22 Feb The Best Things To Do on the North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world. From snow-covered mountains, active volcanoes, amazing wildlife, and indescribable beaches, there is so much to do and see in this breathtaking country. New Zealand consists of two amazing islands: The North Island and the South Island. With so much to do an see, we’re here to breakdown the best things to do in the North Island of New Zealand.
One of the best things to do on the North Island is visiting the city of Auckland. Most people start their New Zealand vacation in Auckland due to the ease of getting there by plane or boat.
One of the best things to do in Auckland is to visit the Sky Tower. It’s an icon of the city that features a birds-eye view of the city. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can do the SkyWalk to walk outside the building, or even go bungee jumping! If you prefer to be out in nature, hike Maungawhau (also known as Mount Eden). It’s a dormant volcano that last erupted 15,000 years ago. On a clear day, you’ll have a 360-degree view of the city.
To hit the highlights of the city, and have some awesome bragging rights, you can walk from Viaduct to Onehunga. This 10 mile (16km) walk is part of the Te Araroa trail and goes from coast to coast! You’ll see the Auckland Museum, Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, and Cornwall Park! It’s a great way to see a lot of Auckland in a short time.
When visiting the North Island of New Zealand, Auckland should definitely not be missed!
Suggested by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Enjoy the Views at Bay of Islands
Located three hours north of Auckland, the Bay of Islands needs to be on your itinerary for your North Island adventure.
The Bay of Islands is best explored by a passenger ferry service, however, plenty of New Zealand cruises also frequently visit this gorgeous area. Here, you will find miles on miles of pristine beaches and rugged coastlines surrounding the bay filled with 144 tiny islands.
The beauty of the islands is exactly why you need to explore the Bay of Islands. Once you arrive, you can explore the beach, go dolphin sightseeing, try sea kayaking, and take fishing trips. If you prefer to dive into the refreshing waters, there are two notable wrecks in the region—the Rainbow Warrior and the HMNZS Canterbury.
Another great option to discover a birds-eye-view of the Bay is through parasailing. If you are an adrenalin-junkie, this activity is definitely for you! You will soar over 1,300 feet above the water during your parasailing journey, witnessing a remarkable view of the area.
To learn about the history of the Bay of Islands, head inland to the Russell Museum. Here, you will receive an in-depth explanation of this Bay’s past. The museum contains plenty of exhibits and a large collection of Maori artifacts, historical photographs, and even a massive replica of Captain Cook’s ship for you to explore.
Lastly, head out to Rainbow Falls to discover one of New Zealand’s most accessible and stunning waterfalls. This 88-foot-high waterfall is beautiful from all viewpoints, whether you hike to the top or bottom of the falls.
Suggested by Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips
Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
For the nature lovers out there, you don’t want to miss hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The national park has three active volcanoes, creating a volcanic alpine landscape with geothermal lakes that look almost neon green and blue in color. The otherworldly landscape was used as the filming location for the sinister Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. A highlight is walking past the stratovolcano Mount Ngauruhoe, aka the infamous Mount Doom.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the best hikes to add to your North Island New Zealand itinerary, however it’s no easy feat. On the 19.4 km day hike you will ascend 765 m and descend 1,125 m. There are some steep sections, so it’s highly recommended to bring hiking poles with you, especially for the downhill sections. The hike will take you around 6-8 hours depending on how many stops you take.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek is also not a roundtrip hike, so you will need to purchase shuttle tickets online. Tongariro Crossing Shuttles offers return transportation for $40 NZD per person.
Suggested by Cecily of Groovy Mashed Potatoes
Read More: The Best Day Hikes in New Zealand
Visit The Blue Spring
Stunning. It’s the only word that describes the mix of crystal-clear water and ethereal floating plants that make up The Blue Spring near the town of Putaruru in the Waikato region of the North Island. Add a backdrop of palm-filled hills and bright blue sky and you’ve pretty much got perfection!
If you’re into trekking, you’ll want to take the long way to get there. The 4.7km Te Waihou Walkway starts at the car park on Whites Road and takes 90 minutes (each way) to reach the spring. If you’d prefer to see the gorgeous scenery without a hike, then park at the Leslie Road car park and it’s a short 15-minute walk to the spring.
Leave your togs at home though as you can’t swim in the spring. It used to be allowed when this place was more of a local’s secret, but as word got out and more and people took a dip, it started affecting the clarity of the water so, now it’s look but don’t touch!
The spring is just over a two hour drive from Auckland down State Highway 1, and makes a great stopping off point if you’re going to Rotorua or Lake Taupo. While you’re here, also visit the cute town of Tirau that’s famous for its amazing corrugated iron signs.
Suggested by Helen from Differentville
Enjoy City Life in Wellington
Wellington, New Zealand’s lively capital city, is one of the most exciting cities in the country. Located in the center of the country, on the tip of North Island, Wellington can be reached by a ferry from South Island or by car from anywhere on North Island.
Wellington is a coastal city and views of the ocean are always within reach. Some of the best views can be found on Mount Victoria, one of its highest points. From there, look down on the city on one side and into the ocean on the other. You will be able to observe ferries crossing the Cook Strait, lumber yards, and a bustling city below. While up there, be sure to hike or bike along one of the many trails.
Within the city, there is so much to do. Wellington Botanical Garden is a beautiful park, home to native New Zealand plants, including the Pohutukawa—New Zealand’s Christmas tree. At the top of the botanical garden, you can ride a red cable car that overlooks the city.
Wellington is also home to incredible museums and tours. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you’ll have to take a tour of Weta Studio where the movies were created. If you want to learn more about New Zealand’s history and culture, visit the free Te Papa Museum. There, you’ll find replicas of the giant ancient Moa bird, Maori art, and spectacular seasonal exhibits.
In a country known for its natural beauty, Wellington offers a unique look into what life in New Zealand is like. It’s a beautiful city worth seeing on your trip to the North Island!
Suggested by McKenna Hurd of One More Step Travels
Are you a Lord of the Rings lover? Well if so, Hobbiton is a MUST-SEE on your visit to the North Island. Hobbiton is the name of the real-life shire that was created for the movies. The set itself can only be seen by a guided tour, but the tour is more than worth it.
The set includes multiple hobbit houses, some of which you can go in an explore. If you are thirsty or just want to live life like you are in Middle Earth, you can even visit the Green Dragon Inn which includes a pub. This pub offers speciality brews that are unique to the pub itself.
Even if you are not a Lord of the Rings fan, visiting this iconic movie set is a once in a lifetime experience that will make all of your friends jealous. While you are looking into booking your tour, which you MUST do in advance, you should add the optional “Second Breakfast Tour.” With this version of the tour, you get fed an amazing Hobbit themed buffet at the the end of your tour. This is a must-do because you can’t live your hobbit life to the fullest without eating.
On your visit to the North Island in New Zealand, one of the best things you can do is head to the Taupo region. At the centre of the region is the magnificent Lake Taupo, surrounded by forests, waterfalls and geothermal valleys with hot springs. Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere, and its surface area is bigger than Singapore. While you are there, one of the best sights is Huka Falls; this is an 11-metre high waterfall, known for its extensive flow of water as 222,000 litres of water crash over the waterfall per second. This is something extraordinary you have to see for yourself.
From here, if you follow the walking tracks down the Waikato River from the falls, you can visit a free Spa Thermal Park. Remember to pack your swimwear and relax in the thermal creek in the pristine water. Nearby, you can explore the incredible Craters of the Moon, which is a geothermal wonderland. What is great about this attraction is how accessible and safe it is. You follow the wooden boardwalk to many viewing platforms to see the geothermal delights, including colourful soil, whistling vents and bubbling mud. Undeniably, Taupo is a unique region of natural beauty that needs to be on your North Island bucket list.
Suggested by Rachel from Average Lives
See the Unique Beauty of the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
New Zealand’s North Island is home to numerous spectacular natural wonders. For many, the unique Waitamo Caves feature at the top of their North Island bucket list. Located 150km west from Rotorua, a day trip to Waitamo Caves makes for an unforgettable experience.
The expansive cave complex consists of several caves, three of which can be visited on family-friendly guided tours. Most popular amongst tourists is the Waitamo Glowworm Cave. A visit to this remarkable subterranean world is nothing short of a magical adventure. As you step into the boat and glide through the water in pitch darkness, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights. It’s like travelling underneath a starry sky. You’d almost forget you’re actually in a cave, lit by thousands of worms.
It’s a great idea to combine your visit to the famous Glowworm Cave with either the Ruakuri Cave or Aranui Cave. Unlike the Glowworm Cave, both of these can be explored by foot. Each offering their own distinctive features, neither of these will disappoint. In the former, you’ll get the chance to see more glowworms, but also stunning limestone formations and a dazzling man-made spiral staircase. Aranui Cave, on the other hand, is home to extraordinary cave formations. Wandering through, you’ll see delicate stalactites dripping from the ceiling while ancient stalagmites are rising from the cave floor.
Being in New Zealand, the birthplace of many heart-pumping activities, Waitamo Caves also caters for adrenalin junkies. There are special tours where you can go rafting in dark, glowworm-lit caves, whilst jumping off waterfalls. Or, if that isn’t quite enough for you yet, you can always go abseiling and zip lining your way through the caves.
No matter which tour you choose, a visit to Waitamo Caves is quintessential when you’re visiting the North Island!
Suggested by Zarina from Miss Travel Clogs
Go Surfing in Raglan
Tucked away on the western coast of New Zealand’s North Island lies a friendly little town called Raglan. Not every traveler makes it to Raglan, but those who do make it there often say it was their favorite spot in all of New Zealand.
Raglan is primarily known as the perfect place to learn to surf, due to the typically gentle waves at Ngarunui Beach and the fact that waves occur year round. Many visitors sign up for one or two days of lessons once getting to Raglan, and then simply rent a board to practice on their own during the remainder of their stay.
In addition to great surfing, Raglan offers a chill central town with quirky shops, cool cafes, and tasty eateries. Raglan is also famous for Bridal Veil Falls, which sits about a fifteen minute drive outside of town, but is absolutely worth the small effort to get there.
Those traveling New Zealand on a budget should consider staying at Raglan Backpackers while in town. This friendly hostel is the perfect place to meet buddies for your first surf lesson. They also offer surfboard rentals and round-trip beach transport for when you’re ready to practice on your own, and their hammocks and hot tub are the perfect way to relax after your surf.
Suggested by Em from That Travelista
Did we miss something? Comment below your favorite things to do on the North Island of New Zealand!