Your New Zealand vacation will begin on the North Island with your arrival in Auckland. The North Island is smaller than its’ southern neighbour, but few travellers would dare pass up visits to its three iconic cities – Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington.
Auckland serves up a good balance between a growing “human-size” metropolitan area (think Portland, Oregon) with a definite Kiwi twist. Where else can you drive over the harbor while bungy jumpers leap from the underside of the bridge. Auckland has plenty to offer and will be a pleasant surprise as a city with its’ vibrant blend of cultures, restaurants and sites. As the city sits on an isthmus, one is never far from water or related activities.
Starting north of Auckland and stretching to the very top of the island at Cape Reigna, the regions of Northland is the Kiwi’s vacation getaway.
If you really have time to explore the North Island, then getting to the Cape will give you one more thing to check off your bucket list. Here, at the confluence of two mighty oceans, Maori lore has it that the spirits of the dead depart to the afterlife. Just south of there is where families can slide down huge sand dunes, see stunning white beaches of Kokota or race along the famous 90-Mile Beach. The fertile plains of the eastern shore yield some of the best citrus products and quiet, coastal villages are a place to escape urban stresses and golf at some challenging courses.
The Bay of Islands half-way up the east coast is the tourist mecca of the North Island. And Paihia is it’s gateway. Countless tourists are drawn here to partake in the famous Hole in the Rock cruise. Nearby is Waitangi, the birthplace of the nation and another ‘must see’ stop on your North Island sojourn. It is also a short distance from Russell, the first, albeit brief, capital of the country.
Southeast of Auckland is the Coromandel Peninsula an area with numerous bays, quaint towns, small islands and forests for peaceful contemplation. The area is also home to many artists and craftsmen who have picked up on the calming vibe of the area.
Contrast to that the tempo of Rototua, a few hours drive south, which sometimes is referred to as “Roto-Vegas” for its adrenalin, thermal and volcanic offerings. The city has more Kiwi-crazed activities than almost anywhere in the country. But it is also a reverential place in Maori culture based around the life-giving powers of the thermal reserves.
The Lake Taupo area, about an hour’s drive south, is one of the biggest recreational areas on the North Island. It has earned the reputation as for fly-fishing and skydiving center of the country. It also gives the traveller a first look at the postcard image of New Zealand with majestic, snow capped mountains (the Tongariro Range) and clear blue lakes (Lake Taupo) and rivers (Waikato).
The sunny climes of Hawke’s Bay, on the south eastern coast, make it the premier wine region on the North Island. For those with an interest in architecture, the region’s principal city Napier, is a showcase of Art Deco architecture.
From here it is a straight line to Wellington, through the newly developed area of Wairapa and its growing wine industry. This compact city is the country’s legislative capital, hip cultural and art center. Situated at the bottom of the North Island, “Welli” is the end point for your North Island travels but also the starting point for the ferry across the Cook Strait to start your South Island adventures.