11 must-do North Island experiences

Factor some of these fabulous attractions into your North Island itinerary and your trip will fill to the brim with all the brilliant bits in between.

Cruise the Hauraki Gulf

Auckland city is a real stunner, especially when surveyed across the sparkling waters of the Hauraki Gulf.

Cruise, sail or kayak around its many easy-to-reach islands, from iconic Rangitoto volcano with its essential summit views, to Tiritiri Matangi bird sanctuary and indulgent Waiheke Island with its fine wine and dining.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing 

Is this really one of the world’s best day hikes? You be the judge on this journey up and over two active volcanoes in The Lord of the Rings territory.

A bright red crater, emerald lakes and steamy fumeroles are just some of the surreal sights in Tongariro National Park, which can be explored on many other trails, too.

Waitomo Caves

Rocky outcrops are the first sign that another world awaits below Waitomo, but the big reveal is almost beyond belief. This amazing maze of limestone caves – lined with stalagmites, stalagtites, and galaxies of glowworms – can be explored on a guided walk or boat tour, or a thrilling Black Water Rafting trip through subterranean waterways.

Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua

Few road trips are as magical as Northland’s Twin Coast Highway, which traces a seemingly endless procession of beautiful beaches and harbours, and reaches the remote extremety of Cape Reinga. Also known as Te Rerenga Wairua, this unforgettable place is where spirits are said to leap off on their final journey, across the swirling waters where two oceans meet.

Geothermal Wonders, Rotorua

Rotorua’s volcanic landscape is unique in all Oceania. Among many eye-popping sights are Te Puia's bubbling mud pools, colourful silica terraces and thrilling Pohutu Geyser which create a dramatic backdrop to equally colourful Māori art and culture. Wai O Tapu's eerie chasms and Champagne Pool are also must-sees, along with the prehistoric landscape of Waimangu.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel 

Mother nature puts on a particularly glittering show along this stretch of Coromandel Coast lined with golden sand and majestic limestone formations. With its glorious arch, Cathedral Cove is essential viewing and is a great excuse for a bush walk, kayak trip or scenic cruise. Hot Water Beach to the south is another must-see.

Hobbiton Movie Set

Middle‑earth comes to life in the lush, green Waikato countryside where scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed. Put yourself in the picture on a spellbinding tour of the permanent movie set with its Hobbit holes, Party Tree, and the Green Dragon Inn where you can make merry with a pint of Southfarthing ale. More about Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tour.

Auckland’s West Coast

Epic beaches, legendary surf, rugged rockforms and classic Kiwi beach culture – Auckland’s wild west coast feels a world away from downtown. Hit the waves, go hiking, watch wildlife and waterfalls, or just kick back and relax at stunning black-sand beaches such as Muriwai, Karekare and the surfing hotspot Piha with its iconic Lion Rock.

Whakaari/White Island

Nothing can prepare you for the intensity of New Zealand’s most active volcano, a crater-shaped island steaming non-stop nearly 50km off the Bay of Plenty coast. Bubbling mud, egg-yellow sulphur deposits, vents roaring with eye-watering gases and a super-creepy lake of steaming acid… Surely humans couldn’t ever have inhabited this alien place?

Taupō adrenaline buzz

You’ll want to keep your eyes wide open for this one – the unforgettable freefall into one of the world’s most dramatic skydiving dropzones. But the big leap isn’t the only bucket-list adrenaline buzz to tick off in Taupō. Bungy jumping, parasailing, jet boating and whitewater rafting are just some of the other antics you can get up to.

Rotorua's healing waters

Relaxation, health, wellness, beauty… Rotorua serves up all this goodness in dozens of natural hot pools and some of the world's best spa facilities. Delight in a massage at the lakeside Polynesian Spa, bathe in healing mud at Hell’s Gate, or discover thermal pools hidden amongst the forest at Kerosene Creek or Lake Tarawera’s Hot Water Beach.

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