The North Islands most popular spots.
The North Island is quite different from the South and mainly made up of volcanoes both active and dormant, this gives the north island its geothermal activity and mysterious aura. It’s not as mountainous and you will be amazed by the how many crops and fields you will see. Yes, the ever present sheep that outnumber people are everywhere. You will also see quite a few cattle farms. Milk is the largest export for this small country followed by lamb, wool and wine.
Long known as the adventurer’s playground with their Jet Boats, bungee Jumps, trekking over mountain ranges. But there is much more to this small country than meets the eye. The wines produced in New Zealand are world renowned. The North Island has two well-known wine regions, Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough. There are some lesser known areas and one that is worth a visit is Waiheke Island just across the bay from Auckland. For The enthusiast and adventurous, rent a car on this little island and stay here for a few days to get the true feeling of Waiheke. Try lunch or dinner at Mudbrick vineyard, 95% of all wine produced here is consumed on site, so you will not find this label in the States for sure. There are day tours to Waiheke if you’re not up to driving.
A trip to New Zealand’s North Island is not complete without a stop in Waitomo on your way to Rotorua to visit one of the caves full of glow worms. There are three caves here to explore depending on your comfort level. The most visited is Waitomo Cave which is easily accessible for most, but not wheelchair accessible. There are stairs but once inside it is quite flat and easy to get around. You will see the amazing caverns with stalagmites, stalactites and or course the beautiful glow worms. Another option is Ruakuri cave which is more intimate and when taking the spiral staircase deep into the earth you will understand just how adventurous your decision to visit has been. You will experience one of the most unique caves in the world here. While traversing the narrow corridors and huge caverns you can hear the rumbling of the underground waterfalls in the distance. This is also the cave for the Black Water Rafting experience where you raft down an underground river through caves and see the glow worms above you.
Any Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fans should stop at Hobbiton on your way from Waitomo to Rotorua. The film set is very well kept and look just like they did in the movie.
Next stop on the North Island is Rotorua, where you will learn the most about the Maori culture in New Zealand. To get hands on experience on day to day life a visit to Te Puia is a must. You can easily spend half a day here if not more. This is much more than a learning experience for travelers about the Maori people; it is the New Zealand Arts and Crafts Institute as well. So you will see classes going on for woodworking, weaving and much more. Another must is a Hangi, which is a Maori feast and celebration. My favorite is Tamaki because you are able to interact with the Maori people, ask questions, take photos (that’s me and the elder of the tribe!).
This is a great area for hiking and mountain biking. The mountain top lakes are great for boating and some even have hot springs to enjoy. If your pocketbook allows, take a helicopter to the top of Mt. Tarawera and hike across the top of a dormant volcano. What an amazing experience! Don’t forget the Rotorua history Museum which calls the over 100 year old Original Rotorua Bath house its home.
Our last stop of the more well-known areas of the North Island is the capital city, Wellington. Home to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand and the wonderful Martinborough wine region, this little city on the tip of the South Island has so much to offer. There is Zealandia, a nature preserve just 10 minutes away that offers night tours to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive Kiwi bird, journeys to the rugged Pacific coast to witness the scenery, seals and sea lions in the wild. You also have several options to tour the beautiful local scenery and visit some the areas used for filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This city is a food lovers paradise with so many fresh ingredients there are so many restaurant options to choose form. Wellington is also the home to the North Islands port for the Interisland Ferry to Picton on the South Island.