Trying to decide where to go on New Zealand’s North Island? I’ve got 7 must-visit places right here!
New Zealand is absolutely filled with beautiful, interesting, cool, fun places to visit. Unfortunately, most of us have a limited time in the country, so you won’t be able to see everything. Trust me, I spent almost an entire year in New Zealand, and I still didn’t see everything I wanted to see.
So I get it. Deciding which places to visit and which places to skip is tough. Hopefully this list will help with that!
I’m using my experience in New Zealand to help YOU decide where to go on the North Island. If you’re on a short trip, consider adding these places to your North Island itinerary. I haven’t included EVERY place that’s worth visiting, but I had to make cuts, otherwise this would just be a really long list.
Rest assured, everywhere you go in New Zealand will be pretty. It’s just a super photogenic place.
Most visitors want to see the highlights of the North Island, so I considered that when choosing which places to include. I also wanted to focus on places that are easy to get to with public transportation since not everyone is going to be renting a car.
If you need help deciding where to go, these are all the must-visit places on New Zealand’s North Island.
7 Must-Visit Places on New Zealand’s North Island
Auckland is the most populous city in New Zealand—almost a quarter of the country’s citizens reside here. It’s a big, busy city with lots to do. Most international visitors will end up here at one point or another anyways. While some people might advise you to skip Auckland on a super short visit, if you do have the time, you should definitely spend a couple of days here (you don’t really need more than that).
What to Do in Auckland:
- Enjoy the restaurants & shops, and get a feel for Auckland life
- Get a view of the city from Mount Eden
- Take a day trip to Devonport, Rangitoto, or Piha
- Visit the Auckland Art Gallery or Auckland Museum
Read Next: Full Guide to Auckland
Waiheke Island is an idyllic little place. Just a short ferry ride from the Auckland Harbor, Waiheke makes for an easy break from the city. Here you’ll find beautiful beaches, lots of vineyards for winery hopping, and a friendly community of people. Waiheke Island is such a relaxing place, plus it feels a bit luxurious (without being stuffy). You definitely to visit this place while you’re traveling the North Island.
What to Do on Waiheke Island:
- Visit the local wineries and indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting
- Go on a walk/hike
- Spend some time lounging on the beach
- Stay in one of many luxurious accommodation options
Read Next: A Day on Waiheke Island
Paihia is a laid-back little town in The Bay of Islands. This is located in the Northland region, a couple hours North of the city of Auckland. I love Paihia because it’s so simple. There isn’t necessarily a lot to do, but it’s one of those towns where you just want to stay longer to enjoy the relaxed pace. It’s quite busy in the summer, but super quiet the rest of the year. Paihia is a good base for other Northland activities and day trips.
What to Do in Paihia:
- Take a cruise out to the Hole in the Rock and see dolphins
- Drive (or join a tour) up to Cape Reinga & 90 Mile Beach
- Take the pedestrian ferry to Russell to explore another interesting town
- Walk to Haruru Falls
Read Next: Paihia & the Bay of Islands
Rotorua is a major tourist hot spot on the North Island. They call it Roto-Vegas because, well…tourists and endless attractions. The town itself is interesting to explore, but the real reason to visit Rotorua is outside of town. This area is a geothermal hot bed and there are a bunch of parks where you can see geysers, hot springs, & more. There’s also plenty of opportunity to hike & focus your time outdoors.
What to Do in Rotorua:
- Go to Wai-O-Tapu to explore its geothermal wonders
- Visit the Rotorua Museum to learn about the city’s geothermal history
- Take a trip out to the Whakarewarewa Forest, the Rotorua Museum
- Wander around Government Gardens & the lakefront
Read Next: 6 Free Things to Do in Rotorua
The Coromandel Peninsula is one of my top places to visit on the North Island. The Coromandel is filled with little towns, sandy beaches, and lots and lots of forest. This encompasses an entire region, so there’s a lot to do here. A couple of days is enough time to see the highlights (or even 1 day if that’s all you have), but you’ll feel like you’re on island time here. You won’t want to leave!
What to Do on the Coromandel Peninsula:
- Walk to Cathedral Cove & enjoy one of the most scenic beaches in New Zealand
- Dig your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach
- Walk the Pinnacles Track near Thames
Read Next: Full Guide to the Coromandel Peninsula
Napier is considered the Art Deco Capital of the World due to its high concentration of authentic Art Deco style buildings. This fun little seaside city is one of the best places in the country for arts & culture. If you like art…well, it’s everywhere! In the galleries, in the buildings, in the street art, in the landscape art. And the natural scenery isn’t so bad either!
What to Do in Napier:
- Go on an Art Deco walking tour
- Visit the MTG to learn about the history of Napier
- Take a walk along the parade to see all the cool sculpture & outdoor art
- Enjoy the café scene around town
Read Next: Full Guide to Napier
Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city, and definitely the coolest city in the country if you ask me (or anyone really). I know I said Napier was the best spot for arts & culture, but Wellington actually has the top spot. There are (FREE) museums all over the city, an amazing coffee culture, and beautiful hills surrounding the city center. This is also the last stop on the North Island, so you can take the ferry from here to the South Island.
What to Do in Wellington:
- Hike up Mount Victoria for incredible views
- Spend hours at Te Papa or any of the other museums
- Take the cable car up the hill and walk back down through the Botanic Garden
- Explore the coffee scene and try out some of the best restaurants
Read Next: Full Guide to Wellington
This list is by no means definitive. Of course there are plenty of other spots on New Zealand’s North Island that you should visit if you have time. This list just represents the places that I personally visited and really enjoyed. This makes for a simple itinerary if you only have a short time on the North Island.
Want to visit the South Island? Here are the 8 Must-Visit Places on New Zealand’s South Island!
Leave your favorite North Island spots in the comments. I know there’s plenty more to see!
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