PLAN YOUR NORTH ISLAND ITINERARY
An apt introduction to New Zealand’s distinctive blend of Pacific culture and European heritage, an aernoon on Waitemata Harbour with Waka Quest is more than a sunset cruise: it’s an ABC on Maori customs ($118; wakaquest.com). Catch up on sleep at Hotel DeBrett, a boutique hotel with eclectic Kiwi furniture and art (from $275; hoteldebrett.com). Aer a good night’s rest, pick up your vehicle and start your trip.
Drive 25 miles west via the Auckland suburb of Titirangi along Scenic Drive for about an hour to reach the community of Piha. Usually, you won’t have to look far for Zen Wallis and his dad, Phil, who run the Piha Surf School (about $50 per person for a group lesson, including gear rental; piha surfschool.com). Lyons Rock B&B, with great ocean views, is one of the few guesthouses in the area ($118; lyonsrockbandb.co.nz).
The 140-mile drive from Piha to the caves takes around three hours. Spend the night at Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park ($20 for a powered site; waitomopark.co.nz). To get the best out of the cave system, block out all of the next day. Ra through its pools with the Legendary Black Water Ra ing Co. (from $110; waitomo.com), and take a guided boat or walking tour to see the glowworms (from $40; waitomo.com).
See the work of Delani Brown at the Taupo Museum ($4; greatlaketaupo.com). Clear and breezy aernoons are best spent on the lake with Dave Nesbitt aboard his twomasted boat, Fearless (from $24; sailfearless.co.nz). Park at Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort, a campground with thermal pools ($15 for a powered site; taupodebrettsco.nz). The next day, grab breakfast at L’Arté Café ( larte.co.nz).
Spend a day or two exploring volcanic Tongariro National Park ( nationalpark.co .nz) before driving two hours north to Rotorua. The best examples of geysers and blistering mud pools can be found at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland ($25; waiotapu.co.nz) and Te Puia (from $38; tepuia.com). Enjoy a night of luxury at Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel (from $410; blackswanhotel.co.nz).