3 North Island Destinations
By Marina Darling
If you’re planning your next getaway and are keen to see some seriously fantastic nature, New Zealand should be at the top of your list. New Zealand is a little country in Oceania, and sits in the Pacific Ocean. It has two main islands, the North and the South. New Zealand has moderate, mild temperatures, and is full of lush greenery, impressive mountains, and beautiful beaches. It may be far away from everything else in the world, but that’s probably part of the reason why it’s such a stunning example of natural diversity and beauty.
I’ve been traveling in New Zealand since September on a Working Holiday Visa, and have been thrilled with my experiences. I’ve had plenty of time to explore, and I’ve seen some amazing things in the both islands. At this point, I could write forever about things to do in New Zealand, but today I’ll be sharing 3 of my favourite destinations in the North Island.
Often, vacations are on a limited timeline, and it is possible that you may not have heaps of time to explore, so with that in mind, I’ll discuss 3 destinations that are feasible to see and enjoy in a couple of weeks. Although it does take time to get around, since the roads are narrow and winding, it’s worth it to rent a car or van and trek around. From experience, I can say that renting a car will give you much more freedom to see what you want and to take plenty of photos at your leisure, but bus tours can be handy as well. Kiwis do drive on the left side of the road, so if you’re renting a car, be prepared for that!
Anawhata Beach (Auckland Area)
Chances are high that you’ll arrive in Auckland a bit jet lagged from wherever you’re traveling from. Taking that into consideration will make your first couple of days a lot easier. I recommend that you give yourself a day or two with some flexible and laid-back plans. Staying in Auckland or the surrounding area is a great idea as the city is easy to navigate and has plenty of cafes, restaurants, and scenic surroundings.
If you’re keen to get out of the city, there are plenty of beaches on either coastline. Within an hour or so of driving, you can find an amazing beach to relax at. The coasts do differ in landscape and I suggest that you explore both if you have the time. The west coast is more rugged and has a lot of volcanic rock formations and sparkly black sand. The east coast has white, sandy beaches, and is a bit calmer for swimming as well.
I recently visited Muriwai, Piha, and Anawhata, which are all beaches on the west coast. They were all stunning and well worth the trip, and could be done all if the same day if you were feeling ambitious. My favourite of the three was Anawhata, which is a bit more off the beaten track than the other two. Anawhata is reachable after driving up a secluded gravel road and then walking down to the beach for about 30 minutes. The trek is worth it, and the beach tends to not be busy in comparison to Muriwai and Piha. It’s a great place to take in the sights and get a bit of exercise.
Cape Reinga and The 90 Mile Beach
I visited Cape Reinga back in October, shortly after I had arrived in New Zealand. I’d ventured up with some people I met while staying at a farm up north, and it is still one of my favourite New Zealand adventure memories. Cape Reinga is in the far north of New Zealand, and is one of the most northern points of the entire country. From Cape Reinga, you can see the spot where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. Not only is it an amazing view, but it is also a very important historical landmark and component of Maori history and legend.
After the visit to Cape Reinga, it’s worth a detour to the 90 Mile beach on your way back from the cape. The 90 Mile Beach is exactly what the name suggests: a beach that runs down the west coast of the northern part of the island. It is legally a highway, and it’s quite a thrill to drive down the beach. Naturally, the group of people I was with took the beach as part of our drive back. There are spectacular sand dunes that run along the length of the beach as well.
The Coromandel: Cathedral Cove + Hot Water Beach
Last but not least, I highly recommend that you make your way to the Coromandel while visiting the North Island of New Zealand. I’ve been living in an area called Hot Water Beach for almost three months, and am constantly blown away by the natural beauty, lush greenery and stunning beaches that the Coromandel possesses.
The Coromandel is a peninsula on the eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island, and it’s well known for its surf beaches and scenic views. There is certainly a lot of see in the Coromandel, but I suggest making Hahei and Hot Water Beach a priority. One of the top destinations in New Zealand is Cathedral Cove, which can only be accessed by foot or boat from Hahei. The walk isn’t too long and takes about an hour (return-trip). After the walk, take some time to hang out at Hahei Beach, or grab some refreshments from the eateries.
Hahei is incredibly close to Hot Water Beach, which is also a top destination in New Zealand. At low tide, there are hot springs that can be accessed by digging a hole in the sand. People flock to Hot Water Beach to experience a DIY spa experience.
Of course, there’s much more to the Coromandel than Hahei and Hot Water Beach, but if you’re short on time, sometimes you have to pick and choose what you do!
And there you have it: 3 of my favourite destinations in the North Island of New Zealand. There is certainly much more to explore, but that’s a good start!
Marina is a freelance writer and adventure enthusiast from Kingston, Ontario. After graduating from Queen's University in June of 2016 (BA Hons., Philosophy) Marina decided that travel was calling her name. She set off to New Zealand in September and has been traveling and living all over the country since then. Following her time in New Zealand, Marina plans to continue exploring the world while pursuing her passions in photography and writing. She loves meeting new people wherever she goes and is eager to share her adventures via her blog, The Darling Adventure (marinajdarling.com).