From Mount Ruapehu's mighty summit and the depths of Lake Taupo to Rotorua's tranquil forests and the roaring Huka Falls, the core of New Zealand's North Island is awash with awe-inspiring natural wonders.
Ready to go? Pick up a car hire in Auckland and prepare yourself for the hotbed of activity found in New Zealand's volcanic centre.
Start your southward journey winding through the Bombay Hills to arrive at Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest, where ancient trees tower over the trails below just five minutes away from Rotorua's city centre.
With plenty of walking trails and a world-renowned mountain biking track on offer, Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest is as suited to soul-searching as it is to extreme sports. Whether you relax among the roots on the forest floor or speed through the labyrinth of trees by bike, you're sure to be humbled by the sleeping giants that surround you at this sublime destination.
While you’re in the area near Rotorua, tick a box on your bucket list and enjoy a wine atop a once-active volcano. Using grapes sourced from New Zealand's world-renowned wine regions like Marlborough and Hawke's Bay, the Volcanic Hills Winery brings the best of the South Island to the heart of the north.
While wine lovers delight in the spectacular view, adrenaline junkies can satisfy their need for adventure at one of the mountain's many attractions. Fly through the forest on the Zoom Zipline, tear down the advanced Luge track or suspend yourself above the treetops on the Skyswing before making your way back down the mountain-side.
Venture two hours south of Rotorua through a chain of mountain ranges and you'll find nature’s ultimate playground – Lake Taupo. Not your average body of water, the lake covers an area of more than 600 square kilometres and plummets nearly 200 metres to the bottom. Along the water's edge, peaks of extinct volcanos rise and fall with secluded white-sand beaches interspersed in-between.
Head out on a kayak and explore the lake's many inlets or retreat to one of the region's natural hot springs after a day spent fishing for trout in the shallows of the lakeshore – no matter what adventure you're looking for, Lake Taupo is sure to deliver.
Located a mere five minutes north of Taupo, the thundering Huka Falls are an impressive sight well-worth a slight detour on your southbound journey. Suitable for all levels of fitness, try the Spa Park Walk – an easy trail that follows the crystal blue waters of the Waikato River and leads to a foot bridge at the top of the falls.
Travelers looking for a bit more adventure can opt to take a ride on The Huka Falls Jet. Speed down the river on a high-powered jet boat and watch in awe as the endless flow of water hurtles into the basin below.
Outdoor enthusiasts would be remiss to pass up the beautiful Mount Ruapehu, set deep in the North Island's centre, 100 kilometres further south of Lake Taupo. Known for its snowy peaks, non-skiers will be kept busy with horse-back riding, hiking and kayaking through the mountain's diverse landscapes.
While you're in the area, be sure to take the chairlift up the mountain-side and stop in at New Zealand's highest café, where the views are amazing and the air is fresh. If your lunch with a view leaves you hungry for more, take to the skies on one of Tongariro National Park's scenic flights – a perfect way to enjoy the dramatic landscape of Mount Ruapehu and its surrounds.
Begin charting your northward journey back to Auckland and stop into Waitomo Caves, where free-flowing underground rivers have created an intricate network of tunnels ripe for exploration. Take a boat tour through the hidden waterways or descend into the abyss to witness the famous glow worm phenomenon – a spectacular sight where the cave walls come to life with shimmering blue-green lights. Either way, Waitomo Caves is the where you'll find unspoilt nature at its finest.
Want to see for yourself? Organise your rental car in Auckland and get ready to discover the natural wonders erupting in the North Island's interior.