New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island

New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island: Have you ever dreamed of going to New Zealand? Well here's your chance to add a few stunning places to your bucketlist!New Zealand is a diverse country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean comprised of two main islands. Home to an array of tropical beaches, geothermal activity, and vast mountain ranges. It’s no wonder Peter Jackson chose this breathtaking country as the filming locations for all six Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.

My experience in New Zealand captured my heart in more ways than one. Which is why this country is my absolute favourite.

Below, I’ve created a summary of my favourite places in the North Island while travelling with the Hop-On Hop-Off bus Stray New Zealand, including where I stayed and activities I recommend in hopes that you’ll someday find yourself planning your own trip to this gorgeous-beyond-words country.


Stray NZ - Cathedral Cove

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6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island


1. Auckland

New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island: Have you ever dreamed of going to New Zealand? Well here's your chance to add a few stunning places to your bucketlist!

Auckland City from Davenport

At first, I wasn’t too sure how I felt about New Zealand’s largest city. When I first arrived, it felt like any other city to me. But sometimes a city needs a second chance, so when I flew back to Auckland at the end of my journey, I had a completely different sense of it.

While perhaps the city centre is similar to other cities I’ve visited in the past, the unique collection of islands surrounding the city are what makes this city special. On my last day in New Zealand, I enjoyed a full day wine tour (bought for a discounted price on BookMe) on Waiheke Island with Enjoi NZ which I’d highly recommend if you’re into drinking wine!

Other things I did in Auckland were: Davenport, Mt. Eden, Auckland Art Gallery, and shopping on Queen’s Street.

Accommodation: Haka Lodge Auckland


2. Hahei

New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island: Have you ever dreamed of going to New Zealand? Well here's your chance to add a few stunning places to your bucketlist!

Cathedral Cove

About two and a half hours East of Auckland, there lies a small tropical oasis in the Coromandel Peninsula called Hahei, close to the famous Cathedral Cove (pictured above) and Hot Water Beach.

Cathedral Cove

Through the luscious white sand and above the ferned palm trees, I walked the 2.5km (1.5 hours) hike toward Cathedral Cove where I stood in awe of the natural rock formations surrounding me. I’d recommend coming here during the off-season as hardly anyone was there, which made for great photos!

Hot Water Beach

The weather in autumn was perfect for spending a morning at thermal Hot Water Beach. If you travel with Stray, your Driver Guide will pack a bunch of shovels so you can create your own natural hot pools on the beach. Due to geothermal activity beneath the ground, the water and sand become scorching hot. This makes it possible to shovel your own hot pools out of the sand and lounge in this natural phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the tide was a bit high when we got there, so we tried and failed miserably to make our own hot pools, but had an absolute blast shimmying our feet under the sand to feel the heat and swimming in the ocean.

Another reason this location is so special to me is that this was our first stop with Stray and our driver (Rhino) made it so easy for us to get to know one another through a massive barbeque on the first night accompanied with games and a little bit of alcohol. I felt instantly connected to my fellow travellers which was a huge comfort to me for the remainder of the trip!

Accommodation: Hahei Holiday Resort


3. Waitomo Caves

Abseiling (or repelling) with Waitomo Adventures on the Haggas Honking Holes tour was one of my absolute favourite things I did in New Zealand as a whole.

And I did it without even realizing what I was getting into – which, I think, was the best part!

Everything about this adventure was totally out of my comfort zone but I cannot recommend this enough. Plunging into the darkness of some of the blackest caves in the world, crawling through narrow tunnels, and climbing unique limestone formations will test you in more ways than one.

You’ll also learn all about the famous Waitomo Glowworms and see them up close and personal which was pretty cool!

If you want a challenge, a taste of what it feels like to be outside your comfort zone, I’d highly recommend this tour.

But if it’s not your thing, there are many other tours to choose from like tubing, a guided walking tour, and black water rafting!


4. Hobbiton

New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island: Have you ever dreamed of going to New Zealand? Well here's your chance to add a few stunning places to your bucketlist!

Hobbiton

If you’re a J. R. R Tolkein fan, you’ve probably had New Zealand on your bucket list since the first time you watched The Fellowship of the Ring. There’s always been something so majestic about the vibrant green hills of The Shire. And believe me, Hobbiton was no joke.

I don’t even want to tell you what to expect because I want you to be just as epic-ly surprised as I was!

But be prepared for an experience like no other. I truly felt like I was living in the movies and it was worth every penny. You don’t even have to be a fan to enjoy the gorgeous and preserved scenery from the movies. It’s that good!


5. Lake Aniwhenua

New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island: Have you ever dreamed of going to New Zealand? Well here's your chance to add a few stunning places to your bucketlist!

Lake Aniwhenua

Lake Aniwhenua is a unique Stray location in the Murupara region where you’ll be given a rich cultural Māori experience.

One of the reasons I chose to travel with Stray rather than its contender, Kiwi Experience, was because of the opportunity to stay with an authentic Māori family. This opportunity included a traditional Hangi (a feast cooked on coals underground), weaving your own bracelet out of flax, and learning a traditional Haka dance. You could also go eel fishing at night, but I opted out of that one!

We also had the opportunity to learn and ask questions about current issues and challenges the Māori people are experiencing. And learned that our contributions were helping the young school children in the community.

It was truly one of the most heartwarming and authentic cultural experiences I have ever encountered.

{Shout out to our hosts, Nadine and family for being so welcoming and educational. I truly wish I could have stayed longer.}

Accommodation: Kohutapu Lodge


6. Blue Duck Station

New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the North Island: Have you ever dreamed of going to New Zealand? Well here's your chance to add a few stunning places to your bucketlist!

Blue Duck Station

Surrounded by green rolling hills, Blue Duck Station is located in a reception-less region of the North Island called Whakahoro.  Getting there was terrifying due to the narrow one lane road (eek!). But for two days, I said goodbye to my cell phone service and enjoyed the seclusion this gorgeous spot had to offer.

If you’re looking for somewhere that’s completely remote. This is an excellent place to go. I spent the majority of my time here getting to know the people around me and journalling. There’s also a few short walks and gorgeous starry skies at night that you won’t want to miss.

Accommodation: Blue Duck Station


And there you have it! Some of my favourite spots on the North Island with Stray.

I do want to note that due to weather conditions, I wasn’t able to walk the Tongariro Crossing (wah!). I’m sure it would have been on this list but sadly, it had to be missed this time!

Read:  New Zealand: 6 Breathtaking Places to Visit on the South Island

Quote to Travel By:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to. Bilbo Baggins