Explore the Volcanic Heart
Explore the volcanic heart of New Zealand on this five-day whistle-stop journey through the Central North Island. Discover a magical underground world in Waitomo. Relax in the thermal waters of Lake Taupō and experience a sunset hike in the Tongariro National Park. Visit Rotorua’s gushing geysers and bubbling mud pools and finish in the Bay of Plenty.
There’s so much to do and see – you may need to take another day or two, or three…
Depart Auckland on the Thermal Explorer Highway through the rolling green hills and pastures that are synonymous with Waikato region, to the famous Waitomo Caves. Here you can explore the magic underground world of glowworms, stunning cave formations and underground rivers.
From spectacular underground caves to the wild coast, Waitomo and its surrounding landscape offer an experience that is unlike any other. Families to thrill-seekers will love the options on offer including a gentle boat ride under galaxies of glowworms in Waitomo Glowworm Caves, walking tours of awe-inspiring limestone formations in Ruakuri Cave and a blood pumping rage of adventure activities including Black Water Rafting and abseiling 100-metres into the Lost World cave. Above ground, the beautiful Marokopa Falls and the Mangapohue Natural Bridge are well worth a visit.
Continue your journey to the central heart of the North Island, Lake Taupō. Spend the evening relaxing in the warm thermal waters rising to the surface from deep in the earth’s core that have been prized by local Māori for generations, for their therapeutic powers and healing properties at Wairakei Terraces, adults-only thermal hot pools. Surrounded by native bush and set below silica terraces and waterfalls, this visit will leave your body rested and rejuvenated for another day of exploration.
Explore New Zealand’s largest crater lake, Lake Taupō, formed by one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions. Cruise the bush-clad bays, and marvel at the creations on shore as you visit the iconic Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings and try your luck catching a Rainbow Trout. Experience: Chris Jolly Outdoors (Taste of Taupō Cruise) / Lake Taupō Cruises Ernest Kemp (Maori Rock Carvings Cruise) / Sail Barbary (daily Rock Carvings Cruise).
Then pick up the pace as you experience the thrill and excitement of jet boating up the mighty Waikato River with Hukafalls Jet. Enjoy 360-degree spins and incredible speeds before getting an up-close view of the impressive Huka Falls.
This afternoon take the scenic drive around the shores of Lake Taupō to the spectacular Dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park, dominated by the volcanic cones that mark the start of the Taupō Volcanic Zone. Head up the Bruce Road to Whakapapa base area and ride the brand-new Sky Waka gondola to the highest eatery in New Zealand for a bite to eat at high altitude with views for days. Spend this evening learning the stories and history of this stunning national park on a Sunset Guided Hike with Adrift before resting your head at your accommodation at the base of these awesome peaks.
Add an Extra Day: Spend an additional day in Taupō or the Tongariro National Park and take on one of the world’s best 1-day hikes – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Begin your morning with a scenic flight over the vast volcanic landscapes of the Tongariro National Park. View the peaks of Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu as well as iconic volcanic landscapes of the Ketetahi Hot Springs, Red Crater, Emerald Lakes and site of the most recent eruptions – the Te Maari Crater.
This evening experience the beauty of the Redwoods Forest by night as you wander amongst these giants of the world on the Redwoods Nightlights tour.
This morning visit Te Puia and see, first hand, the star of Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Thermal Valley – Pōhutu Geyser. Take the time to wander around and making sure you stop for lunch: The menu is fabulous, with options cooked via geothermal.
This afternoon, take your geothermal experience to a new level, with a mineral pool soak. Super relaxing and indulgent, this is sure to be a holiday highlight! Take your pick from Polynesian Spa or Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
Once you have refreshed and rejuvenated, take the short drive through beautiful New Zealand bush to coastal township of Whakatāne, in preparation for a trip to discover the rare beauty of one of New Zealand’s little-known treasures.
Stay: Bay of Plenty
This morning cruise to Moutohorā/Whale Island. It’s the remnant of a complex volcano and today offers a pest-free oasis that is home to a number of New Zealand’s rare and endangered plants, birds and reptiles. Keep an eye out for a threatened tūturiwhatu/New Zealand dotterel, boisterous tīeke/North Island saddleback, Tuatara, or kākāriki/red-crowned parakeet as you journey through the regenerated native bush before you dig yourself a soothing geothermal spring pool at Onepū Bay, Moutohorā’s secluded hot water beach.
Wander back to Auckland or take an extra day and explore more of the Bay of Plenty on the way.