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The Highlights Of New Zealand North Island

You can’t study abroad in Australia without visiting New Zealand. It’s common to do a week-long road trip around NZ’s South Island while studying abroad Down Under, but unfortunately I ran out of time during my semester abroad to do this. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a three day trip to the New Zealand North Island during my semester abroad! A trip to the South Island is now at the top of my bucket list, but for now, here’s everything we did on the New Zealand North Island.

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Don’t have time to read the full guide? This is the BEST single-day tour you can book from Auckland to see the highlights of New Zealand’s North Island.


Did you know that Auckland is NOT the capital of New Zealand — Wellington is. BUT Auckland is NZ’s largest and most populous city, meaning that there is plenty to do! Auckland is a really clean and modern city with many chain restaurants and stores, but plenty of charm. There are a lot of hilly, quaint streets and parks. I think Auckland is a great home-base for day trips all around the New Zealand North Island. There’s a ton of things to do in Auckland! One of the best day trips you can take is a Mangawhai day trip. As for accommodation, we stayed at the Copthorne Hotel in Auckland. I highly recommend staying here for its central location in Auckland.

The Auckland Domain was our favorite park to walk through, and is home to the Auckland Museum. It covered everything from WWI & WWII to animals to tornadoes to art. I really enjoyed learning about the New Zealand Māori culture. We also got brunch at the Wintergreen Cafe and walked around the gardens in the park!

Auckland has an impressive harbor with lots of seafood restaurants and the SkyTower, which you can pay to climb or even bungee jump off of! Grab a general admissions ticket in advance to enjoy panoramic views over Auckland, the harbor, and breathtaking distant mountains.

Photo of the Auckland, New Zealand skyline

Waiheke Island

I could not recommend a visit to this island more. Situated in Auckland’s harbor, it’s only a 40 minute ferry ride from downtown. The island is known as “Wine Island” because it has over 30 wineries on it! Talk about paradise! I spent my afternoon here on a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour, but you can also visit on a half-day tour from Auckland.

The first place we visited was Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard and this was by far the highlight of the trip for us! We had such an incredible tasting of whites & reds, and even got to try a dessert wine! The grounds were so beautiful. We were able to take our glasses and go for a walk through the vineyards, and ended up at the top of a hill that overlooked surrounding vineyards and the harbor, with views of Auckland’s skyline in the distance. 

Whether you book a tour or use a bus, definitely proceed on the rest of the route — stopping a few more times for fish and chips and to try more wine! We ended the day with reds and soaked up the scenic Waiheke views before boarding our ferry back to Auckland.

If you’d like to learn more about the best Waiheke wineries to visit from Auckland, check out this post!


I have to preface this by admitting that I never watched Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, BUT neither have over 30% of the people who do this tour! Even though I haven’t seen the movies, I really enjoyed the scenery! The farm in Matamata, NZ where the set is located is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen! Also, our tour ended with a complimentary cider at the Green Dragon! Be sure to grab Hobbiton tickets online and in advance since this experience is a popular one!

The hobbits in the film weren’t actually 3 feet tall — the cinematographers just positioned regular-sized people in front of giant hobbit holes to make them appear small!


We visited Rotorua for a few hours as part of a Hobbiton, Rotorua, and Waitomo day tour. Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity and Māori culture. We visited a traditional Māori village, had lunch at the Te Puia cultural site, and enjoyed checking out Rotorua’s various mud pools and geysers. If you’re tight on time, I definitely recommend booking a full-day tour from Auckland to see these highlights of the North Island.

Rotorua village on New Zealand North Island


Our final excursion from Auckland was a visit to the village of Waitomo, which is known for its extensive underground cave system and glowworms. The caves were neat to walk through, and at the end, there was a cave beautifully lit by glowworm poop. Yes poop. But it was beautiful! We took a rowboat ride through the caves, which were pitch black except for the glowworms above. The cave looked like a galaxy full of millions of stars. This was such a unique experience!

We loved our time exploring the North Island and truly thought it was the most beautiful place! The landscapes were so green and scenic, and I’m really looking forward to visiting the South Island one day.

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New Zealand North Island


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