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

Places to visit on New Zealand's North IslandNew Zealand’s North Island is simply amazing, let me tell you why:

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

There’s plenty of places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island, which contain 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 should you include when backpacking New Zealand!

Places to visit on New Zealand’s North Island

1. Auckland

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!


Auckland city

2. Bay of Islands

I never got around to visiting the Bay of Islands while I was travelling in 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’s 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 visit the Bay of Islands during your time in the North Island!

3. Bay of Plenty

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’s 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 to not to miss out while you’re on the North Island!


View of Ocean Beach from atop the Mount

4. Coromandel Peninsula

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 absolutely 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

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

This is the set of The Shire in the films and it is absolutely amazing and beautiful! For $80 you get a tour of the Hobbiton movie set, detailed descriptions of what happened during 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 absolutely spectacular! It’s undoubtedly one of the best things to do in New Zealand!


Hobitton in New Zealand

6. 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, the nature in New Zealand is mesmerising!


Huka Falls

7. Rotorua

Here’s the thing:

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

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

Secondly, the scenery 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 really does stink at first!

That’ about the only bad thing about the place! For me, Rotorua was one of the best places I visited while backpacking New Zealand! Be sure to check it out!


View of lake rotorua

8. 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, hiking among others. One activity that I really 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!

9. Te Papa museum

The Te Papa museum was one of the best places that I saw 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 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 about 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!


Travelling Tom and Stan the T-rex

10. Tongariro Crossing

Without a doubt, the 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 definitely 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!

The Tongariro is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand! Even if you don’t like hiking, I still recommend it as the views are great!


Tongariro Crossing

11. Wellington

As far as I’m concerned:

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 really 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’s 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 from!


Wellington skyline one of the many reasons to visit New Zealand

Where to stay on the North Island

As the most populated of the two main islands, there is no shortage of hostels in the North Island! In the big cities Auckland and Wellington, you have no shortage of options, which can be a good and bad thing.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of cheap hostels in 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
YHA GisborneGisborneA beautiful building with clean and comfortable rooms. Ideally located near the centre of the city.Book Now
Funky Green VoyagerRotoruaA clean and spacious hostel in Rotorua that is very sociable! Really enjoyed my stay here and would highly recommend it!Book Now
Base TaupoTaupoA hostel ideally located close to Lake Taupo. Facilities are good and the staff were helpful too!Book Now
Waiheke Backpackers HostelWaiheke IslandThis has hostel has some of the best views in New Zealand. Worth staying for those alone!Book Now
Lodge In The CityWellingtonNice hostel close to the centre of Wellington. Spacious rooms and lots of social areas downstairs!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 on where you are.

Of the two islands, the North Island is the 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 really like the rain it might be best avoiding 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’ 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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Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

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