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North Island  

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Submitted By: Ryan Kelly on Apr 2, 2009

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The North Island of New Zealand for some reason hides in the shadow of its larger brother to the south when it comes to rock climbing. Despite warmer weather and less crowds, not to mention a dense strip of established climbing areas (several thousand routes within an hour drive), I have yet to hear anyone refer to North Island climbing save the handful of people I met while climbing there.

It may not have the expansive peaks, nor world famous bouldering of the south, but when it comes to cragging there’s enough rock here to keep you busy for months, if not years. There are bits of rock all over the island here or there, but the main accumulation of established climbable rock is located in the central region of the island (Wharepapa South and Lake Taupo areas). A good percentage of this rock is volvanic, a vestige of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in earth’s history. The rock, ignimbrite, can vary considerably from worthless choss to pocketed sport climbing to “fully-welded” – a denser formation with smooth cracks capable of holding sound gear. The rock at Lake Taupo, ground zero, is a purer Rhyolite; it’s denser that the ignimbrite round in Wharepapa South.

One of the best features of North Island climbing is the great variety of rock types and climbing styles all within close proximity to each other. For example at Waipapa there is delicate slab and crack climbing on welded ignimbrite, and just around the corner at Mangaokewa there is steep and powerful sport climbing on limestone. There is beautiful scenery in the North Island around most of the climbing areas, from the turquoise waters of Lake Taupo to the rolling planes of the Waikato, and lush native forest abounds. Be sure to check out Kawakawa bay (Lake Taupo) for some of the Islands best rock climbing. Castle Rock Coromandel is a close second with stunning multi pitch sport lines.

Having said all this, if you are visiting from overseas and only have time to visit one island I would recommend the South Island. Mountain project is not very comprehensive for South Island climbing, but there is alot of good stuff to do there (especially alpine style). Also consider the Arapiles in nearby Australia, it has some of the best trad climbing in the world.

Getting There 

Fly in through Auckland or Wellington. Can also fly directly to Rotorua from Australia in certain seasons.


Your one stop guide to North Island rock climbing....
Your one stop guide to North Island rock climbing. Released September 2014. Can be purchased from alpineclub.org.nz/product/rock...

Another resource for Topos is the local website www.freeclimb.co.nz. It has free downloadable and printible PDF's covering most of the crags. It is generally comprehensive but can sometimes be out of date for crags that are either being devloped, or smaller older crags that have been abandoned.

The website climbnz.org.nz has recently become alot more comprehensive, and now contains alot of information about climbing routes in the North Island, especially for alpine style areas.

Main Areas 

Kawakawa Bay, Lake Taupo
Kawakawa Bay, multi pitch sport and trad  in a stu...
Kawakawa Bay, multi pitch sport and trad in a stunning location

Castle Rock, Coromandel
Castle Rock, Coromandel. Great multipitch sport cl...
Castle Rock, Coromandel. Great multipitch sport climbing.

Whanganui Bay, Lake Taupo
View down Whekanui Wall on a surprisingly nice day...
View down Whekanui Wall on a surprisingly nice day in winter.

Froggatt's Edge, Wharepapa South
Froggatt, a popular sport crag
Froggatt, a popular sport crag

Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve
Roof climbing at Mangaokewa
Roof climbing at Mangaokewa

Waipapa, Wharepapa South
Climber on the Classic "Arches"
Climber on the Classic "Arches"

Tongariro National Park
Whakapapa Gorge, Tongariro National Park
Whakapapa Gorge, Tongariro National Park

Mangorewa Gorge
(not to be confused with Mangaokewa)
Climbers on Archimedes wall
Climbers on Archimedes wall

Grade conversion 

New Zealand (along with Australia and South Africa) use the Ewbank grading system. See the grade conversion table below.
YDS-Ewbank grade conversion
YDS-Ewbank grade conversion

Climbing Season

Weather station 0.9 miles from here

234 Total Routes

['4 Stars',19],['3 Stars',56],['2 Stars',97],['1 Star',53],['Bomb',7]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for North Island:
High Hopes   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 2 pitches, 150'   Kawakawa Bay : The Point
Tibia   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R     Trad, 3 pitches, 200'   Whanganui Bay : Whekenui Wall
Millennium Madness   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 90'   Main Cliff : Millenium Wall
The Arches   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 100'   Main Cliff : The Arch Area
Terror Incognito   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Froggatt's Edge : Main Wall
Monsterpiece Theatre   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 90'   Froggatt's Edge : Main Wall
Prokarstination   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   Mangaokewa : The Grandstands
Browse More Classics in North Island

Featured Route For North Island
Sean on the final traverse of The Arches

The Arches 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a  Oceania : New Zealand : ... : The Arch Area
A classic for the area, must do. Starts with a strenuous layback on slippery feet, climbing a fading fingercrack in a huge right-facing corner. The climbing is solid 5.10 at the start, but you will quickly get some divots for your feet and things ease up quite a bit. This leads to even easier, yet enjoyable climbing on a traverse under the enormous roof. There may be a move or two to pull onto the belay ledge, depending on what holds you find....[more]   Browse More Classics in International

Photos of North Island Slideshow Add Photo
Jo Frances on Gecko Groove
Jo Frances on Gecko Groove
Ti Point
Ti Point
River wall, Mangorewa Gorge
River wall, Mangorewa Gorge
Pakeho, Northern Taranaki
Pakeho, Northern Taranaki
Mt Maunganui beach, as seen from the crag.
Mt Maunganui beach, as seen from the crag.
New Zealand's answer to Thailand's famous beachsid...
New Zealand's answer to Thailand's famous beachsid...
Because Buck Rock is located part way up Mt Te Aro...
Because Buck Rock is located part way up Mt Te Aro...

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