Standing at more than 38,600 square miles in area, New Zealand’s North Island holds steady as the world’s 14th largest island. And while its Southern sister draws the majority of the country’s adventurous attention, the North Island brings to the table its incomparable versatility: its cosmopolitan city centers, authentic Māori culture, and famed volcanic landscapes.

The North Island is anchored by two of New Zealand’s most impressionable cities—Auckland, the country’s largest city, and Wellington, the nation’s capital. Auckland is often considered a stopover entry point to New Zealand’s natural wonders, but the country’s most cosmopolitan city is a surprising wellspring of beauty. Jetted up against the sea, the “city of sails” and the Polynesian capital of the world is home to ridges of lava flows, excellent surfing waves, and a myriad of lush islands calling off the glistening Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke Island is perhaps the most coveted escape of them all for its boutique wineries, blissful climate, idyllic natural beauty, and contemporary sculpture displays. Wellington, on the other hand, is a small yet superlative destination in its own right—its coffee shops, craggy shores, and craft beer-fueled hospitality lending to an at once compact and vibrant urban core. Self-titled the “Middle of Middle Earth”, Wellington is also the creative capital of the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, hosting the acclaimed Weta workshop where Middle Earth was first conceptualized.

Whispered in the mists of the North Island is its mythological origin. Maui, the Polynesian trickster, caught his largest fish ever on the North Island, at Lake TauponuiaTia. He then told his brothers to guard the fish because it would make a fine “dwelling place for many”. His brothers were then said to have ignored Maui and killed the fish. Today, the spasms of this region’s geysers, volcanoes, sulphurous crater lakes, and mud pools of the North Island are said to be the fish’s heartbeat in the wake of his slaughtering. Twisted and tangled, bubbling and beautiful, the North Island is certainly the island of geothermal gravitas, centered mainly around the Māori region of Rotorua. Some of the country’s original tribe settlements exist here, founded between 1250 and 1300 BC as Polynesian settlers arrived in canoes and began forming their own distinct language, mythology, and arts and crafts alongside the peaceful lakes and abundant geothermal energy of Rotorua.

Contact a Ker & Downey luxury travel consultant today to begin planning your next luxury journey to New Zealand’s versatile North Island.