Magical New Zealand - my Top 10 Places on North Island

by Zoe Dawes /
Zoe Dawes's picture
May 12, 2010 / 0 comments

Maori TotemsJust  over a year ago my son, who was 10 years old, and I spent six weeks on the trip of a life-time in New Zealand, being shown the sights by a good friend who I met when I lived in Greece.  It is the most amazing country and well worth taking the time to explore.  We had three weeks in North Island, a place of culture, contrasts and natural wonders.

We stayed in a wide range of accommodation, including caravans at parks with hot springs to relax in, luxury hotels and budget motels. Almost without exception, these places were of excellent quality with great food and friendly, helpful customer service.

Here are some of our favourite places on North Island ... 

Sky Tower Auckland1. Auckland - a cosmopolitan city, lively and youthful. I fulfilled a life-long ambition to sail on an America's Cup Yacht around the busy harbour and even had a go at the helm.  My son loved the view across the city and the many islands out to sea from Sky City Tower. He scared himself standing on the see-through floor and luckily had no desire to try the bungee jump experience!

2. The Coromandel Peninsular - this coastal area is known for its natural beauty, rainforests and pristine golden beaches. Sadly it was covered in mist on our visit, so we only saw it from afar.

3. Waitomo Caves - famous for the glow-worms that pinpoint the roof of these caves, we enjoyed the experience of drifting gently through the caves. You can also go Black Water Rafting in giant rubber rings. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed as many of the glow-worms seemed to have had their lights put out, but it was a memorable excursion.

4. Rotarua - a spa town on the shores of a vast caldera lake that blew out in a gigantic prehistoric eruption. Sulphuric geysers erupt on a regular basis and we found out lots about Maori life at a Hangi dinner at a Maori village.

5. The Kiwi House, Otorohanga - a purpose-built Kiwi Conservation Centre open to the public. This was such a lovely day out and my son laughed aloud at the incredibly shy kiwis thumping around their open nocturnal house foraging for food in an enclosure that is as similar to their natural environment as possible.

Lake Taupo & Maori carvings6. Lake Taupo – the largest lake in New Zealand, it offers visitors a huge array of activities including hiking, fishing, water sports, skydiving and much more. We sailed round the lake on a yacht once owned by Errol Flynn, and got really close to ancient Maori stone carvings. 

7. Huka Falls Jet Boat - a fantastically exhilarating boat ride along a beautiful river, lined with native bush, sheer rock cliff face and natural hot springs to this powerful waterfall, one of New Zealand's most visited natural sights.

 Moutn Taranaki New Zealand

8. Mount Taranaki – a 2518m dormant volcano that dominates the region and bears a striking resemblance to Japan's Mt Fuji, used in films such as Tom Cruise movie, The Last Samurai. Nearby New Plymouth is not on the usual tourist route but my friend's Mum lives there and we had a lovely relaxing few days surfing and swimming at the beach of this attractive town.

9. Wellington – the capital city is gracious and fascinating with loads to see & do. My son's favourite place was Te Papa Museum, with its interactive exhibits to help visitors find out more about New Zealand's history, its art and culture. He also loved visiting the setting of many scenes from Lord of the Rings. We both enjoyed a day out at Karori Bird Sanctuary, a magical oasis where we saw and heard a huge variety of native birds AND a sighting of the extremely rare Tuatara reptile, a relic from prehistoric times. Pukeka New Zealand

It's the sheer awe-inspiring natural beauty of NZ that really touched me. The variety of landscapes, colours, sounds and scents is so lovely. The people are really friendly and everywhere we went there was been a welcome and a warmth that makes this place hard to beat.

Zoe Dawes is the Quirky Traveller Editor for Wandering Educator. You can find her at