Craters & Coves
The North Island of New Zealand is no shrinking violet when it comes to mind-boggling scenery. Its diverse offerings range from bubbling thermal pools to smoking volcanoes and pretty sandy coves to lush rain forest.
On this tour explore museums, parks and spectacular offshore islands in the vibrant city of Auckland, dig your own geothermal pool in the Coromandel Peninsula, visit the verdant green hills of the ‘Shire’ and witness bubbling volcanic mud, stinky gas, gushing geysers and Māori haka performances in Rotorua. Travelling south explore the serene waters of Lake Taupo before getting up close & personal with the rocky grounds of Mordor and Mount Doom. Finish off your trip with an optional diversion into Whanganui National Park before floating silently in the pitch darkness under thousands of glow worms at Waitamo.
Experience jam-packed adventure with some of the most varied and rugged landscapes on Earth.
- Flights: International flights from UK to Auckland
- Transport: Car hire from airport pick-up to airport drop-off
- Accommodation: 10 nights in characterful lodges, cottages and apartments
- Meals: Breakfasts where stated
- Trip Pack: Key family-friendly information about the country you are visiting with recommended activity links, places to eat and fun facts.
- Explore Auckland, the 'City of Sails' and pick your favourite offshore island
- Dig your own hot pool in the Coromandel Peninsula and marvel at the beauty of Cathedral Cove
- Explore rolling green hills in the ‘shire’
- Discover explosive geothermal activity in Rotorua with the opportunity to experience a Māori cultural show and Hangi feast
- Enjoy the serene beauty and water sports activities around Lake Taupo
- Hike the famous Tongariro Crossing with its smoking craters and neon lakes
- Visit the ‘Valley of Abandoned Dreams’ in Whanganui National Park
- Experience caves lit up by glow worms in Waitomo
- When can we go? All year round
- What type of tour is it? Self-drive & Optional Guided Excursions
- Who is it suitable for? For families that have a penchant for geographical phenomena. For lovers of coastal scenery, offshore islands, smoking volcanoes, forested valleys and serene lakes
- What is the minimum age? We would recommend a minimum age of 5 years for this trip. Please check the recommended activities as the minimum ages will differ
We publish ‘guideline prices’ for both the high and low season to give a reasonable estimate of what you might expect to pay for a family of four (two adults, two children). To get an accurate price based on your estimated departure date and party size please contact us directly.
Guide Price: Jan to Dec - £2,620pp
Welcome to the other side of the world! Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, straddling two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. It is an incredibly diverse cultural melting pot with newly revitalised urban areas and fabulous museums and galleries squeezed between mountain ranges and ocean. Choose to spend the rest of the day relaxing or exploring your new surrounds.
If you choose to explore then we would recommend heading towards Viaduct Harbour. Saunter around the Maritime Museum, wander the waterfront Wynyard Quarter with its award-winning architecture, street theatre and kid’s playgrounds then head up to the Sky Tower to admire the view, climb the mast or jump the bungee. You never know – jet lag can do funny things! Get a good night’s rest for your full day tomorrow.
Fun Facts: The first man to reach the peak of Mt Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, was born in Auckland.
Optional Activities: Maritime Museum, Sky Tower
Today is a whole day dedicated to exploring this dynamic city. Start with an exquisite local brew and you are good to go! To start the day, jump on a ferry to the pretty seaside town of Devonport, known for its arts and crafts and plenitude of cafés. Walk up North Head Mount to enjoy spectacular views across the city and down the Hauraki Gulf. Take a refreshing dip at Cheltenham Beach if the weather is being kind.
Back in the city, hire some bikes and cycle your way along the picturesque waterfront to Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium. Stop at the trendy boutiques of Parnell located along tiny brick-paved lanes in Auckland’s oldest suburb, the perfect spot for lunch. Take a bush walk around The Domain to the Auckland War Memorial Museum which is the perfect introduction to the kids of indigenous Maori culture. Head back down Queen St, Auckland’s oldest and busiest street, to the waterfront.
In the afternoon it is time to pick your island! Wine-soaked Waiheke, volcanic Rangitoto or bird-paradise Tiritiri Matangi? Waiheke is a heart-stoppingly beautiful, blissed-out, bohemian island that lures artists, wine-lovers and foodies. Enjoy the Waiheke Arts Trail or for more adventure go kayaking or ziplining. Rangitoto is a spectacular volcanic island where you can hike to the summit (by foot or 4WD) and explore fascinating lava caves. If you prefer to venture beyond the norm then Tiritiri Matangi Island is the one for you. See New Zealand’s endangered birds as you walk through forests and along untouched beaches. Enjoy the twinkling lights of the city as you head back to the mainland.
Fun Facts: Emerging from the sea just 600 years ago, pest-free Rangitoto Island is the youngest volcano in New Zealand.
Optional Activities: Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium, Auckland War Memorial Museum, sea kayaking, zip-lining, 4WD tour
If you are up bright and early this morning we would suggest a side trip to the wild black-sand beaches of the west coast before a tramp in the lush bushland of the Waitakere Ranges. See secluded waterfalls and deserted beaches, like the one made famous in the movie The Piano.
Cobwebs suitably removed, drive towards the Firth of Thames to explore the ‘pretty as a picture’ Coromandel Peninsula. A mixture of pony-tailed artists, affluent Aucklanders and laid-back locals ensure life here is taken at a slow pace. Drive along twisting roads just metres above the sea, passing white sandy beaches and forested hamlets. Stop to swim in waterfall pools and explore giant forest groves (but keep an eye out for LOTR’s Radagast). Explore Coromandel Town whose main street is crammed with trendy cafés and heritage buildings, then take an optional ride on a zigzagging mountain railway through native kauri forest. If time allows, we would also recommend a short hike to one of New Zealand’s best ‘secret’ beaches.
Follow the coastal drive around the peninsula to Whitianga which will be your base for the next two nights.
Fun Facts: The Firth of Thames is an important stopover point for migratory wading birds. One of them, the medium sized Godwit, breeds in Alaska then flies non-stop to New Zealand in just a week.
Optional Activities: Mountain railway
Today is a celebration of all things coastal! Whitianga sits within Mercury Bay known for its endless marine experiences. If the tide is low, head to Hot Water Beach. Hire a shovel, dig a pool and wallow in the steaming hot water. When bath time’s over, you can use the 67C sands to boil an egg (if you happen to have one handy).
A couple of miles up the coast is Hahei and the magnificent Cathedral Cove. To reach it you could hike the 1-hour coastal track with its spectacular views but our recommendation is to join a guided sea kayaking tour. This is a quintessential kiwi experience that even includes a hot chocolate and cookie to finish and is guaranteed to be one of the ‘wow’ moments of your trip.
If you want more rock ‘n’ roll adventure then hit the saddle for a guided trail ride through native bush and kiwifruit orchards with panoramic views across the peninsula down to the coast. Finish off your day with a stargazing tour of the southern night sky. View planets, stars and galaxies and learn how stars are born before holding meteorites older than the earth. Pretty cool! A freshly caught seafood dinner of squid, juicy mussels and oysters or the more down to earth flounder would make a perfect end to your day.
Fun Facts: In November 1769, Captain Cook planted a British flag on Kiwi soil and claimed the territory for King George III. He also declared a nearby rock formation so crooked that it resembled the Bard’s nose, and thus Shakespeare’s Cliff was named.
Optional Activities: Kayaking, horse riding, star gazing
It is a 3-hour drive south today towards Rotorua, heading through the fruit-bowl of New Zealand. We would recommend breaking the journey up by fruit picking, gorge walking and exploring old gold mining tunnels. Eventually you will enter Lord of the Rings country. Matamata is a must visit for any LOTR fan. Here lies the Shire, a rambling countryside of verdant green hills framed by a picturesque lake. Wander past handsomely painted hobbit holes, vegetable patches and miniature stone bridges before retiring to the Green Dragon Inn for a meat pie and ginger ale. The kids also get to play dress up in Hobbit sized attire.
It is a short drive from here to Rotorua although you may well smell it before you can see it (think rotten eggs). Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland of erupting geysers, active volcanoes and gurgling hot springs with a deep connection to its Māori roots. We would recommend spending the remainder of the day simply having fun. Ride the gondola up Mount Ngongotaha for panoramic views and the hugely thrilling luge back down. A sure fire hit with the kids!
Rotorua will be your base for the next two nights.
Fun Facts: The tree above Bilbo Baggin’s house on the Hobbiton set wasn’t deemed magical enough so the LOTR crew sewed on thousands of hand painted leaves to make the tree more enchanting.
Optional Activities: Hobbiton tour, Skyline gondola & luge
Get ready for an epic day! We would recommend starting the day in the therapeutic thermal pools of the lakeside spa. Enjoy mineral baths, mud wraps or spa therapies with a special pool for families.
Suitably rejuvenated you could opt to crank up the action. Just outside Rotorua lies the spectacular Whakarewarewa Forest with 40km of the best purpose-built mountain biking trails on the planet. Hire some bikes and enter mountain biking heaven amongst towering redwoods. Alternatively, you could take a white-water rafting trip down the sedate part of the beautiful Rangitaiki River. Paddle past cascading waterfalls, lush native forest and through striking rock gorges.
Complete your day with a magical combination of geo-thermal delights and Māori experience at an indigenous cultural centre. This aims to offer tourists a glimpse into Māori culture whilst educating and entertaining them. See spouting geysers, silica terraces, bubbling mud pools, native kiwis and traditional Māori thatched villages; enjoy demonstrations of wood carving and weaving before witnessing a powerful haka performance and tasting a mouth-watering Hangi feast (cooked in an underground oven). A truly memorable, immersive experience.
Fun Facts: The Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana were once described as the 8th Wonder of the World. Tourists flocked to see them however on the 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted, completely burying the terraces in mountains of ash and lava.
Optional Activities: Polynesian spa, mountain bike hire, white-water rafting, Māori experience & Hangi feast
This morning you might like to check out the agricultural dome and more specifically the highly entertaining Sheep Show. You may also like to partake in zorbing (rolling down a hill in a giant plastic ball) or bungee swooping (a glorified swing) whilst you are there. Hey, you only live once!
From Rotorua head south towards Lake Taupo making a must stop at the best thermal reserve in the area. A wonderland of orange, green, yellow, white and black pools with fabulous names such as the Devil’s Bath and Lady Knox Geyser. The vivid Dali-esque Champagne Pool (unfortunately not an exotic tub filled with Moët) is the crown jewel with shocking oranges, emerald greens and a photographer’s dream. The self-guided tour is on flat boardwalks perfect for families. Before reaching Lake Taupo make a stop at the exhilarating Huka Falls where the sedate Waikato River is forced between a 15-metre gap. You could also take a jet boat to the base of the falls and enjoy some 360-degree spins.
Lake Taupo sits in the caldera of a volcano that began erupting around 300,000 years ago. It is a beautiful setting and a water lover’s dream. The road around the lake is awash with serene villages, cosy cafes, fantastic bush walks, and Instagram-worthy scenery. Spend the rest of the day relaxing by the lakeshore, letting the kids enjoy the slides at the local hot springs or jumping out of a plane at 15,000ft. Spend the next two nights in Turangi.
Fun Facts: Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia and is roughly the size of Singapore.
Optional Activities: Agricultural show, thermal park, jet boating, hot springs
Today is the day you get to visit the rocky grounds of Mordor and the infamous Mount Doom. Even before you arrive at Tongariro National Park its three towering volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, dominate the horizon. Imposing, majestic and downright moody.
The Tongariro Crossing is undeniably one of the best day walks in the world. For fit active families with older children (age 12+) we couldn’t recommend it more. The track winds its way between the three majestic cones passing the awe-inspiring Red Crater, Soda Springs and Blue and Emerald Lakes and is an amazing spectacle of steaming craters and neon-bright lakes. It is worth every aching muscle.
For families with younger children there are still a multitude of ways to enjoy the National Park. Head to the visitor’s centre for an excellent selection of shorter hikes. Many of these pass-through tussock shrublands and native forest, over streams and gorges to tumbling waterfalls and turquoise pools. Let the kids spot pipits, fern birds and skylarks while the symmetrical cone of Ngauruhoe keeps a watchful eye along the way. You could also take the chairlift up Mount Ruapehu and enjoy a coffee at New Zealand’s highest café. If you enjoy cycling there are an abundance of bike trails whilst in winter this area boasts one of the best ski fields in the country.
Fun Facts: Tongariro National Park was gifted by local Tuwharetoa Māori more than a century ago. The Māori believed that the mountains were strong warriors who fought among each other.
Optional Activities: Mount Ruapehu chairlift, mountain bike hire
Today you have the option of taking a leisurely drive to Waitamo or making a side trip into Whanganui National Park. The drive north to Waitamo passes through farmland and forest. We would suggest taking a break in Te Kuiti, the sheep shearing capital of the world.
The journey into Whanganui National Park is a slightly longer one. Drive to the wharf in Pipiriki where you will be picked up by the Bridge to Nowhere Jet-boat. This is the only means of transportation into the park. Enjoy views of steep sided gorges and lush native forest along the way. Deep inside the park take a leisurely bush walk into the Valley of Abandoned Dreams towards the Bridge to Nowhere (we are not making these names up!). Enjoy a picnic lunch by the river before heading back by jet boat.
Your base for this evening will be the town of Waitamo. When night time falls, grab a torch and take a loop walk to get a glimpse of the famous glow worms before settling down for dinner.
Fun Facts: During World War 1, the government offered land in the Mangapurua valleys to returned servicemen. The land was remote, hilly and untamed with poor road access. By 1944, the original settlers had left hence the name ‘Valley of Abandoned Dreams’.
Optional Activities: Bridge to Nowhere jet boat
You have the opportunity this morning to go on a magical underground journey guided by the light of a thousand glow worms. Head out of Waitamo to a secret cave entrance guarded only by sheep where your descent into the Lost World begins. Float silently in a boat in the pitch darkness under thousands of glow worms before walking through a succession of chambers and natural cathedrals. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After your caves tour, head north towards Hamilton. Make a brief stop in Otorohanga to celebrate everything that is uniquely New Zealand with a chance to see the endangered kiwi plus the rare endemic Tuatara lizard. We would also recommend stopping at the enchanting world of secret gardens in Hamilton. The kids will love the playgrounds and block sculptures. Arrive back in Auckland for the final night of your trip. Check out what kid’s activities are on at Silo Park or just marvel at the super yachts.
Fun Facts: It is the bioluminescent faeces of glow worms that provides the tiny green glow.
Optional Activities: Glow worm cave tour, kiwi house
Head to the airport for your flight back to the UK or on to Christchurch if you are combining with our ‘Summits & Sounds’ tour.
Wandering Tribe has travelled to all of the destinations that we feature and we like nothing better than talking about them. If you would like further information about these tours or a tailor-made quote then please contact us on 07392 742333. Alternatively you can fill in the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.