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- Minimum length: 1030km
- Add 40km for Mount Hikurangi; 100km for Te Urewera National Park.
- Minimum duration: 4 days
- Start: Auckland, finish: Napier.
Pacific Coast Highway
Your Pacific Coast exploration begins in Auckland, New Zealand's main international gateway. Explore diverse shopping and dining precincts, wander through a plethora of galleries and museums, or take in some live music and theatre.
Waiheke Island, or "the island of wine" as it's sometimes known, is a charming holiday spot blessed with golden-sand beaches, lush native bush, olive groves and some of the region's best wineries. Just a 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, the island makes a lovely day trip – though you might be tempted to stay for good.
Auckland is surrounded by water and you’ll find the locals’ love of the ocean contagious. Get out on a boat cruise, kayak or surf board – there are vast harbours, sandy bays and pumping surf breaks to suit every fancy.
With its pristine beaches, hidden coves and lush native forest, The Coromandel Peninsula is a favourite holiday destination among Kiwi’s. Here you’ll find lively resort towns, quiet seaside settlements and idyllic camp spots.
Cathedral Cove lies a few kilometres north-west of Hahei township. The arching rock cavern and secluded beach is well worth the 40-minute hike to get there. If you prefer to arrive by water, hire a kayak or relax on a scenic boat tour.
Hot water beach
A little further south from Cathedral Cove is Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own spa pool at low tide and relax in geothermally heated water that bubbles up through the sand. It’s a must-do for visitors to The Coromandel.
Bay of Plenty
The Bay of Plenty’s gentle climate and white-sand beaches mean you can carry on where you left off in the Coromandel – relax, swim, surf and enjoy. Explore the vibrant urban centres of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, and if you’re up for adventure, try paragliding, white water rafting, blokarting or hiking along an active volcano.
The harbour city of Tauranga is the Bay of Plenty’s biggest population centre. Enjoy waterfront dining and live music on The Strand, or explore the popular beach and resort town of nearby Mount Maunganui.
New Zealand’s most active volcano is safe to visit – but you’ll need to wear a hard hat. Take a boat or helicopter to White Island and be led past steaming vents, vast craters and an abandoned sulphur mine.
Remote and ruggedly beautiful, Eastland is dotted with uncrowded beaches, Maori villages and top-notch vineyards. The area is steeped in history and legend – try to catch a few local yarns as you travel through.
Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun each day and is surrounded by natural wonders. Here you can surf to your heart’s content, experience Maori culture and gain a new appreciation for Chardonnay.
According to Maori legend, when the demigod Maui fished up the North Island of New Zealand, Mount Hikurangi was the first point to emerge from the sea. When visiting the sacred mountain you'll see Maui depicted in carvings, and can hear the legend first hand from a local guide.
The Hawke’s Bay is a fertile wine-growing region that boasts one of the world’s best collections of Art Deco architecture. You’ll find this last stop on your Pacific Coast journey a great place to relax and unwind.
Meander along the Hawke’s Bay’s many wineries on a self-drive, chauffer driven or bicycle tour. The winery restaurants make it easy to appreciate lush sauvignon blanc, smooth merlot and spicy cabernet sauvignon, all complemented by first-class cuisine.
Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest gannet colony which can be reached on foot, by kayak or on a tractor. The Cape also happens to have one of the country’s best golf courses.
Where to next?
You may have reached the end of your Pacific Coast Highway journey, but there's plenty more of New Zealand to explore. From Napier you can venture south on the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, or back up to Auckland via the Thermal Explorer Highway.