Duration(in days): 23
From: UK – Auckland
To: Apia - UK
Combine the cultural North Island of New Zealand with the paradise beaches of Samoa on this three-week holiday. Starting in Auckland, you’ll take in the best of the harbourside city and pick up your hire car to explore, spotting dolphins in the Bay of Islands and wandering along the golden beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula.
After enjoying a pint at the Green Dragon in Hobbiton, you’ll head south to the bubbling thermal pools of Rotorua and the art deco city of Napier, before sipping local pinot noir in leafy Martinborough. You’ll finish in the capital of Wellington and fly to Samoa, where empty beaches, friendly locals and turquoise waters will end your New Zealand and Samoa holiday in style.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements; please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
On arrival in Auckland, you’ll be met and driven into the city, where you’ll check into your hotel for one night. While you’re recovering from jetlag, why not have coffee on the waterfront and stroll around the fishing wharf, sip cocktails in the Sky Tower or take the bus to Mount Eden to gaze back down on Auckland’s twin harbours and sprawling suburbs? The city is famous for its Pacific cuisine, so there are plenty of options for a delicious dinner.
This morning, you’ll pick up your rental car and make your way out of the city, heading north towards the Bay of Islands. On arrival, you’ll check into your hotel for two nights and spend the afternoon enjoying the waterfront town. Stretch out on the beach and, later, enjoy a seafood feast by the shore at sunset.
The Bay of Islands is a beautiful area, so take time to see the picturesque beaches and fantastic wildlife. You’ll be based in Paihia, where you can learn about the Treaty of Waitangi, visit the historic town of Russell and drive to the horseshoe-shaped Haruru Falls. This afternoon, we’ve included a dolphin cruise to the Hole in the Rock. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of these majestic creatures under the crystalline water.
If you want to explore a bit further, you can drive to Northland to walk barefoot on white sands, clamber across rocky coves and soak up the subtropical serenity of Doubtless Bay. Keep driving north, and you’ll find yourself at the northernmost point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, where the swirling currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide.
After breakfast, you’ll head south again, but instead of stopping in Auckland, we’ve arranged a night on the wild cliffs of Karioitahi Beach on the west coast. You’ll be staying at Castaways Resort, which has ocean views and lovely chalets.
Whether you spend your time here hiking to the Manukau Heads Lighthouse, hopping aboard the Glenbrook Vintage Railway or just strolling down the beach feeling the warm, black sand beneath your feet, you’re sure to enjoy this unexpected but beautiful side trip.
After breakfast, you’ll drive to the Coromandel Peninsula, where golden beaches and lush forests await. Check into your hotel here for two nights.
With a full day to explore the Coromandel, you’ll find that there’s plenty to keep you busy. Two of the most popular areas are Hahei Beach, a curved stretch of sand ending at the arched Cathedral Cove, and Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hole and bathe in the natural springs.
If you like walking, try hiking a section of the Coromandel Coastal Walk or head up into the Pinnacles, the spine of the peninsula, rich with green peaks and thick forests. Kayaking the coastline of tiny Whenuakura Island is another unique experience if you can fit it into your day.
Today you’ll drive to Rotorua, and we highly recommend a stop in at Hobbiton on your way to explore the set from the Lord of the Rings. You might think Hobbiton tours would only appeal to fans of Lord of the Rings, but the pretty doors and quaint vegetable gardens of the Shire’s smallest residents enchant everyone who steps through the wooden gate. Half of all visitors leave itching to re-watch the films and the other half watch them on the plane journey home.
If you choose to stop at Hobbiton, the guides will show you around the flower-laden wheelbarrows and tiny thatched Hobbit holes before taking you to the Green Dragon for a pint of cider. It’s a magical place. After exploring Hobbiton, you’ll continue your journey to Rotorua and check into your hotel for two nights.
Today is yours to explore Rotorua and the surrounding area. We’ve included entrance tickets to Te Puia, a centre of Maori art with bags of geothermal activity on its grounds. Here, you can wait for the geyser to erupt and watch the bubbling mud pools, before exploring the cultural centre to learn about the Maori way of life. There’s also a small exhibit where you can meet a brown kiwi, known to the Maori as the ‘hidden bird’ of Tane Mahuta, the god of the forest.
Afterwards, you can grab a 'steambox' lunch, cooked under the ground in the traditional Maori way. As you have your rental car at your disposal, you can also venture out of Rotorua to visit Wai-o-tapu, home to a series of colourful thermal pools.
Leaving Rotorua behind, you’ll drive an hour south to Lake Taupo, where we’ve included a cruise, allowing you to soak up the lake scenery, backed by towering snow-capped mountains. If you want to experience a classic New Zealand jetboat, head to Huka Falls and take a thrilling ride up to the aquamarine waterfall, spinning 360 degrees and getting soaked in the process. Afterwards, you’ll continue your drive to Napier, where you’ll check into your hotel for two nights.
This morning, you’ll take a walk through history on an hour-long tour of Napier’s Art Deco past. After the devastating earthquake of 1931, the town was rebuilt in the Art Deco Style. The volunteer guides at the Napier Art Deco Trust are full of knowledge about the city’s past and will guide you through the pretty streets, pointing out quirky features that you’d struggle to notice on your own.
After an hour of exploring the town, you’ll finish at the visitor centre, where you’ll learn more about the earthquake and its effect on New Zealand. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy the city or head out further afield – there are dozens of vineyards in nearby Hawkes Bay, so why not go wine tasting?
You’ll leave Napier after breakfast and drive 3.5 hours south to Martinborough, a tiny town nestled amongst vineyards in the southern corner of the North Island. Packed with quaint buildings and charming locals, Martinborough boasts more than 20 different wineries, most of which are within cycling distance of the main square.
We recommend stopping in at some of the many local cheese, chocolate and honey shops to put together a lovely picnic for lunch, before hiring a bike and cycling between the vineyards. On the way, you can taste the famous pinot noir produced in the area. It’s a great way to spend the day.
You can spend the morning enjoying Martinborough, before driving down to Wellington and checking in for a two-night stay. Wellington is a culinary hotspot in New Zealand, so we recommend heading to Cuba Street tonight, where you can eat like a king. You’ll find everything on this eclectic street, from steaming hot dumplings at rustic food stalls to tasting menus at top-notch restaurants such as Logan Brown.
Gazing across Wellington Harbour to the Cook Strait, New Zealand’s hugely appealing capital is a wonderful place to spend a few days. Painted wooden houses dot the hillsides, swanky restaurants line the waterfront and hip cafes pepper the city. Ride the cable car to the Botanic Gardens and head up Mount Victoria for sweeping views. You can also visit the WETA workshop, where they made the special effects for The Lord of the Rings series.
If you’re a wildlife lover, we recommend a visit to Zealandia. Here, you can learn about the locals’ efforts to protect indigenous species, both plants and birds, in this spectacular city wildlife reserve. If you want to add a trip here to your booking, just ask!
We’ve included an intro tour of Te Papa, the largest museum in New Zealand and a sight to behold, both inside and out. The exhibitions change regularly, but the permanent collections offer a fascinating insight into the history of the Maori, the volcanic geology of New Zealand and unique wildlife of the three islands, much of which is now extinct. Getting an introduction to the museum with a guide is really valuable and will help you spend your time here wisely.
After breakfast, you’ll drive to the airport and drop off your hire car, before catching your flight to Samoa via Auckland. On arrival in Apia, you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel, where you’ll check in for 7 nights.
After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll make your own way to pick up your rental car, which will be ready for you from noon. Now you have some wheels; it's time to explore! Upolu is Samoa’s second-largest and most populated island, and the main road is easy to drive and winds its way around the coast. With plenty of stunning beaches, you can take the day at your own pace and find the perfect sands to suit you.
Upolu Island has a relaxed atmosphere, so there’s no need to hurry. Spend your days visiting lava cliffs, lush tropical plantations and small villages, where you’ll always be greeted with smiles from the friendly Samoan locals. If you're here to relax, why not just chill out at the hotel, stretch out on the beach or lounge by the pool?
We recommend a visit to ‘To Sua Ocean Trench’, a spectacular natural landmark made up of two limestone sinkhole-like depressions with sheer rock walls. At the bottom, there’s a brilliant aquamarine pool joining the two holes, accessible only by a wooden ladder. Once you’ve descended the 20 metres by ladder, you'll reach impossibly clear, crisp waters. It’s a wonderful way to feel completely removed from the rest of the world.
After breakfast, you will return your hire car at the airport and catch your flight home.
New Zealand is a year-round destination. Whenever you decide to travel, you’ll find plenty to see and enjoy. High season runs from December to February (summer), when prices hit a premium and availability is limited. It’s advisable to book well in advance if you’re planning a trip during peak season.
March to April and September to November can be great times to travel, as the weather is beautiful, but there are fewer crowds. For most of New Zealand, the low season runs from May to August (winter). This is, however, a brilliant time for skiing, so ski towns such as Queenstown will be busy.
The best time to visit Samoa is during the dry season, from May to October. This is also when many major Samoan festivals are held. December and January are peak season in Samoa, as many Australians and New Zealanders head to the islands over the holiday period. During the rainy season, from November to April, the islands can be very wet, and they’re prone to the odd tropical cyclone. The average annual temperature in coastal areas is around 26 degrees.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements. Please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.