With a landscape that encompasses a coastline of black sand beaches, active volcanoes and unique geothermal activity, New Zealand’s North Island is as diverse as it is beautiful.
The island is also home to the country’s cosmopolitan cities of Auckland – the vibrant heart of New Zealand – and Wellington, the trendy capital on the lowest point of the North Island.
In contrast, the Northland and the Bay of Islands are dotted with early colonial towns, quiet coves and clear Pacific waters. Further south, past ancient giant Kauri trees, is New Zealand’s geothermal wonderland of Rotorua: complete with bubbling mud pools, bursting geysers and colourful, steaming lakes.
With natural beauty to spare, the North Island’s hiking trails offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to traverse ethereal landscapes and see the local flora and fauna up close.
The rich rewards of this island extend to luxury lodges, fine wines from Hawkes Bay and Māori cultural experiences that allow you to better understand the local relationship to this fertile heartland.
The North Island is the geothermal and cultural heart of New Zealand. It’s here you can experience a locally cooked meal made underground, or fly over the coast to an active volcano island to explore on foot. The variety of landscapes is incredible: an Art Deco seaside town surrounded by wineries, the remote coves of the Bay of Islands or the breathtaking hikes that make up New Zealand’s greatest walks. The North Island really is the place to experience New Zealands renowned manaakitanga (hospitality in Maori).
New Zealand North Island example trips
Our favourite places to stay in the North Island
- Eagle's Nest$$$$$Set within a 75-acre estate on its own private ridgeline dropping into a valley is Eagle’s Nest, a collection of five luxury villas in the heart of the Bay of Islands. Dotted along the peninsular and hidden among the native bush, each of the villas enjoy sweeping views across pristine landscape, the calm oceans waters and surrounding islands. Contemporary in design, each villa offers plenty of indoor and outdoor space and four of the five come with their own private pools. With up to four bedrooms, the villas are perfect for families and groups while those looking for a secluded getaway will love the First Light Temple villa, an idyllic getaway for two. The Bay of Islands is an outdoor lover’s dream with everything from fishing, kayaking and diving to mountain biking and helicopter rides on your doorstep. There is also the nearby town of Russell just a few minutes away, and a team of spa therapists offering in-room treatments for when you want to simply relax and unwind.
- Solitaire Lodge$$$$$Solitaire Lodge is located in a lush environment upon the fringes of Lake Tarawera, with a spectacular backdrop of volcanoes and forest, a vista which each of the ten stylish suites makes the most of through vast glass walls. Fine dining at the restaurant is a particular highlight here, with Solitaire’s talented chefs creating daily changing contemporary New Zealand fare prepared with fresh local ingredients, complemented by a variety of superb wines from selected regional vineyards, enjoyed in the communal dining room or somewhere more private. Head down to the lake to explore its waters aboard the lodge’s motorised dinghies and kayaks, fish from the jetty or simply swim from the private beach. There’s a spa menu to indulge in, self-guided hikes to nearby Tarawera Falls and cycle trails past some stunning geothermal sites. Scenic helicopter flights, Maori guided tours of Rotorua and more challenging hikes can also be arranged, along with a full roster of adventure sports nearby or perhaps a visit to the Hobbiton village movie set from The Lord of the Rings.
- Huka Lodge$$$$$Since 1924, Huka Lodge has maintained the spirit of generous hospitality as was espoused by its charming founder, Irishman Alan Pye. Originally harbouring a reputation primarily as a trout fishing paradise, it is now known as an exceptional luxury retreat, and regarded among the best in the world. The lodge sits upon the banks of the exceedingly picturesque Waikato River, its rushing waters on the literal doorsteps of 20 spacious junior suites. The Owner’s Cottage enjoys a muted woodland palette and is upmarket and refined, white wooden beams arching over comfortable living spaces which are warm and rustic. Constructed with strong cedar, heart timbers, stone and brick, The Alan Pye Cottage is a nod to early 20th-century architecture with a reinterpretation of contemporary design. The kitchen at Huka Lodge upholds a tradition of generous cuisine, changing daily to accommodate all palates and preferences. Raw honey is collected from the numerous bee hives from the local breeding programme on the property, ideal for deserts as it’s not too sweet. Outside the lodge, activities abound. Enjoy anything from white water rafting to the lodge’s gorgeous namesake of nearby Huka Falls. Traverse the horse riding trails or similarly embark along hiking trails through this volcanic region.
- Treetops Lodge$$$$$The Treetops Lodge is hidden away in 2,500 acres of ancient forest typical of New Zealand’s abundant natural beauty. The 12 residences are varied yet all retain an exceptional level of award-winning hospitality, meaning your stay at this acclaimed eco-lodge will be both memorable and leisurely. Settle down in the lavish interiors of a secluded villa or perhaps you are in a large group, in which case the incredibly spacious Pheasant Cottage or Lodge Rooms are ideal. Dining is a treat at the Treetops Lodge. Wake up to a gourmet breakfast, sit down to a delicious lunch of locally-sourced trout or game and, as night falls, savour dishes exploding in spectacular flavours, colours and smells. Of course, there is a comprehensive wine list of local vintages as well as a selection of fine coffees, teas and cocktails. Maori healing rituals can be found at the spa, an environmentally-sensitive and sustainable wellness centre designed to best integrate into the wilderness around you. Ease aching muscles under the expert hands of a professional masseuse or enjoy the healing powers of a Manuka honey body scrub.
- The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs$$$$$Located within 6,000 acres near Matauri Bay, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs enjoys uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean and native forest. 22 suites are located within guest cottages dotted around the grounds, with each cottage housing two suites. Guests will have the feeling of staying in a private home, with a spacious bedroom and living area, open fireplace and oversized bath tub. There are suites specially designed for families that feature a large private balcony. The Owner’s Cottage is perfect for families or groups with two en-suite bedrooms, each with their own fireplace, a living room and a beautiful private infinity pool and outdoor Jacuzzi. In the main lodge you’ll find the dining room where chefs create a mouthwatering menu using locally sourced produce. Breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and dinner are all included with a stay at Kauri Cliffs. Guests can also choose to dine on the verandah overlooking the ocean, or enjoy a truly unique dining experience with a picnic on a secluded beach or by a waterfall. A day spa is set within the native Totara Forest and there is a fitness centre with indoor lap pool and Jacuzzi, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and two tennis courts.
- Delamore Lodge$$$$$On the beautiful island of Waiheke, just a 35 minute ferry ride or five minute helicopter flight from downtown Auckland, Delamore Lodge sits with fabulous views over Owhanake Bay and the Hauraki Gulf. Shaped to mimic a traditional carved Maori fishhook, the curving lodge is moulded into the cliffside, with expansive terraces, panoramic windows and infinity pool orientated to face the sea. There are four guest suites and a two-bedroom apartment, each with an intimate courtyard where you can relax in uninterrupted privacy, or soak in your bath tub and take in the view. You’ll also find cosy lounges, cave-like Jacuzzi, sauna and a wine cellar filled with award-winning wines here. The resident chef serves up individually tailored three-course dinners inspired daily by what is homegrown and harvested locally and with the abundance of fish from the rich local waters, or you can try one of the many great restaurants and vineyards on the island.
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers$$$$$Set atop 6,000 rolling acres of pasture-land in Hawke’s Bay, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is the perfect place for a getaway. With spectacular views of the ocean, the luxury lodge combines the rustic and textured aesthetic of a working farm with chic modern and genuinely luxurious touches. Each of the 22 spacious suites has a private balcony with views over the farmlands, golf course and the Pacific. Ideal for a family, or group, The Owner’s Cottage offers boutique hotel facilities for up to eight people. Relax in front of the stone fireplace, or soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi. The culinary team aims to source produce as locally as possible, and with the Cape Kidnappers’ vegetable garden now fully established, the chefs can create daily menus based on the freshest ingredients. And they are delighted when guests ask to see the garden. The pastry chef makes everything from scratch on site – from cereals, cookies and bread, to jams, pastries and ice cream. Enhance your stay by spending an indulgent day at the Cape Kidnappers Spa on the hillside above the lodge. Soak up the views across the valley, towards the sea or over the forest to snow-capped Mount Ruapehu. There are a broad mix of activities on offer here, seasonal and changing daily, including farm tours, guided walks, star gazing, wine tasting, clay pigeon shooting, bird watching, golf, horse treks, mountain biking and more.
- Wharekauhau Country Estate$$$$$Immerse yourself in the grandeur of a bygone era at the spectacular Wharekauhau Country Estate, an Edwardian lodge set on a hill with spectacular views of the thundering sea below and working sheep farm around. Breath-taking scenery and a welcoming, friendly atmosphere will make this a visit to remember. Take in the dramatic vistas of Palliser Bay from the 13 cottage suites, or find the utmost privacy at either luxurious Owners Cottage or home Wharepapa Cottage, each with three bedrooms. Natural materials are used throughout the suites – clay tiles, pebble mosaics and rich New Zealand wool carpeting add to the experience. Each room in the main lodge has its own distinct touch, complete with carefully-selected antique furniture and classic fireplaces. Unwind in airy open lounges flooded with natural light, or curl up with a book in a cosy corner. Whether relaxing in front of a crackling fire, or sharing a light-hearted moment in the sunny kitchen, at Wharekauhau you’re considered part of the family. An elegant formal dining room flows through into a country kitchen and conservatory, making mealtimes extra special. The kitchen’s ‘farm to table’ philosophy means fresh produce from the lodge gardens and surrounding areas – so look out for the chefs roaming the grounds collecting the freshest ingredients for the evening meal. With 5,500 acres of private land including ancient forests, peaceful lakes, rivers, and a wild and rugged coast to explore, guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to a route for walking, mountain biking, horse riding or ATV quad bike adventures.
- Poronui Lodge$$$$$Poronui is a magical wilderness retreat, a 16,000-acre private estate in the breathtaking Taharua Valley in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. The collection of luxurious lodgings make it the ideal getaway for hikers, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. Dotted across the reserve, places to stay include the main lodge and seven individually appointed guest cabins that have transformed a rustic fishing camp into one of the world’s finest sporting lodges, with a kitchen serving up gourmet seasonal cuisine – much of it sourced on the estate – and a convivial feel to be found around the crackling fires. There’s also the private use Blake House, sat overlooking the Taharua River, with two grand suites as well as two bunkrooms making it ideal for families and small groups. The kitchen here is well equipped for either guest use or with your own personal chef. Finally, the two canvas and wooden huts of the rustic Safari Camp provides an authentic wilderness experience without foregoing creature comforts like crisp cotton sheets, hot running water, flushing toilets, gourmet food and fine wine. For the use of all the guests at Poronui, the stables contain modern gym and health club facilities – including steam, sauna, and massage treatment rooms. Also located in this complex is a full-sized antique English billiard table and two additional dining venues – the cabana (outdoor barbeque) and the atmospheric underground wine cellar. Activities at Poronui are suitably outdoorsy, and range from incredible fly fishing to horse riding, guided walks, hikes, cultural experiences with the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe of the Maori, mountain biking, archery and shooting. Poronui is also close to various attractions such as the geothermal lands of Central North Island, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and adventure sport enthusiast favourite Taupo.