11 MUST-DO NORTH ISLAND EXPERIENCES

Golden and black volcanic sand beaches line the coasts of the North Island and geothermal wonders weave their way around lush native forests.

Make sure to add these top experiences to your wish list when travelling through the North Island.

1. Explore Waitomo Caves

Another world awaits below Waitomo, and the big reveal is almost beyond belief. Derived from a combination of Māori words, 'wai' translates as water and 'tomo' as entrance or hole, this aptly named underground world is made up of a maze of limestone caves – lined with stalagmites, stalactites, and galaxies of glowworms. Explore the caves on a guided walk or boat tour or a thrilling Black Water Rafting trip through subterranean waterways.

2. Eat and drink your way around Wellington

New Zealand's quirky little capital is a must-visit for the foodies. Stroll down Hannah's Laneway to taste Wellington-made artisan peanut butter at Fix and Fogg.(opens in new window) 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 deep pride in coffee culture mean great coffee is easy to come by. Sample the products of a thriving craft beer scene at spots like Garage Project in the bohemian Aro Valley.

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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 Mount Taranaki, 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. Immerse yourself in Māori culture in Rotorua

Rich in Māori heritage, Rotorua is an ideal location to learn and immerse yourself in the culture, history and traditions of our indigenous people. Visit Te Puia(opens in new window) to experience the geothermal wonderland by night, check out pounamu carving workshops around the city, or for a completely immersive experience, choose an overnight stay at Tamaki Māori Village(opens in new window).

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6. Feel the sand between your toes on The Coromandel's golden beaches

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. Visit the secluded white sandy beach of New Chums beach(opens in new window), just found on the northern end of Whangapoua Beach. Hot Water Beach, only a short drive from Cathedral Cove, is another must-see - and make sure you bring a shovel with you!

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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. Wine and dine 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. 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. Step back in time to an Art Deco world in Napier

Street after street of stunning and beautifully-restored Art Deco buildings have made Napier famous for being one of the most complete collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. Learn more about the fascinating history of Napier’s pre and post-earthquake buildings with a 2-hour walking tour, or let experienced guides chauffeur you in a vintage car an Art Deco Vintage car tour(opens in new window).

Napier is also home to many wineries including the country's oldest winery, Mission Estate Winery(opens in new window). Go on a wine tasting tour and visit some of the greats such as Church Road Winery(opens in new window), Te Mata Estate(opens in new window) and Craggy Range(opens in new window).

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