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Exploring the North

Visit the Bay of Islands & the top (3-4 days)

Most international visitors arrive in Auckland before heading south on their adventures.

Taking a short excursion north before heading south is a great option though, and you only need to give it three or four days. You’ll want a rental vehicle and Paihia is a good spot to base yourself.

Day 1: Auckland to Paihia

You can drive directly in a tad over 3 hours, but good spots to explore along the way include Orewa Beach, Matakana and Mangawhai Heads. Paihia itself has plenty of accommodation and eating options.

Day 2: Exploring the Bay of Islands

A couple of days in the Bay of Islands would be ideal, but if you’re short on time, don’t miss Russell and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. With more time up your sleeve, take a cruise out in the Bay of Islands.

Day 3: Paihia to Cape Reinga and back

Allow 2.5hrs one-way for the drive to Cape Reinga and make sure to do some exploring in Kerikeri on the way or way back. With more time, consider the bus trip up Ninety Mile Beach with Sand Safaris.

Day 4: Paihia to Tane Mahuta to Auckland

Allow 1.5hrs to drive to the west coast and see Tane Mahuta, “the lord of the forest”, NZ’s legendary largest living Kauri tree, then allow 3.5hrs to drive back to Auckland - initially on SH12 via Dargaville before meeting up with SH1 again south of Waipu.

Bay of Islands

Cape Reinga

Where the Tasman & Pacific collide


"So nice they named it twice"

Mangawhai Heads

Hard to beat this east coast beach


Booming thanks to wineries!

Ninety Mile Beach

Drive on an endless strip of sand

Orewa Beach

3km of sand & surf


Hub for the Bay of Islands


Historic hell-hole of the Pacific

Tane Mahuta & Waipou Forest

Visit 'the lord of the forest'

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

NZ's most significant historic place

Text © Craig McLachlan

Image by craig