Day 1: Wellington
Kia Ora and welcome to your Northern Explorer trip with Topdeck! Your NZ journey unfolds after checking out our rooms it is time to check out the City! A Visit to Te Papa - the NZ National Museum - with six brilliant levels of interactive history, art and all round awesomeness is certainly a must! For all you cool city cats, there’s the funky designer shops and contemporary art galleries a plenty in the city streets. We leave the Capital behind and traverse between the coast and the lower north farmlands destined for the central vast volcanic plateau of World Heritage listed Tongariro National Park. The three mountains at the heart of the park - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu - have cultural and religious significance for the Maori people. Here we bunk down for the next two nights in a true alpine retreat nestled on the edge of Whakapapa Village. You’ll have the opportunity to relax in the sauna and spa or unwind with a drink in the Terrace Bar by the fire. We’ll top the night off with a hearty country style meal, but leave room for desert you’ll be introduced to a Kiwi favourite tonight, the Pavlova!
Day 2: Tongariro National Park
With dual cultural and natural heritage status, and often described as one of the best full day hikes in NZ, the “Tongariro Crossing”* is yours to take on today if you choose. Two active volcanoes, a cold mountain spring, lava flows, an active crater, emerald lakes and hot springs combine to make this an enjoyable and memorable trip into a most interesting area of the park (8 hour hike – transfers at own expense, seasonal and subject to weather conditions). Around the Village there are also a number of many shorter walking tracks for you to experience the grandeur of Tongariro National Park. If hiking is not your thing, there are a variety of other optional activities available including Quad Biking*, Mountain Biking*, Kayaking*, even Skiing in winter* (check with your crew for the best deals). After a full day’s exploring, take a leisurely stroll into the village where numerous options are on offer for dinner*. After a full day spent exploring, head back for another relaxing night at the mountain lodge, perfect!
Day 3: Rotorua
Taupo is first, and hanging above the free flowing Waikato River, the Taupo Bungy is a must for those game enough to take the plunge*! Next up, it’s onwards to the raging waters of Huka Falls before reaching Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Travelling North we divert from the highway to explore the uniquely different landscape of Wai-O-Tapu (Maori for sacred waters), an active geothermal area located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The vibrant colours of the hot springs along the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Track make for the most spectacular Facebook cover photo! A visit here would not be complete without taking the short detour to see (and hear) the gurgling, bubbling Mud Pool. We continue to the heartbeat of Maori culture in Aotearoa - Rotorua. This steamy thermal playground is renowned for its natural and cultural beauty and a distinct welcoming aroma in the air - breathe in that sulphuric goodness! Tonight we’ll be staying in a traditional Maori Marae where the elders will welcome us on arrival in their time-honoured style; this stay is an opportunity to experience the real side of Maori Culture, as it is today. After a hearty traditional family style dinner, our Whanau host will enlighten us through some Maori history and legend before we are treated to an exclusive cultural performance by the Te Arawa people. We also interact and learn facets of the cultural performance including the actions of various Haka and Poi. The Haka that we learn is not a traditional one (as this would break tribal protocol), instead it is one that was written specifically for Topdeck. All of this traditional Maori entertainment, education and performance by a local Kapa Haka group exclusively for us this certainly is the real deal! Later, doze off to sleep eye to eye as you check out all of the carvings inside the Marae up close and personal.
Day 4: Rotorua
We say goodbye to the Marae after breakfast and the rest of the day is yours to explore, and there are countless options on offer in this beautiful area. Relax in the famous thermal spa pools*, or indulge in a rejuvenating massage*. If you're looking for adventure, there's also mountain biking*, white water rafting*, the original OGO Zorb* or tackle some unique activities on offer at the Agroventures adventure hub*. Another option is The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour*, an absolute must-do for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fans. This fascinating tour takes you through the real middle-earth as you view the set through Frodo’s eyes - exactly as it appeared in the films! Get lost among the Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree whilst admiring the picturesque landscape on this privately owned, working New Zealand farm. A little slice of luxury tonight as we settle into Rotorua’s largest hotel, set right on the shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua and just a short stroll from the vibrant city centre.
Day 5: Bay of Islands
The lush green rolling hills of the Waikato and King Country today line the roads as we trek towards Auckland, or Tamaki-Makau-Rau as it’s known in Maori, meaning ‘the maiden with a thousand lovers’. It earned its name because it was coveted by many tribes, and let’s face it, what’s not to love! Afterwards, we’ll meet some more excited Topdeck travellers and together, crossing Auckland’s scenic harbour and heading north, Our first stop is at Parry Kauri Park to marvel at the magnificent Kauri tree, NZ’s oldest and largest tree species dating back to Jurassic times. Then it’s onto the seaside town of Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands - 144 islands, secluded bays, and an abundance of marine life - this is the picture perfect New Zealand you’ve been dreaming about. Settle into your hotel and make the most of this evening at your own pace - relax by the pool, head into town for a meal and most importantly, get to know your new tour buddies!
**Upgrade to overnight ‘Rock the Boat’ option if you’re keen to experience everything the bay has to offer, this cruise aboard New Zealand’s largest houseboat is not to be missed. With a laid-back atmosphere and cosy bar, a fun night of laughs, music and good company is always on offer. If you consider yourself a shark, there’s even a pool table competition! Spot satellites and shooting stars with the experienced crew, who’ll take any chance to use their laser pointers to impress you with their knowledge of New Zealand’s southern skies. As for hopeless nautical romantics, you can expect amazing views, golden sunsets and an open log fire - the vessel is lit up with candles too!
Day 6: Bay of Islands
Today is yours to explore the fascinating Bay of Islands and there’s a whole host of optional activities on offer. Adventure lovers can catamaran along the inner bay looking for dolphins*, kayak through mangrove forests to Haruru Falls*, or take a ride along 90 Mile Beach to Cape Reinga* and board down the Te Paki sand dunes. History buffs can take a step back in time and learn about the fascinating past of New Zealand at the Waitangi Treaty House*. There’s also time to visit Russell, the oldest settlement in New Zealand, or hike to the Haruru Falls through native bush. Tonight swap stories about our day in the bay over a delicious Kiwi favourite - fish and chips!
Day 7: Auckland
This morning we start our journey south. If the weather's nice, you'll enjoy a scenic walk to view Whangarei Falls before it's back to Auckland, we once again cross the harbour to reach our final destination and say our goodbyes ... as they say in Kiwi ... it's been real-as, bro! Ka Kite Ano! We hope you have enjoyed the past 17 Days travelling with Topdeck and we look forward to seeing you on one of our great trips again soon. Not ready to end your adventure just yet? You’re in luck - Topdeck also have numerous trips on offer Down Under! Whether it’s the sun, surf and sand of the east coast, the rugged natural beauty of the southern states or the fascinating aboriginal history of the outback, Topdeck have an Australian trip sure to interest you.
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