Best of the North Island: Sights

Cathedral Cove. Image: Matt Crawford

Mine Bay rock carving. Image: Miles Holden

Lady Knox Geyser, Wai-O-Tapu

Tongariro National Park. Image: Destination Lake Taupō


Best of the North Island: Sights

Get a load of this subtropical treasure trove of lush native bush, pristine beaches, volcanic monoliths and geothermal wonders that is Te Ika-a-Māui, the North Island.

Cathedral Cove

Film scouts saw the potential in this massive white stone arch, and so should you. Famously used as a location in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Cathedral Cove on The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the North Island’s iconic sights. No cars allowed – make the 2.5 kilometre walk in, or appreciate the beauty of the whole Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve on a kayak tour.

Waitomo Caves

Deep underground, you’ll find brightly-lit constellations of glow-worms. Explore these otherwordly caves on foot with a local tour company, or get wet on an underground tubing adventure with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.

Lake Taupō

The biggest lake in Australasia and a stunning scenic spot with myriad attractions, Lake Taupō is a destination for on-water sightseeing, and a hub for off-water adventures. The lake shore is ripe with bush-clad mountains, crystal clear water and rushing waterfalls. Be sure to join a kayak tour or board a cruise to see the awe-inspiring 10-metre Māori rock carving at Mine Bay before you leave.


Feeling hot, hot, hot! Sitting in the heart of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Rotorua is a literal hot spot of geothermal activity. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a colourful landscape sculpted by geothermal activity, boasting bubbling mud pools, geysers, steaming ground, and the famous orange-rimmed Champagne Pool.

Tāne Mahuta

Feel very small but somehow peaceful as you stand in the shadow of Tāne Mahuta, a giant kauri tree known as the God of the Forest. This magnificent tree is estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old, is about 13 metres around and over 51m tall – the largest living kauri in the country. Tāne Mahuta is steeped in Māori mythology, and all living creatures in Waipoua Forest are regarded as Tāne’s children.

Tongariro National Park

With towering volcanoes, bright turquoise lakes and vast fields of golden tussocks, Tongariro National Park is a natural wonder of natural wonders. A dual World Heritage Site for its cultural and spiritual significance to Māori as well as its incredible scenery, this breathtaking national park is home to three volcanoes: Mount Ruapehu (with some of the best skiing in the North Island), Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngāuruhoe, also known as Mount Doom. See the famous Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which many consider to be Aotearoa’s best one-day walk.

Whakarewarewa Forest

Get on a mountain bike or explore this magnificent stand of California redwoods on foot. The mountain bike trails weave through native bush under the canopy of towering redwoods, and meander upwards to a gorgeous outlook over Rotorua’s lakes and Mount Tawawera.

Hole in the Rock

With a whole Bay of Islands to explore in Northland, it’s hard to pick a top sight among the blue waters, rainforested isles and natural formations, but the Hole in the Rock is right up there. Get up close to this naturally-formed rock archway and even travel through it on a cruise or jet boat ride from Paihia or Russell, and spot marine wildlife along the way.


Just an hour’s drive from Auckland central in the heart of the Waitakere Ranges, Piha is one of the west coast’s famous black sand beaches and a perfect spot for a cruisy day out. Some of the best views can be had from a lookout point along the road in from Auckland, and the imposing Lion Rock offers a good climb with panoramic views down the beach.

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