Packing in cosmopolitan cities, authentic opportunities to experience NZ’s indigenous Maori culture, and the country’s bubbling and boiling volcanic heart, the North Island is an exceedingly versatile destination. Volcanic Thrills Welcome to one of the planet’s youngest countries, at least in geological terms.
Paris may be the city of love, but Auckland is the city of many lovers, according to its Maori name, Tamaki Makaurau. Those lovers so desired this place that they fought over it for centuries. It’s hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city. Its two harbours frame a narrow isthmus punctuated by volcanic cones and surrounded by fertile farmland.
Auckland is a city of volcanoes, with the ridges of lava flows forming its main thoroughfares and its many cones providing islands of green within the sea of suburbs. As well as being by far the largest, it’s also the most multicultural of New Zealand’s cities. A sizable Asian community rubs shoulders with the biggest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
Queenstown & Wanaka
With a cinematic background of mountains and lakes, and a ‘what can we think of next?’ array of adventure activities, it’s little wonder Queenstown tops the itineraries of many travellers. Slow down slightly in Wanaka – Queenstown’s less flashy cousin – which also has good restaurants, bars and outdoor adventures on tap.
Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty
Captain Cook christened the Bay of Plenty when he cruised past in 1769, and plentiful it remains. Blessed with sunshine and sand, the bay stretches from Waihi Beach in the west to Opotiki in the east, with the holiday hubs of Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and Whakatane in between. Offshore from Whakatane is New Zealand’s most active volcano, Whakaari (White Island).
Marlborough & Nelson
For many travellers, Marlborough and Nelson will be their introduction to what South Islanders refer to as the ‘Mainland’. Having left windy Wellington, and made a white-knuckled crossing of Cook Strait, folk are often surprised to find the sun shining and the temperature up to 10 degrees warmer.
Bay of Islands & Northland
For many New Zealanders, the phrase ‘up north’ conjures up sepia-toned images of family fun in the sun, pohutukawa in bloom and dolphins frolicking in pretty bays. From school playgrounds to work cafeterias, owning a bach (holiday house) ‘up north’ is a passport to popularity. Beaches are the main drawcard and they’re here in profusion.
Surrounded by the soaring indigo heights of the Remarkables, crowned by Coronet Peak, and framed by the meandering coves of Lake Wakatipu, it’s little wonder that Queenstown is a show-off. The town wears its ‘Global Adventure Capital’ badge proudly, and most visitors take the time to do crazy things they’ve never done before.
Welcome to a vibrant city in transition, coping creatively with the aftermath of NZ’s second-worst natural disaster. Traditionally the most English of NZ cities, Christchurch's heritage heart was all but hollowed out following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that left 186 people dead.