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New Zealand

North Island


Take a trip to North Island on your New Zealand vacation.

New Zealand is a country made up of two major islands, simply called North and South Islands contrasting not only in terrain and physical features but also in character and attractions. On a New Zealand vacation, the North offers lush sub-tropical vegetation, exotic flora and fauna, beaches and attractive small friendly towns. Approximately 75% of Maori culture exists on the North Island.

At a Glance
LanguagesEnglish, Maori
CurrencyNew Zealand Dollar (NZD)

Best Cities to Visit

The main gateway to most North Island New Zealand tours is Auckland, which has a multicultural population of more than a million people and is New Zealand's largest city surrounded by expansive parklands and water. Cultured and cosmopolitan, progressive and historic, Polynesian and European, accessible to beaches and forests, adventure sports and leisure activities, Auckland offers something for everyone. Auckland sprawls across 30 ml/48 km over the narrow isthmus that separates its two harbours - the Waitemata to the east and the Manukau to the west. Auckland offers both sheltered and rugged surf beaches, a harbour scattered with islands, large farm-like parks, reserves and bush-clad ranges and a skyline clearly showing the remains of many of the 48 extinct volcanoes on which Auckland was built. Expect great shopping, dining and entertainment and the bustle of an international city. There are more boats per capita in Auckland than in any other city in the world.

New Zealand's capital is a superbly compact city, set dramatically on the shores of a fine, deep harbour enclosed by a natural amphitheatre of wooded hills. The second largest city, Wellington is the political center of New Zealand. Wellington has a vast range of accommodations ranging from top-class hotels to middle-of-the-range, budget and apartment-style accommodations. Vibrant, exciting, and cultured, it combines the stimulation of a sophisticated big city with the friendliness and warmth New Zealanders are famous for.

Wellington is known as the restaurant capital of New Zealand. Many of its great cafes, funky bars and ethnic-inspired restaurants are within walking distance of each other, and its sidewalks are enlivened by street performers. Look for restaurants and bars in the Courtney Place area, namely Blair and Allen Streets, or try the Queen's Wharf. Wellington's nightlife is a tribute to its passion for the arts. It is home to the national orchestra, ballet and opera companies, four professional theatres and the national schools of dance and drama.

The Kapiti Coast is 20 mi/32 km north of Wellington city. A popular spot for Wellingtonians to spend their holidays, the Kapiti Coast has white-water rafting, swimming, boating, hunting, golf, horseback riding, and bush walking, all to be enjoyed on a New Zealand vacation.

The lakeside city of Rotorua is one of North Island's most famous destinations for overseas visitors and an important center of Maori culture, exposure to which is a must on any New Zealand vacation. Rotorua is also the centre of New Zealand's thermal region, with geysers, steaming lakes and streams, mud pools, multi-coloured silica terraces and hot mineral pools known for their curative properties. Rotorua has some of the best trout fishing in New Zealand and 11 major lakes to choose from.

For centuries the Maori have taken advantage of the hot springs for cooking and bathing, and Rotorua is one of the best places to learn about their culture, both traditional and contemporary. At the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in the Whakarewarewa Reserve, you can watch highly skilled Maori carvers and weavers at work. A hangi or feast is the traditional method used by the Maori to prepare their food. Food is cooked underground and heated by the thermally heated earth. Many hotels on New Zealand tours offer Maori concerts and the chance to sample this very distinctive type of food. Many maraes or meeting houses also offer a hangi feast and concert.

Palmerston North serves the surrounding sheep and cattle farming region, commonly referred to as Manawatu. Many large and beautiful private gardens are available for viewing, and garden tours are extremely popular here in New Zealand tours.

The main city of the isolated Eastland region, Gisborne is a pleasant resort town situated on a broad bay. The surf beaches and sunny, warm climate here have long attracted New Zealanders on vacation. The area boasts some of the country's best-preserved carved Maori meeting houses and churches. West of Gisborne, the vast, remote, forested wilderness of the Te Urewera National Park is the largest untouched expanse of native forest on the North Island, beautifully endowed with lakes, rivers and waterfalls. The scenic highlight is the sparkling gem of Lake Waikaremoana, and there are excellent hiking trails and short walks here, including the 30-mile Lake Waikaremoana Track. Bird watching, hunting, fishing, canoeing and boating are all spectacular on a New Zealand vacation.

In an area of coastal farmlands and small rural communities, the city of Wanganui lies at the mouth of the historic Whanganui River. Visitors can travel upriver by jet boat or riverboat into the heart of the Whanganui National Park, or canoe downstream over gentle rapids. You can visit villages along the way, where local Maori welcome visitors on a New Zealand vacation.

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