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Book an unforgettable holiday with this 21 Day North Island Itinerary. Our holiday packages to New Zealand include accommodation, activities, and a rental car for ultimate convenience.
With a carefully designed schedule, this North Island itinerary maximises sightseeing opportunities and diverse experiences. Travel at a relaxed pace, with many longer stays, and experience the best of each destination.
Read on for more details on this 21 day North Island itinerary.
Your North Island itinerary begins when you arrive in Auckland. The “City of Sails” is New Zealand’s largest city and is bordered by two stunning harbours. Collect your rental car from the airport, explore the city, then make your way to your accommodation.
This evening, if you would like to dine with a spectacular view, you might like to visit the Sky Tower. You are spoilt for choice with three restaurants and cafés up the Sky Tower. These include the Orbit 360 degree dining revolving restaurant; The Sugar Club, which is superbly chic and elegant; or the Sky Café, where you can relax with a coffee, cheese board or ice cream. You will have the opportunity to view the city from 328 metres above street level, with panoramas up to 80 kilometres in every direction. Spot the key landmarks, including a number of volcanoes and historical locations within the greater Auckland area.
Stay 2 nights in Auckland City.
Leave the hustle and bustle of the city and discover the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. This is visited by a staggering one third of all the types of marine mammals found on earth. Depart directly from the Viaduct Harbour aboard the 20 metre, purpose-built ‘Dolphin Explorer’ for an unforgettable marine mammal eco-safari. During your 4.5 hour eco-cruise, you are guaranteed to see whales and dolphins – or you get a free trip! Your friendly, knowledgeable guides will provide commentary on the culture and history of the Hauraki Gulf. In addition, you will find a fully licensed bar with snacks available for purchase.
In the evening, you might like to enjoy a meal at one of the many prestigious restaurants that Auckland has to offer.
Driving time Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula 178 km / 110 miles, 3 hours
Renowned worldwide as a spectacular holiday destination, with warm white-sand beaches, misty rainforests and wilderness aplenty, the Coromandel is the ideal place to relax and unwind. Relax on the coastline, exploring beaches, volcanic reefs and the world famous Cathedral Cove!
Whitianga is the main settlement of Mercury Bay, an attractive township with a deep-water harbour. Now a vibrant coastal town, Whitianga is evolving into a delightful place to visit. Whitianga has an excellent selection of restaurants and cafés, and the thriving retail community provides an interesting collection of outlets.
Stay 3 nights in Whitianga, Coromandel Peninsula.
Today, join the Glass Bottom Boat for a unique boat cruise. Depart from the Whitianga Wharf to explore the breathtaking volcanic coastline, including the famous Cathedral Cove. See the stunning Champagne Bay, plus a range of blow holes and sea caves, including Orua’s Sea Cave, the second largest sea cave in New Zealand! See what lies above and below the surface in the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve and be amazed by all the marine life to be seen. You can choose your own level of fun. Either sit back and enjoy the amazing marine life through the glass boat, or take the plunge and snorkel amongst the fish. All equipment supplied and no experience necessary. Blue penguins are a common sight year-round.
In the afternoon, you may wish to visit Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot pool. Or you could relax in naturally heated mineral waters at The Lost Spring Geothermal Spa in Whitianga. Surrounded by tropical plants and soothing waterfalls, the thermal waters flow from a spring deep within the earth’s surface. For a real treat, indulge in a pampering session at the on-site day spa.
Relax and explore the Coromandel Peninsula.
You could also make a day trip to one of the nearby towns, such as Coromandel Town, known for its charming mix of Victorian architecture, beaches and forests. While in the area, you could ride the Driving Creek Railway, New Zealand’s only narrow-gauge mountain railway journey, which climbs through regenerating native Kauri forest. Unique pottery sculptures and tile murals line the track, with spectacular views over the Hauraki Gulf from the ‘Eyefull Tower’.
Driving time Coromandel Peninsula to Tauranga 170 km / 106 miles, 2.5 hours
The Bay of Plenty is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in New Zealand. Located along the idyllic Pacific Coast Highway, it offers a great mix of activities, beaches and dining experiences. Tauranga is the main centre, whilst the coastal suburb of Mount Maunganui is the region’s seaside resort.
Downtown Tauranga has several historically significant areas to view during a scenic walk around the area. The Strand waterfront area is modern and always buzzing, and is home to a number of cafés, restaurants and pubs.
Stay 2 nights in Tauranga.
Relax in the Bay of Plenty for the day. Around Tauranga are hectares of orchards and gardens producing everything from kiwifruit and citrus fruit to avocados. Add to this bounty the local wines and the plentiful fresh seafood and you just know that this is a place where you will dine well. Mount Maunganui, a short distance from Tauranga, has spectacular beaches which are a magnet for surfers all year round and voted New Zealand’s best by TripAdvisor.
Driving time Tauranga to Matamata 48 km /29 miles, 1 hour
Make your way to Matamata to discover the real Middle-Earth on the most picturesque private farmland. Near Matamata, visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy in a fascinating two-hour guided tour. The set has been completely rebuilt and will remain as it was seen in the films. There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm. You can relax and soak up the unique atmosphere with a great cup of coffee or a light meal in The Shire’s Rest Café.
Driving time Matamata to Rotorua 68 km / 42 miles, 1 hour
Enjoy the scenic journey to Rotorua, distinguished by Maori culture and geothermal activity. This diverse city will put on a display as you encounter geysers, mud pools, steaming craters and 16 beautiful lakes.
Stay 3 nights in Rotorua.
Relax in Rotorua for the day, with the option to take a trip to one of the surrounding towns. One destination you may want to visit is Hamurana. This small township with 900 dwellings is located 15 kms (20 minutes drive) northeast of Rotorua, and is renowned for the stunning Hamurana Springs. A stream-side walk runs through a redwood grove with beautiful views of the crystal clear water that runs into Lake Rotorua.
In the evening, enjoy a Maori Cultural Experience including a Hangi Dinner. Hear stories and learn how Maori traditions live on today. Experience an authentic Maori welcome. Watch a challenge by the Maori warriors, a karanga (call) from the Maori women welcoming you onto the marae, and a whaikorero (welcome speech). Relax and enjoy the beautiful waiata (songs), the world renowned haka (challenge), and the elegant poi dance. Learn Maori customs including Maori musical instruments, haka and poi. The dining experience is a culinary opportunity like no other. Following dessert, you will be transported down into the valley to conclude your evening beside the awe-inspiring Pohutu geyser.
Relax and explore Rotorua today. You have the option to visit the Redwoods Treewalk, which features 23 suspension bridges through 115-year-old redwood trees. Alternatively, explore the Government Gardens and Museum, located on the waterfront of Lake Rotorua.
You may also like to take a wander through Rotorua’s public Kuirau Park and discover the steaming, hissing and bubbling geothermal activity.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at Rotorua’s most spectacular location – Skyline Restaurant. Sit back and relax as the views from the gondola unfold on your journey to the Skyline complex. The Skyline Restaurant will then serve you a mouthwatering taste of New Zealand, a buffet of legendary proportions. Feast on mouth-watering fresh soups, salads and seafood specialties such as mussels, queen scallops, sushi and sashimi. Enjoy carvery roasts of beef, lamb or pork with specialty sauces to match, with live cooking from your friendly chefs. Add to that a range of sumptuous desserts, and you’ve got yourself a unique dining experience not to be missed. Tiered seating guarantees stunning views from every table! After dinner, enjoy the scenic ride back down on the gondola.
At the top of the gondola you also have the option to add on a thrilling Luge Ride, enjoy nature walks, and visit the Jelly Belly Shop and Volcanic Hills winery and tasting room.
Driving time Rotorua to Taupo 76 km / 47 miles, 1 hour
In the afternoon, enjoy a Peek at the Lake Scenic Floatplane Flight. Take off from Taupo Bay and fly past Acacia Bay to Rangatira Point, viewing the crystal clear waters of Whakaipo Bay below. Climb up through Mapara Valley, view red scoria quarries, then discover the headwaters of the Waikato River. Fly over the Craters of the Moon and past the Borefields of the Wairakei Power Station, followed by a circuit of the Huka Falls, before returning to Taupo to land on the lakefront (approximately 20 minutes).
Stay 2 nights in Taupo.
Relax in Taupo for the day. Taupo is a great lake for water-skiing, sailing and kayaking. The Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be seen from the water, make for a great boat trip or kayaking excursion. The forests surrounding the lake offer hiking and mountain biking to suit all levels of experience. Just north of Lake Taupo you’ll find New Zealand’s most visited attraction, the magnificent Huka Falls, where more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second.
Driving time Taupo to Napier 142 km / 88 miles, 2 hours
Head to the East Coast and discover Napier, the Art Deco Capital of New Zealand. Set within the country’s oldest and second largest wine growing region, Hawke’s Bay, Napier is surrounded by picturesque vineyards and wineries.
Explore the Napier and Hasting wine region in the afternoon if you wish, and visit vineyards and cellar doors at your leisure.
Stay 2 nights in Napier.
Enjoy the drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga, and visit the world’s largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Gannet Safaris has been guiding visitors over Cape Kidnappers for over 35 years. The safaris are the only way to approach within a few feet of these remarkable birds. There is absolutely no walking required. You will travel in comfort in the air conditioned 4 x 4 Mini Coach through Cape Kidnappers Station – traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, stands of native bush, steep gullies and breathtaking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke Bay right across to the Mahia Peninsula. The amazing geology of the area can also be taken in.
The 36km, three hour trip includes commentary by your tour guide / driver on the farming operation at Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. On arrival at the gannet colony, you can stretch your legs and take in the spectacular scenery from your position at the brink of the cliff’s edge – 100 metres above the ocean. Here your guide will serve you light refreshments whilst you enjoy watching the gannets perform around you.
Driving time Napier to Wellington 319 km / 198 miles, 4 hours
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, has so much to offer. Set on the edge of a stunning harbour, surrounded by rolling hills, it’s a city rich in culture waiting to be explored. From shopping and picturesque walks to concerts, live theatre, exhibitions, festivals, Te Papa Tongarewa: the Museum of New Zealand, and more – Wellington has something for everyone.
Wellington’s top attractions include Te Papa, Weta Workshop, Wellington Cable Car, Mt Victoria Lookout and Wellington Zoo.
Stay 2 nights in Wellington City.
Relax and enjoy Wellington City for the day. You may like to visit Zealandia, located a 10- minute drive from downtown Wellington. Hidden in a suburban valley, this project aims to return a 225-hectare section of bush to its pre-human state. Take a walk and hear the songs of the flourishing native bird population.
This afternoon you may like to try the visually stunning Makara Peak track, as well as the City to Sea walk where you can experience the best of Wellington’s waterfront. Ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city and enjoy an ice cream at the top.
Driving time Wellington to New Plymouth 351 km / 218 miles, 4.5 hours
As a popular tourist destination, New Plymouth is well-known for its black sand surf beaches which offer some of the best surfing in the country. Other attributes include Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park, a Mecca for trampers. In contrast with the outdoors lifestyle, New Plymouth also has an artistic side as it is home to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (Len Lye Centre), NZ’s only contemporary art museum with a permanent collection.
Stay 2 nights in New Plymouth.
Explore New Plymouth’s beaches, famous walkway and unique city.
The conical shape of Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city, a constant reminder that the hiking trails of Egmont National Park are just a short drive away. You may also like to stroll along the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, a 10 km promenade with stunning views.
Being right on the coast, New Plymouth is well-known for its beaches. These black sand beaches are great for surfing, swimming or just relaxing on a hot summer’s day. For other active options hire a bike and cycle the town and waterfront, hire a fishing charter for the day or play a round of golf at one of the several golf course in the area.
Driving time New Plymouth to Waitomo Caves 180 km / 111 miles, 2.5 hours
Venture to the Waitomo Caves, where you will enjoy the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Ruakuri Caves Combo! Deep underground in the heart of the Waikato are a series of unique caves that will take your breath away. At the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, thousands of tiny glowworms cling to the cave ceiling, creating a starry sky within the underground night. Nearby, the Ruakuri Cave is home to an innovative spiral entrance, echoing waterfalls, and limestone that flows into delicate shawl-like formations.
Driving time Waitomo Caves to Hamilton 73 km / 45 miles, 1 hour
After your Waitomo Caves adventure, j
Stay 2 nights in Hamilton.
With a young, smart and innovative population, Hamilton’s warm and welcoming spirit, rich history and contrasting splendours ensure visitors are spoilt for choice for places to relax and enjoy. From magnificent parks and gardens to a thriving cultural precinct, the city offers a vibrant combination of fine dining and nightlife options as well as an eclectic mix of leisure, lifestyle and activity choices.
Relax in Hamilton for the day, exploring attractions such as the Raglan’s surf coast, Te Aroha Mineral Pools, the chocolate and candy factory, Hamilton Gardens and the weekly markets. From cafés, art galleries, and shopping through to an ever-changing calendar of high profile events, Hamilton is a great holiday destination.
Driving time Hamilton to Auckland 126 km / 78 miles, 2 hours
Drive back to Auckland at your leisure today.
Relax in Auckland for the afternoon. The Auckland Museum is well worth a visit, with priceless Maori treasures and amazing natural history on display. You can experience daily Maori cultural performances which include a welcome dance, poi dance, stick game, weaponry display and haka, as well as an ever-changing feast of local and international exhibitions.
Or you might like to join the crew and enjoy an America’s Cup Sailing experience, a must-do experience where you get a chance to spend 2 hours out on the harbour on an actual America’s Cup yacht!
Enjoy your last evening in Auckland and raise a glass to a fantastic New Zealand holiday!
Stay 1 night in Auckland City.
Drop your rental car off at Auckland Airport and depart Auckland.
This North Island itinerary and package is fully customisable. In other words, you can amend the schedule, inclusions, or accommodation level to suit your preferences.
Once you enquire about your holiday, one of our travel consultants will be in touch to learn more about your interests and requirements. We will tailor your North Island itinerary to match exactly what you are hoping for.
With 21 days in New Zealand, there are countless details to manage. We make this easy for you by handling all aspects of planning and booking your North Island itinerary.
Contact New Zealand Travel Organiser today to begin planning your North Island itinerary.
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