Though Auckland may feel like an adventure holiday playground, not far north is in a whole new, sub-tropical world. You can spend days in Auckland, and you should, but we urge you to drive to Northland for an experience at some of our nation's greatest seaside and forest sights.
Here is all the inspiration you need to plan a road trip to Paihia, travelling via the breathtaking scenic route of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway and back to Auckland in six days.
At 328 metres tall, the Auckland Sky Tower pierces the Auckland skyline. SkyWalk around the tower at 192 metres off the ground or simply jump off!
Visit Tane Mahuta
Tane Mahuta is the largest kauri tree, located in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland Region with an estimated age between 1,250 and 2,500 years old.
Surf the giant sand dunes of Te Paki Beach. Simply throw yourself down the slope and hang on.
Cape Reinga Light House
Venture to the top of New Zealand where a spectacular whirl of currents are visible as the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.
Explore the grounds of Waitangi - the birthplace of a nation and debatably New Zealand's most historic site, located in the beautiful Bay of Islands.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is a metropolitan mecca with everything that is possibly needed within an hour’s drive. Before you head out of the city, be sure to ascend the Sky Tower and undertake one of the activities based from here, get an ice cream and consume it at Mission Bay while overlooking Rangitoto Island, or if you have the kids, look no further than a day at Rainbow’s End – New Zealand’s premier theme park.
Places To Stay
No holiday parks at this location
Pass through the toll road just north of Auckland and turn left at Brynderwyn to set off down State Highway (SH) 12. This will lead you to your first stop, the Matakohe Kauri Museum.
As an award-winning place that is home to plenty of hands-on exhibits, the Kauri Museum is where you can learn all about one of the world's longest-living, tallest species of tree - the Kauri. The world's largest Kauri slab is here, as well as curious antiques and informative panels from NZ's colonial pioneer days.
After Matakohe, you'll pass along sparkling rivers amid all manner of coastal flora, winding your way into the Kauri Coast and its regional hub, Dargaville. We hope you brought your togs (swimming costume) along for the trip, because near this great town are the gorgeous Kai Iwi Lakes. These magical freshwater bodies are flanked by warm sands, perfect for pretending you are swimming in a crisp ocean with no added salt. Plus, they have been perfecting themselves for over 1.8 million years, so you know you're in for a treat.
Places To Stay
No holiday parks at this location
The next morning, travel just an hour or so north with your walking boots in hand. On SH12, you have the opportunity to explore the largest tract of native forest available on the North Island. Waipoua Forest has many walking trails for you to enjoy, taking you past sights such as Tane Mahuta, the biggest living Kauri tree in the country; and the Four Sisters, four Kauri trees that grew practically touching each other, which are a popular subject for photos.
Both of these attractions can be accessed by short loop tracks, neither taking more than 10 minutes.
Head north from Waipoua, where your destination is that of the Ahipara Holiday Park which can be found at the very beginning of 90 Mile Beach.
There is an abundance of different tours and activities based from Ahipara. A must do is a trip with Cape Reinga Tours or to make your own way up to the Cape Reinga lighthouse and experience this magical place – where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea; the Cape is a place held in high regard by Maori. And be sure to make the most of sliding down the sand dunes!
Returning from Cape Reinga you’ll then begin the descent south down the eastern coast of Northland making your way to Paihia. Before heading into Paihia and settling in for the night, be sure to detour to Waitangi – the birthplace of New Zealand as a nation. Walk the Waitangi grounds and experience the history of New Zealand’s birth.
Head to Paihia where your final stop of the day is the Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park – a great base to experience swimming in the nearby Waitangi River, or kayak up to the Lilypond Falls. The Bay of Islands is absolutely spectacular, with 360 degree views.
We didn’t think that there was enough time to experience the Bay of Islands, so we recommend spending an extra day. Paihia is one of Northland's most popular tourism hot spots, where sand and surf meet culture and history, blending together in a spectacular all-in-one destination.
There's loads to do here, too. For example, you can cruise out into the azure Bay of Islands to swim with dolphins thanks to businesses like Dolphin Discoveries, various scenic walks are available, or simply walk the shops of the township and converse with the locals. Top the day off with a tantalising gourmet expedition provided by Total Tours, enjoying free tastings at vineyards, cheese makers, a chocolate factory and a sweet honey shop.
It will be difficult to tear yourself away from the Paihia experience, but the bright lights of Auckland await. Simply take a leisurely drive down the western side of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
Lunch in Whangarei before making your way back to bustling metropolis of Auckland.