Though smaller than neighbouring South Island, the North Island packs in a full spectrum of sights and experiences. From cosmopolitan cities and authentic opportunities to engage in Maori culture to amazing geothermal activity and a sublime combination of forests, mountains and beaches. North Island is totally captivating.
Soak up the brashness of New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate bodies of water. Aside from the urban side of life, which Auckland does very well, within half an hour are beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. In addition New Zealand's capital, Wellington, offers a unique blend of heritage, culture and great food with a vibrant arts and entertainment scene.
The subtropical Northland region stretches upwards from Auckland to the very top of New Zealand. Known for its diverse natural beauty and relaxed pace of life, Northland is where you'll find the Bay of Islands, an aquatic playground of 144 islands and myriad of secluded bays; and at the very top is Ninety Mile Beach where you can watch the Tasman Sea collide with the Pacific Ocean.
Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland known for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, as well as showcasing the fascinating Maori culture. Attractions include Te Puia which is home to the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute and the world-famous Pohutu geyser.
Just south of Auckland lies the Hamilton-Waikato region, a land of lush pastures that was chosen to play The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Waitomo is famous for its underground adventure, from awe-inspiring walks and boat rides under thousands of glowworms, to adrenalin-fuelled adventures through the cave systems.
The town of Thames marks the entrance to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, renowned for its pristine beaches, misty forests and laid-back vibe. Rustic and unspoiled the Coromandel offers a plentiful array of activities and attractions from fishing and diving to hiking and cycling. Beautiful Lake Taupo, which is more of an inland sea, is about the size of Singapore and great for waterskiing, sailing, kayaking and fishing.
Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's warmest, driest regions which has made it one of the country's leading wine producers with over 40 wineries. It's a place to shop at farmer's markets, indulge in artisan food, walk forest trails, visit Cape Kidnappers or relax on glorious beaches.
GMT +12 hours.
New Zealand dollar
Auckland is approximately 24 hours 30 minutes from the UK (including a stopover). Key areas on the island have domestic airports or are within an easy drive.
North Island is the warmer of the two islands as it is closer to the equator and enjoys a subtropical climate with winter temperatures of around 6ºC and summers, a comfortable average of 23ºC. While very much a year round destination, either October and November or March and April are considered the best months to visit.
This ticket entitles you to enter the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, where thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light. Walk through Cathedral Cave and hear the amazing acoustics in this vast space. Then join a 45 minute tour by boat (which depart every 15-30 minutes) and glide silently through the caves. Available daily from Waitomo.
The Interislander ferry is one of the unmissable great journeys of New Zealand, as it sails between Wellington and Picton. It’s a truly iconic experience. There is the option to travel as a foot passenger, with upgrades available to the Plus Lounge for a more refined journey. There is also the option to travel with your car (some car rental companies require you to drop your vehicle off and pick up another on arrival). Each vessel has stacks to keep you busy with a family lounge, a cafe and bar. Journey is available in reverse. Wellington (North Island) to Picton (South Island) takes around 3½ hours. Three ferries depart daily from both Wellington and Picton with departures throughout the day.
From £47 (Wellington to Picton one way)
Take a journey from Middle Earth to Tracy Island and beyond as you explore 25 years of award-winning creativity at Weta Workshop. Learn about the practical effects created for Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the record-breaking Gallipoli and more. There’s also a chance to visit the authentic Thunderbirds Are Go shooting stage and discover the monumental miniature environments built for the popular television series. Available daily from Wellington (excluding 25 Dec).
During this fun-filled and informative afternoon tour, visit some of Hawke’s Bay’s most exciting wineries, ranging from household names you might recognise to boutique producers selling mainly from their cellar door. Also included is a vineyard experience to learn about the ‘roots’ of wine making from the soil up. Plus, you’ll enjoy a mid-afternoon cheese platter at one of the wineries. Available daily from Napier (excluding selected dates). Minimum age 18 years.
Get to know Auckland with a half day city highlights tour followed by a Hauraki Gulf harbour cruise. Travel through the city and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge enjoying views back to the city from the North Shore. Visit the Viaduct Harbour and Auckland’s famous Queen Street before continuing to the Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park. During the cruise the crew provide a commentary about the city and its landmarks. Available daily from Auckland.
Join a 4 hour scenic cruise through the picturesque Bay of Islands to search for dolphins living in the wild. Full commentary is given from the knowledgeable skipper about marine mammals and the conservation efforts being made. There is also an option to snorkel in the beautiful clear waters and if time permits you will also visit Otehi Bay on Urupukapuka Island afterwards, with the option to return on a later ferry at no extra cost. Available daily between Oct-Apr from Paihia.
The Te Po Tour is a one of a kind feast of storytelling, entertainment and Maori cuisine. Be enriched with a deeper understanding of Maori traditions and absorb the unforgettable sights of this top Rotorua attraction at nightfall. After a traditional welcome enjoy a Maori feast prepared in the traditional Hangi style. Then, board the motorised waka for a journey through the Valley Under Lights, disembarking at Pohutu Geyser to see it illuminated in all its full glory. Available every evening from Rotorua.
Your guide will escort you through the 10-acre site recounting fascinating details on how the Hobbiton Movie Set was created. Hobbit holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and other structures can be viewed and you will see how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-earth. Upon completion of the tour you will return to Rotorua. Available daily from Rotorua (excluding 25 Dec).
The Northern Explorer rumbles through the heart of the North Island on an epic journey that allows you to experience the extremes of New Zealand’s scenery, from the fertile farmlands of Waikato to the volcanic peaks of the Central Plateau and the sparkling Kapiti coast. Carriages have spacious reclining seats with generous leg room and panoramic windows The train also has an open-air carriage for uninterrupted views and a licensed cafe. All journeys are available in reverse. Auckland to Wellington which takes around 10½ hours; or Auckland to National Park which is 5½ hours. Departures Monday, Thursday & Saturday.
From £85 (Auckland to National Park one way) or £139 (Auckland to Wellington one way)
This full day tour begins with a visit to ancient Puketi Kauri Forest for a short walk. On arrival at Cape Reinga stand on the northern most tip of New Zealand and watch the Pacific Ocean collide with the Tasman Sea. Try sandboarding down the massive sand dunes on boogie boards at Te Paki Stream before journeying along empty 90 Mile Beach which will provide striking contrasts to the busy and populated East Coast. Available daily from Paihia.
Experience Auckland and its fascinating Maori culture on a very personal small group tour by exploring some important historic sites and learn more about the fascinating Maori culture and history along the way. Accompanied by an indigenous guide, the tour also features culturally significant locations in the Auckland area as well as its numerous volcanoes and amazing west coast scenery. Available daily from Auckland (excluding 25 Dec). Minimum age 4 years.