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Pacific Coast Highway Experience

Auckland > The Coromandel > Bay of Plenty > Whakatane > Gisborne > Hawke’s Bay
7 Days / 6 Nights

A relaxed pace along white sand beaches, through charming coastal towns, the remote and rugged East Cape to the food bowl of New Zealand.

DAY 1: Auckland to The Coromandel

Depart Auckland on the Pacific Coast Highway skirting the Hauraki Gulf across the fertile plains to The Coromandel, where Kiwis love to holiday.
Drive time: 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Head through the historic town Thames, up the western seaboard of the peninsula to Coromandel Town, once the centre of the gold-mining heritage of the region. Coromandel Adventures offer a range of trips to explore the hidden gems, including a majestic grove of Kauri and the Coastal Walkway at the northernmost tip of the peninsula, where the road ends and the adventures begins. Many of the activities are centred on the sheltered Mercury Bay, where a boat or kayak tour is a great way to explore the dramatic volcanic coastline. The main town of Whitianga has many accommodation options, and Tairua is the closest town to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove  two of the icons of the region.  All the small coastal towns have great swimming or surf beaches, and the green headlands have great walkways and viewpoints.  Make sure you try the fresh seafood grown in the Hauraki Gulf.

DAY 2: The Coromandel to Tauranga

As you head south with intermittent views of the ocean, you will reach the town of Whangamata.  Famous for its surf beach and also for Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary, a collapsed blowhole just off the beach, where the enclosed azure lagoon is entered through a hidden sea cave.  Further south is Waihi, home to the Gold Discovery Centre.  This is worth a stop to hear the stories of yesteryear and the pioneers who shaped this part of the country. Entering the Bay of Plenty, the countryside opens out into fertile orchards and farms, home of the world-famous kiwifruit. With gold, green, and now red varieties to tempt your tastebuds, and many delightful treats, including liqueurs to savour here.  Tauranga is the main city, situated on a beautiful harbour across from dazzling Mount Maunganui Beach, voted one of the best around.  Overnighting in Tauranga gives you a wide choice of accommodation, from sophisticated apartments and waterfront hotels to relaxed kiwi motels and cottages.
Drive time: 2-3 hours

DAY 3: Tauranga to Whakatane.

A great way to start the morning in Tauranga, is to climb or walk around Mauao, the sentinal peak at the entrance to the harbour with spectacular views along the surf beach and out to Mayor and Matakana Islands. Time also for a cruise with Bay Explorer on the tranquil harbour and up the coast to see dolphin and the many other forms of wildlife that live in and arouond these pristine waters. ltare, your route continues around the uninterrupted white sand curve of the Bay of Plenty to Whakatane, kicking off point for a trip to Whakaari/White Island.  This spectacular island volcano defines this part of the coast and is a New Zealand must do. Access to the island is restricted to preserve its unique character, and you can overnight in Whakatane with White Island Tours to be ready for your  morning boat trip.
Drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Day 4. Whakatane

Depart Whakatane with your crew from White Island Tours to make the 49 kilometre voyage out to Whakaari/White Island on a comfortable vessel with all facilities, to land on the volcano.  There your experienced guides will lead you into the crater itself for an upclose experience of powerful geothermal activity.  The trip is 5-6 hours in length, and we recommend staying a second night in Whakatane so that you can spend the afternoon at the acclaimed Mataatua: The House That Came Home.

DAY 5: Whakatane to Gisborne

It is worth taking the time to drive around around the East Cape today, where coast is breathtakingly rugged and beautiful, and you really have the feeling of remote and untouched nature. The Tairāwhiti Gisborne region is the first region in the world to see the sunrise every day. Your journey will be one of discovery, the first Maori explorers and Captain Cook arrived on these shores. There are some great places like Hick’s Bay where you can overnight to break the journey if you would like to take things at a slower pace.  You should consider making the 30-minute detour to the East Cape Lighthouse, part of the pilgrimage to stand at the most-easterly place in mainland New Zealand. But for a ruly memorable firstlight experience, join guides from Ngati Porou to be the first in the world to see the sun rise on the sacred site of Maunga Hikurangi. You might also take the time to linger at the Tolaga Bay Wharf, extending far into deep water.  At 660 metres in length, New Zealand’s longest wharf is no ordinary pier. On arrival in Gisborne you will have the choice of a range of accommodation and time to enjoy some of the spectacular local wines.
Drive time: 6 hours.

DAY 6: Gisborne to Napier

In addition to wine, chardonnay being the dominant and renowned variety, Gisborne is famous for surfing.  Grab a board or maybe a bike from Cycle Gisborne to explore the area. Don’t miss a visit to Dive Tatapouri, for a unique interactive marine experience with stingrays and other sea life. Later in the day make your way to Hawke’s Bay, arriving in Napier, the stunning Art Deco capital.  For a full style experience, stay in the Art Deco Masonic Hotel and the region has an excellent range of accommodation.
Drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes.

DAY 7: Napier and surrounds

You can easily spend two or three days enjoying the fabulous food and wine from this region, known as the food basket of New Zealand.  A great way to visit some of the Hawke’s Bay’s wineries, including the famous Church Road, is on the Cycle Trails, but for locals’ insider knowledge and carefree transfers, go with Prinsy’s Tours.  Gannet Safaris Overland will take you over spectacular Cape Kidnappers Station to view the largest and most accessible gannet colony in the world.  An Art Deco Tour of Napier will give you insight into how the city was rebuilt in this style followung a devastating earth quake, and for the stories of the people who came long before, Waimarama Maori Tours will show you the significant places of the area, including the iconic Te Mata peak