Northland is where it all began. Over a thousand years ago the great discoverer Kupe, on the ocean-going double-hulled waka named Matawhaorua or Matahao, arrived and named this place Aotearoa. Kupe and his crew had travelled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean guided by the stars, the sun and the moon, the currents, clouds, the wind, and the birds.
Northland is the region north of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island. Think white-sand beaches, spectacular yet diverse coastlines, marine reserves, forests, surf, and what the kiwi’s like to call ‘the winterless north’ The east coast of New Zealand is peppered with harbours, coastal roads, and beautiful beaches, the perfect place to go when you have you own home on wheels and a week to explore.
We spent 7 days from Auckland with the legends at Apollo, exploring Northland, a region totally new to both of us and these are the six best spots we found while exploring this new terrain. Our Apollo Euro Tourer Campervan gave us ease and the ability to drive and sleep where we wanted. We loosely planned a route and hit the road… read on for our Northland must see’s while on a New Zealand road trip.
Paihia at sunset
The jewel of the Bay of Islands is here and it is the perfect town to base yourself for a few days. There are heaps of water activity, boat trips, shops, and eateries. Plus learn about early New Zealand history where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed at the Waitangi treaty grounds. Take the ferry to Russell, Russell holds a very important place in New Zealand’s history, being the country’s first seaport, its first European settlement, and New Zealand’s first capital. It’s $13 return and a great little evening trip for a few drinks or some food. Make sure you ehad to the water at sunset, the pastel colours that light up the sky are beautiful.
Kayaking in the Bay of Islands
Nothing screams summer than a sit on kayak on calm waters to discover private islands. We hired kayaks from a company on the beach in Paihia, two hours for $50 NZD and it was so much fun. We paddled around, pulled up at a little cove, had a swim, relaxed in the sun, and explored from the water. It was awesome to head out on a solo adventure and paddle at our own pace. Highly recommend getting on the water at least once during your time in Northland.
Visit Cape Reinga
I have a thing for lighthouses and I also have a thing for ticking off the ‘must do’s’ and this is one of them. You must visit the tip, top of New Zealand while in Northland. Cape Reinga is a lighthouse that sits at the top of the North Island. A beautiful drive and a short walk will lead you to what feels like the end of the earth. Also at the Cape, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a swirl of current creating a distinct line in the ocean. At the northernmost tip of the Cape is a pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old. According to Maori oral history, the spirits of deceased Maori leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. It’s where the spirits go home, such a spiritual, magic place.
Explore Ahipara and 90-mile beach
At the southern end of 90-mile beach you will find a quaint little town named Ahipara. Home to the fieriest sunsets and famous surf breaks this is an unspoiled sandy beach that stretches for, well, miles. It is beautiful and there are lots of activities as well as just swimming, relaxing and if you have a 4WD vehicle you can drive up and down the beach. Quad biking and horse riding are also very popular here.
Don’t listen to the songs. Always, always chase waterfalls and Northland is one of the best places to do this. With waterfalls hidden in the bush all along the island, you are never far from a secret or not so secret swimming spot. We visited Whangerei Falls, just a short ten-minute drive from the town and at the falls a short 20-minute loop track which will take you to the base of what is often called ‘New Zealand’s most photogenic waterfall’ top tip – walk away from the crowds, behind the bridge for your own private little paradise.
The Tutukaka coastal road
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway leads you around the Tutukaka Coastal Road. A road we didn’t even know about until we left Whangerei and I saw an alternative (but longer) route in google maps. We hit the road and boy am I glad we did. If we are ever heading back that way I will dedicate a trip just to this coast road. White sandy beaches, incredible oceans, diving trips, surf, paddle boarding, and more. It was absolutely stunning, so much so that we made the detour on the way home too. Matapouri and Sandy Bay were our favourite stops and the best thing about having a van is that we could just pull up and enjoy with the doors wide open.
Thank you to the team at Apollo Motorhomes for making this trip so special! Thinking about exploring your backyard this Summer? I highly recommend getting a camper van and doing something totally new!
Happy travels folks!