If you’re planning your first trip to New Zealand’s North Island, here is a list of the top 10 things to do and places to see for your itinerary!
10 Not-To-Be-Missed Things To Do In New Zealand’s North Island
The North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui)is home to about three-quarters of New Zealand’s population and has the country’s largest city, Auckland, and New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Scenically, it is considerably different from the South Island, which features snow-capped mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, and fiords in abundance.
The North Island has a diverse landscape that features stunning coasts and beautiful swimming beaches, volcanic activity, acres of farmland and vineyards, and geothermal hotspots. There is more of the Maori culture on show in the North Island, and the major cities are very cosmopolitan.
When you are planning your first trip to New Zealand, there is so much to do that it may be overwhelming and difficult to choose which activities should go on your itinerary.
This post features a list of ten not-to-be-missed things to do while traveling New Zealand’s North Island that will help with planning your first trip.
Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
1. Take a bungee jump off the Harbour Bridge Or From Auckland’s Sky Tower
If you’re arriving from overseas, chances are that you will arrive in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
AJ Hackett, a famous New Zealander, is the world pioneer of commercial bungee jumping, and New Zealand is famous for its bungee jumping locations. You really can’t say you’ve experienced New Zealand unless you take a bungee jump, and Auckland has two fantastic locations for you to make your death-defying leap.
One location is in the middle of the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge, which is the only bungee location over the ocean in New Zealand.
The other location is labeled ‘a jump’, but it is every bit as thrilling as a bungee jump, and it is from Auckland’s Sky Tower, New Zealand’s tallest building. It is 192m (629ft) above Auckland City and is a very quick, fast fall at speeds of up to 85kph (52mph).
2. Escape To Wine And Dine On Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island frequently heads the top of lists of “Best Island Escapes” for publications like Lonely Planet and Travel & Leisure Magazine.
It’s just a 50-minute ferry ride across the sparkling Hauraki Gulf, past the iconic dormant volcano island that is Rangitoto Island, to Waiheke Island.
The island is best known for its stunning scenery, 40 km of beaches, and 30+ award-winning boutique vineyards.
Spend the morning lazing on one of the white sand beaches before hiking through the cooler native forest inland, and finally, stop at one of the vineyards for a lazy long lunch with stunning panoramic views.
3. Go Fishing At The Bay Of Islands
A three-hour drive north of Auckland will take you to the subtropical Bay Of Islands. There are over 144 islands to explore and fish galore!
Take the opportunity to catch your own fish with one of the local Bay of Islands fishing charters or join one of the boat tours to see the Hole in the Rock and maybe spot some dolphins, penguins, marlin, whales, and gannets.
You could take a scenic flight over the islands or, if you’re brave enough, try a parasailing tandem flight up to 1200 feet over the water and, if time permits, visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds – the place where much of New Zealand’s history was shaped through the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
4. Check Out The Unique International Award-Winning Hamilton Gardens
The Hamilton Gardens are located on 54 hectares of large park-like grounds on the banks of the Waikato River. It is a magnificent setting, and the transformation from the smelly rubbish dump that it was back in the 1960s is quite unbelievable.
The site features 21 intriguing gardens, which are grouped into themed garden collections.
You can wander from a peaceful Sung Dynasty Chinese Scholar’s garden into an Italian Renaissance Garden, the unbelievable Surrealist Garden with its optical illusions, or the Japanese Contemplation Garden full of zen. Each garden is a unique experience!
5. Have A Pint At The Green Dragon On The Hobbiton Movie Set
If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Middle Earth, visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata is an experience you won’t want to miss!
You can only visit Hobbiton on a guided walking tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. Your tour guide will tell you all about how this 10-acre site of rolling farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-earth.
Check out the fascinating Hobbit holes, The Mill, Bag End, and the Party Tree, and enjoy a pint of the specially brewed beers at the Green Dragon Inn. You can choose from an Oakbarton dark ale, light and malty Girdley Amber ale, a Sackville cider, or tasty non-alcoholic Frogmorton Gingerbeer.
6. Immerse Yourself In Maori Culture In Rotorua
The Maoris traveled to New Zealand from eastern Polynesia more than 700 years ago. They developed a distinctive culture and language with unique crafts and performing arts, and one of the best places in New Zealand to experience this and discover geothermal wonders is in Rotorua.
The Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley at Te Puia is a living village and home to the famous Pohutu Geyser, bubbling mud pools.
There are 500 hot springs and 65 geyser vents and pools in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.
Also in the village is the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. You will see students create traditional carved masterpieces at the National Wood Carving School, and at the National Weaving School, you will learn about the ancient art of Maori weaving.
While you’re in Rotorua, you might want to try Ziplining your way around the prehistoric native forest with Rotorua Canopy Tours or take a treetop walk high above the Redwood forest floor day or night.
7. Walk Tongariro National Park – The Best Day Hike In The World
Tongariro National Park is located right in the center of the North Island. It is the oldest national park in New Zealand and is acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site National Park.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4 km (12 miles) one-day hike that is widely regarded as one of the world’s best.
The hike is full of dramatic contrasts and climbs up through volcanic terrain of alpine meadows and tussock land and through old lava fields, emerald lakes, and past smoking, the steaming volcano that erupted just six years ago. And for those Lord of the Rings fans, the hike takes you through the heart of “Mordor”, passing by “Mount Doom.”
The number of epic views makes the hike well worth it!
8. Dig Your Own Hot Pool On A Stunning Beach
With an abundance of volcanic thermal underground water, New Zealanders have access to more than 100 hot pools and springs of all shapes and sizes scattered right throughout New Zealand.
Where else in the world can you stroll onto a beautiful beach with a spade tucked under your arm and dig yourself into your own hot pool, complete with stunning beach views?
Hot Water Beach is the world-renowned golden sand beach located on the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula and is hugely popular with both locals and overseas tourists.
On the west coast, southwest of Hamilton, in the Waikato, is the much less populated Kawhia Hot Water Beach with its rugged coastline and black sand.
At both beaches, head down to the sand for a couple of hours on either side of the low tide with your spade, and start digging and creating the perfect pool to suit your needs.
Black sand or golden sand? Lots of people around or few people around? The choice is yours!
9. Step Back In Time In The Art Deco Capital Of The World – Napier
Following a massive earthquake on the morning of Tuesday, 3 February 1931, fires destroyed most of the commercial heart of Napier.
The city was rebuilt in the style of that era and now features countless Art Deco landmarks. Art Deco was the style chosen because it was fashionable, and Napier wanted to be modern.
Decorative Art Deco themes include sunbursts and fountains, skyscraper shapes, symbols of speed, power, and flight, geometric shapes, and ancient cultures.
There is a huge variety of buildings in the 1930s style, and there are 140 Art Deco buildings, doors, and sculptures to be seen throughout the town. Even the local McDonald’s is housed inside an Art Deco building!
10. Ride The Cable Car And Check Out Te Papa Museum In Wellington
Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city and is known as “the coolest little capital in the world.”
One of the must-have experiences in Wellington is to ride the iconic bright red cable car in the middle of the city that has been clanking up and down the slope from Lambton Quay to Kelburn since 1902.
At the top of the ride is a great view out over Wellington Harbor, the Wellington Botanic Gardens, Space Place, and the small Cable Car Museum.
If you have time, wander back to the city through the very pretty botanic gardens and head on over to the waterfront and “Te Papa,” New Zealand’s national museum. Here, you will find many fascinating Maori artifacts and treasures and an amazing collection of innovative displays that are renowned for being interactive and incredibly unique.
So these are the top 10 things to do in New Zealand’s North Island.
These are just a few of the very many amazing things to do and experience in New Zealand’s North Island, but it is definitely a good list to get you started.
Have a wonderful trip!
Just before you go, check out the other travel posts that you may be interested in these TOP 10 BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN AUSTRALIA YOU NEED TO SEE.
Thanks for stopping by!
THE AUTHOR: Maureen Spencer
Maureen is a travel writer lucky enough to be living in New Zealand and has a great passion for travel. Since she became “empty nested” in the late 1990s, she has traveled and worked in over 70 countries! Now, she writes articles to share her amazing experiences with other travelers in the hope of providing practical information to help them prepare and plan for their travel trips.
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