New Zealand is an island country and consists of two main islands (South Island and North Island) and another 600 small islands. About the unique and charming natural beauty of the South Island, we have already written in this article.
New Zealand lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire, and because of this, New Zealand’s North Island has one of the world’s richest geothermal activity.
Although it is a small island, the landscapes here are surprisingly diverse: scenic beaches, thermal springs, geysers, lakes in different colors, volcanoes, and mountains.
How do you get to New Zealand’s North Island?
By ferry from New Zealand’s South Island
The two islands of New Zealand are separated from the Cook Strait and you can get from one island on the other by ferry (between Wellington and Picton).
The most important airports on the North Island are located in Auckland, Wellington, and Rotorua, and on the South Island in Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin.
From the airport, we rented a car from Jucy for the price of NZD 60 per day including insurance.
If you don’t plan to rent a car, you will find more details about New Zealand’s public transport in this article.
On the North Island, there are 3 toll roads (Northern Gateway Toll Road, Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road, and Takitimu Drive Toll Road), but these roads can be avoided if you choose an alternative route.
The road toll can be paid online, by phone calling 0800 40 20 20 or at the gas stations near the toll roads.
What did we visit on New Zealand’s North Island in 4 days?
Rotorua is about 3 hours’ drive away from Auckland.
This is the area with the highest geothermal activity on the island and is famous for thermal baths, hot mud pools, geysers and lakes of different colors.
What did we visit in Rotorua?
This park is rich in geothermal activity and is full of color.
The park is located 27 kilometers south of Rotorua and is open daily:
- April – October: 08:30 AM – 5:00 PM
- November – March: 08:30 AM – 6:00 PM
- -Entrance fee: NZD 32.5 / Adult; 11 NZD / child; 85 NZD family ticket;
We hiked all 3 trails in the park (1.5 km – 30 minutes, 2 km – 40 minutes, 3 km – 75 minutes).
The main attractions of the Park:
Inferno Crater Lake
It is one of the most beautiful lakes in the park, with pure blue water.
Inferno Crater Lake gets its intense blue color from silica particles suspended in the water, which is why the lake has the same color even when it’s raining.
The Devil’s Bathtub – a natures miracle
The water of this lake has a pronounced light green hue. The water’s color comes from the sulfur floating on the surface of the water.
The Champagne Pool
It is the most photographed lake in the park and its name is given by the fact that it resembles a glass of champagne.
It is the farthest lake in the park, its water having different shades of green, depending on the light.
Lady Knox Geyser
When this geyser erupts, it produces a jet of water reaching up to 20m.
It is interesting that the geyser is induced to erupt (by the park’s rangers) every morning at 10:15 AM and the show lasts for an hour.
It is the only public geothermal park in New Zealand and it is located in the center of Rotorua. Here are more thermal lakes and hot mud pools. The beautifully landscaped route will guide you through the attractions of the park.
This lovely park is 16 km away from Rotorua. It’s the first stop we did on the route between Auckland and Rotorua.
The park is open daily between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM and the cost of the ticket is 18 NZD / adult and 8 NZD / child.
It is a tranquil park where you can take a walk through the forest with sequoia trees and different forms of vegetation specific to New Zealand or you can enjoy a picnic amidst nature.
Kerosene Creek is a hot water creek located 30 km south of Rotorua and there is no entry fee. Here the cold water of the river mixes with the hot springs water, forming some hot water pools where you can relax.
! It is good to know that amoeba eukaryotes live in hot water swimming pools or rivers (“brain-eating amoeba“) and to protect yourself from these, keep your head out of the water.
The visit to this place will definitely be very educative. Here you can take part in a guided tour (which starts at fixed hour starting from 9:00 AM) and discover the Maori culture or you can choose to walk through the park at your own pace.
We recommend that you take a tour of the Kiwi nocturnal house and enjoy the opportunity to see these New Zealand endemic nocturnal birds.
In this park, you have the chance to see traditional Maori dances and visit the National Wood Carving School, where you will see how the Maori sculptures take shape.
Here is the Pohutu geyser, the largest geyser in New Zealand which usually erupts twice an hour, and the water can reach heights of up to 30 meters.
You can have dinner here, and taste the Maori dishes, that were cooked in boiling water fountains.
Whirinaki Forest Park:
Whirinaki Forest National Park is one of our favorite places on the island and is situated 90 km away from Rotorua.
Here are a lot of trails through the tropical forest with ferns, waterfalls and tall trees of pine, kahikatea, and totara.
This dense forest shelters many rare birds.
The fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy will surely enjoy a trip to Hobbiton.
In 1998, the film director Sir Peter Jackson began looking for the ideal place to build the hobbits village. During an aerial search, he flew over the Alexander family farm and realized that this land was what he was looking for.
This farm is a magical place as if out of fairy tales and carefully decorated so that it keeps its charm now, giving you the impression that the hobbits really live there.
The hobbits houses built on that green hill, the lake, the narrow trails, and The Green Dragon Inn make this experience truly unique even for those who have not seen the movie yet.
Hobbiton can be visited on a day trip from Rotorua, Matamata or The Shire’s Rest.
We took a guided tour of The Shire’s Rest, near Matamata. Here you will find a restaurant and a souvenir shop, and tickets can be purchased here as well.
The parking at The Shire’s Rest is quite generous, and the only way to get from here to Hobbiton is by bus on an organized tour.
The number of tourists who can visit the village in one day is limited, so it is a good idea to book the tickets in advance.
The ticket price for those taking the tour from Matamata I-Site or The Shire’s Rest is 84 NZD / adult 42 NZD / child (9-16 years).
During the whole trip, you will be accompanied by a guide, which will take care you don’t miss any attraction.
The tour lasts 2 hours and in the end, you will stop at the famous Green Dragon INN where you will get a free drink.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves:
This is a truly magical experience that we fully enjoyed.
After a guided tour through the larger cave halls, you will descend into a cave lighted only by the Arachnocampa Luminosa glowworm.
From here you take a 15 minutes boat tour through the cave.
It is a unique and spectacular experience, in a place that seems unreal. These wonderful glowworms shine on the ceiling of the cave-like stars in the night.
You are not allowed to take pictures or videos here, but this will make the experience more intense because you can enjoy each moment without feeling the pressure of the need to take the perfect picture.
If you want to see what we’re talking about, watch this clip on YouTube, these people spent 30 hours in the cave to create this exceptional video.
How do you get to Waitomo Glowworm Caves?
The caves are 200 km south of Auckland, 140 km west of Rotorua and 90 km west of Hobbiton. We visited Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton on the same day and from here we headed to Auckland.
Where did we stay?
In Auckland, we booked our accommodation through Airbnb.
We have been traveling together for 7 years, and in New Zealand, we tried for the first time to book accommodation in someone’s home and not in hotels or private apartments as we did on our previous holidays.
The accommodation in Auckland was our favorite. The house looked great and we felt sorry that we spent very little time there.
Besides, we had a very warm welcome and we felt like home.
The house is located in a village near Auckland, about 30 minutes from the airport.
Near Rotorua, we stayed in a private cottage on a farm. Unfortunately, the accommodation unit is no longer present on Airbnb.
We wanted to have this experience and it was indeed exceptional to stay in a small cottage located in those emerald green hills.
It is an authentic and unique experience to discover how farmers live here and you will have the chance to interact with different animals (depending on the farm you are going to visit): sheep, alpaca, horses, pony, cows or red deer (our favorites).
There are a lot of such farms in New Zealand and we recommend this type of accommodation especially for those who travel with children. You can engage in various farm activities and it will be very exciting and educational for the little ones.
Both islands are particularly beautiful, and we advise you to visit both of them!
The North Island has many other attractions, which we hope to visit on our next visit, the most important attractions are Bay of Islands, Tongariro National Park or Ruapehu Mountain.
We intend to go back to New Zealand, and if you have already visited New Zealand, you are planning to visit this fascinating country, or simply you know a lot about it, write us in the comments section below, what is worth visiting on our next trip.