Today you farewell ‘the city of sails’ and head South through both the Waikato and King Country areas to reach Waitomo. Waitomo is New Zealand’s most extensive underground caving network. Here you will take a 3-hour adventure tubing tour through the spectacular Caves and drift under the impressive glow-worms that light up the cave roof (included activity). Arrive in Rotorua in the afternoon and perhaps take a city tour featuring Kuirau Park mud pool reserve and view the stunning government gardens and lakefront. This afternoon/evening you could experience a relaxing soak in the thermal waters of the famous Polynesian Spa (optional – extra cost).
This morning you will take a three-hour small group or privately guided 4WD Trip near Lake Rotoiti, which includes a visit to a marae, amazing scenery, storytelling and song from a local Māori guide. Following this, you will venture out of the city to enjoy a self-guided walk through Waimangu Volcanic Valley which involves a wander around the largest hot spring in the world! Following this, you can take a guided boat trip on Lake Rotomahana to learn about the past and present volcanic activity in the area, as well as sail above where the famous Pink and White Terraces used to be. The rest of the afternoon is free to spend at your leisure, options include: The Redwoods Treewalk (thoroughly recommended!) zorbing, a trip to The Buried Village of Te Wairoa or perhaps rent a bike and enjoy the trails of the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest.
Your first stop for the day is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – a Wonderland of Stunning Geothermal Activity. You will see New Zealand’s largest thermal mud pool, sinter terraces and stunning hot and cold pools of many different colours (included activity). Heading south and stopping at the mind-blowingly powerful Huka Falls en route, you will reach Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake where you may wish to stop for lunch. Winding your way around Lake Taupo, you will eventually reach Tongariro National Park where you may wish to take a hike in the National Park itself. One of The Road Trip’s favourites is 2 hours long featuring native bush, volcanic views and stunning waterfalls. In clear weather, there is a great opportunity to spot New Zealand’s 3 most active volcanoes – Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngaurauhoe (also known as Mt Doom).
This morning you will venture from one National Park to the next! Take the short drive from Whakapapa to reach Pipiriki, where you will meet your guide for your mystical Bridge to Nowhere jet boat ride, walk and canoeing trip through the stunning Whanganui National Park. Tonight you will stay overnight in a beautiful remote location in the park, at Bridge to Nowhere Lodge.
Leave the Whanganui National Park today and venture towards a family farm in the nearby Manawatu Region. First, pass by the ski town of Ohakune and perhaps drive up to the top of the road on the North Island’s tallest mountain and the most active volcano – Mt. Ruapehu. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to the Tasman Sea! Pass by New Zealand’s premier carrot growing region (and take a photo with their giant carrot statue of course), then continue on to Taihape – “Gumboot Capital of the World.” where you can try your hand at throwing a gumboot in their purpose-built gumboot throwing lane. Following this, drive across the Rangitikei River and marvel at the steep sandstone cliffs of this river, which was used to portray River Anduin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tonight you will arrive at the beautiful Mairenui Rural Retreat where you will stay overnight with a kiwi family on a working farm, enjoy a home-cooked dinner and breakfast and private farm tour.
You’ll leave Mairenui Rural Retreat via the gorgeous Manawatu Scenic Route after breakfast this morning and head through rolling green hills and alongside the dramatic Rangitikei River, to pass by Ashhurst and admire the wind farm en route. Following this, you’ll head south on State Highway 2 and have the opportunity to visit Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre – home to a very rare white kiwi and other very special native birds. Passing through some very pleasant small towns (including Greytown which is known as the prettiest town in New Zealand), you can browse the delightful stores and cafes before arriving in Martinborough – the heart of the Wairarapa wine-growing region. Here you can visit several beautiful boutique wineries and enjoy a delicious meal overlooking a vineyard. You have the option of renting bikes to ride between vineyards as most in the area are all quite close to each other. You’ll stay overnight in the lovely little town of Martinborough.
This morning you will take the beautiful drive out to the Putangirua Pinnacles where scenes for The Dimholt Road in Lord of the Rings were filmed. The Putangirua Pinnacles are a stunning yet unusual canyon-like landscape surrounded by tall, thin pinnacle rock formations. The impressive scenery here meant that no CGI was needed to create the Dimholt Road nature did it all! Go in search of the Army of the Dead by walking straight through the Pinnacles or take the walk up to the lookout and view this bizarre but beautiful landscape from above. Next up you will leave picturesque Martinborough and take the drive over the Remutaka Ranges to arrive in Wellington to discover New Zealand’s capital city. Spots on your city tour could take in sights such as Mt Victoria – Wellington’s most spectacular viewpoint with 360-degree views of the city, harbour and mountain ranges in the background, parliament, New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa, Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, the Wellington Botanic Gardens and Weta Cave where the magic of The Lord of the Rings was created.
Today is your day to explore the Coolest Little Capital in the World! This morning you could take the Cable Car from the city up to Kelburn, where you will be able to wander the beautiful Botanical Gardens. Late morning, perhaps hop on the free shuttle to Zealandia, the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225-hectare ecosanctuary is a ground+breaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. Your Te Ika a Māui/North Island tour concludes this evening.