Wandering in Northland, New Zealand – swimming amongst stingrays and sharks

Northland New Zealand

Summer has arrived to New Zealand. The weather has been amazing for a while and it’s time to go and discover Northland.

For this trip we are going to take 4 days and we will be driving through the Twin Coast Discovery Highway. During this trip we will discover Pahia, Bay of Islands, Kerikeri, Karikari Peninsula and of course the top of the North – 90 Mile Beach, Giant Sand Dunes and at its farthest point Cape Reinga. On our way back to Auckland we will stop at the charming town of Opononi, take a walk in Waipoua Kauri Forest and hike to the scenic Tokatoka Peak Lookout.

Chasing waterfalls in Kerikeri

On our first day the goal was to drive all the way up to Kerikeri which we had chosen to be our base for this trip. A journey from Auckland to Kerikeri will take about 4-5 hours. Including a little coffee break and stop at the Whangarei Falls. I know that this seems awfully long for a 245 km route but what you need to realize is that you will be driving on a winding road that has only one lane (plenty of overtaking lanes though). That said, the road will take you through absolutely amazing, scenic valleys so enjoy the drive and try not to worry about the RV’s and odd tractors slowing you down.

Once we reached Kerikeri, we instantly felt like we are on holiday mode. This little town is full of galleries, cafes and vineyards as well as walking tracks, waterfalls and historic sites like the Stone Store and Kemp House.

Visiting Northland New Zealand
Wairoa Stream walking track and the spectacular Wairere falls

On that afternoon we visited two different falls as well as Kemp House and Stone Store. Our absolute favorite place was the Rainbow Falls.This magnificent waterfull is 27-metre tall and has plenty of little rock pools to cool down.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

For day 2, we planned to drive all the way up to the top of the Nort Island. This 2,5 hour drive (from Kerikeri ta Cape Reinga) takes you through charming beach towns as well as stunning lowland.

By 2pm in the afternoon we reached the iconic Cape Reinga lighthouse at the top of New Zealand. This place is absolutely breathtaking. No matter which directions you look, the scenery will surely leave you amazed.

Visit Northland New Zealand
Views from Cape Reinga Lighthouse

On top of the magnificent panoramic views that will leave you speechless you can also admire the two oceans, Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean colliding. I mean this truly is a picture perfect place.

Visiting Northland, New Zealand
Cape Reinga Lighthouse and two oceans colliding

Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes.

A short, 20 minute drive south, from the lighthouse will take you to a totally different scenery. Te Paki Sand Dunes are like mountains and quite frankly walking on these enormous sand dunes makes you feel like you are in a desert. The minute you think that few more steps and I will be at the top, you get greeted with more and more sand dunes instead.

Visiting Northland

Te Paki Sand Dunes is a perfect place for those who are into sand-surfing. If you manage to climb all the way up to the highest peak then coming down with a sand bord will be absolutely thrilling. For those who don’t have a sand board you can hire one on site. There are also a few spots on the road to Te Paki Sand Dunes offering sand board rentals for $10 per day.

Te Paki sand Dunes in Northland
The sand board hiring shop

PS! During the holidays this place gets very crowded so watch your step as you don’t want to get taken down by a crazy sand-boarder.

Ninety Mile Beach in Northland

Once we’ve had our fair bit of sand-strolling we continued our journey toward the 90 Mile Beach. For those who are not familiar with this beach then this is an official New Zealand highway. That said I would not recommend driving on this beach with just any car. Also due to the risks of getting caught by the high tide or any other hazard it’s best to have some knowledge and experience before you hit the road. (When we visited the beach there was a tourist bus stuck in there)

Northland New Zealand
A bus, stuck on the Ninethy Mile Beach

PS! If you think that this highway/beach is 90 miles long then you are wrong. Ninety Mile Beach is actually only 55 miles (88 kilometres) long.

Matai Bay in Karikari Peninsula

After a full day of walking and hiking it was time to cool down in the ocean. Out of all the beautiful beaches and bay’s in the area we chose to visit Matai Bay in Karikari Peninsula. As we got there around 4pm in the afternoon, we were the only people on this gorgeous beach.

Best Beaches in New Zealand

Without thinking twice we both jumped into this warm and clear water. Few seconds later I notice a huge stingray circling few inches from me. I wasn’t sure if the stingray wanted to play around or felt threatened and was telling me to f#8c off. As I didn’t want to get plunged by its sharp, venomous stinger, I chose to believe the second version and bolted out as quickly as I could.

PS! Matai Bay is voted as one of the most beautiful beach in Northland, New Zealand.

Paihia and Opua

On day 3, we planned to visit a resort town of Paihia as well as the historic Russel Island. Reaching Paihia we could immediately see why this town is one of the favorite holiday spots among New Zelanders. Similar to Kerikeri it has an extensive choice off accommodation, coffee shops and delicious dining options. On top of that it is also a seaside town with magnificent views over the Bay of Islands.

If you want to take a ferry or a cruise to one of the islands then from the Paihia Warf you can take a passenger ferry to Russel Island as well as book cruises like ‘hole in the rock’, dolpine and many more.

discovering Northland
Paihia Wharf

Now if you feel like taking a passenger ferry is not for you then just 6 km from Paihia is a litle town called Opua from where you can take a car over to Russel Island. The ferry ride takes literaly just 4 minutet and the car ferry leaves after every 15 minutes. We chose to take our car over to Russel and think that it was the best idea as it gave us the freedom to discover this peninsula on our own terms.

Bay of Islands – Russel Island

Once we got to Russel Island we wandered around a bit and then drove up to the historic Flagstaff Hill to enjoy a 360° views over the Bay of Islands. If you don’t have a car then don’t worry as this lookout is also accsessable by a 30 minute hike.

Bay of Islands Russel island
View from Flagstaff Hill toward Paihia town

After taking in all the beauty that this lookout has to offer and learning about the history of the Flagstaff Hill we drove to the wharf in town centre to get some lunch. As we reached the esplanade and saw how crowded it was we quickly changed our plan.

Russel Island Beach
Russel Island passenger ferry yeti and beach front

Instead of having our lunch at the wharf we bought some beers and fish & chips for a private beach picnic. We then drove all the way to the other side of the peninsula to a less touristic Oneroa Bay.

Bay of Islands New Zealand
Oneroa Bay

While swimming in this gorgeous bay we heard someone shouting:”Shark, shark. There is a shark behind you!” I told Simon that they are probably just joking with us and there is nothing to worry about. A minute later we saw a big baby shark being pulled out just few meters from us.

Russel island, Northland New Zealand

Definately did not expect that. What’s the deal with Northland? Is this the real “Wild -Wild West”

Now if you are more of a romantic person who loves to relax and pamper yourself then Russel Island has you covered. Head up to the luxurious Baroa Bay Winery and enjoy a glass of their award-winning wine while admiring views over the Bay of Islands.

Opononi and Omapere in Northland

On day 4 it was time to pack our bags and drive back to Auckland through the West Coast. Our fist stop was in this charming little town called Opononi and its twin settlement Omapere. If you ever decide to take a trip here then this is the place to enjoy peaceful beach life, catch somefish and enjoy magnificent views over giant sand dunes.

Visit Northland new Zealand
Arai te Uru Nature Reserve in Omapere

This place surely has stolen my heart. I mean who wouldn’t want to wake up every day with a view like this.

Tane Mahuta

From there on our journey continued through winding roads inside Waipoua Fores. This road is a dream to anyone who loves go-karting but a nightmare for those who don’t feel comfortable seeing only 10 meters ahead. Anyway, the road is how it is but the Kauri trees in the forest are powerful. We made a stop to admire the majestic Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest tree and it was massive.

Kauri Trees in Northland

Apparently it’s the largest kauri tree in the world, and is 2000 years old….wowww. A trip to Northland should not go by without visiting these forests.

Tokatoka Peak Lookout

Our last stop of our 4 day Northland trip was to Takatoka Peak Lookout. As we were approaching this place we saw from a distance a very steep and sharp peak and were joking around that maybe it’s this one over there. Well the joke was on us when we got to the destination and discovered that this pointy peak indeed was the one that we will be climbing.

discovering Northland New Zealand
Tokatoka peak from distance

So as you can imagine, this climb is very steep and probably not recommended when wet. To get to the top, it took us about 4 minutes of walking and 15 minutes of heavy climbing. Make sure to bring water and wear suitable shoes because flip-flop probably won’t get you to the top safely.

Visiting Northland

This trully is a breathtaking lookout as the hike to the top of the peak will surely make you breathless.

This trip to Northland with it’s spectacular coastlines, marine reserves, kauri forests, and two oceans that collide is one of the best ones we’ve done in North Island of New Zealand.

WANDER. Take time to #wander around and #getlost in beautiful places like #Northland in New Zealand

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