1/ AucklandBackend Editor
Auckland is a modern and vibrant city, home of 53 volcanoes spread across a number of suburbs surrounded by the stunning Hauraki Gulf with its beautiful islands.
The viaduct area with the infrastructure for the America’s Cup is central.
The North Shore is also a great part of Auckland with the busy beach of Takapuna and the pretty village of Devonport accessible by ferry from the city centre.
2/ Northland and the Bay of Islands
North of Auckland, the winding roads unveal pretty hills covered with sheep. Making your way through the Northland, the Bay of Islands is a jewel of New Zealand: some 144 islands spread across the turquoise waters of a gulf offering shelter to a diverse marine life, it is a great spot to encounter dolphins. The coastline offers a superb tropical vegetation with fern trees and Pohutukawas which are covered with red flowers in summer, hence their nickname of “Christmas Trees”
It is actually here that the first English settlers landed.
Inland, reserves host the last forests of large Kauri. Some of these protected trees are over 2,000 years old.
At the very top of the island is Cape Reinga, a place a great significance in the Māori mythology.
On the west coast of the northern peninsula, just under Cape Reinga, the sand has formed large dunes all along the 90 Mile Beach.
It is a unique place and one local attraction is to surf the dunes.
3/ The Coromandel peninsula
To the south-east of Auckland, Coromandel peninsula is worth at least a day or two if you have enough time. Lovers of natural wonders, small dirt tracks and migratory birds will be thrilled. A not-so-well-kept secret, Hot Water Beach is almost worth the trip to New Zealand alone: you’ll find a bathtub with hot thermal waters in the sand. A unique experience!
Cathedral cove isn’t far away and also definitely worth a visit.
4/ Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty
Rotorua (“The Sulfur City”, also affectionately called “Rotovegas” by kiwis) and its region concentrate the most beautiful volcanic marvels: therapeutic baths are world-famous attraction since the 19th century, a great display of hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers are found in a number of places throughout the region. Beware, it all comes with a distinct smell of rotten eggs caused by the sulfur.
The Pohutu Geyser is located in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. It is the largest in New Zealand and spurts up to twenty times per day and reaches heights of over 20 metres. Waimangu Valley and Wai-o-tapu also offer great spectacle.
Further south, the Tongariro and its three active volcanoes dominate the central plateau. The slopes of the volcanic cones can be hiked and served as a backdrop for the Lord of the Rings’ Mordor. The Tongariro Crossing is a classic New Zealand hike, but be prepared and make sure that the weather allows for it.
5/ The Hawke’s Bay area
The Hawke’s Bay area, to the east, is worth visiting for its large orchards and vineyards.
Most vineyards are open to visitors and provide great tasting experiences. The town of Napier was rebuilt in an Art Deco style in the 1930s after a big earthquake. Walking the streets feels like stepping back in time. You’ll enjoy watching the architecture and Art Deco heritage.
Another attraction in the region, especially for bird lovers is the great gannet colony of Cape Kidnappers.
Wellington, located at the south of the north island, is the political and cultural capital of New Zealand with a touch of colonial nostalgia.
We recommend visiting the Parliament called “the beehive” due to its shape but also the most beautiful museum in the country, Te Papa.
The superb botanical garden, located higher up in town offers a splendid view of the city.