At the time of writing this article we have arrived in Wellington, which means we have concluded our North Island trip. We have seen a lot during this time and can honestly say we fell in love with this country already. Picking out a few highlights to share with you guys was extremely difficult, because there is just so much to see and do here. We even had to drop a few experiences which we adored and will never forget, but we tried our best to make a short list which you will certainly enjoy!
When we were going to leave for New Zealand, everyone told us: ‘Go to the South Island as quickly as possible! It is so much prettier than the North Island!’ And of course, we haven’t been to the South Island yet, but we have to disagree with leaving the North Island as soon as possible. There are so many gorgeous highlights here that we will deal with later, but something that is truly amazing in the North Island are the spectacular sandy beaches! When driving along the coastline you will come across countless of these stunning spots. And the best of all is that because there are so many, you regularly find one all to yourself! This may change in summer however when everyone wants to catch some sunshine, but you still won’t feel as crowded as you often do on a stunning beach on a nice sunny day!
When you are travelling across the North Island of New Zealand, the Waitomo Caves are an absolute must-see. They are the home to the magical, native New Zealand glowworms. When going through the caves, you are able to see thousands of little lights on the ceiling, resembling a gorgeous, starry night.
As there are many different ways to go out and discover these tiny creatures, you will certainly find one that suits your needs. You could either go on a relaxing boat ride in the dark or if you would like some more thrills, you can go abseiling or rafting through the caves.
Lake Aniwhenua – Kohutapu Lodge
We had the amazing opportunity to spend a night at the Kohutapu Lodge. This gorgeous lakeside accommodation is much more than your regular hostel. The owners are local Maori people who will teach you all about their tribe. They had built very successful lives for themselves, which they gave up to go back to their hometown and help it recover. Their hometown Murupara, once a thriving town, has lost much of its wealth and inhabitants due to the declining number of jobs in the region. With the power of tourism, they are trying to help the region and support the citizens. The owners don’t run their Lodge to make profit, all their extra money goes directly into the local community. They provide meals for the children and the elderly, help make schooltrips possible, finance higher education for local youngsters and so much more…
Another benefit of staying here is that you get the chance to immerse yourself in the local Maori culture through having a traditional Hangi meal (completely cooked underground!), learning the Haka that is also used by the All Blacks Rugby team, flax weaving… We also loved that you get to be around a real Maori family with the modern Maori lifestyle, instead of watching actors perform a “traditional Maori act”.
Rotorua has a lot to offer to travelers. You can explore the geothermal activity in the area through multiple parks. You have a free option in Kuirau Park or if you want to see something more special like the Champagne Pool, you can go to Wai-O-Tapu. These bright and colorful pools of boiling water are amazingly beautiful.
Another unique activity to do in Rotorua is… Zorbing! You basically climb inside a giant plastic ball and roll down a hill! We promise you it’s a lot of fun! Zorbing was invented in Rotorua and is still the only place in New Zealand where you get to do this fun activity. We even have a video of us doing it! 😀
Cape Reinga Trip
We found Northland to be an amazing region, full of beauty. We even stayed a full month in this area, because we couldn’t get enough of the many gorgeous beaches. With this one day trip you can see most of the highlights. You start very early in the morning in the cute town Paihia. Then you drive all the way up North. Firstly you visit the Puketi forest which is the home to many majestic Kauri trees. The oldest one around is guessed to be 3000 years old! Then you make your way to 90 Mile Beach. Don’t let this gorgeous beach fool you, it is a public highway! Crazy, right? Next you get the opportunity to sandboard down some giant dunes. This was absolutely one of our favorite activities. Of course you also visit Cape Reinga itself, the most Northern reachable point of New Zealand. According to Maori legend, this is where their spirits departed to their mythical homeland Hawaiki. You can also see the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean merge together and form impressively crashing waves. To end this fun day, you go to the best Fish ‘n Chips Shop of the region, located in Mangonui. You can overlook the waters where they catch their fish daily, while enjoying your meal.
We have only spend a few days in Wellington at the time of writing this article, but we have to say we already love this city. This is the first time we actually fell in love with a city in New Zealand, beforehand it was only the local nature that really spoke to us. Wellington has so much more to offer than the cities we visited before. It has a vibrant food culture that we thoroughly enjoy, an eye-catching waterfront where you can relax and lots of free activities to do! The Te Papa National Museum is the best free museum we have ever been to. It offers lots of different themes to learn about ranging from history to geography and more… You will always find something to discover in this amazing city.
Don’t worry, Lord of the Rings fans, we didn’t forget about you guys! Hobbiton deserves a special bonus place on our list if you are a fan of Middle Earth. We went to visit the movie set and it was amazing! You really feel as if you are walking around the Shire. The details are all perfectly done and make this village truly come alive. You get to see all kinds of different Hobbit Holes and even the ones of your favorites characters. To top the whole experience off you get to end your day in the Green Dragon, which is an actual functioning pub. Fun guaranteed!
Hopefully this list will spark your inspiration when planning your way around the North Island of New Zealand. Don’t forget to let us know in the comments what your personal highlights of the North Island are.
PS: Have you already seen our YouTube video’s?! Here are two of the links:
Our first month in New Zealand: https://youtu.be/NuzTZ9z2gzA
No worries in Sydney: https://youtu.be/10e-3Ixd2aA