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.