Discover the unique landscapes, cuisines and cultures of New Zealand’s North Island
- Travel at your own pace with car hire included throughout
- Enjoy a twilight tour of ancient Waipoua Forest
- Spot dolphins in the Bay of Islands
- Tuck into the North Island's Maori traditions with a Te Po cultural feast
- Choose our deluxe option for stays at some of New Zealand’s finest boutique hotels
- 2 Nights Waiheke Island
- 1 Night Hokianga Harbour
- 2 Nights Bay Of Islands
- 1 Night Auckland
- 2 Nights Whitianga
- 2 Nights Rotorua
- 1 Night Taupo
- 1 Night Hawke's Bay
- 1 Night Wellington
Beach | Best of holidays | Food & wine | Natural world | Relaxation | Self-drive
This tailor-made self-drive has been designed to showcase the best of New Zealand's North Island. Driving distances are short, giving you ample time to take in the ever-changing scenery, from the cobalt blues and tropical greens of the stunning Bay of Islands to the multi-coloured pools of thermal Rotorua and the deep plummy reds of the Hawke's Bay vineyards. While time has been left for independent exploration – half the fun of a self-drive holiday – our New Zealand specialists have chosen a few of their favourite excursions and built them into the itinerary. Any aspect of the itinerary can be tailored to your interests. If, for example, you've longer to spend, ending in Wellington leaves you perfectly poised to cross the Cook Strait into New Zealand's sensational South Island.
Day by day itinerary
Arrive in Auckland where you'll be met and transferred to the city's ferry terminal for the short journey to Waiheke Island, the second-largest island in New Zealand's stunning Hauraki Gulf. With its beautiful beaches, forests, vineyards and olive groves, Waiheke is a wonderful introduction to laid-back North Island life, with winery tours, nature walks, bird watching, fishing, sailing and kayaking all on offer. What's more, if you choose our deluxe option, you'll stay in a delightful boutique hotel, overlooking the white sands of Oneroa.
Stay: Onetangi Beach Apartments (Superior) or The Boatshed (Deluxe)
Leave Waiheke Island this morning as you board a ferry back to Auckland to begin your drive through the North Island, heading first to the settlement of Waipoua. Situated on the west coast of Northland, Waipoua is home to some of New Zealand's largest kauri trees. Thought to be around 2,000 years old, the largest of these forest giants measure some 50 metres tall and 14 metres wide. In the evening you'll join a local guide for a twilight tour, visiting the oldest and largest known kauri trees on earth – Te Matua Ngahere (the Father of the Forest) and Tane Mahuta (the Lord of the Forest). You'll also learn about the significance of these trees to the Maori people and, with luck, encounter some nocturnal wildlife along the way.
Stay: The Heads Hokianga (Superior and Deluxe)
Bay of Islands
Driving northwest, you'll reach the sandy beaches and calm waters of Opua in the subtropical Bay of Islands. This group of 144 islands is found just off the east coast of New Zealand's northern stretches, where swimming, sailing and dolphin encounters are enjoyed year-round. There's history here, too, with the colonisation of New Zealand officially recognised in 1840 at the Waitangi Treaty House. The following day you'll be treated to a wildlife cruise through the ultra-scenic Bay of Islands, keeping your eyes out for dolphins and whales. You'll even pause at the majestic Hole in the Rock. If you travel between October and March, there's the option to upgrade to a Dolphin Eco Experience, which gives you the opportunity to swim with a dolphins in their natural environment.
Stay: Seaspray Suites (Superior) or The Sanctuary @ Bay of Islands (Deluxe)
Depart your hotel and return to Auckland. Here, you'll have a chance to explore the North Island's main city's many attractions – there's the famous Sky Tower, well-heeled Viaduct Harbour and a range of charming neighbourhoods such as Ponsonby, rich with cafés, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.
Stay: Heritage Auckland (Superior) or Fable Auckland (Deluxe)
Skirt the Hauraki Gulf around the Firth of Thames and through the Coromandel Forest Park to arrive at Whitianga on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. Highlights here include Cathedral Cove, named after the impressive arch of rock that spans the sandy beach, and Hot Water Beach, which gets its name from the hot spring water that bubbles beneath the sand. Bring a spade and you can dig yourself a hole to create your own heated beach bath.
Stay: Beachfront Resort, Whitianga (Superior) or 970 Lonely Bay (Deluxe)
Continue to Rotorua, home to two of New Zealand's geothermal gems – Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, with its Lady Knox Geyser and effervescent multi-coloured pools. Th next day is left free for you to explore, or perhaps to take an optional helicopter trip to White Island, New Zealand's most active volcano. Adrift in the Bay of Plenty, it's an otherworldly landscape of ruined sulphur mines and huge crater lakes spewing steam and ash. Then, in the evening, enjoy a Te Po cultural experience, taking in the New Zealand national carving and weaving schools, visiting the Kiwi House for a close encounter with New Zealand's famous flightless bird and exploring Rotorua's mud pools and geysers. The day ends with a Maori feast and a tour of the explosive Pohutu Geyser.
Stay: Regent of Rotorua (Superior) or On the Point Rotorua (Deluxe)
South-west of Rotorua is New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo, another natural beauty spot with picture-book volcanic cones on all sides. You'll arrive via the famous Thermal Explorer Highway. Walking by the lake is a gentle pleasure, though many people choose to see the lake from the air, on a scenic flight or even on a skydive – the town is New Zealand's skydive capital. Other attractions include world-class trout fishing and trips to see the raging Huka Falls along with the chance to walk between the many steaming vents at the otherworldly Craters of the Moon.
Stay: Anchorage Resort (Superior) or Acacia Cliffs Lodge (Deluxe)
The Hawke's Bay area is not only New Zealand's oldest wine region – vines were first planted by French Marist missionaries in 1851 – it's also one of its largest and most revered, with an unshakeable domestic reputation and an international standing challenged only by the South Island's Marlborough region. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon dominate, though diversification in recent years has led to the production of some excellent merlots and sauvignon blancs. You'll have a day to visit just some of its 90 wineries, most of which offer free tastings.
Stay: The Crown Hotel (Superior) or McHardy Lodge (Deluxe)
Complete your tour of the North Island in the capital, Wellington, arguably the country's most fashionable centre. It's home to a wide selection of restaurants, cafés, microbreweries, film studios, art galleries and museums, including Te Papa, the official Museum of New Zealand.
Stay: Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay (Superior) or QT Museum Hotel (Deluxe)
Return your hire car at Wellington airport before catching your flight home, arriving in the UK on day 17.
Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.
01 Jan - 31 Mar 2024
from £4,150 pp. incl. flights
01 Apr 2024 - 31 Mar 2025
from £3,475 pp. incl. flights
- Complimentary UK airport lounge access
- Return flights from London to Auckland and Wellington
- Return transfers to Waiheke Island including ferry and 12 days fully-inclusive Medium car hire with GPS
- 13 nights accommodation staying in 4* (Superior) hotels on a Room only basis
- Twilight walking tour of Waipoua, Dolphin cruise on the Bay of Islands and Indigenous evening and tour at Te Puia, Rotorua
Terms & Conditions
Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.
Meet our experts
Speak to a tailor-made specialist on 020 7590 0614Meet the team
Adjust your itinerary with our recommended extensions
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