Discover North Island’s unique winter experiences on this seven-day itinerary that takes you from stunning underground cave formations to beautiful lakes, geothermal attractions and snowy peaks with views to die for.
A short three-hour flight gets you to Auckland, home to three stunning harbours, beaches (including famous black-sand surf beaches), 48 extinct volcanoes, wineries and an exciting cosmopolitan culture.
Head to Waiheke, a short ferry ride from Auckland's city centre, to taste top drops or visit one of the city’s many vantage points like the Sky Tower(opens in new window) or Rangitoto for a fabulous outlook.
Drive south through rich farmland towards Taupo, stopping at Waitomo Caves – one of the finest glowworm caves in New Zealand with stunning limestone cave formations and an opportunity for thrill seekers to 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, including a tranquil boat ride through the giant glowworm grottos, continue your journey south to Taupo – your next stop on this New Zealand winter adventure!
The Central North Island is home to New Zealand’s only skiable volcano – Mount Ruapehu. Today, hit the north-west facing slopes at Whakapapa Ski Area(opens in new window), just over an hour’s drive from Taupo.
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. For non-skiers, there’s three cafes, including New Zealand's highest, where you can relax and soak in the views.
Back in Taupo that evening enjoy lakeside dining with options to suit every taste.
One day is never enough at the ski field, so we head to the mountain again – to Turoa(opens in new window) on the south-western side of the mountain. Turoa offers a massive 722m of vertical descent on New Zealand's highest chairlift. If you’ve got a beginner with you, we suggest heading to Whakapapa(opens in new window) instead.
An alternate to skiing could be an invigorating two-hour walk through beech forest to Taranaki Falls, located in the Tongariro National Park or a rafting trip on the Tongariro River with Tongariro River Rafting(opens in new window) or Rafting New Zealand.(opens in new window)
Another evening is spent exploring the dining delights and nightlife of Taupo, buzzing with après-ski excitement.
Taupō is blessed with breath-taking natural beauty and a wide array of activities centred on and around a stunning lake. Start the day by visiting one of the country’s most popular attractions – Huka Falls. Take a jet boat (or river cruise) to the foot of Huka Falls and feel the thunder. Thrill-seekers’ paradise, Taupō is a prime spot to bungy or swing off a cliff, or even jump out of a plane!
For something more relaxing, enjoy a sailing tour on Lake Taupo to view the famous Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings. Wind down your day with a soak in the geothermal waters at Wairakei Terraces or Taupō DeBretts Spa.
An hour’s drive north gets you to Rotorua, which sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present.
First, get your adrenaline pumping with one of Rotorua’s many thrilling adventures. Would you like to roll down a hill in a plastic ball with Zorbing or on a sled with Luge? Perhaps you prefer ziplining through native forest or head to Agroventures(opens in new window) for a cocktail of adventure activities.
Hells 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. Their spa menu is extraordinary!
A morning walk, or mountain biking for those keen on it, in Whakarewarewa Forest is a great start to your last day in Rotorua. Having explored the giant Redwoods, and perhaps a gondola ride later, head to Te Puia(opens in new window). Here you can feel the warm embrace of Maori culture and see the iconic Pohutu Geyser as well as visit a live kiwi bird sanctuary.
In the evening, head to Eat Street for your pick of dining options. 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.