The North Island has many superb physical features, and it's home to New Zealand's two major cities, Auckland, the 'City of Sails' and the capital, Wellington. It offers island-studded bays and sailing, volcanic activity and geothermal wonders, wild rugged coastlines, and fascinating Maori culture and history.
Tauranga © Abaconda Management
The beautiful region in the far north is known as Northland and includes the picturesque Coromandel Peninsula, reaching into the sea between Auckland and the Bay of Plenty. It has magnificent kauri forests of enormous 3,000-year-old trees, stunning coastal scenery, beaches and scenic bays, quaint seaside townships, and mountain ranges. The Bay of Islands is the most popular destination with opportunities for sailing, diving, snorkelling, and kayaking on the clear blue waters around the islands. The top of the island tails off into a rugged desolate finger of land with sand dunes and the long white sandy stretch of Ninety Mile Beach along its west coast.
At the heart of the North Island is the Central Plateau, the centre of the country's volcanic activity. Volcanoes, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, spouting geysers, steaming lakes and rivers are strewn across the landscape. Rotorua, the Maori cultural heartland, sits at the edge of the most concentrated area of activity and is characterised by the unmistakable smell of sulphur. Lake Taupo, formed by one of the greatest eruptions ever recorded, has beautiful views across to the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park, with excellent hiking, and is regarded as the trout fishing capital of the world.
At the southern tip of the island lies New Zealand's capital, Wellington, a beautiful city in a striking setting around a harbour and surrounded by mountains. It is the centre of the country and a major travel crossroads between the North and South Islands.
Rotorua © jipe7
Situated on the Volcanic Plateau of Central North Island, the continuous volcanic activity has formed the landscape around Rotorua and the main attractions are based around its natural resources. There are a number of hot springs and thermal baths, the basis for its fast-growing fame as 'Nature's Spa of the South Pacific'. The crystal lakes offer holiday activities such as trout fishing and water sports, and nearby geothermal fields feature bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers, and steaming rivers. Rotorua is also the Maori cultural heartland and visitors can experience the spirit of their culture in many performances featuring stories relayed through song and dance, and a 'hangi' feast, the traditional Maori method of cooking in an earthen pit.
Lake Manapouri © Ktc27
TaranakiLocated between Wellington and Auckland, Taranaki has for a long time been largely overlooked by tourists in New Zealand. It is only recently that visitors have discovered the charms of the westernmost province in New Zealand, with its lush gardens, rolling hills of dairy farms, scenic parks, and world-class surf spots. The biggest city in Taranaki is New Plymouth, a busy port on the Tasman Sea rated by the United Nations as one of the best small cities in the world.
Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve © Christian Mehlfuhrer
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal ReserveWai-O-Tapu, meaning 'Sacred Waters', is a diverse and colourful geothermal sightseeing experience. The area has been active for more than 100,000 years and features thick pools of boiling mud that bubble and belch, geysers, sulphuric mineral terraces, and steaming pools that create a kaleidoscope of colour. Walkways around the area allow visitors to admire the display of some of the most incredible earth forces in the world. Some of the best features include the spectacular Champagne Pool, a large steaming and bubbling pool fringed by red and yellow ochre deposits; the evil looking Devil's Bath, with a high concentration of arsenic creating the vivid green colour of the water; and the erupting Lady Knox Geyser that shoots steam up to 64 feet (20m) into the air in a majestic daily display at around 10:15am.
Address: The site is 17 miles (27km) south of Rotorua on SH5 (Rotorua Taupo Highway); 201 Waiotapu Loop Road.; Website: www.waiotapu.co.nz