New Zealand may be small, but its diverse landscapes are expansive. The South Island is home to Milford Sound, and often considered the more rugged and beautiful of the two. But the North Island has plenty of sights in its own right. Here are just 10 of the North Island's most fantastic landscapes and must-sees.
If you can believe it, this lake is roughly the size of Singapore! Lake Taupo is the second largest lake in Oceania. Smack in the middle of the North Island, it's popular year-round with skiing, fishing, mountain biking, trekking and geothermal springs. Formed from the gigantic caldera of the Taupo Volcano, the last eruption of the volcano was sometime in the 13th century CE. It's still considered a dormant rather than extinct volcano due to its numerous hot springs. It's a tourist attraction for local and foreign tourists alike.
Tongariro National Park
New Zealand's oldest national park is recognized by UNESCO for both its importance to the Maori people and for its natural wonders. It has a variety of cultural sights that span New Zealand's rich, varied and sometimes complicated history, along with a variety of natural wonders. The volcanic landscape will make you feel like you've left Earth, and it's ideal for hiking and camping. The famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of the world's best day hikes. It takes hikers past thermal springs and crater lakes with views of snowcapped Mount Ruapehu.
This forest and its neighbors Mataraura and Waima are the last remaining ancient forests in New Zealand. The giant kauri trees can reach over 160 feet in height and their trunks can be as wide as 52 feet! It's believed that the oldest are over 2,000 years old. The Waipoua Forest is an oasis of tranquility, and it's even home to the North Island brown kiwi and the endangered North Island kokako.
This town on the banks of Lake Rotorua is most known for its geothermal waters, with pools coming in reds, greens, and yellows. The mineral-rich mud from many of the springs is used for a variety of natural spa treatments. Rotorua is also a delight for nature lovers. Its magnificent lake and immense forests make it a paradise for trekkers and mountain bikers.
Most visitors confuse Auckland for the capital of New Zealand, but it's actually the compact, charming city of Wellington. A variety of galleries and museums including Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand, can be found in Wellington, and its laid-back, creative vibe blends seamlessly with the island's surrounding beauty. And you're never far from the North Island's many natural wonders. A short hike from the city center will take you into the forest and up to the peak of Mount Victoria, which offers views over the entire city and its harbor.