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8 most beautiful places in New Zealand
to see absolutely

– By Ophelie. 5mn reading –

The most beautiful places in New Zealand north island aren’t easy to choose… as everything is on high level competition for the Beauty contest over there ! But to help you preparing your road trip on the north island, I made a selection of the very best places to visit in New Zealand north island. A mix of mountains, lakes and beaches: beautiful landscapes you just really can’t skip on the kiwis’ island!

8 most beautiful places in New Zealand north island

  • 8. Tapeka beach
  • 7. Pakia Hill
  • 6. Kohi lookout
  • 5. Papamoa beach
  • 4. Waioeka river
  • 3. Tarangakau Gorge
  • 2. Te Puia Park
  • 1. Tongariro

Wild Tapeka point beach #8

I like this spot especially because it’s a very peaceful place to visit in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. At the end of a very winding road, departing from Russel’s town, you land at an undeveloped beach. And that’s why it’s one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand north island! Tapeka point beach gives you a feeling of being alone on earth, centuries back when Nature was ruling the world. On our road trip, we went there at sunset and the wow effect was complete.

Travel tip – Ferry from Paiha: 15mn. 13 NZ$ with a car. 8 NZ$ without.

Giant dune at Pakia Hill lookout #7

A jump to the island‘s northern loop and you arrive at Opononi. Home to Paihia hill, it’s a spot ypu can’t miss if you push your road trip until there. Pakia is on the way to Opononi. And you’ll get dramatic views on the giant Hokianga sand dune, on the other side of the Bay.

Once you are at the top of the hill, continue on the track to Arai Te Uru lookout. To take cool selfies and admire the rough green coastline, with a windy touch and agitated sea.


Chilling at Kohi lookout #6

Number 6 on my bucket list, I introduce you to Kohi! I was experiencing kind of an emotional rough patch at this time of our road trip with my travel mate – love life on a road trip isn’t a peaceful adventure every day! But I remember clearly that being at Kohi lookout made me feel at peace.

This lookout is for me one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand north island, for its strange calm vibes and position above an opaque, turquoise sea. Plus, you’ll see in the background the unmissable active volcanic island Whakaari. 

Bay of islands - New zealand
What route to follow on a 14 days road trip on the north island? I tell you everything in my digital travel guide. A 14 days itinerary, with the unmissable spots to see day by day. Plus driving time, maps, tips from my own experience. Download the guide!
New zealand north island Itinerary 14 days -

Mystic Papamoa : One of the best beaches on the north island #5

One of these places you would stop a bit at random on the road… and turning out to be one of the most beautiful places you see on the trip! Put Papamoa on your road trip’s list, for the beach’s golden colors at sunset and the extinct and sacred Maori site Mount Maunganui in the background. Easily accessible when you are at Whakatane, it’s a place not to miss in the Bay of Plenty. Especially if you’re into nature photography. And you know: the mountain in the background and the gold-tinted vegetation in the foreground are perfect for Instagram shots!

Beach New zealand west coast

The instagrammable drive on New Zealand north island road trip : Waioeka river #4

Waioeka river stretches over 60 km between Gisborne and Bay of Plenty in the northeastern part of the north island. If you like rough, undeveloped landscapes, you’ll love Waioeka! The scenic drive follows the river for 27km. In fact, Waioeka is NZ’s longest gorge. And definitely the most impressive one.

Take your time to stopover along the way to explore these Jurassic Park landscapes. As there are lookouts on the way, also leading to cool walking tracks, like Tauranga and Manganuku woth their wooden, harp suspension bridges.Or the more bucolic Te Karaka valley, filled with golden, red tree leaves in autumn. Yes, that’s the pic just below! Not too bad for an Insta feed, no? 

Travel info

Drive: 50km long – On State Highway 2 between Gisborne and Opotiki – Tauranga Track (3 hours), Manganuku Track (4 hours)

Te Karaka valley - Instagrammable spot - 3 trees in automn with golden, and red leaves

Worldwide famous scenic drive Tangarakau Gorge #3

After Rotorua, catch the first scenic drive of your trip on Highway 43: Tangarakau Gorge, part of Forgotten World Highway. Mystic name for the oldest heritage trail left from the colonial era in the 1800s. The 3h drive follows the Tangarakau river and goes up and ndown through 4 mountain saddles.

The journey is stunning for its scenery straight out of a Jurassic Park movie! Cross Moki tunnel, which received the glorious nickname of Hobbit hole, due its narrow 180 m long single lane. Drive carefully, as it’s a winding road and Moki tunnel’s portion is on unsealed ground.

Info to Tangarakau scenic drive – 3h, 150 km, safety: have a high level of vigilance and drive slowly

Note: marked as one of the worst roads by NZ police, due to its winding shape and slippery gravel surface. Drive very carefully!

Most beautiful places in new zealand north island Tangarakau Gorge. View on the river and forest.

Best place to visit in Rotorua : Te Puia’s geyser #2

The first stop for many road trips from Auckland, Rotorua is a very unique place. To give you a better idea of what to expect there: Rotorua name comes from rotten eggs, literally describing the smell invading the whole town ! The town actually has a sulphur smell coming from its geothermal activity. Due to its location right in the Pacific rim of fire, Rotorua is made of geothermal hot pools, hot springs and erupting geysers.

And Pohutu is the most iconic of them. This biggest active geyser in the southern hemisphere lives in Te Puia park and erupts once every hour. It was my first stop on our road trip and I couldn’t stop watching at Pohutu – note that Chinese tourists will test your patience for crowds but it’s worth it! Very close to the top first rank on the most beautiful places in New Zealand north island’s list, Te Puia’s geyser is the coolest nature gem here! 

Travel tips to Te Puia park in Rotorua

Entrance 39 NZ$ – Opening time: every day 10am to 4pm – Allow 2 to 4hrs to visit the place


Cool fact: Swimming in hot pools and springs is also one of the very fun things to do on my North island’s bucket list. You’ll find hot pools right in the city center to take footbaths, and thermal springs near Taupo.

The most of the most beautiful places in New Zealand north island : Tongariro #1

And now comes the king of the best places to visit in New Zealand north island: sacred Tongariro! I can’t thank my travel mate enough to have push me to hike Tongariro Alpine crossing.  I would have missed otherwise the most beautiful place in the north island! And I can say now that I climbed a volcano, which I continue to find the coolest thing to say at parties.

The world-wide famous national park is home to 3 volcanos, still active but monitored closely and accessible for everyone. Tongariro is a free single-day hike across lunar landscapes, volcanic craters and lakes. If you’re looking for instagrammable spots and stunning landscapes to shoot, make sure to take plenty of pics at these awesome landmarks:

South crater

Believed to have been glacially carved and later filled with sediments, the South crater is a highlight on the ascent. You’ll walk through its lunar landscape to arrive at Tongariro’s highest point: the Red Crater.

South crater Tongariro: view from inside the crater

Tongariro's Red crater

The must-see of Tongariro Crossing: its highest summit, at 1886m. It’s a stunning view of a volcanic landscape, looking like strawberry and chocolate ice-cream, with a touch of vanilla here and there. It’s also a thermal area, made of active craters.

Red cratere Tongariro Alpine crossing: most beautiful places in new zealand north island

Tongariro's Blue lake

A sacred volcanic lake, giving a crazy contrast to the eyes after the green of Emerald lakes. Swimming and eating around isn’t advised, as it’s a religious place for the Maori culture.

Emerald lakes

My favorite spot on the trail! Two emerald green lakes, to reach after a steep descent from the Red Crater. Witnesses of a past volcanic activity the lakes have been formed inside craters. Their precious green color is due to a combination of volcanic mineral and sunlight.

Emerald lakes Tongariro most beautiful places in new zealand north island. View from the path above.

Te Maari crater

A steamed volcano, peacefully smoking on Tongariro’s northern flank. You’ll see it while you’re on the hiking trail’s descent. Its last eruption in 2012 was less peaceful, though.

Tongariro descent - Te Maari crater and lake

Travel tips to Tongariro

Entrance free! – Best time: Nov. to May – Best to go by shuttle bus – Start point Mangatepopo (1100m) – End point Ketetahi (750m) – Allow 9hrs for the hike to visit the place – More info in my travel itinerary

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