En Route to Northland: The Hibiscus Coast

Located 48km (30 miles) north of Auckland, the Hibiscus Coast comprises the communities of Silverdale, Whangaparaoa, Orewa, Waiwera, and Puhoi. The area is a 45-minute drive from Auckland, and InterCity coaches offer service that makes a day's outing a reasonable option.

The Hibiscus Coast Information Centre, 214A Hibiscus Coast Hwy. (next to KFC), Orewa (tel. 09/426-0076; hbcvic@rodney.govt.nz), is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

On the drive north, stop at Waiwera Thermal Resort, State Highway 1 (tel. 0800/924-937 in NZ, or 09/427-8800; www.waiwera.co.nz), open daily from 9am to 9pm. Nineteen indoor and outdoor pools are kept at 82°F to 113°F (28°C-45°C); there are both private and communal pools. They also have an Infinity Day Spa, which offers many excellent treatment packages online. Admission to the pools is NZ$26 for adults, NZ$15 for children 5 to 14, NZ$22 for students, and NZ$10 for seniors and spectators.

En Route to the Coromandel Peninsula: The Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway is not exactly a highway, certainly not in the American sense of the word. Rather, it is a combination of roads that make up one of the best scenic routes in the country, following the coastline from Auckland all the way to Hawke's Bay. Along the way, it delivers you to Coromandel Peninsula via the very pretty Seabird Coast.

It's worth stopping here for the Kaiaua Fisheries Licensed Seafood Restaurant & Takeaways, 939 East Coast Rd., Kaiaua (tel. 09/232-2776), open daily from 9am to 9pm, which serves some of the best fish and chips in the country. And once you've filled your empty stomach, check out the Miranda Shorebird Centre, East Coast Road (tel./fax 09/232-2781; www.miranda-shorebird.org.nz), where you'll find information about the millions of migratory birds that swing by here on their way north. The 8,500 hectares (21,000 acres) of tidal flats are a big attraction for wading birds and bird-watchers alike.

You can also relax in one of the largest hot mineral pools in the Southern Hemisphere or unwind in a private Jacuzzi at Miranda Hot Springs Thermal Pools (tel. 07/867-3055; www.mirandahotsprings.co.nz). It's open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 10:30pm. Admission is NZ$15 adults (14 and over) and NZ$7 for children.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.