North Island, New Zealand
North Island, New Zealand
The land of the long white cloud is a land of incredible natural contrast, rich culture and local charm. For a small country, New Zealand has plenty of wow factor. Wherever you go, nature is at play from the geothermal wonderland of the North to the grand alpine scenery of the South.
On an AAT Kings holiday you’ll do more than just see the sights; our friendly and engaging guides will share their knowledge and stories with you, bringing New Zealand and your holiday to life. All you need to do is choose where you’d like to go.
Find out more about North Island’s top destinations below.
In traditional Maori times, Auckland was a region that many tribes fought to claim as their own. It was given the name Tamaki Makau Rau, meaning ‘the maiden with one hundred suitors’. In modern times, the name still fits the city which is home to a variety of cultures including Polynesian, European, South Pacific and Asian. It is the hub of the North Island of New Zealand and is consistently ranked in the top five of the world’s most liveable cities.
Auckland lies on the peninsula between Waitemata and Manukau Harbours. Radiating a relaxed, waterside vibe, the city has just the right mix of coastal and urban environments. The surrounding hills are lush with rainforest plantation and several inactive volcanoes.
During your stay you’ll have time to explore Auckland your way. Check out the city from the lofty height of Sky Tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere or wander the inner-city streets to find local shopping and eating haunts. Queen Street is where you’ll unearth great boutiques and cafés and New Zealand’s oldest department store, Smith & Caughey’s. Behind the department store you’ll find Elliot Stables, a gourmet food village of shops, delicatessens and cafés. Taste the flavours of Auckland’s cultural diversity at the many restaurants at Viaduct Harbour. There are also several bars where you can enjoy the harbour views over a glass of one of New Zealand’s many great wines. Auckland from the water is a sight not to be missed so take a ferry across Waitemata Harbour and enjoy the scenic ride. Moving from sea level to the mountains, the 360 degree city views from Mt. Eden are simply amazing.
Like the many suitors before you, you are going to love Auckland.
Rotorua is the centre of Maori culture in New Zealand. Here you’ll be welcomed by the local Arawa people, who are passionate about sharing their culture and traditions with the regions many visitors. People have been drawn to Rotorua’s geothermal valley since the 1800s when volcanic activity made the region a tourist hot spot. Today people seek rejuvenation and relaxation from the therapeutic thermal springs and sulphur scented air. The Tudor-style architecture scattered around the town and the surrounding green country side are also Rotorua drawcards.
When you visit Rotorua you’ll be accompanied by a local Maori Guide for a tour of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and you can then enjoy an afternoon of ‘free time’. Experience the strength of Maori culture at The Realm of Tāne, a Maori Hangi feast and concert. Feel the rhythm of the music and native dance and learn about this proud and fascinating culture.
After your overnight stay in Rotorua, wake up to a sparkling wine breakfast cruise on beautiful Lake Rotorua and take in the surrounding scenery. Then enjoy a taste of life on a New Zealand sheep farm at the Agrodome Sheep Show. Outside of Rotorua you’ll visit the spectacular Glow Worm Grotto at the Waitomo Caves. See the magnificent glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, shining luminous light as you explore the depths of the limestone caves. The Glow Worms are in fact gnat larvae that glow due to a chemical reaction. When they are hungry the glow worms glow brighter and the ceiling of the grotto appears to an insect like the stars in the night sky. The glow worms hang silk threads from the top of the grotto to then lure and catch their prey. This particular species of Glow Worm is unique to New Zealand and Australia and is a definite must-see on your New Zealand adventure.
The Bay of Islands has captivated explorers, adventurers and modern day travellers alike for hundreds of years. Once considered the ‘edge of the world’ Captain James Cook gave the bay its modern name, Bay of Islands, in 1769 when he was exploring the region. With white sandy beaches, sky blue waters and abundant marine life, the Bay of Islands is a paradise where you’ll feel like you’re sitting on the edge of the world.
Cruise through the Bay of Islands to Cape Brett and see the ‘Hole in the Rock’, a unique island rock formation and then spend time exploring the sights of Urupukapuka Island. In your ‘free time’ the Bay of Islands is yours to discover. You can take part in a range of Island activities including dolphin watching, beach driving, sailing, sea-kayaking or you can take things a little slower and simply enjoy the sea and the sunshine.
You’ll also visit Waitangi Treaty Reserve, a historic piece of land where in 1840 the British Empire and Maori tribes signed a treaty to establish Britain’s governance of New Zealand in exchange for the protection of Maori tribes. This land was gifted back to the Maori people by Lord Bledisloe in 1932. Today the land is of deep cultural importance to New Zealanders, signifying the union of Maori and European cultures and the welcoming of visitors from other lands to New Zealand.
Coromandel Peninsula is just a short drive north west of Auckland on the coastline of New Zealand’s North Island. You can venture into this unique area of New Zealand on an AAT Kings Small Group tour. You’ll meet ‘Kiwi Dundee’, an expert on the flora and fauna of Coromandel, who will share his local knowledge of the region with you during a lively walking tour. Kiwi Dundee adds character and charm to this authentic New Zealand experience. At the end of the day you’ll feel spoilt in your unique Coromandel accommodation of luxury tree huts nestled in native bush land. Just relax and enjoy!
Travelling through the Coromandel Ranges on your return to Auckland you’ll visit the historic gold-mining town of Thames. Take a look around Coromandel’s main town and discover its endearing character and interesting history of gold mining and forestry.
Lake Taupo is a spectacular freshwater lake covering 616 square kilometers of the centre of New Zealand's North Island. The lake was formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago and is renowned for its geothermal features including steaming geysers, boiling mud pools and silica terraces. The Waikato River runs from Lake Taupo and flows down to the Huka Falls where more than 200, 000 litres of water can thunder down every second. View the magnificent falls for yourself and feel the rush of energy that the roaring water creates. Then visit the town of Taupo where you'll drive along the shores of the Lake and pass by the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station.
Napier is New Zealand’s ‘art deco city’ world renowned for its Art Deco architectural style. In 1931 the coastal city of Napier in Hawkes Bay was struck by an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. Subsequent fires destroyed most of the city’s centre, which gave architects the opportunity of a blank canvas to later re-build the city in the famed Art Deco fashion. The buildings of Napier are a step back in time to the architectural flair of the early 20th century. Your exclusive local guide will take you on a walking tour of the city and show you the features of this classic design.
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and the centre of New Zealand’s arts and cultural scene. We’ll give you a guided tour of the city sights including a trip to the top of Mt. Victoria where you’ll see stunning views of this beautiful city nestled between the harbour and the hills on the southern tip of the North Island. Enjoy some ‘free time’ to discover Wellington for yourself. Maybe check out the city’s downtown cafés and boutiques or take a look at some of the architecture throughout the city including the Edwardian neo-classical Parliament House. Your Wellington accommodation is centrally located so you’ll be able to get around hassle-free.
Wellington’s most impressive attraction is Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. You’ll visit the museum and have time to explore the many exhibitions for yourself. This is a world class museum with interactive displays of New Zealand’s geology and environment, art, history and culture. Make sure you see the amazing collection of Maori artefacts during your visit.
Other must-see destinations