We cannot stress enough how amazing this country truly is. But it seems like everyone always gets too caught up in just exploring the amazing places on the South Island and seem to miss a lot on the North Island. We previously posted 14 places you can’t miss on New Zealand’s South Island but the North Island is just as packed full of activities! It is certainly worth exploring and not something we would recommend skipping over!
So getting to the point here are 14 of the best places New Zealand’s North Island has to offer:
We absolutely fell in love with Wellington. Lonely Planet once named it, ‘the coolest little capital in the world.’ And they certainly weren’t wrong! Whatever you are looking for you will find it in Wellington. Amazing food and drink, unreal museums, active farmers and night markets, beautiful scenery, and movie magic at WETA.
2) Mount Maunganui
This little place is sort of like a not so hidden, hidden gem! Located in the Bay of Plenty this little ocean side town has white sand beaches, you can either swim in the sheltered part of the peninsula or surf your worries away on the other side! Feel like hiking? No worries Mount Maunganui has that too! Climb up their distinctive peak Mauao to get some amazing views of the town or just circle around the base on the beautiful track! After your exhausting day exploring make sure you head to the Mount Hot Pools where you can relax in a hot salt water bath!
If you are going to do anything in Rotorua make sure it’s zorbing. We personally headed to OGO and bought ourselves each 3 rides down their OGO track. It was worth every penny. If you don’t know what zorbing is, it’s basically a giant gerbil ball that humans fit inside. Once inside they roll you down a hill (they do add some water to reduce friction). It’s such a blast! You can also check out all of the thermal activity that Rotorua has to offer, ever seen a geyser? Well you’ll see one here! The Pohutu Geyser also happens to be the most active one in the southern hemisphere.
4) Red Wood Forest
This Red Wood Forest is just outside of Rotorua but deserves it’s own spot on our list. The Whakarewarewa Forest has a variety of tree species that were once planted to see which would grow best, the California Redwood which was planted in 1901 seemed to thrive! Walking through this enchanting forest is breathtaking and not something you should skip over.
5) Cathedral Cove
This is a pretty famous site on the North Island and there are plenty of reasons why! Getting to the pristine water and perfect beaches of Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel is easy and offers some amazing views. It’s a 45 minute walk to reach the final destination and is worth spending the entire day there! So pack some food and have lunch on the beach after taking a refreshing dip in the ocean! Don’t forget you camera for a pretty unique view.
6) Hot Water Beach
Hands down this was one of the coolest things we got to do while we travelled New Zealand. Also located in the famous Coromandel Hot Water Beach is an extremely unique experience. Once you find the beaches location (we recommend using some sort of GPS for this because it can be a tad confusing) you can rent a shovel. Once you have your shovel in hand head over to the sand bar behind the parking lot and look for a giant rock reaching into the ocean. If you are confused where this rock is, just look for the masses of people that will probably already be there. Once you locate the rock, start digging! Eventually your hole will fill with hot water and you can enjoy your beach hot tub!
7) Whangarei Falls
Located in the Whangarei scenic reserve this waterfall is a must see. It’s perfect curtain of water drops down into one of the most popular swimming holes in the area. Make sure to take the time to hike down to the bottom and up to the top to get a full view of this powerful waterfall!
Do yourself a favour and make sure you don’t skip visiting Hobbiton and it’s nearby town Matamata. Emerge yourself in Peter Jackson and JRR Tolkien world. Not only is the site itself unique and absolutely adorable but the tours and staff are so professional, hilarious and genuinely happy to be there. It’s pretty dang hard to describe what it’s like visiting Hobbiton but it truly is magical! At the end of your tour they’ll even give you a drink of beer or if you aren’t a drinker you can have some non-alcoholic ginger beer! If you love it don’t forget to pick yourself up a bottle in the gift shop to take home because it’s the only place in the world you can get it!
9) Cape Reinga Lighthouse
Cape Reinga may not be (technically speaking) the most Northern point of New Zealand (the real Northern point is not open to the public) but this is as far as you can go! Not only that but this is also where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide!
10) Te Paki Sand Dunes
Ever wanted to sandboard? Well this is the place to do it! You can rent boards there for pretty cheap and you just pick a dune, hike up, and slide down! These things are MASSIVE though so be warned that climbing to the top is no easy task. The slide down is makes it worth every step! Just try and have a closed mouth smile or you might be grinding sand in your teeth for a few days like we were.
11) Waipu Glow Worm Caves
There are quite a few glow worm caves in New Zealand but we decided to skip the tourist lines at some of the more popular ones and find one that we could explore ourselves. Which led us to the Waipu caves. Totally free and had hundreds upon hundreds of glow worms that glowed blue in the pitch black caves! It was a truly unique and 100% pure New Zealand experience! So if you feel like adventuring through a dark cave to find yourself some glow worms we recommend heading to the Waipu caves! Don’t forget a head lamp! The bonus of visiting these caves, you’re allowed to take photos, all of the ‘commercial’ ones don’t allow photography. Just make sure you learn how to keep your shutter open for at least 30 seconds to capture these blue specs!
It’s really hard to miss this massive city on the North Island as most people’s flights land here upon arrival to New Zealand. A visit to their harbour is a must and don’t forget to take a stroll down the famous (and extremely busy) Queen’s street. This is where all the action seems to happen in Auckland. You can find great food vendors all along this wonderful street. Make sure hit up the world’s smallest Gelato shop! The Sky Tower lines the sky (obviously) so make sure you visit that famous building, if you’re feeling brave you can even head to the top and face your fear of heights!
13) Hamilton Gardens
Walking through these gardens is like walking through some sort of time warp. You could go from a Medieval Garden to a Modern Garden to a Victorian Garden within a matter of ten minutes. Each Garden is so well done and beautiful, making it impossible not to be captivated. You can truly get lost (physically and mentally) in this sanctuary.
14) Hamurana Springs
This is a pretty unique site and one that is easy to miss, in fact we drove right past it while we were trying to find it the first time! The spring water travels over 70 years before emerging from the underground aquifers. It’s over 920 feet above sea level and spits out around 4.5 million litres of water per hour and usually sits around 10 degrees Celsius. This is one crazy spring, the bonus part of visiting this site is you have to take a mini hike to reach your destination. The path is lined with tons of trees and vegetation and even some Red Woods! It’s extremely cool.
If those places don’t convince you that the North Island is worth a visit then we honestly don’t know what would convince you. Every single one of these places made our trip around the North Island worth it and gave us a unique experience. Make sure if you ever get the chance to explore New Zealand you don’t skip over these gems or the North Island!
Have you been to any of these places? Which one was your favourite?
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