10 Day Koromiko (North Island)
Haere mai – welcome! We greet your flight and take you to your hotel: situated very centrally and within walking distance to what makes Auckland so special – the sea. Meet your driver-guide for an early evening stroll and some tips on where you might eat this evening: the waterfront has something for everyone.
Rendezvous Grand Hotel, Auckland
- AUCKLAND – BAY OF ISLANDS (B)
Leaving the City of Sails behind, we travel up Northland’s west coast skirting Kaipara Harbour and following the Kaihu River to Kai Iwi Lakes and the primeval forest of Waipoua, which translates as ‘water falling at night’. Our Maori guide leads us deep into the forest, explaining the spiritual significance of the giant Kauri trees and introducing us to his ancestors, including the lord of the forest Tane Mahuta. At 150 feet tall this tree is a rare survivor of a species that was exploited by the pakeha to the point of extinction. Taking minor roads heading east, we follow the path of the Ng?puhi Iwi warriors to the Flagstaff battlegrounds and finally to tranquil Paihia set right beside the sparkling Pacific.
Kingsgate Hotel, Paihia – 2 nights
- BAY OF ISLANDS (B)
144 islands are scattered across this beautiful bay, in warm shallow waters that are perfect for marine life and travellers alike. After breakfast, we cross to Russell by ferry to meet a local guide for an insight into this pretty little town’s rip-roaring past, when drunken sailors earned it the name ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’. We finish our tour at the fine old Duke of Marlborough Hotel, where you may wish to have a cool beer, or a light lunch (at your own expense). The afternoon is free for you to same some of the optional activities on offer such as a boat trip on a specially-designed craft, seeking out the sheltered coves where bottlenose dolphins congregate. Conditions permitting, there is a chance to swim with these intelligent creatures! Or perhaps try your hand at kayaking – paddle up the sheltered Waitangi Estuary to spend time exploring the fascinating Mangrove Forests and Haruru Falls.
- BAY OF ISLANDS – COROMANDEL PENINSULA (B)
We are welcomed to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where modern New Zealand was in essence founded on the signing of the 1840 treaty between Maori tribes and British settlers. Enter the magnificent meeting house, be awestruck at the size of the war canoe and stroll across the lawns for views over the sea. Head south, stopping in Whangarei (a ‘flat white’ coffee at Nectar cafe highly recommended), then to Auckland and driving through the lush farmland of Waikato to the Firth of Thames. Amazing annual migrations, whirling flocks of thousands of shorebirds, the rare geology of shell bank cheniers and the ebb and flow of the estuary – all of these come together at the Miranda Shorebird Centre, where Keith Woodley and his team are glad to share their enthusiasm (and binoculars) with us during our visit (bird viewing dependent upon tides). Later, we cross the neck of the peninsula for a two-night stay in an idyllic spot on Tairua harbour, where Pacific-Island-style chalets are set in lush gardens that run down to the sea.
Pacific Harbour Lodge, Tairua – 2 nights
- EXPLORE THE COROMANDEL PENINSULA (B)
White cliffs and golden beaches, inviting turquoise waters and green forests are the colours of the Coromandel, with scarlet highlights courtesy of the flowers of Pohutukawa trees in summer, making this one of our favourite regions. Rightly famous is Hot Water Beach, where warm springs bubble up through the sand, and when the tide is right you can dig out your very own ‘spa’ pool for a wallow. Our recommendation for lunch is under the fruit trees at Colenso Café where long-standing chef Carol Whitford may share the secret of her pavlova with you. In the afternoon, it is well worth putting on your boots to walk to Cathedral Cove. This marine reserve is accessible only on foot or by boat: our efforts are rewarded with one of the most photogenic beaches in NZ, with water-worn rock formations sparkling against the blue-green of the Pacific.
- COROMANDEL PENINSULA – ROTORUA (B)
We take the Pacific Coast Highway through the beachside towns of Whangamata and Tauranga in the beautiful Bay of Plenty before turning inland. Rotorua is the epicentre not only of New Zealand’s geothermal activity but of Maori heritage. There is a extensive choice of sites and experiences here, and we start with an included visit to the excellent Rotorua Museum in the former bath-house at the heart of the croquet lawns of Government Gardens. Don’t miss the moving story of WW2’s fearless Maori Battalion. We also take you to Te Puia, not only an active geothermal site, but the nation’s centre for indigenous arts and crafts and a Kiwi conservation project, which may be your best chance of seeing this national icon in the . . . feather.
Distinction Hotel, Rotorua – 2 nights
- ROTORUA (B,D)
This morning we visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley – site of the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, which destroyed the world-famous ‘Pink & White’ silica terraces and devastated local Maori villages. This catastrophic event changed the landscape forever and created the valley we now walk through, past boiling craters and jewel-coloured steaming lakes. Take a cruise across Lake Rotomahana to the site of the old silica terraces, hear the story of Guide Sophia and see the new terraces of silica slowly forming. This afternoon we have time out to relax at our hotel before travelling to a local Marae (Maori Village). Maori legend has it that Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga used a magical jawbone as a hook to fish North Island from the depths of the sea and that Hawke’s Bay is that jawbone. On their land experience a formal welcome (powhiri) including the hongi – that is sharing breath. Delve into Maori life, both past and contemporary. Listen to their fascinating reality – how things are and what is important to their family, their connection to their land, the importance of whakapapa (lineage) and life amongst their people. The iwi (tribes) are equal partners in caring for New Zealand’s natural beauty and Maori language and culture have official status, but this equality has been hard-won in the last 100 years. Finally this evening enjoy a powerful cultural performance, storytelling & Hangi (feasting).
- ROTORUA / NAPIER (B,D)
Today we head south, past Huka Falls to the vast Lake Taupo – more inland sea than lake, though its fresh waters teem with trout. Across the lake – weather permitting – we should see the mighty peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro rear their heads. There lies ‘Mordor’, the volcanic terrain that was such an ideal film location for The Lord of the Rings. Napier is one of the world’s most complete examples of Art Deco architecture, second (arguably) only to Miami Beach. And yet this joyful seaside town had a tragic birth, being virtually levelled by fierce fires that followed the devastating 1931 earthquake. With typical Kiwi spirit Napier was rebuilt in just two years in the most up-to-date style of the time, which today we call Art Deco. This afternoon our local guide brings history and architecture alive with entertaining stories as we discover Napier on foot. Today’s journey has brought us to the North Island’s wine country, so this evening’s treat is a dinner, with a glass of wine, at the Mission Estate Winery. French missionaries planted the first vines here in the mid-19th century: today award-winning wines are produced and we enjoy a tour before dinner in the restored seminary buildings that offer sweeping views of Napier, where we sleep tonight at a waterfront hotel.
Scenic Hotel Te Pania
- NAPIER – WELLINGTON (B)
After breakfast we travel through vineyards and orchards through the bush-clad ranges of the Wairarapa, which has an off-the-beaten-track charm that belies its proximity to New Zealand’s capital. An afternoon and an evening is barely time to explore Wellington, ‘the coolest little capital in the world’, according to Lonely Planet guides. Full of artists, writers and film-makers – the most famous of whom is Sir Peter Jackson – Wellington has a lively arts scene and café culture. We take the funicular to the Kelburn Lookout, walk down through the Botanic Gardens and enjoy tea in the Lady Rosewood Garden. A visit to Te Papa, one of the most exciting museums in the world, is highly recommended for New Zealand insights - the shaping of its land, the spirit of its diverse peoples, its unique wildlife, landscapes and its distinctive popular culture.
Hotel Grand Chancellor James Cook, Wellington
- DEPART WELLINGTON (B)
This morning, sadly we must say farewell, and hope that you go home with amazing memories of your time in New Zealand.