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The mountains of the Central North Island are a mecca for skiers and hikers. Combine an active outdoor winter holiday with cave labyrinths and the soothing waters of natural thermal springs.
Auckland > Waitomo > Ruapehu > Taupō > Rotorua > Auckland
6 days / 5 nights
The Central North Island volcanic 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 Taupō super-volcano eruption created a playground of lakes, geysers, volcanoes, hot springs and underground caves that still bursts with energy today.
DAY 1: Auckland to Waitomo to Taupō and Ruapehu
Leaving Auckland, a city built on volcanoes and twin harbours, 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 with Waitomo Adventures or enjoy a small group “Off the Beaten Track” eco-tour with Glowing Adventures. From here, head south to stay in Taupō for the night or relax fireside in accommodation in a mountainside winter town in Ruapehu, at the foot of New Zealand’s only skiable volcano.
Driving time to Taupō via SH30: 2 hours
DAYs 2-4: Ruapehu
You have a choice of locations in which to base yourself as you explore the Central Plateau. Taupō is a bustling lakeside resort town. 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. Shuttles operate daily from Taupō, National Park and Ohakune to the ski areas, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the scenery as you travel through the spectacular landscape.
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 on the Sky Waka 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.
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.
While based in the central plateau you can’t miss the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. One of New Zealand’s best Great Walks, this one-day hike is very popular in summer, but a winter guide from Adrift Tongariro will safely show you the surreal snowy landscapes of craters, vivid crater lakes and volcanic peaks. And for a day off the mountain, Tongariro White Water Rafting will take you on the heart-pounding, roller coaster rapids on the Tongariro River with an expert guide at the helm. And yes, rafting (and raft fishing) in winter is awesome!
DAY 5: Ruapehu to Rotorua
From Ruapehu and Taupō, a short drive will take you deeper into the lake district and the core of New Zealand’s geo-thermal activity, Rotorua.
Driving time: 1 hour from Taupō
Rotorua is the geothermal heart of New Zealand, with bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers, and natural hot springs. The city is surrounded by native forests and 18 fresh water lakes, making it the perfect place to reconnect with nature.
After marveling at the volcanic activity at Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, 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 – your mind and body will feel reconnected and you’ll sleep like never before.
Encounter our Maori heritage at Whakarewarewa, The Living Maori Village with a cultural performance and traditional Maori hangi — a feast of meat and vegetables cooked in the steaming ground — before retiring to your Rotorua accommodation for the night.
DAY 6: Rotorua to Auckland via Hobbiton
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.