Day 1: Arrive in Auckland
On arrival at Auckland International Airport and after completion of customs formalities, collecting your luggage and passing through security, turn left as you enter the main arrivals hall where you will be met by our local representative at the pre-arranged transfers desk.
The driver will be holding a sign with your name detailed. From here you will be transferred by private vehicle to the ferry terminal for your journey to Waiheke Island.
Board your ferry at the Downtown Auckland Ferry Terminal and enjoy the scenic 40 minute cruise to Waiheke Island through the beautiful Hauraki Gulf. This stunning island just off the Auckland coast boasts 92 square kilometres of beautiful beaches, vineyards, olive groves, native bush and laid back seaside villages. Some sailings will travel via the Devonport Ferry Terminal.
Please make your own way from the ferry terminal in Matiatia to your accommodation on Onetangi Beach, where you can spend the rest of your day at leisure.
Day 2: Waiheke Island at Leisure
Today you are at leisure on Waiheke Island.
First settled in 950AD Waiheke was home to the Maru Iwi until centuries later the Children of Toi overran it claiming the island. During the 1820’s the notorious Hongi Hika waged his bloody gulf wars eventually expelling most of the surviving inhabitants. Thick in Kauri forest, the European settled Waiheke, felling the mighty trees and loading the timber onto ships bound for both sides of the Tasman. By the 1960’s Waiheke was firmly established as a popular holiday island for bach owners and day trippers with a growing resident population. Today the high speed ferries carry business people daily into Auckland City. The stands of Kauri have been replaced by lush vineyards, olive groves and pastureland. This is an island of unique art, stylish cafés and restaurants.
Activities/sightseeing on the island that may be of interest:
– Ziplining high above a working vineyard and lush, ancient forest canopies, soaking up incredible views back to the city and beyond along the way.
– Visit some of Auckland’s best vineyards for wine-tasting or lunch – Cable Bay, Stonyridge, Mudbrick, Casita Miro, Man O’War and Passage Rock, are some of the best wineries on the island.
– Take one of the public buses around the island or hire a mountain bike to explore the beautiful scenery.
– On a nice day, take advantage of the white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi, perfect for swimming, kayaking or having a picnic.
Day 3: Auckland – Bay of Islands
Please make your own way to the ferry terminal in Matiatia for your ferry crossing to Auckland.
Once arrived at the Auckland Ferry Terminal you can collect your rental vehicle.
Leaving the City of Sails, travel North over the Auckland Harbour Bridge overlooking the beautiful Waitemata Harbour. Take the toll road to bypass the small towns, or you may like to take the free route that takes you on a beautiful coastal route overlooking the Hibiscus Coast town of Orewa. You will then pass through farmlands to the towns of Warkworth & Wellsford where you will leave the wider Auckland region and crossover into Northland – New Zealand’s northernmost sub-tropical region. As you continue on, you will reach a small town called Waipu, situated near the very popular surf beach and seaside resort of Waipu Cove, Bream Bay. Waipu has an intriguing history with a strong Scottish heritage and spectacular natural surroundings.
You may like to take a lunch stop at the various cafes and restaurants along the waterfront in Whangarei – the only city in the far North. If time allows you may be interested in visiting one of the most unusual museums in the world – the Claphams Clock Museum.
As you come to the end of your drive to Paihia, you will pass alongside Opua Forest and Northland Forest Park before heading down into the gateway town to the Bay of Island’s sandy beaches, Paihia.
Driving distance: 227 km – 3 hours 15 minutes non-stop drive time.
Day 4: Bay of Islands
See some of the Bay of Island’s most scenic highlights on a four-hour cruise around its sheltered waters.
Travel along the Cape Brett Peninsula to the historic lighthouse at its end and see the famous Hole in the Rock. If conditions permit, you’ll cruise right through the hole! You’ll also spend some time on the island of the day – your skipper will choose the best of the bunch for you to explore, depending on the conditions.
Relax on the beach or stroll around the island to drink in the views of this breath-taking region.
Day 5: Bay of Islands at Leisure
Today is free to explore the Bay of Islands at your leisure. Its natural beauty and its 144 islands make for an idyllic aquatic playground.
The Bay of Island’s main centre is Paihia, a buzzing town with a vibrant café and restaurant culture. Across the harbour from Paihia, lies Russell. An elegant town with over 200 years of stories to discover; it’s full of history, cafés, restaurants, galleries and colonial architecture. Take a passenger ferry from the end of the Paihia wharf, or car ferry from Opua, and visit New Zealand’s oldest licensed pub and oldest existing church, which is still scarred with musket ball holes from the war in 1845.
A place of vast historical significance is Waitangi, just a short stroll or drive across bridge from Paihia. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is New Zealand’s premier historic site where in 1840 New Zealand’s most significant document was signed; The Treaty of Waitangi. You can visit the Treaty House, take a guided tour of the grounds, take part in a cultural performance or visit one of two museums.
You haven’t really seen the Bay of Islands unless you’ve gone out onto the water. Take the helm on a tall ship, charter a yacht, paddle out to sea on a kayak or book a scuba dive trip. Find a sheltered anchorage for safe swimming in pristine waters on an uninhabited island away from the crowds. There are numerous operators heading out to the islands on a scheduled basis from both Paihia and Russell.
If you’re seeking an adrenaline adventure, take skydive or parasail high above the turquoise waters.
Day 6: Bay of Islands – Orewa
Depart Paihia, set in the beautiful Bay of Islands for your journey South to Auckland. If time permits, you may like to take a quick stop in the only city in the far North – Whangarei, for some lunch along the waterfront. Pass through the market gardening and dairy lands of Northland until you reach the beautiful coast line at Bream Bay. If you have time to take a short detour, head over to Waipu Cove where a popular surf beach and seaside resort reside. Before you reach the city of Auckland, you will pass through Wellsford and adventure through Dome Valley where there are some stunning viewpoints that are worth the 5 minute stop off.
Continue along the coast to Orewa.
Driving distance: 228 km – 3 hours non-stop drive time.
Day 7: Orewa – Pauanui/ Coromandel Peninsula
Leaving the City of Sails, cross the Bombay Hills and head East around the base of the Hauraki Gulf – the Firth of Thames.
Travelling over the historical Kopu bridge, you will now be taking on some true New Zealand country roads. Wind your way around the Kopu-Hukuai road whilst taking in the breath-taking forest scenery of the Coromandel to the East Coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. As the forest starts to disappear behind you, you will soon to be able to smell the sea air as you approach the beach town of Pauanui, perched at the head of Tairua Harbour. A purpose built holiday community, the town is a popular summer destination for New Zealanders, with beautiful golden sanded beaches safe for surfing and swimming. Ferries regularly run the short distance across the harbour to Tairua, an older farming community and a number of charter and fishing boats also depart from the wharf.
Rising up behind the town is the jagged Coromandel Range. Cloaked in regenerating native bush, the hills offer plenty to explore – from walking tracks to old mining relics.
Driving distance: 151 km – 2 hours non-stop drive time.
Day 8: Coromandel Peninsula
Today is free for you to spend at leisure in the Coromandel.
The area is home to a large number of talented artists and craftspeople whose studios are often open to the passing visitor. Numerous walking tracks throughout the area provide great opportunities to explore the native bush and coastline, and admire the scenery. Other attractions include golf, game fishing, swimming, kayaking or just relaxing on the beach. Nearby, at the aptly named Hot Water Beach, hot springs seep through the sands which can be scooped out for an individual thermal pool.
Note: Due to potentially dangerous sea conditions we strongly advise you to avoid swimming at Hot Water Beach.
Day 9: Pauanui/ Coromandel Peninsula – Tauranga
Depart the quiet seaside resort of Pauanui and drive back through the natural scenery of the Coromandel Peninsula.
Wind your way around the Kopu-Hukuai road whilst taking in the breath-taking forest scenery of the Coromandel Ranges. Cross over the historical Kopu bridge and make your way south. To the east, the craggy Kaimai Range overlooks the plains and remains a constant presence as you continue south. Nestled at the base of the scenic Kaimai ranges is the small vibrant town of Matamata knows for its thoroughbred industry, dairy farming heritage, historic Firth Tower Museum and the magnificent Wairere Falls.
You will see the Lord of the Rings & Hobbit theme throughout the town as you make your way to the Hobbiton Movie Set on Alexander Farm. Welcome to Middle-earth!
Experience the real Middle-earth with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set, the bucolic setting for The Shire that featured in the Peter Jackson directed films, The Lord of the Rings and the ‘Hobbit’ Trilogies. The tour starts with a drive through the picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges.
A guide will escort you through the ten acre site recounting fascinating details of how the Hobbiton set was created. The Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, Mill and other structures created for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films can be viewed. See how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-earth.
Say Goodbye to Middle-Earth and leave the rolling hills of Alexander Farm. You will head over the Kaimai Mountain Range within the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park that contains a number of historic mining and Kauri logging sites and features several popular tramping tracks. There are plenty of safe places to stop throughout this drive, so if time permits, definitely take a quick stop and enjoy some of the beautiful scenery at the lookout points.
As you leave the Kaimai Ranges, you will see the major deep water port and harbourside city in the Bay of Plenty – the sunny city of Tauranga.
Day 10: Depart from Tauranga
This morning, drive to Tauranga airport, drop off your rental car and check in for your departure flight.