Best things to do in New Zealand North Island

by | Oct 23, 2021 | New Zealand Travel

Now is a great opportunity to get out and explore the best things to do in New Zealand North Island. We are lucky enough in New Zealand to have a lot of great things to do, places to see and stay. We’ve put together our list of some of the best New Zealand activities, so go and check out some of things all our international visitors rave about.

Best things to do in New Zealand North Island:

  1. Hike the Tongariro Crossing
  2. Climb the Paekakariki Escarpment Track
  3. Fly through untouched native forest
  4. Sandboard down the Te Paki Sand Dunes
  5. Go zorbing in a giant inflatable ball
  6. Discover underground caves black water rafting
  7. Explore geothermal landscapes
  8. Get a bit of culture at Te Papa
  9. Camp at Hot Water Beach
  10. Unplug with a bit of glamping

1. Hike the Tongariro Crossing

First on the list is the Tongariro Crossing. It’s one of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand, and for good reason. There are three huge volcanoes (Tonagriro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu), stunning emerald and blue lakes, and a landscape that varies from something like the surface of the moon to rivers and forest. The hike usually takes around 8 hours, but make sure you’re prepared for all weather. It can get pretty chilly at the summit, even in the middle of summer.

Things to do in new zealand north island
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Photo: The Tongariro Crossing – one of the best day walks in the world.

2. Climb the Paekakariki Escarpment Track

RJust outside of Wellington is the Paekakariki Escarpment Track, known as New Zealand’s Stairway to Heaven and definitly one for the North Island bucket list! You’ll need a decent level of fitness for this 10km walk as there are over 400 stairs to climb and you’ll reach up to 220 metres above sea level, but it will all be worth it. The highlight of this walk has got to be the simply breathtaking views out to Kapiti Island.

Paekakariki Escarpment Track
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Photo: The spectacular views will be worth the walk on New Zealand’s stairway to heaven.

3. Fly through untouched native forest

Next up on the best things to do in New Zealand North Island is an adventure like no other with Rotorua Canopy Tours. The 3.5 hour Ultimate Canopy Tour was designed to be the best zipline experience in the world and has some incredible features that will blow you away. Glide across wide open valleys and deep gorges. Race your friends down a tandem zipline and admire breath-taking views from 50m above the forest floor on the iconic clifftop walk. As you become a part of the conservation story you’ll loose yourself in this untouched forest. Create memories that will last a lifetime on this ultimate adventure.

North Island bucket list Ultimate Canopy Tour
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Photo: The Ultimate Canopy Tour is the best way to experience ancient New Zealand forest with Rotorua Canopy Tours.

4. Sandboard down the Te Paki Sand Dunes

If you’re after a bit of thrill seeking – sandboarding down the massive sand dunes at Te Paki is one of the best things to do in New Zealand North Island! These epic sand dunes are right at the top of New Zealand near Cape Reinga and can tower over 150 metres high. If you’re not so keen on the sandboarding they are still a remarkable sight and there’s fantastic panoramic views from the top. Visiting the Te Paki sand dunes is definitely a bucket list activity. And there’s no entry fee, you just need to hire a sandboard.

Sanddune boarding - things to do in New Zealand North Island
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Photo: You’ll have so much fun sliding down the giant Te Paki sand dunes.

5. Go zorbing in a giant inflatable ball

If you’re after a unique North Island experience, zorbing might be just the thing. It was created right here in Rotorua New Zealand back in the 90’s, so there’s nothing more kiwi than rolling down the hill in a giant inflatable ball. You’ll be guaranteed a laugh if you jump in with two friends or you can race down their straight track. They have four tracks to choose from including the longest track in the world.

North Island bucket list Zorb
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Photo: Zorbing is a fantastic kiwi experience like no other.

6. Discover underground caves black water rafting

The next activity is a truly unique experience for an adventure lover. The 3-hour adventure black water rafting through the Waitomo Caves is epic. The tour begins with an incredible abseil into the caves, before tubing down an underground river. There are thrilling spots navigating underground waterfalls, as well as a bit of time to relax as you admire the glow worms above and your incredible guides tell you about how the caves were formed and share stories of local Maori legends.

North Island bucket list black water rafting
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Photo: Explore below ground on a black water rafting adventure you’ll never forget.

7. Explore geothermal landscapes

Waimangu is the world’s youngest geothermal system, formed after the Tarawera volcanic eruption in 1886 and has been virtually untouched since. You’ll feel as if you’ve journeyed back in time as you explore the valley through different walks and hikes for all ages and abilities. You can also take a 45-minute boat cruise across Lake Rotomahana to the site where the pink and white terraces once stood.

Lakeland queen things to do in rotorua at night
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Photo: See some of the most unique landscapes in the world at Waimangu.

8. Get a bit of culture at Te Papa

Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand is definitely a must visit. There are six storeys to explore covering all things Aotearoa. And if you think museums normally aren’t your thing, Te Papa might just surprise you with their contemporary, clever and bicultural approach – and its free!

Things to do in New Zealand North Island bucket list Te Papa
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Photo: You can spend hours exploring the 6 floors of our New Zealand’s national museum.

9. Camp at Hot Water Beach

Camping is a kiwi favourite so its a must for any North Island bucket list. Hot Water Beach Top 10 is the perfect camping spot in the Coromandel, located just 700m from one of the great New Zealand beaches – Hot Water Beach. They have a range of accommodation options from traditional camping to deluxe villas. It’s a prime position to explore such a picturesque region of New Zealand. Visit the magical Cathedral Cove or soak in a hot pool you’ve created with your own hands at Hot Water Beach – just be sure to check on the tide schedule before heading out.

North Island bucket list Hot Water Beach
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Photo: Build your very own hot pool and listen to the waves roll in at Hot Water Beach.

10. Unplug with a bit of glamping

Last but not least on our best things to do in New Zealand North Island list is glamping! We are so lucky in New Zealand to have a lot of stunning landscapes all around us and glamping is the perfect unique escape to somewhere private and outdoorsy. Our top pick is the breath-taking Te Tuhi Dome, just 15 minutes from Taupo perched in farm land overlooking the majestic lake. Check out Canopy Camping for more special places off the beaten track.

things to do in rotorua at night skyline
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Photo: You can spend hours exploring the 6 floors of our New Zealand’s national museum.

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