Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, offers culture, shopping and fine dining—with beaches, rainforests and wineries nearby.
IT TAKES ME MERE MINUTES to fall hard for Waiheke Island. I'm sitting in the white sand at Onetangi Beach, amid dazzling turquoise waters, vivid red and purple wildflowers and boldly painted food trucks serving up smash burgers and fresh ceviche. But it takes me much longer to experience all that northern New Zealand has to offer.
Some destinations are simply too special to rush through. I don't want to have to choose between restful beach days and exciting cultural experiences, both of which northern New Zealand boasts plenty. So, I've planned a leisurely long stay—a travel trend on the rise thanks to more flexible time-off plans and remote-work scenarios.
Long-stay vacations make it more worthwhile to travel great distances. After all, it’s not easy to make it to Aotearoa, or “land of the long white cloud,” as New Zealand is known in Māori. It takes more than 13 hours to fly directly to Auckland from Vancouver, and you might need a day or two to get over jet lag.
And although the North Island is relatively compact (it’s a little larger than the island of Newfoundland), its winding hilly roads can add to your driving time, and unpredictable weather can sidetrack even the best-laid plans.
Before traversing the North island, choose a home base. I recommend starting your journey in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand and a hub for travellers. Rent a car and head south to the city of Rotorua and its numerous tourist attractions, then north to explore stunning subtropical beaches and fascinating historical sites.