New Zealand’s north island is one of the most beautiful places in the world. This wonderful country features lakes and gardens to relax in, or bungy jumping and whitewater rafting for the more adventurous among us! It is one of my favourite places that I’ve ever been for its mixture of adventure and stunning nature.
New Zealand’s north island has something for everyone. Our favourite way to experience it was to hire a car from Europecar and do it our own way. Read on below to find my favourite things about one of the most scenic places in the world.
Starting at top of the island, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand. Often mistaken for the national capital (sorry, Wellington!), Auckland has a great nightlife and arts scene. Check out trendy Ponsonby for cafes and galleries before hitting the town in the nearby Britomart area. If that’s too classy and expensive for you (it was for me, but I prefer dive bars) head to K-Road. As well as being backpacker central it is also Auckland’s gay district. You’ll always a way to drink and dance in this city.
For less hangover-inducing activities, Auckland still has the goods. Check out the city from above by climbing to the top of Sky Tower. Get a 360-degree view of the city and have lunch looking over Auckland, Mount Wellington and the surrounding region. If it’s in season spend the afternoon or evening watching the local rugby league team, the New Zealand Warriors, or one of the various union teams. It is the national sport after all.
One of the highlights of any trip to New Zealand’s north island is definitely the Waitomo glow worm caves. These worms (they’re actually maggots; maybe calling them worms is better for marketing haha) hang from the tops of the cave. Their glowing bodies are used to attract small insect prey for them to feed on. To us, they look like a starry night as you lie in a tube and flow casually down the river. Just don’t think about the eels in the water below!
After drying off, try checking out Hamilton Gardens. Wander through this public park and look at different garden styles from around the world. The complex features a zen-Chinese style garden, Indian orchids, a 1960s Americana and more. It’s the perfect spot to wander and have some lunch.
If you’re someone who enjoys the outdoors and hiking then I can highly recommend the Pinnacles Walk. Located around 20 minutes from Thames, the walk is one of the most popular overnight adventures on New Zealand’s north island. The track follows the river before ascending into the Coromandel Peninsula. The walk is an easy trek of only around 3 hours. Near the top, you can find the Pinnacles Hut. This hut has bunk beds to sleep up to 80 people along with a kitchen and all utensils provided. Stay the night and wake early the next day to climb the final 40 minutes or so and take in the sunrise from the peak. It gives an incredible 360-degree view of the surrounding valley. On a clear day, you can even see the Bay of Plenty to the north.
Please note that you will need to book the Pinnacles Hut and a small fee applies. However, in the off-season, it rarely fills up.
You might be ready to wind down after a hike into the mountains but Rotorua has other ideas! This is the place to be for all the fun and quirky things you could want. For something different why not try out the Zorb? Put your swimmers on and whirl around this giant ball as you hurtle down the hill. It’s like being in a giant washing machine.
Also in the area is the famous Hobbiton for all of you Lord of the Rings fans. The site was found in 1998 by Peter Jackson while location scouting for the films. Many of the hobbit holes and movie sets were left behind and fell into disrepair following the completion of the original trilogy. However, as part of the deal struck with the landowners for the making of The Hobbit, the area has now been transformed permanently into The Shire. Wander the grounds, sit under the party tree or have a pint at The Green Dragon Inn. This is a must do for any middle earth fan!
You can also find in the area around Rotorua the famous geothermal landscapes. The area is surrounded by hot springs, geysers, and pools with steam rising from the top. Perhaps the best place to view these natural marvels is the Waio-Ta-Pu thermal wonderland. Wander through volcanic vistas and bubbling mud pools like something you would see in a sci-fi movie. The colourful landscape is perfect for photography as you walk right up and into the hot pools.
New Zealand is famous for its adrenaline-fuelled sports and activities. If that sounds like your thing then Lake Taupo is the place to be! Taupo Bungy is located in the centre of Taupo and offers the highest water touch bungy jump in New Zealand. If that’s not enough, you can also try the cliff swing while you’re there before going skydiving in the afternoon.
If relaxing is more your thing then set out for the spectacular Huka Falls. Millions of litres of water crash over these falls every minute as they flow down the Waikato River. Walk around 20 minutes further up from the falls and you’ll find the Otumuheke Stream. The stream is a system of small, thermal pools to relax in. Have a natural hot spa as you watch the river flow by in front of you. For more adventures in Lake Taupo, my favourite part of New Zealand, check out my article here.