The Hidden Wonders of Our Central North Island Canyon Country
Transport, Accommodation, Flights when Applicable, Activities, Local Guided Tours and Meals as listed (Breakfast, Morning Tea, Lunch, Dinner).
Monday 11th May DAY 1 MT, D
We head south via the western lake road through Taupo to arrive in New Zealand’s unique volcanic plateau region stopping along the way for morning tea before arriving at the majestic mountain village of Whakapapa for lunch. This UNESCO world heritage alpine environment is home to the newly constructed “Sky Waka” – Mt Ruapehu’s brand new state-of-the-art gondola opened in mid-2019 and designed to transport us comfortably the 1.8km through rugged landscapes past snow-laden peaks and spectacular waterfalls. Tonight, we’re gathering for a delicious dinner and resting our heads in the luxuriously opulent Chateau Tongariro. Steeped in timeless elegance and part of the local landscape since visitors first began arriving to stay in 1925, the sublime alpine views from virtually every window and impressive period interior of the hotel are an absolute delight.
Tuesday 12th May DAY 2 B, MT, L, D
After breakfast we take a nature ramble through craggy bush-covered countryside to arrive for a nourishing morning tea at the charming Blue Duck Café situated within the boundaries of the Station of the same name. Featured on Country Calendar, the farm is famous as being home to one of the highest concentrations of Whio (blue duck), kiwi, native bats and native fish in New Zealand. Get ready to “go bush “ as we are off on a safari here. We’ll have a tour and talk about the local history, hear stories of the ongoing conservation work and experience up close the workings of this unique sheep and beef station operating in harmony with the native flora and fauna. After that, it’s on the bus again and we’re headed for the home of the giant carrot – Oakune. A quaint ski resort town on the edge of the Tongariro National Park it’s a vibrant mecca all year round with skiers and trampers. We’re staying tonight at the boutique accommodation of Powderhorn Chateau, close to Turoa ski-field. There’s time for a spell of rest and recovery before we dine in at the friendly Powerkeg restaurant.
Wednesday 13th May DAY 3 B, MT, L, D
We’ll be saying “yeeha” and “set ‘em up Joe” after breakfast this morning when our posse rides into town for our morning tea at far-flung and authentic western-style Mellonsfolly Ranch. The old west lives on at the very end of the road within the borders of this remote and authentic thousand-acre ranch in the middle of no-place and boasting some of New Zealand’s most unspoilt native bush. We’ll be taking a stroll on the boardwalks and sauntering up the main street of the Old West Town where the Lucky Strike Saloon and Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel have stood witness to cowboy derring-do and where horse flesh is the currency. Lunch at the ranch will be followed up with much hoopin’ and a-hollerin' as we indulge in some good ole’ western style activities like cannon firing to get the hearts pumping and our laughter lines a little deeper. With dusty boots and mean appetites, we’ll head back to the Powerhorn for some Powderkeg feasting and a warm bed to sink into for the night
Thursday 14th May DAY 4 B, MT, L, D
After breakfast, we travel down country to experience the natural beauty and geological magic of Whitecliffs Boulders. Resting serenely as they have done for eons in the dazzling Kahikatea forest above the Rangitikei River these large, perfectly round boulder formations known as cannonball concretions are covered in a soft downy crewcut of emerald moss, appearing surreal and other-worldly. It’s our privilege to have access to this special place for morning tea (weather permitting), and the tour and talk here will undoubtedly remain in your mind as we make our way to lunch at Flat Hills Café. Next port of call is the Mokai Gorge and Gravity Canyon – our miniature version of Colorado’s Grand, but nonetheless high enough to have been home to a bungee jumping point in the past. For a meal with French influence and flair, we dine tonight in Taihape at Le Café Telephonique – a converted telephone exchange.
Friday 15th May DAY 5 B, MT, L, D
It’s always a joy to appreciate the beauty of a true craftsman, so it will be an exciting visit to Alba Custom Knives after our breakfast. Hunterville Custom Knifemaker, John McDonald has spent decades honing his skills in this traditional art form - part of our human existence for many thousands of years. While we enjoy a picnic morning tea here at his workshop, John will be sharing his significant knowledge, and there will be an opportunity to purchase your own custom knife as a unique memento of the day. Our scenic drive then brings us to Makoura Lodge - the beautiful 600-acre farm of Hugh and Kimberley McIntyre where lunch is served, and there’s time for a wander and a stimulating talk about the property’s history and heritage dating back to 1896. We head for our hotel tonight checking out the Rangitikei Viaduct Bridge on the way – it’s one of New Zealand’s tallest and longest rail bridges.
Saturday 16th May Day 6 B, MT
It’s always sad to say farewell to this picturesque part of the North Island. A trip this morning to New Zealand’s first adventure lodge - River Valley will certainly cheer us up. We’ll learn more about their inspiring conservation programme and environmental protection initiatives over morning tea followed by a tour of the property. We depart here and head north to Waiouru. Yes, we are homeward bound – but we stop off at the Army Museum, lunching in the aptly named Home Fires Café for our last-day meal together before taking the well-travelled Desert Road home to Tauranga in the afternoon.