31 best things to do in the central North Island
Dominated by the enormous Lake Taupō and a trio of volcanoes including Mount Ruapehu, the Central Plateau is sporting a plethora of natural ...
Get your thrills high in the sky or deep underground, race at high speeds over water or on two wheels. Te Ika-a-Māui, the North Island, has adventure around every corner.
The North Island’s adventure capital, with spades of activities to get your heart pounding. Skyline Rotorua is the home of the Rotorua luge, which sends you careening down a hill on a contraption that’s part go-kart, part toboggan. Zipline tours are another popular activity in Rotorua, while the ZORB – a giant, inflatable ball that you climb into and roll down a slope like a human marble – is one of this town’s most iconic activities.
When white-water rafting just isn’t cutting it, take it underground. Head into the dark subterranean world and bounce along underground rapids in a rubber tube, lit from above by the famous Waitomo glow-worms. With the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co., you can combine black-water rafting with abseiling, ziplining and waterfall climbs for the ultimate caving adventure.
It’s a boat, with a jet engine. Blast up and down rivers, bumping, splashing and spinning along the way while you get a unique look at the local scenery. One of the best jet boat experiences in the North Island is the Huka Falls Jet in Taupō, the only operator to take you right to the base of the mighty Huka Falls. You’ll zoom past the incredible cliffs and bush and experience the exhilaration of the Huka Jet’s trademark 360 spin. There’s also great jet boating in the Bay of Islands and Rotorua.
Skydiving is one of New Zealand’s most iconic adrenaline activities. At Taupo Tandem Skydiving, you’ll get stunning views from coast to coast on your flight up to your chosen height, then float blissfully into the blue after an exhilarating freefall of up to 75 seconds. Other awesome skydiving spots include Tauranga, the Bay of Islands and Masterton.
Jumping off a high place attached to a bit of string is a definite must-do for adrenaline junkies in New Zealand. In Auckland you can either jump off the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, or scare pedestrians below with an inner-city SkyJump off the SkyTower. Taupō offers New Zealand’s only cliff-top bungy, and Rotorua Bungy will have you leaping off a purpose-built tower.
The rivers, gorges and waterfalls of the North Island offer rapids up to grade five for some of the most exciting thrills and spills around. Operators around Rotorua, Taupō, Tongariro and Tauranga will provide you with the dinghy, the lifejackets and the tour guides just crazy enough to guarantee you a shrieking good time. Some of the best white-water action can be found with Kaituna Cascades in Rotorua, where you’ll experience grade five rapids and the world’s highest commercially raftable waterfall.
Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest has an international reputation for its awesome network of mountain biking trails, leading you through redwood forest, over creeks, around ponds, and up some steep inclines for wicked views. You’ll also find great trails in Taupō and around Tongariro National Park, such as the Great Lake Trail and the 42 Traverse.
Mount Ruapehu boasts some of the best slopes in the North Island, including New Zealand’s largest ski field, Whakapapa. You’ll find Tukino on the mountain’s eastern slopes, a smaller club field offering great off-piste action away from the crowds, while Whakapapa and its sister field Tūroa have all the amenities including ski schools, gear hire and cafés, with plenty of black runs to keep the experts happy.