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North Island Highlights/Favourites

Colorado
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North Island Highlights/Favourites

We will be in NZ for 34 days in late Nov-Dec. Considering breaking up our time as follows: NI 15 days, SI: 19 days (flexible). Very active family of four with two teenagers. Limited budget, therefore helicopter rides, boat charters and the financial like are not an option.

Do not wish to be packing up and traveling daily (2-3 night stay minimum at each locale, more as indicated). Still deliberating car vs. campervan on NI. Anticipate loop route with start/finish in Auckland.

Suggestions for some local North Island favourites which could serve as key areas with multiple day trip opportunities (culture, water activities, tramping, unique experiences…)

Thank you for your feedback and insights!

Wanaka, New Zealand
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1. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

You have quite a nice amount of time to see the country and if you wanted to you could always drive right down to Wellington and then ferry across to the South Island.

Your options for where to stay in the North Island are countless and it might help to know a bit more about your interests. For example are you more interested in beaches, mountains and/or lakes? Does your family enjoy big cities (shopping, museums, zoos etc) or do you prefer quieter, more scenic locations? Lastly, are there any places you already know of in the North Island that you definitely want to visit? It always helps to have a few "must-dos" in mind and then base the rest of your trip around that.

Colorado
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2. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

Based on what I have gleaned from brilliant TA advice on forums :) coupled with my own research, our North Island “must do” list has become far too extensive to tackle in a mere 15 days. I was hoping for some assistance in paring it down. Although we are equally intrigued by some of the lesser known locations, some of the more popular areas of particular interest on the NI are as follows:

Northland (Cape Regina, Bay of Islands, Waipoua Kauri Forest, etc.)

Coromandel

Maori culture

Rotorua/Tongariro regions for tramping, geothermal features, etc.

With the exception of a single day in Auckland (museum), on the North Island we would like to focus primarily on beaches/water activities (swim, snorkel, non-motorized boat, surf?) and day tramps to experience some of the natural environmental and wildlife highlights, and cultural activities. As posted previously, we’d also like to incorporate a bit of volunteering, however thought we’d sort out our itinerary first and then delve further into potential opportunities there.

Cheers

Rarotonga, Cook...
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for Rarotonga, Waiheke Island, Southern Cook Islands, Auckland Central
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3. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

Hi dreamandgo,

Kerikeri as a base in the Bay of Islands allows you to travel in all directions. It's the main centre in the Far North now (was formerly Kaikohe to the west). Quite likely accommodation is more affordable in Keri compared to Paihia. I suggest motel accommodation with a rental car, to enable the youngsters to spread out - and since you plan to stop 2/3 nights anyway. About 20/25 minutes drive between Paihia and Kerikeri.

For Northland, the Karikari peninsula is awesome, as is Matauri Bay, Mangonuii -Coopers Beach area. Ahipara on the west coast (south end of 90 Mile Beach is awesome, unspoilt scenery & outdoors activities). Best fish and chips in NZ on the Mangonui wharf. The final 20 kms to Cape Reinga has been sealed, a blessing for motorists. Opononi-Omapere, the water taxi takes visitors to the north Hokianga for dune-boarding. Can I add that Northland region is very affordable. We dont get hordes of visitors wishing to have an adrenaline rush so no need to charge high prices up here. Besides the sub-tropical weather favours the great outdoors. All the beaches are stunning - west and east, and at the tip of the country too.

Whangarei has the Glenbervie zipwire adventure forest with family pass for $95.00 (4 people). We also have Zion wildlife park, Poor Knights day cruise, kayaking, historic Maori pa-sites, glorious Bream Bay Heads coastal walks & mainland island conservation reserve, snorkel at the nearby Whangarei marine reserve. Whangarei Falls, & boardwalks in native reserve. Native bird rescue sanctuary, Kiwi-house & museum. Whangarei Art Museum always has a top class exhibition of stunning NZ artworks by renowned artists (gold coin entry). And it's easy to zip over to the west coast (Dargaville, Bayleys Beach, Poutu peninsula, Waipu surf beach and Waipu caves, Waipu our Nova Scotian settlement and best small museum in NZ). Whangarei was the first centre to offer a regular market - wonderful array of locally grown fresh produce year round. Town basin cafes, and the Clock musuem, plus range of craft shops, and yummy fudge and ice-cream. Glass blowing studio and displays. Quarry gardens, Quarry arts centre. Something for all ages. The Matakohe Museum is approx 1 hour drive SW Whangarei city, and Waipu cove & caves can be included in a day trip from this main city.

Allow a good 5 days in this region to fully explore our attractions, and enjoy the good life up here. Horse riding is another popular activity in Northland.

Volunteering - contact DOC in Whangarei at our regional office in Bank St. Depending on time of year, counting Kiwi calls is a big issue. Enquire at the Whangarei native bird rescue sanctuary, and the Kiwi-house, both located at Whangarei Museum in Maunu, Whangarei. Our SPCA in Kioreora Road, Whangarei are constantly seeking volunteers to help with animal care. PM me if you require specific contacts. Cheers - ka kite.

Wanaka, New Zealand
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4. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

Hi again,

Based on those interests, then I would suggest something like the following:

Day 1 Arrive in Auckland and spend the night. Or perhaps even consider driving as far North as Orewa (a nice beach town just North of Auckland and within an hour of the airport).

Days 2 - 4 Northland.

Day 5 Drive back to Auckland, overnight

Days 6 - 8 Coromandel. When driving from Auckland, make sure you go through Thames and up the Western side of the Coromandel Peninsula. The coastal drive is just stunning and late November/Early December is when it's at it's best. Our Xmas tree, the Pohutakawa is fully in bloom and that road is completely lined with them. You could then enjoy some great NZ Green-lipped mussels for lunch in Coromandel Township, perhaps ride on the Driving Creek Railway Train, and then travel across to the Eastern side of the Peninsula to your accommodation. The 309 road is a nice route to take with some great places to stop. (I think that your teenagers would probably really enjoy all the quirky interactive things at Waterworks). Once on the Eastern side, somewhere like Hahei or Whitianga might be a nice place to base yourself for the next few nights. They're nice and central to many great beaches, walks and tourist hot spots such as Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

Days 9 - 11 Rotorua. Drive down to Rotorua via a half day stop in Tauranga/Mt Mauganui. Once in Rotorua, there are countless activities to choose from. As well as all the Maori Culture and Geothermal sites, Rotorua has stunning lakes and walks which are definitely worthwhile. Your family might really enjoy the walk around Blue Lake

Days 12 - 13. On Day 12, drive down to Taupo to spend a large part of your day there. Then continue on to National Park/Whakapapa Village where you could spend the next few nights. On Day 13, you could either do short walks in the area, or if your family is all very fit and healthy, you could consider doing the Tongariro Crossing.

Days 14 - 15 Wellington. A beautiful city with lots to do. IMO, the museum is better than Auckland's and I've heard that Zelandia is also worth a visit.

Day 16. Ferry across to The South Auckland. Given your beach interests, I think that you would probably really enjoy starting the second half of your journey in the top of the South Island around Abel Tasman National Park.

Hope this helps a little.

UK
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5. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

Having recently done a trip to NZ covering both islands with a tour group - I would say the best bits of North Island are

1) Bay of Islands - we stayed in Pahia - you must visit the Treaty Ground and the Hole in the Rock trip is worth it also

2) Roturua - Te Paia reserve is great. We also did a Country Home Stay that was wonderful.

3) Napier - Art Deco town really interesting and also takes you through WIne areas

4) Auckland harbour area is pleasant but as a City Wellington is very nice also.

Colorado
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6. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

All your feedback, specific recommendations and insightful comments are appreciated immensely!

New Zealand
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7. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

If you decide to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing(the best one day walk in the country) make sure you allow at least 2 days in the area. That way if the weather isn't great on the first day you have one up your sleeve. The views are spectacular and there's no point doing a gut busting 17km tramp without some reward! :)

8. Re: North Island Highlights/Favourites

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