The best time to visit North Island, New Zealand is during Summer. Summer usually starts in December all through February. And since New Zealand have loads of scenic views and natural sites, these 8 sites I share below, are sure to make the perfect road trip.
1. Glowing Worms
Waitomo Cave is a 100 years old and is swarmed with glowing worms. Exploring further into the cave is a myriad of tiny bright lights covering the cave ceilings. The worms glow in typical opaque luminescent, beautifully lighting up the waterway. If you decide to visit Waitomo Cave and if you don’t mind spending extra, be sure to expect an entrance fee with different regular tours. The tour I took was $49 which includes a 45-minute ground tour plus a boat ride in the cave. The downside of this tour is you’re not allowed to take pictures, particularly during the boat ride.
There is, however, Waipu Cave, which unfortunately I did not get to visit, widely due to time and the fact that Waitomo Cave is “mum friendly”. Waipu Cave is a bit of a mission to get into since you would have to journey through off beaten tracks. It is completely unguided, crowd less and totally FREE!
Trip Tip: #Waipu Cave
1. Requires moderate fitness level.
2. Check previous week’s rainfall. The cave can be filled with water very quickly.
3. Best to explore the cave with someone who knows caving and has experience going into Waipu Cave.
4. Best to stay on track to avoid sinkholes.
5. Don’t harm the Flora and Fauna. Don’t touch the stalagmites/stalactites. Remember to leave the area the way you found it.
2. Redwoods, Rotorua
If you’re looking to get lost and yet find your way back, head on to the Redwoods in Rotorua. It’s a forest maze full of biking trails, hiking trails, horse trails, walking trails, mountain bike and logging tracks. The towering trees are absolutely magnificent, you can take a breezy walk at your own pace while soaking up the smell of pine wood and fresh air. The best part – No entry fee. YES, ITS FREE! and is open from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.
3. Active Geothermic Valley
I love corn. There’s no better way to cook a corn in cob than in a natural geothermal pool which costs only $2. The geothermic pools are located in Whakarewarewa which is within the area of Rotorua, New Zealand. Whakarewarewa is the only living Maori village where its people lives with active geothermal vents and geysers. The Whakarewarewa village tour gives you an insight of the 200-year-old Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao tribe. Since the village is run by the Maori people for 5 generations, the guided tour is a good way to contribute to the community. You can book a tour for $35 per adult.
4. Redwood Treewalk
Since you have made your way to the Redwoods, why not explore the towering tall trees from 12 meters above ground. The tree walk is located within the same area. Think lush green trees, the sound of the forest when the wind blows and the freedom of walking unaided through 22 magnificent 110-year-old redwood trees. Unlike walking on the ground, which is FREE, the tree walk has an entry fee costing $25 per adult. But of course, you have the option to forego the Treewalk.
5. Kohi Point, Whakatane
The Kohi Point walkway is an incredible scenic walk. I’m a big fan of walking and trekking. I started my walk from Seaview Road in Whakatane. The walk will take you approximately 2-3 hours. If you think walking is too slow, running is another way to fit in some workout in your day and speed up. Most locals who passed by me were running, which was fun to see too. Helps kick in a sense of motivation and excitement to reach up to Kohi Point Lookout, and eventually to the stunning coastal Otarawairere Beach. From the beach, you can continue walking to Ohope Beach where you will occasionally find native birds like tui, fantails and kiwi, flocking and chirping nearby.
The trail is a mixture of giant steps, slopy and steep terrain surrounded by native bush trees, and occasionally glimpses of Whakatane, Ohope Beach and Whale Island.
Trip Tip: #Kohi Point
1. If you are in doubt, head on to i-site Whakatane Visitor Information Centre.
2. Otarawairere Beach is inaccessible during high tides. Check with i-site Whakatane for latest tide information.
6. Hukka Falls
The most impressive part of Hukka Falls (Hukka means ‘foam’ in Maori) is watching the water drop at 11 meters (35 feet high). It is a natural hydropower, generating 220,000 litres of water per second. You’re sure to be mesmerised by the foamy blue water, just flowing before your eyes. Watching Hukka Falls is not the end if you visit this place. Be sure to take a scenic walk on Hukka Falls track along the Waikato River banks.
Getting to Hukka Falls is fairly easy. It’s located in Wairakei Tourist Park and it’s just a short drive if you’re staying in Taupo. Access is FREE and since I was from Whakatane, it took me 2 hours to reach via State Highway 5. But it was worth the drive.
7. Moutohora Island
Moutohora Island is an amazing island. I took a short hike up right to the top and reached to an amazing view. I love the fact that Moutohora Island is the remains of a complex volcano and till this day, it is still active with hot springs. The best part about this island is Sulphur Bay, where I got to dig out my own hot pool and dip my feet in. And if you swim in the sea, look for bubbles blowing from underneath, because that is where you want to dip yourself in. That is where the hot spring is. Careful, it gets really hot – BOILING HOT.
If you’re looking to travel on a budget, Moutohora Island is not ideal. The island is a protected wildlife sanctuary, is pest free, access is highly restricted and expects to go through a biosecurity clearance check before departing. The only way to visit is with a Department of Conservation approved concessionaire where they are allowed to take a small number of visitors in. It costs $99 per adult to enter.
Another FREE access site is, Kerosene Creek. Kerosene Creek is located in Taupo which is 35 minutes south of Rotorua. It is a natural hot spring where you can bathe and relax in. Good to dip in if you have a long day of adventure. If you ever find your way there, be sure to watch out for your belongings and never leave anything in the car. For safety, best to visit during the day.
8. Kaituna River
So! I save the best for last. This is where I have to stress, that if you visit New Zealand, the best way to discover it, is by embarking on adventures like white water rafting in Kaituna River. Since New Zealand has plenty of FREE access to scenic and natural sites, I highly recommend you to keep your pennies and save them for adventures like these. If you have an adrenaline junkie partner or in my case, an adrenaline junkie mother, book yourselves with River Rats. The rates are subject to change according to the dates you book.
We booked with River Rats before arriving in New Zealand. That’s always a sure way of securing your spot for the ride. Rates start at $105 which is worth every penny if you ask me. The highlight of the ride was the 7-meter drop, which wasn’t that bad. The rates include safety equipment, wetsuits, and polar fleece tops.
Trip Tip: #White Water Rafting Kaituna River
1. Bring along extra clothes and towel.
2. Underneath the wetsuits provided, you can use a swimsuit. So bring your swimsuit.
3. Don’t forget to have a blast!