Go touring beyond Auckland on this 11-day itinerary and you'll discover a winter wonderland in the Central North Island just waiting for you.
Visit one of Auckland's iconic landmarks, the Sky Tower(opens in new window). At 328m, it’s the country’s tallest building and boasts 360-degree views. If you’re feeling daring, you might like to attempt the SkyWalk (opens in new window)or the SkyJump(opens in new window).
Head to Waiheke Island, one of the world’s most exclusive – and spectacular – wine growing regions which is a short ferry ride from Auckland's city centre, and explore a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches.
The island has something to suit everyone from wine tours to art studio visits or simply relaxing on a secluded beach. There are also a wide array of outdoor activities including zip lining, archery, clay pigeon shooting, sea kayaking, horse riding and golf. It is also known for its local artists and artisans so you can enjoy sculpture, glass blowing, painting and woodwork at the local shops and markets.
Drive south through rich farmland, stopping at Waitomo Caves – one of the finest glowworm caves in New Zealand with stunning limestone cave formations. Thrillseekers can slide down underwater rivers in giant black rubber tubes – also known as black water rafting(opens in new window).
After you’ve explored this subterranean wonderland, continue your journey south to Ohakune – your ideal base at the foot of Mt Ruapehu.
Experienced skiers and snowboarders can revel in the chutes and drop-offs on this expansive volcanic terrain while Happy Valley(opens in new window) serves as a playground for beginners. Ride the brand-new Sky Waka gondola to 2020m above sea level to take in the extraordinary views overlooking the Central Plateau. For non-skiers, there’s three cafes, including New Zealand's highest - Knoll Ridge - where you can relax and soak in the views.
Today explore Ruapehu's second ski field, Turoa, found on the south-western side of the mountain. Turoa (opens in new window)offers a massive 722m of vertical descent on New Zealand's highest chairlift. If you’ve got a beginner with you, take a lesson or stay in Whakapapa(opens in new window)'s Happy Valley instead.
Non-skiers can take a guided sunset walk or a half day Volcanic Explorer walk(opens in new window) on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Or go cycling the Ohakune Old Coach Road and finish at the Powderkeg restaurant and bar with a well-earned drink.
After all the fun in the snow, spend the next three days sampling all that Taupō has to offer.
Taupō sits on the edge of New Zealand's largest largest lake and is blessed with breath-taking natural beauty and a wide array of water activities centred on and around the stunning lake. Start the day by visiting of one the country’s most popular attractions – Huka Falls. Take a jet boat (or river cruise) to the foot of the Falls and feel the thunder. A thrill seekers’ paradise, Taupō is a prime spot to bungy, take a swing off a cliff, or even skydive!
For something more relaxing, enjoy a scenic cruise on Lake Taupō to view the famous Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings or indulge in a leisurely bike ride along the Tongariro River Trails. Wind down your day with a soak in the geothermal waters at Wairakei Terraces or Taupō DeBretts Spa.
For more geothermal activity, Taupō offers opportunities to witness geysers, silica terraces and craters of boiling mud at Orakei Korako(opens in new window) and Craters of the Moon(opens in new window).
An hour’s drive north from Taupō brings you to Rotorua, which sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and everywhere in the region the earth is alive with volcanic activity.
Immerse yourself in the unique culture of New Zealand and explore the geothermal wonderland with clouds of steam and bubbling mud pools, or soak in naturally heated hot pools and rejuvenating mud at one of the many health spas.
For thrill-seekers, you can get your adrenaline pumping with one of Rotorua’s many thrilling adventures. Roll down a hill in a plastic ball filled with hot water with Zorbing or enjoy a thrilling ride on a sled with Luge. Nature lovers will enjoy ziplining through native forest or mountain biking in the redwoods. At night, the forest comes alive with 30 specially designed lanterns and you can enjoy the mesmerising nightlights at Treewalk.
Hell's Gate,(opens in new window) home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest hot water waterfall and one of the most active thermal parks in Rotorua, is a great spot to unwind after your day’s adventures.
In the evening, experience indigenous Maori culture at Mitai Maori Village(opens in new window). View warriors paddling an ancient waka (war canoe), savour a traditionally cooked Hangi (earth oven) meal and enjoy an authentic Maori performance.(opens in new window) Depart for Auckland the next day.
Hire a vehicle & hit the open road to explore Central North Island. It's easy!
There are plenty of accommodation options for every budget and travel style.
Crisp winter days are perfect for skiing, walking, cycling and soaking in hot pools.