Natural North New Zealand

  • Opportunity to participate in culture and traditions of indigenous Maori people
  • Uncover the quirky museums and pristine beaches of remote Great Barrier Island
  • Soak in thermal springs one day, trek across an active volcano the next
New Zealand
Trip Type: Sample Itinerary
Trip Length: 11 Days
Activity type(s): Cultural Tour, Day Hiking, Food and Wine
Trip Extensions: Mountains & Fiords of the South Island

New Zealand’s reputation among eager travelers is about as sterling as reputations get. On this less-than-two-week Private Departure, with frequent October to April editions, we delve into the North Island’s wealth of wonders, scenic, culinary, and cultural.

We begin with a short flight across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland to Great Barrier Island, population about 600. Peaceful, laid-back, comfortable, Great Barrier is above all beautiful. Based from lovely Earthsong Lodge, we’ll wander the island with native son Steve, visiting unpeopled beaches, hot springs, eccentric little museums, and venturing inland to some stunning rock formations. After flying back to Auckland, we’ll continue north to Bay of Islands, one of the world’s premier deep sea fishing centers and one of its most fetching islands (it’s also the site of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace—Te Pitowhenua—of modern New Zealand, where, in 1840, the English and the Maoris made peace). We’ll spend a day with Don and Marilyn Logan aboard their winsome yacht, the Cool Change, weaving in and out of Bay of Islands’ coves and visiting its many charming beaches, enjoying an on-board lunch of freshly caught crayfish and scallops.

Mid-trip, we’re off to central North Island’s thermal wonderland of Rotorua. We’ll do some serene day hiking with our guide Charles Royal, a local chef of renown, who will help us gather the local herbs which he’ll use to add depth to the feast he’ll prepare for us tonight. The next day we begin our exploration of Tongariro National Park, which enjoys dual World Heritage Site honors, for its spectacular volcanic scenery and for its cultural importance to the Maori people. The morning after making the long but intensely rewarding Tongariro Alpine Crossing, rich in emerald lakes, live lava, and epic views, we fly to Wellington and drive through the southern part of the island’s vineyards for a serene stay at the Wharekauhau Lodge, from which we’ll make a classic winery tour topped off with a superb tasting lunch.

Note that this lovely trip combines beautifully with another neatly choreographed New Zealand excursion, our Mountains & Fiords of the South Island, just a mouse click away.

North Island New Zealand tour map

Itinerary at a Glance

  • Day 1: arrive Auckland, fly to Great Barrier Island
  • Day 2: Great Barrier Island exploration
  • Day 3: fly to Auckland and on to Bay of Islands
  • Day 4: sailing excursion at Bay of Islands
  • Day 5: fly to Rotorua’s Lake Tarawera
  • Day 6: hiking at Lake Tarawera and environs
  • Day 7: drive to Tongariro National Park World Heritage Site for scenic ambling
  • Day 8: Tongariro Alpine Crossing excursion
  • Day 9: drive through Wine Country to Martinborough
  • Day 10: Scenic wine tasting tour, lunch at vineyard cafe
  • Day 11: drive to Wellington for flight homeward.