Some of New Zealand's earliest history lies in the north and many archaeological and historic sites remain in the region. The scenery is some of the most beautiful in the country and the region enjoys a warm, sunny climate. 1700km of coastline, 144 islands, sandy beaches and secluded bays, make the Bay of Islands a favourite playground for holidaymakers and a centre for big-game fishing.
|Ash Grove Boutique Motel||Centrepoint Motel|
|Clipper Court Motel||Cornwall Park|
|Fullers Great Sights, Bay of I...||Glass Bottom Boat|
|Kerikeri Holiday Park & Motels...||Makana Confections|
|Orewa Beach TOP 10 Holiday Par...||Palm Grove Cottages Motel|
|Pinewoods Motor Park||Ridgeland Farm Retreat|
|Russell TOP 10 Holiday Park||Sandspit Holiday Park|
|Schnappa Rock||Sheep World|
|Swiss Chalet Lodge Motel||The Cabbage Tree|
|Thrifty Car Rental||Thrifty Car Rental|
|Tudor Oaks Motel||Waipu Museum|
|Waitangi Golf Club Inc||Waitangi Treaty Grounds|
|Waves||Whangarei TOP 10 Holiday Park|
Locations along this route include:
|Auckland||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Waiwera||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Warkworth||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Mangawhai Heads||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Whangarei||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Tutukaka Coast||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Kawakawa||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Paihia||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Kerikeri||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
You've packed the boot and the kids are in the car – it's time to wave goodbye to the Big Smoke of Auckland city and head north. Just out of Auckland you'll pass through Silverdale (home of outlet shops and the awesome indoor ski slopes at Snow Planet, New Zealand's first and only indoor ski field). While in the area you can explore Whangaparaoa and Red Beach before heading up the coast through Orewa. A quaint seaside village, Orewa is a great place to soak up some sun on the beach and to stock up on snacks before heading north.
From Orewa, it's a quick drive to Waiwera – a good place to stop off for a soak in their natural hot pools. If you're feeling more adventurous, try a few trips down the superslides. There's a café on site and plenty of space to spread out and relax – definitely check out Waiwera when heading north of Auckland.
From Waiwera it's a mere stone's throw to Puhoi village. Highlights in Puhoi are the museum, historic pub (with an amazing lawn for lounging on while enjoying a cold beer), and renowned boutique cheesery. This quirky township has a Bohemian village feel where locals and travellers alike spend time. If you're looking for a taste of the great outdoors, rent a kayak and head to the Puhoi River.
Snow Planet New Zealand's first and only indoor ski field where you can ski or snowboard 365 days a year! Take a lesson, ride the terrain park or enjoy the restaurant and bar.
Waiwera Hot Pools spend some time here with the kids and truly relax in the heated pools and private spas.
Puhoi: Historic pub and cheese shop these two highlights in Puhoi take you back to a simpler time.
Matakana: Wondrous wine the local wares are wonderful. Make sure you stop in for a taster or two.
Russell visit the museum to see a 1:5 replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour.
Leigh and Goat Island with glass bottom boat tours and day trips to Goat Island, this is a great way to get out and into nature.
Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast - a short bush walk to a secluded pohutukawa fringed bay
The cheese shop in Puhoi is legendary for a reason stop in and meet the locals, you'll be glad you did.
Matakana, just outside of Auckland, is well known as a wine region. Stop in here to sample the local wares, and stock up for a romantic tipple on the beach later.
Head to historic Russell for a leisurely brunch and be instantly transported back in time.
Kerikeri's locally produced fruits are heavenly stop into a local produce shop and buy up for the road ahead.
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Back in the car and heading north again, you'll next make your way through Warkworth. If you're a wine lover don't miss Ransom Wines or another of the many local vineyards. If you've got a designated driver, consider a wine trail in Matakana, a positively charming vineyard area popular for its markets held every Saturday from 8am-1pm.
From Warkworth, SH1 twists north past the bush walks of the Dome Valley to Wellsford, where eateries line the town from top to toe.
Just north of Te Hana, turn right to head for the surf at Mangawhai Heads. This is a great holiday spot thanks to the white sandy beaches and popular activities including golf and fishing. This picturesque coast road from Mangawhai to Waipu Cove offers more great swimming beaches. Afterwards, stop off in Waipu to discover it's Scottish heritage.
The seldom-visited Pipiroa Falls near Waipu are the perfect spot to stop for a swim and a picnic lunch. For a little taste of adventure, visit the Waipu Caves, where caverns are filled with stalactites and stalagmites that take you back thousands of years in an instant. Be sure to bring a torch.
Head onwards to Whangarei, Northland's largest city, bursting with things to do and the birthplace of country music superstar – Keith Urban. Always abuzz with activity, Whangarei's Town Basin is full of quayside cafés. A hub for talented artisans, Whangarei's galleries and studios are worth having a wander through.
Take a drive out to Whangarei Heads for some excellent walking trails and views. If you're looking for more to do outdoors, close to town are the stunning Whangarei Falls and AH Reed Kauri Park.
Carry on to Tutukaka where you can enjoy a coffee or a meal by the marina, take a fishing charter, or take a boat and dive/snorkel at the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve. In 1981 legislation was passed to protect the diverse marine life here. It is considered to be one of the best diving locations in the world. Over the hill is beautiful Matapouri, or if surfing is more your style, Sandy Bay is the place to stop.
From here it's on the road towards Russell. Either take the Russell road stopping in at The Gallery & Café at Helena Bay – the views are amazing – or head up SH1 to Kawakawa, a place famous for its toilets. The last works of renowned Austrian-born artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Kawakawa's toilets are truly a sight to see.
From Kawakawa it's a short drive to Opua, and then on to the vehicle ferry to romantic Russell. In the 1830s, this picturesque and quaint historic village was a lawless trading centre where whalers, seafarers and merchants mixed with adventurers, deserters and escaped convicts from Australia. Hard to imagine now as thankfully, with time, Russell has become a tad more tame. Cute cottages, galleries, cafes and restaurants are in abundance.
Head on back to Paihia. This seaside destination has a year-round holiday atmosphere and is at the heart of one of New Zealand's premier holiday destinations, the Bay of Islands. From sailing and snorkelling to kayaking, fishing and parasailing, there's a watersport for even the most hardened landlubber. Wander through Williams Road for some fabulous local artwork and souvenirs. There is an abundance of places to stay here to suit every budget and plenty of bars and restaurants for your evening entertainment. If you've got the time, it's worth parking up for a night or two here and exploring all there is to offer in the Bay of Islands. While you're here, pop over the bridge to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where New Zealand's founding document was signed. Catch a cultural show while learning about the history of the area.
Just north of Paihia is Kerikeri – a town of orchards. Roadside stalls offer the chance to buy seasonal fruit (the oranges are amazing). Kerikeri is full of galleries, cafés and gourmet food shops. Why not try the hand-made chocolates. While it has a contemporary buzz about it, the area is steeped in history. New Zealand's oldest house (Kemp House built in 1821) and the Stone Store (1832) are local icons. Stop by and enjoy!
As the Bay of Islands is exactly that, it makes perfect sense to explore the region by boat. And sailing matches the pace of the place even more perfectly. Whether you launch from Opua, Paihia, Russell or Kerikeri, you're sure to discover the magic of this marine wonderland.
Launch your own, charter a boat, or take a cruise with one of the many operators in the Bay of Islands. Sailing options include half-day, full-day and overnight trips on vessels ranging from traditional gaff-rigged schooners to luxury catamaran yachts. You can choose to help set and trim the sails or simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Take a picnic on board and let the breeze take you away. Don't forget your togs either. There are plenty of opportunities for snorkelling, fishing, diving and swimming around the Bay of Islands.
For those who haven't mastered their sea legs yet, the Department of Conservation has sign-posted walkways on many of the 144 islands in the bay, a great opportunity to stretch your legs and gain a different view of the area.
Ask any Kiwi about the perfect childhood holiday and odds are there's a bach or caravan involved, sunshine, sand, ocean beach (for surfing and fishing), safe swimming spots for the littlies and an estuary (for dragging out the old rowboat, and even more fishing).
Throw in awesome views from just about everywhere; nearby forests for mountain biking; amazing rock-fishing; a cliff-top walkway of note; fresh homemade goodies at an eclectic weekend market and we've arrived at Mangawhai, complete with garden bar, superb coffee and great restaurants.
As dawn breaks over this sleepy Northland town, the jagged silhouette of the Hen and Chicken Islands is suffused with a vibrant orange glow. Kayakers slip silently from a boatshed beside the estuary and paddle out, the gentle splash of the paddles lost in the distant crash of surf.
Early morning surfers are already out in force, communing with the ocean in what must rank as one of the country's most picturesque surfing locations. Huge white sand dunes divide the Mangawhai Harbour from the rolling Pacific Ocean. Ocean, sand and forest sweep south in a curve past Te Arai and Pakiri Beach to Cape Rodney.
Spectacular panoramas can be gained on the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway, a three-hour return hike that begins at the Surf Club car park. Heading off three hours either side of low tide, the walkway ambles along a stretch of isolated beach dotted with hardy surfers and patches of scrub. See it for yourself, only an hour and a half from Auckland!
Calling all foodies, wine connoisseurs, market-goers, diners, gastrotourists and pub-crawlers! Northland's Food and Wine Trail has 74 food and wine stops on a winding tour through the tasty Northland region.
The trail leads through restaurants, cafés, taverns and bistros, markets, roadside stalls, artisan producers and specialty stores, wineries and vineyards. With around 500km of food and wine trail in total, there's a bounty of Northland scenery and activity to experience along the way.
Take your time and your appetite! You're going to want to try everything and anything on this tastebud tour through the Kumara Capital of the Country, the Fruit Bowl of the North and the many cellar doors popping up along the way.
Try one of the tropical chardonnays, popular pinot gris or vibrant viogniers leading the white wine production in the area. If red's more your taste, sip on a spicy syrah or peppery pinotage, attributed to the almost-Mediterranean climate here.
If you're hungry to sip, dip, munch, crunch and gorge your way through Northland's regional smorgasbord then jump on the Food and Wine Trail now!
This ship of peace that once protested against nuclear-weapons testing has now found another purpose, and a new lease of life in the stunning Cavalli Islands. Lying on the sea floor blanketed with a colourful abundance of marine life, Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior attracts thousands of exploring divers each year.
She rests at the bottom of the ocean near Matauri Bay, a horseshoe-shaped bay half an hour from Kerikeri. The small camping ground at Matauri Bay is always popular in the summer, and it's a beaut' spot for swimming, fishing and diving. It's also the destination for many a classic Kiwi summer: barbecues on the beach, glowing faces and salty hair.
Kayak around the Cavalli Islands on the hunt for a juicy mussel or cray, or simply lie on the beach. Dive operators take regular dive tours to the Rainbow Warrior wreck, an absolute must for avid scuba divers. If you'd rather pay your respects with your head above water, visit the Rainbow Warrior Memorial, sculpted by Kerikeri local Chris Booth.
Whether you choose to dig your feet into the soft white sand on shore or dive to the depths of the bejewelled blue waters, the sheer number of beaches and bays in Matauri Bay means you can always find one to call your very own.
If you want to know more about Maori and European history in New Zealand, this is where you need to start. It was in Waitangi on 6 February 1840 that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori and the British Crown. The treaty established British control over New Zealand or governance (kawanatanga), depending on whether you're reading the English or Maori version. And while neglected for many years, the treaty has played an increasingly important role in recent times.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are part of the 506-hectare Waitangi National Trustee estate. A must-see is the Treaty House, which was built in 1832 for the first British resident, James Busby. Across the lawn is the magnificently detailed whare runanga, a beautiful meeting house with intricate carvings, which was completed in 1940 to mark the centenary of the treaty.
The 35-metre waka taua (war canoe) Ngatokimatawhaorua was also built for the centenary and a photographic exhibit details how it was fashioned from gigantic kauri logs. The naval flagpole in the grounds marks the spot where the Crown and Maori chiefs signed the treaty. Entry to the treaty grounds is free for New Zealand residents.
If you're looking for kauri, you've come to the right place. Northland is home to the largest remaining population of kauri trees in all of New Zealand. While that only represents about three percent of what we started with, it's a portion worth protecting.
The Waihoanga Gorge Kauri Walk is a nice example of local landowners working with the Department of Conservation to preserve the delicate ecosystem of these majestic trees and their precious surrounds.
You'll find the track in the Puketi Forest, after crossing a section of private farmland and the Waihoanga Stream. This is the easy part, with views of the gorge showing the Pirau Fault and Waterfall. After the warm-up, the walk gradually winds its way under a diverse range of forest species puriri, taraire, nikau, and virgin kauri trees before entering a fine kauri grove
All up, the walk takes only two hours return; plenty of time to get your heart rate up and breathe in the fresh forest air. Just remember, the kauri tree's feeding roots are very shallow, so it's important to tread lightly. Too much foot traffic around the trees shortens their life span!