Our favourite things to do in Northland, New Zealand

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If you follow us on social media, you’ll know that we have been living in the stunning Bay of Islands region of New Zealand since September 1st last year. Gosh, 6 months – it feels like a lifetime! We have kept ourselves busy exploring this coastal region in the state of Northland, New Zealand  because soon, ( May to be precise) we will leave this area to slowly make our way to Queenstown where we plan to live for the next year. (FYI – read more about how we get to stay in New Zealand for so long here)

The weather in the so-called ‘Winterless Far North” has been less than ideal this Summer. According to Northland locals it has been one of the worst Summer’s in years, a complete washout. But, we have had some beautiful days too and we certainly made the most of these fine days. In fact, I think by now we’ve made it to pretty much every beach in Northland.

Anyway enough babbling, here’s part two of our top things to do in Northland, New Zealand .

Have a picnic at Opito Bay

In fact, this beach is nameless, when you get to Opito Bay (approximately a 15 minute drive from the large town of Kerikeri),  follow the signs across from the carpark for Ake Ake point. It’s a beautiful walk through the rainforest, filled with birdsong and the distinct smell of teatree,  follow the signs for the beach and at the end of a steep hill you will be greeted by perhaps our favourite beaches in the region. In fact, it’s where we got engaged recently! We often come here to sunbathe and swim, and we pretty much have it to ourselves every time. We have started coming here for a sunset picnic (with some beers of course) in recent weeks and it’s become one of my favourite past-times.

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Sunset at Opito Bay
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The hidden beach near Ake Ake Point
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The scene of our engagement at Ake Ake Point

Take a scenic drive to Cape Reinga

The famed Cape Reinga, the most Northern Point of New Zealand and the place where two oceans meet (the Tasman and the Pacific). It took us approximately 3 hours, driving from Kerikeri.  The road can be a tad tiresome, plus there’s not a whole lot to see after Kaitaia. Tip: if you need to stop for  food/ want to bring a picnic stop in Kaitaia as there’s pretty much nothing after here.

Cape Reinga is very popular and can get quite crowded so try to get here early or late to avoid the tour buses. There’s an absolutely incredible beach about a 25 minute walk from the lighthouse called Te Werahi beach. To be honest, we spent more of our time here than at the Lighthouse itself. To get the best photo of the Lighthouse stand at the top of the hill directly facing it.

On the way home, be sure to stop in the picturesque town of Mangonui  – which has a great Thai restaurant, in fact the best in Northland, it’s simply called The Thai Mangonui

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The Light House at Cape Reinga
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The walk to Te Werahi Beach

Have fun at the giant sand dunes in Te Paki

We didn’t partake in sand-boarding here but took a long walk around the dunes which are akin to what I imagine Mars to look like. To rent a sandboard on site is $10-$15. Even though we didn’t join in the sand-boarding fun, i feel  it’s well-worth a stop here on the way to or from Cape Reinga.

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Paul walking the sand dunes in Te Paki
te paki sand dunes, mars, new zealand, Northland, New Zealand
The Giant Sand Dunes in Te Paki = Mars

See a big tree

Tane Mahuta is a giant Kauri tree on the west coast of Northland. The tree is a whopping 51.5 metres tall and has a trunk girth of 18.8 metres. No tree-hugging this one! Known as the “lord of the forest” it makes you feel incredibly small. There’s a kind of surreal peaceful energy that overcomes you in its presence. Tane Mahuta is a 70 minute drive from Kerikeri. There’s a great little foodtruck on-site serving great coffee and freshly baked cakes. It is free to visit Tane Mahuta, which is fantastic considering it’s one of the top tourist sites in Northland.

Did you know – Kauris were depleted by logging, which started in the 1820s, and the few giants that remain are threatened by dieback disease, a rot that is carried on people’s shoes and by mammals. Today, visitors have to hose their shoes and make sure no soil is on their clothes before entering the rainforest. Even the root structures of Tāne are so fragile walkways have been built to protect them.

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Tane Mahuta

Explore the wild west coast

A completely different coastal terrain to the eastern side, the west coast is all white beaches, sand dunes and massive purple jellyfish lurking in the shallows (at least they were the day we were there, eeek) We walked a beach next to the town of Omapere that was gorgeously deserted and felt like another world. There is also a gorgeous view point and scenic walk called Arai Te Uru just off Signal Station Road in Omapere for lots of great photo opportunities.

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Running along the beach at Omapere
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The view from Arai Te Uru

Visit the oldest stone building in New Zealand

Established in 1819, the Kerikeri Mission Station is one of the first places in New Zealand where Māori invited visitors to live among them. Today, the Stone Store, situated along a pretty riverside just five minutes from central Kerikeri, is a captivating place to visit. There’s a pretty little cafe along the river called The Honey House.

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Walking the pretty pathway to the Stone Store
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The Stone Store, Kerikeri
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Beautiful tree next to the Stone Store

Drive one of the most scenic coastlines in the world (according to National Geographic)

According to National Geographic, the Tutukaka coast is among the top 3 in the world. No mean feat, and after visiting this region for the first time this past weekend, I feel it’s certainly deserving of all the praise. Tutukaka is a 80 minute drive from Kerikeri and just 20 minutes from Whangarei the largest city in Northland, New Zealand.

First, we stopped at Sandy Bay a beautiful golden sand beach ideal for surfing. Our next stop was perhaps my favourite – Whale Bay a gorgeous turquoise-hued cove ideal for swimming and kids as it is proptected from the elements. It is about a 10-15 minute walk from the carpark. There is a gorgeous viewpoint here too, a 20 minute walk from the carpark for those all-important photos. Our final stop was Matapouri for the famed Mermaid Pools. The beach at Matapouri is in itself worth the visit, a long stretch of white sand with crashing waves – again, ideal for surfing. The trek to the Mermaid Pools can be tricky especially in high tide, we had to wade through the ocean at one point and after that it’s a steep climb up hardened muddy ground. Tip – I advise this walk only for the relatively fit. Its also easier to go barefoot so you can get a grip on the dry hardened ground.

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Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast
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The view from the viewpoint above Whale Bay
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The Mermaid Pools near Matapouri

Surely, I’ve convinced you to visit Northland, New Zealand now…

So, there you have it a snippet into our lives here in Northland, New Zealand. It’s a quiet peaceful existence and as much as we love the quiet life, we’re starting to get itchy feet once again and so are very much looking forward to a move to the adventure capital of New Zealand – Queenstown. Oh and by the way, you can read more about our life in New Zealand here and here

Tell me, have you ever visited Northland, New Zealand? Did you like it? Anywhere we should visit while we’re here? Comment below (I will love you for it).


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10 Replies to “Our favourite things to do in Northland, New Zealand”

  1. You have most certainly convinced me to visit this part of New Zealand. I love wild and rugged coastlines and small towns with great foodie stops and views. I’d love to see a Kauris tree and the oldest stone house in New Zealand! Thanks for sharing your adventures, I’m going to stay tuned for more.

  2. I think you have convinced me! I’d probably want to spend some time at the sand dunes. Do they have sandboarding? That’d be something I want to try if they do. But all the beaches look beautiful too. Hopefully I find myself here one day so I can explore all this beauty!

  3. We recently cruised into the Bay of Islands on a Celebrity Cruise and it was such a beautiful area – I can see why you chose to live in this region for a while! We only had one day in port but I would love to get back for further exploring; the scenic drive to Cape Reinga sounds like a cool spot, mainly to say you’ve been where the oceans meet! But the lighthouse is very picturesque and makes for beautiful photos. Lol everytime we visit sand dunes we pull out pieces of cardboard and they work just as well for duning 😀

  4. What a place to live in for months! Love the Cape Reinga scene, sure glad they were able to protect theTane Mahuta, and a toast for the mermaid pools! We visited Auckland and were awed. New Zealand is a great place to be.

  5. I’ve heard New Zealand was fantastic and your photos prove that. The area where you live seems to be less touristy, but it gorgeous. Those sand dunes, ah! So beautiful! And The Mermaid Pools near Matapouri. They remind me a lot about some tide pools in Kauai.

  6. New Zealand is just an amazing place. I plan to work and travel there next year! Cape Reinga is so stunning and I just can’t wait to experience the beauty by myself!

  7. You live in a beautiful place. We visited it a few years ago, just for three days, and loved our time up there. My favourite part was hiking Duke’s Nose!

  8. Yes. You’ve convinced me!

    Dammit! We just went to NZ last month, but I had no idea that I needed to head right to the far North. I wish I found your blog before we arrived!!

    Ah well. Next time eh!?

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