Enjoy an impressive cross-section of attractions on this 5-day lower North Island route.
From Wellington (New Zealand's capital), travel north to Martinborough - wine country. Napier offers more wineries, along with Art Deco design and tranquil cycle trails. Geothermal parks and water activities await you in Taupo, before you turn south, through volcanic landscapes and nature reserves back to Wellington.
Martinborough is packed with colonial charm and features over 20 wineries, most within cycling or walking distance of the village square. Some of New Zealand’s best pinot noir comes from the town’s predominately family-owned vineyards, so it’s not surprising that this is a popular destination for wine lovers. Hire a bike and cycle-the-vines, take a guided wine tour or visit the local Wine Centre.
Alternatively, you can hike the Patuna Chasm Walkway which takes you through a spectacular limestone chasm or visit the Early Settlers Museum in nearby Greytown.
From Martinborough, travel north to Masterton, the Wairarapa’s largest town. There you can explore beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park, The Wool Shed Museum, and Aratoi: Wairarapa Museum. Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is another highlight. It is home to the world's only white kiwi in captivity.
In the twin cities of Napier and Hasting, you'll find beautiful Art Deco architecture, the result of a 1931 earthquake, which destroyed many of the original buildings. Visit the local MTG museum for the story of this fascinating history. Hawke's Bay is also home to a plethora of vineyards, many within easy cycling distance of Napier. Another attraction is the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.
The journey from Napier to Taupo is packed with fantastic scenery. There’s a bit of everything - rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. At Tarawera, you can walk to the hot springs above the Waipunga River. You might also want to stop at the Waiarua Falls lookout, to view the twin waterfalls.
If you like to fish, Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, is well-stocked with trout. It is also the perfect place for a range of water activities from boat cruises to kayaking. Nearby Huka Prawn Park combines theme park and aquaculture. Treat yourself to delicious self-caught prawns and try some of the park's quirky activities.
The Desert Road is the first lap of your journey today, this long and straight road across the volcanic plateau has amazing views of Tongariro National Park’s volcano cones.
On the way south be sure to stop at Waiouru, home to the National Army Museum. This highly acclaimed museum tells of New Zealand's military history from the New Zealand Wars to more recent peacekeeping around the world. Other towns along the way include Taihape (the Gumboot Throwing capital of the world) and Bulls, a hub for antique shopping.
With its restored historical buildings, Palmerston North has an attractive heart with plenty of boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and lovely rose gardens to explore.
There are plenty of interesting places to visit on your journey south today.
In Shannon, you'll find Owlcatraz an animal sanctuary for the Ruru, New Zealand's native owl. Levin has a thriving clothing industry with factory outlet shops of all kinds. Nearby, two beautiful dune lakes are a great place for birdwatching or visit Waikanae and take a trip to Kapiti Island, where you can encounter rare birds in the wild.
Return to Wellington and spend the afternoon exploring the downtown area. Along with being the country's capital, Wellington is also a hub of excellent cafes, restaurants, museums, and galleries. Dance, theatre and musical performances are also a Wellington speciality.