When I moved to Wellington, New Zealand, in 2014, summer was just beginning. I couldn’t ask for a better time to familiarize myself with New Zealand.
That summer was filled with more outdoor activities than I had indulged in for years. With New Zealand’s strong sunshine and freaking awesome mountains, that was probably the best summer I’ve ever experienced.
Keep in mind, since the country is in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand’s summer lasts from December through the end of February. AKA right now. For this reason, I’ve been jonesing for the North Island, where I lived. In fact, I’m toying with the idea of taking a trip back next summer!
New Zealand is composed of two main islands, the North and South Islands. (Plus a bunch of smaller ones.) The entire country is gorgeous and a haven for outdoor activities. While both islands are worth visiting year-round, I typically think of the South Island as the best place for winter activities, such as skiing and snowboarding. I think of the North Island for summer activities.
So here are my ten favorite summer activities on New Zealand’s North Island. I am writing this blog post practically itching for another trip to New Zealand!
10 Summer Activities on New Zealand’s North Island
1. Stand Up Paddle Board on Great Lake Taupo
Taupo is a town in the middle of the North Island, and it’s a classic summer area.
Great Lake Taupo is one of the town’s main attractions. There are a number of tents set up on the shore where you can rent items. My favorites are the tents where you can rent stand-up paddle boards. I think I rented mine for 20 NZD per hour.
From Great Lake Taupo, you have a clear view of Mt. Ngauruhoe, better known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings films! It’s pretty epic to be trying a new sport while gazing at Mount Doom.
This was my first time SUP-ing. It’s surprising strenuous on the legs! My quads hurt for a couple days afterward. Am I pathetic?
2. Go to a Music Festival
New Zealand is a teenie tiny country, so it’s only started attracting big bands in the last few years. To this day, bands usually only bother visiting Auckland. Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, with roughly 1/4 of the country’s population.
In 2015, I went to St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Auckland, and it was amazing. I got to see Future Islands, Belle & Sebastian, Mat Demarco, and St. Vincent, among many others!
Standing in the New Zealand sun all day and listening to awesome music? That’s my definition of a day well-spent.
Here are a few more summer music festival ideas on the North Island:
3. Bungee Jump
If you should do ANYTHING during your trip to New Zealand, it’s bungee jump.
Fun fact: Bungee jumping was actually invented in New Zealand! So partaking in your first bungee is the perfect way to pay tribute to the country.
I chose to bungee jump in Taupo, over the Waikato River. (Yes, that is me in the photo! Pretty awesome, right?) I booked my adventure with Taupo Bungy, the North Island’s most popular bungee jumping company.
If you don’t have time to hit up Taupo on your trip itinerary, there are other places to fling yourself off a structure. Try falling from the Auckland Harbour Bridge or in Agroventures Adventures Park in Rotorua.
4. Relax on an Auckland Beach
I have to get something off my chest: I’m not a huge fan of Auckland.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool city. I just don’t think New Zealand is all about the cities. Nature is the country’s biggest draw. If I wanted to spend time in just another city, I could go … well, anywhere else.
But I have to give Auckland credit for its beaches.
There is no shortage of beaches here, and they are the perfect places to soak up the New Zealand sun.
By the way, maybe you’ve noticed I keep referring to “the New Zealand sun.” Why is this country’s sunshine so special? I’m glad you asked! There is a hole in the ozone layer above New Zealand, so the rays are super strong there. I think my summer in New Zealand was the only time I was even slightly tan in my entire life.
All that to say, time on the beach is necessary during a summer on the North Island. And Auckland has plenty of beaches where you can sunbathe.
5. Walk on a Wellington Beach
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, has some of the most unique beaches I’ve ever seen. Clear blue water with mountains surrounding you. This city has my favorite beaches in the world.
Wellington is also nicknamed “Windy Welly.” I’m sure you can guess why.
For this reason, Wellington’s beaches aren’t exactly the type of places where you sit, relax, and sunbathe. They’re better for water sports or long walks.
So take a stroll on a beach in this city. Because the beaches are definitely worth seeing!
6. Canoe/Kayak on the Whanganui River
New Zealand has 9 official “Great Walks” listed by the Department of Conservation. Taking a journey down the Whanganui River is listed as a Great Walk, even though your legs will be in a kayak or canoe the entire time!
There are several companies you can rent boats from. You may choose to float down the river for either three or five days and book campsites at a number of places along the water.
Instead of celebrating Christmas traditionally, I spent Christmas canoeing down the Whanganui River with my friend and her family. It wasn’t exactly a white Christmas. I would argue that it was even better.
7. Canoe/Kayak on the Bay of Islands
The Bay of Island is an area north of Auckland, and it’s supposed to be one of the most gorgeous places in New Zealand.
No, I never made it to the Bay of Islands when I lived in the country. And I regret it all the time!
If I actually get to visit New Zealand next summer, renting a kayak at the Bay of Islands is on the top of my to-do list!
8. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Trail
Tongariro National Park is a little outside of Taupo, where you’ll find Mt. Ngauruhoe. The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a 3-4 day hike that goes throughout the entire park. If you’re up for a backpacking trip, it’s pretty awesome.
If you just want to spend a day in the park and avoid the expense of staying in huts, hike the Tongariro Alpine Trail. This path takes you through the main points in the park and takes about nine hours.
And yes, I really recommend going in the summer! Or at least between October 21st and April 30th, which is the Great Walks season. The Husband and I attempted to make the 4-day hike in May. Emphasis on the word attempted. It stormed almost the entire time, and the winds got up to 100 km per hour. We turned around after a day and hitchhiked back to our car.
9. Cycle around the Martinborough Wine Region
New Zealand is definitely known for its wine. While there are numerous vineyards across both islands, the Martinborough wine region is one of the best spots in the country to go wine tasting. In fact, I chose to spend my 23rd birthday in Martinborough.
This wine region is only a one-hour drive from Wellington. Once you’re there, rent a bike and cycle around over 20 wineries. Most of these vineyards offer affordable wine tastings and gorgeous scenery.
Wine tasting is a classic New Zealand experience, as well as a great way to take advantage of summer weather.
10. Drive along the Parapara Highway
Highway 4 is called the Parapara Highway. It’s insanely mountainous and gorgeous. The pictures above don’t do it justice.
Only drive along the Parapara Highway if you feel comfortable driving in the mountains. It’s a slow, curvy drive, but totally worth it. We drove through the hills on our way back to Wellington from the Whanganui River, and it was the perfect reward for completing our three-day journey.
Remember to check out cheap flights on Skyscanner! You can make a spontaneous trip before the summer months are over, or plan your trip for December 2018-February 2019.
Have you spent time on the North Island in the summer? What are your favorite outdoor activities?