Stretching upwards from Auckland to the very top of New Zealand is beautiful Northland, a popular place for Aucklanders to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. With subtropical weather, countless gorgeous beaches, and epic coastal hikes, Northland is a great place to adventure or relax year round. Keep reading to find out our favourite things to see, do, and eat in Northland.
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Active: Cape Reinga Hike
While it's a long drive from any city, a visit to Cape Reinga is unmissable! Contrary to popular belief, it's not quite the northernmost point of the country, as North Cape is approximately 4km further North. The commonly photographed lighthouse is only a short, sealed walk from the carpark. From here, you'll see the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean in a swirl of currents with a splash of waves.
You'll be exhausted by the long drive so, head to the Te Kao Local Store on your way south for a tower of ice cream scoops. Located approximately 30 minutes from Cape Reinga, this scoop shop is well known in Northland and internationally, as it was once featured in Lonely Planet. If you're absolutely ravenous, go for a “whoppa stoppa” which is six scoops of Tip Top goodness. Find out about the best ice cream shops to stop at while road tripping New Zealand here.
Wildlife: Dolphins in the Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands, and wider Northland, are a top spot to see dolphins. The friendly, playful creatures flock to the region for its warm waters and sheltered coastline. In the Bay of Islands, you can take a boat trip with one of the many cruise providers to see the Bottlenose and Common dolphins which are in residence year-round. In the cooler months, you may encounter Orcas too. Watch these majestic creatures in their natural habitat from the boat or, if the conditions are right, hop in and swim with them! Find out about other wildlife encounters around New Zealand here.
History: Tane Mahuta, Waipoua Forest
Just before reaching the Hokianga Harbour, State Highway 12 winds through the Waipoua Forest where you’ll find Tane Mahuta. This is the world’s largest Kauri tree with a girth of 13.77m and height of 51.5m. Standing for more than 2,000 years old, Tane Mahuta truly is the Lord of the Forest as the English translation of the Maori name suggests. Slot into one of the car parks along the highway and take a five-minute walk, following the Tane Mahuta Walkway signs, to the viewing platform. Be sure to stick to the marked track as Kauri trees have very sensitive surface roots which can easily be damaged by footsteps.
Shop: Matakana Village & Farmers Market
Only 70km away from central Auckland, this small town is popular with city dwellers over summer months. Spend the morning exploring the cafes and shops in the town centre before heading 10 minutes down the road to Omaha beach for an afternoon relaxing on the golden sand and frolicking in the waves. If visiting on a Saturday, you must check out the Farmers Market. This market is popular with locals and showcases the fresh produce and delicious food from the area. Bring your own reusable carrier bags and stock up on fresh produce, flowers, breads, deli treats, and sweets for a gourmet picnic.
Adventure: Woolleys Bay, Matapouri
Woolleys Bay is located on the east coast, a 35km drive northeast of Whangarei. Park your car and take a short walk through the sand dunes to this stunning, golden sand beach. The bay is quite sheltered so the waters are usually calm and crystal clear, perfect for paddle boarding. You can hire paddleboards by the hour from a number of vendors in Tutukaka (10 minutes drive away). If you’re up for an adventure, head around the rocks at either end of the beach to explore the rock pools and check out the creatures that call them home. Don't forget to check the tides before you set out to stay safe. Discover other secret beaches around New Zealand here.
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