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The Volcanic Centre self drive tour

7 nights, Auckland to Auckland

The Volcanic Centre self drive tour

A tour through the heart of the North Island highlighting its incredible diversity. Experience the rich culture of Rotorua and its volcanic past and present with a trip by helicopter to White Island Volcano. Visit Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand and then the North Island's World Heritage area of Tongariro National Park. The tour finishes with a visit to the world famous Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave before heading back to Auckland.

Tour map

Included in this New Zealand self drive holiday

Aucklands Viaduct Harbour at night
A birdseye view of Huka Falls
A boat glides under a canopy of glowworms in Waitomo
Active Volcano White Island erupts steam
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.

Your tour documentation pack and support

Your tour documentation pack and support
Your tour documentation pack and support
Your tour documentation pack and support
Your tour documentation pack and support

Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities - along with relevant brochures and information. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support - details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.

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.

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

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Day 2 - Drive south through the rich fertile farmland of the Waikato and maybe stop at Hobbiton Village on your way to Rotorua

Driving distance and time: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 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 Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua
Auckland to Rotorua
Auckland to Rotorua
Auckland to Rotorua

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour - suggested

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Today visit the actual Hobbiton movie set from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. In the heart of the Waikato farming region, take a two hour tour through Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and The Party Tree - all the while hearing behind-the-scenes tales and learning about the making of the films. You'll also have the opportunity to tour a picturesque sheep farm for an insight into New Zealand's most notorious animal resident. 

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, Speciality 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 3 - Take a fantastic scenic flight to the surreal volcanic island of White Island, here you'll land and get to explore

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. But geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to the Mitai Maori Village should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.
Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. Spike your adrenaline at Agroventures on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour. Go up the 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.

White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris

White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris
White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris
White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris
White Island Helicopter tour with Volcanic Air Safaris

Today take an exhilarating helicopter flight north over Hell's Gate Thermal Valley to active volcano, White Island. Land inside the crater and enjoy an hour long guided tour. See the main erupting crater, active steam vents known as 'fumaroles', hot streams and vibrant sulphur formations. You'll also be able to view the remains of the old sulphur mine and see the deposits left behind.

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 4 - A short drive along the Geothermal Highway to Lake Taupo

Driving distance and time: 75 kms / 47 miles : 0.8 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 Taupo

Rotorua to Taupo
Rotorua to Taupo
Rotorua to Taupo
Rotorua to Taupo

Your drive today takes you through the Central North Island volcanic plateau. See thermal hotspots Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waimangu Volcanic Valley before arriving into the town of Taupo Just north are the Huka Falls and a short detour to view is highly recommended. Go close to the spray with a thrilling jet boat ride or see the nearby Craters of the Moon geothermal reserve with its boiling pools and steaming vents.

Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride

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: Hilton Lake Taupo

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hilton Lake Taupo
Accommodation: Hilton Lake Taupo
Accommodation: Hilton Lake Taupo
Accommodation: Hilton Lake Taupo

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 12 noon
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 10-15 mins
  • Parking: offsite paid parking NZ$15-NZ$20 per 24 hrs
  • Parking: valet paid parking NZ$30-NZ$40 per 24 hrs
  • Restaurant on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Swimming pool
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 5 - Skirt the edge of Lake Taupo and cross the Desert Road to Tongariro National Park

Driving distance and time: 187 kms / 116 miles : 2.3 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.

Taupo to Whakapapa Village via The Desert Road

Taupo to Whakapapa Village via The Desert Road
Taupo to Whakapapa Village via The Desert Road
Taupo to Whakapapa Village via The Desert Road
Taupo to Whakapapa Village via The Desert Road

Following the lake edge the drive takes you to the township of Turangi, rated as one of the worlds best trout fishing locations. Just on the main road south of the town is the National Trout Centre run by the Department of Conservation. You can explore the process of hatching trout to stock New Zealand's rivers and lakes.
Continuing onto the high central plateau you drive what is commonly known as 'the desert road'. Skirting Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s three world heritage sites, and clouds permitting you can see the 2,500 metre peak of the still volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu. You might recognise the symmetrical shape of Mt. Ngauruhoe as this was used as the scenery of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
A little further the military town of Waiouru also hosts the Army Museum, an incredible collection of New Zealand’s military history and a memorial to its servicemen.
Tongariro National Park is also a World Heritage Site. 3 active volcanoes form the backbone of this spectacular region. Hiking, fishing, climbing, mountain biking, scenic flights or simply taking a drive to the top of the ski field road at Whakapapa are some of the most popular ways to enjoy the region.

Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane - suggested

Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane
Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane
Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane
Volcanic Explorer Scenic Flight by Aeroplane

Take a scenic flight over New Zealand's oldest National Park and world heritage site for a spectacular view of this unique volcanic landscape. See all three volcanoes - Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu as well as the iconic Emerald Lakes, the Blue Lake and the Tama lake. Climbing to 10,000 ft, you'll also view the active Mount Ruapehu crater lake, and spot some of the landscapes used in the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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 6 - Head north through the King Country to the limestone caves of Waitomo

Driving distance and time: 151 kms / 94 miles : 1.8 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 and Aranui Cave tour

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave tour
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave tour
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave tour
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Aranui Cave tour

For over 100 years Waitomo Glow-worm Caves have attracted people from all over the world to this subterranean wonderland. An ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos, and amazing stalactites and stalagmites.

Waitomo Glow-worm Caves
Formed over 30 million years ago there are two levels to the Waitomo Glow-worm Caves which are 16 metres apart. The upper level is dry and includes the entrance to the cave, the Catacombs and the Organ Loft. The lower level consists of stream passages and the Cathedral. As you glide quietly beneath the lights of thousands of glow-worms, it is only the gentle sound of dripping water that reminds you that you are deep underground and not beneath a star filled sky.

Aranui Cave
Located in Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, Aranui is a dry cave. There is only one entrance to Aranui and without a river flowing through, it houses very little life past the entrance. However, just inside the entrance is a colony of cave wetas. Aranui is famous for its beautiful arrays of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and unusual formations.

Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage

Accommodation type: Boutique lodges & hotels

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage
Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage
Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage
Accommodation: Kamahi Cottage

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 11 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 30 mins +
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: On site free access
  • Includes continental breakfast
  • Includes cooked breakfast
  • Dinner service available
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • All rooms non smoking
  • Apartments serviced weekly

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Day 7 - Return to Auckland, where you'll have time to catch up on anything you missed when you arrived

Driving distance and time: 178 kms / 110 miles : 2.1 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.

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.

Taste of Waiheke Vineyard Tour - suggested

Taste of Waiheke Vineyard Tour
Taste of Waiheke Vineyard Tour
Taste of Waiheke Vineyard Tour
Taste of Waiheke Vineyard Tour

Board the ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal and relax as you cruise the sparkling Hauraki Gulf to Waiheke Island. On arrival you'll be directed to your coach and set off to your first tasting at Stonyridge Vineyard, where you'll wander the ivy clad buildings, sample award-winning wines and enjoy a sumptuous light lunch. You then depart for Rangihoua Estate, which introduces you to Waiheke’s olive growing industry (includes olive oil tasting). A stop at Wild on Waiheke offers optional beer tasting as well as wine, and the chance to sample home grown preserves and chutneys. Your tour is concluded with final tastings at the beautiful Mudbrick Vineyard before returning to the ferry terminal.

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 8 - Depart Auckland

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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