New Zealand’s most diverse Island with stunning beaches, volcanos, a cave system full of glowworms and Maori culture
Welcome to the North Island! Here you can see it all - from huge, ancient kauri forests in the far north, to bubbling geysers in the Central Plateau and a vibrant cosmopolitan capital city at the southern tip. Although it's only a short domestic 'hop' from the South Island, the North Island is a completely unique adventure destination. A few of the North Island's defining characteristics include its warmer climate, tropical coastlines, volcanic activity, ancient forests and a rich cultural history.
A warmer climate to the South Island means the Kauri tree only grows on the North Island, and it forms a back bone to the islands 'jarassic' forests. One tree (Tane Mahuta - 'Lord of the Forest') has been dated to be over 2,500 years old, and contains enough timber in the trunk to build thirty three-bedroom homes... so you can imagine the size and beauty of these giants. These ancient forests were home to the majority of our indigenous Maori tribes, many of which are still thriving today, and they welcome you with arms wide open.
The North Island's Kauri forests line its golden-beach coastlines, and reach high into the volcanic mountains, where you can stand just meters from towering geysers, boiling sulphur pools and hike on live volcanos. As impressive as the South Island's rugged Southern Alps are, the North Island is the only destination in the world you'll get this unique experience.
So, what's the best way to see all of the best parts of the North Island? Well, if you're making the journey 'down-under' to New Zealand, the chances are, you'll pass through our largest city Auckland. Known as the 'City of Sails' for its wonderful sailing, having harbours on both of its (east and west) coasts. This is the North Island's 'gateway city' and it's the best place for your trip to start.
We've been running the award-winning 11-day Ultimate North Island 'Kauri' trip that starts and finishes in Auckland for many years now and we're continually refining it to make the most of your time down here. There are 5-day options available too and the trip is designed to tie in nicely with all of our South Island adventures.
Starting in the far north, be a kid again and slide down the sand dunes into the warm Tasman Sea. Hop across to the Bay of Islands on the East Coast and visit Waitangi to discover New Zealand's political history with the Treaty of Waitangi, considered our nation's founding document. Get your hiking fix on the trail to Cape Brett Lighthouse, where the rolling hills are luscious green and the sea below is teeming with marine life. And that's all in the first few days!
After a short journey south we'll introduce you to a cluster of islands off the East Coast known as the Poor Knights. This is a sub-tropical area in a marine reserve; the warm blue waters are home to schools of tropical marine life, making it some of the best snorkelling, kayaking and diving in the South Pacific! After another coastal hike at Mangawhai heads, we'll head back to the 'City of Sails' to recharge our batteries before exploring the Central Plateau.
Over the next 5 days you'll be amazed at the diversity of the North Island, as we transition from golden sand beaches to volcanoes, redwood forests, waterfalls and cave systems. Starting at Mokena geyser, with a hike up Mt Te Aroha you'll be rewarded with views of Mt Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu, the two largest volcanoes in New Zealand. You'll spend the next couple of evenings in Rotorua, the hub for Maori culture. After mountain biking on some of the countries best trails, your group will share a traditional Maori feast, known as a 'hangi', prepared by wrapping food and burying it in the earth to cook slowly over heated stones... YUM!
The culmination of this adventure is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is arguable regarded as the world's best day hike. This is a challenging and truly unforgettable hike - the views of Emerald Lakes amongst arid volcanic terrain are simply breath-taking. And the best part, at the end of the day you can relax and soak in natural thermal springs for the evening.