Are you getting ready to explore the breathtaking North Island of New Zealand?
Whether you’re looking for a fun road trip with family, time spent relaxing in nature, or an unforgettable adrenaline-fuelled adventure, these suggestions for your New Zealand North Island itinerary should help.
Starting with a few quick tips on traveling in this remarkable part of the world, we’ll go on to discuss 10 of North Island’s must-see attractions and reveal 5 unmissable experiences to do here. So settle in and join us as we explore all that New Zealand’s stunning North Island has to offer.
Table of contents: ()
- 5 Quick Tips for Traveling in New Zealand
- 10 Top Attractions for Your New Zealand North Island Itinerary
- 5 Must-Do Activities & Experiences for Your NZ North Island Itinerary
- FAQs in Relation to New Zealand North Island Itinerary
5 Quick Tips for Traveling in New Zealand
Before we dive into the itinerary ideas, let’s begin with some key tips and insights that should help you make the most of your time in New Zealand.
1. Pack Appropriately
New Zealand’s landscapes and climate vary a lot depending on when and where you go, so it’s important to pack accordingly.
For example, make sure you bring a variety of clothes and gear that’ll be suitable for both warm and cold weather. If you plan on getting out into nature (you should.), then it’s a good idea to bring supportive walking shoes, a waterproof jacket, and multiple layers to accommodate changing temperatures. Know someone who’s going to New Zealand? Check out these travel gift ideas to send them on their way.
2. Respect Nature
New Zealand’s rightly proud of its abundant wildlife and natural beauty, so make sure you respect it while traveling there.
Be mindful when exploring the outdoors, taking all rubbish with you, and disposing of it properly in designated bins. As always, you should leave only footsteps.
3. Stay Safe
New Zealand’s a supremely safe country to travel around, but you still have to be sensible – especially when you’re exploring remote locations.
If you’re going on hikes, you should research potential hazards (such as extreme weather conditions) before heading out. Make sure someone knows your plans whenever possible – just in case.
4. Learn About Maori Culture
The indigenous people of New Zealand are known as the Maori and they have a rich culture full of tradition and history. Take the time to learn about it during your stay.
You can do this by visiting local museums, attending cultural sites and performances, or simply talking to local Maoris about their heritage.
5. Be Prepared For Adventure
Whether you want to bungee jump off Auckland Harbour Bridge or go kayaking at Milford Sound, adventure abounds throughout NZ North Island.
Try to embrace it. Challenge your fears and be prepared to jump (sometimes literally) into new activities you’ve never done before. Most of them are organized by official companies, but be sure to take the right equipment for any serious hikes (e.g. walking poles and GPS equipment) or rock climbing if you plan to do them alone.
Those quick tips for traveling in New Zealand should help you make the most of your time there. Now let’s take a look at 10 top attractions for your New Zealand North Island itinerary.
10 Top Attractions for Your New Zealand North Island Itinerary
From the big, bustling city of Auckland to a wealth of natural wonders spread across the land, there are plenty of unmissable attractions to pop on your New Zealand North Island itinerary. Now let’s explore 10 of the best.
1. Bay Of Islands
A stunning collection of 144 islands, the Bay’s known for its beautiful beaches, wonderful marine life (this is the perfect place to take a boat lover out onto the water or join a dolphin or whale watching tour), and historical sites such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – where Maori chiefs signed a controversial agreement with British settlers on February 6, 1840. Don’t miss it.
2. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
One of the most impressive things to do in North Island is located in one of its smallest towns: Waitomo. Journey underground into the limestone caves here to see thousands of glowworms light up the darkness like stars in the night sky.
If that wasn’t cool enough, you can even see them as part of a black water rafting caving experience (above) where you float on truck innertubes down a subterranean river system.
3. Tongariro National Park
This dual World Heritage Site is home to some of NZ’s most spectacular scenery, including Mount Ngauruhoe (aka “Mount Doom”, if you’re a LOTR fan).
There’s also the immense Tongariro Crossing – one of the best day hikes in the country, if not the world. Suitable for most levels of fitness, you’ll see amazing otherworldly landscapes over 19.4 spectacular kilometers.
Located in Matamata, this is one of the most iconic attractions on the North Island. A must-see for any Lord of The Rings fan, you can take a guided tour around the Shire movie set and explore all that Middle Earth has to offer.
5. The Sky Tower
At 328 meters tall, this iconic observation tower is an unmissable landmark in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland. It offers panoramic views over the city – perfect for taking photos or just admiring how far you’ve come on your travels. Oh, and thanks to the Sky Jump, any daredevils among can strap on a harness and jump off the top.
6. Coromandel Peninsula
This magical peninsula on the east coast of North Island is 85km of Kiwi natural beauty. Think lush rainforest walks, golden sand beaches and hot springs galore.
This is where you’ll find the incredible Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach – 2 musts for any New Zealand North Island itinerary. There are plenty of other activities available too, such as kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing trips out on the Hauraki Gulf.
7. Te Puia Geothermal Valley
Head to sulphuric Rotorua to see the bubbling mud pools and explosive geysers at the Te Puia Geothermal Park. While you’re there, you can learn about traditional Maori culture too, seeing demonstrations by local carvers and weavers, and watching live cultural performances.
8. Waiheke Island
A short 45-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland lies the beautiful Waiheke Island – a paradise full of vineyards, olive groves, art galleries, and white sand beaches. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling and diving.
9. Mount Taranaki
Head to the Taranaki region on the west coast of North Island to see the towering 2,518m high figure of the dormant stratovolcano, Mount Taranaki (or Mount Egmont). The quintessential volcano – with its conical shape and snow-capped peak – it cuts a mightily impressive figure on clear days and provides a wealth of hiking and biking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
10. Mount Maunganui
On the North Island’s opposite coast you’ll find another impressive volcano, Mount Maunganui. At 232m high, it’s much smaller than Mount Taranaki but no less striking. Hike to the top for stunning views over the surrounding area, then treat yourself to lunch at any of the lively café-restaurants in town.
5 Must-Do Activities & Experiences for Your NZ North Island Itinerary
As you can tell, the North Island of New Zealand is full of incredible things to see and do. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, there’s something for everyone. Here are 5 specific activities to include on your itinerary:
1. Go Hiking
A veritable treasure trove for hiking enthusiasts, North Island offers endless opportunities to explore its stunning landscapes on foot. From Cape Reinga in the north to Wellington in the south, you’ll find everything from easy day hikes to tough multi-day treks. As we noted earlier, be sure to bring appropriate gear/footwear and always check weather conditions before setting out.
2. Do a Whale/Dolphin Watching Tour
For an unforgettable afternoon, we highly recommend you take advantage of one of the many dolphin/whale watching tours available around the island throughout the year. Depending on when you’re there, you might see humpback whales, southern right whales, sperm whales, and even orcas.
3. Try Bungee Jumping and/or Sky Diving
For those seeking an adrenaline rush, why not try bungee jumping off Auckland’s Harbour Bridge? This iconic bridge is home to one of New Zealand’s most popular bungee jumps. It’s worth checking out if you’re feeling brave.
Alternatively, head down to Lake Taupo in the centre of North Island. Not only is it another beautiful place to visit, but it’s also full of action-packed activities, including bungee jumping and skydiving.
4. Hit the Waves
With over 15000km (9000 miles) of coastline surrounding New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that surfing’s a popular activity here. For some of the best waves in the country, head to the cool town of Raglan. Other top surf locations on North Island include Piha Beach – a seaside village just 45 minutes west of Auckland – and Mount Maunganui, which we talked about before.
5. Soak in the Hot Pools
Want to relax after long days ticking items off your New Zealand North Island itinerary? Well, there’s no better way to do it than soaking in one of the many hot pools you’ll find here. Thermal springs, like Wai o Tapu (near Rotorua) or the all-popular Kerosene Creek near Taupo are known for their healing properties and are sure to be a highlight of your trip.
FAQs in Relation to New Zealand North Island Itinerary
How many days do you need in North Island New Zealand?
In general, 10 to 14 days is a good amount of time to see most of North Island’s proverbial “best bits”. However, the more time you can spend there, the better.
Depending on your interests and the amount of time you have available, you could easily spend a month here without getting bored.
If you’re looking for a quicker getaway, though, 3 to 4 days should be enough to see some highlights, such as Hobbiton and the geothermal wonders at Rotorua. For those with more time, a week would allow you to explore further – venturing north of Auckland into the Bay of Islands and then back down south to experience the Coromandel Peninsula, Taupo, and even Tongariro.
Is New Zealand’s North Island worth visiting?
Yes, New Zealand’s North Island is absolutely worth visiting.
Unfortunately, many people choose to rush their time on North Island in a bid to prioritize the South Island instead. This makes sense given the immense array of natural wonders available down south.
But make no mistake, the beauty and array of things to see/do on North Island are often underestimated. It offers a vast array of stunning landscapes and unique activities to suit travellers of all ages and interests.
What is the best time to visit New Zealand’s North Island?
For most people, the best time to visit New Zealand’s North Island will be during the summer months, from around December to the end of February.
The temperatures are warm and the days are long, making it perfect for all the outdoor activities on offer. Unfortunately, summer’s also the busiest and most expensive time of year. To avoid the crowds and save some money, consider traveling here during the shoulder seasons – March to May or September to November. The weather will be rainier and cooler, but it’ll be quieter, cheaper, and still relatively mild.
Start Planning Your New Zealand North Island Itinerary
Boasting exquisite natural beauty and outstanding attractions, the North Island of New Zealand is a bucket-list destination that doesn’t disappoint. In fact, there’s so much to see and experience here that planning your time here can be a challenge.
We hope the insights in this article will help in that regard. Keep them in mind when planning your New Zealand North Island itinerary and you’re sure to have an unforgettable time. For more information on the topic, check out the other New Zealand travel tips and itinerary ideas on our website.