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East Cape Explorer

from £2071 excluding flights

  • 13 nights
  • Year round


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Follow the coastline around the scenic East Cape

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Discover the wildlife of Moutohora Island sanctuary

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Explore the best beaches in Mercury Bay on a boat tour

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Sample some of New Zealand's world class wines in Hawke's Bay

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See Rotorua's boiling pools, geysers and deep-rooted Maori culture

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Soak up the Art Deco architecture of Napier

Why this trip...

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Tailor made

This itinerary can be tailor made to suit you and is intended to give you a guideline of what is possible in a given timeframe

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This holiday showcases places and experiences away from the usual tourist routes

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Explore at leisure

With the route, transport and accommodation sorted, each day offers the freedom to explore


Discover one of New Zealand’s seldom explored regions on this 14-day self-drive holiday following the Pacific Coast Highway around the East Cape of North Island. The East Cape reveals a rugged volcanic coastline home to secluded hidden bays and nearby islands and is an area rich in Maori heritage which has not yet been commercialised.

On this road trip you’ll have to chance to uncover one of New Zealand’s most authentic and genuine regions and travel mostly away from the main tourist routes without missing key regional highlights. Stay on the Coromandel with rainforest-clad gorges and pohutukawa-fringed beaches, before travelling onto the geo-thermal heartland of Rotorua.

Wake early in Gisborne and be one of the first in the world to see the sun rise and spend your time here discovering New Zealand’s early history. The first Maori waka (canoes) to arrive on the East Cape reportedly landed at Titirangi Hill in Gisborne, and Captain Cook became the first European to set foot on New Zealand soil at nearby Kaiti Bay, the significance of these two events is well covered at the Tairawhiti Museum.

This region has also set the scene in many a movie including ‘Prince Caspian – The Chronicles of Narnia’ at the stunning Coromandel Cove and ‘The Whale Rider’ a touching and uplifting story providing audiences with a taste of Maori culture but also demonstrating that there is far more to New Zealand than just some of the finest scenery in the world.

Enjoy time in Napier, one of New Zealand’s magnificent wine-producing regions and a city renowned for its Art Deco architecture, before travelling to the capital city of Wellington where your journey will end.


Fly to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the city centre for an overnight stay.

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Collect your rental vehicle and enjoy a leisurely drive to Whitianga, located on the verdant Coromandel Peninsula, renowned for its glorious beaches including Cathedral Cove to the south of Mercury Bay. This bay was named by Captain James Cook after he landed on the shores in 1769 to observe a Transit of Mercury.

Spend time relaxing or set off to explore this beautiful coastal area. You might like to enjoy an early morning stroll along to Lonely Bay or visit one of the many nearby beaches. In the afternoon enjoy a 2-hour boat tour exploring 12kms of rugged volcanic coastline, nearby islands and stunning beaches including Cooks Beach, Hahei and the wonderful Cathedral Cove where ‘The Chronicles of Narnia & Prince Caspian’ was filmed. Observe an abundance of marine and bird life and witness towering pinnacles, giant blowholes and sea caves.

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Drive south either following the coast road via Tauranga or inland via the intriguing towns of Paeroa and Te Aroha, towards the active geo-thermal heartland of Rotorua.

You have a full day free to explore New Zealand’s best known geothermal area, with its geysers, volcanoes, lakes and Maori culture. This evening you may like to enjoy a traditional Maori feast or ‘hangi’ (at additional cost).

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Pohutu Geyser

Make your way east to the laid-back coastal town of Whakatane, located in the Bay of Plenty for two nights.

Take a boat trip over to Moutohora Island Sanctuary for encounters with some of New Zealand’s endemic wildlife including tuatara and rare birds such as saddlebacks and red-crowned parakeets. Return to Whakatane for the night.

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Make your way to historic Gisborne via State Highway 2. Captain Cook first set foot on New Zealand soil here in 1769 and you might like to visit The Cook Landing Site memorial which offers sensational views out across Poverty Bay.

Alternatively you may like to drive the longer, scenic route following State Highway 35 along the coast via the East Cape (approximately 6 hours). This region boasts some of the most spectacular coastal scenery on the North Island, as well as a wealth of Maori culture, with intricately carved Marae dotting the landscape and a chance to meet the locals along the way.

Spend the day at leisure exploring the area. Key sites include New Zealand’s longest pier at Tolaga Bay and the Maori settlement of Whangara where the film Whale Rider was shot.

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Journey south to the magnificent wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay. The city of Napier is renowned for its Art Deco architecture and it is well worth enjoying a guided tour of the city during your stay.

Spend the day at leisure to explore this delightful region and its pristine beaches, superb wineries, Maori heritage and arts and crafts.

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Travel through sheep farming country to the capital city of Wellington for a two-night stay at.

This vibrant capital city has a wealth of activities on offer, from food and walking tours to culture and heritage and wildlife adventures. A visit to New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa, is highly recommended.

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Return your rental vehicle at the airport depot and depart.

Accommodation Options

We have selected properties for this holiday in a mix of hotels, motels, apartments and lodges. However, with a wide choice of accommodation in New Zealand, we can mix and match different grades and styles to suit your personal preference.

  • 970 lonely bay lodge bedroom
  • the regent rotorua guestroom
  • heritage auckland guestroom

Prices and Departures

Price from £2071 excluding flights

Airfares start from around £825 per person and are quoted separately to the holiday price.
When enquiring, our Travel Specialists will provide the best fare possible from your preferred airline / airport.
Note: Airfares tend to be cheaper the earlier you book.

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
  • 10 breakfasts
  • Car rental throughout
  • Private airport transfer on arrival
  • Mercury Bay boat tour (2 hours)
  • Moutohora Island Sanctuary Tour
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection

This itinerary starts from £2,071 per person, based on 2 sharing a room in standard hotels and motels, and vehicle rental with GPS.

  • Prices may vary depending on departure date, or should you prefer alternative categories of accommodation or vehicle size.
  • Please contact us for a detailed quote based on your preferred travel dates, vehicle category and style of accommodation, or to tailor this itinerary.

Tailor made trips

As independent destination specialists, we are able to tailor make holidays to suit you, be that customising the itineraries shown on this website or creating something bespoke.


Travelling sustainably

We believe travel is about finding the right balance between minimising our impact on the environment and broadening minds through new experiences and cultural interaction.