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Exploring New Zealand's North Island: Top 7 Must-Do Activities and Must-Visit Places (2023)

The dormant volcano of Mount Taranaki in New Zealand.
The dormant volcano of Mount Taranaki.

North Island is home to some of New Zealand's most iconic scenery. The snow-capped peaks of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe are a must-see. The world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a popular hike for those looking to experience North Island's natural beauty.

Furthermore, North Island is also home to many of New Zealand's most iconic natural attractions, such as the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, where you can float through a cave lit up by thousands of glowworms.

Below are what we consider the top seven things to do and see on New Zealand's North Island!

1 - Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand. Glowworms hanging from the cave.
New Zealand Glowworms.

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a unique natural wonder and a must-see for anyone visiting New Zealand. The caves are home to a glowworm called Arachnocampa Luminosa, which emits a distinctive blue light. Visitors can experience the caves in several ways, including boat tours, cave walks, and caving expeditions.

Tip: There are plenty of other caves with glowworms throughout the North Island, free of charge. To find them, simply download the phone application "Maps.Me" and search for marked glowworm grottos along your route.

2 - Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand with beautiful lakes in the background. A must visit New Zealand in 2022, 2023, 2024.
Elli and I during our Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of New Zealand's most popular trekking trails, and it's easy to see why. The trail winds through some of the country's most beautiful scenery, including emerald lakes, snow-capped mountains, and active volcanoes.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is well-maintained and well-signposted, making it an accessible option for walkers of all fitness levels. However, it's essential to be prepared for all weather conditions, as the Tongariro National Park can experience extreme conditions at any time of year.

Fun Fact: Tongariro National Park was featured as Mordor, Middle-Earth, in The Lord of the Rings movies.

3 - Te Paki Sand Dunes

Te Paki Sand Dunes during the sunset in New Zealand. Must visit New Zealand in 2022, 2023, 2024.
Te Paki Sand Dunes

Te Paki Sand Dunes are one of the largest and most spectacular dune fields in New Zealand. The dunes cover an area of around 10,000 hectares and are up to 100 meters high. The dunes formed millions of years ago when rivers deposited sand into a vast inland sea. Over time, the wind blew the sand inland and trapped it between two mountain ranges.

Te Paki Sand Dunes are a popular backpacker destination, with visitors enjoying sandboarding and quad biking activities. The dunes are also home to various plant and animal life, including rare lizards and tuatara. With their unique history and diverse wildlife, Te Paki Sand Dunes are a must-see for anyone visiting New Zealand!

4 - Cape Reinga Lighthouse (Te Rerenga Wairua)

Cape Reinga Lighthouse on a cloudy day in New Zealand.
Cape Reinga Lighthouse.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse is a historic beacon located at the northernmost tip of New Zealand. The Lighthouse has stood watch over the treacherous waters off the coast of Cape Reinga for over 81 years, guiding ships and sailors to safety.

Cape Reinga is also known as Te Rerenga Wairua, and is a place of great spiritual importance to the Maori. Te Rerenga Wairua is a place of outstanding natural beauty, and it is well worth a visit if you are ever in New Zealand.

5 - Hobbiton

A Hobbit house in Hobbiton New Zealand.
Visiting Frodo in Hobbiton!

Hobbiton New Zealand is a must-visit for any Lord of the Rings fan. Located in Matamata, Hobbiton is the Hobbit village shown in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. The movie set was lovingly designed and built and remains faithful to the original vision. Hobbiton is now a popular destination, and visitors can take guided tours of the village, visit Hobbit holes, and even stay overnight in Hobbiton-themed accommodations. While it may be crowded during peak times, Hobbiton New Zealand is definitely worth a visit for any Lord of the Rings fan!

6 - Taupo

White water rafting in Taupo, New Zealand.
Jake white water rafting in Taupo.

Taupo is a town on New Zealand's North Island, situated on the shores of Lake Taupo. The area is renowned for its waterfalls, which include Huka Falls and Rainbow Falls. Taupo is also home to the country's largest ski field, Mount Ruapehu. Visitors to Taupo can enjoy various activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and water sports. There are also numerous restaurants and cafes in the town center and several bars and clubs. Taupo is an ideal destination for a holiday or short break with its picturesque setting and range of activities.

7- Rotorua

Geothermal pool in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Geothermal pool in Rotorua.

Rotorua is home to one of the most notable geothermal springs in New Zealand. The earth's hot core heats the springs, ranging in temperature from 35 to 100 degrees Celsius. Visitors can bathe in the springs, which are said to have health benefits.

Rotorua is also home to geysers, which are rarer than springs. Geysers are generally found in areas with high geothermal activity, such as near volcanoes. One of Rotorua's most popular geysers is Pohutu Geyser, which erupts up to 20 times daily.

Caution: Some geothermal pools are extremely hot and unsuitable for bathing. Ensure to read the warning signs along the way and check the water temperature before entering any geothermal pool.


In summary, the North Island of New Zealand is a place like no other. From its towering mountains to its geothermal springs, North Island offers something for everyone. And with its convenient location, North Island is the perfect place to start your New Zealand adventure.

Have you ever been to New Zealand? What were your favorite things to do there? Let us know in the comments below!


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