New Zealand is high on a lot of people’s lists of places to travel, and with good reason. It’s one of the most beautiful, adventurous, and unique destinations anywhere on the globe, and is truly the sort of place where you can make memories that last a lifetime. As with most destinations that good, there’s almost too much to do for a single trip. For that reason, we’re going to narrow this list of attractions and activities down to New Zealand’s North Island. Here are 10 things you should try to fit in.
10 Attractions in North New Zealand You Absolutely Must Visit
1. Tour Hobbiton
The beautiful rolling hills of The Shire from The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit are considered to comprise some of the most beautiful movie sets in modern cinema, if not of all time. And they actually exist in the north of New Zealand. You can sign up for tours through this fantasy land and get lost among the hobbit holes like you’re just another Tolkien character in Hobbiton. It’s a must-see location for fantasy fans or anyone that enjoyed the movies.
2. Zorbing at Rotorua
Zorbing—where you roll around within a protective air-filled ball—has caught on all around the world. But it got started in New Zealand, and you can try it for yourself at Rotorua. Climb inside one of the bouncy balls and take a roll down a beautiful grassy hill with the rest of the family. It’s a fun and safe activity for anyone who loves a thrill, and will definitely be something new for you to try!
We rolled down the hills of OGO Rotorua, and didn’t regret it one bit! Because we went at the start of winter, we were worried that being dressed in a swimsuit will freeze the hell out of us in the 10+ degree celcius weather. We were basking in the warmth of the warm water within the ball, and the thrill of being topsy and turvy as the ball rolled downhill was dizzyingly fun! At the end of the experience, we even got to soak in an outdoor jacuzzi tub filled with warm water – there could be no better way to end this exciting sport!
3. Visit the Waiheke Island Vineyards
New Zealand has become known as a terrific wine producing region, and many of the best wines from the country come from a small island near Auckland, called Waiheke Island. It’s worth a visit – it’s a beautiful place that manages to stand out even among the rest of New Zealand’s natural wonders. It’s also a fantastic place to tour vineyards and sample world-class wine. Call ahead to set up a tour for yourself and enjoy an afternoon tasting some of the best that New Zealand has to offer.
4. Skydive at Lake Taupo
There are a few places to try skydiving in this part of the world. But not many of them have the kind of view that can beat seeing Lake Taupo while you’re hurtling down through the air. The lake is among New Zealand’s most famous attractions, and makes for an incredible backdrop for one of the most thrilling experiences of your life.
Keep in mind that you’re not actually skydiving into the lake, but you can certainly go for a swim or rent a boat once you’re finished.
Read all about my first skydiving experience with Skydive Taupo here!
5. Take a Maori Tour
There are actually all kinds of way ways to experience the famed Maori culture of New Zealand, and most of them are on the North Island. In some cases you can tour a village or settlement. In others you can watch a performance to appreciate the rich and unique traditions of the Maori people. Sometimes you can even stay in an area populated by Maori and meant to provide the full cultural experience for visitors. If you’re a history and culture buff in particular, this is a necessary addition to your New Zealand travel list.
6. Check out the Waiotapu Geothermal Reserve
Most of New Zealand is gorgeous, but few places are as unique to behold as the geothermal reserves at Waiotapu. These are volcanic areas that have over thousands of years produced colourful, otherworldly pools. There are also fascinating mud pools, and you have to make sure you check out the Lady Knox Geyser while you’re there, too! Waiotapu is a must-see natural adventure that shouldn’t be passed up by anyone trying to experience the wonders of the North Island.
7. Explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Continuing with the idea of exploring unique sights on the North Island, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are also pretty exceptional. It’s a brief tour, but you’ll take a boat ride through caverns where tiny wildlife make the walls and ceilings glow like a starry night. It’s almost like something out of the movie Avatar. In fact, director James Cameron based much of his alien vision on bioluminescent life forms in exotic places.
If you’re a daredevil like me, try blackwater rafting! You’ll see equally exceptional sights of the glowworm in the dark caves, while experiencing the thrill of rafting in the pitch black cave!
8. Visit the Auckland Zoo
Particularly if you have children with you on your trip to New Zealand, you might want to stop by the Auckland Zoo. A zoo in this part of the world has a lot to live up to given the region’s reputation for wildlife and natural beauty, and the Auckland Zoo doesn’t disappoint. It’s home to 138 different species, including big cats, fascinating primates, exotic reptiles, and even a gorgeous array of birds. There’s even a separate area just for elephants!
9. Ski Turoa
You might not expect it, but New Zealand is also home to a quality ski resort. Turoa is known for catering to skiers of all different levels, and it’s a very different kind of skiing or snowboarding experience. The views on the way down are flatter than in a lot of other skiing destinations, and there is a little less focus on resort amenities and hospitality. But the skiing is good and is quite the treat for those looking for something different during their trip.
10. Challenge your height and speed at Velocity Valley
Velocity Valley is like a little adventurer’s playground with different rides that you can take. Transport is provided FOC from the main town of Rotorua.
I certainly put my heights to test again as I tried a different way of free falling, by swooping down in a prone position, like a bird! It surely feels like free fall, with your head falling first, in the 130km/h drop down 40 metres.
I also tried Singapore’s version of iFly, which was harder than expected. You need to learn how to position your arms, legs and back in order stay within the fly zone. Arching your back too much or too little may mean you will either hit the ceiling or drop right down to the ground in this Freefall Xtreme.
These rides would have been much more fun if the duration of each ride is longer. I was only getting the hang of flying in mid air at the Freefall Xtreme ride before I was called off the wind tunnel.
P.S. They don’t take the best pictures, which is a pity because I’ll never get a second chance at these rides again, so I hope these pictures do enough justice!
We just can’t get enough of New Zealand, can we?
Read: Detailed Breakdown of My New Zealand Budget Trip; $2600 for 20 days! Driving In New Zealand The First Time?