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New Zealand’s North Island, also known as Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu, is where you’ll find the country’s capital city, Wellington, as well as some of the country’s most beautiful nature sites.
It’s the largest of the two islands, and so you can expect to find an incredible of amount of things to do on New Zealand’s North Island.
We have visited the North Island of New Zealand several times, both on a short family getaways and on a longer road trip experience.
The North Island is full of adventure, stunning coastal beauty, rich Māori culture, and smelly geothermal wonders.
But if you’re not sure what to do in North Island New Zealand, then below are some of the top attractions you cannot miss!
Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island
Whether you’re planning a road trip, a quick getaway from Wellington, or a month long backpacking expedition – don’t miss these top attractions in North Island New Zealand!
1. Go Sailing in the Bay of Islands
For a very scenic and relaxing experience, go sailing in the Bay of Islands. Located in the Northland Region, the Bay of Islands is close to the northern tip of the country.
This area is a world class region for sailing and a collection of over 140 islands with a coastline sporting four villages, including the charming town of Russell.
For day sails or a late afternoon cruise visit Tucker.co.nz.
2. Enjoy the Hot Thermal Springs in Rotorua
“In Rotorua all you can do here is eat, sleep, and spa,” our waiter told us one evening.
Indeed, when you visit Rotorua, the thermal experience is everywhere. It steams up from the pavements; there are geysers fields, mud pools, fumaroles and hot springs.
This thermal activity makes itself known in every corner of the city, and is the reason for the area’s famed sulphur scent.
And one of the best thermal experiences you can have is at the world renowned Polynesian Spa, voted as a world top 10 spa.
Nearby is also the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland with erupting geysers and the Te Puia Maroi village has the Pohutu Geyser, jumping mud pools, and live kiwi birds.
3. Go White Water Raft the Tongariro River
If you’re after a real wilderness experience, then go White Water Rafting on The Tongariro River. It’s one of New Zealand’s most famous rivers.
In between conquering each rapid, you will witness ancient beech forests, rainbow trout swimming upstream, breathtaking gorges, limestone and volcanic cliffs, and water so clean and fresh you could drink it.
This river is known as the perfect river for your first rafting experience.
4. Go Beer Tasting at Hallertau Brewery in Auckland
Did you know that New Zealand has some pretty good local beer? We didn’t either.
The Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant, a New Zealand first, is nestled in the greenery of Riverhead, only a twenty minute drive from the city.
Hallertau, with it’s combination of brewing and epicurean lifestyle, will allow you to sit back and enjoy for a couple of hours. And the food is damn good too. Order the pumpkin risotto.
5. Sky Dive
When I went Sky diving in New Zealand it was the first time that I have ever jumped. I faced my fears in the Northland’s region, near Whangarei, and it was awesome.
I jumped with Dave, one of the regions most experienced tandem jumpers, and the scenery was spectacular.
6. Visit The Buried Village of Te Wairoa in Rotorua
The explosion of Mt Terewaka over a century ago burried the whole village, including what was considered a natural wonder of the world, the pink and white terraces.
And before the recent earthquake in Christchurch earlier this year, it was New Zealand’s biggest natural disaster.
A visit to the buried village of Te Wairoa is fascinating and the story is told to you by a knowledgeable and passionate guide as she walks you through the village sharing with you stories from that time.
7. Go Sea Kayaking
The Northland region offers diverse sea kayaking opportunities to explore coves, white sand beaches, and spectacular coastal formations in clear subtropical waters in what is the countries warmest region.
Experiencing the scenery first hand is what New Zealand is all about, and sea kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and close to nature.
See the different sea kayaking tours available to suit every level of ability and age.
8. See The Picturesque Whangarei Falls
The 24 metre high Whangarei Falls is known as the most photogenic waterfall in all of New Zealand.
Because of its ease of access, picturesque bush setting, and guaranteed 365 days per year flow, it is a must see if you are in the Whangarei area of the North Island in New Zealand.
The falls is a pleasant place to enjoy a picnic or a day hike amidst the native bush.
9. Bungy Jump in Taupo
The bungy jump is a New Zealand invention.
Well, not entirely, for centuries the people of Vanuatu have been leaping from tall towers with vine ropes attached to their ankles, but in the 1980′s commercial bungy jumping was developed by a group of Kiwi’s and the rest is history.
At 47 meters high and the inviting waters of the Waikato River below, Taupo Bungy is the highest water touch bungy in New Zealand.
10. Cycling Winery Tour Around Hawke’s Bay
Located on the idyllic Te Awanga coast, the Hawke’s Bay area is one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions.
And one of the best ways to visit the vineyards and wineries in the Hawke’s Bay area is by bicycle as the land is flat and most of the wineries are within easy cycling distance.
The bike path is via the coastal cycleway which is a dedicated cycle path that’s flat and easy to navigate.
11. Discover Maori Culture at the Tamaki Maori Village
“We are a proud culture who has had dramatic changes over the past 150 years.” ~ Maori elder as he spoke in farewell to us about his culture.
There are some cultural experiences around the world that are too touristy in the fact that they are done for the tourists and to make money.
But what I loved about the Tamaki village experience is that it was more about sharing. Sharing a culture, knowing that they had something of value to offer the world.
The Tamaki Village experience is the BEST ”touristy” cultural experience I have had.
12. Freak Yourself Out on Auckland’s Sky Walk
Consider this; using only a safety harness while walking on a one meter wide platform with no handrails, walk 360 degrees around the external circumference of the tower suspended 192 meters above the ground, with nothing but air on either side of you!
That’s what awaits you on Auckland’s Sky Walk.
Whilst on the platform you’ll stop at various points to have your photo taken, learn some Auckland history, and have a go at leaning over the edge. Just do it…
13. Check Out Cuba Street in Wellington
One of the more bohemian areas of Wellington is Cuba Street, the home to an eclectic collection of cafes, op-shops, boutique, small fashion stores, art galleries, and music shops.
It is the centre of one of the four ‘quarters’ of downtown Wellington, the Cuba Quarter. And it’s one of the best locations to grab a coffee. Check out Fidel’s Cafe for a delicious cup of coffee!
Wondering around Cuba Street is one of the top attractions in Wellington and is a great place to see New Zealand’s diverse cultures.
14. Visit The Town of Russell
This tranquil seaside town is well worth a visit.
The elegant township was once known as “the hell hole of the Pacific” when it was the shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders during the 19th century.
Russell is the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand. But today Russell is a popular holiday destination with historic buildings and a great starting off point to go sailing in the Bay of Islands.
15. Experience a Rugby Game at Eden Park
New Zealand is rugby mad and they have an obsession with the game and their beloved All Blacks to rival any other countries love of their national team.
Their players are treated like god, and they appear constantly in all forms of media and advertising. The mood of the entire country rides on the back of the results of their national team.
And there is no better place to watch an All Blacks rugby game than at their home ground, Eden Park in Auckland.
16. Pay a Visit to Hobbiton
Lord of the Rings fans should not miss a chance to walk around the Hobbiton movie set of the movie franchise.
The real-life Hobbiton, located in Matamata, allows visitors to walk around the hobit houses, sit on the bench outside Bilbo Baggin’s house, and pretend to be a hobbit in the movies.
If you love Lord of the Rings, don’t miss a complete LOTR guided tour, which combines a visit to the Waitomo Caves to see the glowworms.
17. Trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park
Hiking fans will want to lace up their boots and hit Tongariro National Park for an unforgetable adventure.
The park is most famous for its Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the Great Walks of New Zealand, treversing across volcanic terrain, past Mt Tongariro.
The hike is possible to complete in 6-10 hours, depending on your fitness level, and offers incredible views of the park’s landscapes, including the Red Crater and Emerald Lakes.
18. Visit Cathedral Cove on Coromandel Peninsula & Hot Water Beach
Want a spa experience without paying for it? Head to Hot Water Beach, where you’ll find the naturally heated mineral water emerges from the sand in streams of bubbles.
The water has formed a pool in the rocks at the southern end of the beach, or you can dig your own little thermal pool in the sand at low tide.
Just a 5-minute drive from Hot Water Beach is Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous beach known for its rock formations and natural beauty.
19. Get Cultured at Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Another cultural landmark not to be missed is Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which is the famous spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed back in 1840. It was here that 43 Northland Chiefs came together and signed the treaty.
After that, more than 500 Māori Chiefs signed within 8 months.
Today, the grounds is a museum to Maori culture and hosts cultural performances and guided tours.
20. Admire the Landscapes of the Outlying Islands
New Zeland isn’t just made up of North Island and South Island, there are several smaller, outlying islands that are worth a visit too.
Take a ferry to Waiheke Island, the second largest in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand and can be reached from the central-city terminal in Auckland. It’s famous for its wine and natural beauty.
Nature lovers should not miss Poor Knights Islands, a collection of islands to the north of North Island. The islands are a marine reserve and a great place to go scuba diving, snorkeling or kayaking.
21. Look for Whales
Whale watching is one of the top things to do in North Island New Zealand, since the island hosts several migrating species on their way from the Pacific Ocean to Antartica throughout the year.
From May to October, you can see humpback, southern right whales and pilot whales on their annual migration. Whereas from November to March, it’s a great time to see migrating orca and blue whales.
As well as whales, you can also see pods of dolphins, seals, and sometimes even penguins.
22. Admire Lake Taupo
Another geological phenomenon worth seeing is Lake Taupō, a large crater lake known for its vibrant shades of turquoise and jade green.
Although natural, it’s home to a trout fishery, as well as native crayfish. It’s also a great place to look out for native water bird species.
What brings people to Lake Taupo though is the ancient Maori Rock Carvings, which is seen only by boat from the lake.
23. Drive Along Ninety Mile Beach
If you need more adventure on your New Zealand trip, then grab yourself a 4WD vehicle and drive along 90-mile beach, also known as Te-Oneroa-a-Tōhē, on the western coast the North Island, overlooking the Tasman Sea.
While it’s actually only 88 kilometres (55 miles) long, the beach is famous for being a public highway, and an alternative to State Highway 1.
The beach leads directly to Te Paki dunes, which are great for sand boarding on.
Some of the top attractions on the drive are Tauroa Point, the Aupōuri Peninsula and Cape Reinga, known as the most northern point of New Zealand. You will need to pull over to walk up the headland to the lighthouse.
New Zealand’s North Island is packed full of exciting attractions and unforgettable experiences, and by now you’ve probably got a selection of things to do to add to your itinerary.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip and gave you inspiration for what to see! Check here for car rental availability and prices. And click here for our favorite travel booking sites thatt will save you time and money for any kind of trip.
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More New Zealand Travel Tips
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Can you recommend any things to do in the North Island of New Zealand? Share in the comments.