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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, which stands alongside Australasia's largest lake bearing the same name 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 with neighboring Hastings. Laze the days away drinking at the local vineyards or to truly get off the beaten path, head north to Gisborne, 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 The eastern coast of the North Island has several excellent bushwalking trails, including the Tongariro Crossing, which brings you through the alpine areas 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 try the Māori feast known as a hângi.
  3. Soaking In Rotorua and Taupo, thermal springs are on tap. You can soak in your own thermal bath in even the cheapest hotels in Rotorua or take advantage of public facilities such as Polynesian Spa.
  4. World-Class Fishing Central North Island is trout country. You can get out on any of the designated lakes and waterways if you have your own gear and a fishing license—but a local guide can take you to the right spots.

When To Go

When to Go

Mid-November through mid-April is the best time in central and eastern North Island. The weather is balmy and everything is open. This is also...

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Travel Tips

East Coast and the Volcanic Zone Travel Tips

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