Active volcanoes, island sanctuaries and history top the list when visiting New Zealand's North Island. From the far north where New Zealand’s political history began, journey through landscapes that blend magnificent beaches, sprawling farmlands and geothermal wonders. Maori culture is rich and ever-present in many parts of the North Island. In this blog we give you the run-down on some of the North Island’s top destinations.
Cape Reinga offers the ultimate northern New Zealand experience. See two oceans collide and discover the place of leaping, where Maori spirits begin their final journey. At the Cape, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a spectacular swirl of currents. At the northernmost tip of the Cape is a gnarled pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old. According to Maori oral history, the spirits of deceased Maori leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.
While it’s not quite the most northern point of New Zealand (North Cape is further north, but it’s a scientific reserve and not open to the public), Cape Reinga is definitely the end of the road.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a subtropical micro-region known for its stunning beauty and history. For those that love beaches and water activities, it is paradise. A three-hour drive or 35 minute flight north of Auckland, the Bay of Islands encompasses 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula and includes the boutique towns of Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri.
There are various excellent trips by sea or air to the spectacular Cape Brett and the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island. On land, enjoy beautiful river and seaside walking tracks or encounter the mighty Kauri Tree in pristine subtropical rainforest. Embark on a voyage of discovery and enjoy the beauty of this area when you join a daily cruise, charter a yacht or hire a sea kayak. Once you’re around Tapeka Point - just north of Russell - you’ll enter a maritime adventure playground with an abundance of wildlife including penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, gannets and more.
Rated as the third most liveable city in the world, Auckland is a place where vibrant city style and spectacular landscapes go hand in hand. Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping, and you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland, the largest and most diverse city in New Zealand. More than just a city, Auckland is a whole region full of things to see and do. Best of all, with so many experiences close by it’s easy to hop from one adventure to the next.
The Coromandel, renowned for its pristine beaches, misty forests and laid-back vibe, is one of New Zealand's most popular holiday destinations. A binocular’s view across the gulf from Auckland, The Coromandel is everything that a big city isn’t. With a mountainous interior cloaked in native rainforest and more than 400 kilometres of dazzling white sand beaches, it is rustic, unspoiled and relaxed.
Activities and attractions are plentiful, from fishing and diving to hiking and cycling. You might choose skydiving in Whitianga or a guided sea kayak tour around the coast. For the more adventurous there's Sleeping God Canyon, a 300m vertical descent down a set of waterfalls.
Rotorua is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, as well as showcasing our fascinating Maori culture. From crystal-clear streams and magical forests, to epic biking trails and explosive geysers, Rotorua has it all. The city offers a raft of attractions and experiences for everyone from adventure-seekers to those just looking to unwind.
Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with bubbling mud pools, clouds of steam, and natural hot springs perfect for bathing and relaxing in. After marvelling at the distinctive landscapes and volcanic activity within a geothermal park, enjoy a simple soak in a natural hot stream or indulge in a wellness getaway at a luxurious spa.
The beautiful Lake Taupo is about the size of Singapore – more of an inland sea really. Lake Taupo was created nearly two thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption so big it darkened the skies in Europe and China. Visit the Craters of the Moon and you'll see evidence of the lake's fiery birth in the geysers, steaming craters and boiling mud pools. At some of Lake Taupo's beaches, swimmers and paddlers can enjoy warm, geothermal water currents.
Taupo is a great lake for water-skiing, sailing and kayaking. The Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be seen from the water, make for a great boat trip or kayaking excursion. The forests surrounding the lake offer hiking and mountain biking to suit all levels of experience. But what Lake Taupo is really known for is fishing; the town of Turangi has the largest natural trout fishery in the world. Turangi also happens to provide a convenient base for exploring Tongariro National Park, whether it be walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (New Zealand's most popular day walk) or skiing at Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields.
Beautifully preserved 1930s architecture is Napier's special point of difference. A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. In 1931 a massive earthquake rocked Hawke's Bay for more than three minutes, killing nearly 260 and destroying the commercial centre of Napier.
Rebuilding began almost immediately, and new buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco. Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright, had his chance to shine. Maori motifs were employed to give the city a unique New Zealand character - for example, the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets features Maori koru and zigzags.
Situated at the southern end of the North Island, Wellington, New Zealand, was recently named "the coolest little capital in the world" by Lonely Planet. Surrounded by nature and fuelled by creative energy, Wellington is a compact city with a powerful mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine. Fuel your visit with strong coffee and world-class craft beer – Wellingtonians are masters of casual dining, with plenty of great restaurants, night markets and food trucks.
Relax at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden-sand inner-city beach and delve into the many museums, art galleries and theatre shows that make up the city’s pulsing cultural scene. If you’re into the outdoors, Wellington has action-packed adventure activities like mountain biking and sea-water kayaking, as well as beautiful walks around the harbour and surrounding hills.
If you feel inspired to visit New Zealand, check out our New Zealand holidays at fcholidays.com/new-zealand/itineraries