10 things all backpackers must do in North Island, New Zealand

10 things all backpackers must do in North Island, New Zealand

11 May 2018

There’s so much to do in New Zealand’s North, and while it’s not the action packed island like New Zealand’s lower half (thanks Queenstown) it’s certainly worth the visit. The place is packed to the rafters with amazing natural locations giving you more things to see and do than you could shake a stick at. Not sure what to choose? Here’s a few of our favourite places in New Zealand’s North Island.


1.   Sandboarding at 90 Mile Beach

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Image thanks to Stoked for Saturday

Hit the waves of 90 mile beach and feel the wind in your hair. Except you won’t be carving the surf but you’ll be speeding down nearly 140 meters of sand. The Te Paki sand dunes near 90 mile beach are a great place for some low key thrills (and likely spills). Just grab a board, walk up the dunes (it’s a long way, but doing it barefoot makes it easier) get mentally prepared, speed down the dunes to the bottom and then do it all over again.

Hot tip: You need a specific board for sandboarding. While there’s a place right next to the car park that sells them for $15, there’s a local that sells them for $10 and overall they’re better quality. You can find them a few kilometers down the road at: 8970 Far North Road in Te Kao.


2.   Canyoning

Sandboarding at 90 Mile Beach

Image thanks to Roadtrippers

In the picturesque hills behind Piha beach is a steep volcanic rock valley called Piha Canyon. The place is surrounded by amazing natural sights and sports straight up stunning scenery with thunderous cascading waterfalls, hidden pools, water sculpted gorges and gorgeous grotto’s. The best bit is you can explore this incredible place you lucky duck. Head over to Piha for some canyoning action and have the time of your life rappelling down waterfalls, navigating rivers, jumping off cliffs into deep waters and chilling out in natural rock pools. It’s even a relatively easy place to get to, so why wait?


3.   Visit Waiheke Island

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Image thanks to New Zealand Tourism

If you’re feeling like you need a break for all the fast paced action that New Zealand is famous for then Waiheke Island is calling out for you. Clock out of reality and clock into a trip that feels far away from the world, boasting blue skies, blue water and nothing but chill vibes. If you’re a bit of a wino then you’re in luck. Waiheke is famous for their vineyards that put out all sorts of great grapes. Waiheke also has some stellar nature walks, mouthwatering food and if you’ve gotten sick of all the maxin’ and relaxing then jump on an ecozip adventure and speed over vineyards and native bushlands on a flying fox.


4.   Waitomo Caves

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Image thanks to Discover Waitomo

This species of glow worm is incredibly rare and can only be found in two countries in the world. Australia and New Zealand. Luckily enough you can see them in droves at Waitomo Caves where they light up the caves like a constellation of stars in the dark night sky. Interestingly glow worms aren’t actually worms at all, instead they’re a species of baby gnat that uses the strings of bioluminescence to catch their food just like a spider's web. While you’re in the area we also recommend getting your adrenaline fix with some black water rafting. Speed down rushing ravines in (almost) pitch black darkness. It’s like those dark water slides at water parks but more extreme and way more fun.


5.   Tongariro National Park

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Image thanks to New Zealand Tourism

Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand and is home 3 mighty actively volcanic mountains. Mt. Ngauruhoe, the newest (relatively speaking, it’s at least 2,500 years old) of the bunch, Mt Ruapehu which plays host some great sick ski slopes and snow fields, and finally Mt. Tongariro, the namesake of the park and a place famous for its alpine crossing. The Mountain itself is home to the stunning lakes and volcanic craters and has even played a star role as part of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings. The hike takes about 8 hours and can be at times be somewhat difficult, but for the amazing scenery, it’s worth every second.


6.   Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island,

Image thanks to Fullers

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary that’s one of New Zealand’s most important conservation programs. Over 120 years ago the 220 - hectare island was stripped of 94% of it’s native bush. Since then volunteers have planted trees and the island has been almost completely restored. Now the island is teeming with rare and unique wildlife including the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species. Tiritiri is  perfect for day trips. Take in scenic views from various lookout points on the island,explore it’s now lush rainforest and hopefully meet the rare birds that now call this island home.


7.   Hukafalls Jet Boat Ride

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Image thanks to TripAdvisor

Jet Boating is the best why to experience the beautiful force these falls hold. Jump into a Hukafalls Jet (the only people with permission to get up close and personal with the falls) and slide past banks cliffs and trees while performing wild spins, all surrounded by stunning scenery. Huka actually translates to foam in Maori, which could not describe these incredible falls better. 


8.   Kayak Cathedral Cove

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Image thanks to Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours

Cathedral Cove is truly beautiful. So beautiful in fact that they used it as the gateway into Narnia. But with a track record for blockbuster backdrops like New Zealand, it’s to be expected. You can explore Cathedral Cove in a lot of different ways but we highly recommend grabbing a kayak and going for a paddle. Paddle out and see stunning ocean sights and then turn around and experience the beautiful rock formations the cove is famous for.


9.   Visit Hobbiton

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It doesn’t matter if your a Lord of the Rings fan or not, head over to Waikato and immerse yourself in the land of Middle-Earth at Hobbiton. Explore hobbit holes, rolling green hills and stunning surrounds. If you’re feeling a bit thirsty head over to the green dragon inn for beers inspired by Middle-Earths finest. Feel like you’re having a frothie with Frodo while sitting at the fantasy styled bar. You’d be Samwise not to miss out.


10.   Dive North Bay

Dive North Bay, New Zealand Tours

Image thanks to Backpacker Guide NZ

Feel weightless and experience turquoise waters from a different perspective in the beautiful bay of islands. From complete beginners to experienced veterans dive into the crystal clear water and see loads of unique wildlife, from schools of colourful fish to eels and even sea urchins! So get suited up jump in for an amazing diving experience.


New Zealand’s North steals the show when it comes to natural wonders. Volcanic parks, rare and unique wildlife, amazing oceans and beaches, you name it. The place is truly spectacular is a nature lover's dream. While these are only 10 of our favourite things to do, there’s a whole lot more out there. Did we miss anything? Let us know on our facebook!