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9 Day Taster Tour of the North Island

8 nights, Auckland to Wellington

9 Day Taster Tour of the North Island

Explore the North Island from Auckland to Wellington on this short 'Taster Tour'. In Rotorua you'll be introduced to Maori culture through an informative and tasty discovery of the cuisine.  You then journey to the beautiful Hawkes Bay, home to New Zealand's oldest vineyards.  With time to discover the wineries for yourself during the day, you are then treated to an amazing progressive dinner at some of the top winery restaurants with matched wine tastings.  From Napier travel south to the village of Martinborough, a hidden gem within New Zealand's food and wine scene.  You'll be introduced to the delicious artisan delights that are being made here.  The last leg of your 'Taster Tour' brings you to the capital city of Wellington, a hub for foodies and the best place to experience New Zealand's cafe culture.

Tour map

Included in this New Zealand self drive holiday

Cuba Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Martinborough Winery, New Zealand
Sunset in Taupo, New Zealand
Our Capital, Wellington, New Zealand
Tour map
 

Day 1 - Welcome to Auckland

Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

Access to our exclusive New Zealand Touring APP. The APP includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Welcome to Auckland City

Welcome to Auckland City
Welcome to Auckland City
Welcome to Auckland City
Welcome to Auckland City

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.

Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore - suggested

Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore
Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore
Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore
Harbour Dinner Cruise with Explore

See Auckland after dark with this amazing on-water dining experience, not to be missed while you're in Auckland. Take in the sights of the Waitemata Harbour - then watch this photogenic city come alive with twinkling lights. Your experienced crew will talk about Auckland’s highlights and there will opportunity try your hand at steering.

At our sheltered mooring you'll be served delicious New Zealand fare - choose from a delectable three course menu catered for by a renowned Viaduct Restaurant.

Accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: CityLife Auckland
Accommodation: CityLife Auckland
Accommodation: CityLife Auckland
Accommodation: CityLife Auckland

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 2-5 mins
  • Parking: valet paid parking NZ$40-NZ$50 per 24 hrs
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Breakfast service available
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • Laundry facilities: Drycleaning service available
  • Swimming pool
  • Gym/fitness centre

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Day 2 - Drive south through Waikato farmland via Hobbiton Village before continuing to Rotorua

Driving distance and time: 239 kms / 148 miles : 2.9 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Collect your rental car

Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car

Our rental car range includes the latest vehicles from the top suppliers. Insurance is included with a small excess or deductible. All airport fees, additional driver fees and unlimited kilometres are also included. To help you navigate your way around New Zealand all rentals also come with GPS. Our range included small compact cars to mid-size saloons to large 4WD and people movers.

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 Matamata and Hobbiton

Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton
Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton
Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton
Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton

As you drive South on State Highway one you'll  go through the rich farming community and dairy pastures of the Waikato king country.  Passing the Bombay Hills - the outer boundary of the greater Auckland area - you'll turn inland towards Matamata. This is the real Middle Earth, and its here you can see many locations used in the filming of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit as well as visiting the actual set of Hobbiton.

Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest

Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest
Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest
Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest
Hobbiton Movie Set tour from Shires Rest

Become immersed in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata - in the heart the lush Waikato farming region, your tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and insight into the making of the films.

Matamata to Rotorua

Matamata to Rotorua
Matamata to Rotorua
Matamata to Rotorua
Matamata to Rotorua

Just south of Matamata is the township of Tirau, home to the largest tin sheep and sheepdog, but it also offers a surprising number of bric a brac, art, craft and antique stores if you feel like browsing.
Arriving into the City of Rotorua the regions geothermal activity becomes evident as you see steam rising from the roadside and surrounding hills.
Considered the cultural centre for the Maori people, Rotorua is the ideal place to gain an insight into the history and culture.
Nearby Ohinemutu Village is the original site of the first Maori settlers in the area and despite its now modern surroundings and buildings you can still gain a sense of what the original village was like. The magnificent meeting house and historic carvings along with the unique 'Tudor-style' St Faiths Church feature in many visitors photo albums.
One of the most popular introductions to the Maori Culture is through an evening at Mitai Maori Village where you can enjoy performances and demonstrations followed by a traditionally cooked hangi meal.
Of course Rotorua is also a great place to enjoy many other activities including, fishing, 4WD trips, relaxing spa treatments, mountain biking, walking and hiking plus helicopter and float plane trips.

Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 2-5 mins
  • Parking: onsite paid parking NZ$10-NZ$15 per 24 hrs
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Breakfast service available
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: In room
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 3 - Enjoy an intimate introduction to Maori culture and food

Te Puia: Te Rā Daytime Experience including Haka and Steambox Lunch

Te Puia: Te Rā Daytime Experience including Haka and Steambox Lunch
Te Puia: Te Rā Daytime Experience including Haka and Steambox Lunch
Te Puia: Te Rā Daytime Experience including Haka and Steambox Lunch
Te Puia: Te Rā Daytime Experience including Haka and Steambox Lunch

Begin your experience with an unforgettable traditional performance. With a spine-tingling ceremonial welcoming, and stunning Kapa Haka cultural show which features traditional ancestral storytelling, song & dance, with the opportunity to join in hands on activity, for a more enlightening Māori cultural experience. Enjoy food that has been cooked using the geothermal energy used for centuries, quite literally, giving you a taste of Māori culture. Since the earliest settlement within Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, the local Māori people have cooked using the steam and hot water naturally available within the thermally active landscape. Steambox utilises a favourite Ngā Whā (Steam vent), which is located in the geothermal area near the famous Pohutu Geyser. You choose what you want to be cooked for your lunch before heading off on a special guided tour of Te Puia. This begins with an interactive session where you learn to weave flax, then a tour of the prestigious carving and weaving schools. Next explore the geothermal valley, the Kiwi house, mud pools and hot springs. You will then see your lunch lifted from the steaming Ngā Whā before you sit down for a delicious picnic lunch on the geyser terrace. The distinctive flavours imparted by this cooking method will surprise and delight you.

Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo - suggested

Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo
Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo
Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo
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 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.

Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central
Accommodation: Quest Rotorua Central

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Day 4 - First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke's Bay

Driving distance and time: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Rotorua to Napier

Rotorua to Napier
Rotorua to Napier
Rotorua to Napier
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.

Accommodation: The Dome

Accommodation type: Luxury apartments

Accommodation: The Dome
Accommodation: The Dome
Accommodation: The Dome
Accommodation: The Dome

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 11 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 2-5 mins
  • Parking: offsite paid parking NZ$20-NZ$30 per 24 hrs
  • Internet facilities: In room paid access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • Swimming pool
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 5 - This evening you'll dine at some of the top Hawkes Bay vineyards, with perfectly matched wines

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay
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. We recommend the to make the most of what's on offer. 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.

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures - suggested

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures
Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures
Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures
Cape Kidnappers Gannet Beach Adventures

On this unique eco-adventure you will get to experience one of the largest and most accessible mainland gannet colonies in the world. You'll be pulled on a trailer from the back of a vintage tractor along the beach to the Black Reef Colony - where you'll have the chance to see the birds in their natural habitat. Depending on the season, visitors can witness new-born chicks through to four month old gannets preparing for their first ever flight, which will take them all the way to Australia. Continuing on to the Cape, you'll take a break which gives you the chance to picnic, swim or enjoy a scenic walk to the Plateau Colony.

Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour - suggested

Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour
Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour
Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour
Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

The Grape Escape Half Day Wine Tour visits some of Hawke's Bay's most famous wineries and is designed for casual wine appreciators 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. There is the opportunity to purchase and take home your favourite wines and memories. You will visit 4 to 5 local wineries and taste Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Also try some of New Zealand's finest cheeses matched with wine.

Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner

Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner
Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner
Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner
Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner

Take a scenic drive through the vineyards as you learn about the region and its wines. Enjoy a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at a boutique winery. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views from Te Mata Peak while enjoying a glass of bubbles as the sun sets from 399m above sea level overlooking the glimmering lights of the Twin Cities.
The Twilight Odyssey Tour includes sightseeing of the region with fully guided commentary, a progressive three course dinner at one of New Zealands top winery restaurants, wine tasting, champagne, wine with dinner, dessert wine, tea and coffee.

Accommodation: The Dome

Accommodation type: Luxury apartments

Meals included: Speciality Dinner

Accommodation: The Dome
Accommodation: The Dome
Accommodation: The Dome
Accommodation: The Dome

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Day 6 - Napier to Martinborough, famed for its boutique wineries

Driving distance and time: 271 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Napier to Martinborough

Napier to Martinborough
Napier to Martinborough
Napier to Martinborough
Napier to Martinborough

As you leave the rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay you'll be greeted with some of the country's richest dairy farmland in the Manawatu Gorge. Continue on through the Wairarapa region and stop in the Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, where you can see some of New Zealand native animals.Take another break in Masterson, and visit the interactive Woolshed Museum to learn about sheep farming in New Zealand. As you drive south, a visit to historic Greytown is a must do. Take in the restored Victorian buildings and make time for a cup of tea at one of its quaint cafes. Leaving state highway 2 you will cross over the Ruamahanga River into Martinborough wine country - your destination for the day.  

Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour - suggested

Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour
Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour
Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour
Martinborough Half Day Wine Tour

Visit wonderful vineyards such as Te Kairangi Wines, Tirohana Estate, Cabbage Tree Vineyard and Martinborough Vineyard on this half day tour of the premium wine region of Martinborough. Taste the wines, learn about the development of the region, its people and characters from knowledgeable guides.

Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat

Accommodation type: Luxury apartments

Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat
Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat
Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat
Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Includes continental breakfast
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Swimming pool
  • Gym/fitness centre
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 7 - Taste and tour the artisan food and wine products of Martinborough

Martinborough Food and Wine Producers Tour

Martinborough Food and Wine Producers Tour
Martinborough Food and Wine Producers Tour
Martinborough Food and Wine Producers Tour
Martinborough Food and Wine Producers Tour

This luxury Martinborough food and wine tour is for two to four guests only, for a relaxed and personal experience. This gourmet tour takes you by car with your Zest driver/guide around the small towns of the south Wairarapa: exploring the pretty historical township of Greytown and the celebrated Martinborough wine village. The focus is both fine food and wine, as you savour tastes of both from specialty producers. You will go where few visitors can, meeting innovative people dedicated to being the very best they can be with their premium boutique brands. In a beautiful pastoral setting, big skies and open spaces give way to small, attractive Victorian townships with their own charm. Naturally, the delicious tasting lunch is matched with premium Martinborough wines, possibly from the very vines you can see from the table.

Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat

Accommodation type: Luxury apartments

Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat
Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat
Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat
Accommodation: Brackenridge Country Spa and Retreat

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Day 8 - It's a short drive over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington today

Driving distance and time: 73 kms / 45 miles : 1.0 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Martinborough to Wellington City

Martinborough to Wellington City
Martinborough to Wellington City
Martinborough to Wellington City
Martinborough to Wellington City

Today you will cross the Rimutaka Ranges as you make your way to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Often compared to Melbourne, Wellington is vibrant cultural hub.Home to the nation’s centre of government. Legislation happens in the aptly named ‘Beehive,’ an executive wing attached to the Houses of Parliament. At one kilometre squared, the city centre (easily traversed on foot) has an international feel and is peppered with underground art shows, alleyway cafes and New York style delis. Take in the boardwalk view as you stroll to Te Papa Museum or indulge your cinematic side exploring Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award winning design studio for Lord Of The Rings. For a taste of vintage fashion, spend some time (and dollars!) on Cuba Street browsing the boutiques. Work off last night’s dinner with a cycling tour of Oriental Bay and undo your good work with a Hokey Pokey ice-cream in the sun. For those heading further down, the capital is where you board the ferry crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island.

City Highlights Inspiration Half Day Tour - suggested

City Highlights Inspiration Half Day Tour
City Highlights Inspiration Half Day Tour
City Highlights Inspiration Half Day Tour
City Highlights Inspiration Half Day Tour

Enjoy an intimate small group tour looking at the unique aspects of the World's Coolest Little Capital. Drive through Courtenay Place and Oriental Parade and head up Mt Victoria for spectacular views of the City and Harbour. Then travel the stunning rugged coastline, now a marine reserve, stopping along the way to taste some famous Wellington coffee. Return to the central city for a drive through the quirky Cuba Street district and along Lambton Quay, the main shopping street for a chance to ride the famous Wellington Cable Car.

Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour - suggested

Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour
Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour
Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour
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 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 is high!

Accommodation: CityLife Wellington

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: CityLife Wellington
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington
Accommodation: CityLife Wellington

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 1-2 mins
  • Parking: onsite paid parking NZ$20-NZ$30 per 24 hrs
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Breakfast service available
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: In room
  • Gym/fitness centre

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Day 9 - Take the morning to discover Wellington's cafe culture before you depart

Driving distance and time: 6 kms / 4 miles : 0.2 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Rental car drop off Wellington Airport depot

Drop your vehicle at the Wellington Airport rental car depot today before continuing your onward journey.

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