Northern Explorer train, New Zealand

Northern Train Explorer

Explore the North Island's major visitor cities from Auckland, City of Sails, to Rotorua, the art deco city of Napier and the coolest little capital in the world, Wellington City. Return to Auckland on board the Northern Explorer scenic train. A great value tour with plenty of time to self explore the regions.

About this NZ Road Trip

North Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,524 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Auckland

9 days/8 nights

Hotel 4 star

 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible

 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

 Viewed 5 times in the last 7 days

Also included in this package

All breakfasts

Private train station transfers

Private airport transfers

Tour map
Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand
Wellington cable car, New Zealand
Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip

Day 1 - Welcome to Auckland City

Northern Train Explorer - Day 1
Personal meet and greet, and private transfer to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

Access to our exclusive New Zealand Touring APP. The APP includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Welcome to Auckland City

Auckland, New Zealand’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Sails’ is the country’s largest metro area. Resting between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this urban paradise has something for everyone. Surrounded by native bush, rainforests and an abundance of beaches, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the central museums and galleries on foot, or take a drive through one of over 800 regional National Parks to see deserted beaches, waterfalls and native forest.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

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Day 2 - Explore the 'City of Sails' or take a day trip to idyllic Waiheke Island

Northern Train Explorer - Day 2
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Explore Auckland City

Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture, humming with life. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour - try your hand at sailing an America’s Cup yacht - or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.

Walk (if you're that way inclined) to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and lose yourself in one of the 800 regional national parks on offer or grab a book and relax on a deserted beach. Head up the Sky Tower, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) and have a meal in the 360 degree revolving restaurant. Scale the outermost perimeter of the Harbour Bridge - or test your stomach and bungy off both. To end your day, catch a cab to Ponsonby Road and sample some upmarket culinary delights.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - America's Cup Sailing Experience with Explore

Participate as crew on an authentic America's Cup yacht. Take the helm, exert energy on the grinders or sit back and enjoy the action and scenery as you sail the beautiful Waitemata Harbour. Experience the excitement of sailing, no experience necessary. Feel the thrill of the wind in your face as you tack and jibe. These powerful and highly engineered race vessels are usually the domain of billionaires and elite professional yachties but this unique two-hour sailing experience offers everyone the opportunity to sail these Grand Prix racing machines. America's Cup is the world's oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy and ultimate yachting regatta. Experience it first hand sailing these remarkable vessels on the harbour that hosted the America's Cup in 2000 and 2003.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

Meals included: Breakfast

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Day 3 - Drive south through the fertile farmland of the Waikato to Rotorua, this evening enjoy a vibrant Maori Culture experience

Northern Train Explorer - Day 3
Auckland to Rotorua

The drive south from Auckland takes you past the Bombay Hills and into the rolling farmland and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of greater Auckland area and it's here you turn inland to central Waikato. You’ll soon go through the town of Matamata where you can visit the fully intact Hobbiton film set used in the shooting of the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Continuing on, you’ll pass several small farming communities before telltale signs of steam and other geothermal activity signal your arrival into Rotorua.

Mitai Maori Village

An evening at Mitai will give you an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Marvel at the beautiful bush setting and see warriors in traditional dress who paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream while trout and eels swim beneath the surface. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal and round your evening off with a spectacular cultural performance that tells the story of the Maori people, their past, carvings, and ta Moko -Tattoo art. Be captivated by the displays of weaponry and combat and be amazed by the spine tingling Haka finale. Truly an experience to remember.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 220 kms / 136 miles : 2.6 hours

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Day 4 - Your day in Rotorua could be spent exploring the geothermal wonder or thrilling adventure rides

Northern Train Explorer - Day 4
Explore Rotorua

Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. Geothermal landmarks aside, this city of sulphur has a rich indigenous history. Home to several prominent Maori tribes, a visit to one of the Maori Villages should be high on your agenda, as should an excursion to the Polynesian Spa for an invigorating soak in its natural mineral hot springs.

Live on the edge when you hop aboard a helicopter bound for White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano.
Spike your adrenaline at Velocity Valley Adventure Park on stomach-dropping attractions such as static skydiving, or a giant swing reaching 130 km per hour.
Alternatively, head up the Rotorua Gondola for soaring lake views, and ride the luge at night for an extra thrill.

Fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit should drive to nearby Matamata and experience the actual movie set ‘Hobbiton’. Make the most of your time in Rotorua with an excursion through the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most colourful volcanic attractions.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rainbow Springs and National Kiwi Hatchery Combo

At Rainbow Springs you'll have the chance to see some of New Zealand's native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. Come face to face with, and learn more about, New Zealand’s precious wildlife. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand's living dinosaur can also be seen here.
Go behind the scenes with New Zealand's national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rotorua Canopy Tours: The Original Canopy Tour

Embark on a three hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees. In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Polynesian Spa Private Deluxe Pool

The geothermal mineral waters of the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua are sought after world over as one of the top 10 spas in the world. Indulge your need for a little luxury and enjoy some time in a Private Deluxe Pool, with stunning 360 degree views over Lake Rotorua, you will be left in peace to soak your cares away. Available for blocks of 30 minute hire with a minimum of two adults, this is the perfect activity to enjoy a relaxing afteroon with your partner.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Rotorua

Millennium Hotel is Rotorua's largest 4-star deluxe hotel. Perfectly situated in the heart of the city overlooking Lake Rotorua. Five levels of accommodation offer guests a wide variety of scenic views.

Meals included: Breakfast

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Day 5 - First head to Lake Taupo before travelling east to the Hawke's Bay

Northern Train Explorer - Day 5
Rotorua to Napier

This drive will take you through the thermal region just south of Rotorua. Home to a plethora of unique geothermal attractions including boiling mud pits, natural hot springs and steaming geysers, this area is a must do before you move on to Napier. Notable attractions are Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Craters of the Moon.
Continue on to Taupo and marvel at the lake - a giant crater formed following a volcanic eruption in the year 180 CE. As you approach the city, be sure to stop at Huka Falls to view the spectacular sight of hundreds of cubic metres of water spilling every second down the narrow 11 metre drop.
For an extra thrill take a jet-boat ride to the base of the falls. Leaving Taupo, follow the road as it climbs the rugged Ahimanawa Range before descending back down the Pacific Coast to art deco Napier.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twilight Odyssey Progressive Winery Dinner

Take a scenic drive through the vineyards as you learn about the region and its wines. Enjoy a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at a boutique winery. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views from Te Mata Peak while enjoying a glass of bubbles as the sun sets from 399m above sea level overlooking the glimmering lights of the Twin Cities.
The Twilight Odyssey Tour includes sightseeing of the region with fully guided commentary, a progressive three course dinner at one of New Zealands top winery restaurants, wine tasting, champagne, wine with dinner, dessert wine, tea and coffee.

Your accommodation: Art Deco Masonic Hotel

The Art Deco Masonic Hotel occupies a significant historic building on Napier’s waterfront and has been richly refurbished in keeping with the Art Deco architecture. With its central location and decadent décor, this is the best place to experience what Napier is famous for.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 210 kms / 131 miles : 2.4 hours

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Day 6 - Discover the Art Deco architecture, vineyards and gannets of the Hawkes Bay

Northern Train Explorer - Day 6
Explore Napier and the Hawke's Bay

With is Mediterranean climate and Art Deco style, Hawke's Bay is an attractive holiday prospect. As the nation's first winemaking region, a visit to one of its 30 wineries is a must. A trip to Mission Estate touted as the birthplace of NZ wine, can't be missed. For the truly enthused, head out on a tour of the vines. We recommend the to make the most of what's on offer. Those into Gatsby will enjoy the chance to view prominent Art Deco landmarks on a 1930s Vintage Car Tour. Passengers will spend just over an hour learning about the history of the city's architecture - including the Napier Municipal Theatre, one of the top ten Art Deco Buildings in the world. If you're after some fresh air, hire a bike and take your pick of one of over 200km of cycling trails or head on down to one of the many beaches that ring the area. Ocean or Waimarama beach are good choices, and both are patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer. Indulge in some local produce and head out on a cheese, chocolate, honey or orchard tour. End on a high with another ride, this time in a comfortable trailer pulled by a tractor en-route to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony - the largest of its kind in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Gannet Safaris

Drive along the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga and join Gannet Safaris Overland and the world's largest, most accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Gannet Safaris has been guiding visitors over Cape Kidnappers for over 35 years and their safaris are the only way to be driven right to within a few feet of these remarkable birds. You will travel in comfort in air conditioned 4 x 4 wheeled vehicles, through Cape Kidnappers Station - traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, through stands of native bush, steep gullies and breath-taking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke Bay right across to Mahia peninsular. The 36km, three hour trip includes a commentary by your tour guide / driver on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. On arrival at the gannets you can stretch your legs and take in the scenery from your position at the brink of the cliffs edge - 100 metres above the ocean!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Grape Escape half day Hawke's Bay Wine tour

The Grape Escape Half Day Wine Tour visits some of Hawke's Bay's most famous wineries and is designed for casual wine appreciators and wine aficionados. Meet like-minded people and share an appreciation of Hawke's Bay's fantastic wines. Taste great wines made with passion and learn of the areas unique growing conditions. There is the opportunity to purchase and take home your favourite wines and memories. You will visit 4 to 5 local wineries and taste Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and much more. Also try some of New Zealand's finest cheeses matched with wine.

Your accommodation: Art Deco Masonic Hotel

The Art Deco Masonic Hotel occupies a significant historic building on Napier’s waterfront and has been richly refurbished in keeping with the Art Deco architecture. With its central location and decadent décor, this is the best place to experience what Napier is famous for.

Meals included: Breakfast

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Day 7 - Travel through the Wairarapa wine country and over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington

Northern Train Explorer - Day 7
Napier to Wellington City via Masterton

The rolling countryside of the Hawke's Bay leads you into some of New Zealand’s richest farmland, located around the Manawatu region. Passing along the Manawatu Gorge the Wairarapa welcomes you. Masterton is home to the golden shears sheep shearing competition while just further south Greytown boasts the largest concentration of historic wooden buildings in the country.

Nearby Martinborough is home to dozens of boutique wineries. The route takes you over the Rimutaka Range and along the magnificent natural harbour that the capital city of Wellington sits upon.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Zealandia By Night Wildlife Sanctuary Tour

Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley - just 10 minutes from the central city.
Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost.
Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley - so your chances of seeing one is high!

Your accommodation: Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay

Located on Wellington's premier Oriental Parade, overlooking the stunning Wellington Harbour, Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay is the perfect base to explore the city. Just 10 minutes away are the city's shopping and entertainment centre. Te Papa Museum, Live Theatre in Courtney Place, and many of the city's finest restaurants and bars are also close by.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 322 kms / 200 miles : 4.1 hours

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Day 8 - Take the scenic Northern Explorer train journey back to Auckland

Northern Train Explorer - Day 8
Private transfer to Wellington train station

You will be collected from your hotel and transferred to Wellington train station to meet your train.

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train: Wellington to Auckland

The Northern Explorer is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Wellington, New Zealand's arts and culture capital and Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. Along the way you pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from panoramic windows or open air viewing decks. All carriages feature large panoramic windows giving sweeping views of the magnificent North Island. The Observation Carriage includes a mix of seating including lounge-style seating. The lounge-style seating is arranged at the very rear of this glass-backed carriage enabling you to enjoy a totally unique Northern Explorer experience.

Private transfer Auckland train station to hotel

A private transfer will meet you from your train and drive you to your Auckland accommodation.

Your accommodation: SkyCity Hotel Auckland

This modern and spacious hotel allows you to relax in style while enjoying the world-class casino, more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre, free live entertainment on selected nights and the iconic Sky Tower - all right on your doorstep!

Meals included: Breakfast

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Day 9 - Depart Auckland today

Northern Train Explorer - Day 9
Transfer to Auckland airport

You will be collected from your Auckland hotel and transferred to the airport to meet your departing flight.

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