Drive the Thermal Explorer Highway that links Auckland and Hawke’s Bay through the center of the North Island via Hamilton and Waikato, Rotorua, Lake Taupo and Ruapehu via the Volcanic Loop.
Journey some of New Zealand’s most spectacular coastal scenery on the Pacific Coast Highway, which traverses the east coast including the stunning regions of The Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti-Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay.
See a myriad of crystal clear lakes, dramatic volcanic mountains, stunning National Parks, mineral pools and spouting geysers. There’s lakes and mountains and underground caves, Hobbit hideouts and hot water pools!
Discover the Central North Island!
Make your way to the Los Angeles International Airport for your flight to Auckland. If you require a connecting flight from another US city, please chat to our Destination Specialists who can arrange this for you.
International Date Line
During your flight, you will cross the International Date Line.
Welcome to New Zealand. On arrival into Auckland, you will be met and transferred by private vehicle to your downtown accommodation for an overnight stay. The remainder of your day is free to explore at your leisure.
Auckland – Hamilton
Collect your rental vehicle and depart Auckland and follow the Thermal Explorer Highway. As you depart Auckland city you will notice the rolling green hills and pastureland that are synonymous with the Hamilton and Waikato region. Make your way to Waitomo Caves where you can enjoy a wide range of underground activities – from peaceful glowworm viewing tours to adrenaline-fueled adventures. After visiting the caves in Waitomo, travel to Hamilton for a brewery tour and perhaps dinner at the Good George Dining Hall.
Hamilton – Rotorua
Enjoy the morning in Hamilton exploring the Hamilton Gardens for a guided tour before traveling to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari for a guided tour of the ancient forest and wetlands. Making your way further along the Thermal Explorer Highway to Rotorua, divert to Matamata, home of the Hobbiton Movie set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies for a guided tour. Continue to Rotorua, home to exciting geothermal activity and indigenous experiences. This evening, join your guide to commence an Evening Cultural Experience, including a combination of cultural storytelling, entertainment and a traditional dinner.
Rotorua – Taupo
A free morning to explore Rotorua at your leisure before continuing southbound to Taupo. Stop halfway between Taupo and Rotorua at one of the most spectacular geothermal parks in New Zealand, The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako. Experience a landscape of bubbling mud, boiling hot pools, gushing geysers and spectacular silica terraces. What makes this park unique is you get to it by crossing the river on a ferry! Continue on to Taupo for an overnight stay.
After a leisurely breakfast in one of Taupo’s lakeside cafe’s head out on New Zealand’s largest freshwater lake to cruise the northern bays on a scenic lake cruise. Experience the stories and legends that formed the lake before viewing the spectacular 46-foot high Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings – only accessible by water! This afternoon you could pick up the pace with an optional adrenaline filled adventure on Hukafalls or, perhaps visit New Zealand’s only geothermal heated Prawn Farm. Feel the excitement of catching a feisty prawn, or take a tour through the nursery and hatchery before enjoying a relaxing drink in the riverside restaurant while soaking your feet in the geothermal footbaths. For an added adventure, take a scenic Floatplane flight over the spectacular Lake Taupo and down over the sacred volcanic peaks of the Dual World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park.
Taupo – Tongariro National Park
Make your way early this morning to the Ruapehu region; visit the Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks with their breathtaking volcanoes and rivers. The region boasts New Zealand Cycle Trails and Great Walks, superb ski-fields in winter and offers a diverse array of outdoor activities year round. Home to the infamous 12-mile, one day Tongariro Alpine Crossing, there are many other walking/hiking options in the area and you can spend time exploring the historical Whanganui River.
Tongariro National Park – Hawke’s Bay
Make your way to Hawke’s Bay today traveling along the Thermal Explorer Highway. Enjoy the half-day drive to arrive in the stunning Art Deco capital of New Zealand, Napier. This afternoon join a two-hour Art Decor walk and take a step back in time. Your local guide will share stories of the earthquake that destroyed the city, how the people were affected, and the remarkable recovery and rebuild that was completed within two years. This evening, enjoy some of the fresh food and wine that this region is renowned (not included).
Hawke’s Bay – Gisborne
Make your way from Napier to Gisborne today. The drive along the coast will be breathtakingly rugged and beautiful. The Eastland region is the first region in the world to see the sunrise every day. Your journey today will be one of discovery, the first Maori explorers and Captain Cook arrived on these shores, which are also very popular surfing spots these days.
Gisborne – Whakatane
Enjoy the morning in Gisborne (perhaps visit Mt Hikurangi to see the sunrise), before continuing along the Pacific Coast Highway, around East Cape to Whakatane.You may wish to visit Mataatua an authentic cultural experience and discover the story of the house that became home. Visit a Kiwi fruit farm Kiwi 360 or learn all about the honeybee and the healing powers of nature at Experience Comvita. Take time to enjoy a wide selection of activities from a surf lesson, a kayak to view glowworms at night, walk beautiful Mount Maunganui around the base or be guided to the top for the most spectacular view along the Pacific Coast before heading for a soak in the Hot Pools at the base of the Mount.
Whakatane – The Coromandel
This morning, join a half-day tour to White Island before continuing along the Pacific Coast Highway to The Coromandel. Enjoy the afternoon exploring the iconic coastline, perhaps visiting Cathedral Cove or Hot Water Beach where at low tide you can dig a hole and enjoy a soak in the warm water.
The Coromandel – Auckland
Enjoy the morning in The Coromandel, perhaps a walk or boat trip along the volcanic shoreline or discover the gold mining heritage of this region in the rugged mountainous interior, before making your way to Auckland and returning your rental vehicle at Auckland Airport.
- Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Auckland
- Private arrival sedan transfer Auckland Airport
- One night Millennium Auckland
- Eleven Days Intermediate Car Hire including GPS
- One night Novotel Hamilton Tainui
- Good George Brewery Tour, Hamilton
- Hamilton Gardens Guided Tour
- Admission to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari
- One night Regent of Rotorua
- Admission to Orakei Koroka
- Two nights Millennium Hotel & Resort Taupo Manuels
- Lake Taupo Scenic Cruise
- One night Powderhorn Chateau, Tongariro
- One night Scenic Hotel Te Pania
- Two-hour Art Deco Guided Walk
- One night Portside Hotel, Gisborne
- One night White Island Rendezvous, Whakatane
- Half-day White Island Tour
- One night Grand Mercure Puka Park, The Coromandel, including breakfast