I can’t believe it’s already been four years since I visited this amazing island country in Oceania. My two week trip to New Zealand and Australia back in 2018 was my very first self-planned and self-guided solo trip and I was very fortunate to have been able to visit both countries while in the South Pacific. While four days is most certainly not enough time to visit all of NZ, it is a doable amount of time to visit highlights of the northern island. If you too have a stopover in New Zealand, in route to Australia (or another neighboring country), here’s my recommendations on how to spend four days in Northern New Zealand:
Take the hop-on, hop off bus around Auckland and the islands
I’m a huge fan of “hop-on, hop-off” buses in major cities, and feel it’s a great way for solo travelers to orient to their surroundings and see some of the major sites. There’s a hop-on, hop-off bus both in Auckland as well as neighboring islands, such as Waiheke Island. The beauty of these buses is for a daily ticket rate, you can “hop on” and “hop off” as often as you like throughout the day. I especially recommend the bus if visiting Waiheke Island, as there are hardly any sidewalks along the main road and is a direct way to visit each spot (more about Waiheke Island below).
Skywalk around or jump on the tower
The Sky Tower in Auckland stands at around 629 ft (192m) and offers some amazing views of the city! It is definitely not for the faint of heart, as there are no hand rails to hold onto. Yet even though I have a slight fear of heights, I never felt safer with my guide and all of the harnesses and bungees I was strapped onto throughout the Skywalk. You can also choose to either jump off the tower, or do a combo package deal to both walk and jump off the tower. I immediately regretted NOT jumping off the tower (when in Auckland, right?) and put it on my bucket list to jump off when I return someday. If you prefer to stay behind closed walls, the tower also offers 360 observatory views, a new virtual reality experience called the “SkySlide”, Yoga in the Sky (also on my bucket list), and dining options.
Take a ferry to one of the local islands
If needing a break from Auckland’s hustle and bustle, I highly recommend hopping on the ferry to a neighboring island. I immediately fell in love with Waiheke Island, a picturesque island with beautiful beaches, wineries, and forest. I could have easily spent a night (or two!) there! It was especially quiet during their fall/winter months, yet the weather still mild. You can read all about my love of this island in one of my older blog posts all about Waiheke Island!
Take a day trip out to Rotorua National Park
The town of Rotorua, set on its namesake lake on New Zealand’s North Island, is well-known for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. In Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Valley, there are bubbling mud pools and the 30m-tall Pohutu Geyser, which erupts many times throughout the day. Nearby the park is the Tamaki Māori Village, which is a recreated traditional village under the shelter of an ancient 200-year-old native Tawa forest. Taste the exquisite Māori cuisine, hear stories and traditions of the past, and be amazed by beautifully choreographed song and dance.
Check out the Waitomo (“Glowworm”) Caves
Waitomo is a village known for its extensive underground cave systems, with three caves making up the network: Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave, and the Glowworm Caves. The glowworm (scientifically known as “Arachnocampa Luminosa”) is unique to New Zealand and radiate luminescent light. The tour of the caves includes a boat ride through the eerily beautiful caves and is a surreal experience. During the time of my tour, photography was not allowed, but check with your guide to confirm. Most of the guides are direct descendants of the Maori chief who originally explored the cave, bringing the cave to life through story-telling and explaining the history, features and legends of the world-famous cave.
Wander through “Hobbiton” Movie Sets
Anyone can appreciate the magic of Hobbiton, even if you have not seen The Lord of the Rings franchise! I had only seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy, not The Hobbit trilogy, prior to visiting the movie set. But there’s something quite magical experiencing the hobbit homes in person! While I chose the general admission and tour, additional excursions are available, including an evening banquet or “second breakfast” tour.
Are you convinced yet to visit New Zealand?! It is truly an amazing place to visit, even if you only have a few days to spend in the north island. And if you have any recommendations on where to visit in the south island, leave me a note in the comments!