With scenery that ranges from postcard-perfect coastlines and ancient kauri forests to bubbling hot springs and giant, volcano-framed lakes, New Zealand’s northern half is as exciting as it is varied. It’s the stunning backdrop for kiwi birds, dolphins and a rich Maori heritage – each discovered on a range of included excursions. In between, there’s the urbane draws of artsy Wellington and island-fringed Auckland. And it’s all linked by impossibly scenic driving routes and stays in New Zealand’s finest accommodation, from chic lodges with vineyard views to historic gems where hot tubs offer spectacular lake panoramas.
Enjoy a private chauffeur transfer to the airport where you can make use of your premium lounge access to unwind before your flight.
Your first sample of the North Island’s stunning array of ecosystems will be Waipoua Forest – an ancient world of towering trees and rare birds. You’ll fly into Auckland to collect your hire car and head north into its green maze to check into your accommodation. Come the evening, a local guide will take you on a twilight tour of what are the world’s oldest and largest kauri trees – a New Zealand icon. Learn of their cultural significance to the Maori and, luck permitting, come face to face with such nocturnal wildlife as the emblematic kiwi bird.
Stay: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga
Swap coasts on a drive through the North Island’s verdant interior to reach a true slice of subtropical paradise – the Bay of Islands. Here, cerulean blue waters host no less than 144 bright green isles whose forested contours backdrop white-sand beaches. You’ll stay in a private villa whose historic Maori fortifications memorialise the region’s rich past as its Croatian vineyards mark its oenological present. You'll also take some time off from swimming and sunning to enjoy our included wildlife-spotting cruise through the ultra-scenic Bay of Islands, taking in both whales and dolphins among its otherworldly rock formations.
Breakfast & Dinner included
Spoil yourself: From Oct–Mar, upgrade to a Dolphin Eco Experience to swim with dolphins in their natural environment
Return to Auckland to explore New Zealand’s largest city, checking into your luxury waterfront accommodation for stunning views over Waitemata Harbour and back to the famous Sky Tower. Today you’ll have the option of everything from rainforest walks and volcano hikes to museum visits and evenings spent in world-class seafood restaurants. You can even learn how the city earned its ‘City of Sails’ moniker with an island cruise in its bay.
Kiss the Firth of Thames before choosing to either track the Coromandel Peninsula’s wild west coast or plunge through its forest-park interior to reach its idyllic eastern bays. It’s the postcard-perfect backdrop for your luxury lodge, set in a stand of native New Zealand bush that overlooks the golden Cooks Beach. You’ll have two days to explore, with everything from mountain walks and geothermal beaches that bubble with spa-like waters to spectacular rock formations that resemble whole cathedrals.
Exchange coastal idylls for volcanic violence in Rotoura – the centre of New Zealand’s geothermal activity. Geysers shoot skywards, multi-coloured pools bubble viciously and fumaroles emit a constant column of steam. Your serene accommodation is a fitting foil, whose lakeside gardens are host to everything from secret dining and high tea spots to hot tubs and heated pools. The area is also steeped in Maori legend, which you’ll uncover on a guided cultural experience. Stop off at artisan craft workshops, enjoy face-to-face encounters with New Zealand’s national bird and visit a curated selection of the region’s explosive geothermal features. It’s all capped off with a traditional feast of hangi meats, cooked in hot-stone pits.
Drive the scenic Thermal Explore Highway to arrive at the country’s largest lake – Lake Taupo. The perfect still of its glassy waters is juxtaposed on all sides by towering volcanic cones whose snow-capped peaks rise skywards in colossal jags. It makes for picturesque walks and world-class trout fishing while trips to the crashing Huka Falls and the alien Craters of the Moon are equally appealing. Lastly, you’ll be greeted at your designer accommodation by views over it all, along with a bottle of fine New Zealand wine, pre-dinner drinks and canapés.
Continue south to Hawke’s Bay – the country’s oldest wine region and one of its largest and most exalted. Famed for its full-bodied chardonnays and the bright acidity of its sauvignon blancs, you’ll have your choice of almost 100 wineries, many of which offer complimentary tastings and delightful vineyard restaurants. You’ll stay on a luxurious gentleman’s farm – a 1900s vicarage complete with antique furnishings – with hilltop views over the region’s rolling greenery.
Finishing with New Zealand’s capital, you’ll compare the delightful Victorian architecture of its leafy hillsides to the thriving cultural scene of its downtown, exemplified by your skyscraping hotel. Theatres, galleries and exhibitions that include the country’s national museum – the superb Te Papa – all vie for your attention.
Drop your car off at the airport to board your flight home. On arrival, a chauffeur transfer will see you back home.
"This itinerary covers the real highlights and varying scenery of the North Island. You'll be introduced to the deserted beaches in the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula, some rich cultural history, thriving waterfront cities, and brilliant thermal and geothermal landscapes. To top it off, I've provided you with the chance to relax with a glass of New Zealand’s finest wines as you sit back and soak up what the diverse North Island has to offer."
Low Season from: £4,520 pp
High Season from: £5,855 pp