Lay of the Land
Dramatically different from New Zealand’s South, the North Island stretches from windy Wellington, the capital, on the southwestern tip to the beautiful Bay of Islands in the northeast. The country’s largest city – Auckland – sits about midway on the eastern coast and is a massive sprawl and one of the world’s largest cities (as well as a sailor’s paradise). For many, Auckland is a fly-through destination; those who spend a few days should read our Auckland Destination Guide. About 3.4 million people live on North Island (compared with South Island’s 1 million) but between towns and cities, there are long stretches of uninterrupted rolling hills, forests and farmland. Here are some of the North Island’s most popular regions. For help planning an itinerary, contact Indagare’s Bookings Team.
Bay of Islands
A 45-minute flight from Auckland, the Bay of Islands is where many travelers begin their New Zealand itinerary (incidentally it’s also the place where Captain Cook first touched on New Zealand soil in 1769). There are more than 140 islands scattered in the deep blue waters, and the region is one of the most popular for sailing and deep-sea fishing. There are also some pretty coves with sandy beaches, making this a great place for getting over jetlag and easing into a active New Zealand itinerary.
- Stay: Kauri Cliffs
Rotorua / Taupo
The activities-heavy towns of Taupo and Rotorua are twin cities of sorts, but very different in vibe. Rotorua has long been better at marketing itself, with lots of tourist-heavy sites and activities. It’s also one of New Zealand’s centers of Maori culture, and visitors should not miss sites like the Buried Village. Taupo the more chilled-out sibling. Located on a massive lake (the size of Singapore), it’s home to some of the world’s best fly fishing and lesser-visited geothermal sites like Orakei Korako. Picking one over the other depends entirely what type of lodge is right for you and what activities are of interest.
- Stay: Solitaire Lodge, Rotorua / Acacia Cliffs Lodge, Taupo / Huka Lodge, Taupo
- Do: Tongoriro Crossing / Top Golf / Fly Fishing Taupo / Huka Falls / Orakei Korako / Rotorua Museum
This region on the east coast of the North Island is famous for big Bordeaux-style red wines as well as Chardonnay (it is the country’s second-largest wine growing region). The central town of Napier has some beautiful Art Deco architecture, as well as farmers markets and some interesting restaurants. The region – bucolic and scenic – runs toward the coast and Cape Kidnappers, a sandstone headland that’s also home to a large gannet population. There’s also a glorious golf and nature resort: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.
- Stay: Farm at Cape Kidnappers