There are infinite things to do in the North Island. I was there for two weeks and I think barely scratched the surface. Seriously from the tippy top to the bottom to the west to the east there is someone who will tell you X the best thing they have ever seen. If you rented a car and just drove and stopped at every sign you saw I guarantee you would have an incredible time. But today when everything is researched before I am here to give you some suggestions if you find yourself among the kiwis. Meaning the people, because you’ll never see the bird.
I never made it north of Auckland city but here in the order of north to south is where I explored.
- Piha: little surfer town an hour and a half from Auckland. The west side boasts the most incredible fire-y sunsets. I landed, made some new friends, and the following day found myself driving deep through zig-zagging roads that led to the far west side. On the way home I offered to drive and we stopped to see a train of satellites traveling through the sky.
- KiteKite Falls: waterfall around the corner from Piha. You hike for 20 minutes and then swim in deep crystal clear water under the falls with eels nearby. No joke eels.
- Hunua Falls: nice waterfall to stop at on the way south. They suggest not swimming and I am going to follow what these Kiwis suggest because they understand waterfalls.
Muriwai Gannet Colony: A gannet is some type of bird and they live in mass at this beach head. We went to the beach for the day and then stayed for sunset. These birds know how to choose a place to live.
- Waiua Falls: another beautiful waterfall that you can climb around and swim in. Even though the water is cold its refreshing after the hot summer days. I did not miss a chance to swim in everyone I found. The road is 100% gravel and you’ll have no service the entire drive so download the maps before you leave wifi somewhere.
- Stuart and the Pigs: on the way to the falls is a man who lives off a gravel road. He owns 150 pigs and they just roam around on the road. You are welcome to come and pet them as he tells you in all about them in a strong accent. It is seriously on google maps if you want to find them.
- New Chum Beach: park at the end of the road and walk past the beautiful beach for 10 minutes then 30 minutes around the head of the island and then another 15 minutes through the trees until you arrival at the beautiful bay.
- Cathedral Cove: The most beautiful beach I have ever been to. It takes a 45 minute mildly intense hike one way or a $15 water taxi. The water is clear green and calm and you walk through an archway carved in the cliffside to get there.
- Hot Water Beach: a crazy hot water streams underneath a beach. You can dig a hole or steal someone else’s and sit in this lava hot water while the ocean water cools you. Most surreal feeling ever and the water is hot so watch out.
- Karangahake gorge: an old mine built around a gorge. There are loads of different paths but we took the Window’s Path which meant walking through pitch black tunnels until you saw a sliver of light aka a window, peaking out of the pathway showing you the gorge. Terrifying.
- Mount Maunganui: this sleepy little beach town has a strip of restaurants and bars a couple blocks from the beach. The beach is one of the longer one’s I’ve seen in New Zealand and ends at the Mount Maunganui. Watching the sunset behind the mountain while you lay on the beach with free wifi oddly enough is a gorgeous way to end a long day of driving.
- Pikowai Campground: About 30 minutes from this area was a campground you could stay at for $20. It is the honor system with a little box at the entrance. They have working bathrooms and showers that look like they were just installed. There is a ridge that covers the entire cost that is covered with trees on your right while the beach follows along on the left. We parked our car underneath the palm trees and saw the most stars I’ve ever seen plus a blood moon. The next morning I rose at 6am to see the sunrise, fell asleep on the beach, and then had my havianas stolen. Worth it.
- Rotorua Lake: smells horrible because there are so many hot springs and thermal activity nearby. The lake is pretty and you can do a lot around it apparently but we couldn’t figure it out and were on a time crunch so let me know if you have anything worth doing there.
- Redwoods Forest: California meets New Zealand. We took a gorgeous 2 hour walk through the forest and loved seeing these incredibly tall trees amongst silver ferns.
- Lake Tarawera: a placid lake 20 minutes past the forest. Called blue lake which is apparently next to green lake which is private so you can’t see if it is actually green. This is a perfect place for a picnic and would be a gorgeous afternoon to paddle board.
- Kerosene Creek: a creek that feels like a tourist trap. Not even worth swimming in it and I’d swim in most anything. I’d say skip it. Not sure why so many people actually go there.
- Wai-O-Tapu: $30 to enter and spend 3 hours walking around hot springs. Again you can’t get in any so we didn’t go in. There are many different hot springs around that you can spend the day at like a spa which seems way more worth it in my mind.
Blue Spring Putaruru: The craziest blue green combination of all time. The water is crystal blue with green reeds flowing in it. This spring supplies New Zealand with most of its water. It flows along a beautiful pathway that I would have gladly followed anywhere. You can’t swim in it anymore because humans at the worst and were destroying it. To no ones surprise.
- Glow worms: Commercialism so good America would be proud. A Maori family manages this cave of glow worms. For $40 you can head into the cool tunnels where they show you limestone, stalactites and stalagmites, and glow worms. They are way more impressive than you would have originally thought. They take you on a silent boat ride through the dark water tunnels as you stare up at the glittering ceiling full of worms. Actually incredible. No photos allowed or even possible in the pitch black. Nearby you can do black water tubing which is what I am doing next time. Looks terrifying but amazing, google it.
Tongariro National Park
This park is where loads of parts of Lord of the Rings was filmed. If you can handle a 2 day hike you can go to Mordor and see green lakes. I was more in the 2 hour hike speed so we did the below.
- Taranaki Falls: A water fall located in what seems to be in like valley. Incredible different types of pathways lead you through as the mountain looms above you. We did this in an hour, would definitely recommend it.
- Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool): Remember in the Twin Towers when Frodo gets captured and Gollum sings this weird song about catching a fish in a pool? It happens here. If you don’t know what I’m talking about stop being silly and go watch those movies. They’ll only make you want to go to New Zealand.
- Cuba St: Right through the middle of downtown runs a street full of shops and restaurants. Perfect taste of the hipster vibes Wellington or the capital of NZ has to offer.
- Museum of New Zealand: Considering it was pouring the whole time we were in town we decided to check out the museum. It is free and has some really cool exhibitions. One entirely about the tattoos the Maori tribe have and what they mean to their culture.
Now tell me, what did I miss?