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Explore New Zealand's North Island, from secluded beaches to volcanic craters, on this 12-day tour. Travel from Christchurch to Kaikoura, where you can spot seals on the rugged shoreline. Continue along the coast to Nelson and the cultural capital Wellington, then head inland to mighty Mt Ruapehu and geothermal Rotorua. Finish your trip in Auckland, but not before a few relaxing days spent on the Bay of Islands. An immersion in the incredible landscapes and Maori culture of Te Ika-a-Maui (the Maori term for the North Island) with plenty of free time to explore at your own pace, this trip is perfect for active nature lovers.
Day 1: Christchurch
Kia ora! Welcome to Christchurch. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. Meet your fellow travellers and leader and perhaps head out for dinner to get to know each other better. If you’re thirsty, the city is also overflowing with tiny hole-in-the-wall bars, perfect for slipping into with your small group. Just remember you’ll have an early start tomorrow.
Day 2: Kaikoura
Rise and shine for an early 8 am departure from Christchurch. Drive the beautiful coastline to Kaikoura, known for its rich marine life. On arrival you’re free to explore this mountainous coastal town. Two of the most popular activities on offer here are sperm whale watching and swimming with wild dolphins. Chat to your leader about how to book these optional activities. If you prefer to stay dry there are plenty of hikes in the area, either along the coast or into the bush. The Peninsula Walkway offers the best chance of spotting seals among the rocks.
Day 3: Nelson – Stoke
Head for Nelson, a picturesque destination in its own right as well as your entry point to the Abel Tasman National Park should you choose to explore. Spend the afternoon exploring the town, which is full of arty shops, galleries and historic buildings.
Day 4: Nelson – Stoke
Take a day to explore Nelson with a huge amount of optional activities to choose from. Take a kayak or sailing tour through the waters of Abel Tasman National Park, or maybe a tour of the coves and bush trails. Of course, if you’d prefer to explore on your own, you can buy a ticket on the shuttle and head to the Abel Tasman to explore independently. Whatever you choose, have plenty of space left on your memory card, because the photo opportunities are many.
Day 5: Wellington
Take the ferry across the majestic Marlborough Sounds, where rising sea levels filled valleys with water about 10,000 years ago, resulting in picturesque waterways and isolated islands. Cross into the North Island and arrive in Wellington in the afternoon. Enjoy free time to explore the capital, perhaps jumping on the historic cable car to get your bearings. Later, maybe hit the bars with your group and get to know this quirky city a little better.
Day 6: Mt Ruapehu
Enjoy a free morning in Wellington. Maybe spend a few hours at the Te Papa Tongarewa (Container of Treasures), the result of two national museums that merged in the late 1990s. If the weather is nice, maybe take a stroll around the colourful Botanic Gardens. After lunch depart Wellington for Tongariro National Park, travelling through the North Island plains. Arrive in the afternoon and settle into your lodge. You’ll have a full day tomorrow to explore on foot, so perhaps take a gentle walk around the area or relax at your accommodation.
Day 7: Mt Ruapehu
Today you can choose whether to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This full-day (approximately 7-hour) hike is considered one of the best in New Zealand and offers rocky trails, magnificent aquamarine lakes and volcanic steam vents. This approximately 19-kilometre trail through remarkable landscapes is no walk in the park – trekkers need to have a good level of fitness and the track is tough in parts. For those who don’t want to take on this all-day trek, there are plenty of shorter walks and tracks that begin near the accommodation. It’s also possible to book an optional scenic flight to get a bird’s eye view of the area.
Day 8: Taupo – Rotorua
Hit the road for Taupo, the North Island’s home of extreme sports. Stop en route at the famous Huka Falls, where the Waikato River is forced to squeeze through a narrow volcanic channel that results in a powerful flow of water. Once in Taupo you’ll have enough time (around three hours) to squeeze in an optional bungy jump or a ride in a speedboat (both subject to availability and extra cost). If you’d prefer, maybe relax on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake. Continue to Rotorua and the town of Whakarewarewa, where the local Maori population can trace their heritage all the way back to the Polynesians who settled the area in the 14th century. Visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and explore the incredible landscape where geysers burst forth and mud pools bubble. Tonight, you have the chance to partake in an optional Maori cultural evening, including a performance and traditional hangi dinner cooked in the geothermal waters.
Day 9: Rotorua
Another free day in gorgeous surrounds means you can be as active or restful as you’d like. Maybe head to Dansey Road Scenic Reserve for a tour with kiwi bird experts and a zip-lining adventure through 1000-year-old canopy. You could also do a tour that combine trips to the glow-worm caves of Waitomo and the film set of Hobbiton (where the Shire sections of Lord of the Rings were filmed). If you’re after a relaxing day, perhaps hang back and soak in the thermal pools or mud baths.
Day 10: Rotorua – Bay of Islands
Leave Rotorua and drive north towards New Zealand's ‘winterless north’, so called because the weather in this part of the country is comparatively mild. Today will involve lots of time on the road, so be sure to have a book or podcast ready in case you need it. Take this time to organise what you’d like to do in the Bay of islands, as options need to be finalised this morning in order to secure places. Take a look at the optional activities listed tomorrow for an idea of what’s on offer.
Day 11: Bay of Islands
Enjoy a whole day to explore the unspoiled Bay of Islands. Some options are a boat trip to the Hole in the Rock, an aptly-named rock tunnel which offers a good chance at spotting dolphins, and a full-day sailing tour around the islands. If you’d prefer to stay on land, the town of Russell offers historic buildings leftover from the its past life as a busy maritime hub in the 1800s. Now a serene holiday destination, Russell was once known as the ‘hellhole of the pacific’ for its abundance of brothels, bars and sailors. In the afternoon, board a boat for a harbour cruise with an included dinner of local food.
Day 12: Auckland
Begin the journey south to Auckland, passing beautiful beaches and lush forests. Cross into the city via the Auckland Harbour Bridge, getting spectacular views of the ‘City of Sails’ as you do. Your tour ends on arrival at a central hotel. While we aim to arrive in Auckland in the afternoon, we may arrive as late as 6 pm. For this reason, we advise you not to book any flights out of Auckland before 8 pm.
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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