Duration: 17 days – 16 nights
Itinerary: Auckland to Auckland
Tour type: Self-drive
Journey through the North Island and discover a blend of culture reflecting a young country yet rich in history, culture and traditions. Visit the birthplace of the nation, look-up at the Giant kauri and their logging history, discover multi-cultural cities and their world class museums and natural backdrop. Meet Maori elders, walk through the bush & learn about the native plants and their healing properties, learn to weave flax or try your hand at carving… A journey for the curious at heart!
- Visit the Birthplace of the Nation in the Bay of Islands
- Explore with your own private Hybrid car
- Learn with local Maori guides on 5 cultural tours
- Spend a night with a Maori community
- Get off the beaten track in the East Cape
- Be the first in the world to see the sunrise
- Ride back to Auckland on the Northern Explorer
- Accommodation in a mix of hotels, B&B and small lodges
- Meals as per itinerary
- Tour inclusions as per itinerary (private and small group)
- One morning volunteering with Eat My lunch in Wellington
- Airport transfers on arrival and departure in Auckland
- Car rental with full insurance and GPS
- Travel on the Northern Explorer from Wellington to Auckland
- New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- E-documentation from Greenz Travel
- 24/7 assistance in the country
Day 1 – Arrival – Auckland
Kia Ora and Welcome to Aotearoa, New Zealand!
On arrival at Auckland airport you will be met and greeted by your driver in the arrival hall. Your driver will assist you with luggage and transfer you to Auckland in a fully electric model X Tesla.
Your accommodation for the next two nights is on the North Shore of the city, in the leafy and beachside suburb of Devonport. Your accommodation is conveniently located a 2min walk to the ferry terminal with regular liaisons to town (every 10 to 30 minutes).
Accommodation: Peace and Plenty Inn – 2 nights
Peace and Plenty has achieved the Qualmark the Enviro Award Gold.
Day 2 – Auckland
Today you will be collected from your accommodation for a tour of Auckland city.
Auckland Maori Luxury tour – TIME (small group)
Enjoy a wonderful day of sightseeing and learning about indigenous Maori culture throughout the day as you discover Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) and Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa (Waitakere Ranges) on Auckland’s West Coast.
New Zealand is renowned for its fascinating Maori culture. Auckland is not merely a city but instead a place of great natural beauty and a haven for unique Maori cultural experiences. Uncover the visually stunning blend of old colonial mansions, ancient native trees and Maori carvings. Journey along Tamaki Drive waterfront, one of the world’s most beautiful city drives. Marvel at several ancient volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field.
Your journey will then continue to Auckland’s amazing West Coast featuring the Waitakere Ranges. Walk among indigenous trees and plants while learning their Maori names and their importance as both food and medicine. Immerse yourself in the culture and atmosphere of Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa the ancient forest of Tiriwa, all while your guide enriches you with lore and legends of the bush.
Take a walk on a stunning volcanic black sand beach on Auckland’s famous West Coast before returning to the city.
Duration: Full day
Sustainability: TIME Unlimited Tours strives to achieve environmental and social sustainability.
The company has received many awards including Qualmark Enviro Awards which recognise businesses that go beyond the benchmark in ethical, professional and environmentally sustainable processes. TIME also won the National Geographic World Legacy Awards for ‘’sense of place’’ driving the sustainable tourism transformation to inspire people to care about the planet.
Day 3 – Auckland – Bay of Islands
Distance: 255km/3 hours 20 minutes
This morning, ferry across to the city to collect your Hybrid car rental (Toyota Camry or similar).
The Bay of Islands, on the east coast of Northland, is an idyllic destination with a subtropical climate, thick rainforests, white sand beaches and over 150 islands. The Bay is also the birthplace of the nation as New Zealand’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in the township of Waitangi in 1840.
Accommodation: Takou River Cottages– 2 nights (glamping or cottages available)
Enjoy a stay that is eco-friendly yet still indulgent, knowing that you will be leaving behind the lightest environmental footprint. Takou River Cottages are set on a 150-acre certified organic farm and the wealth of native birdlife and diversity of native plants are a testament to the biodiversity plans and land management techniques implemented. These include fencing all riparian boundaries, planting over 40,000 native trees since 2004 and eliminating the use of all chemical sprays, pesticides or artificial fertilisers. Some cottages are powered with solar energy, rainwater is harvested for all use, grey water is recycled for irrigation… The cottages have mainly been built using recycled and reclaimed building products.
Day 4 – Bay of Islands
Distance: 40km – 30 minutes (each way)
Today take a drive to Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands to visit the most historic and culturally significant locations in New Zealand including historic sights in Kerikeri, Waitangi, Paihia and Russell.
Start with a visit of Kerikeri Mission station, one of New Zealand’s premier historic sites which has preserved the stories of tumultuous times when Māori met missionaries and life was changed forever. Today, the Mission Station is situated along a pretty riverside just five minutes from central Kerikeri and is a captivating place to visit.
You then head to Paihia, in the heart of the Bay of Islands for a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Take a walk through New Zealand’s history on the expansive Treaty Grounds. Discover the amazing stories, people and events that shaped the past, present and future of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Visit the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe, view the historic Treaty House and Meeting House, and stand on the spot where New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was first signed in 1840.
Wrap up the day with a visit to Russell, New Zealand very first capital, today a tranquil quaint waterfront village.
Return to your accommodation for the night.
Day 5 – Bay of Islands – Opononi
Distance: 80km/1 hour and 5 minutes
The Hokianga is rich in both Maori and European history and culture and is viewed by many as the first chapter of the New Zealand story. Kupe and the first Maori explorers arrived here after voyaging across the Pacific. In fact, the full name of the harbour is ‘Hokianga Kupe A Nui’, which means ‘The great leaving place of Kupe.’
Some of the earliest settled towns in New Zealand such as Rawene and Kohukohu are found here on the Hokianga. In February 1840 more Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Mangungu on the upper reaches of the harbour than signed at Waitangi itself.
Bone carving experience (half-day)
Jim Taranaki has been carving for 17 years and his work is as beautiful as it is unique. Inspired by his Maori roots, Jim’s work embraces the richness of Maori symbolism combined with a distinctive modernism. Jim’s teaching methodology is equally unique. He gives every student the freedom to design their own piece then guides you through the cutting, shaping & filing process until your piece is finished. All the bone carving is done in Jim and his wife Charlotte’s home studio which looks over the Hokianga Harbour.
Accommodation: Kokohuia Lodge – 2 nights
Includes full breakfast
Note: Kokohuia Lodge offers you a luxury escape, while still maintaining the highest standards of sustainable living. The lodge was entirely built from locally sourced timber from sustainably managed forests. All wood used internally, including framing, is untreated.
The lodge is entirely off-grid. It uses passive solar energy, rain water for both drinking and washing and they have their own on-site vermiculture eco-septic system that treats all black and grey water.
Day 6 – Opononi and Waipoua Forest
Footprints Waipoua – Daytime Experience (small group)
Join a friendly local Maori guide for your journey into the rich and ancient ecosystem of Wapioua Forest and you will learn about the indigenous use of plants and be amazed at the life cycle of a kauri giant…
Your tour will start with a karakia (prayer) seeking permission from Tāne Mahuta (the Māori God of the Forest) to enter his domain and to ensure that a safe and enjoyable experience.
Under the branches of this 2000-year-old living treasure our guides will share the Māori creation story – the separation of Sky Father (Ranginui) and Mother Earth (Papatūānuku).
Duration: 3.5 hours
Day 7 – Opononi – Mangawhai
Distance: 180km/2 hour and 45 minutes
Today is a leisurely drive to Mangawhai heads. Located 90min North of Auckland, charming Mangawhai Heads is nestled between the Pacific coast and rolling farmland. The town has a beautiful surf beach on one side and a safe harbour beaches on the other.
A relaxing overnight stop en route to the Central North Island.
Accommodation: Te Arai Lodge – 1 night
Includes full breakfast and dinner
This boutique luxury lodge is like no other and was born from the passion and vision of a New Zealand family and their commitment to sustainable living. The lodge is strongly driven by a garden-to-table philosophy and has a prolific garden based on permaculture principle.
Day 8 – Mangawhai – Rotorua
Today leave Northland behind and head to the Central Plateau.
Rotorua lies at the heart of Pacific ring of fire and is the centre of an extensive thermal region and geysers, bubbling mud pools and steaming, sulphurous lakes give evidence of nature’s frightening yet fascinating power. In Rotorua you will see the earth come alive! The city is also surrounded by wonderful lakes and native forests and is an incredible outdoor playground as well as being the centre of modern Maori Culture.
Te Puia – Te Ra (shared tour)
Follow your Maori guide as you explore Te Whakarewarewa, a 60 hectare Geothermal Valley, showcasing the famous Rotorua mud pools and over 500 geothermal wonders, including the Pohutu Geyser, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser!
Learn about traditional Māori Carving and Weaving as residence artists perform their Art before your eyes and hear ancestral stories of the Māori settlement in Rotorua.
Duration: 90 minutes
Accommodation: Koura Lodge – 2 nights
Includes full breakfast
Day 9 – Rotorua
Mt Tarawera Crater Walk (small group)
Standing sentinel high above Rotorua, Mt Tarawera is revered by local Maori and offers a unique adventure for those who come and explore it. Experience the unique landscape and history of Mt Tarawera, Infamous for its eruption in June 1886. Mt Tarawera created the world’s youngest geothermal valley of Waimangu, at the same destroying the legendary Pink and White Terraces.
This fully guided walking experience encompasses the unique landscape and history of the area. With unmatched scenic vistas and 360 panoramic views this experience is ideal for all ages and includes an optional run in to the heart of the volcanic crater.
Duration: 4.5 hours
Day 10 – Rotorua – Kohutapu
Distance: 85km/1 hour
Journey right off the beaten track to Murupara, an isolated part of the Bay of Plenty on the foothills of the Te Urewera National Park to Kohutapu Lodge.
Surrounded by dense native bush, deep flowing rivers, and lush farmlands, Kohutapu Lodge is owned and operated by a local Maori family, the Ngati Manawa tribe, who have lived here for centuries.
Today, their culture still thrives and you will discover a history and a culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism. Together with your Maori Guide, you’ll explore a Maori art Cave, learn how Ngati Manawa ancestors protected a land rich in resource and breath-taking beauty, and listen to the stories of mystical protecting creatures. You will also visit a waterfall and learn how the tribe protect the local eel, a main source of food for the people.
Join your hosts at the lake edge lodge and help with the preparation of your traditional ground cooked Hangi dinner, before enjoying a selection of optional afternoon activities (eeling, fishing, kayaking, cooking…).
As the day closes in, our aunties will teach you to weave your own dinner plate out of flax. After your feast, retreat to your own cabin for a night in the village.
Accommodation: Kohutapu Lodge – 1 night
Includes full breakfast and Hangi dinner
Day 11 – Kohutapu – Gisborne
Distance: 235km/3 hours and 15minutes
Tucked on the eastern side of the North Island, the East Cape is the first place to see the sunrise every day and is also the place where the first Polynesian landed. Away from the touristic path, this remote region will move you with its immense and rugged forest “Te Urewera National park”, its spectacular empty surf beaches, and its true Maori culture and traditions.
Accommodation: Knapdale Eco Lodge – 2 nights
Includes full breakfast
Knapdale Eco Lodge is a 32 hectare sustainably managed operation with a variety of agro-forestry projects. It is recognised as an example of outstanding environmental protection. The luxury lodge was built with materials with as small an ecological footprint as possible. Most of the structural timber was sourced from a sustainably grown forest park within a 20km radius and was milled by a local sawmill. The Lodge exclusively uses rainwater. Hot water is provided by a large solar panel in summer and a wetback fire stove in winter. For 8 to 9 months of the year the lodge is mostly disconnected from the power grid for its hot water needs.
Knapdale has a passive solar under-floor heating system and is almost entirely run on renewable resources because the electricity is produced by the nearby Tuai hydro plant. A small sewage treatment plant produces grey waste water which irrigates a small native tree plantation in the garden.
Day 12 – Gisborne
Maunga Hikurangi – sunrise experience (small group)
Be the first in the world to see the sun rise on the sacred site of Maunga Hikurangi.
You will be transferred to a Tapu, sacred carving site high on the mountain. There you will greet the dawn leaded by your expert Ngati Porou guide. Learn to sing a karakia (traditional Maori blessing) before indulging in a locally sourced breakfast atop Maunga Hikurangi.
After your breakfast, you will plant a native seedling as part of an intergenerational eco-project.
This is a cultural experience not be missed!
The rest of the day is at leisure to further explore the region. We highly suggest a drive along the coastline, a visit to the East Cape Lighthouse and to Tolaga Bay for New Zealand’s longest pier!
Day 13 – Gisborne – Napier
Distance: 225km/3 hours and 15 minutes
Today leave the East Cape behind and drive further South on the same coastline to the Hawkes Bay. The region delights with some of New Zealand best wineries and New Zealand’s largest Gannet colony. Napier, the main centre is famous as one of the most complete collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. In 1931 a massive earthquake rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes, killing nearly 260 and destroying the commercial centre of Napier.
Art Deco tour – guided tour (small group)
A peaceful guided walk through the streets of Napier with a local volunteer guide. Meet at the Art Deco Centre and embark on a journey of discovery of the heritage and unique style of this Art Deco city. Your guide will entertain you with stories of the events, places and people that shaped the Napier you see before you today.
Duration: 2 hours
Accommodation: Redcliffe Homestead – 1 night
Includes full breakfast
Redcliffe Homestead is a Qualmark Gold accommodation.
Day 14 – Napier – Wellington
Distance: 315km/4 hours
Situated at the southern end of the North Island, Wellington, was recently named “the coolest little capital in the world“ by Lonely Planet.
Surrounded by nature and fuelled by creative energy and a pulsing cultural scene, Wellington is a compact city with a powerful mix of culture, history, nature, cuisine, good freshly brewed coffee and tasty craft beers. Don’t miss Te Papa, the iconic NZ National Museum.
Accommodation: QT Hotel – 2 nights
Includes full breakfast
QT hotel is a Qualmark Gold accommodation.
Day 15 – Wellington
Volunteering morning – eat my lunch (7am to 9am)
This morning roll up your sleeve and head up to Eat My Lunch kitchen.
Eat my lunch is a business driven by a social purpose: to ensure that no child goes hungry at school. This is done through a Buy One, Give One model. Instead of buying lunches, breakfasts and morning teas from other places, the good people of NZ have been buying a meal from Eat My Lunch.
Through this simple choice of buying, the organisation is enabled to Give a lunch to a Kiwi kid who would otherwise go without. Since the initiative started in June 2015, over 1,000,000 lunches have been given to Kiwi kids in 79 schools in Auckland and Wellington.
While the organisation employs over 45 staff, a high number of Volunteers are needed every day to prepare, pack and deliver the lunches to paying customers. Today you will get you involved in the making of the thousands of lunches needed daily…
Te Papa – Māori Experience Kapu Tī Tour (private tour)
Take an in-depth journey to discover Te Papa’s taonga and hear their stories for insights into Māori culture. From historic, artistic, and contemporary perspectives, this tour will enrich your understanding of what makes New Zealand’s Māori culture unique. The tour concludes with kapu tī – a hot drink and traditionally inspired food.This hospitality is an important part of Māori culture and provides an ideal opportunity for further informal conversation with your Host.
Duration: 90 minutes
Tonight drop off your car rental at Wellington airport.
Day 16 – Wellington – Auckland
This morning make your way to the train station.
The Northern Explorer rumbles through the heart of the North Island on an epic journey that covers 680km of New Zealand’s finest scenery, as it travels between Auckland and Wellington.
Departs 7.55am from Wellington – arrives Auckland 6.50pm
On arrival in Auckland make your way to your accommodation.
Accommodation: Hotel Grand Windsor Sofitel – 1 night
Includes full breakfast
Day 17 – Auckland – Departure
Today you will be collected from your hotel and transferred with an e-car to Auckland airport for your homebound flight.