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Top 5 Sites on New Zealand North Island

As my trip to New Zealand's North Island is now over, I'd like to share with you guys the top five sites I recommend! :) Of course it depends of what kind of stuff you are into, but these five sites offer great variety and they have won my heart ;) 1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Mangatepopo to Ketatahi)

Well, I reckon this 18kms or so hike is in every tourist guide, but still! The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is crazy cool. I've never seen such a great variety of landscapes on such a short amount of time and on an "easy" track. Click here for a detailed story of the crossing Humid landscapes, very dry slopes, blue and emerald lakes, geothermal activity, Alpine vegetation, ... you'll have it all on a few hours!

Tongariro Sunset

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

I would recommend doing it slightly before of after summer, as there will be less people (two advantages as you'll see below) and cheaper :) Choose a good day if you can - and try to allow several days in the area so that you're able to change your plans if needed... I was in the Taupo region on Wednesday, and was supposed to sleep in Rotorua on Thursday and do the Tongariro Crossing on Saturday. Instead we chose to cancel Thursday night and arrive one night early in National Park village to have better weather. Easier to change plans off-season! The hike is c. 18kms long, and has about 900m elevation gain. The track is really well marked, and is not technical except a 200m steep downhill part. No need to be an expert, but you must be able to hike for 5+ hours. Best way is to book shuttles to and from there so that you don't have to worry about your car. Weather can really be extreme, so bring extra layers. Even on a perfectly sunny day, the wind at the top was around 0 degres on the last week of October.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing- view from top

2. Waipu Cave - Glowworm caves (GPS; -35.934642, 174.347907) Fantastic stop on the way to Bay of Islands :) Read our detailed adventure there. I heard about these glowworm gaves in NZ Frenzy guide. Absolutely breathtaking!

Waipu Cave glowworm

It has really strong points for itself: it's free, quite unknown, amazingly beautiful and there's no guide, just you to explore! That's amazing because there is no indication whatsoever, you just go and explore the cave. It has beautiful formations, and quite a lot of glowworms. Perfect for photography lovers, adventure or quietness seekers! Just make sure your eyes get used to the dark before penetrating the cave, and take care cause it's slippery. I would say it's supplementary to Waitomo where there are more glowworms and formations, but you have to rush a bit and can't take as much time as you'd like.

Waipu Cave glowworm

The cave is not that big, it may take around 1 hour in total (in spent closer to 2 hrs to take pictures I think) 3. Sunrise in Cathedral Cove; Hot Water Beach I truly loved Cathedral Cove (especially at sunrise) and nearby Hot Water Beach which is pretty unique. Cathedral Cove in Coromandel is a sweet place, where I enjoyed taking some time and relaxing in. The rock formations and cliffs are wonderful, as well as the water colors.

Cathedral cove

Best is to come at sunrise (plan to be there 20mins before): the light is just right on the coast & the formations, and you'll have the beach just for yourself!! :)

sunrise Cathedral cove

Sunrise Cathedral cove

After this early start, why don't you go dig your own hot tub at hot water beach? Grab a shovel at a shop near the car park, go down to the left of the beach. When you feel your feet starting to burn, you're there ;) dig a hole or pick an existing one! :) There's hot water coming from the ground, so digging a bit brings it up. You have to manage quite well your swimming pool though, so not to get burnt / cold!

Hot water beach

Be careful this is only feasible on either 2 hours of low-tide. Pretty unique to have a private natural jacuzzi on a beach :) 4. Taupo Region Very active geothermal zones are one of New Zealand's specificity. Even though I've already been to Yellowstone NP in the US, the Taupo area is amazing and surprising.

Champagne Pool Wai-O-Tapu


Waimangu Valley - Continuous geyser

In Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu, you'll find hot pools with amazing colors, small geysers, steaming rivers flowing, etc. Even more amazingly, you can have a swim in a not-so-well known hot river with waterfalls!! It's named Kerosene Creek - and it's amazing especially on a cold or cloudy day. The whole river is around 38 degres : perfect temperature!! Fantastic and worth the trip in itself.

Kerosene creek - naturally hot waterfall

5. Bay of Islands Click to see our detailed adventures To be honest, I was not expecting that much of the bay of Islands, north of Whangarei. I'm more a mountain guy than a beach guy. However, I was really hoping to be able to swim with dolphins - and see great landscapes. Best is to cruise in the Bay, as it's better seen from the see.

Bay of Islands Sailing

I chose to sail with Carino instead of a big motorboat. I'm really happy of this choice!! Their yacht is really cool, the crew is great, and it's so much better to be with only a handful of people! Plus taking your time to cruise around the islands, and stop for a short hike in a wonderful bay is a big plus :) especially if you don't see any dolphins - like us on this tour. They crew still showed us nice birds such as gannets diving to catch fish.

Gannet over Bay of Islands

The islands are really wonderful, and it makes a perfect quiet start of holidays!

Bay of Islands from the air

Bay of Islands from the air

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