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Cruise the Bay of Islands, go blackwater rafting, spend a day on beautiful Waiheke Island, go sandboarding, hike the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing, see glowworms and kiwi birds, visit Hobbiton, and explore the geothermal areas around Rotorua and Taupo…these are all things to do on the North Island of New Zealand.

There is something here for everyone.

Sample some of New Zealand’s best food and wine at the vineyards and small towns that dot the North Island.

Kids will love exploring Hobbiton, the geothermal wonderland near Rotorua, and seeing the glowworms in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

Those in search of adventure can hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, go blackwater rafting, and leap from the Sky Tower in Auckland.

And for those who like scenic drives and stunning landscapes, don’t miss a cruise or helicopter flight at the Bay of Islands, a few days exploring the Twin Coast Discovery Highway, and a visit to Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.

In this guide, we will introduce you to the many amazing things to do on the North Island of New Zealand.

Let’s get started.

Interesting Facts about the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui)

The North Island of New Zealand, which is also called Te Ika-a-Māui, is the smaller of the two main islands in New Zealand.

According to a Maōri legend, New Zealand was created by the demigod Māui. Māui caught an enormous fish from his canoe (the South Island) and pulled it from the sea. This fish became the North Island of New Zealand, or Te Ika-a-Māui, or ‘The Fish of Maui.’

The North Island is more populated than the South Island, with about three-quarters of New Zealanders living on the North Island. Auckland and Wellington (the capital of New Zealand) form the largest urban areas.

Sitting within the interior of the North Island is an active geothermal area. Volcanos rise from the center of the North Island and are surrounded by geothermal springs, hot pools, and bubbling mud. Exploring this geothermal wonderland is one of the best things to do on the North Island.

If you want to visit the spot that holds the Guinness Book of World Record’s longest place name in the world, the put Taumata-whakatangi-hangakoauau-o-tamatea-turi-pukakapiki-maunga-horo-nuku-pokai-whenua-kitanatahu on your list. This name is Maōri for “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, and played his nose flute to his loved one.” It is often shortened to Tamatea or Taumata Hill. This 1,000-foot hill is located along the southeast coast of the North Island. We’ve marked it on our map below.

Best Things to Do on the North Island

In no particular order, here are the best things to do on the North Island of New Zealand. At the end of this section, you can see all of them on a map.

1. Spend the Day on Waiheke Island

Let’s get started with one of our favorite experiences on the North Island of New Zealand…Waiheke Island.

This small island is located in the Hauraki Gulf, not far from Auckland. It is home to long stretches of beautiful beaches and coastlines, olive oil and gin distilleries, hiking trails, and restaurants.

But for many people, the biggest draw are the wineries. Waiheke Island is covered in vineyards, so wine tastings or a wine pairing with lunch or dinner are one of the best things to do on Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island | Best things to do on the North Island

Waiheke Island | Best things to do on the North Island


Man O War Vineyards Lunch

Lunch at Man O’ War Vineyards


Mudbrick Waiheke Island | Best things to do on the North Island


How to Visit Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island is an easy day trip from Auckland. Ferries between Waiheke Island and Auckland run throughout the day. Once on the island, you can get around by car, bus, or bicycle.
One day on Waiheke Island gives you enough time to visit a few wineries, have a leisurely lunch and/or dinner, and add in some activities such as olive oil tasting, gin tasting, ziplining, time at the beach, or the walk out to Stony Batter Historic Reserve.
Learn how to plan your visit with our article How to Plan the Perfect Waiheke Island Day Trip.

2. Enjoy the View from Cape Reinga

Journey to the very top of New Zealand and visit Cape Reinga.

In Maōri, Te Rerenga Wairua means the leaping off of spirits. The Maōri believe that Cape Reinga is the point where spirits of the dead enter the underworld.

A lighthouse is perched at the end of the peninsula. From this point, you can watch as the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga Lighthouse | Best things to do on the North Island

 Cape Reinga Lighthouse Photo

Cape Reinga New Zealand | Best things to do on the North Island

Cape Reinga | Best things to do on the North Island

How to Visit Cape Reinga

To get here, drive State Highway 1 until it ends at the Cape Reinga parking area. From the parking lot, it is an 800-meter walk to the Cape Reinga lighthouse. It is worth walking all the way out to the lighthouse because the views from the walk and the lighthouse are incredible.

3. Explore the Geothermal Areas

The center of the North Island, near Taupō and Rotorua, contains one of the most active geothermal areas in the world. Exploring this land of geysers, steaming hot pools, and bubbling mud is one of the most interesting things to do on the North Island.

In this area, you have several geothermal parks to choose from.

Te Puia

At Te Puia, which is located in Rotorua, not only can you tour the geothermal pools and geysers, but you can also see kiwi birds, visit an arts and crafts institute, and watch a Maōri cultural performance. One of the highlights of the visit is seeing the Pōhutu geyser (the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere) which erupts twice an hour.

Pohutu Geyser

Pōhutu geyser 

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

On June 10, 1886, a volcanic eruption of Mount Tarewera created the world’s youngest geothermal valley. This long, narrow valley is home to Frying Pan Lake (the world’s largest hot spring), the Inferno Crater (a brilliantly blue lake), and Lake Rotomahana. It is located near Rotorua.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Inferno Crater at Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

This geothermal area is located south of Waimangu Volcanic Valley, about 30 km south of Rotorua. It is often called New Zealand’s most colorful geothermal area.

Watch as Lady Knox Geyser erupts (usually around 10:15 am daily), walk the boardwalk trails to see steaming thermal pools and colorful hot springs, and see the largest mud pool in New Zealand.

Orakei Korako Geothermal Park

Orakei Korako Geothermal Park is a 30-minute drive north of Taupō. From the parking area, you will board a ferry for a short trip across Waikato River to the geothermal area (the ferry fee is included with the entrance fee). Boardwalk tracks lead to geysers, bubbling pools of mud, and steaming, colorful pools. It is one of the North Island’s most interesting places to visit.

Get hours and pricing on the official website.

Orakei Korako

Orakei Korako Geothermal Park

Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa

Relax in the healing thermal waters, have a massage, and walk the short trails to the natural silica pools. This is one of the prettiest places in Taupō to lounge in the naturally heated waters, and these pools are adult only. For pricing, hours, and spa treatments, visit the official website.

Wairakei Terraces Thermal Spa | Best things to do on the North Island

Wairakei Terraces Thermal Spa

Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa

At Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa, take a geothermal walk and then bathe in the healing geothermal mud and sulfur waters. It’s one of the most unique “hot pool” experiences in New Zealand.

Hell’s Gate is located outside of Rotorua, about a 20-minute drive from town.

4. Visit Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is one of the most picturesque places to visit on the North Island. This iconic beach is located on the Coromandel Peninsula. You can get to it by boat and by hiking. Taking a boat tour of the cove and the surrounding islands and coastal scenery is a great way to explore this part of New Zealand.

Learn how to plan your visit in our Guide to Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove | Best things to do on the North Island

Cathedral Cove | DmitrySerbin/shutterstock.com

5. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are one of the most important historical sites in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This is where the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) was first signed. This treaty is Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document and it is a written agreement between the Maori chiefs and the British Crown to share power in New Zealand.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Waitangi Treaty Grounds | Best things to do on the North Island


Te Whare Runanga | Best things to do on the North Island

Te Whare Rūnanga

How to Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are located near Paihia and the Bay of Islands.
At the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, learn more about the Treaty of Waitangi at the Museum of Waitangi and the Museum of the Price of Citzenship, see Te Whare Rūnanga (a beautifully carved meeting house), visit the Treaty House, see the Ngātokimatawhaorua (the world’s largest ceremonial waka (canoe)).

6. The Bay of Islands

Consisting of 144 islands, the Bay of Islands is known for its beautiful blue water, dramatic shorelines, and picturesque coves.

Popular places to visit in the Bay of Islands include Hole in the Rock, Urupukapuka Island (the largest island in the Bay of Islands), Otehei Bay (one of the bays at Urupukapuka Island), Russell, and Motuarohia Island (the original landing site of Captain Cook).

Bay of Islands New Zealand | Best things to do on the North Island

Bay of Islands | Best things to do on the North Island


Urupukapuka Island Sheep

Sheep on Urupukapuka Island

How to Visit the Bay of Islands

You can visit the Bay of Islands on a boat tour or a helicopter tour. A boat tour is more affordable but a helicopter tour gives a bird’s eye view of this stunning archipelago. Learn about the various tour options and how to have the best experience in our Guide to the Bay of Islands.

7. See the Glowworms in Waitomo

Seeing glowworms is one of the top experiences to have in New Zealand. There’s no better place to do this than in Waitomo.

In Waitomo, there are two caves to choose from.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves is the most popular option. Tours of this cave run all day, last about 45 minutes to an hour, and it is the best option if you want to see some glowworms on a quick visit.

At Ruakari Cave, just down the street from Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you can take a 1.5-hour guided tour of the cave, see and photograph the glowworms, and/or go blackwater rafting.

If you are visiting New Zealand with kids, this is an experience not to be missed. This was one of Tyler and Kara’s favorite activities in New Zealand when they were kids.

Glowworms New Zealand

Glowworms | Best things to do on the North Island

8. Go Blackwater Rafting

Blackwater Rafting is one of the most adventurous things to do on the North Island of New Zealand.

Blackwater rafting is tubing down underground rivers in the semi-darkness. This experience also includes hiking, jumping off of waterfalls, army crawling through tunnels and openings, and in some cases, abseiling.

Since this is done in Ruakari Cave, you also get to see the glowworms and it is magical.

So, if you want to see the glowworms with a side of adventure, put blackwater rafting on your list. Learn all about it in our Guide to the Waitomo Caves.

Blackwater Rafting New Zealand | Best things to do on the North Island


Blackwater Rafting, photo courtesy of Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.

9. See the Putangirua Pinnacles

This geological formation, with its hoodoos and badlands appearance, slightly resembles Bryce Canyon or Badlands National Park in the USA. This was a filming location for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Putirangua Pinnacles | Best things to do on the North Island

Putangirua Pinnacles | Victor Lapaev/shutterstock.com

The Putangirua Pinnacles make a nice day trip from Wellington.

Before you go, check the DOC website for updates. At the time that I am writing this, the Putangirua Pinnacles are closed.

10. Drive the Twin Coast Discovery Highway

The Twin Coast Discovery Highway is an 800 km/500-mile driving loop in Northland (the northernmost region of New Zealand).

On this drive, you will visit several other places that show up on this list, including Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach, and Waipoua Forest. You can add on places like the Bay of Islands and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

It takes several days to drive the Twin Coast Discovery Highway. Learn more in our Guide to Northland.

Signal Station Walk New Zealand

View from the Signal Station Walk in Northland


Koutu Boulders

The Koutu Boulders, one of the sights on the Twin Coast Discovery Highway

11. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Labeled as the best single day hike in New Zealand, some people even consider this hike to be best single day hike in the world.

Here is your chance to hike in the shadow of Mt. Doom, walk through an almost lunar landscape, and watch as semi-dormant volcanoes smoke not too far off in the distance.

Tongariro Hike | Best things to do on the North Island

Tongariro Alpine Crossing | Best things to do on the North Island


Tongariro Mt Doom

Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom

How to Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This hike is 19.4 km (12 miles) point-to-point, moderate to strenuous in difficulty, and takes 6 to 8 hours. Learn more about the hike, and see a lot more photos, in our Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

12. Eat and Drink Your Way through Wellington

Wellington is home to a huge number of coffee shops, craft beer breweries, gourmet restaurants, and cocktail bars, making it an excellent place to visit in New Zealand for foodies.

This city is famous for being the craft beer capital of New Zealand. Touring the Craft Capital Beer Trail is one of the best things to do here.

There is also a long list of highly rated restaurants in Wellington. Shed 5 Bar & Restaurant is located on the waterfront and serves amazing seafood. We had excellent Italian at Nicolini’s. Logan Brown (European), The Old Quarter (Asian), Ortega Fish Shack (seafood), and Ombra (Italian) also get great reviews.

For more information about what there is to see and do in Wellington, check out our Guide to Wellington.

Wellington New Zealand | Best things to do on the North Island

Wellington | Best things to do on the North Island

13. See New Zealand’s Largest Tree

Kauri trees are native to New Zealand. By volume, these can grow to be the largest trees in the country. Their trunk diameters can become a massive 5 meters in diameter and they can grow to be 40 to 50 meters tall.

Tāne Mahuta is the largest tree in New Zealand. To see this tree, visit the Waipou Forest, which is located near the west coast of Northland.

Tane Mahuta | Best things to do on the North Island

Tāne Mahuta

Park at the parking lot on State Highway 12 and it is a 5-minute walk on a boardwalk trail to see this ancient tree. According to the sign that stands next to the tree, Tāne Mahuta is over 2,000 years old and over 50 meters tall.

14. Photograph Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki is a dormant stratovolcano that is located on the southwest corner of the North Island. This is a popular photography and trekking location in New Zealand.

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki | Janice Chen/shutterstock.com

This mountain was named after Rua Taranaki, the first ancestor of the Maōri tribe (iwi) called Taranaki. On maps, it appeared as Mount Egmont (the name given to the volcano by Captain Cook) until 1986, when the name officially became “Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont.”

This volcano sits within Egmont National Park. In the summer, it’s possible to climb to the summit of Mount Taranaki in a day, for those who are fit, fast, and experienced. In the winter, this volcano becomes a skiing destination. All year round, photographers photograph Mount Taranaki from all angles.

15. See Huka Falls

According to the Love Taupō website, Huka Falls is New Zealand’s most popular natural attraction.

Huka Falls sits just outside of the Taupo city center. You can drive here, cycle here, mountain bike here, or take a cruise or jetboat ride to the base of the falls.

Huka Falls New Zealand

Huka Falls | Best things to do on the North Island

16. Explore the Shire at Hobbiton

Hobbiton just may be the cutest place to explore on the North Island of New Zealand.

Hobbiton was constructed in 1999 for the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then later rebuilt as a permanent structure for the filming of the The Hobbit trilogy. Now the owners of the farm, the Alexanders, run tours to see the movie set.

It is amazing the level of detail that went into designing this set, everything from the scale of the houses to the landscaping to prop design. Being here almost made Tim and I feel like kids again, wanting to explore these tiny hobbit houses and hideaways. You don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan in order to enjoy a visit here, but it helps to be a kid at heart.

Hobbiton New Zealand | Best things to do on the North Island

Hobbiton | Best things to do on the North Island


Visiting Hobbiton

How to Visit Hobbiton

The only way to see Hobbiton is with a tour. Tours run several times a day starting at 9:30 am and go all day. You can also take an Evening Banquet Tour, a Second Breakfast Tour, or book a tour in Chinese.
Journey through Hobbiton in photos and make your reservation in advance on the official website.

17. Watch a Maōri Cultural Performance

For an authentic Maōri experience, watch a cultural performance and take part in the hāngī, a traditional Maōri meal.

Mitai Maori Village

Maōri cultural performance at Mitai Maōri Village

The hāngī is traditionally cooked Maori food. Chicken, meat and kumara are cooked in an earth oven and then served in a buffet.

There are several places on the North Island to watch a Maōri Cultural Performance. We did this at the Mitai Maōri Village in Rotorua. This 3-hour experience includes a welcoming ceremony, watching as warriors paddle a canoe on the Wai-o-Whiro stream, a buffet hangi dinner, and a cultural performance.

In Rotorua, you can also attend a Maori cultural experience at Te Puia. A similar experience is also offered at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

18. Visit the Historic Town of Russell

Russell, also called Kororāreka, is famous for being the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand.

This small coastal town is located in the Bay of Islands. It is a delight to stroll through, with a charming waterfront area and collection of restaurants.

While in Russell, have dinner at the Duke of Marlborough, enjoy the view from Flagstaff Hill, and see Christ Church, New Zealand’s oldest church.

Russell Bay of Islands | Best things to do on the North Island

Overlooking Russell and the Bay of Islands from Flagstaff Hill

19. Go Wine Tasting in Martinborough

Martinborough is one of New Zealand’s top wine regions. There are over 20 cellar doors to visit as well as a sprinkling of gourmet restaurants. You can day trip to Martinborough from Wellington or spend the night here in a boutique hotel.

This small group 5-hour tour takes care of your transportation and includes a visit to three wineries.

This is a longer tour (about 10 hours) but includes a scenic drive over the Remutaka Ranges, a visit to a few wineries, and a drive along the coastline to see the Ngawi seal colony.

20. Go Zorbing

Step inside a giant inflatable ball and bounce and roll downhill.

Zorbing is similar to sliding down a water slide. The inside of the zorb is filled with a thin layer of water. You sit inside the ball, in your swimsuit, and as the zorb rolls downhill, you slide on the bottom of the ball, bouncing around a bit, but never tumbling upside down.

ZORB Rotorua is the only place in New Zealand where you can go zorbing. Learn more on the official website.

ZORB Rotorua

ZORB Rotorua

21. See a Kiwi

The kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird that is native to New Zealand. There are several different species of this bird and most of them are threatened. Deforestation and the introduction of predators have contributed to the huge decline in the number of kiwis in New Zealand.


Kiwi | Harvepino/shutterstock.com

It’s very rare that you will see a kiwi in the wild, both because their numbers are low and because they are only active at night.

On the North Island, the best place to see a kiwi is the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua.

The National Kiwi Hatchery is one of the largest and most successful kiwi hatcheries in the world. When you visit the hatchery, 100% of your entrance fee is put back into their program. The only way to visit the hatchery is on a guided tour.

Learn more about the National Kiwi Hatchery and make your reservation on the official website.

22. See the Māori Rock Carvings

Take a cruise on Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, to see the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings. These rock carvings look like they are ancient, but they were carved by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the 1970’s.

Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving | Best things to do on the North Island

Māori Rock Carvings | Best things to do on the North Island

To see the carvings, you can take a 1.5-hour cruise on Lake Taupō with Chris Jolly Outdoors, which also included a cruise along the east side of the lake, with views of the hot water beach and the town of Taupō. You can also view the carvings on this helicopter tour.

23. Spend a Day or Two in Auckland

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand. With its beautiful setting on the Hauraki Gulf, its parks and walking trails, vibrant food and wine scene, and endless day trip options, the list of things to do in Auckland is relatively long.

While in Auckland, enjoy the view from the Sky Tower, go whale watching, visit the Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland War Memorial Museum, have dinner in Viaduct Harbour, and enjoy the view from Mount Eden. Our favorite experience here was day tripping to Waiheke Island.

Learn more about Auckland in our article 20 Amazing Things to Do in Auckland and plan your time with our Auckland Itinerary.

Auckland New Zealand

Auckland | Best things to do on the North Island

24. Drive Ninety Mile Beach

For one of the most unique driving experiences in New Zealand, drive Ninety Mile Beach from Ahipara to Scott Point.

This 88 km beach is used as a “highway.” It is located along the northernmost stretch of the North Island, ending near Cape Reinga.

To drive on the beach, you must have a 4WD vehicle. If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, you can get views of this long expanse of sand from the town of Ahipara and the Te Paki Sand Dunes.

Ahipara New Zealand

25. Walk or Mountain Bike Amongst the Redwoods

Sitting beside Rotorua is the Whakarewarewa Forest, a forest of 100+ year old coastal redwoods. Some of these trees are now 75 meters tall.

Mountain biking on the trails that weave through the forest is a very popular thing to do here. Our favorite experience is the Redwoods Treewalk, which is a series of 28 suspension bridges that hover 20 meters above the forest floor. These bridges form a 700-meter loop and along this walk you get an incredible view of the Redwood trees.

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest


Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest

Redwoods Treewalk New Zealand

Redwoods Treewalk

We did the walk during the daytime, which was very nice. But for an even more memorable experience, you can also do the treewalk in the evening, when the forest is illuminated, creating a magical experience.

The walk takes about 30 minutes. Get pricing and hours on the official website.

26. Go Sandboarding at Te Paki

Sitting on the remote north end of New Zealand is an unexpected landscape. Giant sand dunes rise from the ocean’s edge, creating the perfect spot to go sandboarding.

The Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes sit on the north end of New Zealand, next to Ninety Mile Beach and a short drive from Cape Reinga.

Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes

Te Paki Sand Dunes New Zealand

Te Paki Sand Dunes | Best things to do on the North Island

How to Visit the Te Paki Sand Dunes

To get here, turn onto Te Paki Stream Road from State Highway 1. This road ends at the parking lot for the Te Paki Sand Dunes. At this parking lot are several stands renting sandboards.
To get out onto the dunes, you will first have to cross Te Paki Stream and then it is a short but tiring hike onto the dunes.
A visit here lasts anywhere from an hour to half of a day, depending on what you plan to do here. The sand dunes are free to visit.

27. Go Scuba Diving at Poor Knights Marine Reserve

The Poor Knights Islands is a small archipelago that sits of the east coast of Northland. This is a popular scuba diving and snorkeling spot. You can take a cruise to the islands or join a scuba diving or snorkeling tour. Learn more here.

28. Visit the Waitākere Ranges

Not far from Auckland, on the west coast of the North Island, is a stretch of beautiful coastline. There are several unique beaches here to visit.

Karekare Beach is a gorgeous black sand beach. We visited this beach on a Sunday morning in May and almost had the entire beach to ourselves.

Karekare Beach

Karekare Beach | Best things to do on the North Island

Piha Beach is another picturesque beach. For a good view of it, make a quick stop at the Tasman Lookout.

Piha Beach

Piha Beach | Emagnetic/shutterstock.com

Farther north, Anawhata Beach is smaller but more remote. Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Muriwai Beach are two more gorgeous beaches to visit.

29. Relax at Hot Water Beach

Bring a shovel, dig a hole, and relax in the warm waters that bubble up from the ground.

Hot Water Beach is located on the Coromandel Peninsula. This is a great activity to combine with a visit to Cathedral Cove, mentioned earlier on this list.

Hot Water Beach Viewpoint

Overlooking Hot Water Beach


Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach | Naruedom Yaempongsa/shutterstock.com

30. Visit the Castlepoint Lighthouse

For photographers and beach lovers, this is not to be missed. Sitting on the east coast of the North Island is the Castlepoint Lighthouse. This lighthouse overlooks a gorgeous beach and rugged coastal scenery, making this another excellent photography location in New Zealand.


Castlepoint | SkyLynx/shutterstock.com

Best Things to Do on the North Island of New Zealand: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Things to Do on the North Island of New Zealand: Our Recommendations

Top 10 Things to Do on the North Island of New Zealand

To narrow down the list, here are the must-have experiences on the North Island.

  • Day trip to Waiheke Island
  • Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Visit Cape Reinga
  • Go sandboarding at the Te Paki Sand Dunes
  • Go blackwater rafting
  • See the glowworms in Waitomo
  • Visit Hobbiton
  • Explore the geothermal areas near Taupo and Rotorua
  • Visit the Whakarewarewa Forest
  • Cruise the Bay of Islands

Best Things to Do on the North Island with Kids

  • Visit Hobbiton
  • Tour the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
  • Go sandboarding at the Te Paki Sand Dunes
  • Go zorbing
  • Visit the Whakarewarewa Forest and walk or bike amongst the redwoods
  • Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (older kids)
  • Explore the geothermal areas near Taupo and Rotorua
  • Visit the Waitakere Ranges
  • Visit Weta Cave in Wellington
  • Cruise the Bay of Islands

Best Adventurous Things to Do on the North Island

  • Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Go blackwater rafting
  • Go scuba diving at the Poor Knights Marine Reserve
  • Leap from the Sky Tower in Auckland
  • Go sandboarding at Te Paki
  • Climb Mount Taranaki
  • Hike to Cathedral Cove
  • Go skydiving at the Bay of Islands
  • Drive Ninety Mile Beach
  • Go mountain biking at Whakarewarewa Forest

New Zealand North Island Itinerary

Learn how to put all of these things to do on the North Island into an epic road trip. In our New Zealand North Island Itinerary guide, we list 5 different itineraries, ranging from 5 days to 2 weeks. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days do you need on the North Island of New Zealand?

At a minimum, plan on spending 5 days on the North Island. This gives you just enough time to visit Auckland or Wellington, and either venture north to Northland and the Bay of Islands, or visit Hobbiton, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and the geothermal areas around Taupo and Rotorua.

It takes 2 weeks or longer to road trip through the North Island of New Zealand. If you want to visit everything listed on our North Island Bucket List, plan on spending at least 2 weeks on the North Island.

When is the best time to visit the North Island?

Summer (December through February) is generally the best time to be here, with warmer, drier weather. However, it is also the busiest time of year to be here.

In autumn (March through May), temperatures cool off, as do the crowds, but rain chances increase. Fall colors make an appearance.

In the winter (June, July and August), the temperatures continue to cool. Snow will fall on the highest peaks but for the most part, the North Island doesn’t get snow like the South Island does. The North Island tends to stay a bit warmer, especially the farther north you go.

And finally, in the spring (September through November), temperatures warm up and flowers begin to bloom. In late spring, rainfall goes down but crowds start to rise.

Is the North Island of New Zealand worth it?

With glowworm caves, giant sand dunes, wineries, stunning coastal landscapes, black sand beaches, geothermal areas to explore, Hobbiton, cultural experiences, forests of redwoods and kauri trees, and small towns and large cities to visit, there is something here for everyone. The North Island is well worth visiting on your trip to New Zealand.

If you have any questions about the best things to do on the North Island of New Zealand, or if you want to share your favorite experiences, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand

NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include spending a day or two in Auckland, hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, visiting Cathedral Cove, touring Hobbiton, cruising the Bay of Islands from Paihia, and seeing glowworms and blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves. 

BEST OF NEW ZEALAND: In our New Zealand Bucket List, we cover 50 epic experiences to have in New Zealand.

AUCKLAND: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in Auckland, which also has hotel and restaurant recommendations. Learn how to plan your time with our Auckland Itinerary.

SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, hike the Hooker Valley Track, visit Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, go on a helicopter flight to see Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers from the sky, and learn about the best things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.

ROUTEBURN TRACK: The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It is one of the best hikes we have done in the world. It is typically done as a multi-day trek but can be completed in one day if you are very fit and fast.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide. And tips and tricks for taking great photos in our article How to Take Better Photos while Traveling.

We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, Bay of Islands, and the Milford Sound.


North Island New Zealand Things to Do


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Comments 2

  1. Avatar for Debra
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, from your browser, press CTRL+P to bring up the printer dialog box and from here you can save this as a pdf and/or print it. Just be aware that our website is not optimized for printing so it will be a lot of pages. Cheers, Julie

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