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North Island Highlights

Must-See Places to Visit in New Zealand's North Island


The North Island of New Zealand is sometimes perceived as being less scenic than the South Island but this is certainly not the case. From seemingly endless beaches to forests, lakes and mountains, the North Island is a natural paradise. And as home to more than three quarters of the country's population, you'll find plenty of people-based entertainment as well.

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Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach (Northland)

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga
Image Courtesy of Frank Krahmer/Getty Images

At the northern tip of New Zealand, watch the spectacular view of the merging point of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean from the lighthouse at Cape Reinga. Then head slightly west and drive (or take a bus) along the hard sand of Ninety Mile Beach. Despite its name, the beach is actually only 55 miles (88 kilometers) long, and navigable by vehicle for most of the way.

Paihia and the Bay of Islands (Northland)

The Bay of Islands Paihia
Image Courtesy of Brian Lawrence/Getty Images

The 144 islands of the Bay of Islands are a paradise of water-based activities, including fishing, sailing, diving and swimming. From Paihia, the Bay's main tourist center, you can take a cruise on the bay (even swim with dolphins) and visit the famous Hole in the Rock> – this is a small island with a hole in it large enough for cruise boats to pass through.

Auckland City (Auckland)

Auckland - Cityscape with boats in harbour
Image Courtesy of John Foxx/Getty Images

As New Zealand's largest city, Auckland has a myriad of attractions. Situated at the junction of two harbors, there are stunning beaches and islands within a short distance of the city center. Visit the Kelly Tarlton Underwater World, go shopping at one of the many international shopping areas or sip a coffee or enjoy a meal down by the harbor.

Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach (Coromandel)

Cathedral Cove
Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand/David Wall

Cathedral Cove is the centerpiece of one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in New Zealand, the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. The spectacular white cliffs of this region near Whitianga were formed from volcanic ash that erupted millions of years ago. Cathedral Cove itself is named after a large cave in the center of the beach.

A little further around the coast is Hot Water Beach. Here, at low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand and soak in your own hot pool from the water that bubbles up from the ground.

Rotorua (Waikato)

Pohutu Geyser
Image Courtesy of Ken Graham/Getty Images

Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most famous international attractions and for good reason. It is one of the most spectacular places on earth to experience geothermal wonders such as boiling mud pools, geysers and sulphurous lakes. It is also the best place in New Zealand to learn about Maori culture and traditions.

Visit the geothermal areas of Whakarewarewa or the Waimangu Valley, take in a Maori culture show, have a soothing hot soak in the Polynesian Pools, and finish your day at one of the town's many excellent restaurants.

Lake Taupo (Waikato)

Huka Falls
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

Taupo is the largest lake in Australasia at more than 660 square kilometers. Formed by a massive eruption more than 26,000 years ago (the blast was so big that even China felt it), the lake is now the center to a whole host of attractions and activities. In the summer, choose from fishing (the lake is teeming with trout), hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, the ski fields of Mt Ruapehu (the North Island's tallest mountain) are little more than an hour away.

The Huka Falls, where the Waikato River starts from Lake Taupo, are another must-see.

Wellington City (Wellington)

Wellington Harbor
Image Courtesy of Brian Lawrence/Getty Images

The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington has also been dubbed the art and culture capital of New Zealand. Stroll around the buildings of Parliament Buildings or even take a guided tour. Spend some time at Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum, and learn about the culture, heritage and natural wonders of this fascinating country. In the evening, visit one of the city's many fine restaurants, and match your meal with some great New Zealand wine.

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