10 Incredible Places To Visit In New Zealand's North Island
Narrowing down the list of places to visit in New Zealand’s North Island can feel near impossible. Despite being smaller than the South Island, the north has a seemingly endless wealth of native bush, beautiful beaches and magic to explore.
To help with this conundrum in your North Island adventure, we have narrowed down the list of must-see places to ten. With a mix of natural sights and iconic tourist spots, you are sure to see the best bits of what New Zealand’s North Island has to offer below.
1. Enter the Magic of Hobbiton, Matamata
One simply cannot walk into the North Island and not see one of the most iconic settings in the Lord of the Rings franchise. Created as a temporary set, the tiny town of Hobbiton is now a permanent place to visit in New Zealand.
The 44 hobbit holes that make up the Shire look as pristine as the day Frodo left them, with guided tours on offer to explore the 14-acre expanse of former farmland. You can truly feel the movie magic come to life in all the minute details included in the set!
2. Look Towards the Heavens in Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
Located along the east coast of the North Island, Cathedral Cove, locally known as Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, is like something out of a movie. Out of all of the white sand beaches located up north, this spot is notable for its huge cathedral-like rock structures and crystal clear waters.
For those looking to make a full day out of this visit, you can also look at the hot water beach nearby, explore the sea caves, or even dive and snorkel. There's no end to the fun activities to do at the cove.
3. Make the Trek Today at Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro
The Tongariro National Park and Alpine Crossing are dual features of a world heritage site beloved by locals and tourists alike. The National Park has plenty of hiking trails available for you to walk or cycle on, and you can even stay overnight at one of the local villages at the heart of this volcanic wonderland.
If you want more of a challenge, however, the Alpine Crossing has a 19.4 km hike not for the faint-hearted. It's a full day of walking, but more than worth it to see the remnants of ancient volcanic activity.
4. Find the Glowing Treasures of the Ruakuri & Waitomo Caves, Waitomo
It's hard to believe that a place on this list is featured for its abundance of gnats, but that's just what's so appealing about the Ruakuri and Waitomo Caves. Discovered around 500 years ago by the Maori, the caves are still a popular attraction today due to the luminescent larvae produced by these particular cave-dwelling gnats.
It'll feel like you're under a bright night sky with all the blue-glowing larvae covering the walls. These glow worm caves are not the only feature to look forward to, however, as there are fascinating rock structures to look at further in, and the sounds of subterranean waterfalls create soothing background noise to your underground adventure.
5. Get Inspired by the Weta Workshop, Wellington
One of the most famous locations in the North Island of New Zealand that is not a natural phenomenon, the Weta Workshop is a special effects and prop company unlike any other. With works showcased in movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Avatar, it's no wonder why this is one of New Zealand's pride and joy.
Take the full experience tour to gain insight into the unique craftsmanship that created the creatures and costumes you know and love. You're sure to have so much fun when faced with the sheer magnitude of skills and time that went into your favourite movies.
6. Reach High with Sky Tower, Auckland
As New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland offers plenty of attractions, but none as notable as the Sky Tower. Impossible to miss, regardless of what direction you approach Auckland from, the tower stands at 328 metres; the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere!
With an observation deck, cafe, and the only revolving restaurant in the country located at its top, the Sky Tower brings comfort and flair to its heights. To spice things up, the Tower also offers a SkyWalk experience, where you can walk on air around the building - with a safety harness, of course! If that's not enough you can take a 192-metre plunge towards the city streets with SkyJump.
7. Feel the Heat at Te Puia Thermal Reserve, Rotorua
Looking for a way to wind down as you travel through the North Island? Look no further than the natural heat of the Te Puia Thermal Reserve in Rotorua. Located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, this reserve is a combination of the Southern Hemisphere's largest natural geyser, and a cultural centre dedicated to Maori culture.
Follow the paths through the naturally steaming hot sulfurous geysers at your own pace, or take a guided tour. After catching the hourly 30-metre geyser eruption from Pohutu, finish off your day watching cultural performances or master craftsmen showing off their carving and weaving.
8. Hide Away in the Putangirua Pinnacles, Wairarapa
A forest all on its own, the rock spires of the Putangirua Pinnacles are a sight to behold. Located not too far away from the busy capital city of Wellington in the Aorangi Range, the Pinnacles have plenty of walking tracks within it to explore. Take in the unique results of 100,000 years of erosion and even explore your surroundings; there's plenty to see and enjoy within the peaceful nature of the Aorangi Range.
9. Snorkel and Soak around the Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka Coast
If you're looking for a sunny day exploring the depths of the North Island sea, then Poor Knights Islands is the perfect place to start snorkeling. The water around the islands is home to a unique biodiversity, created from a microclimate, warm water currents converging, and thousands of years spent separated from the New Zealand mainland. This has resulted in both subtropical and temperate marine life coexisting, ready for you to see whenever you dive in.
If snorkeling isn't your preferred manner of appreciating the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, a boat tour is always available. Sit back, relax, and enjoy gently rocking in the New Zealand summer sun.
10. Get in Touch with Your Wild Side at Zealandia Sanctuary, Wellington
The Zealandia Sanctuary encompasses over 500 acres of the North Island's natural terrain, creating a safe space for New Zealand's native wildlife from any invasive predators. You can catch sight of well-known indigenous creatures like the kiwi, spotted skinks, and even the colourful hihi bird, all left to roam freely in the enclosure.
Explore the walking trails in your own time, or take a guided tour. The tours are offered not just during the day, but also at dawn or dusk, so you can catch sight of some of the more elusive fauna. No matter the time, Zealandia is sure to amaze.
Is New Zealand's North Island worth visiting?
If you are looking to organise a New Zealand road trip, it can be hard to pick between the North and South Island. However, the warmer climate and unique North Island experiences on offer make this New Zealand island well worth visiting.
How many days do you need to see the North Island of New Zealand?
When driving, around two weeks is needed to see the places we have listed in the New Zealand North Island. If you don't have a car of your own, Enterprise Rent-A-Car allows you to reserve a vehicle in any major city for your convenience with a one-way rental program.
What is the best month to go to New Zealand's North Island?
With so many golden beaches, stunning waterfalls, national parks, and hiking or mountain biking trails to explore, the best month to go to the North Island of New Zealand is any summer month. Heading over from December to March guarantees warm sunny days and the chance to explore the entire island on foot.