Published on November 20th, 2014 | by Emma Hackwood1
A Beginner’s Guide to New Zealand’s North Island
Have you always dreamed about visiting Hobbiton and exploring beautiful New Zealand? Our Flightie Larissa shares her experience exploring the North Island, and her top tips on what to see, eat, and experience.
What I found on my adventure through the North Island was more than I could have ever expected and the constant amazement at each turn is still fresh in my mind. I often find myself daydreaming of the places I visited and where I want to go back to. I would absolutely suggest that everyone visits New Zealand at least once in their lifetime!
How to Get There
The best option to get there is by flying Air New Zealand from Vancouver. It’s about a 14 hour flight, and the seats offer a great amount of legroom and good food. I slept for about 8 of the 14 hour journey and arrived in Auckland feeling refreshed. Air New Zealand also offers free stopovers in places like the Cook Islands, or you can do a free stopover in New Zealand on your way to Australia.
Consider taking a tour with Pride of Auckland Harbour Sailing which will take you around the beautiful glistening Auckland Harbour. I felt like I was part of a movie gliding through the water like a knife in butter. If you ask the boys nicely they will even let you sail the boat for a bit to really get that full experience.
The Hobbiton Movie Set Experience which is en route to Rotorua is an absolute must. Even if you are not a fan of the movies, visiting this location will absolutely take your breath away. It is like being in a totally different world; a world where you can believe in magic and dream of places you never thought could exist. If you have seen the movies than this will be an absolute highlight of your whole North Island experience. At the end of your tour you will be taken to the Green Dragon pub which is featured in the films. I would highly suggest trying the Beef and Guiness Savoury Pie as well as one of the local beers that they have on offer.
Nick-named the Sulphur City, when you first enter the town of Rotorua you will notice a very pungent aroma, kind of like rotten eggs. The smell however grows on you, and not in an uncomfortable fungal way! Rather, the smell is a reminder of the geothermal activity of this beautiful region, the intense presence of beneficial minerals and the readily available natural remedies that Mother Nature offers freely in Rotorua. Rotorua also has a very rich Maori history and the culture is still very present today. A must do would be Te Po. An evening show that gives you a great insight into Maori history and the performance will have you absolutely transfixed.
Travel Tip: Whilst in Rotorua, if you have the time take the Gondola ride up to Mt Ngongotaha and have some unforgettable fun riding a Luge down part of the mountain. No matter your age, it will feel like you are actually in a game of Mario Kart!
Hawke’s Bay (Napier)
As you drive into the region of Napier you instantly notice the Art Deco influence through the whole city. Napier has a history unlike any other in the world. In 1931 a devastating earthquake shock the town crumbling many of it’s buildings to the ground. The earthquake uplifted an area of 1500 km2 with a maximum of 2.7 m of uplift which gave Napier an amazing area to re build. The entire area was actually underwater before the earthquake. The entire city was rebuilt as Art Deco. To get a real feel for this amazing gift Mother Nature gave the town peddle about on a bicycle tour with Takaro Trails and absolutely go on the Art Deco Vintage Car Tour run by volunteers of the Art Deco Trust.
There is a great reason why this is the capital of New Zealand. Right at the bottom of the North Island, Wellington has so much unique beauty and is more interesting than many people may know.
The Lord of the Rings began right here in Wellington, and a must-do tour is the Lord of the Rings Location Tour. Make sure you do a full day as the half a day just isn’t enough!
“Wellywood” (as Wellington is affectionately known) offers a number of ways for visitors to experience the city’s film industry, which over the last 5 years has grown from strength to strength. There is just so much to see and do in Wellington! From the movie locations, to the hundreds of bustling coffee shops and restaurants, this city is a fantastic place to finish or start your journey of the North Island.
Top 5 Must Do’s
- Visit – Polynesian Spa Rotorua
- Eat – Emporium Eatery and Bar Napier
- Tour – Gannet Safaris Overland – Ex Napier
- Coffee- Finc Coffee Shop Wellington
- Tour – Seal Coast Safari – Ex Wellington
As the plane touched back down into Vancouver I was very happy to be home, although in my mind I was already planning on what adventures I plan to get up to on the South Island. If this is what the North Island had to offer, I cannot wait to get back there and explore the South! The saving and planning is always worth it when it comes to travelling the world! So go out there and start adventuring!