NZ wellness - Best health retreats on the North Island

gitls at waterfall

Zoe Macfarlane

Posted April 06, 2022

Wellness travel has been gaining in popularity, with more and more travellers discovering the benefits of including mindful moments alongside the touristy ones. Wellness travel isn’t all yoga retreats, juice cleanses, and packing your athleisurewear; it can be so much more.

It’s about making space in your itinerary for soul-enhancing activities that connect you to nature, culture, and community, enriching your experience in that destination.

New Zealand’s North Island has a wealth of ways to deepen your connection to the land. From therapeutic hot pools to awe-inspiring hikes, from locally produced wine (yes, wine) to activities that connect you to culture. We share our top three North Island wellness destinations. 

New Zealand's best wellness destinations on the North Island


There’s no better, all-encompassing wellness destination on New Zealand’s North Island than Rotorua. Thanks to its mineral-rich natural springs, lush native forests, and commitment to rejuvenating its visitors, it’s the stress-reducing vacation every Victorian deserves.

The hot springs and mud therapies are Rotorua’s most well-known attractions. The geothermal baths of the Polynesian Spa draw locals and visitors alike for their therapeutic and medicinal benefits. Two natural springs feed 28 hot mineral pools, and optional extras, like the day spa’s geothermal mud wraps, reset the mind, body and soul.

For a more private soak, head to the Secret Spot, five minutes out of central Rotorua. Twelve cedar hot tubs offer a double whammy of wellness: the natural spring waters soothe aching muscles; the lively sounds of the Whakarewarewa Forest soothe the soul.

If traditional Māori therapies are of interest, consider a romiromi treatment at Wikitoria Māori Healing. Romiromi offers a traditional bodywork treatment that works on the central nervous system, as well as balancing mauri (life essence) with wairua (spirit).

Wellness comes in many shapes and forms, and nature is also on hand for healing in Rotorua. Feel your tension dissolve as you paddle on Lake Rotorua, visit the ancient geysers, or hike through the Whakarewarewa Forest. Head to the latter at night for the Redwoods Nightlights. The forest turns to fantasy thanks to the 34 lanterns that illuminate your path along a 700-metre tree-walk. 


Rotorua, Bay of Plenty. Credit: Graeme Murray
Mine Bay, Lake Taupo. Credit: Tourism NZ

Lake Taupō

The calm waters of Lake Taupō are worthy of inclusion on a wellness-inspired itinerary in themselves. Add geothermal pools, water-based activities, and connect-to-culture attractions, and it’s an outright wellness wonder. Lake Taupō is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia – approximately the same size as Singapore - in the caldera formed from a super-volcano that erupted some 1,800 years ago.

The healing silica waters of Wairakei Terraces have been a boon for locals, with generations passing on the traditions of their Māori ancestors. Wairakei’s four pools are adults-only, ensuring the native birdsong is the most you’ll hear as you soak in the mineral-rich geothermal pools. For a family-friendly thermal soak, Taupō De Bretts has indoor and outdoor pools, plus a children’s water playground and hydro slides.

Spending time on the lake is as good for the spirit as any spa day (though why choose one; do both!), with a winter Lake Taupō swim the equivalent to the current ice bath trend.

For a more calming watersport activity, rent a board and paddle the crystal-clear lake at your leisure. Fishing is also a popular mindfulness activity on Lake Taupō (though the local fisherfolk may not consider it that).

Another #NZMustDo is to cruise or kayak to the culturally significant Māori rock carvings at Mine Bay. Sculpted in the 1970s, the main feature of these 14-metre-high carvings is the Ngatoroirangi, a visionary Māori navigator. 


girls at top of waterfall

Otumuheke Spa Park. Credit: Miles Holden

Waiheke Island

After exploring the fun-filled attractions of New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, hop aboard a 40-minute ferry across the Hauraki Gulf to one of our favourite wellness destinations, Waiheke Island.

Even stepping foot on this charming island drops any tension down a few notches, thanks to its holiday vibes, laidback locals, and commitment to community. While it’s not as rich in spa opportunities as Rotorua and Taupō, it serves the soul in another way – through nature, food, and wine!

Every vantage point on Waiheke scenic, with rolling hills, verdant forests, and gushing streams providing moments of awe at every turn. Hiking the trails of Whakanewha Regional Park, on the southern side of the island, is a top pick, particularly tramping the 2.5-hour Park Walk or Nikau Track. Alternatively, take the more leisurely 30-minute Pā Loop Track. Terra and Tide also run inspiring guided art and eco walks across the island.

To go deeper into Waiheke Island’s cultural history, book a full-day Māori guided tour. You’ll learn Māori traditions, their connection to the land, and medicinal use of native plants - all against the backdrop of this spectacular island paradise.

Known as the ‘Island of Wine’, the 30 wineries on Waiheke Island offer a different wellness experience: connecting to nature via locally grown produce (plus, let’s not forget the antioxidant benefits of wine!).

With a variety of top-notch cellar doors and gourmet restaurants, it can be challenging to choose where to go. A full-day winery tour takes the decision making out of your hands. Plus, it gets you into the best vineyards on the island, including the popular Mudbrick Winery. 

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