The Best Places to Hop Off in the North Island

Got a few extra days to play with on your North Island Stray trip?
If you’re taking the hop-on, hop-off bus then there are plenty of options to extend your stay, and Stray makes it easy to do (just make sure you remember to book your onward bus – especially in peak season)!

taupo skydiveThe North Island is simply brimming with sexy beaches, cool geothermal features and Maori culture, so choosing where to spend those precious extra days can be a daunting task. Luckily, I’ve put together my favourite places to make it easier for you.

I did the Jase Pass (the full North Island including Paihia to the North and the East Bro extension). Here’s where I’d jump off if I could do it all over again.

Raglan

I tried to hop off in Raglan but the hostel was booked up, thanks to a Reggae festival happening on the weekend I was there. A lesson learnt in booking ahead!

I love this cool beach town because of its surfer vibe and amazing burritos! Shoeless people walk down the street clutching their surf boards and wearing enormous smiles, after a day of battling the waves or trying to ride the longest left-hand break in the world (lasting up to 10 minutes!).

Raglan beachThe beach is absolutely massive too! Plenty of space to stretch out and catch a few rays on your extra day. Once the sun sets you can either hit up one of the bars in town or relax in your wilderness lodge-style hostel complete with pool table and massive kitchen to cook up a storm. Walk down the track from the hostel after dark and you’ll see hundreds of glow worms lighting your path!

Rotorua

RotovegasKnown locally as ‘Rotovegas’, there’s absolutely loads to keep you occupied for a couple of extra days on this stop between Mourea and Gisborne on the Jase Pass (or between Mourea and Lake Aniwhenua on passes not including the East Bro section).

My favourite thing to pass an afternoon in Rotorua is the Skyline Luge. Ride the gondola to the top of a hill and then let gravity pull your little cart all the way to the bottom around bends and hairpin turns. Yes, it sounds a bit childish but believe me, it makes you wayyyy too competitive, and it’s super addictive. They’re right when they say ‘once is never enough’.

Rotorua lugeThe other thing that Rotorua is famous for is its geothermal pools and geysers. Take a trip out to Hell’s Gate to watch the geysers spout, or take a stroll through Kuirau Park where you’ll be able to see some of the steaming vents for free.

Lake Taupo

Another non-official stop (meaning that Stray passes through here in the day but doesn’t stay overnight) is Lake Taupo. I jumped off for an extra day just to wander around and soak in the laid-back atmosphere but there are loads of things to do too.

Why not test your nerve and go skydiving? It’s the cheapest place on the North Island to jump out of a plane, and you’ll get an awesome view of the 616km² lake as you plunge towards Earth. Not your thing? There’s river rafting, jet boating, hiking, fishing and golf too.

taupo skydive bananaAs Stray don’t have any accommodation partners here you’ll have to make your own reservations. I stayed at Flying Kiwi Hostel and absolutely loved it. There’s a cool social area with a BBQ, a nice movie room and it’s quite small so you can get to know people easily.

Blue Duck Station (Whakahoro)

blue duckWithout a doubt, my favourite place on the North Island was the Blue Duck Station in Whakahoro. Why? Well, It’s just pure wilderness bliss! Situated quite literally in the middle of nowhere (you won’t have any neighbours here!), you can enjoy the quiet, peaceful vibe or party the night away by the roaring fire – totally up to you.

I’d spend an extra day or two here doing all of the cool activities on offer. OK, you might burn through a few dollars but when there’s kayaking, jet boating, hunting, clay pigeon shooting, 4×4 adventure touring, horse riding and loads more on offer, how can you say no?

blue duck kayakingWant to find out more? Check out my blog post on the Blue Duck Station to see why it’s so special.

I hope my recommendations have been helpful if you’re planning your trip right now. All I can say is have any amazing time, I know you will!

Special thanks to guest writer Hayley Griffiths, full-time world traveller and writer of the Lovepuffin Travel Blog that specialises in ‘adventure for the unadventurous’. She recently covered the North Island on Stray’s Jase pass, including Witnessing the First Sunrise in the World. All photos in this post belong to Hayley and were published with her permission.

Leave a Reply