Best Places to visit in New Zealand – North Island first

Best Places to visit in New Zealand – North Island first

Map of New Zealand

North Island

If you thought that flying to Australia was long, you are in for a big surprise, because going further down under is a back-breaker. Getting to New Zealand from the UK will take you about a day and a half, with most of the flights stopping over twice. I did find a one-stop flight that will take you just under 24 hours, but I would have to assume that it will be booked out for most of the time, so your best option would be to book well in advance. For me, travelling, is not the funnest way to spend a day and if I ever were to be lucky enough to visit the country, I would probably stay there. The return flight is always the worst when you know that your holiday is over. And spending 35 hours to get back to reality, no thank you. But for those of you that don’t mind the travelling, or managed to score a first class seat with plenty of leg space and refreshments, here are the Best Places to visit in New Zealand.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Glowworm Cave Waitomo

No, you didn’t stumble on to the set of Guardians of the Galaxy. These are the famous Glowworm Caves in Waitomo, where hundreds of thousands of glowworms cling for dear life to the cave ceilings, because if they fall, they will either drown in the extensive river system running through the caves or people would step on them as they navigate through the tunnels. Operating since the 1890s, these caves are some of New Zealand’s best and most famous natural attractions and the glowworm is unique to the country, which means that you get to see something that you cannot see anywhere else in the world in their natural habitat. If you swallow one of these worms whole, your tummy would glow in the dark and you would risk getting burned at the stake, so rather pack a snack and leave the poor worms alone. I heard that they are training these worms to flash to music tunes. The worms are not too bright, so it might take a century or two.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Costing around £28 or $35 (NZ$55) per adult or £13 or $17 (NZ$25) for children, this really is not a lot, considering what you’ll be witnessing and your tour will visit both levels.

Your tour will consist of the following:

  • Open from Thursday to Monday from 09:30, these tours depart every 30min from 39 Waitomo Village Road, so you don’t have to wait too long for your turn if you snoozed your alarm clock earlier before getting up. Be sure to check in 30min before you leave.
  • Unfortunately, there are no wheelchair access at the moment at this cave, but they do have wheelchair access at the two other caves.
  • This one is a bit of a bummer as they don’t allow photography or video recording in this cave, but they do in the other two caves. On second thought, it might be better to visit the other two caves then. I picked this one, because it’s the biggest and most well-known.
  • They advise you to wear comfortable shoes and a jacket as the temperatures stay around 14°C. Not quite cold enough for your nipples to to cut through your shirt, but chilly enough for your better half to nick your jacket halfway through the tour.
  • You’ll get to walk through the dry, upper lever, consisting of stunning cave formations and glowworm poop. One round and your sneakers will light up brighter than the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Centre.
  • Take a leisurely boat ride through the stream passages, more glowworms above you and end up in the biggest chamber, called the Cathedral where you still can’t take photos, but will have a chance to pick all that glowing, sticky stuff out of your hair.

They have much more to offer, from water rafting tours, combos with other cave visits and a place to stay and eat, so please check here for full details. To book your accommodation, please check here.

Visit the set of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

Hobbiton New Zealand
New Zealand Hobbiton

For any Lord of the Rings lover, this will be the perfect activity to do once you’ve managed to find your way to New Zealand. At around £45 or $54 (NZ$89) for adults older than 16 and just under half price for children between the ages of 9-16, it’s a bit pricy, considering that the tour only lasts for two hours, but how often do you get the chance to rub shoulders with your favourite movie characters. It is said that they keep the grass very short in The Shire, because it tickles the hobbits under their arms when they move about.

The Shire

The Hobbiton

Departing daily from The Shire’s Rest Cafe at 501 Buckland Road, your tour starts with a scenic drive through a 1,300 acre sheep farm with the most amazing views of the Kaimai Ranges. You’ll get to experience Bag End where the thief, Bilbo Baggins, almost ruined Frodo’s life by leaving him a stolen ring, causing him to go on a quest so dangerous, that I wouldn’t have believed it, if I didn’t read about it myself. You’ll get to see the various hobbit holes, The Mill and the world-famous Green Dragon Inn, all the while listening to an experienced tour guide telling you how the movies were initially made. This type of backstage pass is just too good to miss out on.

The Hobbiton in New Zealand

They have other fun activities to do as well, like a sunset banquet tour; illuminated paths leading you through the stunning scenery of the entire movie set, stopping at the Green Dragon dining room to sit down for a feast fit for a hobbit. And keeping up with real hobbit traditions, you are encourage to have seconds. For more adventures, please click here for full details. Don’t worry, I’m not going to send you to Mordor. For accommodation, you can check here.

Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove)

Cathedral Cove New Zealand

Yes, you are right, but just in case you haven’t guessed it yet, New Zealand is all about the amazing landscapes, nature and scenery and Cathedral Cove is no exception. This one is a bit of a walk, since you can only access it by boat or foot, but the good news is that you are being healthy and it’s a freebie. Win win.

Park in the carparks in Pa Road or in Grange Road and then it’s just a short, one mile hike to the cove. Attracting over 150,000 visitor each year, marvelling at these rock formations, pristine beaches and beautiful seaside village is the perfect way to spend a day with your loved ones. So that means, no mother-in-laws. Someone needs to look after the car.

New Zealand Cathedral Cove

A couple of paths will lead you to the viewing platform where you can witness nature in all its glory, laid out before you on a giant canvas before the final descent; a rickety, damp invested, crumbling wooden staircase that most of the elements have battered for years. Actually, don’t leave your mother-in-law in the car. Get her to test the staircase before you set foot on it. As they say, ladies first…

Even without your newfound respect for life, having cheated death down that staircase, this cathedral will look like the entrance to paradise. Take the most beautiful selfies; with stunning rock formations, golden sand and turquoise water as backdrops, even I would take a picture that won’t break the camera… I think.

Champagne pool

Champagne Pool New Zealand

Formed by hydrothermal eruption and around the same time my mother-in-law was born, 900 years ago, this hot spring is around 20 mi away from Rotorua. So you can kip in the city, do the half an hour drive to drool over the geothermal marvel and be back in time catch up on your soaps.

This magnificent-looking pool is around 215 ft in diameter and the top section of water maintains a temperature of around 75 °C, all the while losing a couple of degrees through the change in temperatures outside. The geothermal water deep down below the pool however is around 260 °C; about the same temperature as my wife in her nighty. There is a whole lot of scientific information listed on Wikipedia, which explains the beautiful colours, so please give it a read here if you are interested in that sort of stuff.

Don’t drink the water, it’s not real champagne

Champagne Pool North Island

The pool received its name due to the fact that it looks like a glass of bubbling champagne with all the CO2 rising up and forming an infinite amount of bubbles on the surface. Now, this might look inviting, but dipping even just a toe in the water would be a huge mistake. With all the gasses, geothermal fluids and who knows what else lurking beneath the surface, you wouldn’t know what to expect and definitely don’t let the word ‘pool’ mislead you. This type feature is exactly how horror movies start. An innocent, inviting looking jacuzzi at first, you touch the fluid and before you know it, you turn into a hag-like creature or something inside grabs you by the feet and drags you down to the boiling depths below. I wonder if my mother-in-law ever visited?

Putting all nightmares aside, seeing this gorgeous feature is a must when you find yourself in the country. There are walkways with handrails around the pool, so you really aren’t in any danger, unless you want to be. Just stay on the path and you’ll be able catch your 75-hour flight back home again.

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is almost the most northern tip of the North Island and around 60 mi away from the nearest town, called Kaitaia. Beating it by stretching just two miles further north, are the Surville Cliffs, but you can’t really get there. Visiting this particular beauty will be only a day-trip as there is nothing apart from a lighthouse, which you can’t sleep in. In fact, until 2010, the last 12 mi was actually a gravel road, which they have changed since then, because this site attracts over a 120,000 visitors per year or 1,300 cars per day. Apart from the gorgeous views, Cape Reinga is also rich in Maori culture. According to mythology, spirits of the deceased travel to Cape Reinga where they would jump of the edge and embark on their final journey to the afterlife. This is not an invitation, so stay on top!

Gorgeous Lighthouse

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Built in 1941, the lighthouse is a very popular attraction and is operated by Maritime New Zealand. Unfortunately it is not open to the public, but you can still walk around it and take some photos. The light flashes every 12 seconds and you can see it from 19 mi away. Standing in front the lighthouse, you will be able to witness a tidal race. This is where the western Tasman sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean clash with each other; creating rough waters just off the coast, kinda like two mobs of football hooligans when they get together for a fight.

This is it; we’ve reached the end of our New Zealand’s North Island journey…. literally. Any further north and you’ll be shark bait. Please feel free to share this post with everyone that you know. It’s not good to keep secrets and people will thank you for showing them this amazing journey. Safe travels as always and we’ll see each other on the South Island.

Toodles 🙂

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