Spectacular Hikes on the North Island

Overview

The Te Araroa (Maori for “long pathway”) is the world’s newest long-distance hiking trail, from the northernmost tip of the North Island to the southern point of the South Island. If you were to walk all of it, it would take five months! Our adventure begins in the seaside town of Russell among the subtropical splendor of the Bay of Islands. Here, we’ll meet a local Maori family who still follows some of the traditional Polynesian practices handed down through generations.  We start our first hike of the roughly 2,000 mile-long Te Araroa Trail at remote Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific, and where the Maori believe the spirits of their dead depart for their ancestral homeland in Polynesia. Heading south, we’ll pass remote villages, mystical kauri forests, and “Lord of the Rings” volcanoes, then ferry into Auckland, the City of Sails, to walk the Te Araroa Trail right through the city. On the central plateau, our hike brings us into the dramatic volcanic scenery of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a World Heritage Site, and when we reach the beautiful and sacred Whanganui River, part of the Te Araroa Trail, we’ll drift down as the Maori did before us—by waka (canoe). Our trail leads us into cosmopolitan Wellington, the nation's capital. This unique adventure is full of fantastic hikes, great food, world-class wine, craft beer, and easy-going Kiwi culture.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-5
Kerikeri / Cape Reinga / Moturua Island / Russell Forest

Flying to Kerikeri, we visit historic Russell, the first European settlement in New Zealand, then head out to Moturua Island to hike amid Maori archaeological sites. We’ll visit the award-winning Waitangi Treaty Grounds for a Maori performance, then hike along the Kerikeri River to the spectacular cascade of Rainbow Falls. The Te Araroa Trail at Cape Reinga Lighthouse brings us down to sweeping Twilight Beach, and the next day we’ll hike into the primeval Russell Forest, with its majestic kauri trees.

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Days 6-8
Poor Knights Islands / Mangawhai Heads / Matakana Wine Country

We boat out to the marine reserve of the Poor Knights Islands for a memorable day of sea kayaking, cave exploration, and swimming. Back on the mainland, we enjoy spectacular coastal views as we hike the Te Araroa Trail across the Mangawhai Heads, nestled between the Pacific and rolling farmland, and explore Matakana wine country.

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Days 9-11
Auckland / Tongariro Alpine Crossing

After a walking tour of harborside Auckland, we hike through the limestone bluffs of Mangaokewa Gorge, then make the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing, bringing us into a world of emerald lakes, lava flows, and breathtaking volcanic scenery.

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Days 12-14
Whanganui River / Wellington

A jet-boat brings us to the start of our hike through dramatic river gorges in Whanganui National Park, and we drift down the beautiful Whanganui River by waka (traditional Maori canoe). Our last hike on the Te Araroa Trail brings us on foot into Wellington, New Zealand’s urban jewel, with a visit to its famous museum, the Te Papa, full of Maori treasures. Depart on Day 14 via Wellington.

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Highlights

Highlights

Exhilarating hikes in spectacular coastal, mountain, and volcanic environments
Cape Reinga Lighthouse, the northernmost point of the Te Araroa Trail
Ancient Maori sites of Moturua Island, award-winning Waiangi Treaty Grounds
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, with its volcanic scenery and emerald lakes
The pristine marine reserve of the Poor Knights Islands, with sea kayaking and cave exploration

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $7895  
Arrive: Kerikeri, New Zealand
Depart: Wellington, New Zealand
Lodging: 13 nights hotels and historic inns
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Wildlife & Natural History, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Varied hikes of 3-6 hours, some sections on rough or rocky trails