Home to about three-times more people than the South Island, the North Island is known for its volcanoes and geothermal activity, island bays and historic places. Hire a car and journey through beautiful beaches, sprawling farmlands and rocky wonders.
How to get there
Unless you’re catching the ferry between the North & South Island of New Zealand, flying is essentiallly your only option. The North Island is serviced by two main international airports; Aukland and Wellington, but you Christchurch or Queenstown. Typically, Christchurch is cheaper to fly in to, and most car hire companies are based here.
How to get around
To see the island in it's fullest, hire a car or van! The roads are a little windy and narrow at times so take your time, but there really isn't any other options to see the full island without your own transport.
If you're hiring a van, make sure you pick one that is Self-Contained, which has a toilet or portable toilet on board. That way you can make use of New Zealand’s Free Camping legislation (you can pull up and sleep almost anywhere outside of the main towns). Download the Travellers Autobarn App via Google Play or iTunes – this is a great help to find free or cheap and legal campsites along the way, with ratings, comments and facilities listed.
An idea of costs
$200 NZ per day
– Van hire per day: $60
– Breakfast at cafe: $15
– Fuel: $100
– Road Trip Snacks: $5
– Home (van!) cooked dinner: $20
How long to spend on the North Island
Most of NZ's true beauty is in the ideallic countryside - so take your time and enjoy the sights outside the windows. You can see most of the main sights in 7 days - you can check out my driving itinerary below.
What to see and do on the North Island
Arguably the most picturesque beach in NZ, Te Whanganui-A-Hei or Cathedral Cove boasts beautiful white ignimbrite rock pillars created from erosion and wind. The entrance to the cove is through a naturally formed cathedral-like arch. giving the whole area an air of grandeu and magic.
Hot Water Beach:
Dig your own pool in the sand on this beach and enjoy bubbling, hot water… your very own hot tub fuelled by geothermal activity underground! You may need to dig around a little to find the best spot.
From Whitianga you can enjoy the beaches, water sports and boat excursions of Mercury Bay. Enjoy great seafood plenty of forest hiking trails.
The Sleeping God Canyon:
Abseil/ rappel, jump, zip-line and slide down a series of cascading waterfalls in one of NZ’s best canyons.
Pick your own berries! This gorgeous, family owned farm grows an abundance Raspberries, Blackberries, Ranui berries, Boysenberries, Strawberries, and Logan berries. A products made with Julians berries: jams, sauces, soaps, moisturisers and many more and enjoy homemade berry soft serve icecream. Check the website for opening hours and berries available as it changes season to season.
Rotorua is renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. Visit Whakarewarewa and Te Puia Thermal parks to enjoy spurting geysers and colourful mineral pools. Kuirau Park has a crater lake, bubbling mud pools and plenty of steam for free!
Lake Taupo is about the size of Singapore, so there’s plenty to do in and around this inland sea. If the weather is warm enough, watersports are incredibly popular; water-skiing, sailing and kayaking. Take a kayaking excursion out to the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be seen from the water.
If you didn’t get your Geothermal fix in Rotorua, checkout Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park north of Taupo. It is one of the best in the country.
Just north of Lake Taupo is the magnificent Huka Falls, where more than 220,000 litres of water gush over the rocks every second.
Just south of Auckland lies the Hamilton-Waikato region; a land of lush pastures that where both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed.
Explore the Waitomo Caves - a guided tour will take you down to the huge cavern and exit via boat-ride under thousands of glowworms.