New Zealand really packs a punch for a small country when it comes to scenery and potential itineraries. It can be hard to decide which route to take and what to see along the way. This month we’ll show you how you can head north from Auckland during winter and be treated to sculpture, music, history, culture and amazing sites as you explore Northland.
Matakana is on the way
Just an hour’s drive from central Auckland is the destination village of Matakana. The site of a buzzing farmers’ market, the small rural town oozes charm and is equally attractive for day-tripping Aucklanders as it is for visitors from around the country and around the world.
Check out the Information Centre in the foyer of the fabulous boutique Matakana Cinemas, or take in the amazing sculpture gardens, vineyard, galleries and restaurant and bar at Sculptureum — an ‘internationally unique’ art experience.
Bay of Islands for culture and history
Jump back in the car and head north for 2.5hrs and you’ll arrive at Bay of Islands, home to 144 gorgeous islands that are equally impressive in cooler months. Base yourself at Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park at Haruru, just ten minutes from the boutique town of Paihia — the heart of this subtropical microregion.
Head across the bridge from Paihia to Waitangi and experience the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Aotearoa New Zealand’s birthplace. Here you can see where the Treaty of Waitangi (the country’s founding document) was signed by the British Crown and Maori chiefs in 1840.
A car and passenger ferry can transport you from Paihia to Russell, the nation’s first European settlement and sea port. Once frequented by rowdy drunken sailors and whalers, today the historic town is a great destination for tourists looking to step back in time.
If you manage to visit the region from 10–12 August 2018, you can take in the sites and sounds of the Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival. The 45 acts will perform at locations in both Paihia and Russell, making for 150 hours of world-class music.
Ahipara and Shipwreck Bay
Over on the west coast at the southern end of 90-Mile Beach, just over 1.5 hours’ drive northwest of Paihia, is Ahipara. This small coastal village boasts a world-beating surf break at Shipwreck Bay, an 18-hole links golf course, great fishing and plenty of adventure activities.
Our Ahipara Holiday Park is an ideal base from which to do all of the above, and it doubles as a pick-up spot for those keen to take a bus tour along 90-Mile Beach — an official NZ highway stretching 88 sandy kilometres north from Ahipara.
Cape Reinga is NZ’s northernmost accessible point. An hour and 45-minute drive from Ahipara, the Cape allows visitors to stand at the lighthouse and watch the white-water spectacle of the Pacific Ocean meeting the Tasman Sea below.
Maori oral history says the 800-year-old pohutakawa tree at the tip of cape is where spirits of deceased Maori leap into the ocean to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral home.
Waipoua Forest — Home of Giant Kauri
On your way back towards Auckland, head down the Kauri Coast and visit Waipoua Forest. New Zealand’s most famous kauri forest, Waipoua is the largest native forest area in Northland and home to some almighty kauri trees, including NZ’s largest — Tane Mahuta. A five-minute walk from the roadside, Tane Mahuta is around 2,000 years old, has a whopping diameter of 4.4 metres and is still growing!
We hope this has helped whet your appetite for a winter adventure through New Zealand’s Northland. Don’t forget to get your Kiwi Card to save you money on accommodation and activities and drop us a line for more information.
‘Tane Mahuta’ by itravelNZ® - New Zealand in your pocket™ under CC BY 2.0.
‘90 Mile Beach, Northland’ by Pete Marshall under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.