Hidden Gems to Visit on New Zealand’s North Island

From active volcanoes to island sanctuaries, spectacular beaches to geothermal natural wonders, New Zealand’s North Island is awash with hidden gems. Here’s our rundown of the best things to do on this magnificent part of country.

Hit the rapids on the Tongariro River. Adrenaline junkies should head straight to the Tongariro river where you can board rafts to ride down the white-water rapids. This scenic adventure will transport you past towering gorges and dense forests. There are differing graded rapids, whether you’re a beginner or advanced rafter.

Throw yourself off Taupo. You may not know this, but New Zealand is the land of the bungee having commercialized the sport (which originates in Vanuatu) more than 30 years ago. Today, you can get your adrenaline kicks by leaping 47 meters down towards the Waikato River.

Sailing around the Bay of Islands. The Bay of Islands lies off the northern tip of New Zealand and has long been considered one of the best sailing destinations in the country. With over 100 little islands, charming villages to explore and continual year-round winds, you can’t help but get excited when hoisting the mainsail.

Dive at Volkner Rocks. Though the three rocks that jut out of the ocean near White Island are not particularly impressive, below the surface they provide a habitat for some of the most fascinating marine life in the country. Expect to see everything from large schools of colorful fish to bottlenose dolphins and, if you’re lucky, the odd roaming shark.

Taste the amber nectar at the Hallertau Brewery. Just outside Auckland, you’ll find one of New Zealand’s most interesting (and thirst quenching) hidden gems. Tuck into some of the country’s finest beers at the Hallertau Brewery and learn about their production. You can pair it with food at the brewery’s onsite restaurant. It’s easy to reach using your North Shore car rental.

Leap into the setting of the Lord of the Rings. The Aorangi Forest is home to the spectacular Putangirua Pinnacles, unique stone pillars eroded over thousands of years from rainwater. Particularly interesting is Kupe’s Sail, another formation just north of Cape Palliser.  

Admire Whangarei Falls. Whangarei is one of the country’s most scenic waterfalls. Those who visit the cascades, which tumble down almost 25 meters into a lagoon below, are nestled in some of North Island’s most picturesque countryside.

Cycle around the vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. The coastline along Hawke’s Bay is one of the country’s top wine producing regions. There’s no better way to experience the vineyards than an afternoon cycling through them, stopping en route to sample a vintage red or two.

Wander through Wellington’s Cuba Streets. While most people are busy visiting Auckland, Wellington has a wealth of boutique shops, independent cafes, and galleries to explore and best experienced with a wander along Cuba Street. Eccentric and quirky, you can’t help but be charmed by this bohemian spot.

Soak in the Rotorua hot springs. AT this beautiful location, geothermal activity has led to several natural wonders including geyser fields and mud pools, but after a long day’s hike, there is nothing better than soaking those weary bones in the naturally hot springs in town. Try the Polynesian Spa which has been voted one of the best on earth.

Visit the mighty White Island. Lying some 20 miles off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island in the Bay of Plenty is White Island. Towering up above the ocean, you can hike around the edge of the volcanic island’s crater looking down into the steamy bubbling hot mud below. A truly awe-inspiring sight.

Be charmed by Russell. Located along the shores of the North Island, the town of Russell was one of the first ports founded by Europeans. Today, it’s a charming and historical place teeming with Victorian architecture and serves as the gateway to the beautiful Bay of Islands. It’s a breeze to reach it with your North Shore car rental.

Gasp at Waipu Caves. While you are exploring North Island, be sure to visit the Waipu Caves. Though interesting themselves, the biggest draw is the millions of glow worms which light up the stalactites in the darkness. One of New Zealand’s most fascinating natural wonders.

See the flightless takahe on Tiritiri Matangi Island. This hidden gem is one of New Zealand’s most important conservation areas. Spanning 220 hectares, this island is a sanctuary for much wildlife including the flightless takahe, one of earth’s rarest species of avifauna.

Learn about the village buried by a volcano. It was more than 100 years ago that the active volcano Mount Terevaka exploded burying an entire nearby village. With the help of a guide, you can hear the story behind the natural disaster near to Rotorua.

Swim without the crowds in Doubtless Bay. If you want to swim in safe waters without the crowds that pack the beaches in North Island, try Doubtless Bay. Dozens of miles of pristine coastline await, along with the possibility to spot orcas and bottlenose dolphins.