New Zealand has been dubbed ‘God’s own country’ for its stunning landscapes and world-class outdoor experiences – a reputation it lives up to easily.
They say that there’s New Zealand, with its serene environment and heavenly nature....and then there’s Auckland – the aesthetically anti-New Zealand. But don’t let that put you off from this bustling, busy epicenter of Kiwi city life. Wander along the streets and nooks of Queen Street, and go for a morning hike up to Mount Eden. If you’re keen to check out the greater Auckland area, Rangitoto Island is just a ferry ride away, and the gorgeous Piha beach is also not too far.
From Auckland, hop on a Magic Travellers Network bus whenever you fancy and head to Russell and Paihia. Russell might have had a wild, debauchery-laden history, but right now this quaint town is just what you need for a breather after the urban-indulgence of Auckland. Don’t miss out on the boat trip to see the dolphins by the bay either.
Further up north is Cape Reinga, where it’s full-blown nature and pretty much nothing else. It’s where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean – so it’s not everyday that you see waves hurtling towards each other in opposite directions!
Head back down to Waipoua Kauri Forest and stand in awe at the foot of the Tane Mahuta, a tree that’s at least 1200 years old – and you think you’re getting old! The tree is known as the ‘Lord of the Forest’ and is at least 168 feet tall. Goes without saying that you’d have to crane your neck a little.
Pass by Auckland on your way further south, and head to the Coromandel Peninsula, with plenty of beaches to keep you occupied for days – whether it’s the Cathedral Cove in Hahei, or the Hot Water beach for your own mini-spa experience... sans the privacy of one.
Hot-spring central, Rotorua, is your next stop. You'll smell it once you get there. With 17 lakes in the region, your choices of activities are unlimited: whether it’s fishing, waterskiing or swimming, boredom isn’t in your itinerary here. The air is thick with the pungent smell of sulphur, so that should keep your sense occupied for a while.
From Rotorua, you can check out the Waitomo Caves for a daytrip. Visit the ever-popular glow worm caves on a boat ride under the shimmers of thousands of Arachnocampa luminosa, which are unique to New Zealand.
The Tongariro National Park is a must-go if you’re on the North Island. The Tongariro Crossing is arguably one of the best and most beautiful walks in the world – give yourself one or two days for the walk itself (don’t take it lightly as it’s quite a tough one).
Take a break from all the sweating and huffing by going south to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Windy Welly, as it’s affectionately known to locals, is proud of its great coffee culture, arts, and the prized gem of the city, Mount Victoria (nicknamed ‘Mount Vic’) despite being a ‘political centre’. You’ll walk a lot in the city – as most people here do, and you’ll notice that from their shapely calves! While you’re in Wellington, you can be tremendously close to nature while still in the midst of an artsy, café-freckled quaint city.
From Wellington, you can easily take a boat to the South Island.
(This itinerary is based on our New Zealand (North Island) Backpacker CheatSheet, a visual guide available for free download. We offer Backpacker CheatSheets for many more countries.)