New Zealand North Island


Between hiking on volcanoes and surfing on some of the most beautiful beaches, here are my recommendations to make the most of your time on Te Ika-a-Māui.

Public transportation in New Zealand isn’t very developed, so the best way to explore remote gems is to have a vehicle. You could rent a camper or a car, but what most travellers on a Working Holiday Visa do, is buy a car and sell it when you leave the country. On the road, you can easily find places to camp for free (Free Camp Sites, find them on WikiCamp app) or for cheap at DOC’s campsites. Camping in the wild is forbidden, and there are enough remote designated areas where you are allowed to camp, so please, respect the nature and the law.


  • Find the most northern point of NZ at Cape Reinga Lighthouse, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, perfect to enjoy sunset.
  • Let’s them move to my very favourite place in New Zealand: Spirits Bay. The beach is covered in pink and orange shells making it shine and there are some free roaming horses up the hill. Getting there isn’t the easiest due to a long gravel road, your car will get a little dusty but it’s worth it!
  • Have fun sliding downhill at Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes.
  • Take a walk down Ninety Mile Beach and encounter with some wild horses if you’re lucky (and calm!)
  • Visit Tane Mahuta, one of the most ancient trees of New Zealand in Waipoua Kauri Forest.
  • Back in 2017 I had the chance to visit Mermaid Pools behind Matapouri Beach. It was a fantastic place to explore, but I just came to learn that they had to close it definitely in 2019 due to tourists littering and disrespecting this sacred Māori site, which is heart breaking. Please always respect nature and local communities while travelling, bring litters back with you until you find a rubbish bin.
  • Explore a Glowworm Cave, turn your headlamp off, look up and see the magic. I went to Waipu Caves which is a free cave, but we almost got lost so if you’re a little claustrophobic like me, I would recommend a guided tour at Waitomo Caves (further south).
  • Hike up Tokatoka Peak for a great lookout over Whakaki River.
  • Go surfing at Mangawhai Beach or Te Arai Point Beach.


  • Visit Coromandel Town.
  • Take a walk to Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove), the well-known movie set in Narnia 2.
  • Dig a hole in Hot Water Beach, hot water will magically come out of the sand.
  • Kayak to Whenuakura Island (aka Donut Island) to explore a turquoise tiny open-air lagoon.
  • Enjoy a swim in the cold waters of Owharoa Falls.

Bay of plenty

  • Explore Rotorua and Wai-o-Tapu to see some impressive geothermal pools (be aware, the sulphur smell is strong)
  • Visit some extra clear blue water at Hamurana Springs or Putaruru Blue Spring (no swimming allowed)
  • Hike to the Blue and Green Lake lookout.


  • Head to Raglan for some surf town vibe, and if it is not done yet, it’s your chance to learn how to surf
  • Visit Taupo and its lake which used to be a volcano crater.
  • Hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We started off early from Mangatepopo car park to make sure to have plenty of time, walked to the Red Crater and Emerald Lakes before turning around. You can decide to go down to the other side of the mount but know that you will have to catch a bus from Ketetahi Road back to your car. Apparently, the way down the other side is nothing special, that’s why we took the same way back. We walked 18km and it took 6 hours. On the way, enjoy the view Mt Ngauruhoe, and if you have time and fitness, it is also possible to hike up (3 hours up, 30 minutes down, on your ass).
  • Drive along the Desert Road to make south and enjoy the view over Mt. Ruhapehu.

Me being me, I spend as little time as possible in cities, but of course don’t forget to explore Auckland and Wellington. And if you get the time, make a detour to New Plymouth to see Mount Taranaki.

Once you’re done exploring the North Island of Aotearoa, catch your ferry from Wellington to Picton. See here for a guide through the South Island aka Te Waipounamu.

If you wish to explore Aotearoa by hiking close to nature and wildlife, I recommend Hiking New Zealand with whom I had the chance to work with during my tourism studies.

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Adventure by Emily – 2022 ©