Mountain Top Goat

Best things to do in the North Island – New Zealand

by Mountain Top Goat
new zealand beach

From hiking, rafting, and skydiving, to exploring the Hobbiton, here’s the list of the best things to do when in the North Island of New Zealand.

A trip to New Zealand is a fantastic experience. It is an adventure of a lifetime. I have spent two months in New Zealand, exploring every corner, going on adventures, experiencing the culture, meeting New Zealanders, and trying out their cuisine.

The following are suggestions for the greatest things to see and do in New Zealand’s North Island, based on my own experience. So, you better get a pen and a paper and note down which of these experiences should make it to your bucket list, and let’s get started!

The Bay Of Islands

The Bay of Islands is breathtakingly gorgeous sand and rock shoreline located in the Northland area of New Zealand’s North Island. With its hundred and forty-four subtropical islands, it is one of the favorite vacation spots worldwide. It is a paradise for beachgoers and watersports enthusiasts!

the bay of islands guide
Things to see on the Bay of islands

Sand Dune Boogie Boarding At 90-Mile

Famous for its beautiful sunsets, Ninety Mile Beach is around 55 miles (88 kilometers) long.

The spectacular Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes are massive sand mountains situated approximately 15 kilometers southeast of Cape Reinga, near the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach.

The place is the most popular sandboarding destination in the country. And if you love surfing, you are indeed in for a boarding treat here!

A boat or a kayak rental will allow you to experience this bit of heaven at its best. “Hole In The Rock” excursion in the Bay Of Islands is a must-do for everyone visiting the country’s northern area. The boat trip also allows you to get up close with various animals, including Dolphins and Orcas, which are plentiful in the region.

Even though this beach is listed as a highway, it is only safe for 4WD vehicles and can only be driven on during certain tide times. While driving oneself along the gorgeous road may be enticing, leaving the driving to the professionals is better.

Auckland’s Delight

Giapo manufactures the most incredible ice creams, and it is New Zealand’s favorite exhibit. It’s one of the top things to do in Auckland.

Giapo has a long history of producing some of the most fantastic ice creams globally. New Zealanders rate these delicacies nothing but excellent and addicting!

So, make a trip to Giapo’s Auckland location and indulge in various flavors. And if you are a vegan, rest assured! Giapo has many vegan options to offer as well!

giapo ice cream in auckand
Giapo Ice Cream

Cathedral Cove

Explore Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is a lovely crescent of white sand located in Hahei, on the Coromandel Peninsula, with a big natural rock arch dividing the beach and is one of the most scenic spots in the Coromandel.

Its remote location on the Coromandel Peninsula contributes to its seductive attraction. With no road access, you must walk or use the sea to get into the remote cove.

If you’re familiar with this location, it’s because these rock formations appeared in the Prince Caspian and Chronicles of Narnia films. So take a short stroll and be prepared to capture a shot as beautiful as your desktop wallpaper!

A large portion of tourists come every year to visit the caves only!

cathedral cove north island new zealand
Cathedral Cove

Creating A Private Spa On The Sand At Hot Water Beach

Digging your own sand-based hot water pool is considered a Kiwi tradition. Hot Water Beach, located not far from Cathedral Cove, is a well-known New Zealand’s North Island tourist attraction for residents and tourists!

The name comes from the bubbling hot water coming to meet the sand at the end of the tides. The water temperature can be up to 65 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit)!

For digging pools, you need to bring shovels with you. Or you can buy or borrow some from the cafeterias. It will be like reliving your childhood!

hot water beach relaxation
Hot Water Beach

Experience The World Of Hobbiton!

Visiting Hobbiton in New Zealand is an experience you won’t soon forget! Hobbiton is not only a popular tourist site in the North Island, but it is also one of the most distinctive experiences in the whole country!

Explore the countryside, which served as a real-life film location for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Take your time to enjoy the work that has created this fantasy realm by paying attention to every detail.

hobbiton sign in matamata and tourist standing next to it
Hobbiton – Happy Face

Hobbiton Movie Set – New Zealand’s North Island Best Attractions!

If you thought the Hobbiton was not a real place, let me say that Hobbiton does exist!

It’s a real place in Matamata, New Zealand’s Waikato region. See where Frodo and Bilbo started their adventures and get lost in hobbit holes as you listen to fascinating stories about how Hobbiton came to be. 

New Zealand has long been a fantastic location, but it captured the world’s attention when the Lord of the Rings was filmed here.

The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour takes you to Middle Earth and the genuine shire movie set. Besides, to truly experience what it’s like to be a Hobbit in Hobbiton, have a pint of ale in front of the fire.

A trip to Hobbiton is a must for every movie enthusiast!

North Island Adventures – Rotorua

Rotorua’s Bubbling Mud Pools

Rotorua is a geothermal hotspot! Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park and Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland are two of the most popular destinations to see these unearthly natural wonders.

Both provide beautiful self-guided walks through impressive volcanic terrain. The hues created by the geysers in Wai-O-Tapu will take your breath away. These hues are produced naturally by the interplay of minerals and gasses, making a stunning scene.

Relax in a therapeutic mud bath after your excursion. The mud pools of Rotorua are a must-see attraction on the North Island of New Zealand.

Visit Kuirau Park if you’re on a tight budget but still want to see some geothermal wonders.

north island's geothermal wonderland in rotorua
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Black-Water Rafting At Waitomo Caves

If you want to experience Waitomo Caves in a way that engages your senses and gives you a memorable thrill, this is the trip for you! 

This is truly an exciting journey for even the most adventurous individuals. You start by descending into the dark depths of the earth. Then you can zip through a cave filled with luminescent worms. You can then go tubing through a fast-flowing river. It is truly a magnificent 5-hour journey that you will never forget.

Rotorua Is A Great Place To Go Zorbing

Rolling down the hill in a giant inflated-hamster ball achieving speeds of up to 50 km/h, is so much fun!

Get in, fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the trip!

Not many places in the world have the provision of Zorbing. Rotorua is rather famous for it!

White-Water Rafting Is An Adrenaline-Pumping Adventure

Is there a more enjoyable way to discover New Zealand’s waterways than by raft? New Zealand’s lofty mountain ranges, combined with just enough rain, may provide some of the world’s most fabulous white-water rafting!

You’ll feel like you’re rafting into the heart of Middle-earth as you experience the incredible adrenaline-pumping rapids while paddling through the breathtaking surroundings!

Want to get a taste of Grade five White Water Rafting? Check out the world-famous Kaituna River for a 50-minute adrenaline-pumping ride down 14 huge rapids, including the world’s tallest rafted waterfall!

Spend The Day With A Maori Family

Don’t miss out on Lake Aniwhenua and Kohutapu Lodge when visiting the North Island. This is a genuinely incredible place.

When you arrive at the stunning lakeside lodge, you will be greeted by friendly hosts and spend the day learning about Māori traditions.

Hearing tales of early New Zealand colonization, participating in traditional activities such as learning the Haka, flax weaving, stick games, and seeing a traditional meal (Hangi) being made – which will be served for supper!

It’s a home away from home. You should definitely put Lake Aniwhenua at the top of your list when visiting North Island of new Zealand!

leaning stick games from maori people at lake aniwhenua in the north island of new zealand
Stick Games

North Island Adventures – Lake Taupo

Take Part In Water Sports On Lake Taupo

Although people mostly enjoy fishing, Lake Taupo is ideal for water activities like water skiing, sailing, and kayaking. If water activities do not excite you, you may go hiking, trekking, or mountain biking in the woods around Taupo.

Taupo is located in the heart of North Island. This beautiful lake is roughly the size of Singapore and is more of an inland sea than a lake.

New Zealand’s Mine Bay Rock Carvings In Lake Taupo

The impressive Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo have been recognized as one of New Zealand’s most amazing modern Maori artworks.

The exquisite sculptures, which rise 14 meters above the deep, blue waters of Lake Taupo, have become one of the North Island’s most recognizable sights for residents and tourists alike.

Take a picturesque cruise, or go on a kayaking adventure since the massive carvings are only accessible by water.

two tourist kayaking in front of the maori rock carvings
Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings

Skydiving Over Lake Taupo

Skydiving is not for the weak of hearts! It is for those who can fearlessly fall off from 15,000 feet above the ground, amidst the clouds! The Taupo Tandem Skydiving can help you with your adventures!

Enjoy the views of the beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes, and beaches, which will slowly fade into the distance as you glide closer to the land.

skydiving in the north island
Skydiving in Taupo

Hike The Tongariro Crossing – North Island Nr.1 Day Hike!

The Tongariro crossing hike is a breathtaking 19-kilometer trip through Tongariro National Park. The route passes through some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see, including beautiful mountain springs, historical lava fields, vapor vents, and the Emerald Lakes. An absolute must-do while visiting the North Island of New Zealand.

tongariro alpine crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The White Island

If you have some ideas about volcanoes, surely the White Island or Whakaari is not unfamiliar to you. White Island, one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes, was formerly a famous tourist attraction, with tourists walking on the crater floor on a daily basis.

Now, you may wonder why people would visit an active volcano! Is it not dangerous? 

Actually, visits were withheld after the last eruption in December 2019. So now, sightseeing is allowed only from a safe distance. Nevertheless, it is another unique experience that you can add to the best things to do on the North Island of New Zealand list.

tourist with gas mask standing on active vulcano in the north island
Wearing a Gas mask on an active volcano

Witnessing The First Sunrise In The World!

Have you ever wondered where on the planet the sun rises the earliest? I have the answer for you!

One of my favorite memories from the North Island of New Zealand is watching the sunrise from the East Cape Lighthouse.

Located North of Gisborne, The East Cape has the privilege of experiencing the world’s first daybreak!

Every sunrise is magical, no matter where you are. It’s even more extraordinary if you’re among the first people on the planet to see it.

east cape sunrise north island
The first sunrise – East Cape

Visit Napier, The World’s Art Deco Capital!

Napier is one of the most gorgeous cities in the country. It’s also known as the Art Deco City, and with good reason: Napier contains the world’s most extensive collection of inner-city art deco structures!

The history of this place will tell you why it is so famous! In the early days of 1931, a heavy earthquake took place, which ruined most of the architecture of Napier.

The Art Deco Trust then came to rescue the town and introduced the finest construction technologies that reshaped Napier. They reformed the buildings with labyrinthine designs like geometric motifs. Soon Napier became the most modern town of that era!

Try to visit Napier in February if you wish to see the annual Art Deco Summer Festival. The place remains crowded during this time as tourists from different countries gather here to join the festival.

napier canter north island
Napier town

Final Thoughts

Everything about NZ has been embedded deep in my heart! New Zealand is not just a land of scenic beauty. It offers so much more.

Therefore, if you love traveling, pay a visit to the North Island of New Zealand at least once in your life. Choose a convenient time, book your flights and set off. You will need a considerable amount of time to enjoy all the best things to do there. Happy traveling and have a great time!

If you want to learn more about New Zealand and how to solo travel through this magnificent country, please read my blog post here.

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