The Winterless North: Bay of Islands and Northland

Northland, New Zealand’s northernmost region is the only subtropical area in NZ and the most sparsely populated. Known as The Winterless North for its mild climate, the only city is Whangarei and the largest town is Kerikeri – part of the Bay of Islands sub- region. Renowned for its untouched beaches, abundant marine life, tropical rainforests and strong Maori culture, Northland is the perfect place to unwind. Traditionally the east coast has been the main harbinger of tourism, but the west has begun to draw more attention for its spectacular natural attractions.

From horse-riding on the beach in Mangawhai to walking the lighthouse in Cape Reinga, Northland is a region to give maximum time, for the sights and activities on offer are too good to pass up. Mangawhai and the Bream Bay Coast, just 80 minutes from Auckland is one such example. Home to one of the longest string of surf beaches in the country, its vast windswept dunes and roiling seas are well worth an overnight stay. Venture up to Tutakaka, gateway to the Poor Knights Islands – a marine reserve both above and below the water. Snorkeling, diving and big game fishing is prevalent here.

Continue on the road to the The Bay of Islands. Made up of over 140 atolls, this tropical sub-region ticks all the boxes. Spend some time sunbathing on one of many remote beaches and swim with some of the locals on an ocean safari. If you prefer the sights of the deep, strap on a tank and explore one of two real live shipwrecks – Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior or HMNZS The Canterbury. Wander through the streets of Russell, the first european settlement and whaling port founded in 1843. Have a drink at the first licensed hotel In NZ The Duke of Marlborough, or wander up Flagstaff Hill to view the iconic flagpole – ordered chopped down three times by Maori Chief Hone Heke. Take a short drive to neighbouring town, Waitangi, and learn about its historic Treaty – a contract signed in 1840 between the local Maori and European settlers dictating the terms by which New Zealand would become a british colony. Take a trip to Cape Reinga, the very top of the North Island. See the spectacular 90 Mile Beach, New Zealand’s only ‘sand highway’, by bus tour, as rental car companies don’t allow you to drive along the beach.

Backtrack west and traverse the Kauri Coast, celebrated for its giant trees, remote beaches and cultural heritage. Visit Waipoua forest and see the 1,500 year old ‘Tane Mahuta’, the largest and oldest Kauri tree of its kind then stop in at one of over 500 Maori Pa (hill fort) ruins in the area.

If time is on your side we recommend a seven day trip a to maximise your enjoyment of this beautiful area, but if you’ve a limited agenda it can be well done in four.

I arrived in NZ from the UK in 2004. My partner and I go to the UK each year to visit friends and family. We always have a stopover on the way there and for 3-4 nights on our way back to NZ. Shannell has been our travel agent on every occasion and she has been perfect with flights, hotel recommendations, tour and pickup arrangements etc. Shannell is great at passing on her clients feedback and there has never been a single hiccup. We have recommended Shannell to all our friends.