Listing the best 10 activities in Northland, New Zealand. Read on for the best tips from a local!
Today marks our 3-month anniversary in New Zealand. We’ve packed so much into these short 3 months that it feels like our life is on fast-forward. We started our adventure in New Zealand, in the lovely city of Auckland. Here, we spent a few days enjoying great barista coffee, unique restaurants and some very cool craft beer bars. From Auckland the drive to our new home in Bay of Islands is just over four hours and very scenic especially if you take the route via coastal Tutukaka.
The last couple of months, we’ve also been lucky enough to just about every activity in Northland. So, read on to find out more about the best 10 activities in Northland, New Zealand.
Read more: more of the best things to do in Northland
#1 Explore Kerikeri and surrounding area
We feel the best things to do in Kerikeri are Rainbow Falls, the Stone Store (the oldest stone building in New Zealand, which also houses the cutest cafe overlooking the river. And a visit to the bustling yet quirky Packhouse Market which is held every Saturday morning.
#2 Drive to Opito bay
In the nearby surrounding area we highly recommend Opito Bay we took a drive here yesterday and found the most epic hidden beach – a 15 minute walk through the rainforest across from Opito Bay will bring you to a gem of a beach – just follow the wooden signs. On this particular stretch of sand you’re not likely to come across another soul for hours. Our kind of place!
#3 Swim or surf at Matauri bay
Another fabulous beach in this area is Matauri Bay. A 30-minute drive from Kerikeri with the most epic road winding down. The view as you drive down is spectacular, just be careful not to take your eyes off the road.
Matauri Bay plays host to the Rainbow Warrior Memorial an unusual sculpture dedicated to the famous Rainbow Warrior ship – a Greenpeace protest ship which was blown up in Auckland Harbour in 1985. The wreck was moved to the waters off Matauri Bay (FYI – you can dive this wreck too). Walking to the memorial is a steep 10-minute climb but the 180-degree views of the bay is so worth your aching legs. However, it’s certainly one of the best 10 things to do in Northland, New Zealand!
Continue reading: the best beaches in Northland
#4 Hike through Puketi Kauri forest
The Puketi Kauri Forest is another great stop, only a 15 minute drive from Kerikeri – there are a variety of walks you can do here ranging from quick & easy to lengthy & more difficult. We did the Kauri Stump Walk – a beautiful wooded walkway through giant Kauri trees & less than 15-minutes round-trip. It is peaceful and typically doesn’t attract too many other tourists. You can camp here too if so inclined.
#5 Take a scenic drive to Mangonui
Next to Mangonui is the very pretty Cable Bay, where we’ve taken some epic sunset shots. Did you know – Cable Bay got it’s name because it was home to the Pacific cable which linked Australia by telegraph with New Zealand.
#6 Drive on 90 mile beach
Driving further North you will come across the well-travelled 90-mile beach. This beach is officially a highway, but according to the locals “is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides”. We drove in our non-4WD Audi for a little while and were fine, although we were very cautious of the tide and didn’t drive too far from an exit.
Tip – We’ve heard lots of horror stories, of cars sinking in the sand, and when the tide is out far enough you can see the cars half-submerged under the sand! The sunsets here are pretty epic too.
#7 Take photos at Cape Reinga
This is certainly one of the best activities in Northland. At the very tip of Northland is Cape Reinga, the northern-most point of New Zealand and the point where two oceans meet (the Tasman & Pacific). We haven’t made it to Cape Reinga yet, as we’d like to camp a few nights up there, so are waiting for the weather to improve.
#8 Take a bath at Ngawha hot springs
One of the most unique activities in Northland is Ngawha hot springs. The hotsprings are located in the centre of a geothermally active area, an area that produces a considerable amount of Northland’s electricity. – all while feeding over a dozen hot pools of all sorts of colours, element make-ups and temperatures.
Beware – it stinks and it’s a little run-down but that adds to the appeal of it. We met quite a few interesting characters here – one-dreadlocked ‘dude’ insisted on teaching us the Maori alphabet and another guy from London believes the hotsprings have healed him (2 years earlier he was completely paralysed).
#9 For something a little unusual – Kawiti Glow Worm caves
The Kawiti Glow Worm Caves are another top attraction in Northland, again we haven’t made the visit but have heard great things. Yes, it’s not as ‘touristic’ as its famous sibling the Waitomo Caves, but we prefer off-the-beaten path attractions, don’t you?
#10 Indulge yourself in Paihia
Paihia, as mentioned earlier is a bit of a ‘backpacker haven’, with an abundance of hostels & seasonal work. The town runs the length of a golden sandy beach has lots of great bars & restaurants – one of our favourites being El Cafe a mexican cafe with great prices. From here, you can catch the passenger ferry to Russell.
Take the ferry to Russell
Historic Russell was once known by the unflattering nickname of ‘Hell-hole of the Pacific”. It was the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand, so was once full of rowdy british sailors and prostitutes (hence, it’s nickname). Like Paihia it is a very popular stop with tourists, so justifiably is full of restaurants & tourist shops. Still, it is a very pretty town to spend the day, take lots of photos and have a good hearty lunch. We recommend getting a seat outside the ever-popular Duke of Marlborough.
And there you have it, that’s the best 10 activities in Northland, New Zealand. I hope you enjoyed reading our recommendations for this beautiful part of the world which we are lucky enough to call home. I’m sure I will be writing a follow-up to this post very soon, seeing as Summer is here and there are lots more beaches and attractions waiting for us to explore.
Have you been to Northland? Have I missed anything here? If you think so, pretty please let me know in the comment section below.