New Zealand’s North Island is full of stunning landscapes, sprawling farmlands and geothermal wonders, where the Maori culture is rich and ever-present; here’s a glimpse into my week on a Grand Pacific escorted tour of the North Island.
I flew with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong to Auckland and got the chance to experience both their economy and premium economy cabin including their first class lounge. Cathay Pacific offered a comfortable and efficient service throughout, their premium economy was excellent. My first night was spent in vibrant Auckland were I met up with the rest of my touring companions.
On our first morning we boarded a modern 48 seater coach and met our Coach Captain Cole, and set off for a guided tour of the Kauri Museum in Northland. We then went to the Footprints Waipoua encounter, home to some of the largest remaining kauri trees, were a local guide took us through the Waipoua Forest to the largest and oldest (2000 years old) Kauri tree. Afterwards we enjoyed a scenic drive to Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands, our home for the next 2 nights.
The next morning we boarded a luxury catamaran for our Hole in the Rock Cruise; sailing through a few of the 144 islands located in the Bay of Islands and to the striking Hole in the Rock. We also had the opportunity to see the Bay of Islands from the air on a scenic helicopter flight, offering breath-taking views over the famous islands. That evening we took a leisurely sunset cruise up the Waitangi River to the spectacular Haruru Falls and enjoyed a freshly prepared meals onboard.
As we left the Bay of Islands the next morning we stopped for a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds; where the signing of the treaty took place between the Maori tribes and the British. It was an informative and fun tour taking us through the Maori history; we got the chance to see the world’s largest war canoe and the famous Treaty House. We were also lucky enough to catch a Maori cultural performance at the carved meeting house.
After the tour we drove south via Whangarei, Wellsford and Warkworth to Auckland’s north shore to our next hotel in Takapuna. That evening we got the chance to take a look at the Grand Pacific Tours Ultimate Coach. A full size coach reconfigured to just 20 luxury leather seats offering unparalleled comfort, every passenger gets a window seat with a fully reclining business style chair and personal storage area.
The next day we headed back into Auckland for a city tour; we then continued through the picturesque countryside to Longlands Farm and Restaurant. On arrival we took a short tour around the family owned dairy farm before we enjoyed a home cooked lunch.
Next stop on our trip was Hobbiton, an activity pretty much everyone had been looking forward too. We enjoyed a guided tour around the world famous film set and finished off with a locally brewed cider in the Green Dragon Pub. Then we set off to geothermal Rotorua for a 2 night stay.
It was an early rise the following morning as we headed 487 metres above sea level on the Gondola, to the Skyline Rotorua restaurant offering spectacular views of Rotorua. We then got to ride on the luge! The luge is part go-cart, part toboggan and we had a lot of fun racing down the trails amongst the Redwood Forest. Our next stop of the day was the Agrodome were we enjoyed a very entertaining and informative farm show and then headed to Rotorua Museum located in the iconic Bath House showcasing the culture, history and volatile landscape of Rotorua.
That evening we went to Te Puia; home to New Zealand’s Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, a live kiwi enclosure and the Pohutu Geyser. After a tour around the grounds we enjoyed an evening Maori culture show and indulged in a traditional Hangi.
On our last day of the tour we visited the famous Glow Worm Caves. An expert guide gave us an informative commentary whilst we toured the historical caves. We were then taken through the Glow Worm Caves by boat; it was an incredible experience to see the darkness gradually being lit up by tiny spots of luminescent light from the Glow Worms.
We then headed back to Auckland for our last night in New Zealand. That evening we all met at the top of the famous Sky Tower which dominates Auckland’s skyline. Standing 328 metres high, we travelled up in glass-fronted lifts and were welcomed with panoramic views over the city; a great way to finish off a fantastic week.
The next day I headed back to the UK via LA with New Zealand’s national flag carrier Air New Zealand, a fantastic airline offering superb customer service and the new on demand service allowing you to order food and drink directly from your seat is a great feature.
So, if you’re looking for a country full of stunning scenery, culture and excitement then New Zealand is the place for you and there is no better way than experiencing it on a Grand Pacific Tour. Your Coach Captain will ensure you have the holiday of a lifetime from start to finish and nothing is ever too much trouble.
If you want to experience a similar tour take a look at our Taste of the North Island 8 day tour.
Updated 10 May 2017