15 Things To Do On New Zealand’s North Island

15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island

1. Go Sailing in the Bay of Islands

For a very scenic and relaxing experience, go sailing in the Bay of Islands. Located in the Northland Region, the Bay of Islands is close to the northern tip of the country.

This area is a world class region for sailing and a collection of over 140 islands with a coastline sporting four villages, including the charming town of Russell. For day sails or a late afternoon cruise visit  Tucker.co.nz.

Bay of Islands - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Bay of Islands

2. Enjoy the Hot Thermal Springs in Rotorua

“In Rotorua all you can do here is eat, sleep, and spa,” our waiter told us one evening. Indeed, when you visit Rotorua, the thermal experience is everywhere.  It steams up from the pavements; there are geysers fields,  mud pools, fumaroles and hot springs.

This thermal activity makes itself known in every corner of the city, and is the reason for the area’s famed sulphur scent.  And one of the best thermal experiences you can have is at the world renowned Polynesian Spa, voted as a world top 10 spa.

Visit Rotorua - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Thermal Pools

3. White Water Raft the Tongariro River

If you’re after a real wilderness experience, then go White Water Rafting on The Tongariro River. It’s one of New Zealand’s most famous rivers.

In between conquering each rapid, you will witness ancient beech forests, rainbow trout swimming upstream, breathtaking gorges, limestone and volcanic cliffs, and water so clean and fresh you could drink it. This river is known as the perfect river for your first rafting experience.

Whitewater Rafting in Tapou - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Rafting Tongariro

4. Beer Tasting at Hallertau Brewery in Auckland

Did you know that New Zealand has some pretty good local beer? We didn’t either. The Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant, a New Zealand first, is nestled in the greenery of Riverhead, only a twenty minute drive from the city.

Hallertau, with it’s combination of brewing and epicurean lifestyle, will allow you to sit back and enjoy for a couple of hours. And the food is damn good too. Order the pumpkin risotto.

Visit a Brewery - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Beer Sample at Hallertau

5. Sky Dive

When I went Sky diving in New Zealand it was the first time that I have ever jumped. I faced my fears in the Northland’s region, near Whangarei, and it was awesome.

I jumped with Dave, one of the regions most experienced tandem jumpers, and the scenery was spectacular. Skydive New Zealand with Ballistic Blondes.

Go Skydiving - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Ready to face my fears

6. The Burried Village in Rotorua

The explosion of Mt Terewaka over a century ago burried the whole village, including what was considered a natural wonder of the world, the pink and white terraces.

And before the recent earthquake in Christchurch earlier this year, it was New Zealand’s biggest natural disaster. A visit to the burried village is fascinating and the story  is told to you by a knowledgeable and passionate guide as she walks you through the village sharing with you stories from that time.

15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
The burried village

7. Sea Kayaking

The Northland region offers diverse sea kayaking opportunities to explore coves, white sand beaches, and spectacular coastal formations in clear subtropical waters in what is the countries warmest region.

Experiencing the scenery first hand is what New Zealand is all about, and sea kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and close to nature.  Pacific Coast Kayaks runs local half day tours and full day tours  to suit every level of ability and age.

Go Sea kayaking - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Sea kayaking

8. Picturesque Whangarei Falls

The 24 metre high Whangarei Falls is known as the most photogenic waterfall in all of New Zealand. Because of its ease of access, picturesque bush setting, and guaranteed 365 days per year flow, it is a must see if you are in the Whangarei area.

The falls is a pleasant place to enjoy a picnic or a walk amidst the native bush.

Whangarei Falls - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Whangarei Falls

9. Bungy Jump in Taupo

The bungy jump is a New Zealand invention. Well, not entirely, for centuries the people of Vanuatu have been leaping from tall towers with vine ropes attached to their ankles, but in the 1980′s commercial bungy jumping was developed by a group of Kiwi’s and the rest is history.

At 47 meters high and the inviting waters of the Waikato River below, Taupo Bungy is the highest water touch bungy in New Zealand.

Bungee at Taupo - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Taupo Bungy

10. Cycling Winery Tour Around Hawke’s Bay

Located on the idyllic Te Awanga coast, the Hawke’s Bay area is one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions.

And one of the best ways to visit the wineries in the Hawke’s Bay area is by bicycle as the land is flat and most of the wineries are within easy cycling distance. The bike path is via the coastal cycleway which is a dedicated cycle path that’s flat and easy to navigate.

Hawkes Bay Winery - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Hawks Bay Wineries region

11. Discover Maori Culture at the Tamaki Cultural Experience

“We are a proud culture who has had dramatic changes over the past 150 years.”  ~ Maori elder as he spoke in farewell to us about his culture. There are some cultural experiences around the world that are too touristy in the fact that they are done for the tourists and to make money.

But what I loved about the Tamaki village experience is that it was more about sharing. Sharing a culture, knowing that they had something of value to offer the world.  The Tamaki Village experience is the BEST ”touristy” cultural experience I have had.

Maori Cultural Show - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Tamaki village

12. Freak Yourself Out on Auckland’s Sky Walk

Consider this…using only a safety harness while walking on a one meter wide platform with no handrails, walk 360 degrees around the external circumference of the tower suspended 192 meters above the ground…with nothing but air on either side of you.

That’s what awaits you on Auckland’s Sky Walk. Whilst on the platform you’ll stop at various points to have your photo taken, learn some Auckland history, and have a go at leaning over the edge. Just do it…

Auckland Sky Walk - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Sky walk

13. Cuba Street in Wellington.

One of the more bohemian areas of Wellington, Cuba Street is the home to an eclectic collection of cafes, op-shops, boutique, small fashion stores, art galleries, and music shops.

It is the centre of one of the four ‘quarters’ of downtown Wellington, the Cuba Quarter. And it’s one of the best locations to grab a coffee. Check out Fidel’s Cafe.

Drink Coffee at Shaky Isles Cafe - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Coffee at Fidels on Cuba street

14. The Town of Russell

This tranquil seaside town is well worth a visit. The elegant township was once known as “the hell hole of the Pacific” when it was the shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders during the 19th century.

Russell is the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand. But today Russell is a popular holiday destination with historic buildings and a great starting off point to go sailing in the Bay of Islands.

Visit Russell - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island

15. Experience a Rugby Game at Eden Park

New Zealand is rugby mad and they have an obsession with the game and their beloved All Blacks to rival any other countries love of their national team.

Their players are treated like god, and they appear constantly in all forms of media and advertising. The mood of the entire country rides on the back of the results of their national team. And there is no better place to watch an All Blacks rugby game than at their home ground, Eden Park in Auckland.

Watch Rugby - 15 Things To Do On New Zealand's North Island
Eden park, Auckland

Can you add to this list?

Craig Makepeace is the founder of yTravel Blog and has been traveling the world since 2002, first with his wife Caz, and now with his two daughters. Get his free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow him on Google+

29 Comments on “15 Things To Do On New Zealand’s North Island”

  1. this is amazing! i want to do all of these things.

  2. Kevin aka EyeTravelSolo

    Okay guy’s. it’s 1:30am and now I have to choose between “15” killer activities? Didn’t it use to always be “10”? ha..ha..
    I’ve experienced many of these, but non in NZ, so this is hard. but it cimes down too Skydiving (never done it), Whitewater (never did more than class 2) and the Skywalk. I have a fear of heights, so to overcome it, have to go with the Skydive. The Skywalk has safety ropes, got to go for the Gusto! But after, I have to make my way to the beer tasting, man, that looks like putting candy in front of a kid!! :)

    • Kevin,

      I’m petrified of heights. So if I can sky dive anyone can, seriously. And I hated that skywalk to be honest, so windy :-)

      Yes go check out that brewery I was impressed.

      • Kevin aka EyeTravelSolo

        I figure with Skydiving, at least you know it’s a done deal if the chute doesn’t open :) Who knows if the ropes will hold :(

        One tip, I have Bungeed from about 300ft. The best way to do it is standing backwards and going over head 1st!. Oh yea, and hope for the best!

  3. Hey Caz and Craig! Great post, I am checking out a ton of these right now while staying in the North Island. I thought Cape Rainga was a stunning sight to see and one of my favorites so far, if you want you can check out my photo on Travel Dudes: http://www.traveldudes.org/images/lighthouse-cape-rainga/15014

    Also, I agree with Whangarei Falls, it’s was an awesome place to walk around. I just arrived in NZ a few weeks ago and I’ll be here for a year so I’m sure I’ll end up checking out most of those places! Did you hike around the falls at all? If you want to see my face plant near the falls in the water, my embarrassing video is here: http://justchuckinit.com/videos/

    Cheers and happy travels!

    • Hey Ryan,

      Just did a casual walk around the falls. Didn’t have much time as was with a LARGE group but enjoyed it there. Thanks for the tip on Cape Rainga. Enjoy your year in NZ

  4. Damn, seems I missed many good activities on my trip to NZ this year! :) The one I am mostly disappointed is not doing the sky dive!

    But I would definitely add the Tongrariro Alpine Crossing to the list of things to do in north NZ, it was amazing: http://www.arcticnomad.com/2011/06/23/tongariro-alpine-crossing-chasing-mt-doom/

  5. Great list! I would also add surfing on the Taranaki Peninsula. In fact, just drive the surf highway – you get volcanic landscapes, rainforests and fantastic surf beaches!

    • Sounds awesome Christina. There really is a lot to do in NZ and such great scenery. I think my friend still lives in the Taranaki area. Might be time for a visit :-)

  6. Woohoo! Makes me EVEN more excited that New Zealand is on my list and in my plans for a couple of years time. I’m definitely bookmarking this post – thanks for another greatly informative post :)

  7. Great list! I walked down Cuba Street in Wellington the other day (I’m in Wellington now) and I’ll be in Rotorua in a couple weeks! I’d love to see that waterfall, going to look it up now.

  8. Great list, but of course so much could be added! There’s so much to do in NZ.

    I’d also suggest driving on 90 Mile Beach, zorbing in Rotorua, and digging your own hot tub at Hot Water Beach (or doing anything else on the Coromandel Peninsula, for that matter).

    • Hi Amanda,

      Unfortunately I only had a total of 2 weeks on the north island, so I thought we did pretty good. Thanks for adding the additional tips they all sound great!

  9. Great round-up of the North Island! We hit up several of these attractions during our month-long visit to New Zealand in 2008. It’s a beautiful country!

    • Hi Leslie,

      It sure is beautiful. And we’ve only just scratched the surface really. Looking forward to having more time and hitting the south island.

  10. oOOoo.. too excited for words. We’re 4 days away!!! I’m going to make an effort and check off everything on this list. Starting with #4. Lol.

  11. Great list, you hear so much about the South Island it’s nice to see what the highlights of the North Island are. We are heading to New Zealand in February and can’t wait to check out these things! Thanks for the tips!

  12. Hi Craig and visitors to New Zealand
    I live in Rotorua and am currently building a website about my city with tips for visitors and.. mountain biking.. we’re up there with the best tracks in the world.

    The tracks cater to everyone from the leisure riders right on through to the hard out downhillers (is that even a word). You can hire bikes or there are guided tours with a number of different operators. Mountain Bike Rotorua is a new one actually based on site at Waipa which is the main mountain bike access to the forest.

    It’s so much fun and in fact, my daughter just face planted into the mud the other day after a lot of heavy rain. The funny thing is she wasn’t even on a track, she was on one of the forestry roads, what a hoot. Whether it’s walking or biking we’re out there a lot. I would thoroughly recommend having a go and hope this helps out. :)

    • Thanks for the share Karen. We heard how great the mountain biking was when we were there. Would love to give it a go next time we come visit your beautiful city

      • Yes it was “hilarious” face planting in the mud! (I’m Karen’s daughter).

        I live in Auckland and recommend a few other extra things to do when you visit NZ..

        – Swim at Piha beach
        – Do a winery trail on Waiheke Island
        – Visit Auckland Museum
        – Get ice cream from Movenpick at Mission Bay
        – Go rural shopping at the Matakana market
        – Spend a hot summers afternoon at Takapuna beach
        – Visit Devonport for some spectacular views of Auckland City

        Hope that helps :D

        Elise x
        Elise recently posted..Wish You Were Here: The Canadian Rockies
        Elise recently posted..Wish You Were Here: The Canadian Rockies

  13. Wow, sounds amazing. I’ve always been a bit undecided about New Zealand, but here it sounds wicked!

  14. Hi guys,
    We did New Zealand last year and loved every minute of it. Sadly I was too scared to do a sky dive or bungy jump but I will have built enough courage to do it when we go back next year (I think).
    One thing I did love to do whilst I was over there was spot all the Lord of the Rings locations – not everyones cup of tea but I love the films so it was great to see where my favourite scenes were actually shot, and none disappointed!
    You can get some great tour books that tell you exactly where to go, and if this is your thing a trip to Weta Cave museum in Wellington is a must :)

  15. Awww! I went skydiving with Ballistic Blondes too… but from their Paihia location. Was your plane all duct taped inside, as well?

  16. Great list, most likely that you tried them all! I have also heard of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ tour where you can visit the village of the Hobbits :)

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