The North Island Highlights Tour is comprised of two short tours:
A farm stay will give you the opportunity to meet some real "Kiwis" . The first part of the tour finishes at the geothermal spa town of Rotorua with the opportunity to experience the local Maori culture.
The Volcanoes and Glow-worms tour covers a great diversity of scenery from farmland to lakes, forests and the magnificent volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. Stay on a sheep farm (meet some of New Zealand's 45 million sheep) and visit the world famous Waitomo Caves for a magical glow-worm display.
Learn more about our TourzPlus™ partner tours and how they differ from regular ExperiencePlus! bicycle tours.
Day 1: Meet in Auckland
Highlights: Orientation, views from volcanoThe tour starts in Auckland, New Zealand's largest and most cosmopolitan city. It is situated on a narrow isthmus between two beautiful harbours, the Manukau on the Tasman Sea, and the Waitemata on the Pacific Ocean. Rides around the inner harbour offer excellent views of Rangitoto and other islands in the Hauraki Gulf, as well as a panoramic view of the city and its distinctive harbour bridge. Your tour leader will hold a trip orientation meeting prior to lunch. We will then drive to one of Auckland's extinct volcanoes for fabulous views of the city and surrounds. Time will be set aside to fit you to your rental bike or unpack your own and take a short ride along the harborside.
Day 2: Auckland to Thames
Highlights: Views of the Coromandel Range, Miranda Bird Sanctuary
After breakfast we leave the city and suburbs by minibus and head for the village of Clevedon on the edge of the Hunua Ranges. It is here we start cycling on quiet roads. On reaching the coast at Kawakawa Bay we will have our first sight of the Peninsula with the Coromandel Ranges rising steeply from the sea. Continuing south down the Firth of Thames the narrow road hugs the coast on its way to Miranda Bird Sanctuary. There are two climbs today with a final flat run from Miranda. We'll transfer to Clevedon on the outskirts of Auckland to begin our ride.
There are three riding options today:
Option A - Clevedon to Waharau 38 km / 24 mi
Option B - Clevedon to Waitakaruru 64 km / 40 mi
Option C - Clevedon to Thames 90 km / 56 mi
Day 3: Thames to Coromandel
Highlights: Rapaura Water Gardens, historic goldmining town of Coromandel
From Thames we head north past many pohutukawa trees leaning over road and beach. At Tapu we turn inland to visit the picturesque Rapaura Water Gardens and have lunch. Returning to the coast there are two hills to climb - with great views - before the final descent to the old gold mining town of Coromandel. Coromandel once flourished as a goldmining town; now it is a centre for crafts-people and 'alternative lifers'. Some of the old houses have been beautifully restored. The town has an interesting working stamper mill and a great little bush railway.
Ride Option B/C - Thames to Coromandel: 66 km / 41 mi.
Option A - Thames to Wilson's Bay (start of hill) 46 km / 29 mi
Both ride options include a detour to Rapaura Water Gardens, 12 km return.
Day 4: Coromandel to Whitianga
Highlights: Bush railway ride, local pottery, views from the Coromandel Range
This morning we take a ride on the Driving Creek Bush Railway and have the opportunity to view locally made pottery. Crossing the range to the east side of the peninsula, we have magnificent coastal views and great riding down to Whitianga.
Ride options: B / C - Coromandel to Whitianga: 46km / 29 mi
Option A - Summit of Whangapoua to Whitanga: 41 km/ 25 mi
Day 5: Whitianga to Whangamata
Highlights: Hahei beach, rides past vineyards, forests and coastline
This morning we take the ferry to Flaxmill Bay. Past Purangi Vineyards, we head for Hahei where we can laze on the beach or stroll along the golden sands. After lunch those who have the energy can tackle the Pumpkin Hill climb with its views of Shoe and Slipper Islands and enjoy a great descent to Tairua. Continuing around Tairua Harbour to Hikuai, we climb through Tairua Forest and down to another fabulous beach at Opoutere.
Bicycling Distances Option B / C - Whitianga to Whangamata: 74 km / 46 mi
Option A - Whitianga to Tairua: 38 km / 24 mi
Day 6: Whangamata to Matamata
Highlights: "Rails-to-Trails" ride, Karangahake Gorge
Leaving the coast, we head inland through Karangahake Gorge to the Waikato Valley and south in the lee of the Kaimai Range. An attractive, varied route - gently undulating. An interesting diversion is to take the Historic Walkway (disused railway)through the gorge. We are guests tonight of a local farming family.
Cycling distances: Option C - Whangamata to Matamata 111 km / 69 mi
Option A - Te Aroha to Matamata: 40 km / 25 mi
Option B - Waihi to Matamata: 82 km / 51 mi
Day 7: Matamata to Rotorua
Highlights: Geothermal sights, wonderful bicycle ride
A long gentle climb takes us to the bush clad Mamaku Plateau and a great descent, with panoramic views, to the thermal district of Rotorua. In the afternoon we will have time for some optional extras, such as the Agrodome (a sheep farming theme park) and a visit to the boiling mud pools and geysers for which Rotorua is renowned.
Bicycling option B / C - Matamata to Rotorua: 76 km / 48 mi
Option A - Matamata to Highway 5: 34 km / 21 mi
Day 8: Rotorua
Highlights: RotoruaRotorua has much to offer: Geysers and bubbling mud pools, a 4WD trip up Mt Tarawera, rafting, the Buried Village, the Green and Blue Lakes (a 32 km bicycle ride), fishing and, of course, shopping.
Day 9: Rotorua to Taupo
Highlights: Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park, volcanoes
We take a quiet back road through Waikite Valley and Waiotapu thermal areas on our way to Taupo. The thundering Huka Falls provide a noisy and spectacular entrance to the town of Taupo. Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake at 606 sq km. On a good day there will be superb views across the lake to Tongariro National Park and its three distinctive mountains. The area is famous for trout fishing in the many streams that flow into the lake.
Cycling option C - Rotorua to Taupo: 105 km / 66 mi
Option B - Rotorua to Reporoa: 50 km / 31 mi
Option A - Rotorua to Waiotapu: 39 km / 24 mi
Day 10: Taupo to Tongariro National Park
Highlights: Volcanoes, Lake Taupo
A varied, spectacular ride along Lake Taupo leads to the still active volcanoes in Tongariro National Park, the night being spent at the side of Mt Ruapehu. The mountain is permanently snowcapped and the North Island's highest at 2,797 m. On leaving the lakeside there is a substantial climb up to the plateau with a view of the entire lake. As we gain altitude there will be a distinct change in the vegetation, pine forests giving way to tussock grasslands.
Cycling option C - Taupo to Tongariro National Park: 98 km / 61 mi
Cycling option B - Turangi to Tongariro National Park: 47 km / 29 mi
Cycling option A - Taupo to Turangi: 51 km / 32 mi
Day 11: Tongariro National Park
Highlights: Enjoy Tongariro National ParkThere are many excellent walks in the park, short and long, including the spectacular Tongariro Crossing. The Visitors Center is well worth a visit. Alternatively, The Grand Chateau is excellent for spending a relaxing day.
Day 12: Tongariro to Piopio
Highlights: King Country
After an exhilarating downhill ride we travel through ever changing scenery to King Country, a sparsely populated district known for sheep farms and limestone formations.
Cycling option C - Tongariro to Piopio: 142 km / 89 mi
Option B - Tongariro to Cafe: 100 km / 62 mi
Option A - Tongariro to Taumaranui: 58 km / 36 mi (Lunch. All downhill)
Day 13: Piopio to Waitomo
Highlights: Sheep farm visit, glow worm caveIn the morning your hosts will show you the workings of a typical New Zealand sheep farm. After the day's ride, relax and soak up the old charm of Waitomo Hotel. A visit to the world famous glow worm caves (included) is a must, with the option of black water (cave) rafting for the more daring. Cycling distance: 50 km / 31 mi
Day 14: Waitomo to Auckland
Highlights: Last ride, AucklandToday we follow delightful quiet back roads around Mt Pirongia to Te Awamutu and Pirongia where we take the van back to Auckland.
Day 15: Auckland
Highlights:After breakfast we must say farewell, a safe journey home and we hope to see you again soon.
HighlightsAuckland, Ride on a bush railway, Rotorua geothermal area, Tongariro National Park, Glow worms of Waitomo Caves , Coromandel Peninsula, Sheep farm stay
IncludesUse of a quality 27-speed bicycle, 15 days, 14 nights accommodation, 9 dinners, 6 lunches, & 14 breakfasts, Waitomo glow-worm cave visit
Arrive/DepartAuckland (AKL) / Auckland
Total Distance519-960 km (322-599 miles)
Daily Distance39-142 km (24-88 miles) at your option
What to ExpectSome long days with shuttle options for those who want shorter or intermediate mileage.
Click on the "pins" for details about each day's highlights.
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