Getting Oriented in the East Coast and the Volcanic Zone

Covering some of the most splendid natural areas in the country, this region lies to the northeast of the North Island. The main towns are busy despite being connected by isolated roads that wind across mountain ranges through vast areas of bush. Expect steaming thermal regions, rolling farmland, or peaceful sun-drenched vineyards.

  • The Rotorua Area. Home of geothermal unrest and oddities, Rotorua today is almost entirely a product of the late-19th-century fad for spa towns; its elaborate bathhouses and formal gardens date to this era. You'll find surreal wonders that include limestone caverns, volcanic wastelands, steaming geysers, and bubbling ponds.
  • Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park. Fishing and water sports are popular activities in Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, and on the rivers running into it. The area also has its share of geothermal features. Tongariro National Park, dominated by three volcanic peaks, has some great otherworldly hiking trails.
  • Napier and Hawke's Bay. On the shores of Hawke’s Bay, you'll find a fabulous architectural anomaly: the town of Napier, a time capsule of colorful art deco architecture. The countryside here is thick with vineyards, as this is one of the country's major wine-producing areas.
  • Gisborne and Eastland. Gisborne is the area's largest town. Above it juts the largely agricultural East Cape, a sparsely populated area ringed with stunning beaches; inland lies the haunting beauty of Te Urewera National Park.

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