10 Spectacular Natural Wonders in New Zealand’s North Island

The North Island of New Zealand is full of some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. This island is rich with many different kinds of natural beauty. Just with driving a short distance, you can see dramatically different landscapes, all breathtaking in their own way. This summer, we got the opportunity to explore this gorgeous island. We took a road trip from Wellington, the capital city of NZ at the south end of the island, to Auckland in the north, NZ’s most populated city. The Wellington-Auckland route is one of the most convenient and beautiful road trip route in NZ, and here are our ten highlights of the trip (with order from Auckland to Wellington):

1. Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo glowworm caves - New Zealand
Waitomo region is the home of many underground caves in the location. Inside these 30 millions of years old limestone caves, you will find gorgeous stalactites, stalagmites, limestone pillars and curtains. But perhaps, the most famous feature of the Waitomo caves is the glowworms! Brilliant blue radiating creatures that cling beneath the cave ceilings, makes you feel like looking at a gorgeous starry night sky. There are many guided tours available, including the guided walks, boat ride tours, and cave tubing expeditions!

2. Pohutu Geyser in Whakarewarewa Geothermal Area

Pohutu Geyser
The Whakarewarewa Geothermal Park in Rotorua is a home to many geysers. Pohutu Geyser is the most famous one, erupting approximately every hour, as high as 30 meters. The entrance fee to this park is quite high, but the ticket also includes a Maori cultural experience. The park area is fenced off, but if you are a cheapskate like us, you can find some gaps in the fence around the side of the park, and enjoy the glorious Pohutu Geyser eruption from a distance.

3. Orakei Korako Geyserland

Orakei Korako Hidden Valley
Orakei Korako, also called the Hidden Valley, is a large and highly active geothermal area between Rotorua and Taupo. This gorgeous land o f silica terraces has numerous active geysers, boiling hot crystal clear pools, muddy mud pools, and colorful algae layers to complete its beauty. Lonely Planet Guide described this place as “possibly the best thermal area left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world”.

4. Huka Falls

Huka Falls
This picturesque falls is not far from the Lake Taupo, and there are several different spots along the road to enjoy the beauty of it from different angles. This rapid and torrential falls especially look stunning because of the beautiful gorge it passes through and the lush green along the cliffsides. Adventurous jet boat rides are also available if you want to admire the falls from below.

5. Aratiatia Dam and Rapids

Aratiatia Dam
Several times a day, the gate of Aratiatia Power Station Dam in the Waikato river is opened to release water back into the river downstream. At low tide, the view of the rocky river gorge below the dam is gorgeous, with big boulders, lush forest, and calm water trickling over the rocks. When the dam gate is opened, a torrent of water floods this river bed, filling it up high, and making an enormous rapid. The power of this sudden surge is astonishing to watch.

6. Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon
The face of this geothermal area is uncanny. The land is bare, with several large pinkish craters as deep as 20 meters that were formed by hydrothermal eruptions. From many fumaroles in the area, steam clouds are released. Enhanced by the unusual and strong sulfuric smell, this place feels out of the world.

7. Lake Taupo

Sunset at Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand. This magnificent caldera lake was formed approximately 26 millennium ago, in a supervolcanic eruption. There are lots of water activities you can do here including trout fishing, but my favourite thing to do is watching the sunset.

8. Tongariro National Park

Mount Ruapehu
This national park is marked with 3 active volcanoes: Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngaurohe, and Mount Tongariro. In the winter seasons, this place is transformed into ski hills, however in the summer, you can do hiking, trekking, and various walking trails. The view from the road is already stunning, but if you can, take the time to get right up close to the volcano. If you go there in the summer and your time is limited, one choice is to go to the Whakapapa ski field on the Mount Ruapehu. Unless the weather is bad, the ski lift is open even in the summer season. You can go up with the ski lift, then take some walking trails to enjoy the scenery of an active volcano that has just recently erupted, where the power of nature is evident through the recently cooled lava and barrenness everywhere you look. If you are a more experienced trekker, you can find your way to the crater and be rewarded by the magnificent view up there.

9. Rangitikei River

Rangitikei River
Rangitikei River is one of the most photogenic rivers in the New Zealand. So beautiful, Peter Jackson filmed the Lord of the Rings’ Anduin River here. If you want to try bungee jumping or flying foxes in stunning natural setting, Gravity Canyon located on this river will not disappoint you. This river canyon also makes gorgeous setting for jet boat rides, kayaks, and white water raftings.

10. Otaki Forks

Otaki Forks
Otaki Forks was where we had our best lunch picnic in the North Island of new Zealand. From the Highway 1, take Otaki Gorge Road. This scenic forest drive along the Waiotauru river will bring you to Boielle Flat picnic area. Here you can have a picnic right at the gorgeous river bank. Lush green forest surrounds you, including many of NZ’s giant fern trees. From here, you can cross the river over a swinging bridge, and enjoy walking the various tracks available. The view to the river fork gorge is just stunning.

So, I hope this inspires your journey to the North Island of New Zealand. If you’ve been there, share with us your highlights!

Photo credit: Waitomo caves pictures were either purchased from the company or taken from their website Waitomo.com since carrying camera was not allowed. Other photos were taken by ourselves.

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39 Responses to “10 Spectacular Natural Wonders in New Zealand’s North Island”

  1. Christy - Ordinary Traveler
    21 September 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    These places look amazing! Thanks for sharing. I almost wish I had chosen New Zealand over Australia on our last trip. Although, Australia won because of it’s surf. :)
    Christy – Ordinary Traveler´s last post…Mad About Hoi An – Vietnam 2

    • Dina
      28 September 2010 at 9:30 pm #

      The beaches of Australia that I’ve seen so far indeed look like surfing paradise :D Well, maybe your next holiday trip!

  2. Mary R
    21 September 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    This is a fantastic post! I would love to see those glow worms! You’re so lucky that you got to experience all those places!

    We’re really trying to get to NZ this next year, so I will bookmark this page and refer to it in planning!
    Mary R´s last post…Have You Ever Been a Travel Spectacle

    • Dina
      28 September 2010 at 9:39 pm #

      YAY! I hope you will have a terrific time there!! Of course don’t forget the glowworms, seeing them is just a great experience. Btw, if you are going to both island, I have written about the South Island as well (see the related post above). If you have any question, let me know!! I will help!

  3. Travelogged
    22 September 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    My husband & I really want to go to NZ — and when we do we will try to go to all of these!
    Travelogged´s last post…Exploring the Coast of Turkey From Selcuk to Antalya

    • Dina
      28 September 2010 at 9:45 pm #

      Awesome! NZ has 2 major island, north and south. Check out our South Island highlights too :) (it’s in the related post list)

  4. Dave and Deb
    24 September 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Beautiful, now that’s a road trip! Yep, you have definitely inspired me to go to the North Island. Heck, to New Zealand period. We can’t wait to go there some day soon. The glow worm cave looks awesome!

    • Dina
      28 September 2010 at 9:48 pm #

      Thanks a lot! We want to go back there someday too. There are many other amazing spots that we didn’t have the chance to visit that time, that we saw only from photos. The glowworm is stunning indeed, do the cave tubing expedition, best way to observe it is when we are floting on the dark underground river, I think :)

  5. Earl
    26 September 2010 at 12:15 am #

    The North Island definitely doesn’t get enough credit! It’s fully of amazing places to visit as well. Waitomo is one place I will never forget…
    Earl´s last post…The Day US Customs Found A Bullet In My Pocket

    • Dina
      28 September 2010 at 9:50 pm #

      I still remember you mentioned the mud fountain (or what is it called) that you spot just along the way. This place is magical indeed. I wonder which spots have you been in there. Waitomo is definitely magical, great that we share a same experience :)

  6. Migrationology
    27 September 2010 at 12:10 am #

    NZ looks like an outdoors paradise for hiking and other expeditions. Hopefully sometime I will be able to arrange a similar roadtrip!
    Migrationology´s last post…Hanoi in a Collage of Dimensions- A Photo Journey

    • Dina
      28 September 2010 at 9:53 pm #

      Hi Mark, definitely hiking and expedition paradise! I was limited by time when I was there, but you could easily spend months there.

  7. Juno
    30 September 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    Oh I remember.. Just love New Zealand so much. SO many great wonders are there. Waitomo was Amazing! :)

    • Dina
      5 October 2010 at 9:14 pm #

      Hi Juno, yea :) I always remember you as the one who also love New Zealand!

  8. Natalie - Turkish Travel Blog.
    3 October 2010 at 8:07 am #

    I never really thought about New zealand for a visit. It has always seemed, well boring. Lake Taopu looks nice though.

    • Dina
      5 October 2010 at 9:18 pm #

      Hi Natalie, that’s not the first time I heard it, even from somebody that has been in NZ herself. If you are not into nature scenes, but more into art, culture and architecture, then probably New Zealand is not the place you want to go. :)

  9. Nancie
    6 October 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Some beautiful shots here. I spent a week in NZ many years ago and loved every moment. Definitely on my list to go back someday.
    Nancie´s last post…Through the Sandbox Lens 15 &8212 Female Taiko Drummer in Tokyo

    • Dina
      12 October 2010 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks Nancie! Yea, we did several weeks, and we didn’t feel enough either. That country is gorgeous! Which part did you go to?

  10. Michael Hodson
    12 October 2010 at 9:36 am #

    The one I would add to this is the Poor Knights Islands. One of the best diving locations in the entire world. Really worth a few days diving.
    Michael Hodson´s last post…Powerless to my Addictions

    • Dina
      12 October 2010 at 12:26 pm #

      I haven’t heard about the Poor Knight Island (and what a name!)
      Where is it about? If I’m lucky enough to go to NZ again, I want to visit that! So intrigued now..

  11. Chris @CAroundTheWorld
    5 November 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks for this post! I’m heading to New Zealand in late 2011, so this gives me some places to think about for our trip.
    Chris @CAroundTheWorld´s last post…How much will you pay for hotel luxe A few Berlin options under 250

  12. Lori
    5 November 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Thanks for the list! My husband and I are headed to New Zealand in Feb of 2011. I’ll have to add some of these places to our list of things to do and see!

  13. Andrea
    5 November 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Thanks for this great list! You’ve reaffirmed our itinerary for NZ in Jan/Feb.
    Andrea´s last post…Our Expensive Arm Jabs- Travel Vaccinations and Pre-Travel Health

  14. Kirsty
    6 November 2010 at 8:53 am #

    The picture of the national park and volcanos is cool. It is making me want to go to New Zealand! It’s on our travel to do list, but it keeps getting longer and longer!

    • Dina
      7 November 2010 at 12:57 am #

      Haha, I know what you mean :)

  15. Andrea
    7 November 2010 at 2:47 am #

    Thanks for posting this great list.

    I’m a Kiwi and I we will be back in NZ in January with overseas wedding guests in tow. I’ve been struggling to recommend where people should go. It’s funny but when you’re from NZ you tend to take it for granted, so it’s hard to work out what others think is amazing.

  16. Aly
    8 November 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    Owww I did the Glow worm tour as well! So much fun! Though looking at your list it looks like I missed quite a few good ones as well. I was there 5-6years ago with family so couldn’t get all the action stuff in then, can’t wait to go back and try to complete this list.
    Aly´s last post…The Travelers Unpack – Part Uno

  17. rory williams
    2 December 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    new zealand is the best

  18. Robin
    7 December 2010 at 6:11 am #

    Interesting list, although I think Bay of Islands should also have been included.

    • Dina
      8 December 2010 at 7:39 am #

      Thanks Robin. The Bay of Islands is definitely on our list of places to see the next time we’re in New Zealand!

  19. chur
    28 June 2012 at 3:22 am #


  20. Christina (Jandal Road)
    7 July 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    I love New Zealand. In terms of the North Island – great tips. I would add surfing on one of the many beaches of the Taranaki coast as one of my highlights, snowboarding on Mt Ruapehu, and driving the Forgotten World Highway. The latter is great if you want to get away from it all. Hardly saw any other cars!
    Christina (Jandal Road)´s last post…Mountain biking and canoeing in Whistler

  21. Dick M.
    20 August 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    Both Islands sound amazing. If you had to pick one, which would it be? We are going next year and looking forward to a couple weeks of natural wonders.

    • Ryan
      10 September 2012 at 9:37 pm #

      It’s so hard to pick one. I had a great time on the South Island, especially around Milford Sound and the Fox Glacier, but then again the geothermal sights on the North Island were spectacular. Sorry I can’t be of more help on this one – you should really try to make time to explore both!

  22. Pascal racette
    8 January 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Do you think that one month is enought to see most of the landscape in New Zealand ?

    • Ryan
      27 January 2014 at 2:19 am #

      It depends – it’s probably enough time to road trip through both islands, but you’ll miss lots of things and probably want to come back again. Not a bad thing!

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