The diverse attractions continue throughout the rest of North Island and include the beautiful beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula, the largest lake in New Zealand – Taupo, the scenic splendours of Tongariro National Park, the glorious Hawke's Bay wine region and the beautifully preserved 1930s art deco architecture of Napier.
With a mountainous interior cloaked in native rainforest and nearly 250 miles of dazzling white sand beaches, the Coromandel Peninsula is rustic, unspoiled and relaxed. The town of Thames, which marks the entrance to this region, offers activities from fishing and diving to cycling and hiking. The main towns of Coromandel and Whitianga offer the widest choice of accommodation, and if you're visiting in September don't miss the Whitianga Scallop Festival, a weekend of indulgence with lots of food and wine stalls. Hot Water Beach is another must visit, where the thermal activity causes steam to rise from the sand and you can dig your own thermal hot pool on the beach!
Just south of Auckland lies the Hamilton-Wakato region, a land of lush pastures that was chosen to play The Shire in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. In the Matamata farmland you can visit the Hobbiton Movie set for your own Middle Earth adventure. If surfing is more your style, then Raglan is a surf mecca while also boasting beautiful beaches and a great township with a vibrant local art and café scene. Nearby Waitomo is famous for its underground adventure in the labyrinth of caves and sinkholes under the green hills. Many of the caves have amazing stalactites and stalagmites and the cave walls are also decorated with galaxies of native glow worms.
In the middle of North Island is Lake Taupo, which is about the size of Singapore and actually more of an inland sea. It's a great place to enjoy waterskiing, sailing and kayaking while the forests surrounding the lake offer hiking and mountain biking whatever your level of experience. It's also a convenient base for visiting the magnificent Huka Falls to witness the phenomenon of natural hydro power, or Tongariro National Park, whose emerald lakes, alpine meadows and hot springs surround the largest volcanoes in the North Island.
Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's warmest, driest regions and this has made it one of the country's leading wine producers. There are over 30 wineries open for tasting and if you prefer not drive, hire a bike and cycle along one of the three Hawke's Bay Trails. Alternatively spend time with nature at Cape Kidnappers, home of the largest, most accessible gannet colony in the world or if you seek adventure, there are an amazing assortment of activities available. Do also take time to explore Napier, with its beautifully preserved 1930s art deco architecture, built after an earthquake devastated the city in 1931.
GMT +12 hours.
New Zealand dollar
The Coromandel Peninsula is about 2 hours 30 minutes drive from Auckland and Hamilton around 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Auckland. Lake Taupo is approximately 3 hours 30 minutes drive from Auckland or 4 hours 30 minutes drive from Wellington. Napier is 5 hours drive from Auckland or 4 hours drive from Wellington.
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.