New Zealand, the land where adrenaline-rush adventures and jaw-dropping sights exist in tandem. You’d like to visit the entire country, take a road trip from up North all way down South, but what if you can’t? By some cruel twist of fate or restricted time and budget, you can only choose one island? .
Let us help you make the choice between New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Here are the highlights of North island for you to ponder upon!
1. Dig your own hot water pool at Hot Water Beach.
Missing out on spa day because it’s too pricey for you? Worry not! Just drive yourselves to the Hot Water Beach, Mercury Bay a few hours before the low tide and dig around to create a private pool on the beach. You don’t even have to dig deep for the hot water. Once you’re done, all you need to do is grab that can of cold soda and relax.
#HHWT Tip: There are no set opening hours but it’s best to come during low tides.
2. Get steamed at Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Reserve Park
A visit to the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Reserve Park is a discovery of the aftereffect of Earth’s geothermal activities underneath the surface.
Start your visit with a 3-minute drive to the Lady Knox geyser, where you will be supplied with history and geological facts of the geyser. You can watch it erupt at 10:15 a.m. every day!
Then, continue on with the walks at the Wonderland. Along the 50 to 75-minute walk, you’ll be treated to mesmerising sights of the naturally colourful lakes such as the Central Pools of Wai-O-Tapu, the Artist’s Palette, and Champagne Pool.
Complete your visit to the Geothermal Wonderland by watching the bubbling mud pools.
#HHWT Tip: Don’t forget to grab a Rotorua tourist voucher to enjoy a $4 discount on the entrance fees.
Price: Adult, NZ$32.50; Child, NZ$11.
Opening Hours: Opens everyday including public holidays.
Apr to Oct: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last admission 3:45 p.m.)
Nov to Mar: 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (last admission 4:45 p.m.)
Christmas Day: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last admission 3:45 p.m.)
3. Sand surf for the first time at Te Paki Sand Dunes
Is there anything you can’t do in New Zealand? Apparently not, because you can even whizz down sand dunes at Kaitaia, New Zealand. Just north of Kaitaia, you can participate in this unique activity for FREE (if you have your own bodyboards)! If not, you can rent a bodyboard for NZ$10-15 and use it as long as you want.
#HHWT Tip: Make sure that you don’t leave valuable items at the parking area as the place is notorious with crafty local thieves.
4. Live like a hobbit at Hobbiton
You must be thinking “If I get a dollar every time I see Hobbiton on a New Zealand travel guide, I’d be able to fund myself to actually go there,” but let me tell you it is on every guide for a great reason. Regardless whether you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy or not, Hobbiton is the one place that you absolutely need to go.
Despite being artificially constructed, Hobbiton remains to appear seamless from the natural setting of Matamata. It’s definitely a plus if you are a fan of the trilogy because you get to relive your favourite scenes of the movie.
Price: Tours of the Hobbtion Movie Set begins from NZ$79 for an adult while children get in free with an adult.
Operating Hours: The Shire Store & The Shire Ticketing Centre: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (with extended hours in the summer)
5. Experience the Maori culture at Tamaki Maori Village
When travelling to foreign countries, it’d be a shame if you don’t learn a thing or two about local culture and what’s a better way to learn about the culture and traditions of the Maori tribe of New Zealand than at Tamaki Maori Village?
Your wholesome experience at the Village would include hands-on activities, entertaining performances from the villagers such as the haka dance (the one you’d see New Zealand rugby players do before a game), and multiple feasts of food that are catered to your dietary requirements. Just call ahead to inform them that you can only eat halal/vegetarian food.
Price: Adult, NZ$115; Child, NZ$25; Students/Senior Citizens, NZ$65.
Operating Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
6. Jump off Auckland Sky Tower
A visit to New Zealand without thrilling adventures is like eating dry, stale bread and that is why we recommend the trying out New Zealand’s highest base jump at 192m! Right in the heart of Auckland, not only you’ll get the best views of the city and harbour, you can also conquer your fears in various ways.
If you’re not up for a jump, you could opt for a 360 outdoors view of Auckland with SkyWalk.
Or you could just have a look-see from inside the tower.
One way or another, get yourself up the SkyTower and observe one of New Zealand’s best views!
SkyJump – Adult, NZ$225; Student, NZ$195; Child, NZ$175
SkyWalk – Adult, NZ$145; Student, NZ$125; Child, NZ$115
Admission to the SkyTower – Adult, NZ$28; Student/Concession, NZ$22/20; Child, NZ$11
Operating Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
7. Freefall over Taupo
Take one step further from your comfort zone. Leave the security of solid ground and enjoy a bird’s eye view of Taupo at 12,000ft above the ground because you only live once. When else are you going to get this opportunity? Might as well do it in a country that offers a killer view while you’re at it.
Price (For skydive only*):
15,000ft (60 seconds of freefall) – NZ$339
12,000ft (40 seconds of freefall) – NZ$249
*depends on the company you opt for
Websites: skydivetaupo | taupotandemskydiving (Operates from sunrise to sunset, depending on the weather)
8. Get soaked at Great Lake Taupo
The Great Lake of Taupo possesses a fiery history, located near a passive volcano that once changed the structure of Europe and China. One of the main attractions at the lake is the Maori Rock carvings at Mine Bay that are only accessible by water. You can either sail, kayak, or take a slow cruise to view the intricate carvings.
Buuuuuut the highlight of Lake Taupo is Huka Falls, the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand.
Visitors have two options of experiencing the Falls: either you take the thrilling Hukafalls Jet and speed to the white waters, or take the 90-minute Huka Falls River Cruise that can get you really close to the falls; close enough to get soaked!
Alternatively, you can take your time paving through the walking trail or work them thigh muscles biking on the track.
Hukafalls Jet – Adult, NZ$115; Child, NZ$69
Huka Falls River Cruise – Adult, NZ$39; Child, NZ$15
Hukafalls Jet: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Huka Falls River Cruise: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Websites: Great Lake Taupo | Hukafalls Jet | Huka Falls River Cruise:
9. Conquer the world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
The Tongariro National Park doubles as New Zealand’s oldest national park and an accredited World Heritage Site. The Park comprises of three mountains, one of which is an active volcano, and serves as a challenging yet picturesque terrain for visitors.
So what is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?
It’s a 19.4km tramping track over Mt Tongariro and takes about 5 – 7 hours to complete. The journey is physically demanding as the trail is designed by the unpredictable effects of active volcanos. But the trek is not world-renowned for no reason. Along the way, you’ll be treated by the discoveries of the vibrant Blue and Emerald Lakes, the steaming Ketetahi springs, and the Te Maari craters which had burst into life in a recent 2012 volcanic eruption.
Opening hours (for Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre):
Summer: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in the summer (November – March)
Winter: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the winter (April – October)
10. Escape to Great Barrier Island
Take a scenic 30-minute plane ride (or 3 hour ferry ride) from Auckland and transport yourself to one of the tranquil beaches of New Zealand. A large island with small population, Great Barrier Island is home to rare beaches that are not spoilt by modern development yet hosts a plethora of activities for its visitors.
Visitors come all the way to the Island to experience the native forest that is administered under the Department of Conservation. So, put on your walking shoes and trek on the walking tracks found all over the island. Drown your lungs in unadulterated forest air; as you walk on, you might stumble upon a secluded natural hot spring, or a waterfall.
11. Have fun black water rafting at Waitomo Caves
The subterranean adventure will have visitors jumping over and cascade down waterfalls throughout a three-hour journey. Seen as a much tamer version of white water rafting, black water rafting is basically riding the underground river of the Ruakuri Cave on black tubes but serves as a more unique alternative to view the glowworms on the limestone ceilings.
If you prefer something more physically challenging, Waitomo also offers Black Abyss and Black Odyssey adventures which mainly focuses on dry caving on steep cavern walls.
Black Labyrinth (Black water rafting) – NZ$135
Black Odyssey (Extreme dry caving adventure) – NZ$185
Black Abyss (The Ultimate Adventure) – NZ$235
Black Labyrinth: Regular tours – 9:00am, 10:30am, 12:00pm, 1:30pm, 3:00pm, 4:30pm, plus additional tours in summer
Black Odyssey: 10:00am, 3:00pm.
Black Abyss: All year 9:00am, 11:00pm, 2:00pm plus additional tours in summer (to be confirmed at booking).
12. Be mesmerized by nature at the Glowworm cave
As if the stars themselves had fallen from their grace onto Earth and had somehow made their way to the ceiling of the Waitomo cave, this is a sight that cannot be missed. The twinkling blue lights illuminating the dark caves are naturally caused by the sensitive glowworms. They are said to be so sensitive that you’re not even allowed to take a photo of the cave and you cannot make any noise as you go through.
Price: NZ$49 for adults, NZ$22 for a child and NZ$16 for an extra child.
Open from 9am daily, 365 days a year.
Summer Hours: 9:00am – 5:30pm (01 November – 31 March)
Winter Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
13. Swim with the dolphins at Bay of Islands
This is the Bay of Islands, an enclave comprising of more than 140 individual islands. To list the activities you can do here would take more than 10 paragraphs, and that’s not including pictures! But the main, must-do itinerary in Bay of Islands is swimming with the dolphins.
Your unique adventure would start with a cruise that you can board from either Russell Island or Paihia Island, and spend half the day sluicing through warm waters of the Bay. Cruise passengers can get up close with the dolphins, whales, and other sea creatures with the low-viewing decks. Once you reach the destination, what is left is for you to jump into the sea and meet the dolphins.
#HHWT Tip: some of the cruise organisers have a Lifetime Dolphin Viewing Guarantee, in which is your trip fails to spot any dolphins, you can have another go on the cruise at a different time without extra charge.
Price: Adult, NZ$117; Child, NZ$58.50*
*Depends on the organizing company.
Now that you’ve come to the end of the list, have you made your decision on which island to visit?
No? Don’t worry, neither have I. Worse comes to worst, we’ll just have to work even harder to visit the whole of New Zealand! 💸😂