The Sand Highway - Ninety Mile Beach
© Northland Inc
The Twin Coast Discovery Touring Route is an 800km circular touring route which starts and finishes in Auckland.
Turn left at Brynderwyn for the Kauri Coast & Hokianga and wind your way around the shores of the mighty Kaipara Harbour to the famous Kauri Museum at Matakohe. Just after the riverside town of Dargaville, take a left turn to Baylys Beach for your first encounter with the wild Tasman Sea.
Enjoy a freshwater dip in the nearby Kai Iwi Lakes, and then disappear into the deep green of the Waipoua Forest – home to Tane Mahuta, the largest kauri tree in the world (over 2000 year's old!). As you exit the forest, the touring route climbs steeply to suddenly reveal the majestic beauty of the historic Hokianga Harbour.
Catch the vehicle ferry from Rawene to Kohukohu and keep driving north. Keen surfers will want to visit Ahipara, the gateway to 90 Mile Beach, with one of the best left hand surf breaks you’ll ever find. Follow the departing Maori spirits to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, Eerie and unforgettable, magical and entrancing, the Cape casts a spell on those who venture here.
Wander back down the East Coast, through beautiful Doubtless Bay and Matauri Bay past countless sheltered bays and deserted white sand beaches. Explore the edges of huge, shallow Parengarenga Harbour - the pure quartz sand is dazzling.
From the seaside town of Paihia you can skydive, parasail, scuba dive, sea kayak or paddle a waka. The ‘hole in the rock’ at the tip of Cape Brett is one of the most popular maritime excursions. Other trips and overnight cruises let you swim with dolphins or walk on uninhabited islands.
Take a ferry over to the elegant town of Russell was New Zealand’s largest town before 1840 and once known as ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’ due to the rough behaviour of whalers, traders and sailors who settled there.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds is the scene of the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. You’ll see the Treaty House, and one of the largest Maori waka (war canoe) in NZ.
Historical highlights of Kerikeri are the Kerikeri Mission House, the country’s oldest house built by John Butler in 1821, and the Mission’s Stone Store dating from 1832, New Zealand’s oldest stone building. These wonderful buildings are regarded as the “Cradle of the Nation”, and are a must for all visitors to the Bay of Islands.
Verdant, vibrant and very diverse, Whangarei is a modern city set in a benevolent sub tropical landscape. With a thriving arts community, cafés and restaurants serving the freshest of Northland produce and a climate that can bring on a BBQ at the drop of a hat, the people of Whangarei have something special to share.
Tutukaka (only half an hour north east of Whangarei) is a bustling nautical town with great views, waterfront cafes, the freshest seafood, lots of yachties, and charter boats everywhere, but to the marine adventurer this port is a gateway to Poor Knights Islands and some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world.
Another magical spot is at the end of the ‘Whangarei Heads Tourist Drive’. There lies the powerful Pacific sweep of Ocean Beach. After the tranquillity of the inner harbour coves, Ocean Beach has a new energy with its often powerful surf and awesome views.
Other highlights near Whangarei: Waipu lays claim to New Zealand’s ‘best small museum’ & Mangawhai's white sandy beaches (5 within 15 minutes' drive),
The Twin Coast Discovery Touring Route provides the structure to experience the mystery and history. But remember Northland is big. When planning a holiday make sure that you have an itinerary that provides enough time to make it an experience, not just a fleeting visit.