This safari is for those who have a little less time but want to experience the very best that the North Island can offer.
The Ultimate North has many short hikes and two overnight hikes using backcountry huts.
What to Expect
Day 1. Auckland - Rotorua - Whirinaki 10km/3 hours hiking
Your guide gives a briefing before heading south to Rotorua (with a café halt at 9am for those who missed breakfast). There is more to Rotorua than just thermal areas. Stunning wilderness lakes and rivers, lush tree fern forests and backdrop of distant volcanoes make Rotorua quite unique. The area is also rich in Maori and early European history including the tragedy of the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption that buried a Maori village. This afternoon explore one of the extraordinary DoC thermal parks (price included), and hike one of the lake or river trails in the area. After a picnic lunch we head east and off the tourist route to hike one of tracks in the Whirinaki Forest. In summer there are plenty of opportunities to swim. After our afternoon loop hike we drive to our simple cabin on a farm property with a mix of bunk rooms and camping. Just us here usually. We cook up a meal together and chill out. (Lunch & Dinner included)
Day 2. Lake Waikaremoana -Te Urewera National Park 12 km/4 hours hiking
This morning the group drives east, eventually descending off the volcanic plateau into the rugged sedimentary ranges of the Urewera National Park. After two hours there is a stop for a cuppa (cup of tea) at a remote Tuhoe settlement and one of the few places where Maori is spoken as the first language. Another hour of driving brings you to the western arm of the beautiful Lake Waikaremoana, a perfect picnic lunch spot and a chance to finish organising backpacks for the first part of the Waikaremoana hike. Hoist your pack onto your back and follow the track as it festoons in and out of the many little stream valleys and bays. After passing a couple of camp sites and the old lake-head hut there is a small climb over a peninsula to see, for the first time, the main part of this grand lake. The track along the shore leads the group to a new lake-side hut and a lovely campsite perched above a small beach. Set up camp here but hang out in the hut's spacious dining-cook house in the evening. As a group cook a meal and soak up the surrounds; the reflections of wilderness in the lake, forest and mountains, bird song and tranquillity. On a still evening you can sometimes hear Kiwi calls echo across the lake. (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included)
Day 3. Lake Waikaremoana 10 km/4 hours hiking
This morning there is a hike for two hours through the lake-edge beech forest to the next hut and water-taxi pick up. However, packs (and anyone wanting a rest) can stay at the camp to be collected by the water taxi that meets the rest of the group at the next hut. Enjoy the invigorating boat ride (price included) under the dramatic Panekiri Bluffs. You check into the cabins/camp beside the wharf, have a quick lunch. In the afternoon hike on an easy 1 hr track up to the usually calm waters of Lake Waikareiti. If conditions allow (light wind) tumble into row-boats (included) and row out across this most splendid of lakes to a wee island in the middle. This tranquil paradise of bird life, ancient forest and pure waters really feels like a forgotten world. If weather ousts rowing, then the group simply walks a little further along the lake and follows a loop track back to the Park Information Centre. Head back to the cabins and as a group cook a meal at the camp. (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included)
Day 4. Waikaremoana - Taupo 4 km/2 hours hiking
This morning hike on a 30 min track up to the spectacular Lou’s Lookout. Climbing steeply up through a stunning ‘cloud forest’ of mosses and lichens you soon break out above the bluff. More and more views unfold. As you climb you can see beyond Lake Waikaremoana to the contiguous wilderness stretching for hundreds of kilometres to the north, south and west. After a quick look at the visitor centre and exploring the waterfall track, we drive west then south to Lake Taupo. This is the largest lake in New Zealand – a 600 sq km volcanic caldera crater created when the largest volcanic explosion known to humankind erupted in 186 AD. On the drive towards Taupo there’s often time to have a dip in a natural hot river, one of those secret spots only the locals know about. There is also time for a stop at the Huka Falls where you can feel the spray as the mighty Waikato River plunges seven metres. We may choose to grab takeaway food (own cost) or rustle up a quick 'trailer' meal at a lovely lake-side spot on route. The sun may set before driving the last hour to Tongariro National Park. Cabin or lodge rooms. (Breakfast & Lunch included)
Day 5. Tongariro National Park 13 km/5 hours hiking
Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first National Park, gifted to the people of New Zealand by a far-sighted Maori chief who saw this as a way of protecting the tapu (respect, sacredness, preciousness) of this land - in particular the summits of the active volcanoes. After being dropped off at the trail start, hike through waving tussock-grasslands between the volcanoes to a hut set in an enclave of native beech forest. After lunch traverse across stony deserts to an alpine hut at 1400m, perched on the edge of an old lava flow. From this hut there are fantastic views of the three main peaks in the park; Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. It's an extraordinary landscape of active volcanoes and lava valleys, dynamic and changing even in recent years (2013!). Enjoy the experience of sharing an alpine hut with like-minded travellers passionate about the outdoors. (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included)
Day 6. Tongariro 15 km/6-8 hours hiking
Hike up through a moon-like valley of contorted lava flows and ash fields before climbing up a steep section to the Emerald Lakes, the usual lunch stop. Cross the volcanic plateau, which boasts lava valleys and steaming explosion craters, flanked by the brooding volcanoes, before descending on the western side. In good conditions, there is an option to climb one of the volcanic peaks. Tongariro National Park is full of landscapes the likes of which are found nowhere else in New Zealand. An evening drive to a lodge right inside the National Park is the perfect place to relax with a beer and enjoy the million dollar views across to the volcanoes. Enjoy a meal out in the alpine village. (Breakfast & Lunch included)
Day 7. Tongariro – Wellington - 1km/1-2 hours hiking
A relaxing start, check out the Park Visitor Centre, hang with an espresso at the alpine café. Those taking the bus back to Auckland are dropped at National Park Village before noon, the train passes through National Park the following day. Drive south to Wellington, New Zealand's wonderful harbour capital, arriving in the late afternoon with a cafe stop en route. This giant fault-created harbour is almost encircled by steep suburbs giving it a giant 'coliseum' feel. Nowhere is very far in this stylish little city. Enjoy. You might like to visit the museum of New Zealand, called Te Papa, or the beehive (Parliament House) to see some ranting politicians - or you might not. Wellington is well known for its vibrant café scene and its accessible downtown area. People come into the city to enjoy the lively atmosphere. (Breakfast included)
Note: Those returning to Auckland by bus or train, please contact us for the latest timetable information.
- Camping equipment like, Therm-a-rest sleeping mats, tents, backpack liner (plastic bag), cooking equipment, plates/cutlery, first aid kit, safety equipment and maps.
- All accommodation
- Fully guided
- All safety equipment
- Water taxi on Lake Waikaremoana
What's Not Included
- Two evening meals
- Optional activities
Know Before You Go
Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days.
Pack weights of 10-12kgs (22-26lbs) on some days.
Altitude gains of up to 800m (2600ft) per day.
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No multi-day hiking experience necessary.
Agility and fitness required.
You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic.
Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.
We have high quality hiking equipment which you can hire for our Hiking Safaris. Please arrange hire gear when you book. Requests for hire equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.