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The Perfect Week on New Zealand's North Island

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New Zealand's North Island is home to volcanoes, beaches, movie scene locations, stellar dining options, and cosmpolitan (but always friendly) cities. Easy to travel around in, you'll find that you're not far from anything including friendly North Island locals willing to personally point you in the right direction and show you what 'secret places' not to miss out on. Your best route: Start in Auckland, rent a car, and head south to settle in at Rotorua and Taupo. Enjoy the capital Wellington before heading home or, better idea, making your way to the South Island.
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Rotorua, New Zealand
Before traveling to Rotorua, everyone will warn you that it smells like rotten eggs. Don't be put off, that's only because of the amazing geothermal features of the area. And the smell comes and goes, too. Sitting on a caldera, Rotorua has...
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Hot Water Beach 3591, New Zealand
While other beaches specialise in the standard characteristics of white sand and clear waters, on the east coast of New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula lays Hot Water Beach, which promises an experience like no other. Due to an underground river of...
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585 Waitomo Caves Rd, Waitomo 3977, New Zealand
Waitomo, on New Zealand’s North Island, is known mostly for its glowworms. This is one of the few places in the world where they exist and millions of visitors descend onto the village every year to walk through the dark caves and see the sparkly...
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126 Broadway, Matamata 3400, New Zealand
Welcome to Middle Earth in the South Pacific, and an ideal stop for traveling fans of the author J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie trilogies. Near the rural town of Matamata—itself a destination for its LOTR-inspired...
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700 Sandhills Rd, Kaitaia 0441, New Zealand
The tide out, it's hard to remember if I have ever seen so much neatly and naturally manicured sand stretch so far before. New Zealand has a knack for showing off so much pure beauty in nature, and this visit to Ninety Mile Beach was no exception....
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Wellington, New Zealand
I still owe my best friend millions for introducing me to Wellington's Cafe L'Affare while I was working in New Zealand. Founded in 1990, this quintessential cafe is cozy, delicious and gourmet ground breaking. What are your food choices, you ask?...
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Lake Taupo, Waikato, New Zealand
On the shores of New Zealand's largest lake sits the holiday town of Taupo, in the center of the North Island. Popular with vacationers and adventure travelers, there is plenty for everyone. An ancient volcanic crater, nowadays Taupo is a...
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North Island, New Zealand
There's no other day hike in all of New Zealand that is as diverse as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The terrain is so unique, the location was used to portray "Mt Doom" in the Lord of the Rings films. The nearly 20 kilometer trail winds into high...
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Mt. Taranaki, Taranaki 4391, New Zealand
Lesser-known ski fields are often run by clubs and have the benefit of thinner crowds and the opportunity for skiers and boarders to glide and carve where others haven’t. Rainbow Ski Area near Nelson on the South Island is great for boarders and...
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Raglan, New Zealand
If you go to New Zealand, Raglan should be near the top of the list. Even if you've never surfed before, experiencing that culture in Raglan is a blast. I took my first surfing lessons there. The instructors were very kind and patient with us...
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2 High St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
This funky boutique hotel on the edge of the Britomart shopping district goes way back in Auckland history. Built in 1841 as The Commercial Hotel, the DeBrett building survived two fires and two rebuilds plus a stint as a hostel before becoming...
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271 Huka Falls Rd, Taupo 3377, New Zealand
The most exclusive lodge in New Zealand, having hosted everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to the late Robin Williams, Huka Lodge feels like a refined country getaway set on the banks of the Waikato River near the North Island resort town of Taupo....
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262 Wakefield St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
There's no shortage of great eateries in the New Zealand capital—reputedly Wellington has more cafés and restaurants per person than New York City—and Field & Green is a popular option for the city's discerning diners. With...
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76 Onetangi Rd, Onetangi, Auckland 1971, New Zealand

An easy 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island combines art galleries, coastal hiking, kayaking, and edge-of-the-vineyard opportunities for relaxed lunches. Reached by a winding, unpaved road, Te Motu Vineyard is renowned...

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70 - 72 Onetangi Road, Onetangi, Waiheke Island, Auckland 1971, New Zealand
Waiheke Island's glowing reputation as an arty and bohemian refuge away from New Zealand's biggest and most cosmopolitan city is being further bolstered by excellent vineyard restaurants. Accessed by a sweeping, tree-lined entrance...
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17 Grantham St, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand
Snag a shady outdoor table overlooking the slow-moving Waikato River and enjoy excellent tapas at one of regional New Zealand's best restaurants. Expanding from a smaller, cozier location on nearby Hood Street, Gothenburg is popular...
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Auckland 1021, New Zealand
Just a short walk from Auckland's Eden Park, home of big rugby games in the city, the funky and bohemian Kingsland neighborhood is also developing a reputation as an eating and drinking destination. Some of the city's best coffee is served at...
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1234 Fenton St, Cbd, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
Known to New Zealand's indigenous Maori people as pounamu, jade or greenstone is treasured throughout the country, and in the North Island city of Rotorua, Rakai Jade provides travelers with the opportunity to craft a special memento of their...
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19 High St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Unity is what all bookstores should be: a good collection of global newspapers by the door, a room stacked to the gills with curated books and magazines, and an extremely well-read staff. Three people is a crowd here; 30 is a very civilized riot....
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Newbury St, Manukau, Auckland 2023, New Zealand
Saturday morning and this is the place to be to get a true slice of the Pacific. The Otara Flea Markets have rows and rows of fresh fruit, clothing, bric-a-brac and of course food, but it's the Polynesian colour and music that makes it so special....
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3, Maritime Building 130 Quay St, Auckland, 1140, New Zealand
World is probably the most eclectic shop in Auckland, a "Factory of Ideas and Experiments" specializing in women, men, and beauty. Last time I was in one of the stores I spied everything from Fornasetti candles to stuffed animals to...