Get me excited about New Zealand's North Island
November 13, 2018 4:17 AM   Subscribe

I will be going to New Zealand in January and will be visiting Auckland, Whangarei, Bay of Islands and the area around Rotorua. Recommend me things to see/do?

So, I'll have a few days each in Auckland, Whangarei, Bay of Islands and the area around Rotorua.

What things are there to see and do in these places? I particularly like walks, hiking, picturesque beaches and countryside - I know that NZ has all of these things in abundance but I'm having a hard time narrowing them down.

Food and museums recommendations also welcome, as will anything else I'm not thinking of.

Not particularly interested in adventure sports.

Transport and accommodation is already organized, and I will have access to a car.
posted by iamsuper to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When I went a couple years ago I loved the guidebook NZ Frenzy. Basically it's all outdoorsy stuff, and has a good amount of information to make decisions. It's not full of photos, but for me that was fine - I took his word for what was pretty and saw it myself.
posted by aubilenon at 5:21 AM on November 13, 2018

Absolutely do the Tongariro Crossing, considered one of the best day hikes in the world. I have done it. It is the best day hike in the world.
posted by TwoStride at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am not particularly interested in adventure sports, but blackwater rafting in Waitomo (near Rotorua) was incredible. It was fairly cool tubing on an underground river, but there's a part at the end where they have everybody in the party hook up and turn off their headlamps, and you drift in silence under the cavern roof, with just the river and the glow worms above. If you take a regular motorized boat tour, you'll hear the motor and you'll hear other people and you'll hear other tour groups. But tubing was silent and wondrous.

Also, seconding Tongariro Crossing. There is this one part over gravel scree, and when your feet get buried in the gravel, you realize the ground is warm from all the thermal activity, because the gusts of sulfur-wind and the bluer-than-the-sky lakes on either side aren't enough.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:31 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

One of my favourite memories from my NZ trip two years ago is the Hot Water Beach. So much fun to dig your own hot tub and feel the cold and hot water mix.
posted by Kurichina at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Visit the Hobbiton Movie Set. It’s so cool. When we were there, they offered a sunset tour that included a tour around sunset, a hobbit feast, and then a tour after dark when everything was lit by lantern. You will need to be staying nearby to do this easily, though.
posted by Maeve at 8:01 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, Waitomo. We didn't do blackwater rafting as my mom can't swim and was nervous, but we did a guided tour through the caves and it was incredible. Especially the part where the guide had everyone turn off their headlamps and we walked through one section guided only by the light of the glowworms.

Matamata (aka Hobbiton) is well worth the trip. (on preview, jinx)

Hamilton Gardens was impressive and HUGE. And free!

In Auckland: walk up the top of Maungawhau (Mt Eden) around sunset and watch the lights come on over Auckland. Sublime. (But pay attention to the time and don't get locked in like we did!)
posted by basalganglia at 8:07 AM on November 13, 2018

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is extraordinarily good. I could spend half a day in their Pacific collection alone. The museum has a lovely view from atop a hill and the Auckland Domain park it's in is very pleasant. Just to the east is the Parnell neighborhood, a nice spot for poking around shops or having a meal in a nicer restaurant.

Auckland's kind of a boring city, FWIW. If you get tired of it, you can easily spend a full day out on Waiheke enjoying farm country, wine, cheeses, etc. There's a variety of ferry and tour options.

Near Rotorua is Whakarewarewa, a Māori cultural center set in the middle of some amazing geothermal landscape. The Māori cultural stuff is great there and it's a good way to get some education in stories, crafts, singing, etc in a way that feels appropriate and not creepy.

In Rotorua there are several tourist outfits offering Hāngī feasts with live entertainment. I didn't do it when I was there because it felt a bit creepy and cheesy, but I'm told I made a mistake there. I regret not having done it now.
posted by Nelson at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the coast to coast hike of Auckland

as noted above, Hobbiton and hot water beach are also worth it.
posted by devonia at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2018

nthing Waitomo. The Glowworm Caves might not seem super adventurous but are stunningly beautiful but pretty much everything you can do there is fun.
posted by wwax at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2018

I was going to suggest the War Memorial museum that Nelson referred to, which when I went about 25 years ago used to have regular performances by a Māori cultural group, so there were stories and legends recited accompanied by the most beautiful and resonant singing and hakas. Obviously no idea if that still occurs but it's a great place to visit.

If you like walking up extinct volcanos (i.e. most of NZ), another place to visit is Maungakiekie or One Tree Hill Domain; I missed the fact that there is a road / access to to the summit the first time I scaled it and found myself walking what felt like vertically up the side of the cone. Don't do that - it's a silly thing to do. The park is lovely and the views are great.

I also took a ride round Auckland Harbour on a ferry that would stop in various places - again, don't know if it still stops there but I visited Kelly Tarltons Underwater World as it was then. The ferry also goes to Rangitoto, which I wished afterwards I had visited as well.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2018

Two interesting museums which I enjoyed near Whangarei: the Clock Museum, and the Packard Motor Museum.

In Auckland, try Revel, a great coffee/pastry shop.
posted by vert canard at 1:13 PM on November 13, 2018

For Auckland, I'd recommend getting a ferry to Rangitoto or Tiritiri Matangi and having a walk around those islands. There are some issues with Kauri dieback at the moment which means some walking areas on the mainland are currently closed, though this is mostly concentrated in the Waitākere Ranges and Hunua Ranges. Waiheke Island is fine, but wouldn't recommend it unless you wanted to do a wine tour or something like that.

Coromandel is close-ish to Auckland and has Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

Have a poke around this website for ideas on walks and hikes around the North Island. It'll have info on all of the things suggested so far.
posted by BeeJiddy at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2018

Auckland is a great eating spot, with a great mix of European and various Asian-influenced fusion cuisines.

In the city centre, try Peter Gordon's The Sugar Club with views of the harbour from the Skytower. Cassia is also consistently awarded one of the best restaurants by NZ's own Cuisine magazine year in year out.

For cheaper eats, Ramen Do, Bian Sushi, and 23 (cafe) in Eden Terrace, or head to Dominion Road for a whole street of Asian eateries. Cheap Eats is a great local website to hit up. Ponsonby is great for more European food, and if you want to eat fish and chips on the beach, head to Mission Bay.

I recently moved away from Auckland to the UK and I am missing the food incredibly. Eat lots for me.
posted by radiantsquirrel at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2018

Absolutely do the Tongariro Crossing, considered one of the best day hikes in the world. I have done it. It is the best day hike in the world.

Coming in to second this. I went yesterday and it was indeed spectacular. More people than I expected, but by and large well-behaved other than a group of Australians who flung a boulder into one of the volcanic pools and laughed like hyenas. Incredible variety: snow capped mountains, desolate landscapes, volcanic vents billowing steam underfoot, bright coloured lakes, fern-filled forests, Alpine hillsides. There are a few quite steep bits, including one where you basically slide down a scree-covered hillside and I slightly wished I had a hiking pole, but was fine without.
posted by tavegyl at 1:16 PM on December 17, 2018

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