Northern New Zealand may be less busy than the rest of the country, but it’s certainly no less impressive. In “Northland”, as the northernmost region of New Zealand is called, the climate is usually warmer than in the rest of the country. That’s why many locals go to the beaches during their holidays. You can also visit New Zealand’s most beautiful lighthouse at Cape Reinga in the far north.
In this blog article we will show you our highlights for a trip through New Zealand’s north. From Auckland to the Bay of Islands to Cape Reinga and back again about the Waipoua Forest in a week – here are our tips.
1. All stops from Auckland to Cape Reinga in New Zealand’s North Auckland : cozy, manageable town The start of the journey in New Zealand’s north is Auckland. Despite the fact that Auckland is by far the largest city in New Zealand, things are very quiet. Auckland is manageable – we have covered all the ways on foot . If we think about it, we never used public transport once. If you’re lucky with the weather like we were, you can really have a good time in Auckland. In any case, the city was perfect for us to acclimatize.
We found it really nice at the harbour. It was incredibly windy there, but we really liked the atmosphere with the many bars at “Viaduct Harbour”. A highlight is visiting the landmark: From the Skytower you have a wonderful panoramic view over the whole of Auckland.
If you first walk around the city a bit and maybe want to buy something in one or the other shop, then you are in good hands in Queen Street . Queen Street is Auckland’s largest, but not necessarily the prettiest, shopping street. Much nicer we found the area around Chancery Street and High Street, right near the harbor. There you will find unusual shops and many, many nice restaurants and pubs.
Looking for more tips for Auckland? Tell them in our detailed Auckland blog article we tell you what you can experience: Auckland Travel Guide
Accommodation tip in Auckland: M Social Auckland
Very modern rooms, great location: right on the harbour.
Bay of Islands/Paihia About a 3-hour drive north of Auckland is the Bay of Islands, a stretch of coast with many offshore islands. In January (when we were there), it was just the main holiday season. That’s why the Bay of Islands wasn’t as tranquil as the rest of New Zealand. Many New Zealanders spend their holidays in this region.
The main street of Paihia, the most famous place, is very touristy. Hotel follows motel here. In between there are some dining options that are clearly geared towards the masses: pizza, fish and chips and pasta stands send their regards.
Nevertheless, Bay of Islands is worth a visit: for the opportunity alone , free-living dolphins to watch. The tour costs just under 20 NZD per person. Unfortunately we weren’t the only ones on board, but we were able to watch dozens of jumping dolphins.
The landscape that you can see during the tour is really quite beautiful and next to the dolphins it is definitely the second big highlight of this region.
You can book the tour here: Dolphin- Tour Bay of Islands
Accommodation tip in Bay of Islands: Changing Tides BnB
Great accommodation, a bit out of the way, therefore not in the middle of the hustle and bustle, highly recommended.
Cape Reinga: The northernmost, still most accessible point of New Zealand For a long time we thought about whether we should take the long way north just to visit a lonely lighthouse. Now that we have been there we can say YES! Definitely do it, worth the trip! If we hadn’t gotten there we would have felt like we missed something, definitely!
The further north you drive, the more deserted and desolate the area becomes. On the last estimated one hundred kilometers there is hardly a house and you hardly meet anyone anymore – apart from a few rental cars and campers who make their way through the deserted landscape. The drive to Cape Reinga alone is worth it, but the view and the atmosphere top everything. Our tip: don’t miss out!
The wafts of fog, the silence paired with the incredible roar of the ocean currents meeting, the infinitely wide view – all these impressions we will probably never forget. We really liked Cape Reinga.
It takes a good 2.5 hours to get to Cape Reinga from Bay of Islands. From the parking lot, a Way straight to the lighthouse. Incidentally, this is often the case in New Zealand: With the mobile vehicle you drive to a parking lot and lay the last path (mostly 10 until 20 minutes) walk back.
55 mile Beach Slightly south on the west coast is the 90 mile beach, which, contrary to its name, is only 55 miles long. The beach is known for being accessible by car, provided you have four-wheel drive.
A small one Tip: Rental cars and rental campers are in most cases forbidden to drive on the beach by rental agreement . The reason for this is that the tide has already washed away cars that got stuck
Although we would have loved to have driven along the beach, in the end it was too much of a risk for us and we just drove along the access road. The sand dunes there were a great photo motif, the 100 mile beach would definitely have been one too.
Return to Auckland : Stopover in Mangonui & Waipoua Forest On our way back to Auckland we stayed in the small town of Mangonui, since the entire route Bay of Islands – Cape Reinga – Auckland would have been too long in one day.
The next day we also wanted to see the largest kauri tree in New Zealand in the Waipoua Forest, the Tane Mahuta,, which is more or less on the way from Mangonui to Auckland. The tree is huge and the forest and the associated picnic meadow are good for a stopover. At best, take your own food with you. Apart from a mediocre grandiose mobile snack stand, there is nothing to buy near Kauri Forest.
Our accommodation in Mangonui: Acacia Lodge Mangonui Very simple rooms with kitchen, nice terrace, nice pool.
2. Before the trip: Tips for planning your trip How much time should I plan for New Zealand’s north? Although New Zealand’s north appears less spectacular, less extraordinary, less unusual compared to the rest of the country at first glance, you can experience really great things. We took about a week for the above route, including Auckland.
The pure driving time from Auckland to Cape Reinga is over 5 hours. It is therefore hardly possible or recommended to do the route as a day trip. We would recommend at least (!) one night . However, in our opinion, the long distance is only worthwhile if you plan on spending around three nights on the route.
Which travel guide can you recommend? We have already tested several travel guides for New Zealand and can highly recommend the one by Stefan Loose. The travel guide is (as usual from Loose-Verlag) well researched and very clear. It is quite extensive and the book is therefore relatively difficult. Otherwise, we have a clear recommendation!
Here you can Buy the travel guide: Stefan Loose Travel Guide New Zealand
You can read about our experiences with other travel guides in this article: New Zealand Travel Tips
Where do I book the rental car? On both of our trips to New Zealand we have had our car through Sunny Cars so far booked. Sunny Cars is an intermediary and then forwards you to local car rental companies. The advantage of booking via Sunny Cars: You receive fully comprehensive insurance. In the event of damage, Sunny Cars will pay the deductible.
You can search for cheap rental cars here: Sunny Cars
You can find more experiences with Sunny Cars in this article: New Zealand travel tips
3. More New Zealand Blog Articles on Travel Preparation All New Zealand blog articles at a glance Itinerary for New Zealand: The most beautiful stops Road trip New Zealand: Helpful tips
Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
Have you ever been to the north of New Zealand and do you have any other tips? Tell us about it here in the comments – we look forward to it!