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12 must-do nature experiences in New Zealand's North Island

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When people think of the natural wonders of New Zealand, they often picture the wide-open spaces and dramatic mountain ranges of the South Island. However, if you’re after stunning beaches, lush native forests, waterfalls and even glow worm caves, you won’t want to miss travelling around the North Island.

The North Island delivers everything from scenic picnic spots and world-class hikes to geothermal pools. If you are looking to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of New Zealand, then don’t miss these 12 must-do nature experiences in New Zealand’s North Island.

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What is the North Island of New Zealand known for?

The North Island of New Zealand is often best known for being home to the country’s biggest city; Auckland and the capital city of Wellington. However, the North Island is filled with endless natural beauty waiting to be explored. Surrounding these two cities, you will encounter beautiful beaches, snow-capped mountains, wild forests and bushland. The North Island is also an adventure sports playground. Home to some of the great walks of New Zealand, skiing, skydiving, caving and kayaking.

Top tip: It’s crucial that you know how to stay safe outdoors while exploring this wild landscape. The New Zealand weather - the north in particular - is known for experiencing all four seasons in one day. Consider this when deciding what to pack for your campervan adventure. Ready to start exploring? Here our our top pics for natural wonders in the North Island of New Zealand.

1. Explore Waitomo Caves 

Waitomo is a small village just over two hours south of Auckland. This village is famous for its impressive cave systems and stunning glowworm attractions. Join a tour to take a boat ride through the glow worm grotto, marvel at the limestone formations, and relax in the serene ambience of mother nature’s nightlight.

Prefer a more thrilling experience? Book your spot on the legendary black water rafting tour. Tube through an underground river, jump off waterfalls and float beneath a sky of glow worms on this experience of a lifetime. This three-hour adventure is NZ$155 and includes access to a hot shower and soup to warm up after your underground adventures.

How to get here: Pick up your motorhome in Auckland and head south around 2 hours to explore these magical caves.

Where to stay: Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park

 

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2. Walk through Redwoods/ Whakarewarewa Forest 

Immerse yourself in over 5,600 hectares of natural treasures in the Whakarewarewa/ Redwoods forest. This beautiful spot in Rotorua is home to a magnificent collection of Californian Coast Redwoods and many fantastic outdoor activities. It is renowned for its scenic hikes and superb mountain bike trails. Whether you want to come alive with the outdoor adventure activities or soak up the ambience of this forested wonderland, the Redwoods have it all.

How to get here: Pick up your motorhome from Britz in Auckland and drive three hours southeast to the Redwoods.

Where to stay: All Seasons Holiday Park Rotorua

3. See birdlife in Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne 

The lush eco-sanctuary of Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is a fantastic chance to get up close to nature and see rare species of native wildlife. Although this is located in the heart of vibrant Wellington - you wouldn't know it! This incredible wildlife sanctuary is the ultimate metropolis nature escape. Enjoy fantastic birdwatching, and get up close with roaming kiwis and prehistoric reptiles like the tuatara.

How to get here: Zealandia is located on the southern tip of the North Island, around 7 hours and 50 minutes from the Britz Auckland branch. We recommend adding this as a stop on a North Island, New Zealand road trip.

Where to stay: Cuba Street Motorhome Park

4. Scuba dive at Poor Knights Island 

Just 23 km off the Tutukaka coast is the colourful underwater world of Poor Knights Islands. Here you can experience one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. Not a diver? No problem. Grab a snorkel, kayak, or SUP and go adventuring. You can also opt to stay on the boat to enjoy the colourful water and wild volcanic landscape.

How to get here: Starting from Britz Auckland branch, head 2 hours and 50 minutes north to Tutukaka. Park up at Tutukaka and catch a quick ferry ride to Poor Knights Island.

Where to stay: Tutukaka Holiday Park

5. Hike around Lake Waikaremoana 

Lake Waikaremoana is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks for a good reason. Tramp through pre-historic wilderness, wetlands and an enchanting ‘goblin forest’ in this wild lakeside natural wonder. Waikaremoana is one of the best places to visit in the North Island of New Zealand to reconnect to yourself and to fill your cup of Hauora (health and wellbeing in Māori culture).

Top tip: You will need to book well in advance if you want to do the great walk as it is very popular. Otherwise, there are other smaller walks around the area that will give you a similar experience of this region’s wild natural landscape.

How to get here: Lake Waikaremoana is located in the east of the North Island, around 5 hours and 45 minutes from the Britz branch in Auckland.

Where to stay: Waikaremoana Holiday Park

6. Get a picture at Cathedral Cove 

Cathedral Cove is a stunning New Zealand tourist attraction located in the seaside village of Hahei. The cove is only accessible from the beach, so will need to park in town and wander down on foot. Soak up the coastal ambience as you walk along the golden sand to see the gentle lapping waves beating up against the picture-perfect cove. This attraction can get quite busy, so we recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons of autumn or spring to experience this natural beauty without the crowds.

How to get here: Hahei is around 2 hours and 30 minutes east of Britz campervan hire in Auckland.

Where to stay: Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park

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7. Skid down Rere Rockslide 

If waterslides are your idea of fun or you are just looking for free things to do in New Zealand, don’t miss the Rere Rockslide. Located just outside of the vibrant coastal city of Gisborne is a natural rock waterslide that is bound to impress even the most daring of the group. Grab your favourite inflatable and shimmy your way down this giant 60-metre-long rock slide for an experience of a lifetime!

Top tip: This is best to visit in the summer when the weather is warm, and the water is temperate.

How to get here: Rere rockslide is located just inland of Gisborne, around 6 hours and 45 minutes southeast of the Britz branch in Auckland.

Where to stay: Waikanae Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park

8. See Huka Falls 

Huka Falls is a natural hydropower phenomenon you won’t want to miss. Flowing from the previously calm waters of the Waikato River, this waterway tunnels into a shallow ravine of volcanic rock to create a raging river. By the time it reaches Huka Falls, this huge waterfall blasts more than 220,000 litres of water per second! Enjoy this natural spectacle from the foot bridge below or join a tour to experience this wild power-hungry machine up close.

How to get here: These falls are a 3-hour and 25-minute drive from the heart of Auckland. Pick up your Britz camper and head straight there, or add a few stops on the way as part of a larger North Island itinerary.

Where to stay: Great Lake Holiday Park Taupo

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9. Walk the Pouakai Crossing 

Mount Taranaki (Taranaki Maunga) is a geological wonder worth a visit. This dormant volcano, with its perfectly formed peak, is surrounded by lush rainforests, mossy swamps and cascading waterfalls. Despite this being one of New Zealand’s most climbed mountains, the hike up to the top can be dangerous. Luckily, the Pouakai Crossing is a perfect alternative. This path offers the chance to wind through the lower slopes without sacrificing the amazing views.

How to get here: This iconic mountain is located just 5 hours south of Britz campers in Auckland.

Where to stay: Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park

10. Experience geothermal magic in Te Puia 

Te Puia in Rotorua offers visitors the chance to see New Zealand’s incredible geothermal activity in action. Here you can see the geysers up close, visit a kiwi conservation centre and get a rare glimpse into the Māori culture. A day pass costs around NZ$70 per adult and operates from Wednesday to Sunday. Want to learn more about this curious natural phenomenon? Join one of the guided experiences that run at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm.

How to get here: Located just three hours south of Britz campers in Auckland, you can pick up your camper and be soaking in hot tubs in no time!

Where to stay: Rotorua Family Holiday Park

11. Do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing 

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is New Zealand’s most iconic one-day treks. Take in the views along a volcanic landscape as you navigate 19.4km of steep terrain in unpredictable weather. This is a New Zealand North Island must-do for both hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Top tip: To stay safe outdoors, it is vital that you come prepared for weather and conditions. Ensure you pack enough water and food for your adventure as well as appropriate hiking gear.

How to get here: Starting from Britz Auckland branch, drive about 4 hours and 30 minutes south to experience this magical alpine crossing.

Where to stay: Ohakune Top 10 Holiday Park

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12. Put your feet up at 90 Mile beach 

Despite what the name says, 90 Mile Beach is really only 55 miles. Regardless, 90 Mile Beach is one of the most stunning stretches of beach in New Zealand. Renowned for its impeccable left-hand break - this is a surfer’s paradise.

Top tip: Although this beach is officially a highway, it is strictly for 4WD. As such, Britz campers are not permitted on the beach. Instead, we recommend making a day of it. Park up and grab your favourite camping chairs, beach gear and beach blankets to explore this huge beach by foot or grab a board and explore it by sea!

How to get here: 90 Mile Beach is located in the very north of the North Island. Pick up your campervan from Britz in Auckland, and drive 5 hours and 30 minutes north to play by the sea.

Where to stay: Ngapae Holiday Park

Time to get lost in nature on the North Island? 

Escape the lively cities of the north and immerse yourself in the Māori culture and magnificent natural sanctuaries on a New Zealand road trip. With a branch conveniently located in Auckland, you can easily pick up your motorhome and explore the seemingly endless nature in New Zealand.

Ready to get lost in nature on the North Island? Book your campervan hire for New Zealand with maui motorhomes online today. If you are looking for more ideas for your upcoming New Zealand road trip, check out our itineraries.

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