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Northland: Kaitaia, Kerikeri, the Bay of Islands and Whangarei


Northland: Kaitaia, Kerikeri, the Bay of Islands and Whangarei

story by: House of Travel

New Zealand's sub-tropical region of Northland stretches out into the Pacific Ocean like a triumphant arm, raised in celebration of the region's undoubted beauty. From the glorious Bay of Islands to the epic Ninety Mile Beach, driving through Northland consists of one scenic vista after another.

The Twin Coast Discovery Highway encompasses both of the region's coasts, the rugged and remote Tasman Coast and the twists and turns of the jawdropping Pacific Coast.

In Northland, you're never more than 40 kilometres from the coast, making it a dream for ocean lovers. With a vibrant Maori culture and unique nature due to the sub-tropical climate, a visit here offers an experience you just can't get elsewhere in New Zealand.

Just over two hours north of Auckland on State Highway 1 is Whangarei, Northland's only city. It effortlessly mixes a modern and relaxed city vibe with the natural beauty of its surrounds. There's tonnes to do in the city itself, including colourful architecture, interesting museums, stylish cafes and restaurants, and fantastic shopping. But it's the wealth of outdoor activities that will make your visit to Whangarei unforgettable.

A short walk to the north of the city are the 26 metre high Whangarei Falls, where there are various short bush walks around the falls for hikers of all abilities to enjoy. If you want something a bit meatier to get your hiking boots stuck into, a 30 kilometre drive south of the city takes you to either of Whangarei Heads or Bream Bay, both locations typified by their excellent walking routes and stunning scenery.

Northwest of Whangarei is the beautiful Tutukaka Coast, a scenic driving route broken up by charming little coastal villages. This is where the adventure sports enthusiasts come to play. Take your pick from diving, kayaking, fishing, surfing and much more.

Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands
As you continue to make your way further up the coast, watch out for the turn off for Kerikeri. This wonderful little town could be described as the cultural heartbeat of Northland. Bursting with charm and character, it's got art galleries and museums galore.

Here, you can explore some of New Zealand's oldest buildings. The Kerikeri Mission Station (also known as the Kemp House) dates back to 1821, while the nearby Stone Store was built in 1832. The Kororipo Pa, which sits above the Kerikeri Basin was the site of an 1820's fortified village.

Twenty minutes from Kerikeri is the lovely seaside town of Paihia, with its many beachside restaurants and cafes overlooking the Bay of Islands. From here you can visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the The Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, was signed by Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown in 1840. While you're here, catch the ferry across to Russell, another charming seaside town and the site of the very first capital of New Zealand way back in 1840 -1841.

Before leaving Kerikeri, be sure to take a ferry cruise around the Bay of Islands, the scenery is remarkable.

From Kaitaia, the State Highway 10 takes you along the rugged north coast, with plenty of beaches to stop off for a swim and lots of great photo opportunities, to the town of Kaitaia.

In Kaitaia you can learn about the local Maori culture and even try your hand at the traditional crafts of weaving and carving. From here, you'll find plenty of tours to take you to the northern point of Cape Reinga. The tour will drive along the hard sands of Ninety Mile Beach which, curiously enough, is an official highway, and to the lighthouse at the cape. From here you can see where the wild waters of the Tasman and Pacific meet.

If you're feeling adventurous (and have a four wheel drive) you can drive along Ninety Mile Beach yourself. Enquire locally about the best entry and exit points, as there aren't that many, and be sure to check the tides in advance, getting your vehicle stranded in the incoming waters isn't the most ideal way to end your visit to Northland.

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