The North Island’s central region is shaped by millennia of volcanic activity. Summit volcanic peaks and dive down into tranquil troughs and sandy beaches as you take in a world of geothermal delights, from hot-spring beaches to hikes among still-smoking calderas.
And its geographic exuberance can be best experienced in Rotorua, where New Zealand’s position on the Pacific Ring of Fire – a horseshoe belt that hosts more than three-quarters of the world’s volcanoes – is most visible. Geysers spurt, natural hot tubs steam, mineral lakes glow bright orange and mud pools all but explode. It’s all steeped in tribal Maori mythology, manifested today in cultural performances, traditional villages and hangi feasts.
Champagne Pool, Rotorua, New Zealand
The volcanicity has also soared north to Coromandel, forming a central peninsular spine that rises to nearly 900 metres. This bush-clad divide separates a sublime ocean-thrashed west coast from the naturally heated beaches and cathedral rock formations of the idyllic east. Taken as a whole it’s a hiker’s paradise.
Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Between the two regions, Lake Taupo stands as an oasis in a storm of topography. Despite its volcanic caldera origins, it’s a slice of pure relaxation, featuring serene waters, national park walks and some of the world’s best trout fishing. Waitomo, however, didn’t emerge so unscathed. Thousands of years of erosion have gutted its hills into some 300 caves, host to labyrinthine sinkholes and otherworldly limestone formations all lit by the surreal ghostly green of their resident glow-worms.
Lake Taupo, New Zealand