Newsflash: New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries you’ll ever visit. From the lush greenery and breathtaking beaches of the North Island to the majestic mountains and blue lakes of the South Island, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you’re planning to head to the Land of the Long White Cloud anytime soon, make sure you go to both islands.
Why? Well, they’re very different from each other. And both amazing in their own way.
It’s totally up to you where you decide to start your epic journey. That said, make sure you check out these 12 places to visit in North Island, New Zealand. (Thank me later!)
Firstly, getting to the North Island can be a little tricky from the UK.
That said, I’d suggest flying into Auckland because it’s the largest international airport in New Zealand — and then catching a domestic flight to your first destination from there.
(Or you could just begin your once-in-lifetime trip in Auckland and end it somewhere else, or circle back around!)
Regardless, you’ll have to take at least two flights to get to Auckland from the UK and most likely connect via one of the following airports:
But trust me, New Zealand is worth the hassle of the journey!
How to Get Around the North Island
The most popular way to see New Zealand is by driving through it. You can fly between cities domestically if you wish, but you might miss some of the best locations off the beaten track.
(And I wouldn’t recommend this!)
Instead, consider taking to the roads either in a car, campervan or bus. The suggested companies below are beneficial for all budget types:
- Car rental – Jucy, Apex, Go Rentals, Omega
- Campervan or motorhome – Jucy, Lucky Rentals, Maui, Britz
- Bus – Stray, Kiwi Experience, Contiki
Whichever option you pick, one thing’s for sure: it’ll be one of the best road trips you ever take!
Best Places to Visit in North Island, New Zealand
The good news is that the North and South Island are physically quite close to each other (just an hour’s plane ride away). Therefore, it’s straightforward to get between them if you’re flying.
If you’re driving, you can drive onto either the Bluebridge or Interislander ferry, which takes three and a half hours to get from Picton to Wellington (or vice versa).
Either way, the following hotspots are undoubtedly the best places to visit in North Island, New Zealand.
Known as “Windy Welly” because of its strong gales, Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and lies near the North Island’s southernmost point.
And thanks to its incredible harbour area, golden beaches and impressive lookout points, it’s is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been to (or lived in).
Oh, and did I mention it’s where Peter Jackson (Director of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbits movies) lives? Wellywood is also home to WETA Workshop and Stone Street Studios where a lot of post-production took place for the films.
Not into LOTR? No worries — there’s always something to see and do in the city, the locals are friendly and the food tastes so good. Hence, it’s kind of hard NOT to fall in love with the place.
Just try it for yourself.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and consequently often mistaken for the capital.
As well as its bustling Central Business District (CBD) that features the Sky Tower and a multitude of different shops, Auckland has some very interesting outskirts.
For example, you can quite easily catch the ferry to Waiheke Island from the CBD’s harbour for a fun day trip. Alternatively, you can visit the gorgeous Auckland Botanic Gardens just outside of the city.
Either way, you’re bound to get good vibes.
3. Mount Maunganui/Tauranga
Mount Maunganui is a gorgeous little beach town a 15-minute drive from the city of Tauranga.
In addition to having a giant mountain on the main beach which is a treat for the eyes (hence its name), Mount Maunganui has cute cafes, bars and restaurants aplenty.
Tauranga itself is also super cute with a really extensive harbour and shopping area.
Therefore, both options are great places to visit in North Island, New Zealand.
4. Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is an area east of Auckland where a lot of holidaymakers like to go campervanning or road tripping.
How come, you ask? Well, there are lots of lovely little towns and beaches, such as Coromandel itself.
This town is tiny but oh-so-adorable!
Having said that, if you want to marvel in the true beauty of the country, do the Cathedral Cove walk from Hahei. It’s stunning and simply not to be missed.
5. Tongariro National Park
Located in the centre of the North Island, Tongariro National Park is an ideal spot for hiking and tramping.
In fact, if you’re feeling brave, you can do the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike which takes you across craters and up and down mountains for 19.4 kilometres.
And Lord of the Rings fans, rejoice! Mount Ngauruhoe in this national park formed the basis of Mount Doom in the movies — and is visible on a clear day from almost any viewpoint. Swoon.
Speaking of Lord of the Rings, Matamata is the small town where the Hobbiton film set was built.
And it’s oneof the main reasons that I chose to travel around New Zealand the first time around!
What the film crew created at Hobbiton is nothing short of extraordinary. I mean, Elijah Wood nailed his description of it when he first went there: “You don’t have to imagine that you’re in the Shire because you’re actually in it!”
And can you believe the owner of the land is still offering tours of Hobbiton all these years later (the trilogy began pre-production in 1999)?
Put it this way: if you’re a LOTR fan, you HAVE to do this tour. And the bonus is that it ends in The Green Dragon where you can grab a pint. Perfect.
Another one of the best places to visit the North Island, New Zealand is Taupo.
It’s a town that’s known for its hot springs that can be seen via the “Craters of the Moon” reserve. And it’s also a town known for its crystal-blue cascades that are both dramatic and bewitching (called Huka Falls).
The reason why I’m combining this hotspot suggestion with Rotorua is because it only takes an hour’s car ride to get from one to the other. Therefore, you can tick them both off your travel bucket list in a day.
Speaking of Rotorua, this is where you’ll find the awe-inspiring Redwoods at Whakarewarewa Forest. There are also tons of authentic Maori experiences in the area where you can educate yourself on the history of New Zealand.
During my first trip to the country in 2014, I did a Maori Cultural Night with Stray. This involved learning all about the country’s indigenous heritage, watching Haka and Poi performances and staying in a Marae (a traditional Maori meeting house).
And it was truly eye-opening. Just try one for yourself.
8. New Plymouth
New Plymouth is a city on the west coast of the North Island that isn’t as popular with tourists as some of the other places on this list.
Having said that, New Plymouth is home to the gorgeous Pukekura Park.
Plus, it’s only an hour’s drive away from Egmont National Park — and you’re going to want to go there.
After all, Egmont National Park is where you can find and hike up Mount Taranaki, an active volcano. As well as marvel in its magnificence, there are also some stunning walks, lush rainforests and unique waterfalls in the area.
Three words: a must see.
9. Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is an area on the east coast of the Far North District of the North Island. And it’s well-known for its fishing, sailing and hiking activities.
If you get the chance, head to Paihia, which is a cute coastal town with good food and a fun atmosphere. It also has bars on the pier where you can take in the beauty of the islands while sipping on a nice refreshing beverage!
Have some more time? Check out the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
This is the protected site of the signing of the first agreement between the British Crown and the Maori people. And it’s enriched with history.
If you’re an art deco enthusiast, one of the best places to visit in North Island, New Zealand is Napier.
Situated on the east coast, this alluring city is famous for its beautifully-preserved 1930s architecture.
In fact, for this very reason, some of the buildings look a lot like the buildings in Miami Beach.
Whether you take a stroll down Marine Parade, visit Bluff Viewpoint or travel to the nearby vineyards of Hawke’s Bay, you’re bound to have a fabulous time exploring this hidden gem.
11. Cape Palliser/The Pinnacles
Over two hours away from Wellington via car, Cape Palliser is the southernmost point of the North Island.
It’s attractive to tourists because of its lighthouse that was built in 1897 — and because of the views from this lighthouse. I even saw seals from up there!
You can also check out the quirky rock formations in the area, including The Pinnacles, which is where they filmed the Dimholt Road scene in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Win-win.
12. Blue Duck Station
Last but not least, try to visit Blue Duck Station if you can.
Located in the wilderness of the Ruapehu district above the banks of Retaruke River, this sheep farm is a stop on the Stray bus’ tour of the North Island. And you can stay in the lodge there.
Sure, it’s a bit of a trek to get to thanks to its surrounding hills. However, it’s worth it just for its breathtaking views of native bush.
It’s Time to Say “Kia Ora!” To New Zealand
Travelling to Aotearoa and checking out some of the best places to visit in North Island, New Zealand really is a no-brainer.
Personally, I loved both of my trips because of the country’s charm and charisma. Plus, I’m obsessed with Lord of the Rings, so I was bound to love the place that is essentially Middle Earth!
Whether you decide to check it out sometime soon or later on down the line, be sure to say “Kia Ora” to New Zealand at least once in your lifetime.
I mean, it’ll be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Have you ever been to some of the best places to visit in North Island, New Zealand? What did you think?