North Island Travel Guide
The North Island of New Zealand (115,000sq km) is perhaps best known for the unique volcanic plateau at its centre. This thermal belt contains active volcanoes - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - and magnificent examples of geysers, boiling mud pools, hot springs and steam vents. In Waitomo District, the Waitomo Caves, with their caverns, underground rivers and glittering glowworms, are one of the island's most popular attractions, while up north the historic Bay of Islands is famous for its scenic islands and secluded coves.
The North Island has four national parks - Urewera, Egmont, Whanganui and Tongariro - offering a World Heritage Site, thermal fields, hot springs, ski areas, native forest, rivers and historic Maori sites. Wellington is the country's capital, laying claim to the title of Cultural Capital for its wealth of theatre, music and art. The North Island's largest centre is Auckland, a cosmopolitan city known for its vibrant Pacific culture and stunning harbours.
Far North & Cape Reinga
Known as New Zealand's Winterless North, this area is home to rugged Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean converge, and the sweeping sands of Ninety Mile Beach.
The Bay of Islands
One of New Zealand's most beautiful marine parks, this lovely area offers diving, swimming with the dolphins, sandy beaches and historic villages. New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed here in 1840.
This historic harbour on Northland's west coast is known for its massive white sand dunes. Many Maori trace their early ancestry to Hokianga. The area is home to the Wairere Boulders, the only basalt-boulder valley of its type in the world.
Waipoua Kauri Forest
On the west coast of Northland, this remnant of native kauri forest is home to the ancient kauri Tane Mahuta (King of the Forest) - thought to be about 2000 years old.
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North-east of Whangarei, this beautiful stretch of coast is famous worldwide for its fishing and diving.
Straddling a narrow isthmus and bounded by the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours, Auckland is also New Zealand's largest city and the world's largest Polynesian city. Known as the City of Sails, it has more boats per capital than any other city in the world.
This scenic peninsula is popular for its bushclad hills, historic goldmining towns and dramatic coastline, fringed with sandy beaches and pohutukawa (native coastal trees).
These limestone caverns are one of the country's best-known attractions, with their eerie underground caverns lit by thousands of glowworms.
Rotorua & Thermal Areas
New Zealand's most popular visitor destination offers beautiful lakes, vibrant Maori culture, and unique thermal areas with fine examples of boiling mud pools, spouting geysers and silica terraces.
New Zealand's trout fishing capital enjoys a scenic location on the shores of Lake Taupo (606sq km), the country's largest lake.
Tongariro National Park
Dominated by three volcanoes, this World Heritage Site contains tussock plains, snowcapped mountains, hot springs and alpine walking tracks. In winter, Mount Ruapehu is the North Island's premier ski resort.
Hawkes Bay & Napier
Known for its relaxed lifestyle, sunshine and vineyards, Hawke's Bay has made a splash with its world-class wines. Napier - its main centre - has one of the world's highest concentrations of art deco architecture.
At the head of a scenic harbour, the country's capital enjoys a vibrant arts scene and café culture, and is home to the country's ground-breaking national museum, Te Papa. There are major ferry links to the South Island.