There are an incredible of amount of things to do on New Zealand’s North Island.
We have visited the North Island of New Zealand several times: on a short family getaway and when I joined the Great Crusade Qantas World Cup Rugby tour.
The North Island is full of adventure, stunning coastal beauty, rich Maori culture, and smelly geothermal wonders.
Here are 15 highlights of a North Island road trip.
1. 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.
Check out these Bay of Islands tours:
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.
Nearby is also the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland with erupting geysers and the Te Puia Maroi village has the Pohutu Geyser, jumping mud pools, and live kiwi birds.
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.
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.
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.
6. The Buried Village of Te Wairoa 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 buried village f Te Wairoa 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.
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.
See the different sea kayaking tours available to suit every level of ability and age.
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 of the North Island in New Zealand.
The falls is a pleasant place to enjoy a picnic or a walk amidst the native bush.
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.
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.
Check out the Hawkes Bay winery tours below
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.
12. Freak Yourself Out on Auckland’s Sky Walk
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…
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.
Read more Things to do in Wellington, NZ
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.
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.
Related Post – 15 amazing places in New Zealand to visit
Plan Your Trip to New Zealand
We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:
- Booking.com has 3,000+ hotels, apartments and hostels in New Zealand. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
- Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
- New Zealand’s North Island is the perfect destination for a road trip. You can rent a car from RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
G Adventures Tours
If you did not want to travel independently, G Adventures is our recommended group tour company for their commitment to sustainable travel and thirst for adventure! Just sit back, relax and let others do the hard planning for you.
Check out the following tours for the North Island
More New Zealand travel ideas
Can you recommend any things to do in the North Island of New Zealand? Share in the comments.