Okay. We know. Writing an article about the best views in New Zealand is like trying to list the best websites on the internet: there’s something different and amazing everywhere you look (I mean, have you seen www.silverfernholidays.com?!). But the glorious sights in New Zealand are such a wonderful part of a trip there that we decided it was high time we picked out a few of our North Island favourites. To avoid this article running to a word count that War and Peace would be proud of, we’re going to limit our coverage just to our top ten favourite views, and just to the North Island for now. Let the arguments commence!
1. Mount Taranaki
Close to the west coast sits the majestic volcano Mount Taranaki, and if you’re lucky, it might just peek out from behind the clouds. Although Mount Taranaki can be seen from many angles, we’d recommend hiking up to the Pouakai Tarns. Seeing the volcano mirrored in the tarns is a spectacular sight (and ideal for New Zealand North Island landscape photography too). But witnessing this view at sunrise after staying at the Pouakai Hut (just 15 mins away) is such a memorable experience.
2. Tongariro Crossing
Wonderful views abound on the Tongariro Circuit, including Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro itself. But our favourite view on the Circuit is of the three emerald lakes that can be seen from the path of the Tongariro Crossing. A stunning view, with colours, made all the more vivid when there’s still snow on the ground. It’s not easy to find, but how many of the best things in life come without just a little cost?
3. The Three Sisters and Elephant Rock
Standing proudly in the shallow water just off the east coast, near Tongaporutu, these rocky monoliths are a unique New Zealand sight and one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand’s North Island. Although the Elephant Rock sadly lost part of its face in the 2016 earthquake, the view is still a stunning one, and best witnessed at low tide when you can wander out to the rocks themselves.
4. Omanawanui Track
Located in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park near Auckland, the Omanawanui Track forms part of the Hillary Trail and is an undulating ridge walk down to Whatipu. Whilst it is a fairly popular route (so you won’t get that all-to-myself feeling) it isn’t a tourist hotspot, and there are lots of outstanding viewpoints along the way. Our favourite is about halfway along the track where you can see both the entrance to Manukau Harbour and South Head.
5. Mount Maunganui
A suburb of Tauranga, the mount itself sits at the end of an outcrop of land. But it’s not the ocean or even the small islands off the coast that impressed us – it was the view back over the narrow peninsula towards Tauranga. Two crescent-shaped capes edge the suburb of Mount Maunganui and stretch back towards the mainland. The glorious architecture and million-dollar beachfront hideaways of the suburb help to encapsulate up the rural-urban mix that New Zealand carries off so well.
6. Southern Crossing, Tararua Forest Park
The Southern Crossing is a well-known walking route that cuts across Tararua Forest Park. The crossing is famous for its views across the Wellington area and rightly so – there may be no better way to see the region of the country’s capital city. If you leave the Southern Crossing and head up the Renata Ridge, you’ll find Elder Hut, which will provide you with a place to stay for the night so you can enjoy the sunrise, as well as the sunset.
7. Tauranga Valley
Halfway along the road between Tauranga Bay and the main road to Whangaroa you’ll find the Tauranga Valley Lookout. The view here is one of our absolute favourites as it’s full of rolling hills and rocky outcrops leading all the way down to the sea. Was there ever a view that captured the heart of the North Island and the beauty of New Zealand better than this one? Answers on a postcard…
We have another peak for you here, but this time with a unique selling point: Hikurangi in the North Island’s East Cape is the first mainland landmass to see the sun when a new day dawns! But that’s not the only reason we’re including it. With views that take in the Raukumara Range of untouched bushland, Maori farming communities, mountain peaks and the ocean, you have some of the best scenery New Zealand has to offer all laid out before you.
9. Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is an iconic piece of New Zealand’s geography. A couple of hours from Auckland, the rock forms a natural cathedral-like tunnel beyond which sits Te Hoho Rock, a natural monument similar to the Three Sisters and situated in the shallow waters off the coast. I have visited this spot several times as it is a personal favourite, but it turns out it’s not just my favourite! Cathedral Cove can be busy, so out of season viewing is recommended in order to feel the grandeur of this place without being shoulder to shoulder with your fellow visitors!
10. Mount Ruapehu
Not for everyone, but certainly making the grade for us is Mount Ruapehu – the North Island’s highest summit. There was some debate about this one making the list, as this view can often be a less than picturesque mixture of snow and cloud. But it’s a relatively easy climb and if the weather turns in your favour, you’re in for an unparalleled vista, which includes glaciers, Mount Taranaki, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. And it’s not just daylight that earns this view a mention; if you’re brave enough to camp up on the summit, the views of the Milky Way might just keep you up all night.
What is the most beautiful place in New Zealand? What is the one thing I should do while I’m there? How long will I get before my brolly is pulled inside out in Wellington? All questions we have been asked and all almost impossible to answer. But hopefully, when it comes to the equally impossible question of choosing the best views on the North Island, we’ve at least shed a little light on the subject.