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

Discover New Zealand’s North Island – with a taste of the South – on this 12-day adventure from Auckland to Christchurch. Ease into it with a few days soaking up the beauty of the Bay of Islands, then learn ancient Maori traditions and witness geothermal marvels in Rotorua. Choose whether to tackle the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing and visit the cultural capital of Wellington. Explore sunny Nelson and the beachfront bush of Abel Tasman National Park and cap it off with time in Kaikoura, where the shores are filled with seals. Discover 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.


Start
Auckland, New Zealand
Finish
Christchurch, New Zealand
Destination
New Zealand
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer, Wildlife
Code
PTONU
Physical rating
Ages
Min 12
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 Te Puia 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.

  • 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 join the group for a full-day trek over the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, hiking past aqua coloured lakes, craters and volcanos.

  • Cruise in between green islands Marlborough Sounds, where the hilly islands were once towering mountains and the channels were once dry valleys.

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 Apr 2019 to 31 Mar 2020.
View the 2020 itinerary
Kia ora! Welcome to Auckland, surrounded by volcanoes and filled with friendly locals and Maoritanga (the Maori way of life). Your adventure kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm at your accommodation. If you have extra time before your trip begins you can take a tour to one of the many outer islands in the Hauraki Gulf, hike to one of the 48 volcanic cones, or keep it simple with a stroll and a coffee (the lively Ponsonby area is a good start).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Skytower, Auckland - NZD32
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 accommodation reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Depart Auckland this morning, head north to the beautiful Bay of Islands. There's some beautiful scenery along the way, so sit back and enjoy the rolling green hills as your leader explains a bit about this part of New Zealand and what's coming on the journey ahead. 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. There will be stops in small towns so you can stretch your legs and grab a snack en route. Arrive in Paihia and settle into your accommodation and enjoy the sea breeze, perhaps with one of New Zealand's many renowned white wines or small-batch craft beers in hand. As the sun goes down head out on the water for an evening dinner cruise.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Travel time today is approximately 4 hours (225 kilometres).
Today you have a free day to partake in any of the optional activities you organised yesterday, or alternatively to relax and enjoy the gorgeous bay. Fancy a cruise to the Hole in the Rock, a full-day sailing tour or the chance to get airborne in a parasail? All these activities and more are available to book while you’re here.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bay of Islands: Boat Trip - Hole in Rock - NZD115
  • Bay of Islands: Cape Reinga - Full day (From price) - NZD138
  • Bay of Islands: Sailing - Full day - NZD120
  • Bay of Islands: Parasail (From price) - NZD99
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Embrace an early start and head back down south to Rotorua, passing back through Auckland. Rotorua is full of geysers and boiling mud pools caused by extensive geothermal activity. It’s also considered the Maori heartland and a place where many ancient traditions live on. This evening choose whether to participate in an optional Maori cultural experience, which includes a traditional hangi dinner (where food is cooked either underground or in the naturally boiling spring waters. You can also talk to your leader about booking an optional night walk through the nearby redwood forest, where you can stroll the canopy in the light of lanterns hung in the 100-year-old trees.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Rotorura: Maori Cultural Evening - NZD118
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time today is around 7 hours (approximately 420 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.
After breakfast,  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
  • River Rafting - NZD239
  • Hobbiton - Lord of The Rings Set - NZD120 - Free
  • Agrodome Farm Culture Show - NZD36 - Free
  • Hells Gate Thermal Area and Spa - NZD35-90 - Free
  • Rotorua: Canopy Tour (From price) - AUD159
  • Rotorua: Waitomo Glowworm Caves & Hobbiton (price is from) - AUD124
  • Rotorua: White island active volcano (3.5hr helicopter) - NZD1195
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Eat breakfast then make tracks for the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute before heading out of town to the spectacular Huka Falls, where a 100-metre-wide river is forced to travel through a narrow volcanic channel, resulting in a powerful rush of water. Spend a little time on the viewing bridge snapping pictures, then continue to Taupo. Once in Taupo you’ll have enough time (around 3 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 you can always relax on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake. Continue to Mt Ruapehu to get ready for our next day's activities. You're situated in the heart of the wilderness up here, in cosy lodgings with a spa and an excellent restaurant on site. Those tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing tomorrow will want to get a good rest.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Rotorua - Te Puia Maori Art & Cultural Centre
  • Rainbow Springs
Optional Activities
  • Mountain Biking - NZD35
  • Bungy Jumping from - NZD180
  • Jet Boating from - NZD155
  • Thermal Baths from - NZD30
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Total driving time is around 2.5 hours (approximately 180 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 20-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 flights over volcanos (From price) Minimum 2 pax - NZD125
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave Tongariro National Park behind and head to the New Zealand capital of Wellington. With more eateries per capita than New York City, Wellington is a fantastic place for foodies. It's also home to the world-class Te Papa Tongarewa (Container of Treasures) museum, which you’ll visit today. In your free time, perhaps ride the free cable car to the Botanic Gardens for some spectacular views of the city and the harbour. Maybe take a walk down Cuba Street this evening and grab a drink in one of the many bars.
Accommodation
  • Motel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wellington - Te Papa Museum
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 5.5 hours (approximately 330 km).
Eat breakfast in Wellington, then cross over to the South Island today via the Marlborough Sounds on a scenic ferry ride. Once upon a time, rising sea levels filled valleys with water, resulting in the stunning waterways and steep islands (formerly mountaintops) you see today. Continue to picturesque Nelson, which enjoys the sunniest weather in all of New Zealand. Enjoy free time to explore at your own pace on arrival.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wellington: Scenic Cruise through Marlborough Sound across to the North Island
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Total driving time is around 2 hours (approximately 130 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. Tonight, you’ll have an included dinner at your accommodation to look forward to.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kayak Tour from - NZD140
  • Abel Tasman National Park - Free
Meals Included
  • Dinner
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 a good chance of spotting seals among the rocks. In the evening, consider trying the excellent local seafood, such as crayfish. After all, you're in the town named after it ('kai' means food and 'koura' means crayfish).
Accommodation
  • Motel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Whale Watching - NZD155
  • Kaikoura Seal Colony - Free
  • Kaikoura - Swimming with the Dolphins - NZD180
  • Kaikoura - Albatross watch - NZD130
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 4 hours (approximately 240 km).
Enjoy a relaxed morning in Kaikoura. After midday, drive to Christchurch where your trip ends on arrival.
Optional Activities
  • Dolphin Swim - NZD170
  • Whale Watching - NZD155
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 3 hours (approximately 160 km).

While we endeavour to arrive in the afternoon, it’s possible we will arrive as late as 6 pm. Please take this into consideration when booking any onward flights.

Meals

3 breakfasts, 2 dinners

Transport

Ferry, Van

Accommodation

Lodge (11 nights)

Included activities

  • Rotorua - Te Puia Maori Art & Cultural Centre
  • Rainbow Springs
  • Wellington - Te Papa Museum
  • Wellington: Scenic Cruise through Marlborough Sound across to the North Island

Dates & availability

Trip search is unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our New Zealand North Island Explorer Southbound trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may change, so secure your trip today!
Jump to a departure month

Important notes

1. Tour commences in Auckland with group meeting on day 1 at 6:00pm and finishes on arrival in Christchurch on day 12 at approx 6PM. Please take this into consideration when booking any onward flights. We recommend you book accommodation in advance and extend your stay.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

Reviews