands, Paihia.

Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 226 kms / 140 miles : 3.0 hours

Day 4 - Swim with the Dolphins and explore Bay of Islands
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 4
Dolphin Cruise to Hole in the Rock with Fullers GreatSights

Board your cruise and take in the stunning views as you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’. According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for dolphin viewing and the crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.

Explore the Bay of Islands

Commonly known as the ‘winterless north’ New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is made up of over 140 subtropical atolls. Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life and idyllic climate, this tropical paradise ticks all the boxes. Spend some time on a remote stretch of beach, or see the local dolphins on an ocean safari. If diving is your thing, take the morning to descend the Rainbow Warrior - The Greenpeace flagship sunk by French saboteurs in 1985. Wander around Russell, a whaling port founded in 1843. Learn about our culture in historic Waitangi, the site where The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the Maori and European settlers dictating the terms by which New Zealand would become a British colony. Take a travel day to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Waitangi Treaty Grounds Guided Tour and Cultural Performance

Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the local Maori and the British Governmen...

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Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the local Maori and the British Government. This two day pass allows you access to the Treaty of Waitangi Grounds and includes admission to the Te Kōngahu Museum and Te Rau Aroha Museum and a Maori Cultural performance. During your guided tour, you'll learn about the history of the treaty and discover the stories and events that shaped New Zealand. The cultural performance inside the carved meeting house includes waiata (singing), poi, a display of Maori weaponry and the haka - a war dance New Zealand is well known for.

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Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.
Day 5 - Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga day tour
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 5
Cape Reinga - Scenic Coach Tour via Ninety Mile Beach with Fullers GreatSights

As you travel north, enjoy a taste of New Zealand's varying and beautiful landscape: the rolling hills of Northland's rural countryside, breath-taking coastal views and native forest. Drive along the shores of Ninety Mile Beach as the waves crash beside the custom-built coach. Feel the sand between your toes as you help your driver guide dig for shellfish (conditions permitting). Your off-road journey continues up Te Paki Stream, stopping at the massive sand dunes where you can experience the thrills and spills of sand surfing. Visit the Puketi Kauri Forest and get up close to ancient and majestic giant kauri trees and native bush. Stroll along an elevated walkway as these graceful giants surround you, and learn about conservation efforts to preserve the forest today. Visit Cape Reinga and hear the stories of this significant site where, according to Māori legend, spirits depart on their journey home to Hawaiki. Enjoy spectacular panoramic views, visit the iconic lighthouse, and see the point where the Tasman Sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean come crashing together. During your Cape Reinga tour, you'll also experience another Kiwi icon: a lunch of delicious fish and chips at the historic Wagener Museum at Houhora. Your journey home will be equally enjoyable as your tour guide's combination of local insight, extensive historical knowledge and a fantastic sense of humour create an unforgettable adventure.

Your accommodation: Sea Spray Suites

Sea Spray Suites offers comfortable and relaxing accommodation close to Paihia’s best activities and attractions. Directly across the road is the beautiful Te Ti Beach, exploring Paihia’s beautiful waters and wildlife is only a short step away. If you are interested in experiencing New Zealand’s heritage, The Waitangi Treaty House is only 1km away.
Day 6 - Cross Northland following the aqua blue waters of the Hokianga before travelling down the Kauri Coast
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 6
Bay of Islands to Waipoua Forest to Matakana

Heading west from the Bay of Islands you leave the Pacific Ocean and soon and arrive into the Hokianga and the wilder seas of the Tasman.
The small townships of Omapere and Opononi have a great seaside feel and the perfect place to stop for an ice cream. The route now heads south and into the Waipoua Forest, home to the massive Kauri trees. Make sure you allow time to take a few short walks that are signposted as you pass through the region. Not to be missed is the 5 minute loop to view the largest of all the trees Tane Mahuta. 
Heading back across country the Matakohe Kauri Museum is an award winning museum and has extensive displays of the regions logging, farming and social history. Just a short drive from Warkworth towards the coast is the small township of Matakana and a little further you will find the often deserted beaches of the Tawharanui Marine Reserve.

Your accommodation: Snells Beach Motel

Snells Beach Motel is perfectly situated, on the Mahurangi East Peninsula, overlooking the beautiful Kawau Bay and in the heart of the wonderful Matakana Coast Wine Country area.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 7 - After passing through Auckland you'll reach the rich green Waikato countryside then the Rotorua lakes
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 7
Matakana to Rotorua

Continuing south through Auckland, State Highway 1 quickly takes you into rolling green farmland and the rich dairy pasture of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of great Auckland and its here you turn inland to central Waikato. This is hobbit country and the route takes you through the town of Matamata where you can still visit the film locations made famous in the Lord of the Rings trilogy at Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours.

Mitai Hula & Haka Cultural Experience

Enter the world of Mitai and learn about the history of this area which was once flourished in villages. See fierce warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-Whiro stream and the story of the migration of Tamatekapua of the Te Arawa canoe to Aotearoa and the Māori Pacifica connection told in dance form.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well-equipped units provide a comfortable stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 287 kms / 178 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 8 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 8
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 - Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo

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 beaut...

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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. Come face to face with, and learn more about, New Zealand’s precious wildlife. 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.

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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 - Agrodome Farm Show and Farm Tour Combo

Set on a 350-acre working sheep and cattle farm with 1200 sheep and 120 beef cattle, the Agrodome gives its visitors a hands-on, live farming experien...

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Set on a 350-acre working sheep and cattle farm with 1200 sheep and 120 beef cattle, the Agrodome gives its visitors a hands-on, live farming experience. The Farm Show stars a cast of talented animals – not just sheep! The remarkable farm dogs will amaze you, as they demonstrate their ability to respond to commands and keep those sheep (and ducks!) in line. Then pop across to the herding area to watch a free live dog trial after the show! Explore the farm and learn the history of New Zealand agriculture on custom designed farm trailers. Along the way, there are fascinating things to learn - and a few laughs too! You’ll get to hand-feed and take photos with all sorts of friendly animals, including Romney sheep, cattle, deer, llamas, ostrich, pigs and alpacas. Explore the fruit orchard and olive grove and have the chance to taste natural kiwifruit juice and delicious sweet honey that comes from the farm.

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Your accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well-equipped units provide a comfortable stay.
Day 9 - Day tour to Hobbiton Village
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 9
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour from Rotorua

Discover the real Middle-earth when you take this two hour guided tour of Hobbiton. Beginning with a drive through a picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm, you'll experience stunning views over the Kaimai Ranges. You'll then be escorted through the 12 acre movie set learning memorable anecdotes about the shooting of the films. Visit Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree, as well as learning how this piece of Waikato farmland was turned into the Shire.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Rotorua

Bella Vista Rotorua offers motel accommodation just 10 minutes walk from the city centre and close to the lake front. Modern well-equipped units provide a comfortable stay.
Day 10 - Rotorua to Waitomo where you'll venture underground to explore the Waitomo Caves
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 10
Rotorua to Waitomo via Taupo

Today you'll make your way through the volcanic valleys of Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waimangu before reaching the town of Taupo, located on New Zealand's largest lake - Lake Taupo. A little further north you'll come across the Huka Falls, well worth the short detour. Continuing on, you'll arrive in the trout fishing capital of New Zealand, Turangi, before passing through Tongariro National Park - known for its peaks. End your driving today by traversing the rich dairy pastures preceding the limestone region of Waitomo - your destination for the night.

Footwhistle Glowworm Cave Tour

Enjoy a courtesy scenic shuttle to the Footwhistle Glowworm Cave while your experienced guide reveals the rich history of Waitomo. Take a short walk through breath taking native bushland to the cave entrance. There, your guide lights the candles which sets the scene for an intimate cave experience. You will see glowworms and cave formations up close while you appreciate the beauty of Footwhistle Cave (also known to local Maori as Te Anaroa Cave).
The solar powered lights are kept low so you can appreciate the magnificent glow worm displays just centimetres away. Around a corner lie the bones of one of New Zealand's lost treasures, the ancient Moa.
After enjoying a relaxed stroll through the cave, take a seat in Footwhistle's Cathedral to see it lit up by a dazzling magnesium torch. Complete the tour by enjoying a complimentary Kawa tea whilst you relax in the punga hut surrounded by native forest.

Your accommodation: Palm Court Motel Otorohanga

Palm Court Motel is conveniently located 200 metres from cafes, restaurants, village shopping and the railway station. Stay just a few minutes drive to Waitomo Caves, Black-Water Rafting, Adventure Tours, Kiwi House and the golf course.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 294 kms / 182 miles : 3.8 hours

Day 11 - Follow the Waikato River north back to Auckland
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 11
Waitomo to Auckland City

The lush farmland of the Waikato and the limestone hills of the Waitomo region provide some great scenery as you head north. Visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House en route for a great look at some of New Zealand's native birds in particular our famous flightless namesake.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Fullers Ferry Auckland to Rangitoto Island return trip

A short 25-minute cruise through the Waitemata Harbour to the Hauraki Gulf delivers you to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto Island is the largest and young...

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A short 25-minute cruise through the Waitemata Harbour to the Hauraki Gulf delivers you to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto Island is the largest and youngest of the many volcanoes that make up the Auckland volcanic field. It erupted around 600 years ago, but is extinct now and safe to explore. During your cruise to and from the island enjoy fantastic views of Rangitoto Island and Auckland the 'City of Sails'. On reaching the island you can walk to the summit (1 hour direct) for great views of the Hauraki Gulf and over Waitemata Harbour looking back towards Auckland. There are a number of walking trails to explore this volcanic island, further information can be found at the Department of Conservation website.

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Your accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Admirably positioned in the hub of the city's business, retail and entertainment district, the City Life Hotel is perfect to explore Auckland. Their self-contained suites are equipped with everything you will need to enjoy your stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 178 kms / 110 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 12 - Depart Auckland today
Northern Explorer Family Adventure - Day 12
Depart Auckland today

Explore more of vibrant Auckland city before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 hours

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