New Zealand is definitely one of our favourite countries ever, with a stunning view behind every turn. And there sure are a lot of turns in New Zealand! It’s definitely a hiker’s Mecca, but adrenaline junkies and LOTR fans won’t be disappointed either. There are a ton of things to do on the North Island of New Zealand alone. From major tourist attractions, over unique sights and activities, to lesser known spots, we explored them all in our Spaceships campervan!
So, what to do on the North Island of New Zealand? Keep reading to find out!
TIP: The locations in this article are clickable and will take you to the corresponding marker on the map. You can find the map on the right of your screen, or by clicking the map icon on the bottom if you’re on mobile.
Our 6 favourite things to do on the North Island of New Zealand
Our 3 favourite touristy, but must-do activities
Just like any other country, there are a bunch of touristy must do’s on the North Island of New Zealand. Although traveling off the beaten track is hot right now, there are a few touristy activities you just can’t skip, in our opinion. Beautiful spots are bound to become touristy, if you ask me.
For hikers, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the most popular tourist attraction on the North Island of New Zealand. It’s rightfully called the best day hike in New Zealand, but this also means it can get pretty busy on the track. You’ll have to get through 6 hours of hard terrain and steep slopes, but the awesome views (including Mount Doom) are worth the sweat! The hike is pretty demanding though, so go prepared and read up on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing beforehand.
Climbing Mount Doom is a pretty popular NZ activity with LOTR fans, but it’s not doable for everyone. Another major LOTR attraction is Hobbiton, accessible for fans of all ages and fitness levels. You can only visit the Hobbiton Movie Set with a guided tour, but it’s fun to hear about the tricks and effort put into the filming of the movie. Definitely a bucket list item, even if you’re not a die-hard fan of Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua is THE place to witness geothermal activity at its best. Think bubbling mud pools, steaming hot springs and a range of colourful waters and rock formations. Steam is rising everywhere you look. The Champagne Pool with its browny orange edge and water reaching 74°C is without a doubt one of the most famous features of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
Our 3 favourite off the beaten track spots
To get a break from the crowds, we visited some off the beaten track spots as well. Chances are they’re getting increasingly popular, but there was no one else during our visit. All thanks to the great tips from the NZ Frenzy guidebook!
One of the major tourist attractions on the North Island of New Zealand are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. However, we skipped this expensive 45 minute boat ride beneath a sky of glowworms. Instead, we marvelled at the glowworms in the Waipu Caves. Just the two of us and thousands of glowworms, it was magical!
The gates of the Aratiatia Dam are raised 3 to 4 times a day, letting the powerful Waikato River flow freely. A handful of people will be watching from several viewpoints, but hardly anyone knows about this exceptional Aratiatia Rapids viewpoint we watched from. It can be a bit tricky to reach, but you’ll have front row seats (splash zone) to see the Aratiatia Rapids come to life. Did you know they were a filming location when shooting ”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”?
Always wanted to take a dip in natural hot pools? Then head to Kerosene Creek in Rotorua. It’s not a guarantee you’ll be there on your own, but it still is a beautiful secluded little natural spa.
5 unique things to do on the North Island of New Zealand
The North Island of New Zealand has some pretty unique features and activities you simply must see or do when visiting. We loved every one of them, but not everything can be in our “Favourites” section.
Call us boring, but we love the occasional game of good old mini golf. What’s this doing under “Unique Activities”, I hear you think. Well, Carlucci Land in Wellington isn’t your average mini golf court. It’s based on a “junk yard” theme, with sculptures and constructions of recycled stuff and materials. We played some night golf there and had a blast with its 18 holes of ingenious constructions and hidden passage ways!
In Taupo you can find some natural hot pools as well, although they’re way more crowded than the ones at Kerosene Creek in Rotorua we mentioned earlier. The Spa Park is a well known relaxing spot for both tourists and locals.
Rotorua and Taupo are both part of a geothermal field in New Zealand. This results in natural hot pools and fascinating displays of geothermal activity. Similar to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua, Taupo has Craters of the Moon. The geothermal walk takes you through a unique landscape of bubbling craters and steaming vents. Impressive!
Another spot where you can admire the effects of geothermal activity is while walking the Te Manaroa Spring Eco Trail in Rotorua. Here you can see how the Te Manaroa Boiling Spring supplies the hot pools of the adjoining spa complex.
And last but not least, the North Island of New Zealand has the largest and oldest kauri trees in the world. You should definitely visit these beautiful giants! Do think about the wellbeing of the kauri trees when visiting and follow the guidelines in order to prevent the spread of the kauri dieback disease.
3 fun adventures on the North Island of New Zealand
Queenstown, a city on the NZ South Island, may be the adventure capital of the world, but they don’t have a monopoly on thrilling activities in New Zealand! There are a bunch of fun and adventurous things to do on the North Island as well, in Rotorua for example.
The most adventurous activity we did on the North Island of New Zealand is white water rafting in Rotorua. The guys from Kaituna Cascades took us rafting on the Kaituna River in Rotorua, going down the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Although there was a near-death experience involved (only slightly exaggerated), we had a blast!
We also did an adventure activity in Rotorua that didn’t involve water: Skyline Luge Rotorua. Although it was a rainy day when we visited. Luging is actually the perfect family activity. Sitting in a luge, part go-cart and part toboggan, you’ll race each other down one of three tracks. The Skyline Luge Rotorua slogan hits the nail right on the head: once is never enough.
4 of the best hikes on the North Island of New Zealand
We spent slightly less time on the North Island of New Zealand than on the South Island, so we didn’t do as many hikes here. Most of them were actually just short walks, but still worth stopping for.
The longest, and our favourite is the Mahinepua Peninsula Track, starting at Mahinepua Beach. It’s a pretty off the beaten track hike, with stunning coastal views worth driving to the edge of the Northland region for!
Loving the peace and quiet of a less popular walking track? In that case you should head to the Hamurana Springs Recreation Reserve in Rotorua for the Hamurana Springs Track. You’ll walk between the towering coastal redwood trees and past the Te Puna-A-Hangarue spring with the clearest water you’ve ever seen. Don’t miss out!
The Ruakuri Walk in Waitomo is a pretty short hike as well, taking you through a maze of limestone formations and the Ruakuri Natural Tunnels. It involves quite a few stairs, but the sights are worth the effort!
Another similar walk in Waitomo is the Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk. This short loop track takes you to an impressive limestone gorge: the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. A neat sight!
4 jaw-dropping views on the North Island of New Zealand
New Zealand is an absolutely gorgeous country, with stunning views all over both of the islands. We could have listed every spot in New Zealand here, but that would be overdoing it. Instead, we narrowed it down to these 4 jaw-dropping views.
The first one is the view from the Mount Victoria Lookout, granting a panoramic view over Wellington and its harbour. We believe finding a spot overviewing the city is a cliché, but can’t-skip thing to do in every (big) city. Don’t you?
The other 3 jaw-dropping views are all waterfalls on the North Island of New Zealand. Each of them impressive in their own way.
The highest of these 3 waterfalls are the Bridal Veil Falls, called Waireinga in Maori. It’s only a 10 minute walk (one way) from the car park to the 2 upper viewpoints, which are also accessible for wheelchairs. There’s a lower viewpoint as well, but that’s another 10 minutes one way. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go check that one out as well. Can you see why these beautiful 55 metre falls are called the Bridal Veil Falls though? Gorgeous.
The most powerful of these 3 North Island waterfalls are the Huka Falls in Taupo. The Waikato River suddenly narrows from 100 metres across to only 15 metres across, causing the beautiful light blue water to blast over the edge into the Huka Falls. These 11 metre falls can fill 5 Olympic pools every minute. Say what?!
And last but not least the most gorgeous waterfall of these 3: the Marokopa Falls in Waitomo. We could see why these 35m falls are often described as the most beautiful falls in New Zealand!
1 great wildlife spot on the North Island of New Zealand
We didn’t visit as many wildlife spots on the North Island of New Zealand as on the South Island. However, there’s one animal you should definitely try to spot: the kiwi.
We walked the Trounson Kauri Park Loop Track at night, but unfortunately we weren’t able to spot one. You can pay for a guided walk as well, lead by someone who has more experience with spotting these shy animals. That’s no guarantee you’ll see one though. Can’t force nature!
1 interesting museum on the North Island of New Zealand
The Te Papa Museum in Wellington is made up of 6 floors of interactive and unique displays, educating you about things ranging from art, to nature and social history. It’s anything but boring, and it’s free! It’s not a coincidence Te Papa is the most popular tourist attraction in Wellington.
NZ North Island Accommodation
We hired a Spaceships Campervan for our 1 month road trip through New Zealand, so stayed at campsites. Check out the 10 best campsites for digital nomads in New Zealand, where the WiFi has a decent speed while not being too expensive. Apparently a challenge to find in New Zealand!
Or maybe you prefer hiring a car and staying in hotels or AirBnB homes in New Zealand. Then check out the best places to stay on the North Island of New Zealand according to Booking.com.
Tip: While road tripping the North Island of New Zealand we got a lot of inspiration and information from the NZ Frenzy guidebook.
We’ve fallen in love with New Zealand during our 1 month road trip and are hoping to go back one day. Both islands are filled with beautiful nature, impressive hikes and fun activities. There are some many awesome places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand alone, you just can’t stay long enough.
Did we convince you to visit New Zealand? Or have you been already and did we miss some must see spots? We’d love to read all about your experience in the comments!
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