Directly South of Auckland lies the Waikato region. It is primarily a dairy farming area and so famed for its rolling hills and lush pastures that it became the home of Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings movies. You can still visit the set today. Less immediately evident is its treasure-trove of underground marvels such as the vast network of the Waitomo Caves where you can float along on the underground rivers in the pitch black gazing upwards at the millions of glow worms that provide a dazzling display.

Further South still and you will find full evidence of New Zealand’s active geology with the North Island’s most popular attractions. Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with bubbling mud pools, clouds of steam, exploding geysers and natural hot springs. Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, created by a huge volcanic eruption nearly 2,000 years ago. It is a great place for watersports and home to the largest natural trout fishery in the world. Overlooking the lake are the snow-capped volcanic peaks of the Tongariro National Park. This park contains three large, active volcanoes which provide a stunning, almost other-worldly backdrop for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing; thought to be one of the finest one day walks in the world.