New Zealand is absolutely one of my favorites, among all those countries I have visited. This is because it is rare for such diversity of nature to be found in such a small geographical area. On its two major islands, you can find subtropical forests, ice fields, empty beaches, and hilly grasslands. Detailed here, North Island possesses a somewhat warmer climate than the South, and a larger amount of cultivated land. The destinations shown are selected to attract lovers of the great outdoors and nature; although the towns and cities have their own allure, it was the pure, unblemished, natural landscapes which drew me to this place. Don’t miss these five spots on North Island.
One place worth the visit is the Ninety Mile Beach that transverses the Tasman Sea coast up to the very end of North Island. A huge sweep of sand extends as far as the eyes can see and it is so peaceful, as the only sounds come from the wind and the constant waves crashing from the Tasman Sea. As it is closer to 60 rather than 90 miles in length, both ends can only be viewed from an airplane. You’d be best off with an organized tour, since a lot of hired vehicles do not have insurance for sand driving. As an added treat, the excursion visits Cape Reinga situated at the northern point of New Zealand.
Slightly east along the Pacific, Bay of Islands is a favorite retreat, especially during the summer months. Not as large as Paihia, and accessible by ferry, we chose Russell for our stopover. Just as implied by its name, The Bay is a sheltered region of sea containing little wooded islands, some of which are inhabited. Taking the boat from the Bay of Islands to the Hole in the Rock in the South Pacific is a trip not to be missed. You can typically view dolphins on the expedition past the secluded sandy beaches of the inner bay to Cape Brett and the vast ocean where the Hole in the Rock is located, an enormous cavern running through a rocky island.
A couple miles West of Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, the Waitakere Ranges are located, comprising an area of steep hills, covered in thick rainforest, otherwise known as native bush. Above a canopy of tree ferns with a jungle-like appearance, the visitor centre with wooden walkways is found, that provides forest views on the one side, and of Auckland in the distance on the other. Continuing to the Tasman Sea, you will reach Karekare Beach, or the amazing Pihar Beach, overlooked by Lion Rock. You can not drive to this beach, which is often the case with the most desirable ones.
The Waimangu Volcanic Valley is located approximately 20 miles to the south of the hot springs and geysers area of Rotorua. In 1868, Mount Tarawera erupted, transforming the surrounding area and creating the massive valley, Waimangu. Wander through a valley, now forested, using a safe trail leading by boiling lakes, old craters, and a streaming river that flows the length of this valley, to a vantage point where the volcano can be viewed. This is great for those who liked the hot springs in Rotorua!
At a height of about 1100 meters, Whakapapa (pronounced Fakapapa) reigns as the township or village at the highest altitude in New Zealand. Located in Tongariro National Park, it is just to the south of Lake Taupo at the base of the 2797 meters Mt Ruapehu, the tallest mountain on North Island. Three volcanoes dominate the surrounding area, or the rough, high grassland, otherwise known as the tussock country, Mt Ngauruhoe (cone shaped), Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Tongariro, which is where the name of the park comes from. Two well-known hikes, Tongariro Crossing, and the magnificent hike to Ruapehu’s crater, make this area very popular with hikers. Located atop the Bruce Road going away from the town is the biggest ski area of New Zealand. Whakapapa contains a campsite near the village center.