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NEW ZEALAND / North Island
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Auckland sprawls across an 11km (8 mile) wide volcanic isthmus separating two natural harbours, the Waitemata Harbour to the east and Manukau Harbour to the west. The youngest volcano, Rangitoto Island, a symbol of the city, erupted from the sea a mere 755 years ago. More than 50 islands scatter the Hauraki Gulf ­Auckland is recognised having the largest boat ownership per capita in the world. Home to a population of more than one million people, Auckland represents the largest urban city in New Zealand and is recognised as having the largest concentration of Polynesian people in the world.


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Travel through the beautiful Clevedon Valley region of Auckland then follow the Seabird Coast and across the Hauraki Plains before arriving in Thames, gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula. Explore this area’s dramatic and unspoilt coast with native pohutukawa trees and white sandy beaches.

Drive south through the suburbs of Auckland to the market gardening area south of Papakura. Descend the Bombay Hills to cross the peaty Hauraki Plains, to the Coromandel Peninsula, whose mountains formed as part of the main fault line running through the country. Situated at the foot of the dramatic Coromandel Range, Thames looks across the aptly named ’Firth of Thames’, and is the largest town on the Coromandel Peninsula.

From Thames, the route northwards to Coromandel township along the coast is a scenic one. The narrow winding road hugs the shoreline and cliff faces opening out at times to tranquil sandy bays, at others overhung by the gnarled pohutukawa trees, which blossom spectacularly in early summer.

Leaving the township of Coromandel, it takes about an hour to drive over the ranges to the east coast, with views of Whangapoua Harbour and the popular beach of Kuaotunu enroute. Descend to Mercury Bay, the area where the famous Maori explorer Kupe landed in 950 AD, and secluded Whitianga Harbour.



Enjoy the day leisurely exploring the attractions of this area. Visit the Hot water beach, where at low tide you can dig in the sand allowing the shulphure heated waters to rise to the top to create your very own thermal spa. Do the scenic walk to the Cathedral Cove, a day hike, kayak, snorkel, or explore the quaint villages of the peninsula.




The road south skirts the harbour and heads inland to Coroglen and Whenuakite before reaching the coast again alongside Tairua Harbour. Follow the Tairua Harbour and river inland to Hikuai, then pass through the Tairua Forest to reach the Pacific Coast again at the resort town of Whangamata. Continue south to Whitiroa then head inland to the goldmining town of Waihi.

Continue south through farmland and increasing numbers of orchards and market gardens, via the “mural town” of Katikati to the port city of Tauranga and the adjacent seaside resort of Mt Maunganui. This area was named "Bay of Plenty" by Captain Cook on his first voyage as his crew was able to obtain ample food and water supplies here. It is a name as appropriate today as the region supports a wide range of fruit crops, the most famous being the kiwi­fruit. Te Puke is the centre of this important export crop industry. Travel onwards, climbing to the Volcanic Plateau, reaching Lake Rotoiti and the narrow isthmus separating it from Lake Rotorua.

Enjoy some of the many activities Rotorua has to offer. There is an abundance of adrenalin activities to choose from, traditional farm shows, Maori cultural tours, variety of

parks showcasing the thermal activity, there are several spa’s to choose from, and of course water based activities on the various lakes and flights over the Volcanoes. You can learn the history in the Museum and see the Kiwi at the Kiwi Encounter.





Leave Rotorua southwest of Mt Tarawera to Waiotapu, home to another large geothermal park, and past Rainbow Mountain ­named for obvious reasons. Beyond the cleared farmlands is the Kaingaroa Forest, covering more than 150,000ha of the Kaingaroa Plains, which extend north­eastwards from Lake Taupo across the eastern Bay of Plenty, and which are covered by volcanic pumice and light scoria. The forest, the largest man­made forest in New Zealand and one of the largest world­wide, is a focal point of NZ’s huge timber, and pulp and paper industry.

Approaching Taupo more thermal activity is evident with the geothermal power station at Wairakei, and the adjacent "Craters of the Moon" thermal park. Stop at the famous Huka falls on the Waikato River, about 8km downstream from the source at Lake Taupo. The sudden spuming rush of water is caused by the river dropping 8 m over a distance of 230m in a narrow channel through silicified rock, and then cascading another 11m into a pool below. Huka is a favourite fishing spot for anglers. Huka is Maori for foam.



Depart Taupo and head for the Hawke’s Bay region, famous for its wine, food and fantastic scenery.

The road to Napier climbs through farmland and forest to a high plateau then over the Ahimanawa Range of mountains. Descend into the Esk Valley where you see the first of many hectares of fruit trees and vines for the major produce and wine making industries of the Hawkes Bay. Then follow the shoreline of Hawke Bay, named by Cook for the then First Lord of the Admiralty.

The Hawke’s Bay region encompasses the area around Hawke’s Bay on the East Coast of the North Island. It is 332 kilometres (about four hours) north­east Wellington City. Blessed with a sunny, Mediterranean­style climate, Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s warmest, driest regions.



The landscapes of Hawke’s Bay begin with the high, forested Ruahine and Kaweka Ranges. From the mountains, the land steps down towards the coast, flattening out to become the Heretaunga Plains. A number of wide rivers run swiftly to meet the blue Pacific Ocean.

Napier was rebuilt in the early 1930s following a massive Richter 7.8 Earthquake. Subsequent fires destroyed most of its commercial heart. By the end of the decade, Napier was the newest city on the globe. Nowhere else can you see such a variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930s ­Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission, and above all Art Deco, the style of the 20th Century ­in such a concentrated area. And Napier’s Art Deco is unique, with Maori motifs and the buildings of Louis Hay, admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright.

Enhanced by palms and the angular Norfolk Island pines which are its trademark, and bounded by fertile fruit and grape growing plains, dramatic hills and the shores of the South Pacific, beautiful Napier is the centre of the Hawke’s Bay region. In Napier, you can enjoy the legacy of its brave rebuilding and savour the spirit of the optimistic Art Deco era.



Day at leisure. The vineyards of Hawke’s Bay are all within easy reach of Napier, as is a world class golf course and many delights for foodies.




Depart the Napier / Hastings area via the farming townships of Waipawa and Waipukurau east of the Ruahine Ranges. Further south there are several townships originally settled by Scandinavians ­hence Norsewood and Dannevirke. The Maori name of Eketahuna, means ‘to run aground on a sand bank’, but has been the butt of jokes and come to mean colloquially the equivalent of the American ‘Hicksville’. Nearby is Mt Bruce Forest, home to the National Wildlife Centre, which hosts recovery and breeding programmes for native bird species. The centre of the Wairarapa region is Masterton.


The Wairarapa region was the first in New Zealand in which sheep farming was undertaken on any scale because of its flatness. Today however, an area in and around Martinborough is now a grape growing and wine­making region, popular with Wellington’s populace, producing a high quality range of wines. The village of Featherston became the railhead for the train line to Masterton when, in 1863, John Fell designed his engine able to cope with the Rimutaka Hill’s gradient of one in 15. The trains were assisted up the hill by a set of four horizontal wheels, driven by a steam engine, which gripped a special double­headed rail track between the normal railway lines. When the rail tunnel was opened in 1955, its 7.44 km one of the world’s longest, five of the famous Fell were scrapped. The sixth was saved for the local museum.




The steep and winding hill road brings you quickly into the Hutt River valley and the large urban area extending almost continuously to Wellington Harbour. Wellington, the nation’s capital, nestled between an expansive harbour and bush­clad hills. The Harbour Capital is an eclectic environment: motorways and narrow city streets, houses built on steep hillsides, areas of dense bush, exposed rocky coasts, modern office and apartment blocks all within a few kilometers of each other. Then there are the equally diverse waterfronts of the inner harbour, beaches and bays. One can easily walk between the various different “quarters” ­the theatre district of Courtenay Place, bohemian Cuba Street and Mall, the shopping Mecca of the Lambton Quay area. Wellington prides itself as the arts and coffee capital of the nation: and the myriad cafes, restaurants and bars, and live theatre venues, art galleries and museums bears this out.




Don’t miss Te Papa ­the interactive Museum of New Zealand and wander round the numerous art galleries, restaurants and shops before you go.


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