I’m excited to continue posting about our recent trip to Australia and New Zealand! In case you missed it, here is the post I did on our time in Sydney and next week I plan to detail our time on the South Island of New Zealand!
Today I am sharing our favorite stops and sites on New Zealand’s North Island: Auckland, Hahei, and Taupo.
Auckland was our first stop in New Zealand and immediately upon arrival, I could already tell that I was going to love NZ! Despite being New Zealand’s largest metropolitan area, the city felt small but still bustled with people and activity. I also loved the extensive access to the water! It’s hard to explain but the “vibe” was just really wonderful : ) We only had two days in Auckland but still managed to see and do some really amazing things!
*A general note about New Zealand is that they are very strict on what you can and can’t bring into the country. For example: NO dirt on your hiking boots! They are doing everything in their power to preserve the natural beauty of the country and do not let anything that will hinder this slide. I would highly recommend looking up rules and regulations before entering the country.
- A Tour of Rangitoto Island This island is just off the coast of Auckland and literally is a volcano! It is very well preserved (you can’t bring anything on to the island — there is no developments or restaurants or shops, etc.) and truly just an incredible natural spectacle. Bring something like cliff bars and water bottles to tie you over while spending a few hours or the day there! You can hike to the top of the volcano to see the crater and then also a spectacular view of Auckland from across the water! We would also highly recommend hiking to see the sea caves. You must buy ferry tickets ahead of time to get to the island.
- Piha Beach This beach is outside of Auckland and takes about an hour to get to. I HIGHLY recommend visiting if you can! The views are truly breathtaking; I think I gasped when we rounded the first bend driving and everything came into view. We walked along the beach and hiked Lion’s Rock for an elevated view of the area. On a sunny day, you could totally lay out and sunbathe or throw a frisbee and have a picnic! The waters are more tumultuous with unpredictable and strong tides, so swim at your own risk!
- Wharf Area I’m not sure if there is a name for this area but I attached a screenshot of a map below so you can see exactly where I’m talking about! We LOVED spending time in this area of Auckland — right on the water with tons of incredible restaurants, ice cream shops, benches to sit and people watch or bask in the sun, etc. It is just a really fun area to hang out in! Caleb and I went to Dr. Rudi’s for a drink one night and loved listening to the live music while sitting on their rooftop balcony watching people walk by below with views of the ocean in the background. This is also where we met a couple from Australia vacationing in New Zealand and found out that in her college years, the woman had traveled to Madison, Wisconsin of ALL places in the US! Just crazy : )
Hahei is not a “must see” for everyone, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this small beach town! Due due to the windy mountain roads, it takes about 2.5 hours to get here from Auckland. We spent two days in Hahei and it rained the ENTIRE time. Since you go for the beach, this was definitely a bit of a bummer but even yet, I still highly recommend it! I can only imagine how PERFECT this stop would be if it was sunny the whole time!! I would recommend going to Hahei if you want time on the beach, you want to visit a town that is small and has a very local feel, want to relax, and want to see (more) stunning natural landscape.
- Because Hahei is so small, there is only one “grocery” store and things are very expensive comparatively! I would definitely recommend stopping at a bigger grocery story (like Countdown) on your way to Hahei and getting everything you need for your store then!
- We LOVED our Airbnb. It was truly amazing and made the entire rainy stay so enjoyable! I am linking it here because I cannot recommend it enough if you do stay in Hahei! Amazing views, wonderfully decorated, and the kindest hosts : )
- Spend time on the beaches and just to do it, go to the Hotwater Beach! It is a bit underwhelming but still a fun experience for the area.
- Eat dinner every night at The Pour House ; ) SO good!!
- Other things to do in the area include nearby wineries and the famous Cathedral Cove walk (very beautiful but also very touristy!). We loved playing board games, reading, and walking along the beach.
Taupo is right in the center of the North Island and is the popular destination to stay at (well, more like the only destination to stay at!) if you are going to do the big Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike. I actually really, really liked Taupo because it was a city that I could see myself living in : ) It was small and livable, with tons of great restaurants and shops. Additionally, the town is built around Lake Taupo, where you can paddleboard, swim, parasail, you name it! There are also tons of biking paths and walking trails … and all the locals just seemed so friendly!
- Tongariro Crossing Like I mentioned above, the only reason one would stay in Taupo is because it is the nearest city to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This was one of my FAVORITE things that we did on the trip so I would highly recommend doing it if you like to hike! The hike can take anywhere from 6-10 hours, depending on the weather, one’s physical condition, and weather or not you hike to the summit of Ngauruhoe. Because of the weather conditions when we hiked (raining and SUPER windy) we were not able to summit the mountain. However, we did do the crossing and it took us 5 hrs and 45 minutes. Definitely do your research before embarking on this hike — here is a great resource!
- Geothermal Pools Right outside of Taupo is an area of New Zealand called Roturua, known for its geothermal pools. It is actually one of the only places in the world where you can see pools like this! We went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park and had a great experience! Make sure to go at 10 AM so you can see the geyser explode!
The island is made up of all this volcanic rock!
You can see Auckland straight ahead — the needle in the center is its tallest building!
The sea caves are kind of hard to find, but crazy-cool to walk through when you do!!
This is the view from the short hike up Lion’s Rock!
And here is the map of the wharf area we loved! If you search “New Zealand Maritime Museum” it will take you right there : )
Yep, she’s been to MADISON!
Our amazing Airbnb!!!!
The view from our bedroom!
We still enjoyed the beaches despite the weather : )
Cathedral Cove : )
At the hot water beach, you dig your own little pool until your find the hot water! It’s like making a mini little hot tub. The most important thing to note is that you must go two hours before or after low tide. Clearly, it’s a bit crowded ; )
The delicious Pour House — fresh fish, locally brewed beer, amazing pizza — what more could you ask for?!?!
Made it to the top! So tough but SO worth it! (Even if we couldn’t see anything :P!!!!)
The colors and textures were so cool!!!
This was a pit stop we took for a short hike to see New Zealand’s “Rainbow Mountain”!
And a few other shots of some Taupo sites : )