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
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.
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!
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
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.
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 $75 for the day, but it will be worth it to get your photo in front of the cute houses, no?
Visit the Thermal Springs in Rotorua
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
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 Volcano
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 Beaches
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 Park
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 Town
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
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 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.