New Zealand's North Island is packed with geothermal wonderlands, swathes of golden sands and vibrant cities.

The picturesque city of Auckland is the main gateway to New Zealand’s North Island. Known as the ‘City of Sails’ due to the abundance of yachts moored in its harbours, it’s a cosmopolitan city and it’s worth spending a few days here to explore. Travel north of Auckland to discover The Bay of Islands known for its spectacular rock formations and diverse marine life. Golden stretches of sand reach Cape Reinga where you can see where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet in a swirl of waves.

South of Auckland, via vast lakes and towering mountains, step into another world amongst the steaming geothermal valleys of Rotorua and learn about the rich values of the Māori culture. Discover Art Deco architecture in quaint harbour towns and sample wines in Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough. At the southern point of North Island, lies the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. Perched on a hill, explore its many galleries and museums before heading up to Mount Victoria for panoramic views across the city and the Cook Strait where you can see the boats heading across to South Island.

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North Island Regions

Our recommendations for the best places to visit in North Island

Auckland Holidays

Explore the ‘City of Sails’, gateway to North Island.

Bay of Islands & Cape Reinga Holidays

Explore New Zealand’s Northland, famed for its islands, beaches and kauri forests.

Coromandel & Bay of Plenty Holidays

Spectacular coastlines steeped in Māori history.

Napier & Hawke's Bay Holidays

Indulge your love of everything from Art Deco architecture to farm-to-fork dining and critically...

Rotorua, Hobbiton & Waitomo Holidays

In this trio of North Island areas, you’ll find thermal pools with lakeside views, caverns lit by...

Taupo & Tongariro Holidays

Discover the magnificent landscapes of the North Island’s heartland, from towering volcanic peaks...

Wellington & Martinborough Holidays

Head to the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island for a top mixture of Wellington, wine and much m...

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Hobbiton Express Tour

Travel south from Auckland to the Waikato region where you will arrive at the Shire's rest to embark on your Hobbiton film set tour. You will see 44 hobbit holes, the Mill and double arch bridge, the party tree and visit the Green Dragon Inn. You can also get a picture taken at Bilbo's front door at Bag End. After the tour your lunch is included at Shire's Rest Cafe before heading back to Auckland.

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Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Depart from Rotorua for Matamata, home to the Hobbiton Movie Set. Drive through a working sheep farm to the Shire’s rest where you will join a tour of the famous film set. Learn how the set was created as you discover 44 hobbit holes, the Mill and double arch bridge and the party tree. You can also have your picture taken by Bilbo’s front door at Bag End. Finish your tour with a drink at the cosy Green Dragon Inn and take in the view across the lake to the mill and Bag End.

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Martinborough Wine Tour

Depart from Wellington and drive through the picturesque Hutt Valley and the Rimutaka Range to Martinborough for this full-day guided tour of the famous wine region. The tour includes tastings at award-winning boutique wineries including Murdoch James, Te Kairanga, Palliser, Muirlea Rise, Tirohana, Alana Estate and Martinborough. Meet local winemakers and have a bistro lunch at a vineyard.

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Tamaki Maori Village Hangi

Enjoy a guided tour of Rotorua's Tamaki Maori Village where you will experience a traditional welcome before entering the village. Whilst here you will have the opportunity to learn the haka, try poi, play stick games, experience warrior training, weaving and learn about tattooing and carving. You will also enjoy a traditional performance, hangi buffet feast and a closing ceremony of speeches and songs.

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Tongariro & Ruapehu Crater Lake

Depart from National Park Village, Whakapapa Village or Taupo for this full-day hiking tour to Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. Ride the scenic chair lift (weather permitting) to the starting point of your guided walk (approx. 6-7 hours) across the volcanic terrain. Enjoy lunch and spectacular views at the top of the volcano while observing the changing colours of the geothermal lake - it can transform from green to pale blue or grey depending on the temperature.

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Weta Workshop Tour

Immerse yourself in a world of visual effects at the award-winning Weta Workshop, the gateway to filmmaking experiences in New Zealand, famous for creating the costumes, weapons and props for films such as District 9 and King Kong, as well as The Chronicles of Narnia films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are different visiting options available, but we recommend the four-hour ‘There and Back Again: The Full Experience’. It includes two 45-minute guided tours – the Weta Cave Workshop Tour and the Miniatures Stage Tour: Thunderbirds Are Go, showing how a TV show is brought to life. You’ll also have guided return shuttle transfers from central Wellington to the studio in Miramar; access to the incredible Weta Cave shop with life-sized sculptures and mini museum; and a documentary viewing featuring co-founders, Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson.

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Art Deco Walking Tour of Napier

Learn about Napier’s fascinating heritage during this guided walking tour of the city’s colourful Art Deco Quarter. Depart from Napier’s Art Deco Centre and discover striking examples of the city’s distinctive architecture. Hear stories of the 1931 earthquake that destroyed the city, the people that were affected, and how the city made a remarkable recovery and was rebuilt within two years. The walk is followed by an optional short film screening and a tea or coffee.

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Auckland City Tastes Walking Tour

Join your guide at Princes Wharf to begin a tour of two of Auckland’s most vibrant inner city foodie locations. The Britomart precinct is surrounded by beautiful heritage buildings and full of restaurants, cafés, bars, and a fantastic city farmers’ market (Saturdays only). Stroll to the Viaduct Harbour, where restaurants and bars line the yacht-studded waterfront. The tour includes lunch, a glass of wine and tastings such as seafood, cheese and ice-cream.

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Best of Hawke's Bay

Depart from Napier for this private guided tour of Hawke’s Bay which can be customised to suit your interests. Admire Napier's diverse collection of art deco buildings and visit local artists to view their paintings and sculptures. Meet innovative food producers and enjoy tastings of locally grown delicacies. Visit a rural coastal settlement to expeience a traditional welcome and learn about Maori culture and heritage before enjoying tastings at some prestigious wineries.

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Cape Reinga & Ninety-Mile Beach

Depart from Paihia or Keri Keri for a full-day trip to Cape Reinga on the northern tip of the North Island.  Stroll through the ancient Puketi Kauri Forest and enjoy the thrill of sand-boarding down massive dunes at Te Paki Stream. Drive along the famous Ninety-Mile Beach to Cape Reinga where you can watch the Pacific Ocean collide with the Tasman Sea and enjoy spectacular views over the ocean.

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Discover Waitomo

Enjoy a guided tour through the renowned glow-worm caves, with a boat ride through the grotto itself. Enjoy a picnic lunch before you see New Zealand’s agricultural industry in action with sheep dog trials at the Agrodome, plus an organic farm tour. You will then continue to Te Puia for a Maori cultural performance and a guided tour around the mighty geysers and boiling mud pools for which the area is famed.

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Dolphin Eco Encounter

Swim and snorkel with dolphins in the wild during this half-day tour in the beautiful Bay of Islands. At Russell Wharf board the purpose-built Tutunui boat, which has a low viewing deck and underwater microphones, and head out to the sheltered waters of the bay in search of playful dolphins. Don a wetsuit and enjoy the experience of interacting with them in their natural environment.

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Get to know New Zealand’s North Island and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.


GMT +12 (with New Zealand Daylight Time and New Zealand Standard Time applied, this largely equates to 11 hours ahead of the UK from early April to late September and 13 hours ahead from late September to late March)


New Zealand dollar


25½ hours (not including stopover time)


New Zealand has no state religion but the majority of people are Christian


Māori and English

Where is the North Island?
North Island, as its name suggests, is the top half of New Zealand. It stretches from Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Oceans meet in the north, to the capital city Wellington in the south.

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Auckland & Wellington
There’s plenty to see and do in Auckland so it’s worth spending a few days here. Get your bearings by ascending to the top of Auckland's 328m high Sky Tower for panoramic views over the city. The Auckland Museum is a great introduction to Māori culture with a large collection of Polynesian artefacts. Waiheke is a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland where you can explore some beautiful beaches and visit some vineyards for wine-tasting. For a change of scene head to the volcanic island of Rangitoto - it's about an hour's walk to the summit where you get 360-degree views of Auckland. New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, has lots of rustic charm. Perched on an exposed hillside it’s known as the ‘Windy City’. Head to Miramar, a suburb of Wellington, to discover the award-winning Wētā Workshop, the visual effects company famous for creating the costumes and props for world-renowned films. Ferries depart Wellington for the 3.5-hour scenic journey across the Cook Strait to South Island.

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North of the North
The stunning Bay of Islands is off the northeast coast of North Island and has a rich Māori and European heritage. Pay a visit to this beautiful spot and you’ll find more than 140 islands and the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’ arched formation. It’s a 50-minute flight or a wonderfully scenic three-hour drive from Auckland. As you travel along the coastline, keep an eye out for local marine life including dolphins, whales and penguins. Cape Reinga, the tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, at the northern end of the North Island is where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. It’s over 60 miles north of the nearest small town, Kaitaia, and it’s an amazing, secluded spot which gives you a sort of ‘end of the earth’ feeling when you’re standing on the bluff. Visit the unorthodox-style lighthouse, topped with a dome and a weather vane, whilst lapping up the endless ocean views.

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Napier & the East
Napier is the main city (alongside its twin, Hastings) in the Hawke’s Bay region and a fantastically unique one, famous for being rebuilt with unique Art Deco architecture after an earthquake in 1931 destroyed the town. Head to the charming seaside village of Ahuriri, home to quirky shops, art galleries, and a boutique cinema. Hawke’s Bay is one of the warmest and sunniest parts of New Zealand with a Mediterranean-style climate, and the second largest wine region in the country. It has hilly coastal land around the north and central bay and is known around the world for the quality of its wines, particularly its rich Chardonnays. Be sure to explore the rolling vineyards and book a wine tasting tour. The region also has some underrated beaches, too. Mahia Beach in the north is long and sandy with warm water, and a favourite with swimmers. You can go fishing, diving and surfing on a number of beaches along the Mahia Peninsula, and the beaches of Waipatiki and Tangoio a little further south are always popular in the summer months.

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Lakes and mountains
The popular town of Taupo sits on the shores of New Zealand’s biggest lake of the same name. It’s a fantastic outdoorsy destination where you can enjoy activities from trout fishing to hiking, and even skiing at the Whakapapa and Turoa areas. For a proper adrenaline rush, take to the skies for a tandem sky dive over Lake Taupo – a thrilling experience with mesmerising views over the land and ocean. Tongariro National Park is a must-see during a visit to New Zealand; it has breathtaking scenery including emerald lakes, glistening streams, snowy peaks and rocky craters, and three volcanoes in the centre – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. Challenge yourself to the incredibly scenic Tongariro Crossing, a world-class one-day trek spanning the length of Mount Tongariro where you can climb lava flows and craters.

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Geo-thermals wonders and worm-lit caves
Bubbling mud, erupting geysers shooting in the air and colourful volcanic craters can all be visited in the geothermal parks in and around Rotorua. Here you can witness the power of nature as steam rises from the ground and the smell of sulphur lingers in the air. You’ll also be able to discover the fascinating traditions and proud culture of the Māori people and learn about how they have used the healing properties of mud for generations with a visit to Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Spa. Waitomo is a village whose name comes from the Māori words wai (water) and tomo (hole). It has rolling green hills that house a superb underground secret – a maze of caves, underground rivers and sinkholes. Take a boat ride through the Waitomo Caves for a unique experience as your surroundings light up with the flicker of thousands of luminescent glow-worms.

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Hobbit holes
A trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Hobbiton™ Movie Set, the superb 12-acre site near Matamata which was transformed into The Shire™ from Middle-earth™ in Sir Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Book a private tour to experience sites including The Hobbit Holes™ and Green Dragon™ Inn as a local guide explains the fascinating history behind this now iconic film set.

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Coastal living
The Coromandel Peninsula stretches around 50 miles north from the famous Bay of Plenty and is renowned for its misty rainforests and golden beaches. The terrain tends to be fairly steep and hilly, so it’s ideal for clifftop walks and discovering secluded hideaways. Head to the outskirts of the town of Coromandel for the Driving Creek Railway, a narrow mountain railway track on a scenic route lined with pottery murals or stop off at the fascinating Hot Water Beach on Mercury Bay; this beach is on a geothermal spot and head here two hours either side of low tide and you’ll be able to dig your own thermal spa. The Bay of Plenty stretches for over 150 miles of open coastline and has some fantastic spots worth visiting during a stay on North Island. An excellent spot is Waihi Beach – this six-mile stretch of beautiful sand is one of New Zealand's safest surf beaches, home to a friendly beachside community and great for a family day out. It also has numerous walking and cycling tracks.

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Dec - Apr