11 must-do North Island experiences

From cone shaped mountains to picturesque golden beaches, geothermal wonders, and just as many Lord of the Rings-inspired locations, add these fabulous attractions into your North Island itinerary.

1. Explore Waitomo Caves

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

2. Eat and drink your way through Wellington

New Zealand's quirky little capital has an outstanding foodie scene.

Try locally-famous salted caramel cookies at Leeds Street Bakery(opens in new window), or seasonal dishes paired with organic wines at Shepherd(opens in new window).

On the beverage front, Wellington's many cafes take their coffee seriously. Talented baristas, locally roasted beans and a deep pride in coffee culture means great coffee is easy to come by.

Sample the products of a thriving craft beer scene at spots like Garage Project(opens in new window) in the bohemian Aro Valley.

Find the best beer spot

3. Walk the Pouakai Crossing

The Pouakai Crossing(opens in new window) is a 19-kilometre trail that takes in the highlights of Egmont National Park. Winding across the slopes of the mighty Taranaki Maunga, this track is one of the best full-day hikes in the North Island. You'll get spectacular views, particularly at the picturesque Pouakai tarns. On a clear, calm day, these small alpine pools reflect the mountain perfectly, offering unmissable photo opportunities.

4. See the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet in 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 extremity 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.

5. Learn about Māori culture in Rotorua

Rotorua is rich in Māori heritage, making it the ideal location to learn more about the culture, history and traditions of New Zealand's indigenous people.

Visit Te Puia(opens in new window) to see Māori cultural performances and art, as well as unique experiences such as enjoying a steam hāngi. 

Or for a completely immersive experience, choose an overnight stay at Te Pā Tū(opens in new window) previously known as Tamaki Māori Village.

6. Marvel at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel

The Coromandel is famous for its golden beaches. The most famous is Cathedral Cove, which features a majestic limestone archway.

You can reach this stunning beach via a short coastal walk, on a kayak trip, or by taking a scenic cruise. 

Hot Water Beach, only a short drive from Cathedral Cove, is another must-see.

7. Visit Hobbiton

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. Go on the Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tour(opens in new window) and 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.

8. Snorkel or dive Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve

Beneath the water around the Poor Knights Islands lie caves, arches, cliffs and tunnels, creating a submarine playground to explore. The unique biodiversity of this marine reserve make it an excellent diving or snorkelling location. Jacques Cousteau famously rated the Poor Knights Islands as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world.

On the boat trip out to the islands, located 23 kilometres off the Tutukaka Coast in Northland, you might spot dolphins, orca, or Bryde's whales.

9. Indulge on Waiheke Island

Just a short ferry ride away from Auckland, you will find the vineyards, olive groves and white sandy beaches of Waiheke Island

Choose to explore with a wine tour or go at your own pace by hiring a bike or a scooter. Make sure you visit famous vineyards such as Stonyridge(opens in new window) and Mudbrick(opens in new window).

10. Chase waterfalls in Taupō

Fed by the mighty Waikato River, Lake Taupō and the Taupō region is abundant with water and waterfalls.

Huka Falls is a thunderous fall where nearly a quarter of a million litres of water bursts through a natural gorge. You can visit Huka Falls via a short walking track to a viewing platform, or for an added thrill take a jet boat ride up the river, close enough to the base of the falls that you will feel spray on your face.

Other spectacular falls in Taupō include Otupoto Falls, where the water comes out of a cliff and falls straight into Lake Taupō, and Tieke Falls, which you can reach via the popular Waihaha River Cycle Trail(opens in new window).

11. Bathe in Rotorua's healing geothermal waters

Rotorua's naturally hot and therapeutic waters are perfect for relaxation, health, wellness and beauty.

Enjoy a natural hot pool and some of the world's best spa facilities. Delight in a massage at the lakeside Polynesian Spa(opens in new window), bathe in healing mud at Hell’s Gate(opens in new window), or Lake Tarawera’s Hot Water Beach.

Discover your North Island adventure

Find more things to do in Auckland and Waiheke Island

Find more things to do in Rotorua

Find more things to do in Wellington

See other journeys in the North Island