Hobbiton is the famous movie set from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, this set portrays the Shire from the films and is complete with 44 hobbit holes and the 'Green Dragon inn'. Set on a 1250 acre farm this surreal location is well worth the stop to experience the movie set come to life. Located near Matamata, an hours drive from Hamilton, this location is a must if you are in the area, regular tours of the set depart throughout the day and a number of tour operators run tours here from the surrounding areas.
Raglan is best know for being a surf haven, this coastal village of 3000 people is the gateway to a number of surf breaks, most famously Manu Bay, this world-class, peeling left hand break is said to offer some of the longest rides in the world. The area is also one of New Zealand's most consistent breaks, it's not often that there isn't enough swell to find a ride here, and even then the stunning black sand beaches alone are worth visiting for.
If surfing isn't for you, not to worry the township is a fantastic spot with great accommodation, cafes and bars along with a number of activities such as kayaking and boat tours. One of New Zealand's most iconic waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls, are located 20 minutes out of town and are well worth a visit to see this punchbowl type waterfall cascading down from 55m. Raglan is situated on the west coast of the North Island, approximately 45 minutes from Hamilton or 2 hours from Auckland.
If you want to visit Raglan we specialise in creating custom itinerary tours for visitors!
Waitomo is a small village south-west of Hamilton and has become world famous due the the dozens of awe-inspiring limestone caves in the area. Famously know as the Waitomo glow worm caves, there are more than 100 seperate caves in the area, many of which host fascinating colonies of glow worms and contain underground rivers. You can explore dozens of these caves with the numerous different operators in the area who provide a range of activities to suit everybody. Whether it's a serene cave tour focused on seeing the densest colony of glow worms in the southern hemisphere, a 100m abseil into a massive cave or blackwater rafting on an underground river, there's something here for everybody!
The area has a rich history and culture, learning about the local Maori who first explored the caves is a fascinating insight in to the challenges of caving. Aside from the caves there are a number of other things to see and do around Waitomo such as towering waterfalls, limestone archways, farm parks or you can make the drive out to the beautiful and desolate west coast.
There are plenty of different accommodation providers around the area, it's well worth staying a night as Waitomo is a great stop if you are carrying on south. A number of tours travel to the area, if you are looking for a multi-day tour we operate the 7-day North Island Pioneer which explores all the best the North Island has to offer and travels to both coasts including Taranaki and the Coromandel Peninsula. If you're looking for something a little shorter, let us create your dream vacation with on of our customised tours!
Our favourite activities in Waitomo are:
• Spellbound caves tour
• Black water rafting
• An abseiling adventure
• Visiting the stunning Marokopa Falls, often described as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand.
A small town located an hour out of Hamilton on the way to Rotorua, Putaruru is home to an incredible blue spring that wells up crystal clear fresh water from deep underground. The 11C water takes 100 years to filter through the Mamaku Plateau before rising to the surface and is so pure that it provides 60% of New Zealand's bottled water. You can reach the blue springs via two seperate walks, one taking 3 hours return and the other 30 minutes return depending on how much time you have - see here for more information about reaching the springs.
Hamilton is the largest city in the Waikato Region with a population of a little over 150,000 and serves as the central hum for the region. Farming is one of the main industries in the region so the town is surrounded by picturesque countryside and the city itself has a number of green spaces, parks and gardens. A good stopping point if you are in the region, there are plenty of fantastic cafes, restaurants, bars and accommodation options. It's well worth taking a stroll to the Waikato river that runs through town or the Hamilton Lake if you are nearby. Hamilton is easily accessible by a 2 hour drive from Auckland City or alternatively with a domestic flight from anywhere around the country.
The Timber Trail
The Timber Trail is a fantastic 85km mountain bike trail in the Pureora Forest that takes 2-3 days to complete. This stunning ride takes you through ancient native forests, through ancestral Maori lands and includes some of the highest and longest suspension bridges in New Zealand. The track is grade 2 & 3 (easy to intermediate), and well set up for multi-day cycling with accommodation options, toilets, water sources and rental facilities. You can arrange shuttles to pick you up from the end and also to meet you along the way with your supplies (food, bedding etc).
The start of the trail is approximately a 2 hour drive south of Hamilton, for more detailed information and to plan your ride, visit here. If you are a keen cyclist and want to discover New Zealand's natural beauty be sure to add the Timber Trail to your list!
Sanctuary Mountain is a spectacular ecological achievement, this protected, 8,400 acre mountain is completely surrounded by a 47km long pest proof fence that protects the myriad of New Zealand species found here. Home to hundreds of different species including some of New Zealand's most iconic such as the Kiwi, Tuatara, Takahe, Kaka, Giant Weta and more.
The reserve is open to the public for a small fee, and there are numerous hiking trails of up to 6 hours that you can follow throughout the reserve, or for a more informative experience you can join a fully guided tour with one of the volunteers. Sanctuary Mountain is less than an hour south of Hamilton and can be a great stop if you heading toward Taupo or Rotorua. Experience the true beauty of a protected and natural New Zealand environment!
Find out more about Sanctuary Mountain by visiting their website.
Coromandel Coastal Walkway
The Coromandel Walkway is an outstanding hiking trail on the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, this 10km long walk winds through lush native forests and along coastal clifftops, providing spectacular views of the peninsula and offshore islands such as Great Barrier. The walk starts at Fletcher Bay and winds its way around the coast to Stony Bay, usually taking around 3 hours so it can be done either one way or as a return walk.
It's important to note that there is no short road joining the two ends of the walk, you have to drive quite far inland so most people do this as a return walk or camp the night before walking back - there are campsites in both Fletcher and Stony Bay. There are plenty of accommodation options on the Coromandel peninsula and loads of other stunning attractions such as Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach so the Coromandel Walkway can be combined with them to make an incredible trip!
The Coromandel township is a quaint little seaside town of less than 1,500 people that provides a lovely spot to stay the night and take in the nearby attractions as part of a trip around the wider Coromandel Peninsula. The town has a rich gold mining history and some fantastic beaches and bush walks, the Castle Rock Trail is a great 2 hour walk up an ancient volcanic peak that will reward you with spectacular views of the area.
The Driving Creek Railway is New Zealand's steepest railway and has been purpose built for visitors rather than being a restored railway line, this is a neat attraction that's well worth checking out. McGregor Bay is bordered by a small peninsula jutting out into the Hauraki Gulf and provides some stunning waterfront accommodation options! Coromandel township is around a 2½ - 3 hour drive from both Auckland and Hamilton.
The Coromandel Peninsula hosts a number of fantastic walks but the Pinnacles Walk is definitely one of the most spectacular. This hike takes around 3 hours one way and climbs up to a series of ancient volcanic pinnacles (hence the name), on clear days you get an extraordinary 360 degree view of the Coromandel Peninsula, rolling hills, native forests and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
It's worth doing as a two day hike and staying the night at the pinnacles hut near the summit, this 80 bunk hut is equiped with cold showers, solar lighting and gas cookers but must be booked in advance as it can fill up during peak season - to book the hut visit the DOC page. Be sure to come prepared for the hike and check the weather before you go!
If you are interested in doing the Pinnacles Walk along with exploring the rest of the Coromandel Peninsula, get in touch today about one of our top-notch custom tours!
Cathedral Cove is one of the North Islands most famous attractions, this beautiful white sand beach is divide in two halves with a natural archway formed out of the cliff. There are a number of different ways to reach Cathedral Cove, the most common is a 40 minute walk that winds along the clifftops, however parking can be limited at the start of the walk during peak season. Often you will need to park further down the road and wither walk up or catch a ride in one of the local shuttle buses. Alternatively you can kayak or paddle board around from the small town of Hahei, or join one of the local boat tours that will take you to the Cove as well as a number of other attractions such as caves and blowholes.
Often these local services are busy during summer so it pays to book in advance, Hahei is also a fantastic spot to stay the night with plenty of local food and accommodation options available and a campground near the beach. Combine Cathedral Cove with any number of attractions on the Coromandel Peninsula to enjoy the region to the fullest!
Our 7-day North Island Pioneer tour visits Cathedral Cove and stays a night on the Coromandel Peninsula, or have us design a custom tour to suit your needs!
Set upon the shores of Mercury bay, Whitianga is a fabulous coastal town renowned for its accessibility to stunning beaches, great fishing, diving and other attractions. Cooks beach is the main beach in Whitianga and well worth the visit, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are only a short drive south making this a great spot to base yourself.
Aside from the spectacular beaches you can visit the amazing Lost Spring Hot Pools, walk the Whiti Farm Track or enjoy lunch at the Mercury Bay Estate. Whitianga is halfway up the Coromandel Peninsula on the Eastern (ocean) side and takes around 3 hours to reach from Auckland.
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is one of the most fascinating places to visit on the Coromandel Peninsula thanks to the hot springs that run underneath the cliffs and out underneath the white sands of the beach. It's a spectacular beach on it's own, but if you visit 2 hours either side of low tide you can dig yourself a pool in the sand and find that it fills up with water up of up to 64C! The best thing about having your own sandy spa pool is that when you're done you can plunge in to the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean to cool off and get rid of all the sand, before the tide comes in and makes the beach perfectly smooth again for the next visitors.
Take caution as the water from the springs can be very hot, you can hire a shovel from the local cafe if you don't have your own and don't want to use your hands, the cafe also had delicious food and drinks. If the conditions are right you can sometimes surf on the beach and there are plenty of cabins or holiday homes that can be rented, or alternatively there is a well equipped campsite here too. It does get busy during the summer months so be sure to book in advance.
Hot Water Beach is only a 15 minute drive from Cathedral Cove so be sure to combine the two while you're here!
Experience Hot Water Beach yourself as part of our North Island Pioneer tour!
Whangamata is a stunning seaside town with a unique geography that helps to provide a huge range of activities to suit everyone that visits here. The unreal white sand beach has a turn in it, meaning that one half of the beach faces south-east and the other half faces north-east, the top half of which is also protected by an offshore island. This means that Whangamata can have safe swimming conditions and incredible surf at the same time, the most famous break being the Whangamata Bar which forms a rolling left hander thanks to a sand bar between the beach and Huaturu Island.
There is also a large estuary with a small marina that has a safe entrance so the are is popular for boating, diving, fishing and other watersports. Additionally, there are a number of fantastic bush walks that can be found within a short drive from the town. With a population of 3,500 the town is well supplied with a supermarket, plenty of great bars, restaurants, cafes and accommodation options. Whangamata is located at the base of the Peninsula, it takes a little over two hours to get there from Auckland.
Our North Island Pioneer tour stays a night in Whangamata before carrying on to explore the rest of the Peninsula.
Taupo is aptly named the 'adventure capital' of the North Island thanks to it's massive range of natural features, attractions and activities available in such a small area. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand and feeds our longest river, the Waikato, Taupo is located on the eastern shores of the lake.
Lake Taupo and a massive swath of the surrounding are sit upon the Taupo volcanic zone, and is one of the few know super volcanoes in the world, the last massive eruption was 1,800 years ago and is the largest known eruption in the world for the past 5000 years. Ash plumes from the volcano reached more than 50km into the air and spread ash across a good portion of the globe and may have been the cause of the 'red sunsets' reported by the Romans and the Chinese! However this eruption was just a baby compared to one from the volcano produced 26,500 years ago when Taupo had the worlds most recent 'super eruption', a super eruption is when a volcano has an eruption with an eruption index of 8 or higher. The volcanic field remains active to this day (but don't worry there are no more super eruptions forecasted for thousands of years!) and has created an incredible hub of geothermal activity in the region.
There are dozens of fantastic attractions near Taupo including the Huka Falls, geothermal fields, lakeside beaches, blue springs, native forest, snow-capped mountains and more. These host countless activities, some of the most popular being jet boating, mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, boating and everything in between! If you have an outdoor activity you enjoy then it's most likely available in Taupo. If you're looking for a slower pace, then Taupo is also a great spot to relax and unwind, you can enjoy the great food and beverage options in tow, stroll along the lakefront, soak in thermal hot pools and simply enjoy the scenery. Taupo is located in the centre of the North Island and can be reached by road from any direction, or by catching a domestic flight to the nearby airport.
Our top recommendations for Taupo:
• Visit the raging Huka Falls
• Soak in thermal hot pools
• Enjoy a hike on any number of the fantastic bush walks avaliable
• Experience some of New Zealand's famed geothermal fields
• Take a serene boat trip on the Lake
Experience Taupo as part of our North Island Pioneer tour.
Turangi is a small town located on the south-western reach of Lake Taupo, approximately an hour from Taupo, and is know to have some of the best trout fishing in the world. While trout fishing is one of the main attractions of the town, it is also one of the gateways to the Tongariro National Park, where there are a stunning array of hiking trails, ski-fields and other attractions. The Tongariro River runs through the town and is a popular destination for white water rafting.
The area has a rich Maori history as it has been inhabited since the early 16th century, and sits in a beautiful area sandwiched between the great Lake Taupo and the towering mountains of the Tongariro National Park. The town can be a good place to stay if you are planning on hiking the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.