What to do in Northland
Known as a wonderland for hundreds of islands, incredibly vibrant marine life, kauri forests and Maori legends, Northland is a stunning destination to have a holiday. Whether you’re keen to keep it adults-only or bring the whole family along, there are too many must do’s in Northland to list! But we’ve done the hard yards and narrowed it down to our top 10 Northland experiences that will keep you wanting to come back for more. For where to stay in Northland, take a look here!
See our top 10 must do’s in Northland…
1. Day trip to Cape Reinga
A magical place where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet, Cape Reinga is an absolute must-see in Northland. On a clear day, you can distinctly see the two different hues of blue crash into one another in a near perfectly straight line. Cape Reinga is also a very spiritual place and often visitors go to ‘farewell’ spirits of the recently deceased into the afterlife. With extraordinary views to soak in, Cape Reinga can be reached either by guided tour bus or simply road trip there yourself.
2. Drive along Ninety Mile Beach
Actually only fifty five miles (88 kilometres), Ninety Mile Beach is an epic place to visit. Considered an official highway (yes, you read this correctly), this sandy road offers keen drivers a memorable driving experience when the tides are right. Just make sure you’ve got a vehicle that is off-road friendly!
3. Go sand dune surfing
Yes, sand dune surfing is a thing and it’s totally rad! A very popular activity with locals and tourists alike, you can go sand dune surfing en route to Cape Reinga at the Te Paki Sand Dunes – the largest in the Southern Hemisphere! Sitting 100 metres high thanks to the strong winds from the Tasman Sea, the climb to the top is not for the faint-hearted. However, the speedy surf down to the bottom via boogie board will give you an adrenaline rush so high you won’t mind having another long hike up to the top for round two (and three, and four, and five….)!
4. Visit Waitangi Treaty Grounds
To understand the true magic of Northland, it is important to pay tribute to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands. This family friendly, historical experience has something for everyone. From being greeted by Maori warriors, checking out a giant waka, enjoying an authentic hangi and wandering through the stunning exhibits that capture one of the most significant moments in New Zealand history.
5. Go for a hike
Northland has some of the most scenic coastal hikes in all of New Zealand. For the more adventurous who are craving a multi-day adventure, Cape Brett is the ultimate choice. A full day’s walk will bring you to a lighthouse that you can spend the night in and set yourself up perfectly for a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific the following day. A more family friendly option is going for a leisurely stroll through the Waipoua Forest to stand face to face with the world’s largest Kauri tree called Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest).
6. Watch the sunset in Hokianga
An hour’s drive from the Bay of Islands will bring you to a fascinating little Northland gem known as Hokianga. Providing a majestic landscape of rolling white sand dunes clashing with the teal blue hues of the Tasman Sea, Hokianga is a photographer’s dream and the ultimate place to watch the sunset!
7. Go through the “hole in the rock” in Paihia
No trip to Northland is complete without sailing the Bay of Islands. There are 144 islands to explore, but the most famous one is Piercy Island, which quite literally has a giant hole in the middle that boats can go through! Piercy Island offers wonderful viewpoints of Cape Brett and the surrounding Bay of Islands. Don’t be surprised if pods of dolphins accompany you along the way!
8. Visit the cutest little chocolate shop in Kerikeri
No matter what adventures you choose in Northland, just make sure to save time to explore the adorable town of Kerikeri. There you will find the most amazing chocolate factory and store known as Makana Chocolate. These handmade on-site sweets are made with fresh ingredients and sure to convert nearly anyone to become a chocolate lover! Don’t leave without trying their infamous Macadamia Butter Toffee Crunch (you’ll definitely need to take some for the road too!). The thought of their chocolate coated macadamias and champagne truffles have us drooling already.
9. Poor Knights Island
Only an hour’s drive from Paihia is the Tutukaka Coast, which is the launch point to get to Poor Knights Island. Currently, in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Poor Knights Island is the mecca of New Zealand for large schools of fish that swim in overwhelming clusters, colourful underwater plants that create a vibrant underwater garden and the best snorkelling and diving spots! A day at Poor Knights Island is truly a fantastic day spent for any age or swimming ability, as they also offer paddleboards, kayaks and a viewing net for those that don’t want to get wet.
10. Spend the day in Russell
A trip to New Zealand’s first capital is also a must do in Northland. This historic town can easily be reached by ferry and offers the perfect combination of stunning beaches and great eateries! We recommend grabbing a cuppa and bagel at Hell Hole, enjoying an afternoon at the scenic Omata Estate for their famous Pinot Gris and oven brick baked pizzas and then admiring the sunset with another drink in hand at the Duke of Marlborough.