Three night itinerary along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway
Auckland – Hokianga – Bay of Islands – Whangārei
This Taitokerau Northland itinerary showcases some of our world class iconic experiences along the 800km Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
Explore the contrasting coastlines of Taitokerau Northland; the sheltered east coast provides world-class in, on and under the water activities, whilst the ancient, wild west coast is home to Aotearoa New Zealand’s native giants, the kauri tree. This itinerary is suitable for FIT’s, families and groups.
Auckland – Hokianga
As you head up from Auckland turn off State Highway 1 before the Brynderwyn hills to start your journey to the Kauri Coast. Follow the Northland Journey, the Ancient Kauri Trail as the road winds through Taitokerau Northland’s rural villages, the perfect place to stop for a browse at the shops. A visit to the famous Kauri Museum is a must at Matakohe, to learn how the ancient kauri trees were vital to the early pioneers and boat builders. This museum is huge so allow at least 1-2 hours for your visit. If you are need of refreshments call in at the Gum Diggers Café opposite the museum before hitting the road. Continue to Dargaville and call by the Good Life Store on Victoria Street for fresh local produce perfect for a picnic stop off at the stunning Kai Iwi Lakes, before exploring the final leg of the Kauri Coast.
Head up through the forest with the Northland Journey Wandering with Ancestors to the Hokianga where you can experience the not-to-be-missed Footprints Waipoua Twilight Forest Tour, learning about the conservation to protect these ancient trees, hearing stories, myths, and legends with your local Māori guide. The Hokianga has a range of motels and B&B’s, the largest accommodation offering is at The Heads, suitable for groups. For couples and small groups consider The Heads Villas or the historic Waipoua Lodge.
Hokianga – Bay of Islands
In the morning learn about the first Polynesian explorer Kupe and his people that landed in Aotearoa New Zealand more than 1000 years ago, at the Manea Footprints of Kupe cultural and heritage centre. Be immersed in the high-tech 4D theatre with actors, digital technology, sensory experiences, and storytelling.
If you are ready for a bite just a little further north is Rāwene, Aotearoa New Zealand’s third oldest settlement. It has great cafes such as The Boat Shed and No.1 Parnell art gallery & café.
In the afternoon follow the Northland Journey Te Ara Coast to Coast and visit the iconic Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which holds national significance as the signing place of Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document. Learn about the Treaty and the history of the area and site. Join an informative guided tour of the grounds, experience a cultural performance in an authentic Meeting House, visit the Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi and Te Rau Aroha Museum. View the world’s largest ceremonial canoe and enjoy a refreshment in the Whare Waka café with stunning views over the Bay of Islands. The Waitangi experience pass is valid for two days as there is so much to see and do here.
The Bay of Islands has the biggest cluster of accommodation offerings in Northland from luxury lodges, motels, hotels & B&B’s. For larger groups consider The Scenic Hotel and Copthorne Bay of Islands. For smaller groups and couples, the heritage house Arcadia Lodge offers glorious views, impeccable service, and legendary breakfasts, with suites or cottage accommodation options. The historic Duke of Marlborough, another bespoke option, is a great place to relax and unwind and watch the world go by. You are spoilt for choice for dining options, consider a meal watching the sunset at The Duke of Marlborough showcasing Taitokerau Northland’s local food and beverage offerings.
Bay of Islands to Tutukākā
Head to Tutukākā along the Northland Journey Into The Wide Blue Yonder. Tutukākā is the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. The Poor Knights are 25km offshore and have been rated by the famous Jacques Cousteau as one of the top-ten dive sites in the world - the water is known for its clarity and an abundance of sea life. Sea currents and visibility up to 30 meters underwater allow the diver, (and kayaker or snorkeler) to see a highly populated, rich, and diverse tapestry of marine life.
Prebook The Perfect Day Cruise, an iconic experience to the islands, which leaves at 10.30am & returns about 4.30pm, where you can enjoy kayaking, snorkelling or hop on a SUP. Make sure you are at their depo in good time to board the boats.
Or take a horse trek to explore the top-rated coastline, with Sandy Bay Horse Treks where you can relax and immerse yourself in nature or explore the coast, you can take a trail ride or the exclusive ocean swim trail, where you can swim your horses. They also offer glamping. Tutukākā also has a Surf School if you are wanting to learn how to surf with professionals, look out for the Tutukākā Surf shop in the main centre.
There is a good selection of accommodation offerings here, for couples consider Lodge 9, for groups consider Quality Ocean’s Hotel or Pacific Rendezvous, there is also the Tutukākā Holiday Park very close to the marina which is great for families.
For dinner visit Schnapper Rock, try the local fish and home grown produce.
Tutukākā to Auckland
Head back to Auckland and if you are not in a rush turn off SH1 and follow the Northland Journey The Welcoming Coast through the Scottish town of Waipū where you can visit the Waipū Museum. Call at McLeod’s Pizza Barn for a craft beer brewed on site and try one of their famous pizzas. Or stop for ice cream at Waipū Cove or a bite to eat at The Cove Café. Waipū Cove is a great safe place for a swim with patrolled beaches between April to October. Then follow the coastal route exploring Lang’s Beach and Mangawhai where a stop at Bennetts Chocolates is a must if you have a sweet tooth. This scenic loop brings you back to SH1.