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Northland - Auckland

Northland is often referred to as the birthplace of the nation, as it was here that our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed. It was also one of the first landing places for canoes from East Polynesia and the site of early European settlements. Pass through the Waipoua Forest on the way back to Auckland and visit Tane Mahuta.

Northland to Auckland
Total Distance 775 Km
Approx driving time 10 hours 45 minutes
Today Paihia28°

Base yourself in Paihia for the first leg of this journey; it's as alive as it is stunningly beautiful. Spend a day on the water, choosing from one of the many activities whether it be sailing, fishing, kayaking; or sample the shopping, restaurants and bars. There's something for everyone.

It was at Waitangi in 1840 that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori chiefs and the British Crown. The ornately carved Te Whare Runanga, a beautiful meeting house, and the world's largest ceremonial waka (canoe) are well worth a look.

Spend a day on the water, choosing from one of the many activities whether it be sailing, fishing, kayaking; or sample the shopping, restaurants and bars.

After Waitangi, just 4km west of Paihia are the Haruru Falls, cascading in a rare horseshoe shape. You can drive here, or for the more energetic, there is a 90-minute hike from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds along the edge of the Waitangi River including a boardwalk over mangroves.

Moving on from Waitangi, it's time to head north to the vibrant town of Kerikeri. With its craft markets and boutique vineyards, Kerikeri is a haven for artisans and foodies. Kerikeri also boasts Kemp House, New Zealand's oldest-standing European building. As you head north there are many side roads leading to beautiful beaches including Matauri Bay, Tauranga Bay, Taupo Bay and the Whangaroa Harbour, renowned for its big-game fishing.

Bay of Islands: Birthplace of a Nation

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Kerikeri: Kemp House, New Zealand's oldest-standing European building

Kerikeri: Art, craft and artisan foods

Cape Reinga: Lighthouse and world-famous 'road sign'

Ninety Mile Beach: Sand dunes/wild horses

Kaitaia: Day trips to Ninety Mile Beach (4WD excursions)

Opononi: Sand dunes and kai moana (seafood)

Matakohe: Kauri Museum

Orewa: Sushi and a stroll on Orewa Beach

Grab fish and chips in Paihia and eat them on the wharf. There's nothing like watching the sun set while eating superb kai moana.

In Kerikeri, stop and try some of the local produce - there's nothing fresher or more cost effective for people on the go.

For outstanding beauty - take the Million Dollar View Rd overlooking Matauri Bay and out to the Cavalli Islands. Here is the final resting place of the Rainbow Warrior.

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Waipoua Forest

Kauri Kings

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Auckland's West Coast

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Doubtless Bay

Coopers Beach, Cable Bay and Taipa Bay are popular beaches along the shores of Doubtless Bay. This area boasts many pohutukawa-fringed sandy bays, which are typical of Northland's east coast. For a slice of Kiwiana, check out Matthews Vintage Collection along SH 10.

As a great side excursion, the Karikari Peninsula boasts views worth stopping for and is also the home of New Zealand's northernmost vineyard - if you're thirsty, stop in for some wine tasting! With beaches facing all points of the compass, it is easy to find a sheltered spot.

Head westward to Awanui, turn right and you're on your way to the tip of New Zealand. This area is the site of ancient buried kauri forest. At Gumdiggers Park you can view relics of the forest and the gumdiggers village.

Heading north you'll encounter Pukenui, a small harbour-side community with accommodation, motel, motor camps, supermarket, restaurant, bottle store, petrol station, golf club, game fishing club, tavern and a great wharf for family fishing. Stop in and spend a while here. From here, it's 50km to Te Kao, your last stop before making the journey to Cape Reinga.

Make sure you fill up your gas tank at Waitiki Landing - it's the last place to do so before making a choice between the route to Cape Reinga and the gravel road-less-travelled to Spirits Bay.

Cape Reinga

At Cape Reinga, you can witness first-hand the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. While sand boarding Te Paki's golden dunes is a must - old boogie boards will come in handy here.

Follow the road back to Awanui and then Kaitaia, New Zealand's northernmost town and is a good base for exploring the Far North. Bus tours to Cape Reinga leave daily and the local guides are sure to entertain you with their knowledge of the area.

At the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach lies the seaside village of Ahipara where surfers catch the waves at Shipwreck Bay. Behind the bay is the Ahipara Gumfields Scenic Reserve, a remote wonderland but well serviced by an extensive network of 4WD tracks.

While you're in Ahipara, there's nothing better to do than spend your morning having a blast outdoors! Try sandsurfing in the dunes, 4WD trekking, blo karting, horse riding on the beach, fishing, diving, and surfing - basically just get out and enjoy yourself in the Far North.

The town perches at the tip of the peninsula with many of its buildings hanging over the waterline, their foundation posts buried firmly in the sand.

Heading south after a morning of adventures, it's on the Kohukohu Rd that you'll catch your first glimpse of the Hokianga Harbour. Kohukohu, a quintessential Hokianga community, is stamped with the architecture of the early 1900s. This was once a thriving timber town with a busy wharf, tall ships and cargo of kauri spars and timber.

On the south side of Kohukohu township a ferry departs every hour, transporting vehicles across the harbour to Rawene, the gateway to the northern Hokianga. Chugging across the harbour on the vehicle ferry is by far the best approach to the charming harbourside township of Rawene. The town perches at the tip of the peninsula with many of its buildings hanging over the waterline, their foundation posts buried firmly in the sand.


Rawene offers a fascinating insight into Northland's Maori and European history. Reflect on the remarkable history of this area and rest awhile at the Boatshed Cafe, jutting out over the harbour on stilts. SH 12 meanders along in the shadow of the high ridges of the Waima Forest, where energetic travellers will enjoy hiking on the Waiotemarama Waterfall Loop Walk before arriving in the salty seaside settlement of Opononi.

Opononi achieved international renown during the summer of 1955-56 when it was adopted by a friendly bottlenose dolphin, nicknamed Opo. Swamped with curious tourists, regulations for the protection of dolphins were passed into law on the wave of interest that was generated.

If you're keen for amazing views, head to Omapere, just down the road and walk to the nearby lookout point. This scenic spot is a perfect place for photo opportunities. Whatever you do while in the Hokianga, be sure to enjoy the slower pace of life.

Waipoua Forest

From here it's south through the Waipoua Forest where you can visit the Lord of the Forest, Tane Mahuta. Standing 51.2 metres high, this giant kauri can hush a crowd with its majestic proportions.

A little further south, if you're keen on spotting a kiwi in the wild, there are guided night walks in the Waipoua Forest and Trounson Kauri Park, Kaihu. Nearby you'll find the pristine white sands and crystal waters of the Kai Iwi Lakes, a great place for trout fishing, water skiing and swimming.


Dargaville has a rich pioneering past centred around kauri gum digging and logging. It is now better known as the Kumara Capital of New Zealand. There are great views of the Wairoa River from the Dargaville Museum and Tokatoka Hill. Carry on to Matakohe, site of the internationally acclaimed Kauri Museum.

From here you're headed back to Auckland via Warkworth. Make sure you stop off in Orewa, just north of Auckland for a walk on the beach and a meal at one of the local eateries. Everything from pub-grub to stellar sushi is on tap in this seaside town.

Once you reach Auckland, there is everything at hand from adventure, to sightseeing, to world-class dining.

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If someone said you could not only surf, but also snowboard in Northland, you'd think they were pulling your leg. The upper North Island region is also known as the 'Winterless North', so it's highly unlikely that its climate would cater for snow sports.

But this is boarding of a different kind, on mountains of sand edging the Tasman Sea. Dune boarding, as it's known, takes place in Opononi, Ahipara and Te Paki in the Far North.

It's by far the best way to experience the immensity of Ninety Mile Beach and the Hokianga dunes. Try surfing the sand, or lie down on the board toboggan-style and shoot down the slopes. Depending on the tide, rides down the dune can sometimes end with a refreshing splash in the Tasman Sea, when the brakes (toes in the sand) fail.

Dune boarding trips depart from Opononi, Ahipara and Te Paki. Just remember to take some sunscreen and water - the dunes can be harsh on a hot day, and the last thing you want is to feel like you're stranded in the middle of a desert. Extreme fun and extremely affordable - there's no excuse not to give it a go!

If the great kauri forests of Northland are New Zealand's untamed jungle, then Tane Mahuta is the undisputed lord of this domain. The largest living kauri in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta has a 13.77-metre girth, a trunk height of 17.68 metres and a total height of 51.2 metres.

Located a short five-minute walk along flat paths, just off SH 12 in Northland, this 'Lord of the Forest' has a competitor who has a fair way to go before he hits the same dizzying heights.

His name is Te Matua Ngahere, 'Father of the Forest', and he is currently the second overall largest living kauri in the country, with a girth of 16.41 metres and a total height of just under 30 metres.

Nearby are The Four Sisters who, though smaller, are spectacular simply because of their clustered planting.

Reading these wooded statistics does nothing to depict just how majestic and awe-inspiring these giants are. They truly have to be seen to be believed and are worth the easy trek via well-maintained boardwalks within Waipoua Forest.

The Northland Wine Trail has 14 wine stops on its winding tour, which encompasses both of the Northland region's 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 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 a 30-minute 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.

A short drive past the turn-off to Maitai Bay Campground is a parking area and easy walking track that takes you down to the stunning Karikari Bay. The walk is a short but sweet five minutes long and concludes on the sandy shores of Karikari Beach - perfect for young families or travellers who aren't physically inclined.

If you are in it for the long haul or you've got some time to spare, take a leisurely one to two-hour stroll along glistening white sand to Puwheke Reserve. From the top of Puwheke Hill you can check out views of Aupouri Peninsula, including Great Exhibition Bay and the gargantuan sand hills of Ahipara. On a clear day, you could even see North Cape.

Whether its sunbathing and sandcastle building on Karikari Beach or bird watching and fishing at Puwheke Reserve, the Karikari Peninsula has all your walking and outdoor activities covered. Keep an eagle eye out for the endangered New Zealand dotterel, known to nest around these parts.

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