New Zealand’s North Island is often described as less spectacular than its neighbor to the south, the island that’s known for essentially being Middle Earth incarnate. However, with endless beautiful beaches, deep redwood forests, and alien landscapes that seem to transport you to other worlds, the Northland contains a ton of wonders that should not be missed. No tour of New Zealand can ever be all-encompassing, but if you want to get a feel for what makes the North Island truly unique, these are the locations you simply have to visit.
1. Cape Reinga
2. Bay of Islands
New Zealand’s largest and constantly expanding city, Auckland is the nation’s hub for business and commerce. It is also a hub of New Zealand’s treasured café culture. Excellent long blacks and flat whites can be found at cafés throughout town and those catering to the nighttime crowd also offer an endless number of local beers, ciders, and wines from throughout the region. Auckland doesn’t always get the best rap from non-locals, but there are plenty of gems around if you’re willing to look.
is filled with geysers, hot pools, and a constant scent of sulfur in the air—you'll know exactly where you are as soon as you step outside. It’s also the official entry point to Hobbiton, the permanent version of The Shire built for both Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and for The Hobbit. Bilbo’s house, Sam’s garden, The Green Dragon Inn—they’re all there, and even if you aren’t a huge Tolkien fan, it’s impossible to escape the magic of the place.
5. Tongariro National Park
New Zealand’s capital and third largest city, Wellington is the arts-centric mecca of the Northland’s hipster and artistic set. Nearly synonymous with Flight of the Concords and home to Peter Jackson’s movie-making empire, Wellington is a great slice of modernity in a country that always feels slightly behind the times. Home to more cafés per capita than just about any other city on Earth, Wellingtonians most definitely enjoy a good cup of coffee, a fine brunch, and a properly poured pint (or two, or five).
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