Volcanic Loop Highway

6 - 7 DAYS

Highlights

  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Forgotten World Adventures
  • Bridge to Nowhere

Proximity

  • By car: Total driving time 9 hr 50 min (approx)
  • By : Total distance 800 kms (approx)

From beautiful vineyards and exhilarating adventures to glittering glowworm caves and forgotten landscapes, this itinerary introduces you to some of New Zealand's most spectacular attractions.  

Walk the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, skydive from 15,000ft and cycle along historic trails when you journey through the North Island via the Volcanic Loop.

Day 1: Auckland and Hamilton

New Zealand
Zealong Tea Estate, New Zealand

By Fabien Maisonneuve

Hamilton - Waikato

Hamilton - Waikato

Hamilton accommodation

Highlights

  • Enjoy high tea at the Zealong Tea Estate
  • Visit Hamilton Gardens
  • Hobbiton in Matamata is not too far

Arrive in Auckland and hop into your rental car to head off on yoru Volcanic Loop holiday.

Drive through the rolling hills of the Waikato to Hamilton, a lush land known for its myriad of activities. Enjoy high tea at  Zealong Tea Estate, the only commercial tea plantation in New Zealand, or stroll through Hamilton Gardens and admire the stunning botanic displays. If you're a hobbit fan, the world-famous Hobbiton Movie Set is about an hour from Hamilton in Matamata.

 

Day 2: Waitomo Caves & The Timber Trail

Hamilton - Waikato
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Hamilton - Waikato

By TIME Unlimited Tours

Highlights

  • Explore caves lit by glowworms
  • Blackwater rafting
  • Start Your Timber Trail adventure

Today, journey to Waitomo, an underground world of stalactites, stalagmites and glittering glowworms. There is a variety of ways to explore this extensive network of caves, from a relaxing boat ride through the glowworm grotto to the more adventurous 4-hour journey by abseil deep into a lost world.

Continue on to the beautiful Pureora Forest Park, taking time to explore some of the small towns you pass.

At Pureora hire a bike and cycle though ancient forests and across graceful suspension bridges, as you follow old logging roads to Piropiro. The full Timber Trail route from Pureora to Ongarue crosses 35 bridges and includes a fascinating array of timber industry relics along the way. 

 

Day 3: Timber Trail - Ohakune

Hamilton - Waikato
The Timber Trail, Hamilton - Waikato

By Sven Martin

Highlights

  • Ride cycling and mountain bike trails
  • Nature walks and swimming spots
  • Explore historic bush tramways

Continue your journey on The Timber Trail before enjoying the Forgotten World Adventures tour, one of the best ways to see this part of the country. With railcarts and jet boats, the combo tour will give you the best of both worlds.

Depart Taumarunui and journey down a decommissioned railway line, through picturesque valleys, hidden townships and deep into the Whanganui National Park. Along the way you will discover a fascinating mixture of nostalgia and adrenalin. A jet boat up the Whanganui River returns you to Taumarunui. For something a little different try a tour to the famous ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, a stunning stone bridge with a strange history. 

Spend the night in Ohakune, gateway to Tongariro National Park.

Day 4: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

By Graeme Murray

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo

Taupo accommodation

Highlights

  • Traverse the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Stand beneath the Taranaki Falls
  • Whitewater rafting

Just a short drive from Ohakune is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely considered New Zealand's best day walk. The walk traverses the stark volcanic terrain between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, two of the North Island's most significant active volcanoes. With lava flows, steam vents, emerald-coloured lakes and an active crater, this walk is an unforgettable experience.

Alternatively, you can try jetboating or canoeing on the Whanganui River, take an easy stroll to the stunning Taranaki Falls, or enjoy a mountain bike back in time along the Ohakune Old Coach Road, before ending the day with relaxing spa at DeBretts Hot Springs in Taupo.

Day 5: Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo
Skydiving above the Central Plateau, Lake Taupo

By Taupo Tandem Skydiving

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo

Discover more about Lake Taupo

Highlights

  • Skydive from 15,000ft
  • Kayak to Mine Bay Maori rock carvings
  • Take a thrilling Hukafalls jet boat ride

The volcanic eruption that created Lake Taupo nearly two thousand years ago is said to be so big the effects were seen in Europe and China. Today it is New Zealand's largest lake and a haven for water based activities.

Spend the morning exploring the lake by kayak. Float through secluded inlets and paddle to Mine Bay where you will discover stunning maori designs carved into the cliff-face.

Change pace in the afternoon when you take a thrilling jet boat ride in the raging waters of Huka Falls, or jump out of a plane at 15,000ft and experience the adrenalin pumping sensation of freefall.

Day 6: Lake Taupo - Auckland

Auckland
Mt Eden, Auckland

By Elle Gillard

Auckland

Auckland

Discover more about the 'City of Sails'

Highlights

  • Auckland's 48 volcanic cones
  • Award-winning restaurants

Your journey back to Auckland takes you though rolling countryside and unique geological features. As you travel, take time to explore the variety of quintessential Kiwi towns you discover on the way and get to know a piece of rural New Zealand.

Once back in the city, stretch your legs with a hike up Maungawhau (Mount Eden), one of Auckland's 48 volcanic cones. The panoramic views that stretch across the harbour are some of the best in the city! 

Enjoy dinner along the waterfront at the Wynard Quarter or venture a little further to the buzzing inner-city suburb of Ponsonby where you'll be spoilt for choice. 

Auckland
Relax on Waiheke Island, Auckland

By Camilla Rutherford

Highlights

  • Visit secluded beaches on Waiheke Island
  • Savour world-class wines and food
  • Pamper yourself in a luxury lodge

Day 7: Auckland

For your final day in New Zealand, treat yourself to luxury and relaxation on Waiheke Island. Explore the island's many secluded beaches, wineries and walking trails. Waiheke's Delamore Lodge is a great option for true luxury accommodation. Enjoy the views from the heated infinity pool while reminiscing on your wonderful memories. 

Where to Next

Plan North Island Volcanic Loop Holiday →

Book Your North Island Volcanic Loop Holiday →

Top 10 Experiences on the Volcanic Loop Highway →

Other North Island Journeys →