Northland Must Dos!
Whether you have a few days or a few months in Northland, here are all the best bits to see and do!
This is the northernmost tip of New Zealand that is reachable by car/van and it is of cultural significance to the Maori. They believe that the deceased take their final journey into the ocean to travel back to the homeland of Hawaiki. It is a stunning area with LOTS of photo opportunities! It is also here that the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, and if the weather treats you well, you can see the divide between the two oceans and even the waves travelling in different directions. The Cape is also home to the Cape Lighthouse which stands proudly at the end, looking out to the ocean, accompanied by one of the all-famous signs showing distance in all directions. If you have your own means of transportation, it's definitely worth the drive up SH1 to the top. You can check out the awesome Cape on our vlog just below!
If you have your own transport, getting to the Cape is easy, just take SH1 all the way to the top where you will reach the Cape car park!
If you don't have a vehicle, don't worry! You can get organised tours that will take you to the Cape and even other hotspots mentioned below!
Te Paki Sand Dunes
You have to drive almost right past the dunes to get to Cape Reigna and if you came all this way, you HAVE to visit them. Standing anywhere up to 150m high, they really are a sight not to be missed (literally!). This picture really does not show just how high these really are! We won't lie to you, it's not easy climbing up the dunes, but it is so worth it for this completely free thing to do! Bring a body board and let gravity do the work, because when you reach the peaks, there's no way you will want to walk back down!
If you don't have a body board though, don't worry! There is a lorry at the bottom by the car park where you can hire boards for the day for as little as $15. Just bare in mind, as security they will want to hold some form of ID, so make sure you bring this with you. You can check out our vlog of Cape Reigna and the dunes above!
90 Mile Beach
So the funniest thing about 90 Mile Beach, is that it isn't actually 90 miles long! In fact, it is 88 km or 55 miles long and can be accessed at several points along the Aupouri Peninsula. The beach is famous for its hard sand, allowing vehicles to drive along the sand as an alternative to SH1. PLEASE SEE TIDE TIMES as this is only possible at low tide! Also bare in mind that rental companies will not allow you to take your vehicle on the beach. We were lucky enough (and shocked) that we actually managed to bring Hank (our trusty campervan) on this day out with us. We really enjoyed visiting the town of Ahipara, and more specifically, Shipwrecks Bay - the start of 90 Mile Beach, where you can see all the way to the Cape on a clear day. Have a look at 'Hank goes to the beach' below!
This was probably one of the best towns in Northland to base yourself in. It is by far the biggest, and there's such a cool vibe with loads of activities to keep you busy, not just in the town, but super close by as well.
Whangarei has some of the BEST free, yes I said FREE glow worm caves in New Zealand. There are actually a couple of options as well. If you are travelling north from the Auckland region, Waipu is a great little cave where you can go as far as you feel comfortable. TIP: make sure you bring some wellies if you don't want to get your feet wet! You can of course go barefoot, but may not be recommended as it is of course slippery inside. Also just outside of Whangarei is Abbey Caves. Here there are 3 different caves, all of different structure and difficulty level. The middle one is definitely the easiest!
If you're into short walks/hikes, then Whangarei definitely has some great tracks. Our favourite was Mt Manaia, where you can look out over the entire bay from the top and only takes approximately an hour. However, if you don't fancy journeying out to the heads, from the town basin, you can walk up to the Parihaka Reserve that overlooks the town and is also less than an hour. Another great walk has to be the Hatea River walk. You can walk about 3 different tracks around the river and choose to end up at Whangarei Falls - a 26m drop over basalt cliffs. There are 3 viewing platforms so you can see the flow from all angles. We have 2 vlogs on Whangarei - Northland & Whangarei Falls - both below!
This particular coastline houses some of the best beaches in New Zealand in terms of white sand and blue sea. Both Tutukaka and its neighbouring beach Matapouri are absolutely stunning, and well worth spending a day soaking up the sun. At the left side of Matapouri beach, there is also some cool rock formations to explore. Tutukaka itself, is famous for its connection with the Poor Knights Islands - an incredible diving opportunity in a protected marine reserve. During the summer, you can go snorkelling or diving with an instructor, however, in the winter months, you may only dive if you have a PADI certificate.
The Waipoua Forest is home to thousands of New Zealand's native Kauri trees, but within the forest lies a few that are famous. The most famous being Tane Mahuta - standing at an impressive 148ft, with a girth of 15.44m and estimated to be up to 2,500 years old - it is known as the God of the forest. Less than a few kms away, you will also find 4 other walking tracks including: Te Matua Ngahere - the Father of the Forest and the largest kauri by girth (16.41m) and the Four Sisters. Spend some time navigating your way through the native New Zealand bush and admiring the beauty it has to offer.
Bay of Islands
The bay of islands may have actually deserved it's own blog post, but I am going to just summarise the area...
Russell is in our opinion, one of the most romantic little towns in the region. It has this cute, cosy feel to it. You wouldn't expect it to though, considering it's history. Russell, was once known as the 'hell hole' of the Pacific, and was thriving with violence, drugs and alcohol due to it being quite an accessible point in New Zealand. Make sure you check out Flagstaff Hill for panoramic views of the islands and the local museums which are relatively inexpensive and of course, your trip wouldn't be complete without fish and chips on the beach front! Grab them from the takeaway near the wharf before catching the ferry to Paihia.
Paihia is another one of those towns that just steals your heart. During the summer months, the population swells four fold because you can explore so many of the 144 islands the region has to offer.
Waitangi is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6th February 1840. You can visit the treaty grounds and learn about the culture of the Maori and the history that this place represents.
Further north, you will find Kerikeri, which is a super small town in itself, but it is home to the gorgeous Rainbow Falls which is a nice easy 5 minute walk from the car park making it super accessible for people of all abilities. Another hidden gem that not everyone knows about is Ngawha Hot Springs. These are probably some of the cheapest and most natural pools you will come across in the North Island. The site itself is very primitive, but each of these hot pools are 100% naturally powered by their own individual spring - unlike some other resorts where water is pumped from one spring. The beauty of it is, it's also probably the cheapest (besides free) in the country at only $5 per person!
Of course, there are so many more hidden gems in this region, if there's one you think should be on this page, please let us know, or reach out to us on social media! We hope you have enjoyed our blog about the highlights of Northland. If you visit these places let us know!
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