Waiheke Island ticks all the day-trip boxes: idyllic beaches, divine vineyards and incredible views back towards the city, all within a 40-minute ferry ride of downtown Auckland. With its lush bushland and slower pace of life, you’ll be on island time within minutes of stepping off the ferry, ready to spend the day sunning by the sea or sampling some of the country’s best wines.
Combining the best of the island’s two draw cards – wine and nature – this tour will have you traversing through the island’s rugged bushland one minute, and sipping award-winning wines the next. Your guide will point out some of New Zealand’s famously shy wildlife, talk through the native plants and provide context to the magnificent views you will encounter along the way. Afterwards, rest your legs at one of the island’s best vineyards, and sample a few different grape varieties over a delicious lunch.
With its pristine white-sand beaches, bush-lined coast and bleached-white cliff faces, it’s no surprise the Coromandel has been immortalised in film, such as the Chronicles of Narnia series. It’s the perfect depiction of what New Zealand has to offer: wild landscapes and wide-open spaces that are an excellent antidote to hectic city life.
As it’s not known for its smooth roads, this day tour of the Coromandel allows you to access some of the peninsula’s more remote spots, which less confident drivers might struggle to reach. Your guide will drop you off at Stony Bay where you will begin the 10-kilometre (6.2-mile) hike to Fletcher Bay, where you will be collected. This route immerses you in the country’s natural grandeur, taking you along craggy cliff faces and through native bush, with the sparkling ocean alongside you. Don’t forget your swimsuit to make the most of the swimming spot at the end of the trail; having been tempted by the ocean for the duration of your walk, you’ll want to dive straight in.
With the Waikato River snaking through its centre, and a flourishing food and drink scene, once-overlooked Hamilton is coming into its own. The city’s most prominent attraction is the Hamilton Gardens, where thousands of plant and flower species flourish in themed garden designs. A day wandering its pathways is best paired with a meal at one of the city’s impressive restaurants.
Explore and interact with endangered species of flora and fauna at Sanctuary Mountain. Surrounded by predator-proof fences, it’s a place where at-risk species can flourish without the human and animal impact that has threatened their habitats elsewhere. Your knowledgeable guide will explain the species to you, the reasons they’re endangered and the process of regeneration at Sanctuary Mountain. Your entry fee will go towards local conservation, helping to preserve this important and delicate ecosystem.
The town of Waitomo might be small, but the real reason people visit is underground. A series of limestone caves run under the earth, formed by the ocean around 30 million years ago. They are now home to thousands of ethereal glow-worms, which light up the limestone roofs like a starry sky.
Experience one of the greatest natural wonders in the country. Put on your boots and helmet, and prepare to descend underground, hiking among boulders and streams through this magnificent space. The tour is limited to six people, allowing you a much more atmospheric and personalised experience. Expect to be filled in on the history of the caves alongside the fascinating biology of the worms themselves. Turning off your head torch in an echoing cave lit up by countless tiny glow-worms is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Rotorua is home to some of the world’s most active geothermal activity, making it infamous for its citywide sulphurous rotten-egg aroma, and earning it the nickname Sulphur City. But don’t let that put you off. Its billowing geysers, geothermal mud pools and magnificent lakes will be spectacular enough to distract you.