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Plan Your East Coast and the Volcanic Zone Vacation

When you get to Rotorua, after a trip through the rolling, sheep-speckled fields of the Waikato and the wild Mamaku Ranges, the aptly named "Sulfur City"—with its mud pots, geysers, and stinky air—comes as a complete surprise. Rotorua, the mid-island's major city and Māori hub, has been a tourist magnet since the 19th century, when Europeans first heard of the healing powers of local hot springs.

South of Rotorua is the small town of Taupo; it stands alongside the lake of the same name (Australasia's largest) and is the geographical bull's-eye of the North Island. From the lake, you'll have a clear shot at Ruapehu, the island's tallest peak and a top ski area, and its symmetrically cone-shape neighbor, Ngauruhoe. Ruapehu dominates Tongariro National Park, a haunting landscape of craters, volcanoes, and lava flows that ran with molten rock as recently as 1988. As part of the Pacific Ring of Fire (a zone that's earthquake- and volcanic-eruption prone), the area's thermal features remain an ever-present hazard—and a thrilling attraction.

Southeast of Lake Taupo lies Hawke's Bay and the laid-back art deco town of Napier. Laze the days away drinking at the local vineyards or, to truly get off the beaten path, head north to Gisborne; it's the easygoing center of isolated Eastland, the thick thumb of land that's east of Rotorua.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Hiking and Walking Central North Island has great trails, including the famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park. Some of the country’s most rugged bush is in Te Urewera National Park.
  2. Māori Ceremonial Feast Rotorua may be the best place in New Zealand to indulge in the traditional Māori feast known as a hāngi.
  3. Soaking In Rotorua and Taupo, thermal springs are on tap. Soak in your own thermal bath in some Rotorua lodgings or take advantage of public facilities like the Polynesian Spa.
  4. Surfing Gisborne is blessed with fine (and often underused) surfing beaches; there are options for both beginners and seasoned surfers.
  5. Fishing Central North Island is trout country. You can fish any designated lake or waterway if you have your own gear and a license—but local guides know the right spots.

When To Go

When to Go

November through mid-April is the best time in Central and Eastern North Island. The weather is generally balmy and everything is open. This...

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Travel Tips

East Coast and the Volcanic Zone Travel Tips

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