If you're thinking a road trip up north sounds like fun, it is.
You may not get all the way up to where the oceans collide in this suggested five-day itinerary, but for a taste of Northland, including some out-of-the-way nooks, here is an idea of how to spend a few sunny, summer days.
We set off from Auckland on a Friday, glad to be leaving the rush hour traffic in our rear view mirror and after a quick fast food stop in Whangarei, backtracked to take a left at Dargaville and head out to the west coast.
Waipoua Forest is home to the mighty kauri Tane Mahuta who was discovered standing here in the 1920s. He is estimated to be 1200 years old and looms 52m above the forest floor.
The next day head across to the Bay of Islands via Opononi and take a photo standing in front of the statue of Opo the friendly dolphin who famously played and swam with the children here in the summer of 1956.
The Bay of Islands has so many things to do and see, you’ll need two or three days here. Begin with a visit to the historic site of Waitangi where New Zealand’s founding documents were signed on February 6th, 1840. The 506-hectare estate affords the best views over the glistening water dotted with tiny islands that make up the Bay.
From Paihia take a short ferry ride across the harbour to Russell for lunch on the waterfront and browse through the arts and craft shops. New Zealand’s first church is here and if you look hard enough you can still see the musket holes made two centuries ago. For dolphin watching take one of the many boat trips available: roar at top speed to the hole in the rock, take a sedate cruise in the harbour or charter a yacht and play like Dean Barker.
When you finally head south towards Auckland, stop at Matakana – and plan to stay the night. There is plenty to do here with or without the famous weekend farmers market. Tawharanui Beach is perfect for a picnic and a good book; follow the wine trail around more than 15 vineyards; head to Brick Bay and wander though the Sculpture Trail of art that rambles through the fields; potter through the Warkworth shops and cafes. Nearby Goat Island is a sought after snorkeling and diving spot and if it’s horses you love, you can ride with the wind in your hair along the beaches of Pakiri for anything from an hour to overnight camping treks.
And by the time you get home you’ll be rested and ready to explore another part of this beautiful country.