The North Island of New Zealand is warm, with scenery ranging from sandy beaches, through rolling farmland to active volcanic peaks. Although it is smaller than the South Island, it is much more populous, with half of New Zealand's population living north of Lake Taupo in the middle of the North Island.
The Māori population of the North Island is much larger than that of the South Island and, in the 2006 census, 24% said that they could carry out an everyday conversation in the Māori language. For more than two hundred years this island was known as Aotearoa, often translated as land of the long white cloud, by Māori. Use of the alternative name Te Ika a Māui, "the fish of Maui", has grown. In 2009, the New Zealand Geographic Board discovered that the North and South Islands had never been officially named. In October 2013, the island was officially named North Island / Te Ika-a-Māui.
The regions, listed from north to south (as best as possible), are:
The warmest part of the country, with beaches and kauri forests, and the historic harbours of the Bay of Islands and the Hokianga
|Auckland Region |
Contains New Zealand's biggest city, harbours and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf
Hobbiton, Waitomo glowworm caves, and the beachside holiday spots of the Coromandel Peninsula
|Bay of Plenty |
Surf beach towns and inland Rotorua, with its geothermal and Māori culture attractions
|Central North Island |
Ski and hike the volcanic mountains and go boating and trout fishing in the big Lake Taupo
|East Coast |
Known for its beaches and the sun – it sees the sun a lot and it sees it first thing in the day, before the rest of the world
|Hawke's Bay |
Centred on the twin cities of Napier and Hastings and their orchards, vineyards and Art Deco architecture
West coast promontory dominated by its namesake volcanic mountain and the city of New Plymouth
Historically spelt Wanganui, a city, big river and national park all share the name
Centred on the city of Palmerston North and the Manawatu River
|Greater Wellington |
Centred on the capital city and extending to the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa
- 1 Auckland – the "City of Sails" and, with more than 1.5 million people, by far the largest city in New Zealand and Polynesia
- 2 Gisborne – sunny surf city on the east coast
- 3 Hamilton – a major city, with the great Waikato River flowing through it
- 4 Napier – Art Deco and wine in sunny Hawke's Bay
- 5 New Plymouth – seaside city beneath the perfectly-shaped volcanic mountain of Taranaki
- 6 Rotorua – famous for Māori culture, geysers and beautiful hot pools
- 7 Taupo – trout fishing and adventure activities at the big lake
- 8 Tauranga – great weather, sun and beaches in the Bay of Plenty
- 9 Wellington – the capital and third largest city in the nation, home of Parliament and the Beehive
- 1 Cape Brett – a 16.3-km walking track to an old lighthouse in the Bay of Islands
- 2 Cape Reinga – at the northern tip of New Zealand
- 3 Great Barrier Island – the largest of the Hauraki Gulf islands
- 4 Ninety Mile Beach – used as a road to Cape Reinga, it's actually only 58 miles long, but that's still very long
- 5 Tiritiri Matangi Island – a nature reserve for native birds (some of them rare) and other native species, in the Auckland region
- 6 Tongariro National Park – snow sports and hiking in and around the three scenic volcanic mountains of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro
- 7 Waiheke Island – popular for day trips from Auckland, being just a 40-minute ferry ride
- 8 Waitomo – limestone caves, stalactites, stalagmites and glowworms
- 9 White Island – an active island volcano that you can fly over
For how to get in from other countries, see New Zealand#Get in.
For how to fly from the South Island, see the "By plane" section of New Zealand#Get around.
The North Island has an impressive selection of outdoor attractions, and as it has the greater share of the country's population, it also has a good selection of urban sights.
Volcanoes and geothermal activity
- The bubbling pools all around Rotorua make it an ideal place to see geothermal activity, with a chance to see how it combines with Māori culture.
- Taupo has some geothermal and volcanic sights and a big lake.
- The Tongariro National Park contains the three active volcanoes of Mount Ruapehu (the island's highest peak), Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe.
- Rangitoto Island was formed in volcanic eruptions that last happened about 600 years ago. The island can be explored as a day-trip by ferry from Auckland.
- Exploring Te Papa, the national museum, in Wellington can easily fill a day. It is an excellent exhibition of New Zealand history, natural history and art in an impressive modern building. Other museums and galleries in the city could occupy another day.
- Auckland War Memorial Museum is also a great general museum of New Zealand history and natural history. The Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum in Auckland is particularly worth visiting if you are interested in sailing.
Parks and gardens
- Wellington has a pleasant Botanic Garden on a nice hillside site which gives good views over the city.
- Hamilton has the impressive Hamilton Gardens which has over a dozen themed gardens each of which would justify a visit.
- New Plymouth has the substantial Pukekura Park, which is transformed for the Festival of Lights in December and January.
- The Bay of Islands has some of the earliest Pakeha history, and several historic (nineteenth century) sites.
- Beach activities. With a temperate climate and a long coastline, North Islanders love to go to the beach and other coastal areas to swim, surf, sunbathe (try to avoid burning), fish, go boating, walk, or just to play in the sand or relax under a pohutukawa tree. It's all-year activity, most popular in the warm summer months.
- Hiking (or tramping as Kiwis call it). From scenic coastal walkways to native forest covered hills, to volcanic peaks, there are plenty of tracks (trails) for one-day or multi-day walks.
- Snowsports. The heights of the Central North Island are busy with skiers and snowboarders in winter (July and August).
See New Zealand#Eat.
See New Zealand#Drink.