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-> Map of Northland

Our Northland travel tips:

  • Northland - Whangarei Heads - View from Mount Manaiaollow the coastal roads to see hundreds of stunning beaches and bays. On the East Coast you will find the most beautiful and idyllic swimming coves fringed with Pohutukawa trees while you can find wild and lonely beaches on the West Coast, stretching as far as the eye can see.
  • Take a cruise in the Bay of Islands or to the Poor Knights Islands to see what amazing things New Zealand has to offer in and on water.
  • Learn about New Zealand settler and Maori history in the many heritage museums - this is where it all began!
  • Northland has a warmer climate than the rest of New Zealand, especially warmer nights and ocean temperature. The subtropical climate is also reflected in the dense Northland bush, some of the forests being ancient and untouched. Check out at least one of the many bush and coastal tracks - they can be found in all Northland corners.

Northland region: Bay of Islands panorama

A tale of two coastlines

The subtropical Northland experience promises a contrast between the relative sophistication of the east coast and the soulful simplicity of the west coast.
Much of Northland's extensive coastline remains unspoilt - an aquatic playground for adventure activities and escapist relaxation.

Whangarei and Opua are havens for international and local yachts; Tutukaka and Russell are game fishing hot spots; the beaches of Doubtless Bay are endlessly beautiful.

Throughout the region you’ll also enjoy the shopping, dining and entertainment possibilities that stem from the distinctive local culture, which embraces art, creativity, organic farming and alternative thinking.

Northland’s history is rich and interesting. It is believed that the first Polynesian voyagers arrived in Northland during the 11th century. Today Waitangi is the seat of Maori culture, which is very much alive in this region (32 percent of the population are Maori). European settlement began in the 1840s, further enriching the region’s colourful past.

See here for accommodation in Northland.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Northland highlights

  • Bay of Islands Far North Bay of Islands Karikari Peninsula Tutukaka Coast Kauri Coast Tutukaka Coast Bay of Islands Whangarei Heads Whangaroa Harbour
    The coastal road via Mangawhai: Take the Northland Twin Coast Discovery Highway and enjoy the beautiful coast line with the Mangawhai Heads, its gorgeous Cliff Walk and the beach communities Langs Beach and Waipu Cove. On the way back to SH1 you can stop at the interesting Scottish Settler’s Museum in Waipu. Close by is Ruakaka beach with a stunning view to the Whangarei Heads, or take a stroll along Uretiti Beach right next to the highway.
  • Whangarei: Northland's main centre combines city feeling with an environment that's up there with New Zealand's best. You can find magnificent viewpoints from the top of extinct volcanoes, a rich Maori and European heritage with many historic pa sites, a beautiful Town Basin that attracts yachts from around the world, protected bush and walking tracks wherever you go, and the 26m Northland region: Whangarei FallsWhangarei Falls which are the best of at least 5 other nice waterfalls in the vicinity. Whangarei has a subtropical climate and a very high density of artists and art galleries. The Bay of Islands and West Coast are already within day trip distance and the Whangarei Heads and Tutukaka Coast with their wild ocean beaches and idyllic bays are only a short drive away.
  • Northland region: Smugglers Bay Whangarei HeadsThe Whangarei Heads: The beautiful drive on the northern shore of Whangarei Harbour starts at the Town Basin in Whangarei. Along the Pohutukawa lined coast there are many picturesque bays, bush walks and Polynesian style volcanic summits, the roads end at wild ocean beaches - and only a few surfers and fishermen to share them with. After Parua Bay you can go straight towards the remote beaches of Pataua and Taiharuru, or take the right turnoff towards McLeod Bay and Ocean Beach. Soon Mount Manaia is towering above the landscape. At McLeod Bay you can detour to Reotahi behind Mount Aubry and get a close look at New Zealand’s only oil refinery across the harbour or see a small island marine reserve and the freezing works ruins from where frozen meat was shipped to England nearly 100 years ago. The views from Mount Manaia are wonderful, as are the 476m Bream Head and hidden Smugglers Bay on the way to the wildest surf beach in the region: Ocean Beach.
  • Northland region: Whangaumu beach Tutukaka CoastTutukaka Coast: Another Northland gem with gorgeous bays, peaceful river estuaries and million dollar baches, offering some of the finest beaches in the world. Thanks to its untouched and uncommercial nature the Tutukaka Coast is one of the top three coastlines in the world (according to the National Geographic Traveler magazine). The Poor Knights Islands benefit from warm northerly currents and are teeming with marine life in their protected reserve, offering the best diving and snorkelling in New Zealand and the best subtropical diving in the world, ranked as a top 10 dive spot by Jacques Cousteau. The coast starts at Ngunguru with its big estuary and a beautiful sandspit that sits between the village and the open ocean. Before the big game fishing port at Tutukaka Marina take the turnoff on the right to Pacific Bay, Church Bay and Whangaumu (or Wellingtons) Bay. Another gem of a beach is Matapouri Bay further north, the horseshoe shape is perfect and you can walk to the next highlight: Whale Bay. This fine beach is sheltered from the ocean and you can relax under Pohutukawa trees. The next 2 beaches Wooleys Bay and Sandy Bay are both wide and long which certainly appeals to many surfers. You can take a winding road back through rural countryside and join SH1 again at Hikurangi.
  • Whangarei to Bay of Islands: You can either drive directly to Paihia via the famous public toilets in Kawakawa, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser who once lived in the area, or take the longer and twisty Old Russell Road which leads you all the way along the coast to Russell. Alternatively you can take the car ferry from Opua to Russell.
  • Northland region: Pahia kayakingThe Bay of Islands - Paihia and Russell: Paihia is the gateway to the bay - a cruise around the 144 islands is one of the absolute highlights of most New Zealand itineraries. The region is geared up for tourism: anything from island hopping on the way to the Hole in the Rock to swimming with dolphins to thrilling jetboats to relaxed sailing cruises to parasailing or kayaking etc. Just a short ferry ride away take a break from the action on the waterfront of the oldest town in the country, Russell, or catch a breathtaking view of the bay from Flagstaff Hill or Tapeka Point.
  • The Bay of Islands - Waitangi: Just north of Paihia is Waitangi, the birthplace of New Zealand as a nation, where Maori chiefs and Europeans signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Set in beautiful grounds overlooking the bay you can see a fantastically carved marae (meeting house) from inside, a historical homestead, an exhibition and the biggest war waka (canoe) under its carved shelter. The loop road or a walking track will bring you to the Haruru Falls.
  • Northland region: Bay of Islands - island welcomeThe Bay of Islands - Kerikeri: This lovely 'boutique town' with many orchard and lifestyle farmers is set on an inlet north of the bay, home of the oldest house in New Zealand, the Mission House from 1822 and the oldest stone house, the Stone Store from 1836, both are accessible as museums. Near Kerikeri you can also visit  Rainbow Falls and Aroha Island with a small Kiwi population.
  • Whangaroa Harbour: This gorgeous bay mainly attracts fishermen and well informed walkers who know that the two steep summits called Duke's Nose and St.Paul's Rock offer amazing 360 degree views.
  • Northland region: silica beaches KarikariDoubtless Bay and Karikari Peninsula: Mangonui with its waterfront drive and old settler houses is one of the most charming places in Northland, the detour from the highway takes  only a few minutes. Behind the lovely Mills Bay you'll find access to Rangikapiti Pa with great views back over Mangonui and north over Coopers Beach and towards the Karikari Peninsula. Far away from any crowds you will find the silica white sands near Puheke Hill viewpoint and the perfect shaped Maitai Bay.
  • The Far North: Heading up into the Aupouri Peninsula it is still 100 km to Cape Reinga with its iconic lighthouse - the spot where two oceans meet and Maori believe their souls pass by on their journey to legendary Hawaiki. The cape is not the only sight, also Tapotupotu Beach and the giant Te Paki sand dunes where you can sandboaNorthland region: Sandboarding near 90 Mile Beachrd are close by. Many travellers choose a bus tour to enjoy one leg of the trip driving on the impressive 90 Mile Beach that ends at the Ahipara beach community.
  • Hokianga Harbour: The famous Polynesian discoverer Kupe once returned home to send his people back here. Catch a ferry between Kohukohu and Rawene - a lovely sight with early settler homes, wooden churches and houses on stilts. The Hokianga is a world apart, it seems to be from a different age and there is lots to explore: remote bush walks, New Zealand's biggest sand dunes, the bizarre Koutu Boulders, the fluted Northland region: Sandboarding in the Hokiangabasalt valley called Wairere Boulders and the great viewpoint overlooking the harbour at South Head.
  • Waipoua Forest: South of Opononi and Omapere is Northland's biggest ancient forest with two short walks leading to the largest existing Kauri trees, Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) and Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest), who once were only allowed to be approached by Maori priests. Both are unique, Tane Mahuta in height and Te Matua Ngahere in width, both radiate with personality.
  • Kauri Coast: More Kauri trees can be seen in Trounson Kauri Park where chances to see a Kiwi in the wild at night are higher than most places in New Zealand. The heart of the Kauri Coast is Dargaville, a typical farming town. Don't miss a detour to Baylys Beach, a small beach community where you can access Ripiro Beach, the secret alternative to 90 Mile Beach, a spectacular wide and firm west coast beach stretching for 110 kilometres, good for some endless beach driving or lonely walks. South of Dargaville is Matakohe with its famous Kauri Museum, which has organically grown into a huge complex, it explains the interesting Northland history with its Kauri logging and gumdigging.
  • See our Northland photo blog for pictures!

Northland region: Whangaroa panorama

Best Northland walks

  • Northland region: AH Reed Park WhangareiMangawhai Cliffs Walkway: combine a gorgeous vast surf beach and wonderful sea views from the cliffs. Time it for low tide and you can do an excellent loop walk, walking back on the beach. Too close to high tide and you'll get wet.
  • AH Reed Canopy Walkway to Whangarei Falls - Whangarei: take in two of Whangarei's best sights in one walk, with two big Kauri trees and a 26m idyllic waterfall on the way. The reserves are connected by a nice river walk.
  • From Peach Cove car park to Ocean Beach via Bream Head and Smugglers Cove loop - Whangarei Heads: the steep ascent through conservation bush to Bream Head will be rewarded with some great views from the cliffs (magma plugs) on top, then you'll see the Hen & Chicken Islands and magnificent Ocean Beach all the way down. Back along the street to the car park. Continue to the Smugglers Cove walk from Urquharts Bay, 20 minutes to a hidden beach or all the way around the peninsula to a pa site and a war bunker lookout.
  • Mount Manaia and Mount Aubrey - Whangarei Heads: two more volcanoes with superb bush and lookouts on top. There's a wonderful cliff 2/3 way up Mount Manaia and the 360 degree views of Mount Aubrey are breathtaking as well (beware the steep dropoffs).
  • Matapouri Bay to Whale Bay coastal walk - Tutukaka Coast: two of the prettiest bays in New Zealand, Matapouri is a perfect horseshoe shape and Whale Bay the hidden cove with shady Pohutukawa trees, connected by a loop walk along the cliffs and bush.
  • Cape Brett Track - Bay of Islands: one of the toughest walks in Northland, over endless ridges with many ascents and descents, but equally great views until you reach the lighthouse in a spectacular location opposite the Hole in the Rock. Overnight or organise a water taxi to pick you up in Deep Cove.
  • Opua to Paihia Coastal Walk - Bay of Islands: start walking from Opua (no need to check the tide at that end), take in the coastal views with all the sailboats, further on there's a mangrove boardwalk, then return back the same way unless you have organised transport.
  • Tane Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere and the Yakas Walk - Waipoua Forest: besides visiting Tane Mahuta you can extend your stay in the largest remaining native forest in Northland and pay a visit to the even bigger Te Matua Ngahere (only 20 minutes away) and the still pretty impressive Yakas Kauri (40 minutes one way).

Best Northland lookouts

  • Northland region: Rangikapiti Pa lookoutMount Parihaka in Whangarei
  • Mount Manaia, Mount Aubrey and Bream Head at the Whangarei Heads (steep walks)
  • Tutukaka Head Lighthouse (only at low tide) and Dolphin Place lookout on the Tutukaka Coast
  • Flagstaff Hill and Tapeka Point behind Russell and the Roberton Island lookout in the Bay of Islands
  • Tareha Point in the Akeake Historic Reserve, Opito Bay in Kerikeri
  • St. Paul's Rock and the Duke's Nose at Whangaroa Harbour (both involve chain ladders)
  • Rangikapiti Pa  between Mangonui and Coopers Beach
  • Cape Reinga, the views north from the lighthouse and towards Cape Maria van Diemen
  • South Head lookout in the Arai Te Uru Recreational Reserve, Hokianga
  • Baylys Beach lookout and the views from Maunganui Bluff track (at the start), both along Ripiro Beach
  • Maungaraho Rock and Tokatoka Peak on the West Coast near Dargaville (steep walks)

Note: Because a mysterious fungus-based disease affecting kauri trees ('Kauri Dieback') can be transferred from one tree to the next with shoes, please clean them at the disinfection stations provided.

Best Northland museums

  • Download the Tourleader New Zealand website! The Kauri Museum in Matakohe: everything about Kauri trees and the gum digging industry
  • Waipu Museum: the interesting history of a Scottish settler migration
  • Clapham's National Clock Museum in Whangarei
  • Whangarei Art Museum Te Manawa Toi: permanent and temporary art collections (free)
  • Kiwi North - Whangarei Museum & Kiwi House at Heritage Park
  • Far North Regional Museum in Kaitaia
  • Dargaville Museum: regional collection with maritime focus

Map of Northland

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