Immerse yourself in our unique Kiwi culture on this five-day journey through the Central North Island. Learn about Kīngitanga, the Maori King movement in the mighty Waikato. Take a scenic flight above the UNESCO status Tongariro National Park. Watch craftsmen at work at the Māori Arts and Craft Institute, and taste Māori cuisine at Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua. Travel to Whakatāne and visit Mataatua for some unforgettable stories. Tour Napier’s stunning architecture in vintage cars, the Art Deco capital of the world.
Depart Auckland on the Thermal Explorer Highway through the rolling green hills and pastures that are synonymous with the Waikato region to the famous Waitomo Caves. Here you can explore the magic underground world of glowworms, stunning cave formations and underground rivers.
Continue your journey to New Zealand’s largest fresh water lake, Lake Taupō. Spend the evening relaxing in the warm thermal waters rising to the surface from deep in the earth’s core that have been prized by local Māori for generations, for their therapeutic powers and healing properties.
This morning take a scenic flight over the dramatic landscapes of the Tongariro National Park. This National Park holds dual UNESCO World Heritage Status that recognises its cultural and spiritual significance for Māori as well as its outstanding natural landscape.
Then race down the Mighty Waikato River by jetboat. Learn the legends of local Māori who lived in one of the most prized sections of land in New Zealand, the geothermal landscapes around Orakei Korako. Wander around a spectacular geothermal landscape of bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers and stunning silica terraces.
Continue to Rotorua this afternoon, the cultural heart of New Zealand. Visit New Zealand’s premier Māori Cultural Centre Te Puia and see the magnificent Pōhutu Geyser, Whakarewarewa Valley and visit the Māori Arts and Craft Institute.
For a unique Māori cultural and culinary experience enjoy one of the evening performances on offer at Mitai Māori Village, Te Pō (at Te Puia) or Tamaki Māori Village.
This morning visit the living Māori village of Whakarewarewa. Join a guided tour and discover the wonder of Mother Nature and learn how local Māori have come to live in harmony with this unique environment.
This afternoon step back in time to one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters. ‘The Buried Village’ at the base of Mt Tarawera is New Zealand’s most visited archaeological site where stories of the 1886 Mt Tarawera Volcanic Eruption (that destroyed the 9th wonder of the world – the Pink and White Terraces) come to life. Thanks to the sensitive redevelopment by three generations of the Smith family, you can see what life was like at the village before, during and after the eruption.
Continue to the Bay of Plenty coast this afternoon for an evening of adventure. Relax with a glass of wine and some New Zealand cheeses while you watch the sunset over the rolling hills. Then board your Waimarino Kayak Tour and be led onto the quiet waters of Lake McLaren for a magical experience into a bush-clad canyon to see the glow worms at night.
Stay: Bay of Plenty
Stretch your legs this morning as you wander around the base of the iconic Mauao (Mt Maunganui). Standing 232m above sea level, this iconic landmark is treasured by local Māori. Mauao means ‘caught by the dawn’ and the mountain is steeped in Māori history and mythology. Several historical pa sites (villages) have been built on this extinct volcanic cone, the evidence of which can still be seen today as you explore the popular walking tracks.
Travel south to the coastal town of Whakatāne to visit Mataatua, the House that Came Home! This is an unforgettable encounter with a story, a house and a people, where captivating indigenous storytellers and world-class digital technology combine to leave a warm and lasting impression of this powerful New Zealand experience. This afternoon travel through the stunning Waioeka Gorge to the Land of the First Light, Tairāwhiti-Gisborne.
An early start this morning for an unforgettable experience – be the first to greet the dawn and see the sun rise on the sacred site of Maunga Hikurangi. Journey by 4WD with your expert Ngati Porou guide. Enjoy breakfast atop Maunga Hikurangi, while your guide tells the stories of the nine whakairo (carvings) representing Maui and Ngati Porou descendants.
After your early start your days adventures continue. Return to the coast and discover the Whai (Short-tail stingrays), Eagle Rays and other reef dwellers that reside on the reef at Tatapouri. You will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures with a Reef Ecology Guide. This unique marine experience is sure to create lasting memories to conclude your New Zealand experience.
Add an Extra Day:
• From Tairāwhiti-Gisborne continue south to Hawke’s Bay, renowned for its food and wine. Take a Hawke’s Bay Eco-Cultural tour where hunter-gathering techniques and contemporary Māori Cuisine fuse for an extraordinary cultural/culinary experience. Take a vintage car tour and marvel at the incredible Art Deco architecture of Napier, the Art Deco capital of the world.