North Island Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in North Island
On the North Island the attractions for many visitors are the spectacular volcanic areas, the almost tropical vegetation, the idyllic beaches and the surviving Maori culture.
Lake Taupo is the result of a collapsed crater, and is the largest inland lake in the North Island.
Located in the Urewera Ranges, this national park is best explored on foot along one of the many hiking trails. Many of these hikes are long, with huts available for accommodation.
The Waikato, New Zealand's longest river (425km), rises as the Tongariro River on the snow-capped Mount Ruapehu (2787m) volcano in Tongariro National Park, flows through Lake Taupo and emerges from it as the Waikato River at Taupo. The Maori name Waikato-taniwha-rau means 'the flowing water of the hundred water monsters'. Before the river was tamed by dams, power stations and flood barriers in the 20th C., it fully justified its name with its waterfalls, whirlpools, rapids, marshy areas and floods.At Mercer, north of Huntly, the Waikato abruptly turns west and flows into the Tasman Sea in a wide estuary, over black ferruginous sand. Until the last great eruption of Mount Taupo in the 2nd C. AD the Waikato flowed not westward, as it does now, but east into the Firth of Thames.
The little town of Te Kuiti lies 80km south of Hamilton at an important road intersection. From here it is only a short distance to the famous Waitomo Caves, and then on to the Taranaki coast. Originally a railroad workers' camp, Te Kuiti is now the commercial center of the King Country, a region in which the main occupations are farming, mining (limestone and coal) and timber working.
The Waitomo Caves are most famous for the Glow-worm Cave, where glow-worms illuminate the dark cave as visitors watch from a boat tour of the cave.
Maori Meeting House
The pride of Te Kuiti is a magnificent Maori meeting house, built in 1878 for Te Kooti. After he was pardoned by the government in 1883 he presented the house to the tribe that had taken him in during his exile.
Bird House, Otorohanga
Otorohanga (pop. 2500), 20km north of Te Kuiti, has a bird park with a kiwi house, in which the birds can be observed in night-time conditions, and aviaries housing other native species.
Pureora Forest Park
Pureora Forest Park (830 sq.km), 60km southeast of Te Kuiti, is famed for the many different bird species found here. There are a number of trails through the park. The soil was formed from pumice ejected during the eruption of Mount Taupo in the 2nd C. AD.
Some 100km southwest of Hamilton, on the west coast, is the natural harbor of Kawhia. The area was formerly of great importance to the Maoris as the resting place of the Tainui ancestral canoe.The Maori tribes that lived here, under their chief Te Rauparaha, were driven out of Kawhia in 1821 by other Waikato tribes and moved south to Kapiti Island, where they in turn killed or drove out the local tribes.
Now a small settlement of 300 people, in the 19th C. Kawhia was an important trading center (timber, flax, grain) that shipped cargoes to Sydney and even as far afield as California. After the land wars and the peace of 1881 it declined into insignificance.
Te Puia Hot Springs
On Te Puia beach, 4km west of Kawhia, hot springs gush out of the sand at low tide, so that visitors can have their own thermal bath.
Inland from the North Taranaki Bight (west coast), between Mokau and Kawhia, extends the rugged and infertile area known as the King Country. It is a region of karstic limestone, with deep gorges, intricate karstic cave systems and bizarre rock formations.The first Europeans landed in this area in the early 19th C. on the wild west coast at Mokau and Kawhia. They traded with the Maoris, exchanging guns for flax and dried tattooed heads, which were much sought after in Europe. Missionaries taught the natives European farming methods, and soon wheat was being exported from Kawhia.Between Mokau and Kawhia lived the warlike Te Maniapoto tribes, who believed that their ancestors had arrived here in the Tainui ancestral canoe. They were keen partisans of the Maori King Movement and supported the rebels in Taranaki and Waikato against the government.After the defeat of the rebels at Orakau the Maori king, whose residence had been at Ngaruawahia on the Waikato River, sought refuge in this area. The Ngati-Maniapoto tribes held on to their land, and settlers did not dare to venture into the King Country.In 1881 the mighty Maori chief Rewi Maniapoto made peace with the government. He sold and leased land to the whites, against the will of the Maoris, and permitted the construction of a railroad through the King Country.
It is an hour drive northwest from Auckland to the southern shore of Kaipara Harbour, a vast natural harbor. The numerous indentations and inlets are part of a system of drowned river valleys. Kaipara Harbour has a total shoreline of over 3000km. Only a few places offer a general view of its area: there are good views from Highway 1 at Bryderwyn and from the road (not asphalted all the way) between Wellsford and Helensville.
Coates Memorial Church, Matakohe
The most notable feature of Matakohe, situated on Highway 12 at the north end of Kaipara Harbour, is the Coates Memorial Church, built in honor of Prime Minister Joseph Gordon Coates (1878-1943), who is depicted as a knight in amour in a round stained-glass window.
Adjoining the Coates Memorial Church is the famous Otamatea Kauri and Pioneer Museum, which has vivid displays illustrating the early days of the settlers and the history of kauri felling and resin gathering.
Address: Church Road, Matakohe, Northland 0584, New Zealand
Opening hours: May 1 to Sep 30: 9am-5pm
Oct 1 to Apr 30: 8:30am-5:30pm
Oct 1 to Apr 30: 8:30am-5:30pm
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in NZD: Family $30.00, Adult $15.00, Senior over 65 $12.00, Child 15 & under $3.00
Typical Visit: 2 hours
Auckland - Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens
Visitors to the Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens will enjoy a unique art and garden experience. The garden trail winds through a 1 kilometer stretch of over 50 sculptures.
Map of North Island Attractions