I’m based in Auckland, New Zealand, for my one year working holiday visa – and there is so much to do here! I thought it would be fun to compile a bucket list of everything you need to do in New Zealand. This is the Ultimate New Zealand North Island Bucket List (stay tuned for an accompanying South Island Bucket List).

The Ultimate New Zealand North Island Bucket List

Chase Waterfalls at McLaren Falls Park

New Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

Just inland of the Bay of Plenty, you’ll find the hidden gem that is McLaren Falls Park. It’s filled with waterfalls and it’s insanely gorgeous – it might just be my favorite place in all of the North Island! Bring a tent if you’re a camper, because you can camp at the park. They even have their own glow worm cave! McLaren Falls Park is a perfect camping spot during a three day road trip from Auckland. If you’re a waterfall lover, you’ll want to make sure to add this park to your New Zealand North Island bucket list.

New Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

Drink wine on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island is just a short ferry ride away from Auckland and is filled with wineries. Wine and amazing views?? Sign me up!

Dig A Hot Tub at Hot Water Beach

The Coromandel Penninsula is one of the best and most amazing secret spots in New Zealand. Rock up to the beach, dig yourself a hole, and let the hot water from the thermal hot springs fill it up. Et viola – you have your own personal hot tub! Lazy tip: bring a cup of coffee, scout out the area, and wait for someone who has already dug a hole to leave – and just take theirs!

New Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

One of the most popular beaches for this little activity is called Hot Water Beach – it’s easy to find where the hot water is by scouting out all of the people digging holes. This is a must see on anyone’s New Zealand North Island bucket list!

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. Head about three hours South of Auckland to take a boat or water tour of these caves filled with glow worms – it’s one of the most magical natural attractions on the North Island!

Escape To Narnia at Cathedral Cove

New Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

Visit the spot where Narnia was filmed (well, one scene) in the Coromandel Peninsula. Cathedral Cove is one of the most stunning beaches in New Zealand, complete with a little cove tunnel that you can walk through to get to the other side of the beach.

New Zealand North Island Bucket List

Visit Hobbiton in Matamata

Just less than two hours from Auckland, you can visit the remade movie set of the Lord of The Rings. Make sure to reserve a spot on a tour though – you can’t get in without one! Tours will cost you about $80 for the day, but it will be worth it to get your photo in front of the cute houses, no? Ps: the tour ends with a beer at the Green Dragon!¬†

Hobbiton, New Zealand: What You Need to Know

Visit the Thermal Springs in RotoruaNew Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

Thermal springs are touted as natural cures to so many ailments – but personally, I just like to unwind in a natural hot tub after a long day! Rotorua is filled with natural thermal hot springs. Be prepared, because hot springs contain a lot of sulphur, which can be quite stinky. Power through the smell and bathe in these incredible hot springs for a free day of touristing! Make sure to check out Kersone Creek for a fun change.

Go Zorbing in Rotorua

Ever wanted to throw yourself into a hamster ball and roll down a hill? You can do just that in Rotorua! Maybe do this before you get in the hot springs…

Visit The Bay Of Islands for a Boat Tour

New Zealand North Island Bucket List: Take A Boat Trip in Paihia

The Bay of Islands is one of the most beautiful places in all of New Zealand’s North Island. Go there in the winter months (May – July) to see some serious whale migration action, or go in the summer or spring months to get the best weather. Bring a fully charged camera battery – with the lush landscapes and stunning beaches, you’ll be using that battery till it dies.

Hike Rangitoto VolcanoNew Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

If you head to any of the beaches in Auckland, you’ll see the beautiful volcano of Rangitoto. It’s a short 30-minute ferry ride to this volcano, which you can hike up in about an hour. Get to the top for stunning views – bring a picnic to soak up the cityscape from the top of a volcano. This is an easy half-day or full-day trip from the city. Check out the ferry timetables here.¬†

Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This is one of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand. Plan one full day to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It can take up to 8 hours. You’ll need to arrange transport as it is not possible to leave your car at one end for more than 4 hours, so make sure to book all of that ahead of time, pack lots of water and snacks, and get your hiking on.

Visit All The BeachesNew Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

No New Zealand North Island bucket list is complete without some beaches! Take an hours drive outside of the city due West, and you’ll run into some seriously insane black sand beaches. Check out Piha Beach, Bethell’s Beach, and all the tiny beaches in between. Don’t forget your hiking shoes, because there are also lots of hiking trails on the way out there. There’s nothing better than a dip in the ocean after a half day of hiking! Make sure to keep your gas tank filled – there aren’t many gas station on the way. Bring your snacks and water as well.

Pet The Animals At Cornwall ParkNew Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

Cornwall Park is located on a mountain in the middle of Auckland. Take a drive to the top for a drink, snack, or full meal at the cafe. Or pack a picnic and relax on a blanket anywhere in the expansive grass area of the park. Though you can’t literally pet the animals here, you will see plenty of cows and sheep. Cornwall Park is a great place to soak up some rays on a windy spring day, or catch up with a friend over coffee.

Find The Best Coffee in TownNew Zealands' North Island: The Ultimate Bucket List

Auckland is not lacking in amazing cafes – they take their coffee seriously. My favorite coffee shops include Rad, Petit Bocal (which is actually an adorable french restaurant that made me a flat white with A KITTEN IN IT), and Marua Road Coffee, where Michael got a teddy bear made out of latte art in his hot chocolate. You’ll never have to drink bad coffee in this city. Coffee shops are a high priority on my New Zealand North Island bucket list – and so is the wine! Which leads me to…

Visit the Wineries at Hawkes Bay

Ultimate Guide to Wine Tasting in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

The biggest producer of wine in the North Island, Hawkes Bay is the place to be if you’re a wine-o like me. Make sure to give yourself a couple of days here, as you will want to take your time at each and every one of these vineyards!

*DO* Go Chasing Waterfalls New Zealand North Island Bucket List

New Zealand is home to some pretty epic waterfalls, and if you’re a falls junkie like me, you’ll be in heaven trying to find all of the best ones on the North Island. My favorites include Omanawa Falls (pictured above), KiteKite Falls, Haruru Falls, and McLaren Falls.

Let me know in the comments below what you would love to do in New Zealand! And make sure to check out my post on the New Zealand Working Holiday visa, and learn how expensive Auckland is.

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Over Christmas holidays, Michael and I wanted to do some exploring of New Zealand’s North Island. As we are currently stationed in Auckland, we chose to embark on a three day road trip from Auckland. This is the first of many upcoming road trips, where we went South to visit the Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, and Lake Taupo.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Lake Taupo

The Perfect Three Day Road Trip From Auckland

As I really enjoy spending time outdoors, most of the activities I’d planned included hikes up volcanoes with stunning views, time spent sunning on stunning white-sand beaches, chasing waterfalls, and swimming in hot springs. This is our three day road trip from Auckland.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Day One

Starting from the city, we first headed to the Coromandel. The first stop was the Coromandel, which was just under two hours driving from Auckland. After packing our snacks, blankets, clothes and making a coffee in my to-go mug, we hopped in the car and headed to the mountain. It’s a windy road surrounded by beach houses to the top of the volcano.

Mount Paku

The first stop was Mount Paku. The 15 minute hike is steep, but it’s short. The views from the top are so worth it.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mount Paku

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mount Paku

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mount Paku

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mt Paku Hike, Coromandel

Cathedral Cove

After Mount Paku, we hopped back in the car and headed for Cathedral Cove. This natural cove is built into a rock that stretches into the sea. Cathedral Cove is one of the biggest tourist attractions in New Zealand’s North Island, so we weren’t surprised to arrive and see it packed with tourists. It is a bit of a hike to get to the cove. We took about 40 mins to get from the car park to the beach.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Cathedral Cove Hike

When we arrived, there were tons of people on the beach. We stood in awe staring at the natural tunnel, then we walked through the cove to the other side of the beach. We found a little spot to put out our towel and enjoy the warm sun and refreshing sea for a couple of hours.

Three Day Road Trip From Auckland: Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Three Day Road Trip From Auckland: Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

The cove is insanely beautiful, and a great way to spend an afternoon – even if it is busy! We brought some snacks and wraps and had a lovely afternoon.

Hot Water Beach

After our fair share of Cathedral Cove, we headed down the road to Hot Water Beach. This beach got its unique name due to the natural hot springs running underneath the sand. Another popular tourist spot, it’s common to come to this beach with a shovel, and dig yourself a little hole right where the hot springs are. You’ll be able to spot it easily by the crowds of people surrounding them. Some of the holes people had built were filled with water so hot that I couldn’t even put my feet in it!

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

We opted to (again) head down the beach away from the tourists, and just enjoy the sun for a few hours.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

Kauaerange Valley Campground

Our last stop for the night was Kauaeranga Valley Campground. About an hours drive from Hot Water beach, it is located right on the other side of the Coromandel Forest. We arrived around 7 PM, pitched our tent, and enjoyed each other’s company before heading off for an early nights sleep.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Kauraenga Valley Camping

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Kauraenga Valley Camping

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Kauraenga Valley Camping

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Day Two

After an early wake up at the campground, we packed up the tent and hopped in the car for another day of adventures. Today, we headed to the Bay Of Plenty – a paradise for beach lovers. After the hours drive, we arrived in Waihi for an epic morning of warm sun and rays. But New Zealand’s weather can be utterly unpredictable, and we encountered a nasty rain storm. We opted to have a leisurely brekky with cappuccinos in a cozy little cafe first, to wait out the rain.

After over an hour of waiting, the rain hadn’t stopped. We made a quick run to the beach to see it in the rain before heading out of town for our next destination. Waihi beach is beautiful. I’m sure it would be an amazing spot to spend a sunny day.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Waihi Beach, Bay Of Plenty

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Waihi Beach, Bay Of Plenty

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Waihi Beach, Bay Of Plenty

Back in the car, we headed toward Mount Mangauni. The rain was still going strong when we arrived. This derailed our plans to hike the volcano, simply named The Mount. We had a little walk under the awnings of the shops instead, and decided to have an early lunch out instead of hiking in the rain.

In town, we found a little brewing company called The Mount Brewing Co. We headed in for a refreshing brew and some warm food. I got a jar of the Bitter Bitch IPA and the shroom tacos + a side of avo – yum!

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mount Maungani, Mount Brewing Co

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mount Maungani, Mount Brewing Co

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Mount Mangauni, The Mount Brewing

An hour later, we headed on to our next stop, which was one of the places I most looked forward to going.

McLaren Falls Park

McLaren Falls Park had been on my radar for months, after seeing some insanely beautiful photos of it on instagram. Arriving in McLaren Falls Park was like landing in my happy place. We climbed rocks, chased waterfalls, swam in the freezing water, and sprawled out like lizards on the warm boulders.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: McLaren Falls Park

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: McLaren Falls Park

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: McLaren Falls Park

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: McLaren Falls Park

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: McLaren Falls Park

After a very fulfilling afternoon, we headed from McLaren Falls Park to the smelly town of Rotorua. Rotorua is filled with natural sulphuric hot springs – it is literally stinky. As soon as we drove into the city limits, Michael asked me if I had gas! I got a good laugh out of that.

We’d reserved an airbnb for the night. This turned out to be a great idea, since sleeping on yoga mats in our tent the night before hadn’t been the most comfy night’s sleep. We arrived at our airbnb, sank into the bed, and immediately connected to all the wifi.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Day Three

Our plans were switched around a bit on the last day. The Wai-o-Tapu thermal springs that we’d planned on visiting were not actually free – the fee to get in was $65 for two, and it was unswimmable (too hot). We changed our minds and spent the morning in a cute little coffee shop, sipping cappuccinos and reading the local papers.

Rotorua Hot Springs

As for the hot springs, we opted for the budget option of visiting Kerosene Creek. The hot springs mix with the cold creek water, making this little river a warm, hot tub temperature. We were so happy with this decision, as we had time to relax in the warm springs and enjoy another waterfall at the same time. The creek is just about 30 mins outside of Rotorua. We brought PB&J sandwiches, and I had an array of Tom & Luke’s date balls.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Kerosene Creek Hot Springs, Rotorua

Once we were all wrinkly and smelling of kerosene (weird, but the sulphuric hot springs mixed with natural creek makes a kerosene smell), we hopped in the car and headed to Huka Falls.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls is a massive river overflowing with super clear, icy blue water. We parked on the side of the road and walked to the bridge to check out the raging falls. Though I’d seen photos, it was so much more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Huka Falls

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Huka Falls

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Huka Falls

After staring in awe at the falls for a bit, we hopped back into the car and headed toward Lake Taupo. We were craving some wine, so we looked up some places to spend the afternoon. We settled on a winery on the south end of the lake, Floating Rock Cafe. They do wine and italian-style pizza, along with a variety of other foods and drinks.

Lake Taupo

We headed around Lake Taupo to get to the wineries in the South. The drive around Lake Taupo is beautiful; make sure you have time to stop for photos.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Lake Taupo

Once we arrived in South Lake Taupo, we sat down at a table in Floating Rock, ordered some wine and pizza, and spent the afternoon talking and sipping wines in the middle of the vineyard. It was the perfect way to end the trip.

Three Day Road Trip from Auckland: Wine Tasting, Lake Taupo

The drive from South Lake Taupo back to Auckland takes about four hours. It was the longest trek we took in the entire three days. We sat down to plan our next adventure as soon as we got back!

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Just an hour west of Auckland, you’ll find the beautiful, black-sand Bethells Beach. Bethells Beach is a bit north of the popular Piha Beach on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The west coast is uber popular with surfers, due to the big waves. The drive from Auckland is windy, beautiful, and remote. Fill up your gas tank before heading out, as you won’t find many once you get out past the city.

Bethells Beach: A Photo Diary

I visited Bethells Beach in late December, and it was super windy. We brought a lunch of wraps and chopped vegetables, but when we sat down to eat, sand kept blowing into our sandwiches. I would recommend eating before you arrive, or hiding out in the little cave to eat your lunch.

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

The beach is stunning. The black sand looks like glitter and is warm on your feet, and the water stretches for miles. The ocean water is cold, but could be refreshing on a hot New Zealand day.

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

There is a little cafe just by the car park, where you can purchase coffee and pastries.

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

If you’re in the area, you must make a stop at Bethells Beach for some epic scenery and waves. If you’re a surfer, you probably already know of this surfers paradise.

Bethells Beach, Auckland: A Photo Diary

There are loads of holiday homes surrounding Bethells Beach – check one out if you’re looking for an escape into nature. For those of you who are fans of beautiful beaches, relaxing holidays, or surf breaks, add this beach to your bucket list and hit the road.

 

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Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island is the little island you can see off the coast of Auckland. It’s technically a volcano – and it’s the perfect escape from the city. Just a short ferry ride from Auckland CBD, Rangitoto Island is a great place to go when you’re wanting to get out of the city and get into the wilderness. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Rangitoto Island.

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

First off, figure out which ferry you’ll take. See the timetable here. You’ll need to pack a lunch, snacks, and water. There is NOTHING on the island – no store, no water. Bring everything you’ll need for the day. We brought four liters of water (two each), peanut butter sandwiches, carrots, apples, bananas, and date balls.

Next, you’ll need to get to the Downtown Ferry Terminal. Take the train to Britomart, or drive to the Downtown Car Park Garage. The charge for parking is $10 for a full day (San Francisco, take note).

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

You can purchase your ferry tickets at the little building at the terminal. There is an option to have a tour or to do the hike on your own. We chose to DIY – that way, we could go at our own pace and not be in a group.

Once you get on the ferry, you’ll have just a short ride to Rangitoto Island. The ferry sells food and water, so if you forgot something, you can stock up here.

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

After about 25 minutes, you’ll arrive at Rangitoto.

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

The whole island is an old volcano. It last erupted over 600 years ago, but it is still formed out of black, volcanic rock.

Rangitoto Island: The Hike

Take the main trail up to the summit. The climb only takes about an hour, but it gradually increases in steepness. Fun fact: in New Zealand, hiking is called “tramping” – I wonder how proud my mom would be if I told her how often I go tramping?

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

The trail is mostly just black volcanic rock filled on both sides with either more rock, or some little bushes. Throughout the hike, you’ll come to points with views looking out to the city. The best view is from the summit.

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

We took a good, long break at the top. You’ll need it! We reapplied sunscreen, drank a lot of water, and ate our little lunch.

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Keep in mind, the only bathroom is at the entrance of the island. If you have to go, you’ll have to either pee in a bush or hold it until you get back to the bottom. The main trail is pretty busy, but you might find some seclusion on the crater track at the top.

Rangitoto Island: The Lava Caves

On the way down, we took the detour to the lava caves. We brought headlamps, and Michael went in first. One of the caves actually goes through to the other side (making it more of a tunnel than a cave), and one you can go in a bit until it becomes just solid rock. It’s a nice break from the heat if you’re at Rangitoto Island on a hot day.

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Rangitoto Island: The Ultimate Guide

Make sure you’re watching your time – the last ferry leaves the island at 5 PM (well before sunset in the summer), and if you miss it, you’ll be stuck on the island overnight. We took the 12:15 ferry to Rangitoto Island, and had just enough time to get to the summit, eat lunch, and check out the caves and the little baches (restored houses) before hopping on the last ferry home.

If you can, I’d recommend going on an earlier ferry. That way, you can have time at the beach, time to hike to the summit, and some time to check out the alternate trails on Rangitoto Island.

We had about four hours on the island, and I wish we would have gone a bit earlier to have more time to explore. If you’re just looking to hike and leave, this is a good amount of time.

Visiting New Zealand? Make sure to check out the New Zealand working holiday visa, and check out my post on How Expensive is Auckland?

 

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I get asked frequently about the difference between Australia and New Zealand in terms of price, what it’s like to be on a working holiday visa in each country, and which one is better (lolz). While I can’t say that one is better than the other, I can give you a breakdown in cost of living in New Zealand. How expensive is Auckland, New Zealand? Here is a full breakdown of my expenses living in Auckland.

How Expensive is Auckland, New Zealand?

How Expensive Is Auckland, New Zealand?

Rent

How expensive is Auckland for renting an apartment? It depends what you’re looking for.We found an apartment to sublet for the first three months that was fully furnished, with no lease and no deposit, for a weekly price of $405 – which includes all bills (water, electricity, garbage, internet). We split that, meaning we each pay $202.50 per week for rent.

If you’re looking at renting a room or an apartment, check out Facebook for housing groups. This is the best facebook group I’ve found for locating good affordable housing. When I came to Auckland, I rented an airbnb for the first couple of weeks so we could see apartments in person.

How Expensive Is Auckland, New Zealand?

Food

How expensive is Auckland for food? Groceries can be expensive here, but as long as you are buying ingredients to prepare food instead of prepackaged food, it won’t cost you too much. Michael and I go grocery shopping together once a week, and we pay about $80-$100 a week for the both of us. We make 99% of our food at home, which includes a lot of Indian, Mexican, and Italian food. There are a few grocery store chains here; the cheapest is Pak N Save, but my favorite is Countdown (which is the New Zealand version of Woolworths).

Eating Out

I do love to eat out occasionally, but that isn’t cheap to do in Auckland. Lunch will usually cost you about $20, and dinner will be upwards of $25 for a main. Drinks out will cost you about $10+ each. I really love to go out for coffee, which runs about $5 for a cup. New Zealand (& Australia) is serious about their coffee, so that $5 will buy you an insanely good cup. P.S. I found the best latte art – a kitten in my coffee – at Petit Bocal. Check it out if you want your own coffee kitten!

How Expensive Is Auckland, New Zealand?

How Expensive Is Auckland, New Zealand?

Cell Phone Plans & Data

When I got to Auckland, I signed up for a SIM card for Vodafone. You must have an unlocked phone to be able to do this. I simply top up my plan every month and choose how much data/texts/minutes I want. My phone plan runs me about $30 a month for 2GB of data, 50 texts, and 50 minutes of calling.

Transportation

How expensive is Auckland for transportation? Getting around Auckland using public transport is cheap but not time efficient. The public transport here is rarely on time and not the most efficient I’ve seen, but if you use the AT Transport app, you’ll be able to get from point A to point B as seamlessly as possible. An hour long bus ride costs me about $2 NZD, while a train ride would cost about $5-$6.

How Expensive Is Auckland, New Zealand?

Michael bought a used car here for $3k NZD. He spends about $65 every week and a half to fill it up. Having a combination of a car and public transport works well for us, because this way we have full control over where and how we get places on the weekends. It’s ideal to have a car in New Zealand to take weekend or day trips. You can rent a car for about $20 a day from places like Jucy Car Rentals.

Income

Minimum wage in New Zealand is just over $15 for an adult, but you can expect to make around $17 an hour working at a job in retail or hospitality. While you won’t be making as much in New Zealand as you can on the Australian working holiday visa, you can still make enough to live and save a bit for some day trips or weekend exploring. I work 4 days a week and bring in just under $400 per week. You can find jobs by walking in to places (probably your best option), or searching on websites such as TradeMe, the New Zealand version of Craigslist.

I am loving New Zealand so far and am so excited to explore more. If you’re planning to do the working holiday visa in New Zealand, make sure to check out my post explaining all of the details of how to go about getting the visa.

If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, let me know in the comments below what you’re most looking forward to!

 

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