When you picture New Zealand, you likely imagine snow-capped mountains, sparkling glaciers, lush forests, and more sheep than you can count. These are accurate scenes from the South Island, which undoubtedly gets more attention than its northern counterpart. This isn’t to say that the North Island is any less exciting, however. With our recommendations, we think you might just want to make time in your itinerary to enjoy some of the unique experiences to the north, as well as those more commonly noted attractions of the South.
Although Queenstown on the South Island is known as an adventure capital of the world, you may want to save some of your taste for adventure for the North Island, where you’ll find plenty of excitement. For one thing, Lake Taupo might be one of the best places on the planet to go skydiving, offering fantastic views over a bright blue lake and the surrounding hills and fields of varying, spectacular shades of green. New Zealand is also known for its glow worm caves, and the North Island is a great place to explore them for some additional adventure. Meanwhile, an added benefit to activities like these is that with much of the attention devoted to the South Island, the North Island sees considerably fewer adventure tourists, and can thus be a little less crowded and, in a way, more accessible.
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, another great North Island option is to check out one of the sets where The Hobbit was filmed. The North Island set – Hobbiton itself – has been transformed into an interactive exhibit where you can explore the fantasy village built for the petite hobbit race. Even if you haven’t followed this beloved fictional saga, the set is still filled with beautiful scenery, set in the middle of farm country with rolling hills and stunning views for kilometres in every direction. And when you’ve finished touring the place, you can also grab a drink at the cozy pub from the film itself!
If you’re looking for more of a city travel experience, Auckland on the North Island is the largest urban centre in all of New Zealand. It’s particularly famous for its unmissable harbour area, which is filled with excellent shops and restaurants. You can spend some time exploring on foot, or even get out on the water, and take in the stunning skyline, abroad a harbour cruise. Meanwhile, if you want to experience parts of that skyline itself, the centrepiece is undoubtedly SkyCity, the towering skyscraper complete with its own live casino. Even though New Zealand offers a range of free pokie play and other casino games online, getting dressed up for a night out at this entertainment complex is still a popular and highly recommended activity for your time in town. In part this is because even if you aren’t interested in the casino’s games, the luxurious restaurants, bars, and amenities of the complex can make for a terrific night out.
A final recommendation unique to the North Island is to visit one of the geothermal parks. Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is one of our favourites, home to neon-green sulfur springs and bubbling mud pools, among many other attractions. If you don’t want to pay the entry ticket for this park, however, you can still enjoy some of these natural wonders in local public parks throughout the North Island. Some of the thermal pools are even used by locals as public hot tubs, so if you’re interested, bring a towel and change of clothes and find a place to hop in!
Guest post by Maya Andrews.
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