Tips for getting around the Northland, New Zealand
April 8, 2021
During my time in New Zealand, I also visited the Northland: the warmest and most northern part of New Zealand. In this article I provide you a guide to this region, including tips and must do’s.
About the region Northland
The Northland is the warmest and most northern part of New Zealand. The region has a subtropical climate with temperatures between 22-26 Celsius Degrees (sometimes even higher) in Summer time. It’s well-known for its beautiful beaches and history in the Maori culture, but of course the Northland has much more to offer.
Most travelers start their trip in Auckland, where after they spend some nights in the Northland. It can also be really nice to start your trip in Christchurch and to end in the Northland. Thanks to the climate it’s a perfect destination to end your trip and to enjoy some relaxation on the beautiful beaches.
How to get there
If you have a rental car or a camper van, it’s easy to drive from Auckland to the Northland. It’s always necessary to drive via Auckland, as there’s no other route. Of course it depends on where you’re planning to go to and on what places you’re going to visit, but if you’re planning on staying around the Bay of Islands, you should take into account that this takes around three hours of driving from Auckland. I recommend to look into hiring a car with Enterprise Car Rental and have the freedom of stopping at attractions like Waipoua Forest or Bay of Islands. Renting a car provides flexibility, convenience, and an opportunity to explore the Northland at your own pace.
If you don’t have a rental car or camper van, you can also take the bus from Auckland to, for example, Whangarei or Paihia. You can book this through InterCity. There’s also a possibility to fly from Auckland to Whangarei. You can book your flight ticket through Air New Zealand.
Things to do in Northland, New Zealand
Explore the beautiful beaches
Number one on the list: go and explore the beautiful beaches of the Northland and especially the Bay of Islands. You can relax on one of the beaches, but you can also spend some time on the water by kayaking or going on a boat trip. There are many possibilities! The Bay of Islands is a beautiful area with lots of small villages.
Go diving at the Poor Knights Islands
If you’re into diving, then you should definitely pay a visit to the Poor Knights Islands! Near the city Whangarei you can find the town of Tutukaka with its small port. From here, you can take a boat towards the Poor Knights Islands to go diving or snorkeling. Would you like to know more? Have a look at the website of the organization Dive! Tutukaka. You can also stay the night in Tutukaka if you’d like to.
Pay a visit to Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is located at the tip of the Northland and is well known for its landmark, the white lighthouse. Cape Reinga also is an important place to Maori as it marks the point from which Maori Wairua (spirit) return to their traditional homeland.
Visit the city of Whangarei
Whangarei is a beautiful, but compact city with a nice harbour and lots to see and do. Have a drink at the quayside, pay a visit to the summit of Mount Parihaka or go to Kiwi North, a museum, Kiwi house and Heritage park.
Hike through the Waipoua Kauri Forest
On the west coast of the Northland, you can find Waipoua Kauri Forest: the largest remaining tract of native forest is Northland. The forest consists out of rare birds and huge kauri trees, including Tāne Mahuta: the country’s largest kauri tree.
Get to know more about the Maori culture
The Northland knows many places which are related to the Maori culture. One of those places is Waitangi, located in the Bay of Islands: this is the birthplace of New Zealand. You can learn much about the Maori culture in this town by tours which are organised.
Ruapekapeka is another place, which you can visit 24 hours per day. It’s the place of the last battle of the first campaign of the New Zealand Wars and it’s the only battlefield of the Northern Wars where visible fortifications remain.
Where to stay
The Bay of Islands is the perfect starting point for exploring more of the Northland.
The towns of Paihia and Russell offer a diversity of beautiful accommodations where you can spend some nights. The best way to reach Russell is to take the ferry boat from Opua to Okiato. Both towns also offer restaurants and more.
If you’d rather stay in a city, than Whangarei is a great option. I recommend a minimum of three nights in the Northland.
You can also choose to spend one night in Tutukaka (for diving/snorkeling) and two nights in the Bay of Islands, for example. Again, there are so many possibilities!
Traveling to the Northland and back takes two times the same route, as you have to drive via Auckland. A small route tip: on the way to the Northland, take the East coast route. If you return towards Auckland, you can take the West coast route. It’s beautiful to see how diverse the two coastlines are and how much variation there is in the Northland’s landscapes.
Places along the way
When you’re traveling from Auckland to the Northland, you’ll first drive a bit through the region of Auckland. I’ve three tips for places to visit along the way:
The town of Matakana is surrounded by different landscapes compared to the Northland. The area is full of green hills and vineyards. It wouldn’t surprise you to hear that Matakana is the perfect place for a wine tasting at one of the many vineyards. If you happen to be in Matakana on a Saturday, don’t miss out on the farmers markets where you can buy local products. You can also pay a visit to one of the bays and beaches.
Tawharanui Regional Park
This regional park features magnificent beaches, native coastal forest and a diversity of native bird species. When you’re staying in the park and you’re there when it’s dark, you also have the chance to spot the well-known Kiwi bird. Take into account that there are opening hours for a visit to the park (in Summer time from 06:00 AM until 09:00 PM), but you can also book a stay at the park (a camp site or a cottage).
Waitakere Ranges and black-sand beaches
The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is rich in native flora & fauna and home to the kauri tree (just like the Waipoua Kauri Forest in the Northland). You can hike some beautiful trails through the park. Close to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park you can find the west coast’s spectacular black-sand beaches, which are popular surf spots. One of them is Piha Beach, which is located near the eponymous village Piha.
What do you think about the Northland? Are you already excited or have you already been there? I’m curious about your experiences and thoughts. Please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comment section below!
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