Discover New Zealand’s North Island

Discover New Zealand’s North Island

In this article we’d like to introduce you to New Zealand’s North Island and a few of the major highlights you really should not miss. The North Island – known to the indigenous Maori as Te Ika-a-Maui – is the world’s 14th largest island and encompasses 8 cities, numerous magnificent Kauri forests, fascinating caves, beautiful beaches and breathtaking volcanic landscapes.

This is also where you will learn most about the Maori culture and traditions. It is simply a place of fun and adventure, where you can explore, discover and relax and certainly will have memorable experiences that will last you a life-time.

Here is some of the most fascinating locations and activities the North Island has to offer:

    • Auckland As most people start their adventure in “The City of Sails“ we have prepared a separate article on Auckland.

    • Black Water Rafting is a must for anyone looking for a mix of excitement, adventure, breathtaking landscapes and relaxation. Explore the mysteries of the Waitomo Caves – a stunning network of underground tunnels. Don’t forget to pack a bit of courage, a towel and your togs when you decide to glide past stalactites and stalagmites sitting on a rubber tyre or go abseiling. Visiting the world famous cathedral-like Waitomo Cave filled with thousands of glow worms is a rather surreal experience.

    • Cape Reinga is the northwestern most point of the North Island. It is of great significance to the Maories and considered a sacred place. According to Maori mythology the souls of the deceased descend from Cape Reinga to start their long journey back to Hawaiki, the land polynesian people see as their place of origin. The lighthouse at the tip of Cape Reinga is a very popular tourist destination and the walkway from the car park is lined with signs telling you all about Maori mythology.

    • Huka Falls, part of the Waikato River – one of New Zealand’s longest rivers, are among the country’s most popular nature attractions. Huka means “foam” in Maori and once you’ve been there you will understand. 220,000 liters of water per second pour down an 11m stone abyss creating a large pool of foam. You can either watch the natural spectacle from a footbridge close to the car park or you can hike a 7km track along the river bank.

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach

  • Hot Water Beach is basically a humungous thermal pool that you can build yourself. Located in the Coromandel Peninsula you’re best to go within 2 hours either side of low tide. Bring your own bucket and spade unless you’re willing to pay for hiring expensive equipment at the local shops. Start digging and watch your pool fill up with hot water rich in minerals from underground springs. Use the bucket to collect ocean water to bring your pool down to a comfortable temperature without getting burnt.

  • Kauri Coast – Kauri trees can grow up to 60m tall and more than 10m in circumference which makes them the world’s third largest tree. They grow extremely slow and most of them are over 2000 years old. The Kauri Museum is Matakohe is always worth a visit telling you lots of interesting facts about these giants, how the wood is used and what role the Kauri trees play in Maori culture. The Kauri Coast stretches along the west coast of the upper North Island. Don’t forget to visit Tane Mahuta – the Lord of the Forest. It’s the largest known Kauri tree still standing today with an estimated age of up to 2500 years.

  • Mount Taranaki – This volcano is the country’s most climbed mountain and surrounded by scenic Egmont National Parl. You don’t need any special rock climbing equipment to get to the top, yet the quickly changing weather especially in winter can be rather challenging. Inexperienced people should therefore not attempt the climb unguided. Mount Taranaki became famous in the movie “The Last Samurai” where it posed as the majestic Fujiyama in Japan.

  • Ninety Mile Beach – One of the main attractions along this seemingly endless beach are some massive sand dunes. You can hire a quadbike to explore them further and you will soon feel like you’re in the middle of Africa. Ninety Mile Beach which is actually 90km long and therefore only 63 miles is also a sand surfer’s paradise and part of the official road network. Due to the changing tides and areas of quicksand you should, however, be an experienced driver and have a 4WD vehicle if you attempt to go on the beach.

  • Rotorua – Being the probably worst smelling town in the country Rotorua is nicknamed Sulphur City. This is due to the constant smell of sulphur from the numerous geothermal springs lingering in the air. Tourists love exploring the geothermal sights including hot springs, geysirs and mud pools surrounding the town.

    Champagne Pools at Wai-o-tapu (Rotorua)

    Champagne Pools at Wai-o-tapu (Rotorua)

  • Te Awamutu is also called “Rose Town of New Zealand”. Every year between November and April it blooms with more than 2000 rose trees and is therefore a beloved destination for anyone with a green thumb. It is also the home town of one of some of the members of New Zealand’s most popular bands: Crowded House.

  • Taupo – Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand and offers a vast range of outdoor activities: hiking, fishing, water sports, skydiving and more. If you’re an adventurer this is the place to go!

  • Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest National Park (1887). It is most renown for the one day hike “Tongariro Crossing” – part of one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks. It’s 17km long and quite challenging at times, yet thousands of tourists master it every year. The UNESCO has acknowledged Tongariro National Park as one of its worldwide 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Site as the rivers and mountains encompassed by it play a significant role in Maori culture. The 3 still active volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu offer spectacular views all the way to Lake Taupo. Ruapehu also became famous as Mount Doom in the epic drama “Lord of the Rings”. Read more about New Zealand’s National Parks in this article.

  • Wellington – It may not be the country’s largest city, but Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. For a long time it has been known as the centre for cultural activities as well as arts and crafts. Various museums and festivals now also make it the centre of New Zealand’s film and theatre industry. You will find colonial style villas, a busy port and numerous vinyards in case you fancy some wine tasting.

The Work-Travel-Fun New Zealand team is more than happy to assist you organizing your travel plans.

If you’d like to learn more about the South Island please follow this link.

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