Things to do in North Island

Things to do in  North Island

Middle-earth on earth

New Zealand’s most populous island is the North Island, a melting pot of progressive cities (looking at you, Auckland and Wellington), volcanoes and geothermal attractions, glorious beaches, vineyards, and rich history. Around 90 percent of New Zealand’s Māori population live here, so this is the place to come to learn more about this thousand-year-old culture. Whether you start in the winterless north or windy Welly, there are plenty of things to do on the North Island.

Top 15 attractions in North Island

Auckland Harbour Bridge

The Auckland Harbour Bridge is a landmark site on the city’s skyline. The 8-lane engineering marvel connects downtown Auckland with North Shore suburbs. Visitors can experience the bridge and the stunning views of the Waitemata Harbour from several vantage points: while driving over it, climbing it, or jumping off it.More

Te Puia

Te Puia, located in the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley at the edge of Rotorua features Pohutu Geyser and is home to the impressive New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Visitors can tour the bubbling mud pools with a local Maori guide and choose from among myriad activities.More

Hauraki Gulf Islands

Located off the coast of Auckland, Hauraki Gulf’s 16 beautiful islands are ideal for outdoor activities like walking, horse riding, swimming, and dolphin- and whale-watching. From the vineyards of Waiheke to the hiking trails of Rangitoto, the birdwatching of Tiritiri Matangi to the secluded hot springs of Great Barrier, each of the islands offers something special.More

Mt. Victoria Lookout

Looming out of the land at the end of Courtenay Place, Mt. Victoria is deeply embedded in the life of Wellington’s central city. Standing at more than 640 feet (195 meters) at its highest point, the Mt. Victoria Lookout offers 360-degree views of Wellington stretching out past the scenic harbor.More

Auckland Sky Tower

A dizzying 1,076 feet (328 meters) high, the Auckland Sky Tower is not only New Zealand’s highest building but also the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The tower offers unbeatable views of Auckland’s skyline, with its distinctive spire visible from all corners of the city.More

Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings

Measuring more than 33 feet (10 meters) high, these mammoth Maori sculptures were chiseled into the rocks on the edge of Lake Taupo in the late 1970s. Created by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell, the carvings depict Ngatoroirangi, who is said to have guided the Te Arawa tribes from their Polynesian homeland to New Zealand.More

Wellington Cable Car

Operating since 1902, the Wellington Cable Car is one of the city’s most famous sights. The ride, from the central business district to the city’s tranquil botanic garden, offers a stunning light show inside the tunnels as well as gorgeous vistas of Mount Victoria and Wellington Harbour as you reach the top.More

Auckland Domain

Enjoy the peace and tranquility of forests, gullies, and green spaces in Auckland Domain, a 185-acre (75-hectare) escape from the frantic Queen Street crowds. Get lost on a nature walk, admire the tropical plants at the Wintergarden, and marvel at the history on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.More

Auckland War Memorial Museum

The Auckland War Memorial Museum, one of New Zealand’s finest, displays thousands of items—including Maori and Pacific Island collections—reflecting the country’s history, culture, and nature. A dedicated children’s area allows kids to touch animals, fossils, and bugs. Visiting Auckland Museum is a must when spending time in New Zealand’s largest city.More


Parnell, Auckland’s oldest suburb, is full of high-quality restaurants, cafes, galleries, and boutique shops, especially jewelers. There are also many noncommercial sites to explore, such as parks, churches, and other buildings. A visit to Parnell is essential for understanding Auckland’s unique, stylish character.More

Lake Rotorua

The Rotorua area boasts dozens of lakes, but Lake Rotorua is larger, deeper, and older than its neighbors. Geologists believe that Rotorua, the second-largest lake on the North Island, dates back more than 200,000 years, while most of the region’s other waterways were created by the Tarawera eruption of 1886.More

Mission Estate Winery

New Zealand produces some of the world’s most renowned, award-winning wines, and Mission Estate Winery on the outskirts of Napier is where it all began. Founded in 1851, Mission Estate was started by missionaries who journeyed from France with little more than a dream and a couple of vines. Now, nearly two centuries later, Mission Estate continues to operate as one of New Zealand’s best wineries, and is a staple on any shore excursion or wine tasting tour of Napier.Head down the tree lined driveway toward the old fashioned estate and its fountain, and you'll immediately fall for the history and regal charm of the area. Step outside on the hilltop veranda for a view of the vineyard landscapes leading back to Napier’s downtown or to sip in the sun protected by the shade of one of the winery's big, white outdoor umbrellas.More

North Head Historic Reserve (Maungauika)

To the early Maori, the strategic viewpoint of North Head was known as Maungauika. Looking out over Auckland Harbour and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, the summit of this ancient volcanic cone was perfect for fending off enemies. Today, tunnels, guns, and cannons—built in the 1800s to deter attacks under British colonial rule—remain.More

Government Gardens Rotorua

The Government Gardens in central Rotorua are so bountiful, they resemble an old picture postcard from the English countryside. If not for the telltale scent of sulfur from the nearby thermal springs at Sulphur Point, visitors might forget where they’re standing, given the Edwardian architecture and dignified landscape.More

Te Pā Tū (Tamaki Māori Village)

Visit Te Pā Tū, previously known as Tamaki Māori Village, to experience Maori culture and society as it existed in pre-European New Zealand. Through performing arts, you’ll see, hear, and feel the Tamaki brothers’ vision for an immersive tour into the traditional Maori way of life. Live the stories, travels, battles, and rituals of the Maori as New Zealand was settled.More

Trip ideas

Top Hot Springs in Rotorua

Top Hot Springs in Rotorua

Top activities in North Island

Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves Guided Day Trip from Auckland
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Mitai Maori Village Cultural Experience in Rotorua
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Hobbiton™ Movie Set Walking Tour from Shires Rest
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Hobbiton Movie Set Small Group Tour from Auckland
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Rotorua Day Trip from Auckland with Options - Smaller groups
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Cultural Experience & Seasonal Māori Cuisine at Te Pā Tū
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Waitomo Glowworm Caves Guided Tour
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

All about North Island

When to visit

The North Island’s climate varies between its coastal and inland, mountainous areas. The Far North is nicknamed the winterless north, while Wellington is notorious for its bracing wind, and the central North Island is no stranger to snow. Visit in summer (December-February) to make the most of the beaches of Northland or Coromandel. The big cities of Auckland and Wellington can be visited at any time, as there are many indoor activities.

Getting around

Being New Zealand’s more populated island, the North Island has better public transportation options than the South Island, but most travelers still find it more convenient to have their own vehicle to reach more rural areas. Long-distance intercity buses connect many of the North Island’s major cities, and local buses and trains can be helpful for getting around Auckland and Wellington. A scenic train connects Auckland and Wellington.

Traveler tips

Like in other parts of New Zealand, it’s important not to underestimate the size of the North Island, or the amount of time it will take to drive around. While it’s possible to drive nonstop between Auckland and Wellington in one day, a much more leisurely itinerary allows for detours to the Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, and Taranaki areas, as well as other more rural parts of the island.

Local Currency
New Zealand Dollar (NZ$)
Time Zone
NZST (UTC +12)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What is North Island, New Zealand, known for?

New Zealand’s North Island is known for the geothermal geysers and mud pools in Rotorua, its Maori culture, Bay of Islands beaches, multicultural Auckland, and Wellington, its small capital. It’s also New Zealand’s population center, as more than 75 percent of the population lives here.

Where can I holiday on the North Island?

You can holiday almost anywhere on the North Island, as there are many beaches, mountain areas, towns, cities, and a few national parks. Popular North Island travel destinations include the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Waiheke Island, Rotorua, Taupo, Coromandel Peninsula, Tongariro National Park, Napier-Hastings, and Wellington.

How long does it take to drive across the North Island of New Zealand?

Driving the length of the North Island, from Cape Reinga to Wellington, would take around 14 hours. However, most visitors don’t make this trip in one go. Places along the way that are worth stopping at include Auckland, Taupo, Tongariro National Park, and Kapiti coast.

Is North Island better than the South Island in NZ?

No, the North Island is not better than the South Island. Both islands contain a wealth of attractions that travelers enjoy. Some people prefer the culture, beaches, and geothermal attractions of the North Island, while others prefer the mountains and wilderness areas of the sparsely populated South Island.

What’s at the top of the North Island?

Cape Reinga is at the top of the North Island. There’s a lighthouse and walkways down to beautiful, rugged beaches. It’s culturally significant to the local Maori. Although it’s not quite at the northernmost point of the North Island, Ninety Mile Beach is another popular attraction in far northern Northland.

Is the North Island worth visiting?

Yes, the North Island is worth visiting. There are many things to see and do here, no matter your tastes or preferences. Enjoy the beaches of the Bay of Islands and Coromandel Peninsula, hike through the Tongariro National Park, marvel at Rotorua’s geothermal activity, and more.

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