Weekend Getaways NZ North Island: Time to Get Planning With These Incredible Things To Do in New Zealand North Island!
A firm favourite amongst travellers, New Zealand frequently tops the most-see list for tourists. Though we have many itineraries to help travellers to New Zealand, this post is targeted at those looking to escape for just a couple of days.
Maybe you were born in New Zealand and are looking for fresh weekend getaway inspiration? Maybe you’ve temporarily made it your home and are looking to maximise your weekends to see the country? Either way, we’re here to help you plan your weekend getaways in NZ’s North Island.
With so many amazing things to do in New Zealand North Island, it can be hard to know where to begin!
To make life easy for you, we’ve organised the following NZ North Island weekend getaways from north to south and have also mentioned the best season(s) to visit. However, thanks to the mild climate in New Zealand and the massive variety of things to do, there really isn’t a bad time to plan your weekend break.
Each of the weekend getaways NZ North Island that we’ve listed have multiple activity ideas; far too many, in fact, for just the one weekend away. With that in mind, you’ll want to either choose the activities that appeal most to you, or cherry-pick your favourites and then get right onto planning your next weekend break!
Each and every North Island weekend getaway that we recommend is fantastic, so it’s really just a matter of choosing what you think are the best things to do in New Zealand North Island and hitting the road.
So, let’s get planning the very best of these weekend getaways NZ North Island…
Northland: The Start of our Amazing Things To Do in New Zealand North Island
Tropical, chilled and distinctly Kiwi, the northern-most part of the North Island offers so much to visitors – so much so that you’ll probably want to plan a second trip back!
When to Visit Northland
Beautiful at any time time of year, Northland is the warmest part of New Zealand. If you’re planning on getting into the water though, we do recommend visiting from December/January onwards (or being prepared to slip into a wetsuit).
Where to Stay
- Budget: Seabeds Backpackers Paihia and Woodlands Motel Kerikeri
- Mid: Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia
- Luxe: Paihia Beach Resort & Spa Hotel
What to Do in Northland
- Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – the birthplace of New Zealand as a bicultural country.
- Join a boat tour departing from Paihia; a dolphin safari, a visit to the Hole in the Rock, the Cream Trip (which takes it all in) or dive one of the most infamous dive sites in the country; the Rainbow Warrior.
- Catch the ferry over to Russell, a cute little township just waiting for you.
- Spend some time at Cape Reinga – the very top of New Zealand. Whilst you are able to access this spot by yourself, we recommend joining a tour where you’ll also get to race along Ninety Mile Beach (on the sand, in the bus!) and will get to go sand boarding. It’s a great day out in the sun which includes a visit to the lighthouse.
- Drive the Twin Coast Discovery Highway – it’s one of the most beautiful coastal roads in New Zealand and conveniently loops around and back to Auckland.
- Visit a spectacular beach or two – Doubtless Bay (Matai Bay, Cable Bay, Coopers Beach, Taupo Bay), Matapouri, Ruakaka – take your pick!
- Visit the stunning Kai Iwi Lakes.
- Pass through the Waipoua Forest. There you’ll find Tane Mahuta (the Lord of the Forest). This is the biggest kauri tree in the word – it’s estimated to be over 2,000 years old.
- Pick up a feed at the infamous Mangonui Fish Shop.
- Visit the Stone Store and the Mission House in Kerikeri before stopping off to pick up some fresh fruit from the orchards and enjoying a break at the Rainbow Falls.
- Stop off at the incredibly unique Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa.
- Explore the Poor Knights Islands, found 23km off the Tutukaka Coast. There you’ll find world-class diving that is distinctly Kiwi.
- Soak up incredible coastal views on the very manageable Smugglers Bay Loop Track.
Weekend Getaways NZ North Island: Auckland
The most populated region in New Zealand, Auckland deserves more attention than it often gets. With the rare mix of big-city fun and outdoors adventure, the city offers much more than you might at first expect.
When to Visit Tāmaki Makaurau
With relatively temperate weather and lots to do indoors, Auckland really is suited to any season. Summer and spring are our favourite seasons in the city though.
Where to Stay
- Budget: Princeton Apartments
- Mid: Naumi Auckland Airport Hotel (offering luxe rooms for surprisingly affordable prices!)
- Luxe: SO/ Auckland and M Social Auckland
What to Do in Auckland
- Venture up the Sky Tower and enjoy views from the highest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Even better, jump off of it or complete a walk around the outside!
- Bungy jump off of the harbour bridge or join a team in climbing it.
- Head along to SeaLife Kelly Tarlton’s where you can snorkel with sharks in a protective net (or just enjoy the aquarium).
- Climb Mt Eden for beautiful views of the city.
- Hire a car and visit the wild and rugged western black-sand beaches (Piha, Bethells and Muriwai). Whilst out west, be sure to enjoy a Waitakere bush walk (the Kitekite Falls and Goldie Bush Walkway are favourites of ours).
- Back in the CBD, jump on a ferry and head over to Waiheke Island – the perfect spot to kick back, enjoy one of the many vineyards and soak up the island’s unique artsy vibe.
- Alternatively, head over to Rangitoto to climb Auckland’s most iconic volcano (or better still, kayak there and enjoy a sunset BBQ!).
- Check out some of the fabulous local farmers markets – Clevedon and Matakana are both gorgeous and well-worth a visit.
- Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the top spots in the CBD; Britomart, Elliot Stables and/or the Viaduct are all winning options.
A stone’s-throw from Auckland, the Waikato offers a number of awesome weekend getaway options. The region offers a little bit of everything – from world-class tourist attractions (surely you’ve heard of the Waitomo Caves?) to farm stays and surf beaches, there’s plenty to do in the mighty Waikato.
When to Visit the Waikato
The Waikato is another spots that’s great at any time of year. We especially love it there in the spring-time, when the grass is fresh, the lambs are new and the weather is just starting to warm up.
If you’re in the region in mid/late March, be sure to check out the Balloons over Waikato Festival.
Where to Stay
- Budget: JunoHall Backpackers Waitomo
- Mid: The Loft at Te Kumi Tirohanga, Te Kuiti
- Luxe: Waitomo Boutique Lodge
What to Do in the Waikato
- Visit the world-famous Waitomo Caves. Choose from the more commercial operation (best for people with limited mobility) or the family-owned Glowing Tours (which we personally recommend). If you’re looking for a real adventure, get into a wetsuit and go blackwater rafting!
- Enjoy the cafe scene and hit the surf at Raglan.
- Head along to Matamata where you’ll find Hobbiton; the infamous backdrop to the Lord of the Rings movies.
- Enjoy the Hamilton Gardens, being sure to spend time at the Indian Char Bagh Garden – it’s stunning!
- Visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park. This is one of your best opportunities to see our incredible native birds (most notably kiwis) and tuatara too.
- Enjoy the beautiful 55m-high Bridal Veil Falls.
- Visit Tirau, the ‘Corrugated Capital of the World’ and prepare to snap some photos.
- Be amazed by the incredible waters of the Blue Spring as you wander Te Waihou Walkway.
The Coromandel: Weekend Getaways NZ North Island
The Coromandel Peninsula is known for its gorgeous coastlines and native bush. Being so central in the North Island, it makes for a convenient getaway from many other spots.
When to Visit the Coromandel
Spring/summer/autumn. Keep it mind that the Coromandel will be noticeably busier during the summer season so book in advance if that’s when you’re planning this weekend getaway.
Where to Stay
- Budget: Turtlecove Accommodation
- Mid: The Dome @ Walai Mamaku and Pauanui Pines Motor Lodge
- Luxe: Sovereign Pier On The Waterways Whitianga
What to Do in the Coromandel
- Pay a visit to one of our most unique beaches; Hot Water Beach. Take a shovel, dig yourself a hole and relax in the naturally occurring geothermal waters.
- Enjoy Cathedral Cove by either hiking in or catching a ride on a boat.
- Take on the challenge of canyoning in one of the most spectacular spots you can possibly do it!
- Check out ‘the 309 Road‘. There you’ll meet Stu and his pigs, enjoy marvelling at kauri trees and be able to visit a home-grown park, the Waterworks.
- Relax in absolute bliss at the Lost Springs thermal pools.
- Hire a kayak and enjoy one of the real highlights of the region; head over to the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary (Donut Island).
- Enjoy the Gemstone Bay Snorkel Trail.
- Hike or bike the Karangahake Gorge – it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch.
- See a working gold mine in action in Waihi – you can even join a guided tour.
- Hike up and over to New Chums Beach. This privately accessed beach is one of the most beautiful in the country.
Rotorua – Home to the Best Things To Do in New Zealand North Island
If you’re looking for adventure in the North Island of New Zealand, look no further than Rotorua! Add to that incredible geothermal activity and your best shot at experiencing an authentic Maori evening out, and you’ll find Rotorua ticks all of your tourist-loving boxes.
Be warned though, there is so much to do in Rotorua that the list we’ve included below barely scratches the surface.
When to Visit Rotorua
We love Rotorua any time of year! Summer’s are the perfect time to hit the local lakes but the slightly cooler seasons are great soon; all of the tourist providers are equipped to welcome you in cooler weather and the hot pools are at their best then.
Where to Stay
What to Do in Rotorua
You’ll have no shortage of amazing things to do in New Zealand North Island whilst visiting Rotorua!
- Experience what is perhaps the most uniquely Kiwi tourism experience in the country – The Squeeze.
- Enjoy one of the many geothermal parks in Rotorua; Te Puia, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Hells Gate, Whakarewarewa, just to name a few. If you’d prefer, there are also public mud pools which are accessible free of charge, right in the middle of Rotorua and another incredibly impressive (and free-to-access) pool just outside of the city.
- Take on a real challenge and raft the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, the Kaituna!
- Roll yourself down a gigantic hill in a Zorb.
- Take the family up on the Skyline gondola and zip back down again on the luge.
- Learn all about local conservation efforts whilst flying from tree to tree with Rotorua Canopy Tours.
- Visit New Zealand natives in a gorgeous little nature park.
- Enjoy the
The Bay of Plenty: Tauranga/Mt Maunganui
Home to one of the most picturesque surf beaches in the country, visitors could be forgiven for thinking they’ve landed on the Gold Coast of Australia whilst soaking up the sun at ‘the Mount’.
When to Visit the Bay of Plenty
This is another spot that is suited to all seasons, but in our opinion, you just can’t beat the Mount in the summertime.
Where to Stay
- Budget: ArtHouse Accommodation Boutique Backpackers Tauranga
- Mid: Hotel on Devonport Tauranga
- Luxe: Quest Tauranga Central and The Pacific Apartments Mount Maunganui
What to Do in the Bay of Plenty
- Go for a swim at the base of the Mount. The Mount Hot Pools warm salt water to perfection so it’s a great spot to unwind.
- Take a swim at Mt Maunganui – one of the most spectacular surf beaches in the country.
- Climb Mt Maunganui (the Mount), for spectacular views back over the beach (and a good dose of exercise at the same time).
- Head out on the Bay Explorer for a great chance at seeing dolphins in the wild!
- Live your US summer camp dreams at Waimarino Adventure Park.
- When the sun goes down, jump in a kayak and enjoy time in the most densely populated glow worm canyon in the entire country. Even better, they provide wine and cheese on the tour!
- Take it incredible local scenery by horseback.
- Enjoy the Tauranga Art Gallery – best of all, entry is free.
- Visit the Hairy Maclary sculpture park. Any Kiwi kid will be able to tell you all about the colourful characters brought to life by Dame Lynley Dodd.
Right in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, the Taupo region offers a great deal to tourists, especially those looking to get outdoors and immersed in snow sports. Also home to the largest lake in Aotearoa, Taupo makes an excellent stop as you move up and down the country.
When to Visit Taupo
Taupo is perfect in the depths of winter, when the snow is on the mountains and the steam from hot pools rises into the air. If you’re keen to party as the base of the slopes, be sure to head along to Ohakune for Mardi Gras, held in June. The ski season generally runs from June until October.
Where to Stay
- Budget: Lakeland Resort Taupo and Ohakune TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Mid: Quest Hotel Taupo and The Powderhorn Chateau Ohakune
- Luxe: The Reef Resort – Heritage Collection Taupo and Chateau Tongariro Hotel
What to Do in and around Taupo – There are so many things to do in New Zealand North Island there!
- Head over to Mt Ruapehu and ski or snowboard. This is the main place in the North Island where we have snowsports on offer. Depending on where you’re staying and the experience that you’re after, you’ll choose to access either Turoa or Whakapapa; both are accessed using the same lift pass, but as they’re a fair distance from one another, you’ll want to choose one side of the mountain for each day you’re up there. Our personal favourite is Whakapapa.
- Snap a photo with the giant carrot in Ohakune (it’s the biggest in the world, don’t you know?).
- Be sure to pick up a chocolate eclair whilst in Ohakune – they’re seriously good!
- Take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – it’s the only Great Walk that is undertaken in just a day.
- Once back in Taupo, try your luck at the ‘hole in one’ challenge on the lake.
- Check out the geothermal activity at Craters of the Moon.
- Enjoy the view of the Huka Falls, or should you choose, hit the water on the Hukafalls Jet.
- Join a tour and kayak over to ancient Maori carvings, tucked away at Mine Bay on Lake Taupo.
- Eat inside a real airplane at McDonalds!
- Throw yourself off a bridge with Taupo Bungy.
- Jump out of a plane with Skydive Taupo.
- Soak your tired muscles at DeBretts – beautiful natural hot pools that will let you relax (whilst the kids go crazy on the slides).
Taranaki: New Plymouth
One of the smaller centres on our list, Taranaki still has plenty to offer, especially if you’re a nature-lover.
When to Visit New Plymouth
From mid December until early February, you’ll be able to experience the Festival of Lights.
Where to Stay
- Budget: Auto Lodge Motor Inn
- Mid: Copthorne Hotel Grand Central New Plymouth
- Luxe: Novotel New Plymouth Hobson
What to Do in New Plymouth
- Visit the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. This space is stunning and is recognised as being the “most courageous contemporary art museum” in New Zealand.
- Hike the Pouakai Crossing to Pouakai Tarns where you’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular views of Mount Taranaki (and a picture perfect reflection if the weather is still enough).
- If you’re feeling brave (and fit), climb/hike all the way to the top of Mt Taranaki.
- From mid December to early February, check out the Festival of Lights – the only one of its kind in New Zealand.
- Take your time on the Forgotten World Highway; the only remaining unsealed portion of our state highway network.
- Check out the architectural Te Rewa Rewa bridge, a part of the coastal walkway.
- If travelling during winter, you might like to check out the Manganui Ski Area. It’s a lovely little home-grown ski field.
Wellington (& the Wairarapa): Last but Not Least of our Weekend Getaways NZ North Island
The capital of Aotearoa, Wellington is renowned for its vibrant arts scene and fantastic cafe culture. It’s also the perfect place to catch a ferry and head over to the South Island (if you’ve got a little more time on your hands).
When to Visit Wellington
Like Auckland, Wellington has a range of activities that will keep you busy during any season. If you are able to, we suggest timing your visit to coincide with either the
- WOW (World of WearableArt) – late September – mid October, or
- CubaDupa: New Zealand’s largest street festival – late March.
Where to Stay
What to Do in and around Wellington
- Check out of national museum; Te Papa.
- Ride the iconic red cable car – it’s the only working funicular left in New Zealand and boasts beautiful views from the top.
- Head out to Pauatahanui Inlet to snap photos of the gorgeous little boat sheds and estuary.
- Enjoy the Wellington Night Markets. Every Friday: 116 Cuba Street (5pm – 11pm) and every Saturday: Lower Cuba Street (5pm – 11pm).
- Visit one of the many light houses in and around Wellington: Cape Palliser, Pencarrow Head Upper and Lower and, if you’re keen on a little drive, the most famous of all, Castle Point Lighthouse.
- Hire a bike and ride along Oriental Bay.
- Head out to Martinborough and treat yourself at one of the many award-winning wineries.
- Snap a photo on the rainbow crossing (on Cuba Street).
- Movie buffs won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Weta Workshops on a guided tour.
The North Island of New Zealand is diverse, interesting and just waiting to be discovered. Where will you head first?
Planning your own exciting weekend getaways NZ North Island and looking for the best things to do in New Zealand North Island? Pin this post…
Photo Credits: David Kirkland, Northland NZ, Auckland Council, Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village, Katie Cox, Department of Conservation Tauranga, Johnny Hendrikus, Rebecca Kempton, Jeremy Beckers