Amazing New Zealand
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Suggested Itineraries
6 Days

6 Days in New Zealand

If you have only six days in New Zealand, you can take a circular route from Auckland to the awesome Coromandel Peninsula and then on to Rotorua to take in a little Maori culture and enjoy the sulphur hot-springs, followed by the mountainous inner region of Lake Taupo -  the largest volcanic crater in the world. Here you can try trout fishing from a boat or on land, your fishing-guide can even fillet and smoke your catch on the spot! Heading north again, visit the glow-worm filled caves at Waitomo and the Kiwi House in OtorohangaHire a car or if you prefer to be chauffeur-driven, the price starts from NZD $750 per day, depending on the size of vehicle required. This includes, fuel, vehicle hire, full insurance, Department of Conservation concessions & entry fees and the chauffeur's daily expenses & accommodation.


Day 1 Auckland - Auckland

Hopefully you will have 24 hours at least to enjoy Auckland, the problem is the city has so much to offer you may have trouble making choices. First stop should be the volcanic cone of Mt Eden for a panoramic view of the city and harbours to orientate our bearings before we start the tour. Head north over the Harbour Bridge to pretty Orewa Beach and Wenderholm Regional Park on the tranquil east coast, followed by morning tea in the original Bohemian settlement of Puhoi. We then head inland past wineries and orchards to the wild black-sand beaches of the West Coast. The gannet colony at Muriwai is a must see, as not only will the cute chicks and the flying skills of the adults keep you mesmerized, but the sweeping views along the surfing beaches north will certainly blow any jet-lag away. Heading south again lunch can be enjoyed at the Bees Online cafe where several honey orientated products are on sale, or wine lovers should take advantage of having a chauffeur and dine in a restaurant under the vines of a world class winery.   

After lunch I recommend a walk in the lush bush of the Waitakere Ranges to a secluded waterfall or along a deserted beach, such as the one made famous in Jane Campion's movie The Piano. Return to Auckland along the Scenic Drive and take a ferry ride to the old suburb of Devonport - Auckland is known as the City of Sails, so a venture out onto the water is an essential part of visiting Auckland. Take the tour or wander up under your own steam to North Head for awesome views of the city and our youngest dormant volcano Rangitoto Island. For a late afternoon swim in our clean, clear and safe harbour you can wander down the steps to beautiful Cheltenham Beach. On your return to the Ferry Building enjoy the sunset and dinner in the revolving restaurant of the Sky Tower.

Day 2 Auckland - Hahei 270kms

Before you depart for Coromandel, you may like to visit a few attractions you missed yesterday. The Waterfront is where you can find the extremely informative Maritime Museum - the displays are chronological, so you begin with the Maori migration across the seas, step back in time on board a European immigrant's ship, then appreciate New Zealand's proud yachting history including the Whitbread Round the World race and of course the America's CupKelly Tarlton was the inventor of the undersea walkway where you can view the fish from below without getting wet - the Antarctic Encounter and Penguin Encounter are worth stopping here on their own. The revamped old homes of Parnell have brick paved alleyways full of boutique clothes stores, art galleries and specialty shops.

Head south (direction Hamilton) on SH1.

56kms - After the Bombay Hills, turn left onto SH2 direction Coromandel and at 88kms change again to SH25 at the new roundabout.

110kms – Just after the long Kopu Bridge, turn left towards Thames – the gateway to Coromandel Peninsula. In the late 1880s this was a thriving gold mining and kauri logging centre. (NB if you prefer a shorter drive today then turn right at the roundabout after the bridge and follow SH25A up and over the Coromandel Ranges instead of going left to Thames). This is also where you should stop and buy groceries if you intend preparing your own meals for the next 2 nights as there is not a lot of choice at Hahei!

Continue north direction Coromandel Town. You are now skirting the Firth of Thames, the road follows the dramatic and winding coast, so please take it easy. But most importantly, please remember that the locals are not on vacation and are quite often in a hurry to get somewhere. So if someone is pressuring you from behind, just pull over and allow them to pass. You will enjoy the driving much much more and the locals will in turn be much much more friendlier when you do eventually cruise to your destination at your own pace! There are places to pull over and take photos all along of this dramatic coastline.

165kms – Here you could turn right onto the 309 Road.

  • 4.8kms up this road is the Waiau Waterways Garden and café, where whimsical wonders are worked by water - there are plenty of whacky contraptions to entertain the young and young at heart.
  • 7.9kms - Continue inland to the Kauri Grove parking. This stop is excellent, giving you a real taste for the New Zealand bush without much effort. The bush walk is an easy 10 minute stroll on a level path to 600 year old kauri trees. These trees are magnificent, with native bush wonderfully lush and cool and peaceful. Continue past the first lookout for a lovely circuit past the Siamese Kauri and to the Kauri Grove. The Kauris are endemic to the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island and can live for 4000 years and grow to twice the height of these ones! They are the largest trees in the world if calculating volume of usable timber. No wonder they call them the giants of the forest and were almost wiped out by the colonials for their timber. The cutting down of a Kauri is now banned as they are protected, so thankfully now we are seeing a comeback of these giants to our forests.

Return to SH25 and turn right to visit Coromandel Town, another 5kms north.

188kms - The main street in Coromandel Town is an old world delight, full of cafés and craft shops. After your visit, drive south (go back) 400m and turn left towards Whitianga – at the top of the hill there is a lookout point with views all the way back to Auckland.

224kms – Wharekaho Beach has a fine stand of Pohutukawa trees. One of these is a gnarled old specimen that exactly fits a description in the journal of explorer Captain Cook written in 1769.

228kms – You are now arriving in Whitianga, a safe harbour full of holiday homes favoured by Aucklanders. Continue south, following signs for Tairua and SH25.

260kms - Turn left and drive 10 kilometres to Hahei Beach

If you feel like a walk, then the Coastal Track starts at the northern end of Hahei Beach….enjoy commanding views over Hahei and to the islands beyond and north along the dramatic coast. You can walk as far as you like before turning back, or you can even walk all the way to Cathedral Cove. 

Day 3 Hahei - Rotorua 242kms

This morning you could visit Hot Water Beach. It is a lovely beach, but more importantly hot water rises to the surface here from a geothermal reservoir under the seabed. Check the tides, as you need to dig a hole below the high water mark, 2 hours either side of the low tide is your time limit. I recommend it after low tide, so you may then get to use an abandoned hole instead of having to dig one for yourself! You can dig a hole on the northern end of the beach, then sit back and soak in your very own private spa. Look for the sulphur bubbling to the surface of the sand.

Hahei's main attraction is Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous beach nearby hidden within a dramatic coastline. There are 4 ways of reaching it :-
  • Walk the coastal track which starts on the northern end of Hahei Beach. The views are excellent, and it will take you about 1 hour to reach the cove itself.
  • Drive up to the car-park via Grange Road, then walk 45 minutes to the cove.
  • Take the Hahei sight seeing boat, departing 10am (no time at the beach).
  • Or my recommendation is to join the sea kayaking tour departing at 9am. A 3 hour truly kiwi experience, includes top quality kayaks and gear, tuition and even a coffee brewed for you on the beach while you take a swim. You can order which ever style – Cappuccino, Mochachino, even an L Baccino (long black). Sea kayaking is a "must do" in New Zealand, and this is one of the most beautiful places to try it.

Later, today’s drive takes you south to Rotorua, actual driving time to Hobbiton is just under 4 hours, plus the suggested stops. One mistake visitors to New Zealand make is under estimating how long it takes to drive – 250kms in New Zealand is not the same as driving 250kms on motorways, as you have probably already noticed!

Return to the SH25 intersection and go left towards Tairua. You will see many kiwifruit and citrus orchards and vineyards today as you travel through what is known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand.

A great photo op is from the Paku Hill, turn left as you enter Tairua towards Ocean Beach. Keep following the road, at the marina go up Paku Drive, then follow signs to Paku Summit. A short walk will take you the rest of the way, for awesome views over Tairua Harbour and Pauanui Beach. Return to Tairua and continue south, direction Whangamata. Just after the Pauanui turnoff, SH25 goes left….if you go straight you end up in Thames again!

63kms - Whangamata Beach is over 4kms long and is popular for swimming and surfing. Drive through town (which is less winding than following the official SH2 signs) and the beach is certainly worth checking out.

93kms – Waihi once had 1200 mines producing half of the country’s gold. There is only one mine left now, the massive Martha’s Mine – a huge open cut mine right in the middle of town. On the SH2 intersection, turn right to Town Centre, then at the roundabout go right and drive up through the shops and park by the information centre (i-Site). Walk up the steps to view the impressive mine from above….if you walk uphill along the fence there is an impressive Maori warrior statue worth seeing – it is amongst the plants, plus the views over the town are quite lovely. The i-Site has an informative display about the mine.

Return to the roundabout and go straight and follow SH2 west (direction Auckland and not Tauranga) which takes you through the pretty Karangahake Gorge. Paeroa is world famous, in New Zealand, for their soft drink… must stop and try a can of Lemon and Paeroa.

114kms - Just before the Paeroa shops, turn left and cross over the river and follow SH26 south to Te Aroha. Drive another 14 kilometres on SH26, when you reach SH27 turn left at the large roundabout and drive south – you should have the Kaimai Ranges on your left.

177kms – In Matamata continue straight at the roundabout and soon after when SH27 takes a sharp left to go over the railway tracks, you should continue straight and stay on Firth Street. Drive 10 kilometres and turn right onto Puketutu Road (just before the SH29 intersection) and follow the signs to Hobbiton on Buckland Road.

194kms - Turn right then immediately left onto SH29. Drive east for 4 kilometres then turn right onto SH27 to Tirau.  

214kms – On reaching SH1, turn left into Tirau - the town has a bit of a love affair with corrugated iron, there are quite a few other imaginative signs right the way along the main road, including a giant corrugated iron sheepdog housing the tourist office and a giant sheepdog next door which houses the Big Sheep Wool Gallery. Other tourist shops worth at least a peek at are the Jade Factory - they specialize in Maori Koru necklaces. Or for something really unique try the Natures Touch Gallery.

Change to SH5 two kilometres further at the new roundabout. You will soon encounter the unusual terrain of the Mamaku District where mini volcanic cones dot the landscape, some showing their solidified lava core.

268kms - You will probably smell Rotorua before you see it, as the area is still active with sulphur escaping from the earth’s crust (think rotten eggs). Don’t worry, you will get used to the smell. The city lies on a beautiful lake, actually a flooded volcanic crater - the surrounding hills are the remains of the rim of the giant volcano. Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present.

Day 4 Rotorua - Taupo - Rotorua 180kms

En route to Lake Taupo there are many more thermal attractions! Head south on SH5 (direction Taupo).

29kms - Turn left at the Wai-o-tapu Tavern and 400m further left again onto the Loop Road and take a look at the thermal Mud Pools (free). Don’t forget to lock your car and keep valuables out of site - the bubbling mud can keep you mesmerized for hours!

The Lady Knox Geyser blows her top at 10:15am - it attracts tourists by the bus-load but worth timing your visit to see this as it is spectacular none the less!

Follow the Loop Road to the main attraction Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, the best thermal reserve in the area. It really is a wonderland of orange, green, yellow, blue, white and black pools, the highlights being the exquisitely coloured Champagne Pool, Oyster Pool and the Devil’s Bath - you’ll be amazed how nature can conjure up such colours. The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes.

The café here is a good option for lunch before continuing south to Taupo. Continue on this road back to SH5 and turn left.

72kms – At the large roundabout where SH5 meets SH1, go straight and continue south past the Wairakei International Golf Course.

78kms – Turn left for the mighty Huka Falls, Volcanic Activity Centre and Prawn Park.
  • If you first go left, you will come to the freshwater Prawn Park, apparently the world’s only geothermal prawn farm. The informative tour leaves every 30 minutes, after which you are encouraged to munch out in the Riverside Restaurant.
  • The Activity Centre is well worth a stop. You are in the middle of one of the most active volcanic spots in the world, so it’s good to know what lies beneath your feet. There are hands on interpretive displays of local volcanoes, up to the second earthquake Richter scale readings, even a room where you can experience a simulated earthquake.
  • The Honey Hive also has interesting interpretive displays, a glass fronted live beehive and the Beez Kneez Café.
  • The Huka Falls are not very high, but are certainly spectacular. Here the sedate Waikato River is forced between a 15 metre gap before roaring over a 7 metre drop. There is a lookout just past the Helistar Helicopters, but the falls are much more impressive from below, where there is a walkway across the river.
  • There is another attraction called the Craters of the Moon volcanic reserve, that is if you’re not all "thermalled out" yet. To reach the reserve after visiting the falls, return up the hill to Helistar Helicopters, turn left towards the SH1 intersection, then cross straight over. Follow the road for 1.5kms to the car-park. From here a 40 minute stroll along a boardwalk will take you through steamy billowing clouds and hissing escaping gases – you really do feel as if you’re walking on the moon.
Return to SH1, go right to Taupo. After 4kms turn left for the lookout over the huge Lake Taupo, actually the world’s largest volcanic crater, created in one giant explosion. The ash cloud floated all over the world - ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in 186AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded in China and Rome. You can gather your own free volcanic souvenir from the shoreline in the form of very light pumice stones (great for cleaning off rough skin) which were spewed out in that eruption. Just about everywhere you look in the Lake Taupo region, you'll see a volcano. The mountains to the south of the lake are popular for skiing in the winter and walking in the summer. Return to the highway, in Taupo go right at the first roundabout towards the lake front and town centre, where most of the eating establishments are situated. Return to Rotorua the way you came.

Day 5 Rotorua - Waitomo 158kms

There is no hurry to depart this morning if you wish to do an activity or two in Rotorua first. 

From Rotorua head south a few kilometres in SH5 then turn right onto SH30 and follow this all the way Te Kuiti. After 20 kilometres you have to turn left onto SH1, but then you rejoin SH30 6 kilometres later which takes you west over the Whakamaru Dam. Even though it is only 165kms to Waitomo, it will still take you 2 ½ hours to drive as there are quite a few sharp corners and one-way bridges!

146kms - Te Kuiti is the shearing capital of the world. On the main street in Te Kuiti, opposite the Mobil petrol station there are beautiful statues of the Mahoenui Giant Weta, the world’s largest insect, but unfortunately also one of the most endangered species in the world. They only live in one 180ha area of gorse near here – the only legally protected gorse in New Zealand. Everywhere else the introduced gorse is an agricultural pest. Giant weta are closely related to grasshoppers and crickets and are the peaceful giants of the insect world. They are nocturnal, eating mainly plant matter and the occasional insects and they DO NOT bite. Continue north another 8 kilometres on SH3.

158kms – Turn left to Waitomo Village and drive 500m past the village to the main entrance of the Waitomo Caves…..there is a café on site for lunch or the award-winning Huhu Café in the village is highly recommended! 

The first part of this excursion is a guided walk down into the cave until you reach the river at the bottom where you board a boat. Floating silently in a boat in pitch darkness under thousands of glow worms – it is really quite a surreal experience and the best glow worm display I have seen in the world. The Waitomo Caves are part of a karst system that was once the seabed 30 million years ago. The caves’ stalactites and stalagmites are also impressive.  The caves are quite cool so take a jumper (sweater). 

Day 6 Waitomo - Auckland Airport 178kms

Normally it is 2.5 hours to get to the airport (not allowing for any breaks). However the traffic could be slow as you near Auckland and the airport as many will be returning from their summer vacation in time for work tomorrow! So aim to leave around 8.30am just to be safe…….from Waitomo, head back to SH3 and turn left to Otorohanga - a pretty country town, proud to display everything that is uniquely New Zealand.

Continue north on SH3 to Hamilton, New Zealand’s 4th largest city.

73kms - The next city is Hamilton – the mighty Waikato River (New Zealand’s longest river) flows through the middle of the city! Turn left on reaching SH1 and follow the signs north to Auckland.

180kms – At Manukau, exit SH1 and take the SH20 and follow the signs to Auckland Airport. Look for the airport exit after 5 kilometres, don’t panic if you miss it as you can otherwise just follow the motorway around.


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