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North Island

Welcome to the North Island! Here you can see it all - from huge, ancient kauri forests in the far north, to bubbling geysers in the Central Plateau and a vibrant cosmopolitan capital city at the southern tip. Although it's only a short domestic 'hop' from the South Island, the North Island is a completely unique adventure destination. A few of the North Island's defining characteristics include its warmer climate, tropical coastlines, volcanic activity, ancient forests and a rich cultural history.

A warmer climate to the South Island means the Kauri tree only grows on the North Island, and it forms a back bone to the islands 'jarassic' forests. One tree (Tane Mahuta - 'Lord of the Forest') has been dated to be over 2,500 years old, and contains enough timber in the trunk to build thirty three-bedroom homes... so you can imagine the size and beauty of these giants. These ancient forests were home to the majority of our indigenous Maori tribes, many of which are still thriving today, and they welcome you with arms wide open. 

The North Island's Kauri forests line its golden-beach coastlines, and reach high into the volcanic mountains, where you can stand just meters from towering geysers, boiling sulphur pools and hike on live volcanos. As impressive as the South Island's rugged Southern Alps are, the North Island is the only destination in the world you'll get this unique experience.

So, what's the best way to see all of the best parts of the North Island? Well, if you're making the journey 'down-under' to New Zealand, the chances are, you'll pass through our largest city Auckland. Known as the 'City of Sails' for its wonderful sailing, having harbours on both of its (east and west) coasts. This is the North Island's 'gateway city' and it's the best place for your trip to start. 

We've been running the award-winning 11-day Ultimate North Island 'Kauri' trip that starts and finishes in Auckland for many years now and we're continually refining it to make the most of your time down here. There are 5-day options available too and the trip is designed to tie in nicely with all of our South Island adventures

Starting in the far north, be a kid again and slide down the sand dunes into the warm Tasman Sea. Hop across to the Bay of Islands on the East Coast and visit Waitangi to discover New Zealand's political history with the Treaty of Waitangi, considered our nation's founding document. Get your hiking fix on the trail to Cape Brett Lighthouse, where the rolling hills are luscious green and the sea below is teeming with marine life. And that's all in the first few days!

After a short journey south we'll introduce you to a cluster of islands off the East Coast known as the Poor Knights. This is a sub-tropical area in a marine reserve; the warm blue waters are home to schools of tropical marine life, making it some of the best snorkelling, kayaking and diving in the South Pacific! After another coastal hike at Mangawhai heads, we'll head back to the 'City of Sails' to recharge our batteries before exploring the Central Plateau. 

Over the next 5 days you'll be amazed at the diversity of the North Island, as we transition from golden sand beaches to volcanoes, redwood forests, waterfalls and cave systems. Starting at Mokena geyser, with a hike up Mt Te Aroha you'll be rewarded with views of Mt Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu, the two largest volcanoes in New Zealand. You'll spend the next couple of evenings in Rotorua, the hub for Maori culture. After mountain biking on some of the countries best trails, your group will share a traditional Maori feast, known as a 'hangi', prepared by wrapping food and burying it in the earth to cook slowly over heated stones... YUM! 

The culmination of this adventure is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is arguable regarded as the world's best day hike. This is a challenging and truly unforgettable hike - the views of Emerald Lakes amongst arid volcanic terrain are simply breath-taking. And the best part, at the end of the day you can relax and soak in natural thermal springs for the evening. 

 

For the ultimate New Zealand experience, you can combine the 'Kauri' trip with any of our South Island adventures too:

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Trip of a Lifetime!

    I am still basking in the glow from this remarkable trip! I admit that I was a bit nervous at first as I was the oldest person in our group and not as fit (for hiking) as some in the group, so I worried about 'keeping up' on the hikes - especially the steeper climbs. Ben and Lauren were very reassuring and encouraging and I felt that I was able to 'hold my own'. In fact, while the hiking was probably the most challenging I've done in at least 7 years, it was the most rewarding/exhilarating part for me. I loved our group - a very positive, health-conscious and fun group of people from all walks of life. It was also wonderful that we were only 12 people - it helped to create a much more intimate and personal atmosphere. I felt we bonded together well - again, thanks to Ben and Lauren's great skills with ice-breaking, fun games, and ability to set and maintain a positive atmosphere from the beginning.
    From the moment we set off from the airport to the emotional farewells back at the airport at the end of the trip, this was a top notch adventure. Our transportation was comfortable, our accommodations were always different and unique and very comfortable - I loved that they weren't all in your standard hotel and that some of them were really off the beaten track. The food was amazing - from the snack basket in the van, loaded fresh every day with fruit and other snacks, to the amazing meals that Lauren and Ben created and the breakfasts and dinners that we had at various restaurants - there was a lot of variety, special dietary considerations were accounted for and there was lots of it!
    I did the kayak option and it was outstanding. The B&B and our hosts were wonderful (the hot tub at the end of the day was most appealing!) and our kayak guide, Nick was terrific - very accommodating, skilled and he made it all very interesting and fun!
    I cannot say enough about our incredible guides - Ben and Lauren - they truly moved the bar for me from a great trip to one that will go down in history for me as the trip of a lifetime. They were so knowledgeable about the island - I loved listening to the legends/folklore and learning more about the vegetation, birds, etc. Ben was a terrific driver - I always felt safe. Lauren was terrific with her cooking and meal presentations - meals looked fantastic and tasted even better! Both Ben and Lauren added those special touches from decorating the bus for the Christmas season, organizing our Secret Santa, making a fantastic Christmas morning breakfast, complete with Christmas crackers and special hats, managing extra logistics like re-booking the paragliding for us, setting up the helicopter tour, taking the time and effort to help reconnect people with items they had left behind either in our accommodations or on a hike/kayak. They even had the perfect music for when we went through the Homer Tunnel and down into Milford Sound - the combination of the music and the scenery was so moving it had several of us in tears! They really ensured that they got to know each person and took a genuine interest in each person. Their positive energy and enthusiasm was infectious. They took kindness and customer service to a new level! The scenery was breathtaking everywhere we went. It would be hard for me to say what the favourite part was or favourite view as the South Island is simply spectacular. I felt that the trip was organized in such a way that I really got a good feel and appreciation for the South Island. Truly New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places (both 'inside and out') that I have ever visited (and I've visited over 20 other countries around the world). I really loved the more laid-back way of life and the local people we met were so welcoming and kind. I would love to come back again and see the North Island but also re-visit the South Island!
    I highly recommend this trip and have already suggested it to a number of my friends. It really was transformational for me on so many levels! My heartfelt thanks to Ben and Lauren and everyone at Active Adventures!
    Sue Hazell Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, January 2018
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Outstanding Adventure Vacation

    Our Active Adventures trip was outstanding! The entire process was a tremendous experience. Staff were responsive and friendly during the "sign up" phase. Our guides Jordie and Holly are two of the finest professional, friendly and knowledgeable guides we've had the pleasure to work with. Shout out for both of these wonderful people! They did a marvelous job managing group dynamics to ensure everyone was motivated and individual needs were met. Well trained and both have mastered the skillful art of quality customer service. Keep up the good work!
    Lilly Golden Review Image
    – Texas, United States
    Tui, July 2017
  •   4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    Thank You Active Adventures

    Active Adventures' Winter Rimu trip allowed me to experience many things for the first time. Coming from an island of Guam, I was able to see something so different than what I normally see in my backyard. It was my first time to climb up to 1,100 meters. The climb was at Sealy Tarns which overlooked a lake, Mt. Cook village and most especially a fantastic view of Mt. Cook. It was my first time doing an overnight hike as well. We trekked through the scenic landscape towards Mt. Aspiring hut and was rewarded at night with an unspoilt sky of the Southern Hemisphere. It was so clear that we were able to see the Milky Way (another first). We also did a hike up Alex Knobb to get a good view of Franz Glacier and on the way up, we experienced so much elements in one day. We experienced hail and snow (both for the first time) and enjoyed some picturesque views the more higher we climbed.

    From the beginning of the trip, Lynette and Miriam were wonderful at helping to book my trip with Active Adventures. During the trip, Mel and Gary were so hospitable and helped make the trip memorable. Mel and Gary understood that we haven't hiked at this capacity or weren't seasoned hikers, yet they remained with us at the back and encouraged us every step of the way. They helped to show the true essence of New Zealand's natural beauty as well as the friendliness and hospitality of Kiwis. This trip has been amazing and thanks to Active Adventures, New Zealand has become my favorite place in the world.

    Thank you for the memories and for these experiences. <3
    Analyn Palugod Review Image
    – GUAM, Guam
    Winter Rimu, July 2016
  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 298 reviews)

    Melissa's Weka Adventure

    I knew from pictures taken by family that New Zealand is a beautiful place but the beauty is much deeper than the eye can see. Everyone we came in contact with was wonderful and I can't think of enough superlatives to describe our guides, Nick and Elder. The trip was above our expectations. The biking was varied and interesting and the hikes worth every step. The food was too good and we enjoyed the variation in accommodations. We would go back and do it again.
    Melissa Contos Review Image
    – Virginia, United States
    Weka, February 2018
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Everything we hoped for and MORE.

    This was my first trip to New Zealand, and to the southern hemisphere. We had dreamed of this for many years, and it was so much more than we had even hoped for. So many memories and highlights: Morning alpine glow on Mt. Cook. Any day that it was sunny and you could see those amazing mountains. Turquoise alpine lakes. The day we spontaneously stopped at a deserted beach on the west coast, and saw Hector's dolphins frolicking. The picnic on the hill at Braemar's station. The nights at Braemar, the laughing and wine. Racheal (our guide) encouraging me and talking about growing up on a sheep farm while hiking up Key Pass. The stars at night - the Milky Way and upside down Orion! The mystical drive down to Milford Sound in the fog and light rain, and the clearing while on the boat. Going under a waterfall and just yelling in joy. The amazing, kind, funny and interesting people we met on our tour. If you are even thinking about it - go! You will not be disappointed.
    Jeannie Puglisi Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Kiwi, April 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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