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The Central Highlights Walking Tour

8 nights, Auckland to Auckland

The Central Highlights Walking Tour

Explore a variety of landscapes and natural wonders of the North Island on this short walking highlights tour.  Begin with the idyllic Coromandel Peninsula with its white sandy beaches and lush forests.  You then tackle one of the world’s greatest one day hikes, the Tongariro Crossing.  Located in the striking volcanic plateau of Tongariro National Park, a world heritage area of outstanding beauty.  You’ll also have time to discover the unique Maori culture in Rotorua and the fascinating limestone caves and glow worms of Waitomo.

Tour map

Included in this New Zealand self drive holiday

People out on the walking tour of Tongariro
Champagne pool Waiotapu
Person looking at the emerald lakes in Tongariro
Aerial View of Cathedral Cove Coromandel
Tour map
 

Day 1 - Arrive into Auckland where your private transfer will take you to your inner city hotel

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

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

Welcome to Auckland
Welcome to Auckland
Welcome to Auckland
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.

Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 11 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 1-2 mins
  • Parking: onsite paid parking NZ$30-NZ$35 per 24 hrs
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Breakfast service available
  • Bar on site
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 2 - Your rental car is delivered then drive to the Coromandel Peninsula

Driving distance and time: 151 kms / 94 miles : 1.9 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 Pauanui

Auckland to Pauanui
Auckland to Pauanui
Auckland to Pauanui
Auckland to Pauanui

Leaving Auckland you will travel through rolling green Waikato countryside and across the fertile Hauraki Plains. Your drive will take you near the Firth of Thames, a haven for wildlife, in particular, the shorebirds at Miranda. Arriving into the historic gold town of Thames you then cross the Southern Coromandel Ranges and onto the scenic east coast of the peninsula, littered with white sandy beaches.
If you prefer the scenic route, head north from Thames up to the Coromandel Township, following Highway 25 around the peninsula past Kuaotunu and Whitianga, with a stop at Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.
Your destination of Pauanui meaning big Paua in Maori, lies at the mouth of the Tairua River on its south bank, directly opposite the larger town of Tairua.

Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour - suggested

Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour
Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour
Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour
Driving Creek Railway & Potteries - EyeFull Tower Tour

Driving Creek Railway and Potteries has become a Coromandel icon. The dream of Barry Brickell was to establish a pottery workshop on his land. Using a railway he would have access to the clay on the land and the pine kiln fuel. Over the next 15 years the railway developed until in 1990 it was finally licensed to carry fare paying passengers and ever since thousands of visitors have made the trip to Coromandel to experience this unique attraction. The 1 hour return train trip on the innovatively designed trains takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts as it climbs up to the mountain-top terminus. The pottery is still producing and you can watch the artists at work as well as purchase items.

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort
Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort
Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort
Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 11 am
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: On site free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: Drycleaning service available
  • Swimming pool
  • Gym/fitness centre
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 3 - Coromandel Wilderness Adventure Day Walk with Kiwi Dundee

Kiwi Dundee Wilderness Adventure day walk

Kiwi Dundee Wilderness Adventure day walk
Kiwi Dundee Wilderness Adventure day walk
Kiwi Dundee Wilderness Adventure day walk
Kiwi Dundee Wilderness Adventure day walk

Ideal for those who enjoy walking and photography. This day will take you into tranquil and remote pristine rainforest surrounded by giant rock faces, rugged volcanic peaks, ancient Kauri, Rimu and Rata trees. Wonder at the world's largest tree ferns, crystal clear rivers and rock pools. Visit historic gold caves, home to sparkling glowworms. Enjoy the fascinating history and learn about the flora and fauna within this magnificent forest. You experienced guided ensures you enjoy the region to the fullest and also carries your picnic lunch. This is a moderately challenging walk over some uneven surfaces.

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort
Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort
Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort
Accommodation: Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort

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Day 4 - Travel along the Bay of Plenty before turning inland towards the lakes of Rotorua

Driving distance and time: 191 kms / 118 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.

Pauanui to Rotorua via Tauranga

Pauanui to Rotorua via Tauranga
Pauanui to Rotorua via Tauranga
Pauanui to Rotorua via Tauranga
Pauanui to Rotorua via Tauranga

Leaving Pauanui, head south to New Zealand's surfing mecca. In addition to lazing on the beach or surfing, Whangamata offers big game fishing, walking and mountain biking in native and exotic forests. Continuing on to Tauranga you will arrive into the harbourside city in the Bay of Plenty region. It hosts historic buildings like the Elms Mission Station, an 1847 Georgian-style home. A bridge over the harbour connects Tauranga to Mount Maunganui, a beach town with hot saltwater pools and an extinct namesake volcano with winding walking paths. Finally, you will arrive 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. Visit the local museum located in the government gardens or the nearby Ohinemutu Village, the original site of the first Maori settlers in the area or enjoy a traditional Maori "Hangi" meal and a cultural performance. 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.

Mitai Maori Village

Mitai Maori Village
Mitai Maori Village
Mitai Maori Village
Mitai Maori Village

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and see warriors in traditional dress who paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance that tells the story of the Maori people, their past, carvings, and ta Moko -Tattoo art. Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat and be amazed by the spine tingling Haka finale. Truly an experience to remember.

Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 2-5 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Internet facilities: On site free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Dinner service available
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: Drycleaning service available
  • Swimming pool
  • Gym/fitness centre
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 5 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent discovering Maori culture or thrilling adventure rides

Explore Rotorua

Explore Rotorua
Explore Rotorua
Explore Rotorua
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.

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.

Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour - suggested

Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour
Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour
Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour
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, 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. 

Polynesian Spa Thermal Mud Polish & Aix Spa Massage - suggested

Polynesian Spa Thermal Mud Polish & Aix Spa Massage
Polynesian Spa Thermal Mud Polish & Aix Spa Massage
Polynesian Spa Thermal Mud Polish & Aix Spa Massage
Polynesian Spa Thermal Mud Polish & Aix Spa Massage

Rotorua's Polynesian Spa offers a unique thermal spa experience on the shore of Lake Rotorua. Voted a World Top Ten Spa (medical and thermal spas) by readers of the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller magazine 2004-2007, this is the ultimate in relaxation and regeneration. Begin your spa treatment with a pre-therapy soak in the deluxe lake spa. Enjoy tranquil bathing and lake views in four shallow alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures (36˚C to 42˚C). Here you are surrounded by revitalising native New Zealand flora, natural rocks, the sound of two waterfalls and a grotto. The pools are filled with soothing alkaline mineral water leaving your skin soft and supple.  You will then be treated to the popular 'mud massage' a signature service of Polynesian Spa. Your therapist will exfoliate your body with the unique Rotorua mud polish to remove dry skin. You'll then rinse off the polish under a warm shower followed by a massage using organic coconut oil while the water is running, leaving your skin feeling soft and hydrated and your body relaxed.  You can then return to the deluxe lake spa for a post treatment soak.

Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

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Day 6 - Rotorua to Tongariro National Park via Lake Taupo - maybe take the Huka Jetboat to the thundering falls

Driving distance and time: 168 kms / 104 miles : 2.0 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.

Rotorua to Whakapapa Village

Rotorua to Whakapapa Village
Rotorua to Whakapapa Village
Rotorua to Whakapapa Village
Rotorua to Whakapapa Village

Today you'll drive from Rotorua to Tongariro National Park along the thermal highway. Pass through Taupo and be sure to check out the Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland or Waimangu Volcanic Valley - both well worth a visit if you can spare the time. Visit the Huka Falls, New Zealand's largest volume of water or take in the boiling mud pools and steam vents as you wander the nearby geothermal reserve, Craters of the Moon.

Continue on to the township of Turangi, known as one of the world's best trout fishing locations before emerging out into Tongariro National Park.

Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride - suggested

Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride
Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride
Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride
Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride

The Huka Jet is 30 minutes of pure fun and exhilaration, skimming close to cliffs, sliding past trees, feeling the adrenalin of full 360 degree spins. The excitement continues right up to the base of the foaming Huka Falls, where you get a spectacular water level view to New Zealand's most visited natural attraction. Nothing compares to watching 220,000 litres per second tumbling over the cliff face towards you.
The water from the mighty Huka Falls runs down the Waikato River through a series of Hydro Power Stations. You'll get a view of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station in the comfort of a powerful Chevrolet V8 jet boat. This unique Geothermal Power Station uses underground geothermal activity to produce hot steamy water. The Waikato Rivers beautiful environment is varied and unique and is New Zealand's longest river flowing north from our largest lake - Lake Taupō.

Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room paid access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Breakfast service available
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Gym/fitness centre
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 7 - Today you'll experience one of the greatest one day walks in the world - the Tongariro Crossing

Private Guided Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift

Private Guided Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift
Private Guided Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift
Private Guided Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift
Private Guided Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift

For the exclusive guided trips you'll be provided with a really personal, informative and friendly day you will never forget. This trip is tailored so that group sizes are small, your guides are well informed and are able to provide you with an amazing experience. Your guide will also 'work behind the scenes' constantly assessing the weather and track conditions, timing for your Ketetahi personalised transport pick-up at the end of your hike, and other little details that will maximise your enjoyment. They can also tailor the trip to accommodate different fitness levels and know a few tricks about avoiding weather exposed or crowded areas.

Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro
Accommodation: Bayview Chateau Tongariro

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Day 8 - Journey north through the King Country to the limestone caves of Waitomo

Driving distance and time: 329 kms / 204 miles : 4.0 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.

Whakapapa Village to Waitomo

Whakapapa Village to Waitomo
Whakapapa Village to Waitomo
Whakapapa Village to Waitomo
Whakapapa Village to Waitomo

Head through National Park and across rich rolling farmland to the limestone regions of Waitomo and the famous Waitomo Caves complex.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Explore a 30 million year old cave network spread across three levels. You'll travel deep underground through the limestone caves viewing stalactites and stalagmites as well as hearing about the caves historical and geological significance. You'll then hop into a boat and glide silently through the glow worm grotto - a galaxy of tiny living lights.

Waitomo to Auckland City

Waitomo to Auckland City
Waitomo to Auckland City
Waitomo to Auckland City
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.

Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland
Accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

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Day 9 - Depart Auckland today

Driving distance and time: 25 kms / 16 miles : 0.4 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.

Depart Auckland today

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

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