With its incredible natural landscape and rich sense of culture, there's no wonder the majority of New Zealanders call the North Island home. If you're planning a jaunt across the Tasman this winter, here are 10 things to add to your must-do list.
Some believe Rotorua's famed thermal waters hold healing properties, but even if you're not convinced, there's no doubt a dip in one of the city's many natural hot springs, mud baths, private pools or spas is good for the soul—and your winter chill.
People flock to see the native 'arachnocampa luminosa', or New Zealand glowworm, light up the Waitomo Caves. Adrenaline junkies can even abseil into the depths of the caves, or go 'black water rafting' underground.
Often referred to as 'Great Lake Taupo' for its beauty and size (it’s the largest lake in Australasia), Lake Taupo is home to almost too many incredible sights to count, from Huka Falls (the country's most-visited natural attraction), to the 14-metre-high Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings. Take it at your own pace, with a relaxing walk, bike ride, cruise or a dip in the lake itself, or go for the extreme with a jet boat ride or bungy jump. The area is also home to the super-luxurious Huka Lodge, famed for having members of the royal family visit on occasion, including Queen Elizabeth II herself.
The only active volcano on the island on which you can ski or board, Mt Ruapehu is a popular spot with thrill-seeking snow bunnies. A two-day lift pass is included in Flight Centre's Fire & Ice Self-Drive tour—on top of seven days' car hire, six nights' accommodation, and an itinerary that encompasses some of the island's biggest aforementioned highlights, including Rotorua, Waitomo Caves, Lake Taupo and Huka Falls.
The town of Matamata is home to Hobbiton, which fans will know better as The Shire from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. If you've never seen the films, don't despair—Matamata is also home to beautiful rolling countryside and the picturesque Wairere Falls, as well as many golf courses and cafes.
The views over bustling Auckland from Mount Eden Summit—the city's highest point and a volcanic cone—are well worth the 196-metre climb by foot or bike. Take in some of the area's rich cultural history with a guided tour by a member of the Ngati Whatua tribe, Mount Eden's traditional guardians.
Napier's characteristic 1930s architecture was born from a rebuild that took place after a tragic earthquake ripped through the city of Hawke's Bay in 1931. Local architect Louis Hay was largely responsible for many of the buildings that stand today, heavily influenced by Spanish mission and art deco styles. Today, Napier is also beloved for its gourmet food and wine scene.
Boasting New Zealand's largest collection of local and international art, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki will this year play host to a number of impressive works from the Tate in London, as part of its major exhibition The Body Laid Bare. Visit between March 18 and July 16 to see masterpieces from Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin (among others) in the flesh.
If you're after something to impress the kids (and adults alike), there are few things as impressive as the erupting geysers that can be found around Rotorua. Pōhutu is the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, shooting out steam and hot water once or twice each hour, and has been known to reach heights of 30 metres.
Lovers of hiking will revel in taking on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the most popular one-day trail in New Zealand—touted by some as one of the top 10 in the world. Found in the Tongariro National Park (the country's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site), the vista from the hike includes an active volcano and aqua-blue lakes.
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