Things to Do in North Island - page 4
Running from the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu north to Lake Taupo, the Tongariro River is an extremely popular trout-fishing spot. That’s not all that this scenic alpine waterway offers, though: hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and white-water rafting are all available for visitors seeking adventure in the beautiful New Zealand wilderness.
Staglands Wildlife Reserve, a peaceful escape about an hour outside of Wellington’s hustle and bustle, is fun for children and big kids of all ages. Walk through a custom-designed nature park full of animals, from wild goats and guinea pigs to rainbow trout and endangered native birds, and feed and get to know these friendly critters.
Home to dance companies, artist collectives, hip start-ups, and more, Wellington’s Cuba Street district is bristling with creative energy. The action is centered along a pedestrian mall, a hot spot for buskers and street performers that’s lined with historical buildings and full of stylish, artsy stores, cafés, and restaurants.
Although other parts of New Zealand boast taller or faster-flowing waterfalls, none is as conveniently located—and few are as photogenic—as spectacular Otuihau Whangarei Falls. This 85-foot (26-meter) cascade surrounded by birdsong and native bush is just minutes from Whangarei’s city center, making for a perfect pit stop or half-day hike.
Mt. Victoria Reserve(Takarunga) is located on a volcanic hill in Devonport, a seaside town on Auckland’s North Shore. The climb to the top is quite quick and manageable for active travelers, and the views are impressive, as you can look back to the central Auckland skyline with its skyscrapers and sailboats bobbing in front.
The Wellington Museum, a Victorian-era warehouse on the Wellington waterfront, showcases the city’s stories and secrets. Get a taste for life in early Wellington, and follow its development from tribal land to colonial port—filled with sailors and seafarers—to, as coined by Lonely Planet, the “coolest little capital in the world.”
With a prime location at the heart of central Auckland, Albert Park is the ultimate urban garden, with its pretty flower beds and towering palm trees set against a backdrop of looming skyscrapers and the landmark Auckland Sky Tower. With the Central Business District and Auckland Art Gallery to the west, and the University of Auckland to the east, Albert Park is among the city’s most popular green spaces, and its shady benches and grassy lawns provide ample space for picnickers.
A former military barracks, Albert Park was laid out in the late 19th-century and features a series of flower gardens and walkways around a central Victorian fountain. Notable features include the historic band rotunda; the Albert Park House, now a museum; a series of oak trees planted in honor of the United States Navy's Great White Fleet; and a number of statues and memorials.
The ornate Blue Baths on the shores of Lake Rotorua, blend history, leisure, and high society. This building, which fuses art deco and Spanish mission styles, has been restored to its original splendor from 1933, when the thermally heated baths became New Zealand’s first place for “mixed bathing.”
The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki is home to the largest collection of artwork in New Zealand, with more than 17,000 pieces in its collection. Permanent and rotating exhibits show a wide range of art, from historical Maori and Pacific art to contemporary international works. A gallery visit is a great addition to any central-city sightseeing tour.
Steaming geysers, hot springs, and mud pools bubble up from boiling-hot reservoirs below the Earth’s surface at Orakei Korako geothermal park. The area boasts silica terraces decorated with colorful swirling patterns—the result of the hot water algae—and a rare geothermal cave.
More Things to Do in North Island
When it comes to the waters surrounding Auckland, popular Waitemata Harbor tends to get all the attention. This is probably because it fronts the city and is lined with sailboats and yachts, but many visitors aren’t even aware that Auckland has a second harbor. Forming the city’s southern boundary, Manukau Harbor is the industrial cousin to flashy Waitemata.
While the cargo ships don’t have the same charm as ferries to wine covered islands, there are still places in Manukau Harbor with beauty its neighbor can’t match. One such spot is the Manukau Heads Lighthouse, a lonely outpost at the harbor entrance facing the Tasman Sea.
Originally constructed in 1874, the lighthouse is one of a handful in New Zealand where it’s still possible to scale the steps and stand in the lightkeeper’s den. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was erected a few years too late, as 11 years prior, in 1863, the HMS Orpheus ran aground on a nearby Manukau reef. In the end, 189 sailors drowned in the waters just off the lighthouse, and the event remains New Zealand’s largest maritime disaster.
Today, Manukau Heads looks much the same as it did in the 1800s, with rolling fields and pastureland abutting the mostly-calm waters. If you’re lucky, it’s sometimes possible to spot whales and dolphins swimming near the mouth of the harbor—with one species, the Maui Dolphin, being the rarest dolphin in the world. On clear days, the summit of snowcapped Mt. Taranaki can often be seen to the south, and the shiny, steel Auckland skyline floats on the northern horizon.
Waitemata Harbour (Auckland Harbour) is a complete sight unto itself. After all, in the so-called “City of Sails,” a simple stroll around the yachts anchored at the docks is a legitimate form of sightseeing. Auckland’s Ferry Terminal Building, a five-story structure that was built in 1912, is a city landmark not to be missed.
The Odyssey Sensory Maze is a fun and challenging activity in the heart of Auckland. Visitors must try to find their way through the challenging course, with obstacles, funny lighting, sound effects, and illusions. While it’s not recommended for smaller children, older kids and groups of friends will especially enjoy the challenge.
The first thing you notice when you arrive in Rotorua isn’t the natural beauty; it’s the smell. A note of Sulphur is evident all across town, and it is strongest at the sands of Sulphur Point. This constantly shifting geothermal wetland is home to 60 species of birds, which somehow survive the warm waters and boiling, earthy minerals.
When it comes to the beaches surrounding Auckland, there are basically two kinds: the white-sand stretches of the Hauraki Gulf that face the city skyline, and the black-sand beaches of Auckland’s West Coast. Bethells Beach belongs to the latter, where tempestuous storms off the Tasman Sea have carved a rugged landscape.
Several times a day, the spill gates from a dam on the Waikato River are opened and transform the otherwise calm waterway into a turbulent melee of white-water rapids. As it courses through the gorge, the raging power of the river is harnessed by a nearby power plant in order to produce hydroelectric power.
In an unassuming hangar off the South Island’s Kapiti Expressway is one of the southern hemisphere’s largest collections of vintage cars. The Southward Car Museum displays more than 400 vehicles, ranging from turn-of-the-century models and slick 1960s luxury cars to million-dollar Bugattis and immaculately-preserved family sedans.
Crustaceans have the starring role at this aquacultural facility and activity park, where you can feed, fish for, and eat prawns. As well as taking a tour of the prawn nursery and hatchery, you can soak your feet in geothermal waters, go stand-up paddleboarding, and follow adventure trails.
Just 15 minutes from the center of Auckland, Takapuna is Auckland’s trendy, bustling, and boutique beach town. Though the town itself in relatively small in terms of population, Takapuna is considered the center of Auckland’s North Shore suburbs, and is best known for its white sand beach with views of Rangitoto Island. Hire a paddleboard, sailboat, or jet ski to cruise the scenic coastline, where conditions are calmer and waves are much smaller than the beaches of western Auckland. To explore the rolling coastline on foot, take a stroll on the coastal walkway that leads to Milford Beach, where the view looks back at the Auckland skyline and shimmering Lake Pupuke. When you work up an appetite from hiking or swimming, restaurants and shops are within walking distance of Takapuna Beach, where trendy locals sip their coffee on the curb of street side cafés, and savvy shoppers browse the boutiques for the latest selection of styles.
New Zealand has the world’s highest sheep-to-human ratio, with an industry that is estimated to include 30 million sheep. At the Rotorua Agrodome—a 350-acre (142-hectare) working sheep farm just outside of town—visitors can help to shear sheep, tour the mill, and observe well-trained sheepdogs as they follow commands.
Tongariro National Park earned dual UNESCO World Heritage status for its combination of Maori cultural and natural features. Located on the central North Island, the park offers visitors several options for exploring the volcanic terrain. If you want to shorten the multi-day Tongariro Northern Circuit, a New Zealand Great Walk, then consider the popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike.
This free public space located in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter gets its name from the abandoned silos that tower around the park’s grassy field. During summer months, locals gather here to enjoy evening outdoor cinema, as well as live performances that include dance, music and theater.
Silo Park is also known for its eclectic markets, which include the Friday Night Market, which kicks off at 5 p.m. during the summer months and the Saturday and Sunday Markets that open at noon. Travelers will find a unique collection of food stalls, artists, street performers, musicians and plenty of fun at these popular gathering spots that are perfect for picking up souvenirs.
Smack in the middle of downtown Auckland just off of bustling Queen Street, Aotea Square is a popular spot for festivals, gatherings, and events. Located just across from the Auckland Town Hall, Aotea Square provides over an acre of open space downtown, and after a massive renovation in 2010, can now accommodate up to 20,000 people for rallies or open-air concerts. Aside from a handful of shade producing trees, the square houses large, public works of art such as statues and Maori sculptures, the most famous being the Waharoa gate that serves as the entrance from Queen Street. In summer, dance under the stars when part of the square is converted into a dance floor, or strap on skates in the middle of winter when an ice rink is built in the square. During any time of the year, simply sitting and people watching is an entertaining activity, and if it happens to be a nice summer day, then grab a picnic and stop by the square for a leisurely coffee and drink, as the whole of Auckland seems to twirl right around you—centered right here on the square.
Discover the history of New Zealand’s native kauri trees and so much more at Matakohe’s Kauri Museum. With interactive exhibits, life-like dioramas, and well-preserved heritage buildings, the Kauri Museum tells the stories of New Zealand’s colonial settlers and the mighty trees they felled to make ships, homes, and just about everything else.
- Things to do in Auckland
- Things to do in Rotorua
- Things to do in Wellington
- Things to do in Waiheke Island
- Things to do in Tauranga
- Things to do in Tongariro National Park
- Things to do in Hastings
- Things to do in Napier
- Things to do in South Island
- Things to do in New South Wales
- Things to do in Tasmania
- Things to do in Picton
- Things to do in Blenheim
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Rarotonga