The North Island of New Zealand is probably one of the most diverse and varied places in the world. In addition to New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, there is plenty to do and see. We were on our world trip a two month New Zealand road trip.
One of New Zealand’s North Island highlights is and remains Auckland – the largest city in the country. This city is as varied and diverse as New Zealand itself. Here it is lively too. Auckland is considered a center for culture, good food, art and action.
It is not without reason that it is the third most praiseworthy city in the world. This is due to the mixture of metropolis and beaches, hiking trails, small islands, sunny climate and a very special way of life. The people here also love excellent food, wine and shopping – and you can tell that at every corner.
From the hustle and bustle in the city center, you are within minutes on or on the water.
Auckland has two major ports from where you can start boat trips. How about a ride on one of the big yachts or sailboats? On Dolphin Explorer tours you can watch dolphins and whales in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Marine Reserve. Another nice alternative for a trip on the water is the ferry to Devonport.
On land, you can visit the city’s oldest park, the Auckland Domain . He is on an extinct volcano and that alone makes him so special. Here you will find a very well-kept park and historic greenhouses.
Walks and walks are also worthwhile on the many small islands of the Hauraki Gulf . For example, there is the spectacular black volcanic island of Rangitoto in the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke Island, Motuihe Island and Kawau Island also invite you to relax, enjoy and hike .
If you want to get a bit closer to nature, visit the nature reserve on Tiritiri Matangi, where many endangered animals live here. By the way, you have a great view over Auckland and the surrounding nature from the Sky Tower on Queen Street.
2. Piha Beach
Although it belongs to Auckland, but is definitely worth a separate paragraph. The Piha Beach is located on the rugged West Coast of Auckland and is a popular surfing beach. The special feature is rather its picturesque ambience and especially its warm black sand beach !
From Auckland you can get to Piha Beach via various hiking trails. You can see a bit more of the green surroundings of the city. Piha itself is a coastal town. It is located about 45 minutes west of Auckland.
In the summer you can see with some luck the most typical New Zealand birds, the kiwis. The beach really looks like painted and is framed by a cliff landscape.
At Piha Beach you can also take surf lessons. For a refreshment in between cafes and bars provide. You can even stay a few days, because there are many different accommodation options, such as rented beach houses, campers, but also bed and breakfasts and campsites.
3. Whangamumu Bay
The Northland region of northern New Zealand is home to the beautiful natural harbor of Whangamumu Bay . The bay consists of two peninsulas. The rocks here are up to 150 meters high. The natural harbor merges almost seamlessly into the Pacific Ocean.
That was probably the reason for the existing whaling station from 1844 to 1942, today’s Old Whaling Station . There you can go hiking and watch the history of Whangamumu Bay live. There are rusty remains of the station everywhere and the scenery is beautiful! Nothing shows more of the grisly business.
In the Old Whaling Station not only whales were caught, but also their meat processed. The facility is considered the most efficient and longest-run whaling station in the area. Luckily you only find relics from that time and the whale station does not exist anymore.
But nevertheless it is worth a trip to Whangamumu Bay, just because of the beautiful natural harbor and the surrounding area. By the way, we were completely alone there at the time, whether that is still the case today?
4. Haruru Falls
The Haruru Falls is a waterfall on the Waitangi River. He has his name from the nearby settlement Haruru at Paihia. The waterfall is about five meters high. Translated, Haruru means “thunderous noise” in the Maori language.
There is a beautiful hiking trail here, the Haruru Falls Track , which leads directly to the waterfall. And although it is “just” a small waterfall, it is well worth a visit. The trail is about 10 kilometers long and is considered family friendly.
In about three hours you walk along the Hutia Creek, through beautiful mangrove forests until you finally arrive at the waterfall. Because of their shape reminiscent of a horseshoe, the Haruru Falls are also called “Little Niagara Falls”.
A hike is also worthwhile because you can see many native animals, such as Cormorants and Tuis on the way. There are even swimming opportunities at the waterfalls, which makes it very exciting especially for children.
If you are too lazy to hike, you can also go there directly by car.
5. Waipoua Forest
The largest tree native to New Zealand is the Kauri. You see this tree in the Waipoua Forest , a famous kauri forest near Dargaville. Waipoua Forest is considered the largest, original forest area in the north of the country.
Here are (still) some of the towering Kauri trees and you also see one or the other animal New Zealander. Through the forest leads directly to a highway, but we strongly recommend you to go for a walk and just to admire these giant trees. Unfortunately, they are severely threatened with extinction.
From the road, you can get to Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest tree , in just a few minutes . This kauri tree is about 2,000 years old and is still growing. It has a diameter of about 4.5 meters and has reached a height of about 18 meters. An absolute New Zealand North Island highlight!
In New Zealand, he is also called the “lord of the forest”. A particularly nice trip is the offered here twilight hike, which is carried out by native Maori guides. They not only take you to the most beautiful places in this forest, they also tell you a lot about flora, fauna and history.
6. Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is located in the north of New Zealand and offers unforgettable views of two clashing seas. In addition, Cape Reinga is considered a place of descent of the natives, the Maoris.
At this point on Earth, Cape Reinga, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet each other through breathtaking currents. And this place also has a mystical, traditional character.
At the northern end of Cape Reinga stands an old Pohutukawa tree . According to legend, this tree is more than 800 years old. According to Maori legends, the souls of deceased Maoris jump from here into the ocean.
Cape Reinga is considered to be the place of Maoris’ descent on her last journey to Hawaiki, the homeland of her ancestors. If you start from Kaitaia, it will take you about 1.5 hours to drive to Cape Reinga, but there are also guided bus tours that will take you to other New Zealand North Island highlights.
If you have some money and time, a flight to Cape Reinga is highly recommended.
7. Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is a peninsula with well-known and popular beaches, lots of forest and a very refreshing, relaxed atmosphere. The peninsula is therefore one of the most popular holiday destinations in New Zealand. Alone the coast road from Auckland to Coromandel is a highlight!
The Coromandel Peninsula is located near Auckland, framed by natural rainforest in the Hauraki Gulf. The bright white, dreamlike beaches run 400 kilometers along the coast, all around you will find old villages, rainforest and especially one thing: peace.
But the Coromandel peninsula is also very diverse and you can experience and see a lot here. How about a trip to the Waihi Gold Discovery Center and an old gold mine?
Unique is also the Hot Water Beach , under which runs a thermal spring. Here you can dig your own bathing hole and enjoy a warm bath in the middle of the beach.
Also popular is the Cathedral Cove , a cathedral-like tunnel that connects two of the beautiful sandy beaches and can be passed by kayak.
Definitely worth seeing is the Kauaeranga Valley with the Cookson Kauri Walk and the Wainora Kauri Trail . The trail from Wainora to Cookson Kaure and on to Wainora Kauri is about six kilometers long. The tour leads through dense rainforests and slightly mountainous area and to the giants of the forest, the Kauri trees.
8. Matamata, Hobbiton
All Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit fans beware: In New Zealand you will find an original filming location of the film series: Hobbiton. The area referred to in the film as Hobbiton in the Shire actually exists and is one of the top New Zealand North Island travel tips.
The place is located at Matamata on the property of the sheep farm of family Alexander. Allegedly, Hobbit director Peter Jackson has flown across the farm and has determined that he is the ideal location for Hobbiton.
Meanwhile, the former location with its scenes is a popular tourist destination. Hobbiton should continue to be preserved and can be run through as well as photographed.
There is even a small café there, the Green Dragon Inn , which offers hobbit drinks. There are guided hobbiton tours through the former film set. From Auckland it is approximately 170 kilometers to Matamata. You can arrive by car or use a bus shuttle.
9. Waitomo Caves
Who likes underground passages and caves should not miss the Waitomo Caves . They lie beneath the green hills of Waitomo and form a labyrinth of subterranean rivers, streams and caves.
Hence the name of the place. In the Maori Wai is called “water” and Tomo “hole”. Here you will find an unforgettable and almost unique wonder of nature. The Waitomo Caves are already thousands of years old and were washed by streams of water from limestone.
There are many stalactites growing from the ceiling and stalagmites growing out of the ground. Particularly beautiful are the local “fireflies” (which are not really, but mushroom gap larvae) , which dive the tunnels in a beautiful, but also mysterious way in mystical light.
You can explore the Waitomo Caves on foot, by boat, on zip lines or on blackwater rafting tours. By the way, before or after your visit to Waitomo Caves, a visit to Waitomo and its surroundings is also worthwhile.
Check out the local farm show demonstrations on how country life in New Zealand works, riding or visiting Kiwi House in Otorohanga. In Waitomo you can also find accommodations, small shops and you can easily reach the place from Auckland.
One of New Zealand’s northern attractions is Rotorua. This place is truly memorable and shaped by the fascinating Maori culture. Here you will find hot springs, geysers and bubbling mud holes, but also magical forests and crystal clear water.
In Rotorua you will find both adventurous corners, as well as unforgettable highlights of the country and relaxation. Rotorua is considered a geothermal wonderland. It lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, the most active volcanic belt in the world.
In this enchanted place meter-high geysers rush to the sky, bubbling mud holes and countless natural thermal springs, which invite you to swim. Alone the volcanic landscape is just worth seeing.
Look At Wai-o-Tapu to a 18km² large geothermal at. Or how about the Lady Knox and the Pohutu geysers ? The Lady Knox geyser is an artificial geyser in Waikato.
Located in Whakarewarewa Thermal Village , also known as Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao, Pohutu Geyser is the largest geyser in New Zealand. He can shoot his hot water up to 30 meters in height.
Alongside, you can enjoy the tradition and hospitality of the Maoris. On-site are typical meals and guided tours through a real Maori village. We really thought it was worth seeing.
11. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
If you fancy a spectacular day hike , your choice should fall on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing . The trail is a real New Zealand North Island highlight. It is one of our best travel experiences. Here you will walk in one day past active volcanic craters, lava flows and emerald lakes.
Maybe you will find here also the most beautiful view in the whole north. Not for nothing is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike the title of New Zealand’s best. In addition, the hike is challenging. But it is especially worthwhile because of the fascinating, unforgettable volcanic landscape, which you can see here.
The beginning of the trail is in the Mangatepopo Valley and runs upstream along black lava rocks. The climb is steep, but worth it thanks to the breathtaking panoramic views. At the highest point, the Red Crater, arrived, you will hear the first hint of sulfur smell, because the Red Crater is still active.
As you descend, you will pass the Emerald Lakes , the beautiful emerald-green lakes, and continue across Central Crater to the volcanic vent of Blue Lake, the North Crater, and the Ketetahi Refuge. Lastly, you will walk through grassy slopes and evergreen forests.
12. Mount Taranaki
The Mount Taranaki is located in the Egmont National Park , which is a dream for every Wanderfan thanks to its more than 300 kilometers of trails. The picturesque park was created around the Taranaki volcano and features rainforests, wetlands and beautiful waterfalls.
Mount Taranaki is also called Mount Egmont and is a perfectly shaped volcanic cone. If you have a good view, you can also see it from the Tongariro Crossing! His age is estimated at around 120,000 years, where he was active in 1775 the last time. Although the Taranaki is a volcano, it is called New Zealand’s most populated mountain.
The ascent is not only something for professional climbers, but also for non-mountaineers can be created. From bottom to top you pass the tall Kamahi and Rimu trees, sub-alpine bushes and herbs and dense rainforest.
The cone is snow-covered and looks like painted thanks to its symmetrical shape. There are various hiking trails, so that there is the right track for everyone. The Taranaki is considered sacred by the Maoris.
13. Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu
If you feel like being pissed off, the place “Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu” (I hope I spelled it right) is the place with the longest name in New Zealand . He even made it into the Guinness Book of Records – as the longest place name in an English-speaking country.
While we’re at it: The name translates into German as “The place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slipped, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as Landesser, who traveled a lot, for a loved one People played the nose flute “ . If that’s not a genial place name!
It is a well-known Maori chief and his sad fate. And though the name is so long and unpronounceable, it’s just a small hill, which for the sake of simplicity is also called Taumata Hill.
The hill is about 300 meters high and grassy. He seems rather inconspicuous, but is absolutely worth seeing. Taumata Hill is close to the small town of Porangahau in Hawke’s Bay.
At the roadside is a sign with the full name of the hill, a popular photo opportunity. However, since Taumata Hill is privately owned, you may enter it only with permission.
Ohakune is a small town with about 1,100 inhabitants at the southern end of the Tongariro National Park . The city is also known as the carrot capital of New Zealand. This is because Ohakune is known for its vegetable cultivation.
At the entrance to the town, visitors are greeted by a ten-meter high carrot and a carrot festival takes place every year. Ohakune is especially popular for skiers, because Mount Ruapehu is in the immediate vicinity and attracts with numerous ski slopes.
In the warmer seasons, the place is perfect for hikers who want to conquer and climb the national park. You can also go mountain biking, whitewater rafting or horse riding and canoeing.
One of the most famous New Zealand attractions of the North Island can also be found here: the Waitonga Falls Track in Tongariro National Park. The track is family friendly and leads over suspension bridges, past beech forests, over stairs and high moor.
The Waitonga Falls are the highest waterfalls in the national park and offer beautiful views. The Mangawhero Falls are also here. The track is easy and rewarded with a beautiful waterfall and a great view of Mount Ruapehu.
15. Rangitikei River Gorge
This river is one of the longest in New Zealand. It flows over 185 kilometers and runs from the central plateau of the North Island through the cities of Taihape, Hunterville, Marton, Managweka and Bull. Along its course are also many settlement areas of the Maori.
The Rangitikei River is one of the top New Zealand North Island travel tips. Here you can go jet boating, rafting, fishing, but also hiking and climbing.
There are many gorges on the Rangitikei River, winding river courses, steep rocks and lush green meadows and forests. Especially popular is the river with Lord of the Rings fans , because here was a part of the film shot. The Rangitikei River is in the movie The Anduin River .
16. Putangirua Pinnacles
The Putangirua Pinnacles are also called “Lord of the Rings Pinnacles” because – yes, right – here also a part of the Lord of the Rings films was filmed. It is an almost bizarre rock landscape in the Wairarapa region .
And although this is a landscape dominated by stone pillars, the place is extraordinary. In the Putangirua Pinnacles the third part of Lord of the Rings was filmed.
Even those who are not Lord of the Rings fans can have a great time here. From the southeastern coast of the North Island you can also catch a breathtaking view of the rugged Palliser Bay and the wild South Pacific.
You can do the Putangirua Pinnacles on various hiking trails. Walking through the deep, sometimes narrowly cut area of pointed stone pillars, you not only see the well-known film scenery but also an incredibly impressive landscape.
17. Cape Palliser
Cape Palliser is an absolute highlight of the North Island of New Zealand. Because this place is home to the largest fur seal colony . But in Pallis, too, is Palliser Bay, a dramatic coastal landscape and the lighthouse of Cape Palliser, which offers breathtaking views of the wild Pacific.
But the most beautiful picture is still the numerous fur seals, which are located here from mid-November to mid-January and can be watched together with their boys for hours.
18. Kaitoke Regional Park
In the Kaitoke Regional Park you will find many parts of pristine rainforests, coupled with crystal clear rivers and trails. However, this place is popular because of its feature as a location for the Lord of the Rings films.
The area is in the film the Rivendell or Rivendell and the Isenfurten. And why this place was selected as a location, is quickly clear. Because here the atmosphere seems to you almost elfin-like calm. However, you will not see anything of the original set here, since everything was designed using CGI technology.
The old trees let light through and in the background peacefully crystal-clear brooks rippling. Otherwise, there is only magic peace. The 2,500-acre forest is also home to rare bird species that you can see with much luck.
At Kaitoke Regional Park you can also swim or kayak while enjoying the scenery and forests. You will find many locals picnicking here.
At the southern tip of the North Island lies Wellington , framed by the beautiful maritime harbor and rolling green hills. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and definitely worth a visit.
Incidentally, the film director of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”, Peter Jackson, is also based here . In the city you will find great restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the culinary delights of New Zealand.
From the city center, you will reach the top of Mount Victoria , which offers an unforgettable view of the entire city. The Botanical Garden , a 25-hectare park that displays the country’s oldest exotic trees , also offers a beautiful view .
If you want more culture, be sure to visit the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum , which is located right on the water’s edge and is the most visited museum in Oceania. Here you can learn a lot about the culture and art of New Zealand.
The museum is modern and exciting and has a lot to offer interactively. It counts for us the best museums we have ever visited.
New Zealand travel tips
New Zealand, with about four million people, is a relatively small country, but original and very diverse. It’s about the size of the UK.
The country is located in the Southwest Pacific and consists of the South and North Island and smaller offshore islands. The peculiarities of New Zealand are in the landscape and the people. The New Zealanders, as well as the Maori, the indigenous peoples of the country , are considered to be extremely hospitable and endearing.
The landscapes are versatile and yet close to each other. So you can find big cities right next to vast plains, parks, hills, snowy areas, rainforests, volcanic landscapes and miles of coastline and beach. In New Zealand you can find everything your travel heart desires. The whole world united in one country.
Information centers on site
i-SITE and Department of Conservation (DOC)
New Zealand’s official visitor information network is called i-Site , of which there are 90 across the country. The i-Site staff will assist you in finding the right activities, attractions, accommodation or rental cars. Every employee is a kind of regional expert. You also get a free SIM card if you want.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is a state-run organization that works to conserve and protect New Zealand’s natural resources. The DOC therefore offers its own tours and hikes, gives recommendations and has various visitor information centers.
The huts for multi-day hikes you book here. Likewise, you get an assessment of the weather or if something else is to be observed during your hike.
Best time to go to New Zealand’s North Island
There is not really a best travel time for New Zealand , because you can always visit the country. The weather of the country varies everywhere, comparable to the April weather in this country. You can travel to New Zealand all year round, your wishes and ideas are important.
From September to November , spring is in New Zealand. This time is perfect for traveling, because then everything blooms and the landscape is very impressive. From December to February is summer, here is a beach holiday perfect, but active holidays are worthwhile at the time.
In autumn, from March to May , the country shines in warm fall colors. This time is perfect for hiking holidays, but also cyclists and kayakers will get their money’s worth.
Winter is from June to August and as New Zealand has mountains with snow, you can spend a wonderful ski and cultural holiday at the time.
By the way: The New Zealanders also have vacation time between December and January , which is why many locals spend their holidays at home.
Popular means of transport of choice
You can travel to New Zealand by camper or car. In the country you can live in hotels, pensions, holiday homes, but also camp or stay overnight in bed & breakfasts.
Possibilities with public transport for round trip
Various travel providers offer bus roundtrips for New Zealand. Although you are bound to the bus and other people, you can also easily visit the most beautiful corners of the country. Bus tours can also be booked in the tourist centers on site.
Annual events on New Zealand’s North Island
On the North Island of New Zealand countless events take place every year, which are impossible to list. Therefore, we only give you an outline of the most beautiful events. The best way to find out about upcoming events is when your travel dates are set. There is always something to experience.
- Auckland Volvo Ocean Race: February to March, the hardest ocean racing regatta in the world
- A Low Hum Music Festival: Non-Festival near Wellington, end of December
- New Zealand International Festival of Arts in Wellington: 3 weeks of theater, music, dance, every two years in March
- Waitangi Day: National holiday on the 6th of February, where numerous events are taking place all over the country
- Matariki Festival: Maori New Year In late May or early June, the country celebrates with fireworks, performances, traditional Maori customs and stargazing