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11 Best Places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island

New Zealand’s North Island is simply amazing!

The landscapes in this part of the world are just breathtaking, be it beaches or mountains there’s beauty around every corner!

There are plenty of places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island, which contains all of the above.

Places such as Rotorua, Taupo and the Bay of Islands are some of the best of New Zealand’s North Island points of interest!

The good thing about visiting the North Island is that there’s so much to see and do!

You can go hiking on the Tongariro Crossing or relax on one of the many beaches in the Bay of Islands!

Below are just some of the best places to visit on the North Island that you should include when backpacking New Zealand!

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Best Places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island

1. Auckland

Where to stay: Haka Lodge | Best activity: Sky Walk

Auckland skyline

Here’s the thing:

The chances are that you’re going to visit Auckland at some point during your trip to New Zealand. As the biggest city in the country, it is the principal entry and exit point of New Zealand!

There’s plenty to do here, as you’d expect in a big city. You can go to the beach, hike an ancient volcano and check out some of the great museums in the city.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Auckland, but it’s somewhere you should definitely visit. There’s every chance that you’ll love the place!

There’s always something happening and it’s a lively place, that reminded me of Sydney!

Read more: 3 days in Auckland

2. Bay of Islands

Where to stay: The Mousetrap Backpackers | Best activity: Dolphin Watching Tour

I never got around to visiting the Bay of Islands while I was travelling on the North Island!

From what I’ve heard and the pictures that I’ve seen, it’s an amazing place to visit! Like virtually everywhere in New Zealand, the scenery is incredible. You have picturesque bays and beautiful turquoise waters, what’s not to like?

There are plenty of things to do in the Bay of Islands as well. You can go and relax at the numerous beaches or do an activity such as this Dolphin Watching Tour. You’ll get to see the numerous islands and amazing wildlife!

Don’t make the same mistake as me and be sure to include the Bay of Islands on your North Island itinerary!

3. Bay of Plenty

Where to stay: Pacific Coast Backpackers Lodge | Best activity: Skydive over Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui

Not far from the Coromandel Peninsula, the Bay of Plenty is a beautiful location on the North Island of New Zealand.

This was one of the most beautiful places that I visited while I was on the North Island. Mount Maunganui and Tauranga are fantastic places with great beaches.

The beach at Mount Maunganui is incredible. The Mount in the middle of the beach frames the area really well and makes for a spectacular location!

As with everywhere in New Zealand, there are a lot of things to do here. There are opportunities to go surfing, on cruises and do numerous outdoor activities!

There’s plenty to do in the Bay of Plenty (excuse the pun!), so be sure not to miss out while you’re on the North Island!

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4. Coromandel Peninsula

Where to stay: Anchor Lodge Backpackers | Best activity: Coromandel Cove Boat Tour

cathedral cove

The Coromandel Peninsula is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand’s North Island!

The scenery here is fantastic, you can see amazing beaches, incredible mountains and cliffs. The Coromandel Peninsula was one of my favourite places that I visited.

Driving there through the winding mountains was incredible, and the places you can see on the Coromandel Peninsula aren’t bad either.

There’s Cathedral Cove, which is a beautiful beach, that has, surprise, a cove shaped like a Cathedral! There’s also Hot Water Beach nearby, Where you can create your own hot pool if you dig a hole in the beach! It’s incredible!

The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the best places to see on the North Island, so don’t miss out!

5. Hobbiton

Where to stay: Backpackers Central Hamilton | Best activity: Hobbiton Guided Tour

Hobitton in New Zealand

If you love the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, then you have to visit Hobbiton.

This is the set of The Shire in the films and it is amazing and beautiful! For $80 you get a tour of the Hobbiton movie set, detailed descriptions of what happened during the filming and a free cider at the end! What’s not to love?

Here’s the thing:

If you’re not a fan of the films, it may be hard to justify the $80 fee. Apart from the scenery, you might not understand what’s going on. That’s a lot of money to spend to look at a Hobbit village.

If this doesn’t apply to you, then a stop at Hobbiton is a must. The tour and views are spectacular! It’s undoubtedly one of the best things to do in New Zealand!

6. Huka Falls

Where to stay: Haka Lodge | Best activity: Huka Falls Jet Boat Experience

Huka Falls

Huka Falls may not be one of the most famous places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island, but it’s certainly one of the best!

As New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction, I was quite surprised that I hadn’t heard about it before I visited!

The Huka Falls are only a few miles north of Taupo and a must-visit when you’re in the area! The 11-metre-high waterfall sees over 220,000 litres flowing per second!

It truly is an amazing sight, as the water rushes past you at an exceptional speed. The only issue is that the Huka Falls is full of tourists and it can be hard to navigate your way around the sea of selfie sticks!

Otherwise, Huka Falls is a must-visit! As always, nature in New Zealand is mesmerising!

7. Rotorua

Where to stay: Funky Green Voyager | Best activity: Maori Village Cultural Experience

View of lake rotorua

There’s no doubt in my mind that Rotorua is one of the best places to see on the North Island!

Here are two reasons why:

The first one is that there are plenty of things to do in Rotorua. You can race luges, go zorbing and check out some amazing architecture here.

Secondly, the scenery is brilliant. Lake Rotorua is a truly beautiful spot and you could easily spend the whole day relaxing there!

One thing to note is that Rotorua smells, really smells. It’s built on top of sulphur and the smell of eggs is everywhere! You adapt, but it does stink at first!

That’s about the only bad thing about the place! For me, Rotorua is one of the best places to visit on the North Island! Be sure to check it out!

8. Taupo

Where to stay: Haka Lodge | Best activity: Lake Taupo Sailing Cruise

Lake Taupo

Taupo was one of the places that I knew very little about when I visited the North Island.

Well, it’s safe to say I was pleasantly surprised when I got there. Taupo is based around the lake of the same name, and it makes for a spectacular setting!

The views across the lake are majestic and it’s a great place to relax in the New Zealand sun! There are quite a few other things to do in Taupo as well.

You can go skydiving and hiking among others. One activity that I enjoyed was visiting Action World.

It’s essentially a giant playground for children and adults and it was great fun doing all the activities for an hour or two!

There are plenty of day trips from Taupo you can do, which makes it a great place to base yourself while you’re on the North Island.

9. Te Papa museum

The Te Papa museum was one of the best places I visited while I was on the North Island.

It’s the national museum of New Zealand and documents the history of the country really well. It also has a lot of interesting natural history exhibits. While I was there they also had some cool sculptures from The Hobbit as well!

As a dinosaur lover, perhaps the best thing about Te Papa was that they had a great collection of Dinosaurs! just look at how happy I was to be standing next to Stan the T-Rex!

If you’re a history or nature buff, then a visit to Te Papa will be right up your street!

10. Tongariro Crossing

Where to stay: YHA National Park Backpackers | Best activity: Guided Trek

Tongariro Crossing

Without a doubt, hiking the Tongariro Crossing was one of the best places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island!

The hike’s a long one, but it’s worth it, as the views and the scenery are epic! I’m not sure if this was the location for Mordor in the Lord of the Rings, but it certainly felt like I was hiking there!

The landscape is barren in places and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transplanted to Mars! The looming mountains and hot volcanic landscape are incredible as you traverse the crossing!

It’s an ideal stop on an Auckland to Queenstown road trip. Make sure you set aside a whole day to do the hike!

Tongariro is one of the best places to visit on the North Island! Even if you don’t like hiking, I still recommend it as the views are great!

11. Wellington

Where to stay: The Dwellington | Best activity: Weta Studio Tours

Wellington skyline one of the many reasons to visit New Zealand

Wellington is a beautiful and lively destination at the bottom of the North Island. Even though I visited on Christmas Day and it was really quiet, I still enjoyed my time there immensely!

The city is beautiful, even if the weather can get a little bit extreme at times! The waterfront is a beautiful spot as you look across the water. With the Te Papa museum here as well, it’s a must-visit in Wellington!

My visit only lasted for a day, so I couldn’t see everything, but there are plenty of things to do in Wellington. You can visit the zoo, take a cable car ride and see amazing views from the top of Mount Victoria!

Wellington may only be a small city, but it’s somewhere you should visit while on the North Island! The culture and the scenery will leave you wanting to stay for longer! It’s also a great place to start one of the numerous New Zealand road trips!

Where to Stay on The North Island

Some of the best hostels in New Zealand are located on the North Island. In the big cities of Auckland and Wellington, you have no shortage of options, which can be a good and bad thing.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of cheap hostels on the North Island scattered about. Popular backpacker hotspots such as Rotorua and Taupo have plenty of accommodation. Areas around Tongariro and the Coromandel Peninsula aren’t short of places to stay either!

Below are a few hostels that I recommend staying at during a trip to the North Island!

The Attic BackpackersAucklandA vibrant and modern hostel in the heart of Auckland. Great atmosphere here.Book Now
Plateau LodgeTongariroPerfect place to stay if you’re going to Tongariro National Park. Hostel offers a ride there and back daily.Book Now
Rock Solid BackpackersRotoruaA clean and spacious hostel in Rotorua that is very sociable! Really enjoyed my stay here and would highly recommend it!Book Now
YHA TaupoTaupoA hostel with a great location close to Lake Taupo. Facilities are good and the staff were helpful too!Book Now
Waiheke Backpackers HostelWaiheke IslandThis hostel has some of the best views in New Zealand. Worth staying for those alone!Book Now
The MarionWellingtonNice hostel close to the centre of Wellington. Spacious rooms and also has a rooftop terrace!Book Now

Best Time to Visit the North Island

Considering the best time to visit New Zealand is important when visiting the country. The climate does vary between the two main islands and it can be quite different on those islands depending on where you are.

Of the two islands, the North Island is hotter. Temperatures can easily reach the 30s during the summer, with that summer being stretched out into March as well. winter is colder and quite similar in climate to that of Victoria and South Australia in Australia.

You have temperatures around 10 degrees with days that can get considerably colder and a fair amount of rain. Unless you like rain it might be best to avoid visiting during the winter.

Arguably, the best months to visit the North Island are from October to March, when the temperatures are high and the weather is at its best. With that said, the climate can be volatile at times in New Zealand, so be prepared for any eventuality!

Concluding Thoughts

Visiting the North Island is something that you will more than likely do while travelling New Zealand. The great thing about the country is that no matter where you are, there are loads of places to visit.

The same is true of travelling the South Island. You’re not short of places to visit in New Zealand!

My list of places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island is only scratching the surface. There’s plenty to see on this diverse and beautiful island. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!

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Places to visit on the North Island

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