New Zealand

The utimate travel guide to Northland, New Zealand

A locals tips for the best things to do in Northland, New Zealand.

We have been living in the stunning Bay of Islands region of New Zealand since September 2017. We have kept ourselves busy exploring this coastal region in the state of Northland, New Zealand.

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.

7 of the best things to do in Northland New Zealand –

I know the South Island gets most of the good press (& a lot of the tourists) but there is so much beauty to be explored in the North Island. From the famed Cape Reinga, giant sand dunes at Te Paki and the largest Kauri tree in the world – you are certainly spoiled for choice in Northland!

Plus if you love getting out in nature you may wish to extend your vacation to Northland and explore the Tawharanui Regional Park, near Matakana – just over 2 hours drive from Paihia. This is one of the prettiest hikes in New Zealand.

  • Have a picnic at Opito Bay, Kerikeri
  • Drive to Cape Reinga
  • Visit the sand dunes in Te Paki
  • See Tane Mahuta (the largest Kauri tree in the world)
  • Explore the beaches of the West Coast
  • Pay a visit to the Stone Store in Kerikeri (the oldest building in New Zealand)
  • Drive along the Tutukaka Coast

Anyway enough babbling, here’s a locals top tips in full detail for the best things to do in Northland, New Zealand.

1. 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 tea-tree. Follow the signs for the beach and at the end of a steep hill you will be greeted by perhaps our favorite beaches in the region. In fact, it’s where we got engaged recently!

We often come to Opito bay 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 favorite past-times.

sunset, new zealand, opito bay, northland
Sunset at Opito Bay
ake ake, kerikeri, northland, new zealand
The scene of our engagement at Ake Ake Point

2. 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.

My Top 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 it’s the best in Northland, it’s simply called The Thai Mangonui

cape reinga, lighthouse, northland, new zealand
The Light House at Cape Reinga
new zealand, beach, cape reinga, Northland, New Zealand
The walk to Te Werahi Beach

3. 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 the planet of 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.

sand dunes, giant, te paki, new zealand, Northland, New Zealand
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

4. See the largest Kauri tree in the world

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 – Kauri’s 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.

tane mahuta, new zealand, lord of the forest, Northland, New Zealand
Tane Mahuta

5. Explore the wild west coast

A completely different coastal terrain to the eastern side, the west coast is famed for its white-sand beaches & sand dunes. You may even spot massive purple jellyfish lurking in the shallows.

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. Come here for lots of great photo opportunities.

omapere, west coast, new zealand, Northland, New Zealand
Running along the beach at Omapere
omapere, new zealand, arai te uru, Northland, New Zealand
The view from Arai Te Uru

6. 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. It is a captivating place to visit.

There’s a pretty little café along the river here called The Honey House. Which, I highly recommend!

stone store, kerikeri, stone building, Northland, New Zealand
Walking the pretty pathway to the Stone Store
stone store, kerikeri, new zealand, Northland, New Zealand
The Stone Store, Kerikeri

7. Drive one of the most scenic coastlines in the world

According to National Geographic, the Tutukaka coast is among the top three coastal regions 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.

Visit the stunning beaches along the drive

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 protected 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.

My Top 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.

whale bay, tutukaka, whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast
whale bay, new zealand, tutukaka, Northland, New Zealand
The view from the viewpoint above Whale Bay

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.

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)!

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

Like this post? Please PIN IT for later!

The ultimate list of things to do in Northland, New Zealand from a local. Including one of the most scenic drives in the world & a giant tree!

29 replies on “The utimate travel guide to Northland, New Zealand”

New Zealand has been on my radar for a long time but I haven’t got a chance to visit yet. Have you been to Southland as well? If you got to compare, what is your favorite?

Northland is stunning! I have never been to New Zealand but this non-touristy little land is too lovely to miss. The scenery is just too beautiful, especially that lighthouse shot! Perfect

Oh, I learned so much in this post. 1. I did not know sandboarding was a thing, 2. The tiny lighthouse is adorable and is now on my list because I love lighthouses, 3. the history about the giant tree is really interesting!

I love a good lighthouse! There’s just so much to see in New Zealand… Road trip is definitely the way to go, I think! I’ll have to add this to the list for the next time I’m over that way 🙂

I’ve been to New Zealand 2 times now but I’m thinking about another visit next year. It’s just such a stunning country! I’ll have to go to some of these places like Whale Bay. Thanks so much for sharing!

What a shame that the summer was a wash out! I remember living in London and still waiting for summer to start in mid-August. But that’s beside the point. Cape Reinga looks absolutely gorgeous! I can’t believe there’s so much to do as well.

Northland looks like a piece of paradise that has dropped from the skies. The beaches are so lovely and the entire coastline so scenic. Opito Bay beach is something we would really love, considering the seclusion it offers. The Light House at Cape Reinga is another sight that seems so mesmerizing. The location of the lighthouse presents a unique panorama.

This makes my heart hurt just a smidge. I was supposed to visit NZ’s North Island for two weeks in January, but an emergency surgery cut my trip short and we had to fly home from Thailand before getting to NZ. The one plus is that I now have some extra things to add to my list for next time. I love the giant tree and I would love to see Cape Regina

Your photos are beautiful! I think New Zealand is such a pretty country. I was just there in December. I’d really like to go to Northland and see the Tane Mahuta. It’s sad that so many of these kinds of trees have been destroyed.

What I wouldn’t give to be here in Northland right now! Everything looks incredible, especially to someone like me who’d never been. I love Opito Bay, and that sunset is so special. Also, the sand dunes are wonderful, I can imagine sinking my toes into the sand!

Those photos are so stunning! You guys are so lucky to live in that are of New Zealand. Love how well-preserved and pristine everything is. My fave eould have to be Omapere, so gorgeous and so cool to have that all to yourself!

You convinced me too! I have friends that live there and post pictures all the time, I can recognize some of the places what a beautiful country, looks like you had great weather. NZ is not on by bucket list but I think it is defiantly worth visiting one day.

Scenic shots and amazing places! I love all the recommendations and I surely need to visit New Zealand soon! A lot of people is saying that Slovenia and NZ have some similarities so I gotta visit to see if it’s true 😀

Having been to NZ 3 times and spent over 6 months here I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of loads of these!! So many new places for my list, esp that scenic drive 🙂

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.

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!

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 😀

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.

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!

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!

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!?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.