New Zealand's North Island is the smaller of the two main islands; however, it holds approximately 76 percent of New Zealand's population. The North Island is also the warmer of the two, with a temperate to subtropical climate. It boasts warm sandy beaches, rolling farmlands, forests and dormant volcanoes. Two of the country's largest cities are located on the North Island: Auckland, and the capitol city of Wellington.
Auckland, often referred to as the City of Sails, is the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of approximately 1.4 million. Auckland lies between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbors, bordering the rain forest and several dormant volcanoes. Auckland has something to offer everyone, including an array of outdoor activities, art and culture venues, shopping, dining and night life.
Some of the most popular attractions in Auckland include: The Sky Tower is a 1,076-foot-tall observation and communications tower located in the heart of Auckland. This iconic tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the southern hemisphere! Visitors can walk the circumference of the tower's ledge or dine in the 360-degree revolving restaurant. Thrill-seekers enjoy Sky Jumping (similar to bungy jumping) and Sky Walking. Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World is a world of snow, ice and amazing underwater sights. Here you can watch penguins, white sharks, giant eels, stingrays swim in ocean-like waters. Open 365 days per year. The Auckland Museum is one of New Zealand's most important national museums and war memorials. The museum is housed in one of the country's most outstanding historical buildings, and exhibits the artistic history and culture of New Zealand and its people. Open year round, except Christmas day. The Auckland Bridge Climb is a 1.5-hour guided climb offering some of the best views of Auckland and the beautiful Waitemata Harbor. Open year-round, except major holidays. Bush and Beach Tours, some of Auckland's most popular interactive guided tours, offer half- or full-day tours to the Coastal Rainforest, the black sand beaches of the wild west coast, the Great Barrier Island, and Coromandel Peninsula. Tours run every day except Christmas Day.
Wellington is located on the southern tip of the North Island and is the second most populated city in the country. Set on the edge of a stunning harbor and surrounded by rolling hills, this charming city is not only the country's political capital, but it is also New Zealand's culture and art capital.
Some things not to be missed in Wellington are: Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand's national museum and is a must-see for anyone visiting Wellington. One of the largest national museums in the world, this venue battles world-class displays with interactive technology to tell the story of New Zealand, its history, people, art and natural environment. Open 365 days per year; admission is free. Museum of Wellington City & Sea's mission is to reserve, promote and present Wellington's heritage – harbor, city and sea. The museum uses special interactive exhibits along with traditional museum techniques to take visitors on a journey through Wellington's past, present and future. Open every day, except Christmas day; admission is free. Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is located just minutes from downtown Wellington. The sanctuary's purpose is to restore a corner of mainland New Zealand to the way it was before humans arrived. Little Spotted Kiwis, North Island Wekas, North Island Kakas, Tuataras and Maud Island Frogs are just a few miles away. Open every day, except for Christmas day. Tours offered daily. Wellington Zoo is New Zealand's oldest zoo, and specializes in native animals and endangered species. Home to more than 100 species, some of the major exhibits include the African Savannah, Red Panda and the Malayan Sun bear. Open every day except Christmas day. Harbor Cruises can be a very interesting and fun ways to see see in Wellington. There are several different companies offering daily cruises, including sunset and dinner cruises. Parliament Buildings, home to the New Zealand Parliament, are at least worth a photo stop. The visitor's center and guided tours operate year-round, except for major holidays. Mount Victoria is located just to the east of Wellington, and its summit is approximately 700 feet above sea level. On a clear day, visitors can take in fantastic panoramic views of Wellington and the surrounding hills.
Rotorua, not surprisingly, is located on the south shores of Lake Rotorua and is the heart of New Zealand's Maori culture. This city is best known for its geothermal activity, including many geysers and hot mud pools located through. Additionally, there are 16 lakes (15 of which are swimmable) and some of the best mountain bike trails in the world.
Some of the top attractions in Rotorua include: Wai-O-tapu Thermal Wonderland is a geothermal site located just 20 minutes from Rotorua, where visitors can view mud pools, steaming volcanic lakes, geysers, steaming grounds and huge volcanic craters. Open daily. For an authentic Maori experience, visit Mitai Maori Village, which offers cultural performances, a Hangi meal, a guided bushwalk, and a glow worm tour. If you book the tour at the actual Maori village, they will provide transportation from your hotel. Tours are available year-round, except for major holidays. Skyline Skyrides is an attraction of its own category. Set on the side of Mt. Ngongotaha with unbeatable views of Rotorua and Lake Rotorua, Skyline Skyrides can be a fun adventure for the entire family! Guests take a gondola cableway up the mountain, and then luge down the slope. There is also a restaurant and cafe at the top.
The Bay of Islands consists of 144 islands with myriad secluded beaches and quiet alcoves for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boating and diving. This gorgeous area is not to be missed whether on foot or from a scenic flight above.
Taupo is located on the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. Surrounded by a dramatic volcanic landscape, the main attractions in this area include skiing, fishing, Huka Falls, boiling mud pools, hot mineral baths, and lots of shopping and dining options.
Source by Trisha Garbrick