30 April 2019

New Zealand Bucket List: North Island Edition


The North Island is the gateway for travellers of New Zealand and offers beautiful, diverse landscapes and as many fun adrenalin-pumping activities to rival the South Island.

I had the best time ticking off so many cool sights and activities while travelling with Stray - an award-winning guided hop-on-hop-off bus network for adventurous travellers.

I had the freestyle Jonah Pass which took me all over the north and it was the ultimate road trip! (Last year I had the Ron Pass and travelled the South). I've narrowed down my favourite top twelve #NZMustDos that you should totally add to your New Zealand North Island bucket list too.


Visit the very top - Cape Reinga



A visit to the North Island is not complete without experiencing the very top! It's a spectacular sight where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean come crashing together. With Stray, we did the Great Sights Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach Day Tour from Paihia.
We had plenty of time to enjoy the top, got up close to ancient and majestic giant kauri trees, went sandboarding down enormous dunes and drove on the world famous Ninety Mile Beach.


Boat tour in the Bay of Islands



The sub-tropical Bay of Islands is one of the most beautiful places in the North Island. To experience the best of the bay, I highly recommend doing a boat tour from Paihia. A few of us Strayers joined Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise and it was three hours of pure magic.
We enjoyed stunning views, saw the iconic Hole in the Rock and got up close to a pod of beautiful wild bottlenose dolphins. In winter months you might even be lucky enough to spot a whale!


Dig your own spa at Hot Water Beach


The Coromandel Peninsula is a popular beach holiday destination for locals and tourists alike.
Hot Water Beach has an amazing spot where you can dig yourself a hole in the sand and let the hot water from the thermal hot springs below fill it up. Now you have your own personal spa pool with a pretty sweet view! It's a must-do on anyone’s New Zealand North Island bucket list.


Find Narnia at Cathedral Cove



While in the Coromandel Peninsula, you can't miss the famous Cathedral Cove in Hahei. A spot where Narnia was filmed, it's a stunning beach, complete with a little cove tunnel that you can walk through to the other side. See it from a different point of view by joining a Cathedral Coves Kayak Tour.
It's rated as one of the best sea kayaking trips in the country and I absolutely loved it!


White Water Rafting in Rotorua


White Water Rafting is a whole lotta fun and there's no better place to do it than on the Kaituna River in Rotorua. Here you get to go over 14 awesome rapids and 3 waterfalls, including the 7-metre highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world! The entire adrenalin-fuelled experience is exhilarating and it's a new top favourite activity of mine in the north.


Visit Hobbiton in Matamata



An absolute must-do for Ringers and Hobbit fans, escape to the luscious green hills of the Shire. Even if you've never seen the movies, a guided tour through Hobbiton is a memorable experience full of insider stories and getting up close to the incredibly detailed set. As a bonus, the tour finishes at The Green Dragon for a special onsite-brewed Hobbity ale.


See the Glowworms in Waitomo Caves


If walking into a dark cave filled with magical glowing worms isn’t on your bucket list, it’s time to add it! We joined the popular Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tour, which has even been featured in documentaries by Sir David Attenborough. The tour took us through two remarkable caves with over 30,000 glowworms, one of which we viewed via an inflatable raft. Waitomo Caves is one of the most magical natural attractions in the North Island.


Surfing in Raglan



If you've never tried surfing and always wanted to then Raglan is the ultimate place to do it! Located on the West Coast of New Zealand, Raglan is a world-class surfing destination. I joined a beginner 3-hour lesson and thanks to the pros at Raglan Surfing School, I went from a complete newbie to standing up and riding some monster waves right to the end! It was so much fun and I already can't wait for my next surf.


Rotorua Geothermal Parks



Rotorua is known for its geothermal wonders, with natural hot springs, sulfuric pools, bubbling mud, and geysers. There are a number of spectacular thermal parks and attractions to visit including Wai-O-Tapu, Hell's Gate and Te Puia. If you're on a budget, Kuirau Park (pictured above) is only a few minutes walk from the city centre and is a geothermal wonderland that's totally free.


Sky diving in Taupo

Image from backpackerstaupo.co.nz

Tandem skydiving is one of New Zealand’s most popular adventure activities. I haven't personally thrown myself out of a plane (yet) but if you fancy it yourself, Taupo is the most popular place in the North Island to do it. Strapped to an experienced instructor you will freefall for up to 1 minute before opening your parachute to enjoy the stunning views of snow-capped peaks and the clear, fresh blue water of Lake Taupo.


Tongariro Alpine Crossing



The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand and is recognised as one of the very best in the world. Throughout the 19.4 km trek, the natural scenery is unique and dramatic. View the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom for LOTR fans), Tongariro and Ruapehu and trek past the awe-inspiring emerald and blue crater lakes. The steep hike is long and one-way so be sure to do your research on what to bring, wear and shuttle transfers.


Te Papa in Wellington


If there's only one museum in the country you visit, make sure it's Te Papa. Named as one of Lonely Planet's top 500 places to see on the planet, the national museum of New Zealand has more than 1.5 million visitors every year. It's full of New Zealand treasures and stories, interactive displays and exhibitions, art, culture and science - all in one breathtaking waterfront location. Better still, entry is totally free!


Those are my top twelve must-do's to add to your North Island bucket list! How many have you ticked off and do you have any of your own suggestions to add to the list? I'd love to know in the comments.

I put together my Stray adventure in 60 seconds if you would like to see more:


Want to know what to put on your bucket list in the South Island? Don't miss my New Zealand Bucket List: South Island Edition.

Happy Travels,
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Your adventure doesn't have to stop in New Zealand! Stray is Asia Pacific's largest hop-on hop-off adventure travel operator with the same flexible, off the beaten track bus networks in Australia and Asia.
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