Koromiko (10 Days)
This tour takes in the stunning sights of the North Island on a journey past ancient kauri tress to the sparkling pacific waters of the Bay of Islands. Further south you'll visit the Art Deco town of Napier and enjoy the wonderful wines of the Hawkes Bay before arriving in Wellington, 'The coolest little capial in the world'.
Day 1 Arrive Auckland
Haere mai - welcome! Arrive into Auckland and spend the afternoon and evening getting to know the 'City of Sails' and your fellow travellers. City Hotel
Day 2 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 Ngāpuhi Iwi warriors to the Flagstaff battlegrounds and finally to tranquil Paihia set right beside the sparkling Pacific. Local Bed & Breakfast - 2 nights
Day 3 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.
Day 4 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 (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. Private Hotel- 2 nights
Day 5 Explore the Coromandel Peninsula (B,D)
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. 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. Tonight we share on the cooking duties enjoying a Kiwi Favourite - a BBQ dinner in the garden of our accommodation.
Day 6 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 an extensive choice of sites and experiences here, and we start with an included guided walk through the Government Gardens taking in the buildings, battles and historic places of these magnificent grounds. 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. City Hotel - 2 nights
Day 7 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).
Day 8 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. 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 glass of wine with dinner in the restored seminary buildings that that are Mission Estate Winery and offer sweeping views of Napier. Private Hotel
Day 9 Napier - Wellington (B)
This morning 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, and into Wellington. 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 cable car up to the Kelburn lookout before walking back down through the Botanic Gardens, enjoying tea in the Lady Norwood Rose 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. City Hotel
Day 10 Depart Wellington (B)
If you are leaving New Zealand today, we transfer you to Wellington Airport for your flight home after you have enjoyed your final kiwi breakfast.
* Itinerary and Accommodation subject to change. Meals included as per itinerary (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner