A week long trip through Taitokerau Northland
Auckland – Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga – Auckland
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway leads you on a circular journey through beautiful Taitokerau Northland. Ideal for self-driving visitors; this 800km touring route connects you with the region’s profound mystique.
The Taitokerau Northland region starts one hour north of Auckland and extends through to Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga at the top of Aotearoa New Zealand’s North Island. There a number of significant New Zealand attractions such as the Bay of Islands, Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga, Te Oneroa a Tōhē Ninety Mile Beach, the ancient kauri tree Tāne Mahuta, and Waitangi Treaty Grounds ‘the Birthplace of the Nation’. This itinerary is suitable for couples, families & small 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 need refreshment call at the Gum Diggers Café opposite the museum before hitting the road. Continue to Dargaville; and get any supplies needed. Stop at 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 the ancient kauri 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.
For dining consider The Heads Restaurant.
Hokianga – Ahipara
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.
Make your way north via the west coast of Taitokerau Northland. Use the Twin Coast Discovery route to take you to the northernmost reaches of Aotearoa New Zealand. Journey through yesteryear taking in rural countryside on your way north to Ahipara. Check out Shipwreck Bay, aptly named as it was the site of the sinking of many ships, the wrecks of which are still visible at low tide. Bring your surfboard if surfing is your thing or join a horse trek with Ahipara Horse Treks and enjoy the stunning scenery along Ninety Mile Beach.
For accommodation, if glamping is your thing check out The Huts or the Ahipara Holiday Park which has cabins to rent plus great facilities.
Kaitaia – Cape Reinga – Doubtless Bay
Kaitaia is the main centre for the 'subtropical' north. In the morning pack a picnic and make the trip to the Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island (1.5 hours' drive from Kaitaia) following the Northland Journey Te Hiku o te Ika-a-Māui. This place is of great spiritual importance to Māori, who believe it is the jumping-off point for the souls of their departed loved ones making their way back to their mythical homeland of Hawaiki. Please note you can hire a 4WD in Kaitaia, with Northland Rentals, the only permitted hire vehicles in Taitokerau Northland which are allowed onto Ninety Mile Beach, all other rental vehicles are prohibited on the beach, and only 4WD’s are suitable for driving off-road.
In the afternoon head to stunning Doubtless Bay, following the Northland Journey Headlands and Hidden Harbours. Call at Butler Point Whaling Museum, spend time discovering the quaint seaside village of Mangonui, enjoy the famous fish and chips at the Mangonui Fish & Chip shop, or call by the pub and meet the parrot!
Or you could explore the stunning Karikari Peninsula, and play a round of golf at Carrington Estate, which can accommodate golfers of all abilities. The clubhouse has spectacular ocean views. Then enjoy wine tasting at Aotearoa New Zealand’s northernmost and award-winning vineyard Karikari Estate Winery & Restaurant, set in subtropical gardens looking back towards the ocean.
For accommodation options consider Carrington Estate, Taipa Resort or The Old Oak Boutique Motel.
Doubtless Bay – Kerikeri
In the morning head onto the road leading into Kerikeri which is bordered by orchards. Roadside stalls offer the chance to buy seasonal fruit. Look also for signs showing the way to artists’ studios – resident potters and painters have given this district a creative personality.
In Kerikeri you will find galleries, cafes and vineyards, gourmet food shops, several golf courses, and historic sites such as the Stone Store and the Mission House. You can also hire a silent eco-friendly electric boat with the NZ Electric Boat Company, right opposite the Stone Store, and take a scenic trip along the stunning idyllic Kerikeri river. There are superb bush walks in the area – Rainbow Falls is a perfect picnic spot or if you fancy a pub-style meal, try the Plough & Feather, or the Maha Restaurant which is set in the stunning Wharepuke Subtropical gardens.
For accommodation try Moon Gate Villa or Treghan Lodge
Bay of Islands
In the morning call by The Old Packhouse Market Café to replenish before a short drive to Paihia.
Jump onboard the Explore Discover the Bay Cruise departing at 10.00am, stopping at Otehei Bay for chance to take in the views, and enjoy lunch at the licensed restaurant at Urupukapuka Island. It is a perfect spot for a swim or kayak adventure. If you are feeling like taking to the ocean for the day, consider jumping onboard the traditional sailing heritage vessel the R Tucker Thompson. Their Classic Day Sail leaves from the Russell wharf at 10am. It is a great option for groups looking for a social day out, a family get together or special event.
In the afternoon 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 of Waitangi and the history of the area and site. Take 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, consider the heritage house Arcadia Lodge, which 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.
Whangārei is Taitokerau Northland’s largest city and is the gateway to two stunning paradises including the Whangārei Heads and Tutukākā Coast.
In the morning, head to the vibrant city of Whangārei just an hour south of the Bay of Islands. Stop at the Town Basin, a picturesque yachting marina, where you will find arts & crafts, cafes and restaurants showcasing local produce. Head to the newly opened Hundertwasser Art Centre & Wairau Māori Art Gallery, and take a guided tour of the last creative architecturally designed building that Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed before he died. You will be amazed by the uniqueness, romanticism, and creativity in the building itself, with uneven floors and a forested roof with over 4000 trees and plants. There are over 80 pieces of original artwork on display, plus original photos, and information about Hundertwasser and his life. There is a lift for easy access to the first floor and living roof has stunning views of the Whangārei marina and district. Allow 1-2 hours for this visit.
In the afternoon, check out the Whangārei Quarry Gardens, with the Quail Café or visit Clapham’s Clock Museum in the town basin for a guided tour, with over 1500 timepieces that will amaze and entertain you. Take the self-guided Whangārei Street Art Trail around the city or take a walk around the Hātea Loop alongside the river with many sculptures to enjoy. For more adventurous activity visit Heads Up Adventure and jump on a monster scooter with tracks for all ages and abilities.
Whangarei has plenty of motels, B&B’s, and a reasonable selection of hotels. For groups consider The Distinction Hotel opposite the Town Basin or The Quest in the centre of the city, or the Top Ten Holiday Park in a scenic setting with spacious surrounds is great for families.
For dinner try The Quay or Number 8, both the Town Basin and easy to walk to from city accommodation options.
Tutukākā Coast – Auckland
Only half an hour north-east of Whangārei, follow the Northland Journey Into The Wide Blue Yonder to Tutukākā which is the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. These islands 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. There are two experiences on offer here, the Dive Tutukākā experience which departs at 8am and returns around 4.30pm, or The Perfect Day Cruise 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.
Take a horse trek to explore the world-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 too. 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.
Continue 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, or call at McLeod’s Pizza Barn for a craft beer brewed on site and try one of their famous pizzas. Or stop for an 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.