NORTHERN WILDERNESS
AND ADVENTURE

24 nights of wilderness and adventure from one side of the North Island to the other and down through the spectacular Central Plateau to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. This 3 and a half week road trip takes you right off the beaten track to where you can experience exploding volcanoes, the very first sunrise in the world, internationally renowned vineyards, one of the country’s premier adventure hot spots, extraordinary glowworm and limestone caves, a unique rail cart experience through a ‘forgotten world’ and on to arguably the world’s best one day walk.

At a glance
Rotorua to Wellington (2394km)
10 travellers
Oct 12th – Nov 5th
25 days, 24 nights
The highlights


  • Rotorua
  • Taupo
  • Whakatane
  • The East Cape
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • Bridal Veil & Marakopa Falls
  • Waitomo
  • Raglan
  • Hamilton Gardens
  • New Plymouth & Mt Taranaki
  • The Forgotten World Highway & Rail Cart Adventure
  • The Central Plateau (Tongariro Crossing)
  • Wellington

Waitomo Caves, Waitomo

what's included?
WELCOME

We'll kick-start the tour with a warm welcome-a chance for everyone to day 'Kia-Ora' (Hello in Maori) and introduce ourselves.

Community

Guides x 2
Maximum group size x 10

All Accommodation

Equipment: Your own 3-man canvas tent.
Single stretcher bed x 1
(double for couples on request)
Camp chair x 1
Accommodation: Mostly camping, some shared dorms, lodges and cabins

Meals

Breakfasts x 23, Lunches x 2, Dinners x 17 (incl. tea, coffee and hot chocolate)

All transport

In our customised ZigZag Mercedes Sprinter van (incl. your own seat with USB charger)

Connections

All road tolls

Activities & Attractions included
  • Māori Cultural Night *depending on your arrival time
  • Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland / Waimangu Volcanic Valley *depending on operating days
  • Kerosene Creek
  • East Cape - Easternmost point
  • Tolaga Bay
  • Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • Orakei Korako Geothermal Park
  • Huka Falls
  • Hamilton Gardens
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Marakopa Falls
  • Mangapohue Natural Bridge
  • Forgotten World Highway
  • Forgotten World Adventures - Rail and Boat
  • Whangamomona Republic
  • Whakapapa Village
  • Central Plateau
  • Manawatu Scenic Route
  • Te Mata Peak
  • Martinborough Vineyard Dinner with Wine Tasting
  • Cape Palliser
  • Wellington

Forgotten World Adventues, Taumarunui

what's Not included?
Flights
Visas/Passport costs
Airport transfers
Additional Activities
Alternative Accommodation
Drinks not specified
Meals not specified
Phone & Internet
Basic Itinerary
  • Departing Rotorua
  • 1Rotorua
  • 2 Whakatāne
  • 3Whakatāne
  • 4East Cape
  • 5Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • 6Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • 7Napier
  • 8Napier
  • 9Taupo
  • 10Taupo
  • 11Taupo
  • 12 Raglan
  • 13Raglan
  • 14Waitomo
  • 15Waitomo
  • 16New Plymouth
  • 17New Plymouth
  • 18New Plymouth
  • 19Taumarunui
  • 20Whakapapa
  • 21Whakapapa
  • 22Whakapapa
  • 23Martinborough
  • 24Wellington
  • End in Wellington
Route Map:
DETAILED Itinerary

Click the + to expand

Day 1 - 3 That Steamy Explosive Bit - Rotorua to Whakatane

Day 1 – You begin your journey with ZigZag in Rotorua with us today and have the option to join our Mitai Māori Village experience and feast (from 5pm). A great start to your adventure and a chance to meet the rest of your group and immerse yourself straight into the culture.

Included D
Camping:  Rotorua

Day 2 – We haven’t quite finished with Rotorua yet. A visit to Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland named as "One of the 20 Most Surreal Places in the World" is included today. New Zealand's most colourful geothermal attraction consists of a myriad of brightly coloured natural hot pools, sulphur mud baths and explosive geysers. Take a self-guided walk through the stunning landscape nestled within a natural bush setting and gaze in awe at the extraordinary natural phenomena here.

Not far away is Kerosene Creek, a stream heated by natural hot springs. Complete with a waterfall and a series of steaming sandy bottomed pools surrounded by dense forest, this delightful spot is a local secret and your chance for a dip in the warm bath-like water. It’s so peaceful and serene here, you won’t want to leave. 

Our destination for today is Whakatāne, in the Bay of Plenty.

Included B,D
Camping:  Whakatāne 

Day 3 - Free Day. Whakatāne is the heart of the Eastern Bay of Plenty and frequently records the highest number of annual sunshine hours in New Zealand. It is the perfect place to unwind and explore the area’s beautiful natural setting. 

But there is also lots to do – it is one of the country’s premier fishing centres with more yellowfin tuna being caught here than anywhere else in New Zealand. You can also take a boat trip out to Moutohorā/Whale Island, a protected wildlife sanctuary that supports an abundance of native New Zealand birdlife. 

One of the more popular attractions is to take a flight over White Island and the numerous volcanoes that make up the Taupo Volcanic Zone – an incredible experience. 

Included B,D
Camping:  Whakatāne

Day 4 - 9 That Beautiful Eastern Bit No One Goes To - Whakatane to Napier

Day 4 & 5 – The next two days see us travelling State Highway 35, which circles right around New Zealand’s East Cape. The East Cape is the easternmost point of the New Zealand mainland and is the first place to see the sunrise in the world! The 334 km road trip around the coastline is stunning, comprising of endless white sandy beaches, remote villages where wild horses roam free, and a number of historical points of interest. 

We stay the night at a beautifully secluded spot on the most remote part of the East Cape. Here, with weather permitting, we have the opportunity to zip open our tents at dawn and be the first people in the world to witness the sun rising up out of the ocean for the new day. What an experience!

Over our two days of travel around the Cape, we’ll pass through the tiny hamlet of Omaio, whose name literally means ‘peace, quiet & tranquillity’ in Māori, the iconic and picturesque Anglican Raukokore Church, Te Araroa where you can find New Zealand’s oldest and largest Pohutukawa tree, the old abandoned wharf, wool and meat work buildings of beautiful Tokumaru Bay, and Tolaga Bay with what is believed to be the longest (660m) and most spectacular wharf of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.  The wharf at Tolaga Bay stands where Captain Cook first met the leaders of the Te Aitanga a Hauiti tribe in 1769 and there are a number of other places along this historic section of coastline where Cook and his ship, the Endeavour set anchor. Our accommodation for tonight is just outside Gisborne. 

Day 4
Included B,D
Camping: East Cape

Day 5
Included B,L,D
Lodge:  Gisborne 

Day 6 – Free Day. Today you can explore the delights of the Eastwoodhill Arboretum which covers 131 hectares of rolling rural farmland and contains the most comprehensive collection of flora in NZ. It displays over 4000 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants and is extremely beautiful. Whether we are visiting in the Spring or in Autumn the colours and variety of species are spectacular. Meander your way through the numerous woodland paths within the park, take time out to sit in the gardens and enjoy the ambience or head into Gisborne city centre and watch the surfers from the boardwalk. 

Included BD
Lodge:  Gisborne 

Day 7 – We have a very scenic drive along the Tiniroto Road to the town of Wairoa for a spot of lunch. We then continue on to Napier, the largest city in Hawkes Bay, where we will spend two nights.

Included B,D
Camping:  Napier

Day 8 – Free Day. Hawkes Bay is recognised as one of New Zealand’s premier food and wine regions. It is also known as an international Art Deco capital with outstanding architecture dating from the 1930's when the area was decimated by a large earthquake. 

Napier is the largest city in the Hawkes Bay and has a very pretty seafront. Marine Parade is a great place to walk or cycle along whilst you admire the many Art Deco buildings on show. 

Wine tours are a popular pastime in this premier wine region of New Zealand, and many visitors to the town also choose to take a tour to the scenic Cape Kidnappers gannet colony.  

The old harbour area is also a lovely place to spend some time with plenty of quaint boutique shops and cafes to enjoy.

Included B
Camping:  Napier

Day 9 – We start today with a scenic drive around the Tuku Tuku Road loop, up to Te Mata Peak and past the Mission Estate (the oldest winery in New Zealand dating back to1851). We end today in Taupo, where we will stay for 3 nights.

The town of Taupo sits on the north-eastern shore of Lake Taupo. The lake was formed from a crater that was left after the large Taupo super volcano erupted 1800years ago. The area is now a beautiful adventure playground with Lake Taupo at its centre and the three mountains of the Central Plateau to the south.

Included B,D
Camping:  Taupo

Day 10 - 15 That Bit With The Lake & Those Caves - Napier to Waitomo

Day 10 – Today we visit Orakei Korako (included), the largest silica terraces in New Zealand. Hotsprings and bubbling mud pools make this an incredible experience as you wanderaround the hidden valleys and caves of this natural geothermal park. Orakei Korakoboasts the most active geysers of any geothermal park in New Zealand.

After a morning here, we spend some time at Huka Falls where you can witness nearly a quarter of a million litres of water per second thundering through a natural rocky gorge before tumbling 11m into the roiling Waikato River below. There are numerous viewing platforms from which to see the falls, and you may also see the excited passengers on the Huka Jet as it comes racing up and almost touches the crashing waters in this, the ultimate thrill ride.

Included B,D
Camping: Taupo

Day 11 – Free Day. Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake at 622 square kilometres and offers a staggering number of activities to choose from, many of which are located in or around the lake. 

Cruise out on the lake to see the Ngatoroirangi Māori Rock Carvings, take a walk or bike ride on the many pathways (including the flat and very scenic ‘Lion’s Walk’), partake in a spot of trout fishing (Lake Taupo is recognised as one of the best places in the world to fish for trout), or try your hand at the Taupo Hole in One golf challenge. You can even jump out of a plane and skydive over the lake. These are a small selection of the many activities on offer here in Taupo.

Included B,D
Camping: Taupo

Day 12 – Today we head to the world renowned Hamilton Gardens, a 54-hectare public garden situated on the banks of the Waikato River in the city of Hamilton. This renowned parkland hosts an array of intricate and beautifully manicured themed gardens. From the Japanese ‘Garden of Contemplation’ to the grandeur of the‘Italian Renaissance’ collection and on to the English ‘Flower Garden’, you will feel like you have been transported all around the world by the magnificent flora on display here.

We finish the day in Raglan, a laid-back West Coast surfing mecca and holiday spot where we will spend two nights.

Included B,D
Camping: Raglan

Day 13 – Free Day. Raglan attracts many domestic and international surfers who come to catch the longest, most accessible and consistent ‘left hand break’ in the world. Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s fantastic to watch. Have a go yourself with a surf lesson or simply watch the boardriders on the waves at Manu Bay. Laze on Ngarunui Beach or experience the large range of other water-based activities that Raglan has to offer. Browse around the boutique ‘bohemian’ shops, galleries and cafes or simply watch the youngsters jump off the bridge into the turquoise waters of the estuary at high tide. 

Included B
Camping: Raglan

Day 14 – A day of waterfalls and natural wonders. Today we visit two of the most scenic waterfalls in New Zealand. Bridal Veil Falls is a plunge waterfall that is 55m high. It is set in a beautiful bush clad bowl and can be viewed from three tiered viewing platforms. 

Marakopa Falls is a wider waterfall with an impressive 35m drop and is often referred to as the most beautiful in NZ.

And if that’s not enough beauty, we will also visit the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, a 17m high natural limestone arch that has formed from the remnants of an ancient cave system. Be wowed as you walk through the fairy-tale like forest that leads up to this beautiful natural phenomena. We end in Waitomo tonight, famous for its extensive underground cave systems and its glow-worms. 

Included B,D
Camping: Waitomo

Day 15 – Free Day. Waitomo caves, glow-worms, black water rafting, abseiling, caving, ziplining, bushwalking and the Discovery Centre & Museum – there’s so much choice here.

Included B
Camping: Waitomo

Day 16 - 19 That Beautiful Western Bit No One Goes To - Waitomo to Taumarunui

Day 16 – We set off today through the Mangaotaki and Awakino River Gorges to Mokau, a coastal village on the mouth of the Mokau River. We pass through rolling farmland, native bush and impressive limestone formations through the gorges. 

We then drive south to the translucent waters of the Tongapōrutu River and continue along one of the fastest eroding coastlines in the world. The relentless Tasman Sea continually sculpts and shapes the cliffs of the mainland creating numerous caves, tunnels and archways. 

Every now and then you’ll be able to see right out to the horizon and on a clear day you might catch a sighting of Mount Taranaki as we near New Plymouth. Tonight, camp is in the heart of New Plymouth.

Included B,D
Camping: New Plymouth

Day 17 – Free Day. New Plymouth is a vibrant and modern city, renowned for its sunny climate, art galleries, street art, picturesque parks and botanical gardens. It’s also famed for its Coastal Walkway which stretches 12.7km from the port to a small beach community in the north. Te Rewa Rewa Bridge can be found halfway along the walkway and has magnificent views of Mount Taranaki to the south. 

New Plymouth is blessed with many stunning beaches and provides a paradise for surfers, swimmers, kayakers and paddle boarders alike. 

The Port of Taranaki is an interesting working harbour with a long history. There are places to eat and drink at the breakwater where you can watch the ships go by. 

Included B
Camping: New Plymouth

Day 18 – Free Day. Day two in New Plymouth – if you didn’t yesterday, this is your chance to get up onto Mount Taranaki, in Egmont National Park. The visitor centres can provide you with lots of information about the beautiful walks throughout the area.  

Included B
Camping: New Plymouth

Day 19 – Starting today on Surf Highway 45, we travel towards Stratford, circling around Egmont National Park and Mount Taranaki. 

We then join the 148km long Forgotten World Highway and drive through the rugged, picturesque maze of steep hills, native bush, farmland, and winding streams, that make up this ‘lost piece of New Zealand’. 

Almost halfway along we find ourselves at the small settlement of Whangamomona, which declared itself an independent republic in 1989. Every two years, the famous January ‘Republic Day’ is held and the villages population swells with thousands of visitors. The main high street is taken over with umpteen country activities, including as sheep races, gumboot throwing, gut buster hill climbs, whip cracking and much, much more. The Republic Day finale sees all visitors voting for a new president, not all of which have been human! This quirky, charismatic town which only consists of one street and a few buildings is a charming place to call in and see for yourselves. The historic Whangamomona Hotel displays Republic Day photos dating back many years. Lunch can be purchased at the hotel and for a couple of dollars you can also have your passport stamped! Be some of the few people around the world who can say they have the ‘Republic of Whangamomona’ stamp in their passport!

Completing the second half of the Forgotten World Highway, we continue through the rugged King Country to Taumarunui.

Included B,D
Cabins: Taumarunui 

Day 20 - 25 That Bit With The Vines & The Volcanoes - Taumarunui to Wellington

Day 20 – Adventure Day. Forgotten World Adventures - Rail and River Run (included activity)

A full day experience will have you ‘rattling’ along through 40 kms of disused railway track, tunnels, and bridges on your own modified ‘golf cart’. You’ll pass through back-country ghost towns and untouched landscapes steepened in Māori and early pioneer history. And that’s not all, you’ll then get to sit back and enjoy an exhilarating 23km jet boat ride along the Whanganui River. Great fun!

Driving up on to the Central Plateau we spend the next three nights in Whakapapa Village, located on the lower western slopes of Mt Ruapehu, the North Island’s highest peak. 

Included B,L,D
Lodge: Whakapapa

Day 21 – Free Day. The North Island's Volcanic Plateau is famous for its three active volcanoes - Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. Sitting at 2797m, Mt Ruapehu is the North Island’s highest peak and is popular for skiing and bush walking. Mt Tongariro is home to the world-famous Alpine Crossing - a 19km hike over the mountain, with panoramic 360° views across the North Island. It has been regularly voted as one of the best scenic one-day walks in the world. It’s natural beauty spots include the three ‘Emerald Lakes’, the impressive ‘Red Crater’ and the picturesque ‘Blue Lake’. Mt Ngauruhoe has an almost perfect conical peak and is better known as ‘Mt Doom’ from The Lord of the Rings films.

Many shorter, easier walks can be completed from the adjacent Whakapapa Village.

Chateau Tongariro, situated at Whakapapa Village half is an elegant hotel nestled in the heart of the National Park and surrounded by stunning natural landscape. It is a nice spot for a coffee or afternoon tea. 

The ‘Sky Waka’, a cable car which transports passengers 1.8km up Mount Ruapehu, is New Zealand’s longest gondola. There are multiple walks at the top, more 360° views and a very nice restaurant and cafe as well.

The historic Old Coach Road is another attraction in this area. It once connected the two ends of the Auckland to Wellington rail trunk line by stagecoach, and was extensively used until the railway line was finally completed in the 1920’s. The 15km trail stretches along cobblestoned roads, amongst native bush, under massive steel viaducts and through old stone tunnels.

Ohakune, known fondly as the ‘carrot’ capital of NZ, due to the large carrot farms in the area, serves Whakapapa and these mountains all year round with shops, cafes, an information centre and a range of adventure activities. 

Included B,D
Lodge: Whakapapa

Day 22- Free Day. We have given you two free days in Whakapapa Village to enable you to experience the Tongariro Crossing if you wish and still have time to enjoy the many other activities on offer here. 

Included B
Lodge: Whakapapa



Day 23 – Today we travel to the Wairarapa. We take the Manawatu Scenic Route to get us there, an evolving landscape of lush green valleys, rolling farmland, rivers and gorges with bridges and viaducts too. 

We stop off in Ashhurst and then drive past one of the largest wind farms in the country which can be seen stretching across 11.5kms of hillside and creates enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.  

We then continue our journey on in to Martinborough, a quaint little town with over twenty vineyards surrounding its cute village square. Along with some of the world’s finest olive groves (with many local oils winning international awards), much of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir comes from the local vineyards. 

Tonight, we dine amongst the vines at one of the many wineries and enjoy a spot of wine tasting. That’s on us! 

Included B,D
Camping: Martinborough

Day 24 – Remaining in the Wairarapa, we drive along rugged coastline to the desolate and very remote Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island. Weaving between the dramatic jagged mountains on our left and the wild rolling seas to our right, the coastal route meanders through small townships to the 125-year-old clifftop lighthouse at the end of the road. The view at the top is stunning. 

We then travel back around Lake Wairarapa, through Featherstone and up over the Remutaka Ranges before descending into New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. We drop you off at a centrally located hotel/ hostel for your final night with ZigZag.

Included B
Hostel: Wellington

Day 25 – Check out of hostel by 10am. Depart tour. 

Included No Meals

25 days, 24 nights
NZD

$5,208

NOW

$4,687.20

Rotorua to Wellington (2394km)
10 travellers
Oct 12th – Nov 5th
25 days, 24 nights
Book Now
*The price above is shown in New Zealand Dollar (NZD). The Tour will be charged as a flat rate + any credit card or bank transfer fees. Specials are only valid for 2024 tours.  To convert the above price to your local currency, click here!

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