A winter journey through Central North Island

auckland

Explore central North Island's best spots during winter

6-7 Days

870km

Highlights

  • Geothermal wonders & hot pools
  • Jet boating & relaxing lake cruise
  • Skiing on volcanic terrain

Explore the route

View map below

Discover North Island’s unique winter experiences on this seven-day itinerary that takes you from stunning underground cave formations to beautiful lakes, to geothermal attractions and to stunning snowy peaks.

Day 1: Auckland

auckland

An urban environment in the lap of nature.

Highlights

  • Auckland viaduct
  • Wine tasting at Waiheke Island
  • Hiking up Rangitoto

Top 10 things to do in Auckland

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Start or end your journey in Auckland, home to three stunning harbours, beaches (including famous black-sand surf beaches), 48 extinct volcanoes, wineries and an exciting cosmopolitan culture.

Experience a bit of Auckland's multi-cultural cuisine on one of the many eat streets around the city such as Ponsonby Central(opens in new window), Karangahape Road(opens in new window) or at the Viaduct Habour(opens in new window).

For a little change of scene, short ferry rides can take you to nearby islands such as Waiheke Island for some wine tasting or Rangitoto Island for some stunning hikes with epic Hauraki Gulf views.

Day 2: Waitomo and Waikato

hamilton-waikato

Enjoy subterranean wonders in Waitomo.

Highlights

  • Explore stunning limestone caves
  • Discover large glowworm grottos
  • Thrilling black-water rafting

Top 10 things to do in Waikato

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Drive south through rich farmland towards Taupō, stopping at Waitomo Caves – one of the finest glowworm caves 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 Taupō – your next stop on this North Island winter adventure!

Day 3: Fun in the snow at Ruapehu

ruapehu

Ruapehu

The North Island's winter playground.

Highlights

  • Whakapapa - NZ's largest ski field
  • Happy Valley for learners
  • New Zealand's highest cafe

Discover top 10 things to do in Ruapehu

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The Central North Island is home to New Zealand’s only skiable volcano – Mount Ruapehu. Hit the north-west facing slopes at Whakapapa Ski Area(opens in new window) which is just over an hour’s drive from Taupō.

Experienced skiers and snowboarders can revel in the chutes and drop-offs on this expansive volcanic terrain while Happy Valley serves as a playground for beginners.

There's still plenty to do for non-skiers such as snowshoeing at the Tukino Skifield(opens in new window) or take the Sky Waka gondola(opens in new window) up the slopes to New Zealand's highest cafe on Knoll Ridge Chalet(opens in new window).

Day 4: Explore the day walks around Ruapehu

ruapehu

Ruapehu

Explore the region during winter

Highlights

  • Taranaki Falls - North Island's highest
  • Plenty of day walks
  • Ohakune Carrot Adventure Park

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If one day is not enough at the skifield and you're an avid skier, head on to Tūroa found on the south-western side of the mountain. Tūroa offers a massive 722 metres of vertical descent on New Zealand's highest chairlift. 

An alternative to skiing could be an invigorating two-hour walk through the beech forest to Taranaki Falls(opens in new window), 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).

Wind down and spend a relaxing evening exploring the dining delights and nightlife of Taupō, buzzing with après-ski excitement.

Day 5: Spend the day in Taupō

lake-taupo

Taupō

Breath-taking natural beauty

Highlights

  • Experience the thundering Huka Falls
  • Bungy or skydive in Taupō
  • Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings

FIND THE TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN TAUPŌ

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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 Taupō 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.

Day 6: Rotorua

rotorua

Rotorua

The heart of New Zealand's geothermal wonders.

Highlights

  • Hells Gate - most active geothermal park
  • Te Puia geothermal park - Pohutu Geyser
  • Whakarewarewa (Redwoods) Forest

Top 10 things to do in Rotorua

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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 the native forest or head to Agroventures for a cocktail of adventure activities. For a bit of the outdoors, go for a walk, or mountain biking, in Whakarewarewa Forest.

If you're after a bit of relaxation, 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. Feel the warm embrace of Māori culture, see the iconic Pohutu Geyser and visit a live kiwi bird sanctuary at Te Puia(opens in new window).

Experience some of the local delicacies and head to Eat Streat(opens in new window) for your pick of dining options.

 View the route below

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