New Zealand’s North Island’s stunning landscape alongside it’s multitude of activities and interesting places to visit, proves an ideal holiday destination for everyone.
Listed below in no particular order, are 13 special places to visit within the North Island. All highly recommended and some at free entry and others at a cost.
Whatever you choose to do in New Zealand, there will always be spectacular views, fascinating history and friendly kiwi hospitality to welcome you.
Step back into the world created by J.R.R.Tolkien at the Hobbiton Movie Set. Located on an amazing 1250 acre sheep and beef farm on the outskirts of Matamata, this is an exciting place to visit for any “The Lord of The Rings” fan! This country setting of “The Shire” home of the hobbits, was where the magic transpired, as both The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies were filmed here.
Relive the enchanting story of The Shire and Bag End through the guided two hour tour. More information can be found here.
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa
The archaeological site of Te Wairoa retells the tale of New Zealand’s greatest natural disaster. The violent volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera in the early hours of June 10, 1886, triggered several earthquakes which subsequently effected the nearby village of Te Wairoa. Te Wairoa’s settlement of Europeans and local Maori residents which was established in 1848 was sadly destroyed in 1886 killing around 150 people.
Today, after converting the village into a historic museum and archaeological site, locals and tourists gain knowledge and important information of what once was at the now Buried Village of Te Wairoa.
Native bush trails and the impressive Wairere Waterfall can also be enjoyed at this unique attraction of New Zealand.
The Blue and Green Lakes
These two neighbouring lakes both different in size and colour are only 12 kms from Rotorua. On a clear sunny day, they are both distinct in intensity. On the way to Lake Tarawera, the Blue and Green Lakes are stunning to view and in Summer months, popular for picnics and walks.
Read more about the Blue and Green Lakes here.
The charming seaside town of Russell is located at the very top of New Zealand’s North Island. It is a short ferry ride from the mainland town of Paihia.
For a very brief period during the first European settlement, Russell was New Zealand’s first capital city from 1840-1841. Formerly known as Kororareka, Russell is rich in history with many stories to tell. In fact, the Maori legend tells that once upon a time, a Maori chief, who was wounded in battle, drank penguin broth to heal him, declaring “Ka reka te koroa” (how sweet is the penguin) Therefore revealing, Kororareka. Korora (the blue penguin) and reka (sweet).
Enjoy the many cafes, restaurants and galleries amidst the colonial style atmosphere in Russell.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Waitomo Glowworm cave is one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions. These mystical grottos are home to thousands and thousands of magical glowworms.
At Waitomo, you can take an exclusive boat ride through the caves under the galaxy of these marvellous little creatures in their own natural habitat. Photographs are not permitted though to protect these special species.
Alongside the glowworm cave, there are another two different caves to visit and for the adventurous at heart, why not try the Black Water River Rafting Experience!
More information can be found here.
New Zealand’s beloved holiday destination, Taupo is home to Australasia’s largest lake and this major tourist destination is located right in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island. Taupo is an exceptional base to explore the central region of the island.
Alongside trendy cafes and award winning restaurants, there are many activities and attractions around Taupo. Though only a small town it is packed with adventure activities both on the water and on land.
Bike ride along the Waikato River Trail. Visit the mighty Huka Falls from land or on a thrilling jet boat over the river rapids. Experience the bungy jump, with New Zealand’s highest water touch bungy jump in Taupo or enjoy the views from 12,000 feet above when skydiving in the countries largest skydive zone.
The Coromandel Peninsula offers dazzling coastlines, spectacular scenery and a definite sense of being one with nature. The surrounding natural environment of lush rainforests and coastal hideaways are breathtaking. Another adventurous region of New Zealand’s North Island, Coromandel is New Zealand’s slice of paradise.
Don’t miss the antique shopping in Paeroa and The Big Paeroa drink bottle icon, the hot pools at Hot Water Beach Te Puia, a scenic boat trip or kayak at Cathedral Cove, bike riding through Haurkaki Rail Trail and exploring the tunnels at Karangahake Gorge.
Tamaki Maori Village
Maori tradition, custom and storytelling in an unforgettable evening at Tamaki Maori Village. This authentic ancient forest village experience is New Zealand’s most awarded cultural attraction.
Wandering through the village and learning from the Maori people is a personal and educational experience you cannot find in any textbook. Activities of an era gone by, such as stick and hand games and reciting chants, are recreated and performed by the younger people, enforcing traditions and skills to continue.
Traditional Hangi feasts, singing and dancing and genuine Maori hospitality generate a night of wonderful memories at Tamaki Maori Village.
Orakei Korako Geothermal Village
Orakei Korako “the place of adorning”, is undoubtably, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest geothermal areas.
Located within the Rotorua-Taupo region of New Zealand, Orakei Korako is not as well-known as the other thermal attractions of Rotorua. Some may say this hidden wonderland is “off the beaten track”. But, within the Taupo volcanic zone, Orakei Korako is only a 25-minute drive from Taupo and a 45-minute drive from Rotorua, allowing easy access from both neighbouring cities.
Active geysers and bubbling mud pools among beautiful lush bushland surrounds create an extraordinary unique geothermal experience.
Click here for information about Orakei Korako
Te Papa Museum, Wellington
New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, is situated at the southern tip of the North Island. With it’s quirky cafes and award winning restaurants, there is so much to this small yet generous city.
If there is one thing not to miss in the capital city, it is the Te Papa Museum. (Te Papa meaning “Our Place”). It is here among the historic wool sheds of Wellington, which now house popular bars and restaurants, that you will find the modern and innovative National Museum of New Zealand.
With five fascinating floors (six including the viewing terrace on the top floor) of treasures and extraordinary stories of New Zealand, discover Maori and Pacific history, culture and art.
One exhibition not to miss at Te Papa Museum is Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War. In conjunction with the special effects and prop company Weta Workshop, this monumental exhibition tells the story of eight New Zealand war veterans and their incredible circumstances. Each veteran captured frozen in time on a mammoth scale – 2.4 times human size! Each giant sculpture taking 24,000 hours to create.
This significant exhibition brings New Zealand’s tale of Gallipoli to life.
Otherwise known as “the fruit bowl of New Zealand”, Hawke’s Bay is an agricultural paradise on the east coast of the North Island. The diversity of the rich land of this region generate New Zealand’s finest fresh produce. Wineries are renowned for their Chardonnay and gourmet artisan producers offer local specialties such as olive oils, cider, chocolates, cheese, and honey.
Famous landmarks of this region include Cape Kidnappers, where the largest mainland bird colony of gannets reside or Te Mata Peak, where stunning views of Hawke’s Bay can be seen by foot, bike or car.
The main city of Hawke’s Bay is Napier. The true Art Deco style has remained an important focal point of the town. The reflection of a bygone era through beautifully restored Art Deco buildings and architecture has resulted in world notability. Every year in February, the Art Deco Festival, held in Napier attracts thousands, locally and from around the globe.
Tongariro National Park and Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro National Park and Alpine Crossing is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site. Praised for New Zealand’s best one day trek, this hike across volcanic alpine terrain is a challenging yet remarkable experience. Easily achieved in one day, make sure you are prepared for all conditions before venturing out to this North Island wonder.
More information about the crossing can be found here.
There are many waterfalls within New Zealand and the Whangarei Falls are a classic curtain waterfall, popular for walks and picnics on New Zealand’s North Island.
The picturesque Whangarei Falls stand 26.3m high and majestically drop over a basalt cliff. With almost half of the population of Whangarei consisting of Maori, Maori influence remain strong in Whangarei. Many legends are still told today, and the importance of sacred ground prevails. It is reported that the base of the Whangarei Falls may have once been tapu (sacred) as the pool below the waterfall was once used by Maori tribes for washing the wounded and was known to Maori as the place for healing. Today the waterfalls attract many tourists. From the car park there is an easy two-minute walking track to view the falls from street level. The steep decline to the bottom is not too far, though may not be suitable for those with walking difficulties.
Have you visited any of these special places before? Drop me a line in the comments below. I’d love to hear all about it.