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Northland and the Bay of Islands Travel Guide

  • Photo: MattJones / Shutterstock

Plan Your Northland and the Bay of Islands Vacation

You'll be best served on a trip to Northland by taking in inspiring views from winding coastal roads or reading on a quiet beach with some fruit from owner-operated shops. This isn't the place for good coffee or fancy food—those desires are best left for the cities—but you can relax at a luxury lodge or comfortable motel.

Northland is a contradiction. The

high unemployment rate, particularly among the area's Māori population, contrasts with the area's lodges, and scenery that goes from rugged to pastoral in a matter of kilometers.

Plan to spend three days in Northland. On Day 1 take in the main town of Paihia, and then catch the ferry to Russell. Drive north on the second day, stopping at beaches and Cape Reinga. Meander home via the Hokianga on Day 3 by winding south through the forests along the West Coast to Kohukohu. Ferry south across serene Hokianga Harbour to Rawene. From Opononi, closer to the harbor's mouth, continue down the Kauri Coast to the Waipoua Forest. From there, Highway 12 runs to the arty town of Dargaville, and on to Matakohe, site of the renowned Kauri Museum. It's another half-hour to Brynderwyn, where you rejoin State Highway 1 about an hour north of Auckland.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Boating and Fishing Take a cruise to an island, whale-watch, swim with dolphins, or fish with the Bay of Islands as the hub.
  2. Bountiful Beaches Most Northland beaches are safe for swimming. On the 90 Mile Beach you can swim in both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Experienced surfers head to Shipwreck Bay and to the point farther south for great waves.
  3. Superb Diving Dive at the Poor Knights Islands, known for their huge variety of subtropical fish, or the wreck of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior, sunk by French agents in 1985.
  4. Walking and Hiking Superb bushwalking (hiking) provides a close look at ancient kauri trees (a local species of pine) and interesting birds, such as tūī (too-ee), fantails, wood pigeons, and the occasional kiwi.

When To Go

When to Go

Snow doesn't fall in the "winterless north," but it can get cool. The best time to go is between mid-November and mid-April; peak season is Decem...

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