Gushing geysers, aqua alpine lakes and meaningful Maoritanga – Christchurch to Auckland

Explore New Zealand's North Island, from secluded beaches to volcanic craters, on this 12-day tour. Travel from Christchurch to Kaikoura, where you can spot seals on the rugged shoreline. Continue along the coast to Nelson and the cultural capital Wellington, then head inland to mighty Mt Ruapehu and geothermal Rotorua. Finish your trip in Auckland, but not before a few relaxing days spent on the Bay of Islands. An immersion in the incredible landscapes and Maori culture of Te Ika-a-Maui (the Maori term for the North Island) with plenty of free time to explore at your own pace, this trip is perfect for active nature lovers.


Start
Christchurch, New Zealand
Finish
Auckland, New Zealand
Destination
New Zealand
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer, Wildlife
Code
PTOAU
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 15

Why you'll love this trip

  • Be welcomed to Whakarewarewa by the Maori people who have lived there for over 700 years and wonder at the area’s steaming geysers, bubbling mud pits and lakes.

  • Feel the rush of Huka Falls, where a 100-metre-wide river is forced through a narrow volcanic chamber causing a torrent of incredible speed and power.

  • Explore the Abel Tasman National Park independently or on an optional tour, hiking through thick native forest and emerging on deserted sandy beaches.

  • Choose to embark on a full-day trek over the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, hiking past aqua coloured lakes, craters and volcanos.

  • Cruise though the Marlborough Sounds, where the hilly islands were once towering mountains and the channels were once dry valleys before they flooded 10,000 years ago.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Accommodation on this trip isn't luxurious but it's comfortable enough for you to relax after a day of adventure.

  • Lots of time allocated for optional activities means freedom and flexibility, but it does require a level of independence. Your leader is always on hand to give advice, point you in the right direction and help you book optional activities.

  • This trip includes time spent travelling in a minivan with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Oct 2019 to 31 Mar 2020.
View the 2020 itinerary
Kia ora! Welcome to Christchurch. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. Meet your fellow travellers and leader and perhaps head out for dinner to get to know each other better. If you’re thirsty, the city is also overflowing with tiny hole-in-the-wall bars, perfect for slipping into with your small group. Just remember you’ll have an early start tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Rise and shine for an early 8 am departure from Christchurch. Drive the beautiful coastline to Kaikoura, known for its rich marine life. On arrival you’re free to explore this mountainous coastal town. Two of the most popular activities on offer here are sperm whale watching and swimming with wild dolphins. Chat to your leader about how to book these optional activities. If you prefer to stay dry there are plenty of hikes in the area, either along the coast or into the bush. The Peninsula Walkway offers the best chance of spotting seals among the rocks.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kaikoura - Swimming with the Dolphins - NZD180
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 3 hours (approximately 160 km).

Whale watching and dolphin swimming are both subject to conditions.
Head for Nelson, a picturesque destination in its own right as well as your entry point to the Abel Tasman National Park should you choose to explore. Spend the afternoon exploring the town, which is full of arty shops, galleries and historic buildings.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 4 hours (approximately 240 km).
Take a day to explore Nelson with a huge amount of optional activities to choose from. Take a kayak or sailing tour through the waters of Abel Tasman National Park, or maybe a tour of the coves and bush trails. Of course, if you’d prefer to explore on your own, you can buy a ticket on the shuttle and head to the Abel Tasman to explore independently. Whatever you choose, have plenty of space left on your memory card, because the photo opportunities are many.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Nelson: Kayak tour (From price) - NZD140
  • Nelson: Sea shuttle discovery day - NZD92
  • Nelson: Sailing - NZD149
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Take the ferry across the majestic Marlborough Sounds, where rising sea levels filled valleys with water about 10,000 years ago, resulting in picturesque waterways and isolated islands. Cross into the North Island and arrive in Wellington in the afternoon. Enjoy free time to explore the capital, perhaps jumping on the historic cable car to get your bearings. Later, maybe hit the bars with your group and get to know this quirky city a little better.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wellington: Scenic Cruise through Marlborough Sound across to the North Island
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 2 hours (approximately 130 km).
Enjoy a free morning in Wellington. Maybe spend a few hours at the Te Papa Tongarewa (Container of Treasures), the result of two national museums that merged in the late 1990s. If the weather is nice, maybe take a stroll around the colourful Botanic Gardens. After lunch depart Wellington for Tongariro National Park, travelling through the North Island plains. Arrive in the afternoon and settle into your lodge. You’ll have a full day tomorrow to explore on foot, so perhaps take a gentle walk around the area or relax at your accommodation.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wellington - Te Papa Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Total driving time is around 5.5 hours (approximately 330 km).
Today you can choose whether to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This full-day (approximately 7-hour) hike is considered one of the best in New Zealand and offers rocky trails, magnificent aquamarine lakes and volcanic steam vents. This approximately 19-kilometre trail through remarkable landscapes is no walk in the park – trekkers need to have a good level of fitness and the track is tough in parts. For those who don’t want to take on this all-day trek, there are plenty of shorter walks and tracks that begin near the accommodation. It’s also possible to book an optional scenic flight to get a bird’s eye view of the area.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tongariro Crossing - NZD40
  • Mt Ruapehu: Scenic flight (From price) - NZD125
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information

It is essential you have a good level of fitness in order to participate in the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It involves hiking uneven and sometimes loose rock terrain for approximately 7 hours. Please pack good hiking shoes and appropriate clothing if you plan to hike.

Please note the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is unguided (i.e. you will be exploring independently).
Hit the road for Taupo, the North Island’s home of extreme sports. Stop en route at the famous Huka Falls, where the Waikato River is forced to squeeze through a narrow volcanic channel that results in a powerful flow of water. Once in Taupo you’ll have enough time (around three hours) to squeeze in an optional bungy jump or a ride in a speedboat (both subject to availability and extra cost). If you’d prefer, maybe relax on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake. Continue to Rotorua and the town of Whakarewarewa, where the local Maori population can trace their heritage all the way back to the Polynesians who settled the area in the 14th century. Visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and explore the incredible landscape where geysers burst forth and mud pools bubble. Tonight, you have the chance to partake in an optional Maori cultural evening, including a performance and traditional hangi dinner cooked in the geothermal waters.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Taupo: Huka Falls
  • Te Puia Thermals
Optional Activities
  • Bungy Jumping from - NZD180
  • Jet Boating from - NZD155
  • Mountain Biking - NZD35
  • Rotorua - Te Puia Maori Art & Cultural Centre - Free
  • Thermal Baths from - NZD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 2.5 hours (approximately 180 km).

The smell in Rotorua can be off-putting at first due to the geothermal gases released by pools and geysers. Some people find it more intense than others, but most people get used to it quickly.
Another free day in gorgeous surrounds means you can be as active or restful as you’d like. Maybe head to Dansey Road Scenic Reserve for a tour with kiwi bird experts and a zip-lining adventure through 1000-year-old canopy. You could also do a tour that combine trips to the glow-worm caves of Waitomo and the film set of Hobbiton (where the Shire sections of Lord of the Rings were filmed). If you’re flush with cash, consider the once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach White Island – an active marine volcano – by helicopter. If you’re after a relaxing day, perhaps hang back and soak in the thermal pools or mud baths.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Rotorua: Agrodome Farm Culture Show - AUD36
  • Rotorua: Hells Gate Thermal Area and Spa (From price) - AUD35
  • Rotorua: Waitomo Caves Visit (From price) - AUD230
  • Rotorua: Hobbiton: Lord of The Rings Set - AUD120
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Leave Rotorua and drive north towards New Zealand's ‘winterless north’, so called because the weather in this part of the country is comparatively mild. Today will involve lots of time on the road, so be sure to have a book or podcast ready in case you need it. Take this time to organise what you’d like to do in the Bay of islands, as options need to be finalised this morning in order to secure places. Take a look at the optional activities listed tomorrow for an idea of what’s on offer.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Total driving time is around 6.5 hours (approximately 420 km).
Enjoy a whole day to explore the unspoiled Bay of Islands. Some options are a boat trip to the Hole in the Rock, an aptly-named rock tunnel which offers a good chance at spotting dolphins, and a full-day sailing tour around the islands. If you’d prefer to stay on land, the town of Russell offers historic buildings leftover from the its past life as a busy maritime hub in the 1800s. Now a serene holiday destination, Russell was once known as the ‘hellhole of the pacific’ for its abundance of brothels, bars and sailors. In the afternoon, board a boat for a harbour cruise with an included dinner of local food.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bay of Islands - Evening Harbour cruise
Optional Activities
  • Bay of Islands: Boat Trip - Hole in Rock - NZD115
  • Bay of Islands: Sailing - Full day - NZD120
  • Bay of Islands: Parasail (From price) - NZD99
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Begin the journey south to Auckland, passing beautiful beaches and lush forests. Cross into the city via the Auckland Harbour Bridge, getting spectacular views of the ‘City of Sails’ as you do. Your tour ends on arrival at a central hotel. While we aim to arrive in Auckland in the afternoon, we may arrive as late as 6 pm. For this reason, we advise you not to book any flights out of Auckland before 8 pm.
Optional Activities
  • Skytower, Auckland - NZD32
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 4 hours (approximately 225 km).

Meals

3 breakfasts, 2 dinners

Transport

Ferry, Van

Accommodation

Lodge (11 nights)

Included activities

  • Wellington: Scenic Cruise through Marlborough Sound across to the North Island
  • Wellington - Te Papa Museum
  • Taupo: Huka Falls
  • Te Puia Thermals
  • Bay of Islands - Evening Harbour cruise

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Tour commences in Christchurch with group meeting on day 1 at 6 pm and finishes in Auckland day 12 at approximately 6 pm. Please consider this when booking flights and extra accommodation.
2. Trip runs in reverse, see tour code PTONU.
3. A single supplement is available to purchase and is valid for each night of the trip.

Essential trip information

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