Volcanic Loop Highway

auckland

Explore New Zealand's geothermal wonders

7 Days

747 km

Highlights

  • Cosmopolitan Auckland
  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Geothermal wonders

Explore the route

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

Walk the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, skydive from 15,000 feet and visit the famous Hobbiton™ Movie Set when you journey through the North Island via the Volcanic Loop.

Day 1: Spend the day in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland)

auckland

Lively city vibe and stunning natural landscapes

Highlights

  • Climb the volcanic Island of Rangitoto
  • Board a thrilling harbour jet boat ride
  • Inner-city culture

MUST-DO EXPERIENCES IN TĀMAKI MAKAURAU

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Spend the day getting to know the vibrant ‘City of Sails’. With outstanding food, natural attractions, and plenty of adventure, Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) is the perfect place to start your holiday.

Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge and take in the vistas of New Zealand’s biggest city, from the city centre to the Hauraki Gulf. While you’re there, bungy jump off the bridge to touch the water below.

Kayak across the harbour to hike the iconic Rangitoto volcanic cone. Take the track through rugged lava fields and forest, and stop off to explore the lava tunnels and caves on the way. 

If luxury and relaxation is what you're after, take the ferry to Motu-Wai-Heke (Waiheke) and explore the island's many secluded beaches, wineries and walking trails.

Day 2: Hamilton and Waitomo Caves

hamilton-waikato

Magical caves, surf beaches and Hobbits

Highlights

  • Explore caves lit by glowworms
  • Blackwater rafting
  • Hamilton Gardens

Top 10 things to do in Waikato

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Make your way south to Hamilton. Spend the morning with a visit to Hamilton Zoo, home to New Zealand's largest free-flight aviary. Discover unique native birds around every corner, including the endangered Blue Duck(opens in new window).

Beyond Hamilton, Waitomo is an underground world of stalactites (an icicle-shaped formation that hangs from the ceiling of a cave), stalagmites (an upward-growing mound of mineral deposits) and glittering glowworms. Explore this extensive network of caves, from a relaxing boat ride through the glowworm grotto or for the more adventurous take a 4-hour abseil journey deep into a lost world.

If you have time after your caving adventure, stop in at the Otorohanga Kiwi house and meet our national bird. 

Stay in Waitomo for the night or return to Hamilton.

Day 3: Pureora Forest and National Park

lake-taupo

Volcanic cones, desert road and wild rivers

Highlights

  • Explore Taupo's Timber Trail
  • Ancient trees
  • Timber industry relics

Explore towns in Ruapehu

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

At Pureora, hire a bike and spend the day cycling 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.

For non-cyclists, an abundance of walking tracks, swimming spots and native wildlife, make this park a must-do for nature lovers.

Spend the night in National Park village, or the nearby town of Turangi.

Day 4: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

ruapehu

Emerald lakes and day walks

Highlights

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

Discover more of Tongariro

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Just a trip from National Park is Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely considered New Zealand's best day walk.

The walk between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe offers unforgettable scenery and volcanic terrain. Taking in lava flows, steam vents, emerald-coloured lakes and an active crater, this walk is a memorable experience.

If the Crossing isn't for you, try whitewater rafting on the Whanganui River, or take an easy stroll to the stunning Taranaki Falls.

End the day with a relaxing spa at DeBretts Hot Springs in Taupō.

Please note: The Department of Conservation recommends that visitors access the Crossing via a shuttle, a full list of local operators can be found here.(opens in new window)

Day 5: Explore Taupō

lake-taupo

Plenty of outdoor activities and water sports

Highlights

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

Top 10 things to do in Taupō

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The volcanic eruption that created Lake Taupō 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 or doughboat. Float through secluded inlets and paddle to Mine Bay - where you will discover stunning Māori designs carved into the cliff-face.

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

Continue your journey on to Rotorua, where you will spend the night.

Day 6: Spend the day in Rotorua

rotorua

Mud pools, adventure and unique Māori culture

Highlights

  • Mud pools, geysers and hot springs
  • Māori cultural experiences
  • Whakarewarewa redwood forest trails

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN Rotorua

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Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present. 

Explore Rotorua's fascinating geothermal areas and discover the unique Māori culture.

Rotorua is increasingly becoming a hub for adventure, with a huge range of water sports, some of the world's top mountain biking trails, and a growing range of quirky adventure activities such as the OGO, shweeb or luge

End the day at one of Rotorua's many hot pools, and enjoy a peaceful soak at the Secret spot hot tubs - a local favorite.

Day 7: Return to Auckland via Hobbiton™

hamilton-waikato

Famous Hobbiton movie set, and clear spring water 

Highlights

  • Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Visit the quirky town of Tirau
  • Explore the stunning Blue Springs

Explore HOBBITION IN 360

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Your journey back to Auckland takes you though rolling countryside and unique geological features. It's easy to see why Peter Jackson chose this area to play The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Visit Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata to see how Middle‑earth™ was brought to life. 

As you travel, take time to explore the variety of quintessential kiwi towns on the way and get to know a piece of rural New Zealand. 

Near Putaruru, you can walk to the famous Blue Springs. Or stop into check out Tirau's many fascinating corrugated iron constructions. 

 View the route below

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