The north island of New Zealand is a pleasant mixture of natural beauty and engaging attractions. Most people spend the majority of their New Zealand trip on the south island, but the north island should not be missed. I didn’t get a chance to make it to all of the sights (sorry, Wellington), but the places I did see were worth the visit, and I’d love to return to see some of the other places I missed.
Rotorua is located along Lake Rotorua in the center of the north island. It is close to many of the island’s thermally-active sites, and it is a great place to experience and learn about Maori culture. Rotorua is also the birthplace of zorbing.
The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a can’t miss attraction just outside of Rotorua. The thermal pools are colored by algae, bacteria and minerals. After touring the parks, you can spend the afternoon or evening soaking in one of the thermal spas that are scattered throughout the region.
Taupo is a resort city located on Lake Taupo in the center of the north island. The city and lake are great places to enjoy some of the extreme sports New Zealand is known for, such as skydiving and jetboating.
Tongariro National Park
Located in the center of the north island, Tongariro National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the top destinations in New Zealand. The park is a mixture of extremes, with rain forests and waterfalls placed against the backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes. The park is best enjoyed on foot, with The Tongariro Alpine Crossing listed as one of the top day hikes in the world. The volcanoes in the park were used to create Mt. Doom and Mordor for the Lord of the Rings movies.