New Zealand's Pacific Coast Highway
Whakatane Ohope International Golf Club - photo courtesy of NZ Tourism - taken by Strike-Photography
Despite being a relatively small country (about the size of Oregon or Colorado), it's quite easy to spend months exploring New Zealand's north and south islands. So much to see, experiences to take in, food, wine and people to meet.
One special touring route is a drive down the beautiful east coast on New Zealand's Pacific Coast Highway. Check out this itinerary between Auckland and Napier.
Fletcher Bay Coromandel - Photo courtesy of NZ Tourism - taken by Camilla-Rutherford
Auckland to Whitianga
First stop - the Coromandel Peninsula, Coromandel and Whitianga. Don't just drive straight through the area. Take time to discover natural hideaways, gorgeous beaches, rainforests, friendly people and exceptional fresh foods from the region.
The Coromandel Coastal Walkway offers splendid views of untouched beauty. Take an astronomy tour and stay overnight at the Stargazers B&B. Dig a hot water pool at the famous Hot Water Beach or treat yourself to a relaxing geo-thermal pool experience in Whitianga. Stop at New Chum Beach, an area where only the locals go. Get out of the car and explore the Karanghake Gorge (voted as one of the "101 Must Do's for Kiwis.) on a hike or on the Hauraki Rail Trail (great for bikers).
White Island - Photo courtesy of NZ Tourism - taken by James Stanbridge
Whitianga to Tauranga
This section of the highway offers stunning views of the Bay of Plenty. When we drove this route, it seemed like we were stopping at every bend to take another photo! And for anyone who loves fresh fish sandwiches, Waihi Beach is a must stop for lunch. In my opinion, some of the best fish in the world. This is also kiwi fruit country, so you'll find plenty of products made with the fruit.
Best described as spectacular outdoor playground, you'll find easy walks on the beach and along the coast, and be sure to check out Mclaren Falls and Park. It's also a great place to explore the ocean, on a kayak or on the Bay Explorer Island Wilderness cruise.
If you are adventurous, take a boat or helicopter tour out to White Island, and active volcano. The name comes from the constant white steam emanating from the island's volcanic activity.
Mount-Maunganui - photo courtesy of NZ Tourism (taken by Chris McLennan)
Tauranga - Whakatane
Before leaving Tauranga, climb up Mount Maunganui for spectacular coastal views.
Along the route to Whakatane, make a stop in Paengaroa to check out Experience Comvita, where you can learn all about the Manuka honey.
In Whakatane, if you have the time, take a catamaran tour out to Moutohora (Whale Island) Sanctuary. The island is pest free and home to rare and endangered plants, birds and reptiles. Access is highly restricted, thus making this an incredible small group experience, especially for anyone who loves birds.
Whakatane hosts many food, wine and music events through out the year, so be sure to link in your itinerary to these events. And take note: Tauranga is a port stop for many cruises, the gateway for a day trip to Rotorua. Plan your stop when no ships are in town.
Photo courtesy of NZ Tourism nd Eastland Toursim - Wainui-Beach
Whakatane to Gisborne
From Whakatane you have a couple of choices getting to Gisborne. The longer route takes you around the eastern most point in New Zealand, also known as the Tairawhiti region. Its the first spot IN THE WORLD to see the sun rise. The Eastern Cape lighthouse is a great place to do this. The region is also home to the gorgeous Motu Trails bike trails.
Discover Maori carvings on Mount Hikurangi, the north island's highest non-volcanic mountain. Located just south of the Eastern Cape, legend says that this was one of the first parts of the Northern Island to be "fished out of the ocean by Hawaiian demi-god Maui.
A more direct route to Gisborne takes you across the cape. A nice stop before getting to Gisborne is the Wharekopae River. The adventurous can slide down the natural rock slide, but you do need to bring your own inflatable equipment.
In Gisborne check out the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve, where Captain Cook's first step on New Zealand took place in back in 1769.
Gisborne is the unofficial Chardonnay capital of New Zealand and home to many wineries. The city is situated on the confluence of three rivers - Waimata, Taruheru and Turanganui, the shortest river in the Southern Hemisphere (a little over 600 feet). Enjoying the local vintages is a great way to end a day, soak in the sunshine and beautiful views.
Gisborne to Napier
The coastal area between Gisborne and Napier is known as Hawke's Bay, one of New Zealand's top food and wine destinations and New Zealand's oldest wine producing region reknowned for their world class red wines.
Plenty of golf can be had the region as well, including at Cape Kidnappers, one of the top 20 courses in the world.
The Pacific Coast Highway ends (or starts if going northbound) in Napier, a city made famous by it's beautifully restored Art Deco buildings. All things 1930's - vintage cars, fashion and music - is celebrated each February during the Art Deco Festival.
Cape Kidnappers Lodge, Hawkes Bay - courtesy of NZ Tourism
Where to next? From here, there is still plenty more to explore. Head to Wellington, an approximate 4 hour drive, or inland to the Geo-thermal highway and make your way back to Auckland. Fly to Christchurch or Queenstown on the South Island or head back to Auckland on a short 1 hour flight.
Ready for an experience that takes your adventure to a new level?
CALL Laurie at 602.540.7338 to get the process started
or schedule a complimentary discovery call here.
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Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder