Home > The Road Trips > Auckland - Kerikeri

Auckland - Kerikeri

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.

Auckland to Kerikeri
Total Distance 383 Km
Approx driving time 7 hours
Today Auckland19°

You've packed the boot and the kids are in the car - it's time to wave goodbye to the Big Smoke of Auckland and head north. Just out of Auckland you'll pass through Silverdale. At this point you have the choice of following State Highway 1 up through the Northern Gateway Toll Rd, a shortcut that consists of a wide stretch of motorway and a tunnel through the hill, ending near Puhoi - a popular riverside village that makes for a charming stop.

The busy seaside town of Orewa is a great place to soak up some sun at the beach and to do a bit of shopping before getting back on the road and heading further north.

Alternatively, the free route via State Highway 17 will allow you to explore Whangaparaoa and Red Beach before heading up the coast. The busy seaside town of Orewa is a great place to soak up some sun at the beach and to do a bit of shopping before getting back on the road and heading further north.

Orewa to Waipu

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 super slides. There's a cafe 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, where State Highway 17 and the Northern Gateway Toll Road reunite. Highlights in Puhoi are the museum, historic pub (with an amazing lawn for lounging on while enjoying a cold beer), and renowned boutique Puhoi Valley Cheese with its cafe and cheese cellar. 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.

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 leading 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 where eateries line the town, SH1 twists north past the bush walks of the Dome Valley and then on through the rural town of Wellsford.

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 on to Whangarei, Northland's largest city is always bursting with things to see and do. Abuzz with activity, Whangarei's Town Basin is full of quayside cafes. 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 outdoor activities that are close to town, then head to the stunning Whangarei Falls and AH Reed Kauri Park.

Carry on to Tutukaka where you can enjoy a coffee or meal by the marina. From here you can sign up for a fishing charter, or take a boat out to the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve for some world-class dive and snorkelling sites. 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 Rd stopping in at The Gallery & Cafe at Helena Bay - amazing views, excellent food and true Northland ambience - or head up SH1 to Kawakawa, a small town famous for its decorative toilets. The last works of renowned Austrian-born artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Kawakawa's toilets are truly a sight to see.

Bay of Islands

From Kawakawa it's a short drive to Opua, and then aboard the vehicle ferry and a short trip across the water and onwards 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 Australian convicts. Hard to imagine now, as present day Russell is a melange of cute cottages, historic waterside hotels, galleries, cafes and restaurants in abundance.

Just north of Paihia is Kerikeri - a sophisticated town packed with artists, vineyards, orchards and markets.

Hop on the car ferry and point your vehicle towards Paihia. This seaside destination has a year-round holiday atmosphere and is at the heart of the Bay of Islands. From sailing and snorkelling to kayaking, fishing and parasailing, there's a water sport to suit all. Wander along Williams Rd for some fabulous local artwork and souvenirs. There is a wide variety of accommodation here and plenty of bars and restaurants. If you've got the time, it's worth parking up here for a night or two and exploring more of the Bay of Islands many delights.

While 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 sophisticated town packed with artists, vineyards, orchards and markets. Roadside stalls offer the chance to buy seasonal fruit (the oranges are amazing). While here check out some of the vibrant galleries, cafes and gourmet food shops. This area is steeped in history, be sure to visit local icons Kemp House (NZs oldest house built in 1821) and the Stone Store (1832). Stop by and enjoy!

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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 perfectly. Whether launching 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 signposted 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 they will mention a bach, crib or caravan, sunshine, sand, ocean beaches, safe swimming spots for the littlies and an estuary for exploring and fishing in.

Throw in awesome views from just about everywhere; nearby forests for mountain biking; amazing rock-fishing; a cliff-top walkway; 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, kayakers can be seen slipping silently from a boatshed beside the estuary and paddling out, the gentle splash of the paddles lost in the distant crash of surf.

Early morning surfers will be out in force, communing with the ocean in 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 Walk, which traverses the beach and cliff-top, a three-hour return hike that begins at the leaning rock by 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!

The Northland Wine Trail has 14 wine stops on its winding tour, which encompasses both of the Northland regions scenic coasts. Some of the estates offer accommodation, while many have cafes or restaurants attached.

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 Wine Trail now!

The Rainbow Warrior dive site in the Far North attracts thousands of divers each year. Scuttled in 1987 at a carefully chosen site off the stunning Cavalli Islands, Greenpeace's famous ship of peace now lies on the sea floor blanketed with abundant and colourful marine life.

This carefully selected dive spot lies near the horseshoe-shaped Matauri Bay, which is about 30-minutes drive from Kerikeri. The small camping ground here is popular in summer and a beautiful spot for some swimming, fishing and diving. It's also perfect for many of the classic Kiwi summer favourites: barbecues on the beach, sand between your toes and salty hair.

Kayak around the Cavalli Islands on the hunt for mussels or cray, or simply lie on the beach. Dive operators take regular dive tours to the Rainbow Warrior wreck, an absolute must for 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.

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 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 Te 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 NZ 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 New Zealand.

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, across 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 and keep to the paths. Too much foot traffic around the trees shortens their life span!

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