Ask anybody who’s spent a bit of time exploring New Zealand what their highlights were, and there’s a good chance that a Lake Taupo adventure will feature. The lake sits in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island and has, over the years, built up a reputation for its breathtaking beauty and impressive range of extreme outdoor activities. My wife and I rolled into town in our camper, having booked onto the Huka Falls Jetboat and Tongariro River Rafting combo. It just seemed like that was the best blend of high-octane thrills and outdoor adventure, though alternative and perhaps more relaxing combinations including helicopter ride and scenic lake cruise were available.
Wellington, in a word, is absolutely captivating. While Wellington’s weather can be windy and cold, there are more than enough places to escape the chill and learn a bit while you’re at it. This city that’s known for coffee shops and dining is also known for its arts, and history buffs can have a field day when visiting Wellington’s museums. Even though New Zealand’s history is short when compared to a place like Europe, the exhibits here range from Maori culture to the settlers who ultimately joined them. If it’s a rainy day in New Zealand’s capital—or you simply love museum—these are the best museums in Wellington for getting your historical fix.
The Waitomo Caves are a series of subterranean caverns deep below ground in Waitomo — on New Zealand’s North Island — and the name is formed from the Māori words ‘wai’, meaning water, and ‘tomo’, meaning sinkhole. The cave system filled with underground rivers and streams and inhabited by millions of bright green glowworms.
When it comes to water in Rotorua, many might think of the heated geysers that violently erupt from the Earth, or the numerous lakes of Rotorua that stretch out into the hills. While you wouldn’t want to mess with the heated geysers, there are plenty of water activities in Rotorua on the surrounding rivers and lakes, and the water temperature is often warmer than at other places in New Zealand.
Don’t look now, but the Hauraki Gulf Islands offer one of New Zealand’s most underrated adventures. When it comes to islands off of the North Island of New Zealand, it’s the Bay of Islands that get most of the attention—and therefore—most of the crowds. What’s more, visiting the Bay of Islands from Auckland requires a there hour drive each way, which can really cut into your sightseeing time unless you stay over night. For travelers who might not have the time to venture that far north—or simply don’t want to spend the time going all the way to the Bay of Islands—there are all sorts of beaches, hikes, and adventures on Auckland’s offshore islands.
New Zealand’s Northland and the Bay of Islands are usually lauded for their beauty, but even more so than the turquoise coves and groves of native forest, it’s the rich history of the Northland’s towns that make it such a fascinating visit. While there is a lot of history in the Bay of Islands, it’s the neighboring town of Kerikeri that has the nation’s oldest buildings.