Travelling around the Firth of Thames, and through Auckland we headed to the very beautiful region of Northland. Crossing the HarbourBridge, it’s always a buzz to see the sky tower looming amongst Auckland’s spectacular skyline.
Northland is often described as the ‘Winterless North’ which was reassuring as we were there in the last two weeks of Autumn. It’s subtropical climate often provides warm sunny days even in winter and it didn’t disappoint.
First stop was a little place called Sands pit, gateway to Kawau Island, one of the largest of the Hauraki Gulf Islands. It’s now a historic reserve with a mansion house, gardens and walks. We found it very peaceful with stunning views and were delighted at the amount of peacocks wandering around in the gardens!
Next stop was Mangawhai, a stunning seaside town surrounded by a tranquil lagoon style harbour and sand dunes. The campsite we found was on the side of the lagoon looking out to the heads with a fantastic cliff walkway above.
We then headed North to the Bay of Islands which is home to144 islands! It’s a real paradise. We based ourselves in Russell (NZ’s very first capital), a charming quaint little village with historic buildings and a beautiful outlook over the bay. Just across the water is Paihia, easily accessed by a ferry that runs every 20 mins. We spent a few days between bothRussell and Paihia, soaking up all that they had to offer including a fabulous boat trip out to the ‘hole in the rock’, which sailed us through some of the area’s spectacular coastal scenery.
Situated a short walk from Paihia, Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites. It is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the British Crown and more than 500 Maori chiefs. We spent half a day here and were given an in-depth introduction to the early history of NewZealand and Maori culture. Here, we visited the Treaty House itself, marvelled at the fully carved Maori meeting house and traditional Waka (canoes), were privileged to experience a live cultural performance and took time to explore the two museums and beautiful grounds. A really important and educational experience in our eyes. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here.
Leaving the Bay of Islands, we passed through KeriKeri which houses New Zealand’s oldest stone building dating back to 1832. Right next door is the KeriKeri Mission Station (Kemp House), New Zealand’s oldest standingEuropean building. These are both situated in a beautiful location next to a river and we spent time having a good look around and enjoyed a nice coffee.
Approaching the ‘Far North’, exploring lots of bays along the way, we found our ‘hidden gem’ of Northland. We just knew we had to stay a night at Matauri Bay as we came over the hill and looked down on what was the most picturesque beach settlement, a campsite lined with huge Norfolk Pine trees and surrounded by turquoise water. We climbed up the hill next to the campsite for a quick look and ended up staying for 3 hours! We were amazed by the panoramic views and we were also blessed with the most gorgeous sunset.
CHECK OUT OUR HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR ADVENTURE TO NORTHLAND'S EAST COAST IN THE VIDEO BELOW!