- Rotorua – Hell’s Gate Mud SpaRotorua – Polynesian SpaRotorua – Te Puia GeyserRotorua – Te Puia Maori CultureRuapehu – OhakuneRuapehu – Winter WalkTaupo – Huka FallsTaupo – Lake TaupoWaikato – Hobbiton Movie SetWaikato – Waitomo Caves Right
Explore landscapes formed from fire and ice:
Auckland > Waitomo > Ruapehu > Taupo > Rotorua > Auckland
6 days/5 nights
New Zealand’s North Island plateau is one of the world’s most active geothermal wonderlands, and home to Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO dual World Heritage site. More than 20,000 years ago the Taupo super-volcano eruption created a playground of lakes, geysers, volcanos, hot springs and underground caves that still bursts with energy today.
DAY 1: Auckland to Waitomo to Taupo
Your journey begins in Auckland, a city built on volcanos and twin harbours as you head south to Waitomo through lush Waikato farmlands.
Drive Time: 2hours 30 minutes
Explore the underbelly of the earth in Waitomo, a network of 300 known limestone caverns created by 30 million years of geothermal and volcanic activity in the Waikato region. Take a boat and float gently down underground rivers under a canopy of sparkling glow worms or let your wild spirit out by abseiling, zip lining or black water rafting through this underground adventureland.
From here, head south to Taupo for the night or relax fireside in one of our mountainside winter towns, before tackling New Zealand’s only skiable volcano.
Driving time to Taupo via SH30: 2 hours
You have a choice of locations in which to base yourself as you explore the Central Plateau. Taupo is a bustling lakeside resort town with ski shuttles operating a daily service throughout the winter season. National Park or Whakapapa Village, two smaller settlements close to the Whakapapa ski area are also good options. Ohakune, at the southern edge of the Tongariro National Park, nestles at the foot of the majestic Mt Ruapehu’s Turoa ski area.
Just an hour’s drive from the ski fields is Great Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand and the epicenter of the volcanic activity that formed this geothermal landscape. The Taupo region is an adrenaline junkie’s mecca. Jet boats, bungy jumping, white-water rafting and sky-diving are all on offer in this nature-lover’s paradise or opt for a scenic cruise to take in Maori rock carvings, incredible trout fishing and fine dining. You’ll encounter the power and roar of the mighty Huka Falls, one of New Zealand’s most photographed scenic wonders.
If your personal style is more relaxed, you’ll love the cuisine, coffee and local hotspots – whether your taste runs to high tea at the historic Chateau Tongariro in Whakapapa Village, craft brews at one of the local Ohakune pubs or enjoy many a tall stories told over a cold beer seated at the the cosy bar in The Park Hotel, National Park.
Mt Ruapahu has NZ’s two largest ski fields, Whakapapa and Turoa. They come alive from early July and offer some of the best terrain in the southern hemisphere. A great range of packages to suit all skier and boarder abilities or simply enjoy a breathtaking gondola ride to lunch at NZ’s highest café. The best conditions are usually experienced from late July till the end of October. Happy Valley Snow Park is often the first ski area open in Australasia in early June with a premier beginners’ experience and snowplay options for early season visitors.
Shuttles operate daily from Taupo, National Park and Ohakune to the ski areas, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the scenery as you travel through spectacular landscapes.
While based in the central plateau you can’t miss the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this one-day hike is very popluar in summer, but a winter guide will show you the surreal snowy landscapes of craters, vivid crater lakes and volcanic peaks .
From Taupo, a short drive will take you deeper into the lake district and the heart of New Zealand’s geo-thermal activity, Rotorua.
Driving time: 1 hour
Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers, and natural hot springs. The city is surrounded by mountains, rivers, native forests and 18 fresh water lakes, making it the perfect place to reconnect with nature.
After marveling at the volcanic activity within a geothermal park, soak away the adventure and adrenaline of the last few days in the natural mineral waters of the Polynesian Spa. Absorb the healing properties of Rotorua’s nature – whether in mineral pools and sulphur spas, or an outdoor mud bath. Your mind and body will feel reconnected and you’ll sleep like never before.
Encounter our Maori heritage with a cultural evening including a traditional Maori hangi — a feast of meat and vegetables cooked in the steaming ground — before retiring to your hotel for the night.
A 1 hour scenic drive through the rugged Mamaku Ranges with its dense native ferns and forest delivers you to a whole other fantasy world. The green rolling hills and idyllic setting of Hobbiton Movie Set will enchant you as you explore the Tolkien film locations; a legacy where you can experience the real Middle-earth.
From the Shire, a 2 hour drive will see you back to Auckland.
We look forward to welcoming you soon.