Northland Road Trip
Head to the Winterless North to catch some rays any time of year. This itinerary shows off some of Northland's highlights.
Pack some snack, good tunes, and your choice of road trip companion. Get on State Highway One north from Auckland and you're on your way!
Just 2.5 hours later, you’ll find Northland’s biggest town at just over 55,000 people. The Town Basin is a pleasant spot to grab coffee and browse the shops, check out museums and galleries, or stroll along the river.
Whangarei Falls is a surprising natural oasis only 10 minutes from the town centre. A short drive from the centre is Kiwi North; a small local museum where you can check out Kiwi and Tuatara in the flesh.
Whangarei Heads provides some beautiful coastal walks just a short drive from the township. Abbey Caves are also a popular spot to explore if you fancy a taste of adventure.
Many travellers use Whangarei as a base to explore the Tutukaka Coast. Dive! Tutukaka offer a variety of trips to Poor Knights Island, one of the best diving spots in the country.
Once you’ve explored your fill, you’ll find yourself heading north to Paihia for the next leg.
Welcome to the Bay of Islands! This picturesque region is known as the Winterless North, so chances are no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll manage to sneak in some beach time.
This is a hotspot of NZ culture and history so take time to soak it in. From YHA Paihia it’s a short drive along the waterfront to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Paddle or walk to Haruru Falls, take on the new Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, or ferry to Russell for a stroll around the nation’s first capital.
Once you’ve explored the land, take to the sea on The Rock Adventure Cruise. This floating hostel offers an overnight cruise complete with fishing, snorkelling, kayaking, and even a song by the fire some nights! This is a prime location for spotting bioluminescence (Google it!) so it’s a must-do while in New Zealand. They book out early, so definitely organise this one ahead of time.
You can also visit Tane Mahuta on a day trip from Paihia. While this giant kauri is arguably the most famous tree in the country, there are plenty more in the Waipoua Forest worth seeing. Check out the walks in the area and plan accordingly.
90 Mile Beach
Continue north after visiting Tane, or wind up the coast from Paihia with a stop at Whangaroa Harbour. Climb the Duke’s Nose (Kairara Rocks) to appreciate the harbour views; it’s about an hour’s walk one way.
Arrange a night at YHA Ahipara before you head to the iconic Cape Reinga lighthouse and watch two seas collide. This is also a special place in Maori culture; Te Rerenga Wairua is the spot they believe spirits depart from to reach their homeland.
Of course, no visit to the far north would be complete without a visit to Te Paki. This is an epic place to boogie board down the sand dunes, but watch you don’t burn your feet! Pro-tip: try wearing socks to allow maximum sand-boarding enjoyment. You can hire a boogie board for around $10 from the local iwi in the main carpark for hours of entertainment.
The Way Back
The beautiful part about road tripping is that the return route is up to you! Visit Waipoua Forest on your way south instead if you’re headed via Dargaville; loop into Whangarei and back the way you came, or check out Muriwai Beach on your way into Auckland. Whichever road you take, allow time to stop at lookouts, waterfalls, and short walks. You might just find an amazing hidden gem that of course, you’ll want to tell us all about!
YHA Bay of Islands, Paihia
We're 5 minutes' walk to the golden sands of Paihia, with a great outdoor seating area, friendly hosts, and comfortable backpacker accommodation.
YHA Ahipara is part of a spacious holiday park including a purpose-built backpacker lodge, communal kitchen, lounge, and laundry facilities. Relax on-site or take a short stroll to Ninety Mile Beach.
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