Touring North Island – What to do on a bespoke New Zealand holiday

DestinationDance show at Te Puia Centre in Rotorua. Pic Credit: Fraser Clements
Listen to Touring North Island – What to do on a bespoke New Zealand holiday

Travellers looking to cover New Zealand’s attractions on a build-yourself bespoke holiday – we’re here to help! We’ve already covered a blog on what to do on a South Island holiday. And then, there’s the North Island – fun, exciting, culturally moving and as adventurous as you want to push it! Here’s our top picks on what to see, do, eat and experience on a North Island holiday in New Zealand!

Spend a day in Auckland

For one of the prettiest cosmopolitan cities in the world, Auckland has a host of activities that rival any adventure destination and cultural hotspot. For first timers, we recommend a visit to the Sky Tower to admire the bird-eye view of the city and the bay, followed checking out any of the city’s most excellent museums and cultural conservatories. take your pick from gems like the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Huia Settlers’ Museum, the Vaughan Historic Homestead and plenty of others. Then, Auckland’s beautiful Viaduct Basin is a great option to visit any day for cruises and just mooning at the superyachts lining the docks.

The Sky Tower at Auckland. Credit: Sky Walk.

Explore the Bay of Islands

Whenever New Zealand’s North Island sojourns are mentioned, a tour of Bay of Islands is practically mandatory. An ethereal vista of around 144 islands and hills rising above the bay’s waters, the Bay of Islands is an excellent playground for exploring little handkerchiefs of white sand beaches on kayaks, cruises, dolphin watching tours and so on. History nerds and cultural enthusiasts would be fascinated by the complex power struggle between the Maori natives and the British settlers, centering around this peaceful scenery. Visit the Museum of Waitangi and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where both the parties came to an accord. Then, sally out for ‘Hole in The Rock’ cruises where travellers are treated to more than a century old, yet intact, workmen’s settlements on tiny islands and come back for a deserved break from fun at Paihia’s many restaurants, cafes, and inns.

Haruru Falls at Bay of Islands. Credit: Adventure HQ

To Waiheke we go

New Zealand’s second-largest island, Waiheke is a mini-cosmos of activities and scenery. Travellers can choose from adventure activities like zip-line tours, aerial tours, and scuba-diving adventures, relaxing soirees like vineyard tours, sailing and more!

Check out the Hamilton Gardens

Counted amongst one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, this is set by the Waikato River in Hamilton. Enjoy a day strolling in sprawling, manicured gardens, ponds, a nursery and a river cruise.

Visit a dairy farm near Cambridge

Ever wonder about how New Zealand’s ice cream is just so creamy and heavenly? We did too, and we recommend checking out the facts first-hand – by visiting a dairy farm! Just half an hour outside of the town of Cambridge is a typical family-run dairy farm; here, they will show travellers around the pastures and give a sneak peek into how the country’s dairy industry is powering that sinfully delicious ice cream!

Ah yes, looks familiar. Was this in a movie some years ago? Presenting, for your viewing pleasure, Hobbiton in Waikato. Credit: Ian Brodie.

Sign up for the Hobbiton Tour in Matamata

We knew of New Zealand and its beauty for quite a while before, but let’s face it. It was Peter Jackson’s LOTR saga and the Shire’s dreaminess that made the world look up and notice this small country as a tourism powerhouse. So, a tour of Hobbiton, where the Shire sections of the trilogy were filmed, is almost obligatory for first timers and LOTR superfans.

The Glow-worm Caves of Waitomo

There’s a general common-sense caveat to this activity, though. The pictures are all true and not click-bait. There are caves where glow-worms thrive and to see this, visitors climb on boats and float along the caverns with a guide. Naturally, since lighting of any kind would overwhelm the glow worms’ delicate bioluminescence, people must stay in pitch-dark environs till their eyes get acclimatised. This effectively rules out travellers with claustrophobia, nyctophobia and those with too high expectations of tiny worms glowing with 1000-lumen intensity. This is a natural phenomenon and although tour guides are super helpful, there are a few tours where travellers are floating in darkness with a few glow-worms for company. It’s Nature, they don’t understand show times, see. but these incidents are few and far in between. Go check it out!

Take some time out in Rotorua

A regular day at Rotorua Canopy Tours. Credit: Miles Holden.

There’s just so much to do! For first timers to New Zealand, we would recommend signing up for a traditional Maori hangi dinner and a fun cultural evening at the Te Puia Cultural Centre. There’s a ton of activities and experiences at the Centre for cultural aficionados – from learning about the Maoris’ carving and weaving heritage, a tour of Rotorua’s natural geysers and thermal pools and more. Then, there is the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute – travellers interested in history and culture can spend a day and a half there, learning about the country’s intricate meld of arts and crafts. There’s the Whakarewarewa Village and the Thermal Reserve, where visitors would be entranced by a primordial landscape of bubbling and spouting hot mud pools and arcing steam geysers!

After soaking in all the culture, one would be inclined to exert themselves in a spot of adrenaline-pumping activities. Rotorua is also a great place for hiking and biking! Voted one of the best biking trails in the world, it has hosted several global adventure meets for the two sports. Rotorua boasts of several scenic gems like the Waimangu Volcanic Valley Tour, visits to the Inferno crater and the Frying Pan Lake. Oh, and like the South Islands’ tour, travellers are encouraged to pop in for a hosted local dinner and peek into the rich cultural and traditional tapestry that is the home life in Rotorua.

Soaking in natural relaxation at one of Rotorua’s mud pools, Bay of Plenty. Pic: Graeme Murray.

This region also has a great little eco-adventure in the form of ziplining. Just head over to Rotorua Canopy Tours and enjoy!

Families, don’t think we’ve ignored you! Not at all – head over to the Rotorua Heritage Farm where the young ones can pet and feed sheep, ostrich, pigs, deer, llamas and even alpaca. Then, there’s the Nest Egg Kiwi Conservation Project, where visitors can learn about baby kiwis and witness adult kiwis, New Zealand’s national bird.

Sail across Lake Taupo

It’s an incredibly relaxing experience. Then, besides sailing, there’s also bungy jumping, racing across in a speedboat and even hiking across the countryside of Tongariro volcanic peaks! You can also check out the town of Napier and the lovely Hawe’s Bay – it’s just an hour and half’s drive away from Taupo. After an earthquake ripped across the town back in 1931, it was lovingly rebuilt with Art Deco and Spanish Mission motifs. Très chic, oui?

Round off with Wellington

The Weta Cave Museum is an important pitstop for all film buffs and art aficionados. Credit: Weta Workshops.

Don’t treat Wellington as just a sallying port – it’s got plenty up its sleeve. From its museums (the main one is the Te Papa Tongarewa, or just the Te Papa as the locals call it affectionately) to haute cuisine, the oh-so-pretty Botanic Gardens, some seriously off-beat and clique-smashing café culture, to the Zealandia Ecosanctuary and more – there’s a lot to Windy Welly than meets the eye.

Have any ideas or suggestions? Tag them on our page, or just write our South Pacific Specialists at Hideaway Holidays. Check out some of our season’s best holiday deals for New Zealand – you can customise them to your heart’s content and browse our other blogs on What to do in Queenstown and Top 10 Activities in New Zealand!

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