24 nights of wilderness and adventure that starts from New Zealand’s capital city Wellington, and travels up through the spectacular Central Plateau before zigzagging from one side of the North Island to the other. 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
Wellington to Rotorua (2394km)
10 travellers
Apr 9th– May 3rd
25 days, 24 nights
The highlights
  • Wellington
  • The Central Plateau (the Tongariro Crossing)
  • The Forgotten World Highway & Rail Cart Adventure
  • New Plymouth & Mt Taranaki
  • Waitomo
  • Raglan
  • Bridal Veil & Marakopa Falls
  • Hamilton Gardens
  • Taupo
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • The East Cape (Easternmost point)
  • Whakatane
  • Rotorua

Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua.

what's included?

We'll kick-start the tour with a warm welcome– a chance for everyone to say ‘Kia Ora’ (hello in Māori) and introduce ourselves


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:  camping, shared dorm, lodge, cabins


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)


All road tolls

Activities & Attractions included
  • Wellington
  • Cape Palliser
  • Martinborough vineyard dinner with wine tasting
  • Te Mata Peak
  • Manawatu Scenic Route
  • Central Plateau
  • Whakapapa Village
  • Whangamomona Republic
  • Forgotten World Highway
  • Forgotten World Adventures - rail and boat
  • Mangapohue Natural Bridge
  • Marakopa Falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Hamilton Gardens
  • Huka Falls
  • Orakei Korako Geothermal Park
  • Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • Tolaga Bay
  • East Cape - easternmost point
  • Kerosene Creek
  • Wai O Tapu Geothermal Wonderland / Waimangu Volcanic Valley *depending on operating days

Huka Falls , Taupo

what's Not included?
Visas/Passport costs
Airport transfers
Additional Activities
Alternative Accommodation
Drinks not specified
Meals not specified
Phone & Internet
Basic Itinerary
  • Departing Wellington
  • 01Wellington
  • 02Martinborough
  • 03Whakapapa
  • 04Whakapapa
  • 05Whakapapa
  • 06Taumarunui
  • 07New Plymouth
  • 08New Plymouth
  • 09New Plymouth
  • 10Waitomo
  • 11Waitomo
  • 12Raglan
  • 13Raglan
  • 14Taupo
  • 15Taupo
  • 16Napier
  • 17Napier
  • 18Napier
  • 19Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • 20Eastwoodhill Arboretum
  • 21East Cape
  • 22Whakatane
  • 23Whakatane
  • 24Rotorua
  • End in Rotorua
      Route Map:
      DETAILED Itinerary

      Click the + to expand

      Day 1 - 6That Bit With The Vines & The Volcanoes - Wellington to Taumarunui  

      Day 1 –  Meet in Wellington and have the first night at the hostel included before we start our Northern journey

      Included No meals
      Hostel: Wellington

      Day 2 – We depart our capital and head north over the dramatic Remutaka Ranges, before veering off the main road at Featherstone and making our way around Lake Wairarapa and through lush green farmland to the sea. We then travel east along the rugged coastline to the desolate and very remote Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island. Weaving between steep jagged mountains on our left and the wild rolling seas to our right, the coastal route meanders through a number of small fishing settlements before arriving at the 125-year-old clifftop lighthouse at the end of the road. The view at the top is stunning. 

      We then backtrack along the coast before driving north 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 D
      Camping: Martinborough

      Day 3 – We head north today, passing through small rural towns nestled amongst the verdant landscape of the Wairarapa, before turning west and heading over the Ruahine Ranges, home to one of the largest wind farms in the country. The Te Apiti wind farm can be seen stretching across 11.5kms of the surrounding hills and creates enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. 

      We then make a short stop in Ashhurst, before venturing along the little-known ‘Manawatu Scenic Route’, which guides us up toward the centre of the North Island. This is a beautiful, remote area comprising of lush green valleys, rolling farmland, crystal clear rivers and steep-sided gorges that are criss-crossed with old bridges and viaducts. 

      We then continue up and on to the Central Plateau, where we finally reach Whakapapa Village, our final destination for this afternoon. Whakapapa Village is located on the lower western slopes of Mt Ruapehu, the North Island’s highest peak. 

      Included B,D
      Lodge: Whakakpapa

      Day 4 – 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.

      The Chateau Tongariro, situated at Whakapapa Village, 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 that is popular with cyclists and day-walkers. 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 number of 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 5 – 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 6 – Adventure Day. Forgotten World Adventures - Rail and River Run (included activity)

      From Whakapapa, we drive to Taumarunui. Here you have an exciting adventure ahead. A full day experience will have you ‘rattling’ along through 40kms 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!

      Included B,L,D
      Cabins: Taumarunui

      Day 7 - 10 That Beautiful Western Bit No One Goes To - Taumarunui to Waitomo

      Day 7 – Today, we drive through the 148km long ‘Forgotten World Highway’, a rugged, picturesque maze of steep hills, native bush, farmland, historic buildings, and winding streams that are a truly ‘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, 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 Taranaki countryside before emerging from the hills at Stratford. Here, we circle around Egmont National Park and Mount Taranaki before arriving in to New Plymouth and straddling Surf Highway 45. 

      Included B,D
      Camping: New Plymouth

      Day 8 – 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 

      Included B
      Camping: New Plymouth

      Day 9 –  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 10 – With Mount Taranaki in our rear-view mirror, we set off north today along one of the fastest eroding coastlines in the world. The relentless Tasman Sea continually sculpts and shapes the cliffs of the seafront here, creating numerous caves, tunnels and archways. Along the way we make stops by the translucent waters of the Tongapōrutu River and Mokau, a coastal village on the mouth of the Mokau River.

      We continue through the steep-sided Awakino and Mangaotaki River gorges, memorable for their impressive limestone formations and thick native bush. 

      We end in Waitomo tonight, famous for its extensive underground cave systems and its glow-worms. 

      Included B,D
      Camping: Waitomo

      Day 11 - 16 That Bit With The Lake & Those Caves - Waitomo to Napier

      Day 11 – Free Day. The caves, glow-worms, black water rafting, abseiling, caving, zip lining, bushwalking and the Discovery Centre & Museum – Waitomo offers so many experiences.

      Included B
      Camping: Waitomo

      Day 12 –  A day of waterfalls and natural wonders. Today we visit two of the most scenic waterfalls in New Zealand. 

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

      Bridal Veil Falls is a tall plunge waterfall that is 55m high. It is set in a beautiful bush clad bowl and can be viewed from three tiered viewing platforms. 

      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 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 board riders 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 –  Today we head to Hamilton Gardens, a 54-hectare public garden situated on the banks of the mighty 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 spend some time this afternoon 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 on this, the ultimate thrill ride. 

      We then continue on to the town of Taupo, which 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 1800 years 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 15 – 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 16 – This morning, we stop for a visit at Orakei Korako (included), the largest silica terraces in New Zealand. Hot springs and bubbling mud pools make this an incredible experience as you wander around the hidden valleys and caves of this natural geothermal park. Orakei Korako boasts the most active geysers of any geothermal park in New Zealand. 

      We then head southeast through thick pine forests and over high mountains to the city of Napier, capital of Hawkes Bay.   

      Included B,D
      Camping: Napier

      Day 17 - 22That Beautiful Eastern Bit No One Goes To - Napier to Whakatane

      Day 17 – 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 18 – Free Day. Optional scenic drive today with ZigZag. Come and enjoy the dramatic scenery around the Tuku Tuku Road loop, up to Te Mata Peak and past the Mission Estate (the oldest winery in New Zealand which dates back to 1851). 

      Included B,D
      Camping: Napier

      Day 19 – Today we travel north to the coastal town of Wairoa, before heading inland through stunning gorges along the Tiniroto Road to our very special destination for two nights, deep in the hill country of Ngatapa.

      Included B,D
      Lodge: Gisborne

      Day 20 – 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 B,D
      Lodge: Gisborne

      Day 21 & 22– 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 visit 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. 

      We’ll also pass through Te Araroa where you can find New Zealand’s oldest and largest Pohutukawa tree, the iconic and picturesque Anglican Raukokore Church and the tiny hamlet of Omaio, whose name literally means ‘peace, quiet & tranquillity’ in Māori.

      We complete our East Cape experience in Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty.

      Included B,D
      Day 67 - Camping: East Cape

      Included B,L,D
      Day 68 - Camping: Whakatane

      Day 23 -25That Steamy, Smelly Bit With Hobbits - Whakatane to Hahei 

      Day 23 –  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 24 – Today we head to Rotorua. As we near the city, we pay a visit to Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland, named as "One of the 20 Most Surreal Places in the World" (included). This is New Zealand's most colourful geothermal attraction consisting 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. 

      We end the day in the fascinating city of Rotorua for your final night.

      Included B,D
      Camping:  Rotorua 

      Day 25 – We say our farewells over breakfast, before you pack up, clean your tent and depart the tour.

      Included B


      25 days, 24 nights




      Wellington to Rotorua (2394km)
      10 travellers
      Apr 9th– May 3rd
      25 days, 24 nights
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