North Island New Zealand: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Welcome to New Zealand’s North Island! Home to NZ’s biggest city, Auckland, and it’s capital Wellington, the North Island is full of adventure, breathtaking scenery, and incredible cultural experiences.

New Zealand is also one of the world’s best road trip destinations. Camping in New Zealand is also an amazing way to see the country. But with road trips come lots of planning! So whether you’re looking for more of a city break in Auckland or Wellington or want to explore the stunning natural landscapes of places like Rotorua and the Bay of Islands, this guide will give you all the info you need to plan the perfect trip. So what are you waiting for? Grab your passport, and let’s go!

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Current COVID situation (as of August 2023)

Borders are now open and travel to New Zealand is possible. No PCR/RAT testing is required before departure or on arrival. However, you will be provided with a free pack of RATs on arrival (we found this so handy!).

COVID cases are present in New Zealand. Should you test positive during your travels, you should isolate for seven days. We recommend taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes coverage for COVID-19.

Weather Of New Zealand North Island

New Zealand’s north island is usually mild, with temperatures rarely reaching above the mid-20s Celsius. The summer months (December to February) are generally warm and humid, while winter (June to August) can be cool but also very rainy. Often accompanied by strong winds blowing across from the Tasman Sea. Springtime is usually pleasant and sunny, so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities like trekking or walking along lush and rolling hillsides. For budding surfers, the northern coasts have some decent breaks for catching a wave – although you should always check water conditions first! Come visit New Zealand’s North Island and experience some spectacular scenery along with mild but dynamic weather.

What Is The Best Time To Visit New Zealand North Island?

The best time to visit New Zealand’s north island is in the warmer months between December and February. This is when temperatures are mild, with plenty of chances for outdoor activities like trekking and swimming. The days are also typically sunny, allowing you to take advantage of all the natural wonders the region offers. Springtime is usually pleasant as well, although rain can occasionally be a factor. That being said, there’s no bad time to visit New Zealand’s north island! The weather may not always be perfect, but the scenery and attractions are sure to make up for it.

For cars, we particularly like Europcar for their good rates and vehicle range. You’ll find the Europcar desks inside the Auckland and Wellington airport terminals. We also recently used Omega, who have an office in Mangere, not far from Auckland airport, and offer a shuttle service to and from the airport.

For campervans, JUCY is an excellent and cost-effective option with great service. Like Omega, JUCY has an office nearby in Mangere and a free shuttle service.

Here are some great New Zealand two week itineraries to get you started, as well as a guide for driving from Auckland to Wellington.

New Zealand Currency

New Zealand’s currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD). The coins are in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, and $2. Notes come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. At the time of writing, one AUD will buy around $1.06 NZD, one USD will buy $1.50 NZD, one GBP will get you $1.90 NZD, and one Euro equates to around $1.65 NZD.

It is generally advised to carry a combination of cash and cards when travelling in New Zealand. ATMs are widely available throughout the country, so it’s easy to withdraw NZD whenever needed. Make sure to check your bank’s policy on international transactions before travelling to avoid any unexpected surprises.

How Many Regions Are In The North Island Of New Zealand?

The North Island of New Zealand is divided into 16 regions. These regions span from the Northland region up in the northernmost part, down to the Wellington region, which is located in the southern portion of the island. While each region offers something unique, from its bustling cities and stunning beaches to its charming villages and lush rainforests, each area serves as a hub for exploration into some of New Zealand’s most hidden gems. With so much to explore, it is easy to get lost among these magnificent regions, immersed in all that this beautiful island has to offer!

How to get around the North Island of New Zealand

Getting around the North Island of New Zealand is relatively easy, and there are a few different options for getting between cities. The most popular way to travel is by car, allowing you to set your own pace and explore some of the more remote areas along the way. There are plenty of rental companies in Auckland, Wellington, and other major cities, and you can even hire a campervan to make it a truly unique experience. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, buses are also available between most cities. But buses are often slower, so a car might be the better option if you’re trying to maximise your time on the island.

Bay of Islands, Northland

Where to start your road trip

You’ll most likely land in Auckland, which is great as Auckland is connected to the rest of the North Island by several highways. The city is a great base for exploring the rest of the island, and you can easily get to other cities such as Rotorua, Hamilton, Wellington, and the Bay of Islands from here. Be sure to check out some of Auckland’s iconic landmarks, such as Sky Tower or Mt Eden, while you’re there – they’re truly not to be missed. More on Auckland below.

Places to Visit in the North Island

There’s so much to explore and discover in New Zealand’s North Island – from the white-sandy beaches of the Bay of Islands to the geothermal wonders of Rotorua. Let’s take a look at some of the top places to visit:

Ninety Mile Beach

Have you ever wanted to visit somewhere that feels like a true escape? Ninety Mile Beach on the North Island of New Zealand will fulfill your travel dreams and then some! Located in the northern New Zealand sub-tropical region. This amazing beach area offers beautiful sandy beaches and nutrient-rich tide pools filled with colorful aquatic creatures. Limestone cliffs meet the horizon along this remarkable stretch of golden sand beach that runs for 90 miles, an experience impossible to capture with words alone. Pack a picnic lunch and join locals and visitors alike in exploring this stunning environment. Take a jeep tour along the shoreline and experience an environment untouched by time. Whether you’re into outdoor sports like surfing, kitesurfing, or sandboarding or just enjoying a lazy day soaking up some sun, Ninety Mile Beach has something for everybody to enjoy in this one-of-a-kind destination.

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is the most northern point on the North Island of New Zealand and is a must-visit for anyone exploring this island paradise. From here, you can watch two oceans – the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet together. This spiritual Maori site, Te Rerenga Wairua, or “the leaping place of souls,” is a breathtaking location you won’t forget. Enjoy strolling along the beach and exploring the unique rock formations, or take a tour to better understand the area’s rich history and culture.


If you’re looking for something truly magical during your time on New Zealand’s North Island, then Hobbiton is a must-visit. Located in Matamata, this movie set was used to film some of the most iconic scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Take a guided tour through The Shire and explore Hobbit holes, gardens, and other unique places featured in the movies. This experience is sure to be a highlight of your trip to the North Island. Read this guide to the best Hobbiton tours for more information.

Hobbiton, New Zealand North Island #travel

Coromandel Peninsula

The Coromandel Peninsula is a rugged and untouched paradise located in the northern part of the North Island. This stunning coastal area offers some of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches, including Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, and Cooks Beach. With its lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and unique wildlife, such as kiwis, this is a must-visit destination.

From the quirky Thames township to the stunningly beautiful Whangapoua Harbour, the Coromandel Peninsula is a great place for all types of travelers. Crossing the peninsula is a great way to explore – you could hike the famous Pinnacles trail, go canoeing down the Kauaeranga River, or even take a guided tour.

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is a true gem of New Zealand’s North Island, offering breathtaking natural scenery and a host of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages. With crystal-clear waters that stretch as far as the eye can see and majestic mountains looming in the distance, this stunning lake is the perfect place to relax, unwind, and reconnect with nature. Whether you’re looking to hike through the Tongariro National Park, take a dip in the geothermal hot springs, or simply bask in the beauty of your surroundings, Lake Taupo is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring New Zealand.

For more information about one of our favourite New Zealand destinations read our Lake Taupo travel guide.


The capital city of New Zealand’s North Island is Wellington. This stunning city is located on the island’s southwestern tip and is a truly unique destination. From its vibrant cultural life to the natural beauty of Zealandia, Wellington is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations.

Be sure to explore Te Papa National Museum, wander through the art galleries, explore the markets and cafes, or go to Weta Cave – home of the movie industry in New Zealand. With its beautiful harbor setting, Wellington is a great place to relax and explore.

Read our guide to Wellington in 24 hours.

Wellington | The Ultimate New Zealand North Island Guide #travel
Sunrise in Wellington


Auckland is the largest city on New Zealand’s North Island and is home to some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Sky Tower and Mount Eden. This vibrant city offers something for all types of travelers – from its stunning beaches to its bustling nightlife to its unique cultural experiences.

Be sure to explore the city’s art galleries, markets, and cafes. Take a ferry ride around the harbor, and don’t forget to visit Waiheke Island for a day of relaxation in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful spots. With its stunning setting and vibrant atmosphere, Auckland is a must-visit destination for all travelers to New Zealand’s North Island.

Ackland, New Zealand |Ultimate Guide To North Island New Zealand #travel
Auckland harbour

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is a stunning coastal area located on the north of New Zealand’s North Island. This area consists of 144 islands, making it an ideal spot for water-based activities like fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Don’t miss the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where you can learn about Maori culture or take a boat tour to explore the magnificent islands and their wildlife. This is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful spots, with crystal-clear waters and stunning scenery.

No matter what type of traveler you are, New Zealand’s North Island has something for everyone.

Tauranga and Bay of Plenty

Located in the Bay of Plenty Region, Tauranga is a beautiful city on New Zealand’s North Island. This vibrant and growing city is home to some of the country’s most popular attractions, such as Mount Maunganui, McLaren Falls Park, and the Waimarino Adventure Park.

Take a stroll along the waterfront or a boat ride out to one of the many islands in the area. With its stunning beaches, lush forests, and bustling city life, Tauranga is a great place for all types of travelers. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, this coastal city offers something for everyone.


Hamilton is the fourth most populated city in New Zealand, located on the North Island. This vibrant and growing city offers a mix of culture, nature, and adventure.

Be sure to explore Hamilton’s stunning botanical gardens, take a stroll along the river, or visit some of its many art galleries and museums. Take a day trip out to the Waitomo Caves or explore the Hobbiton Movie Set. With its unique attractions and vibrant atmosphere, Hamilton is a great place to visit during your stay on New Zealand’s North Island. Don’t forget to check out the Night markets for a unique and unforgettable experience.

Hawkes Bay

Hawke’s Bay, located on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the Land of the Long White Cloud. This stunning region boasts some of New Zealand’s most diverse landscapes, including vineyards, rugged coastlines, and rolling hills dotted with sheep.

Whether you’re a wine lover looking to indulge in some of the country’s finest drops, a foodie keen to try fresh local produce, or an outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure, Hawke’s Bay has something for everyone.

Make sure you read our Hawkes Bay travel guide!

Craggy Range winery, Hawkes Bay


Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland located on New Zealand’s North Island. This special region is known for its bubbling mud pools, hot springs, and Maori culture.

Take a dip in one of the many thermal pools, jump in a Zorb, or take a guided tour of the geothermal parks. Visit the Maori Village to learn more about their culture and traditions. With its unique landscape and vibrant atmosphere, Rotorua is sure to amaze all types of travelers. Don’t forget to check out the Redwoods Treewalk for an unforgettable experience.

For more information, here are the best places to stay in Rotorua for families.

Geyser in Rotorua

Some Useful Tips While Visiting New Zealand North Island

  • Be sure to research the weather before you visit, as temperatures and conditions can vary greatly.
  • Make sure to have a valid visa or passport if travelling from overseas.
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes, as much of the terrain is hilly or rocky in certain areas.
  • Be sure to check out some of the key cultural sites, such as Auckland’s Sky Tower or Wellington’s Te Papa Museum.
  • If you’re a fan of nature, don’t miss a chance to explore one of New Zealand’s national parks, like Tongariro National Park near Taupo or Whanganui National Park near Wellington.
  • Finally, be sure to enjoy all the unique food and beverage experiences New Zealand has to offer, from fine dining restaurants in Auckland to craft beer pubs in Wellington.

New Zealand’s North Island has something for everyone. From its beautiful beaches and lush rainforests to its bustling cities and charming villages, the North Island of New Zealand is a unique destination with plenty to explore. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, there’s no shortage of activities and attractions on offer across this tropical paradise. In this guide, we’ve highlighted some key points to consider when planning a visit to this region. So get ready, grab your passport and explore all New Zealand’s North Island has to offer!

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