New Zealand - The North Island, Auckland & Bay of Islands

July 10, 2010 · Print This Article

The North Island is home to the international gateway, Auckland – a city located between two harbors and devoted to sailing culture. Auckland is a cosmopolitan city, with a population of over one million. It boasts a thriving cultural scene, with museums and galleries. The Auckland Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Maori artifacts.

In the far north, the Bay of Islands is home to uncrowded beaches, ancient kauri forests, and fruit-growing areas. It’s a great place for golf, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and dolphin watching. The region is also home to much of New Zealand’s colonial history, including the Waitangi Treaty House, location of the treaty between the British and the Maori — the country’s first settlers, Polynesians who arrived about a thousand years ago.

Rotorua, toward the center of the North Island, is an area steeped in Maori culture. Visit the Maori Arts and Crafts Centre, or take part in an evening “Hangi” (feast) with a traditional song and dance show. You can even visit a replica Maori village, to learn what life was like in New Zealand before the arrival of European settlers. The region’s active geothermal features include boiling mud pools, spouting geysers, and natural spa pools. Between Rotorua and Auckland are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, featuring yawning caverns filled with stalagtites and stalagmites, and an underground river lit only by the eerie glow of tiny creatures high above.

At the southern end of the North Island lies Wellington, capital of New Zealand. Here, you can visit the Parliament buildings, botanic gardens, or the acclaimed Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. With over 350 restaurants, bars, and cafés, Wellington has more dining choices per capita than New York City!

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