Sites to see on New Zealand’s North Island

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Do you have a few days to visit New Zealand and don’t know where to begin? Today’s guest contributor, Kim Love-Ottobre, is here to show us the must see highlights while on a visit to New Zealand’s North Island where you can experience blue water, outstanding wine, and even a trip to the Shire.

You could spend a month or two in New Zealand and not cover all the amazing sights and wonderful coffee you will find along the way, but here’s a few highlights on your road trip toward the center of New Zealand.

First stop, Auckland & Waiheke Island

If you have arrived in Auckland via a long haul or overnight flight, jumping into a car and driving the next day is not recommended. Instead, why not board a ferry from Auckland Harbor and travel over to Waiheke Island for a day of wine tasting.

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Batch Winery on Waiheke Island is a great stop along the way!

You can board a small tour bus which holds about one dozen people that will drive you to for a half or full day of wine tasting – no driving required for you!

Road Trip

After you’ve had a taste of Syrah wine on Waiheke Island, you could be ready for a road trip into the countryside. Don’t expect four line highways once you leave Auckland, Route 1 is  a two lane road. Be prepared to travel a bit slowly and see the sights. There are not fast food locations along the road, but many independent cafes with great coffee. Make a stop in Tirau on your way and check out the cool corrugated steel buildings and signs in town.

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Fun sheep building made out of corrugated steel in Tirau.

The Shire Exists

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The permanent home of the Shire is in Matamata New Zealand.

Any lover of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings should know the Shire lives on, in Matamata. The Hobbiton Movie Set was first dismantled after the filming of the Lord of the Rings, but now the Shire is a permanent location with guided tours of 44 hobbit holes, sheep, gardens, with a complimentary beer at the Green Dragon Inn.

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There are 44 hobbit holes to view on the beautiful set so make plenty of time to explore!

Rotorua, So Much to Do!

There’s a good chance that you may smell Rotorua before you arrive in town as there is a distinct sulphur smell in some parts of the city due to the geothermal activity. Steam rising from the earth is a common sight. Some areas, such as the local park had fences around them to keep out the curious, but you can still get very close to bubbling boiling water in some areas. Be very careful!

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A view of the Tama-te-Kapua Meeting House, St Faiths Church and geothermal pools.

There are many places to observe Maori Culture on the island. You could spend an evening experience at the Mitai Maori Village. If you have limited funds or time, you might want to consider visiting the Maori Village of Ohinemutu on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Ohinemutu is home to the Te Papaiouru Marae and Tama-te-Kapua meeting house and the St Faith’s Church.


If the powerful New Zealand sun is getting to you (there is a hole in the ozone above New Zealand) consider a hike in the beautiful shade of the California Redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest. There are also biking and horse trails of various lengths for anyone wanting to stretch their legs in the forest.

Skyline Rotorua

A fun stop in Rotorua is Skyline Rotorua. There are activities for everyone. First is the gondola ride to the top of Mount Ngongotahathe with great views. If you feel like doing nothing too adventurous, you can take the nature walk around the top of the mountain. For those adventurous types, some people bring their mountain bikes on the gondola and bomb down the many biking trails.

If you’re planning a trip to this area, make sure to check out a list of hotels in New Zealand’s North Island.

In my opinion, the most exciting way down is the gravity fuelled luge ride down. This is part toboggan, part go-cart and you choose your speed via braking. There are three different routes to take you flying down the mountain in style.

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The view of Lake Rotorua is beautiful … if you can take your eyes off the luge course!

Interested in dinner and wine after your fun downhill descents? Take the gondola back up and visit the restaurant and a wine tasting room at the top of the mountain.

Is your interest piqued yet? This is just a short version of what is in store for you on the sunny North Island of New Zealand. So much to see, you’ll want to stay forever!

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