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15 April 2018

northland: a three day roadtrip guide

Over Easter weekend we decided to head up to the Northernmost part of New Zealand. It seemed the best place to enjoy the last of the year's sunshine days, and somewhere that needed longer than a standard weekend to explore.

We were determined to see as much as we could in the three full days we'd have – even if it meant a heavy dose of holiday traffic. 

Day 1


We started our journey in Auckland, flying up from Wellington on Thursday night to stay with a friend. First up it was over to Ponsonby (a district known for its independents) for beverages, and then to the sands of Herne Bay to catch up; Chinese food, beers, and chats ensued.

I saw a different side to the city seeing its coastal boroughs, and dreamed for a little while of a life on a leafy street here. 

Tane Mahuta

From Auckland we drove up the West Coast of Northland on the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.

We found ourselves swallowed by lush and beautiful green as we sailed through the Waipou Forest, surrounded by the tallest of friends. Eventually we located the tallest of them all, Tane Mahuta.

A two thousand year old sacred kauri tree immortalised in the Maori story of creation, he is one of the oldest trees in the world.


On and on we drove up the West Coast. Around 7pm we came to the town of Hokianga, where we stopped for dinner, to rest and take in the scenery of white sand beaches.

90 Mile Beach

The day ticked along and suddenly it was night. We arrived at Ninety Mile Beach Holiday Park exhausted at 10pm, pitched up, clambered in, and instantly fell soothingly asleep to the sound of the waves.

Day 2

The next morning we awoke with a start. Outside our tent door were droves of quad and dirt bike riders that were preparing to race towards Waitangi, they told us after breakfast. Bleary eyed, we left them behind and drove five minutes down to the beach in the blue morning.

Here we kicked in the waves, breathed in, and felt the boost of the shoreline's song. The entirety of the ninety mile coast can be driven along, but we weren't sure our little white hire car could handle the incoming tide so instead we headed back to the highway.

Te Paki

Close to 11am we arrived at Te Paki. I've never seen sand dunes of these proportions, Saharan in colour and stretching as far as the eye could see. Under the blazing sunshine we trudged on up to the top, perspiring from the heat and toting boards we'd been given by a generous family. We spent the morning surfing down the banks with incredible speed, guffawing at the courage of others and revelling in the adrenaline.


Cape Reinga

From Te Paki, it was only a short skip to Cape Reinga. It's a special place of spiritual significance, where it's said that the Maori dead come to join the afterlife. Over the pohutukawa tree that hangs to the rock on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua they go, into the water.

Look out from the lighthouse and you'll see a sight that also seems otherworldly. Here two oceans collide, as the Tasman Sea and the Pacific wildly crash together. 


Into the afternoon we drove along the Eastern coast of Northland, down to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Due to limited time we decided to stick to one place, where we could relax and take in the beautiful beaches, cafes and restaurants. And pianos.

Day 3

On our second day in Paihia we took a boat trip out to see the rest of the islands. A pod of dolphins swam beside us which made for emotional viewing – what beautiful creatures they were, especially the baby dolphin who paddled in amongst them. The water was so clear and so blue.


While in the Bay of Islands we camped in Kawakawa, thirty minutes from Paihia and home to the famous Hundertwasser-designed public toilets. Hundertwasseran was an Austrian-born New Zealand artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection, with a wacky, colourful, abstract style. It was quite the sight and far removed from your usual Kiwi township.

And then it was back to Auckland again, a full circle whirlwind.

Northland is a gorgeous part of New Zealand – up there with my favourites. You can fit it all into three days like we did, but if you can I'd take your time. I can imagine it to be somewhere you could blissfully while away the weeks.


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