29 Nov Top of the North – highlights of NZ’s North Island
A client asked us the other day: what are the top highlights of New Zealand’s North Island? That’s not an easy question to answer – this tiny country packs in plenty at every turn! But if we were pushed to pick our North Island must-do’s, these experiences would be at the top of our list…
Views, Vines & Wines
Imagine an island in a sparkling gulf. Her shores are pristine beaches and secluded coves, with crystal-clear waters and soft white sand. Her landscape is home to scores and scores of vineyards, growing internationally award-winning wines. Dotted amongst the vines and the sparkling coast are phenomenal eateries – winery restaurants and premium cafes. Sound like paradise on earth? Welcome to Waiheke!
World-class wining and dining and phenomenal beaches – Waiheke offers both, in spades.
A trip over to The Island of Wine takes just over half an hour from Auckland city, and the ferry journey from the Viaduct Harbour and out into the Hauraki Gulf is a highlight in itself.
Once on Waiheke, you can self-drive, or let us arrange for you a premium chauffeured tour of the best boutique vineyards. Savour some truly outstanding wines as you soak in breathtaking ocean vistas, and enjoy a long, leisurely lunch at one of the cellar door restaurants (make sure you try the local olive oil – perhaps even visit a grove – the extra virgin is as good as you’d find in Greece or Italy.) Or choose a bottle or two and a gourmet hamper arranged by our team, and head to one of the scores of pristine white-sand beaches and secluded coves for a picnic in paradise. Bring your swimwear and sunscreen!
Dive the Deep
First, a quick bit of history. The Rainbow Warrior was Greenpeace New Zealand’s flagship vessel. In 1985, on its way to protest France’s nuclear testing on the Mururoa Atoll, it was bombed by the French Secret Service. She now lies 26 metres deep in the stunning Cavallii Islands, and has become an artificial reef. She is absolutely teeming with life, from the rainbow coloured anemones to the schools of a huge variety of fish. This is your chance to dive one of the most world-renowned wreck dives that exists.
Atop an Ancient Volcano
New Zealand sits right on the collision zone of two of earth’s major tectonic plates. The forces that created the dramatic, beautiful landscapes you’ll witness here have also created a multitude of volcanoes and volcanic features. Imagine standing on the crater rim of an active volcano – talk about a Bucket List experience!
One such place you can do that is at White Island, a steaming, hissing, live volcano in the middle of the ocean. Journey to the island by helicopter or boat (you’re likely to see dolphins and seals on the way), don your gas mask and protective clothing, and be guided around the almost lunar landscape, witnessing hissing steam vents and bubbling mud pools.
Another way to experience New Zealand’s geothermal beauty is to do the Tongariro Crossing – a World Heritage Site that is regarded as one of the world’s best one day walks – traversing across stark and spectacular terrain, around active volcanoes and their phosphorescent crater lakes.
With so much easily-accessible, stunning coastline, it’s probably no surprise that surfing is a big part of the kiwi culture. If you’ve never tried surfing before, now’s your chance! Two of our favourite places to experience wave riding would be Raglan and Gisborne.
Raglan is perhaps New Zealand’s surfing capital. Not that it’s a busting city – it’s actually a very small rural town. Located on the West Coast of the North Island, Raglan is famous for its black sand beaches and consistently good swells. There are scores of surf schools here, with top quality instructors who will get you hanging ten before the day is done.
The next surfing spot we’d recommend is on the opposite coast. It’s not only the many white sand surf beaches people flock here for, it’s also Gisborne’s position as the first place in the world to see the sunrise. There’s something very special about being one of the first few people in the world to see the dawn of a new day. After sunrise, head to one of Gizzy’s cafes for a hearty breakfast to fuel you up for a day in the water learning to surf. Awesome!
If all that sounds like too much cardio, maybe relaxing in a jacuzzi is more your style? Well how about a jacuzzi made by mother nature?
At Hot Water Beach (in the Coromandel region of the North Island), you can create your own natural spa – as geothermally-heated water bubbles up through the golden sand. Shovels are readily available for hire at several nearby places. Visit two hours either side of low tide, dig yourself a deep, hot pool and relax…
Become Lord of the Rings
You probably already know that the Lord of the Rings blockbuster trilogy was filmed primarily here in New Zealand. Director Peter Jackson made use of our dramatic landscapes to create the worlds of Mordor, Rivendell and others.
Admist the green rolling hills and lush pastures of rural Matamata (on a private farm, miles from anything else) you’ll find the Hobbiton Village movie set.
There are 44 Hobbit Holes to explore (plus Hobbit gardens, Hobbit bridges and more) all in the same fantastic detail you see in the movies. At the end of your tour, enjoy a complimentary beverage at the Green Dragon™ Inn. A magical day out for movie fans!
Kiwi Camping (or Glamping)
Camping is a big part of the New Zealand way of life. Days spent lazing on a uncrowded beach, balmy evenings enjoyed under the stars – perhaps that’s why kiwis are so relaxed and down to earth! We highly recommend a night or two of camping whilst you’re here, and one of our personal favourite spots is Urupukapuka Island, in the Bay of Islands. Urupukapuka has all the necessary ingredients of a classic Kiwi camping trip – private, secluded campsite, stunning beach, and great fishing. You’ll spend your days in beach bliss, like this: laze in the sun with a good book, rinse, repeat….
Ready for the trip of a lifetime, experiencing all these things and more? We are Singapore’s premium New Zealand travel specialists and can arrange every last detail of an amazing New Zealand holiday for you and your family… get in touch with our team and let’s start planning!