The perfect trip for those short on time. Journey north of Auckland to the subtropical region of the Bay of Islands. From your base in Whangarei take amazing day trips to explore Northland with it's incredible coastal highways, giant sand dunes, and abundance of ocean wildlife. Discover the birthplace of New Zealand and learn about our incredible history at Waitangi. We reccommend at least 5 days to experience the best of what the north offers.
Stay: AUCKLAND 1 night
New Zealand’s largest city is known as the city of sails. Set between two iconic harbors, Auckland offers a stunning variety of activities. Take a trip out to the islands; easy-going Waiheke, volcanic Rangitoto and the Tiritiri Matangi sanctuary, or see wildlife closer to shore at Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium or the Auckland Zoo. Visit the Toi o Tamaki art gallery or the city’s several museums.
Try bungy jumping off the harbor bridge or the 328-meter Sky Tower for spectacular views and thrills. While you’re there, check out the glass viewing platform, and learn about NZ’s most famous sporting team at the interactive All Black Experience. Wander the waterfront at Viaduct Basin with its trendy bars and restaurants. Take the family for wild rides at Rainbow’s End, climb into the Waitakere ranges or stroll through the Botanic Gardens. Auckland truly has something for everyone.
Drive: Auckland to Whangarei (Northland)
2.5 hours Routes: SH 1 (fastest on the motorway but scenic detours along the Hibiscus and Matakana Coasts are less congested and much prettier.)
The quickest way north is to take the straightforward route along the motorway and SH1. However, adventure lies in the scenic detours along the Hibiscus and Matakana coasts. These offer stunning beach stopovers all along the way. Pop into Orewa for boutique shopping and playgrounds and continue to Waiwera for a dip in hot pools. If you’d rather go skiing, visit the indoor winter wonderland of Snowplanet before heading back to the sand, sea and sunshine of the Matakana Coast. Sample wine and cheese in Puhoi and stretch your legs at the nearby Sculptureum. Go snorkeling or ride the glass bottom boat at Goat Island Marine Reserve. Visit the Kauri museum in Warkworth and the Te Ao Marama center at Te Hana for Maori culture and a fascinating replica pre-European village.
Stay: WHANGAREI 1 night
Located two hours’ drive north of Auckland, Whangarei is the gateway to the “winterless north.” Get onto the water with a chartered fishing excursion, go sea kayaking, learn to paddleboard or simply cruise out to see the world’s largest sea cave. Try going underwater with Dive Tutukaka to explore around the Poor Knights Islands.
Onshore, visit the Waipu Museum or learn all about time at the Claphams Clock Museum. See kiwi birds at the Kiwi North Museum and Heritage Park or ride the horse trekking trails at Sandy Bay. Soon to open is the much-anticipated Hundertwasser Art Center, the last in the world designed by the famous architect. Meanwhile, view the building’s scale model at The Hub in the Town Basin. Finally, take a stroll along the Hatea Loop around the Town Basin marina or get more active and swing a golf club at Extreme Mini Golf.
Drive Time: 4-hour round trip via SH 1, SH 12 and SH 14
Explore Northland’s beautiful west coast on a day trip to Opononi and Dargaville. Start with the 110-minute drive to Opononi on SH 1 and SH 12. Hear the ancient stories of the Maori ancestor Kupe while jet-skiing around the harbour on a guided tour or visit Manea Footprints of Kupe to learn more through a 4D sensory experience. Or, take a short boat trip to the Opononi Sand Dunes. Take sun protection and plenty of water, borrow a boogie board from the friendly boat crew and get ready to scream as you hurtle down the giant dunes and straight into the water at high tide.
Back in the car, continue on SH12 to Dargaville, on the banks of the Wairoa River. Here you’ll find interesting cafes and galleries housed in the town’s restored 19th-century buildings. Take the easy Butter Barges and Gum Trail historic walk around town or head straight to the museum to learn more about the culture of the Kauri Coast. Conclude your day with the 50-minute drive along rural SH 14 back to Whangārei.
Drive Time: 4 hours 30 minutes round trip via SH 1 and SH 10.
Take advantage of a long summer day to visit Kaitaia, the gateway to the Far North. There you can learn the story of kauri gum at Gum Diggers Park, an authentic, once busy gum field, that now offers a fascinating glimpse into this forgotten slice of New Zealand history. Drive a little further to Ahipara and Shipwreck Bay, at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand’s longest beach. While you won’t have time to take one of the all-day trips up the beach to Cape Reinga, you might enjoy a one-or-two-hour horse trek instead.
Start your journey on SH 1, through Kawakawa with its world-famous Hundertwasser building, then make the 2-hour drive to Kaitaia to make the most of your time there. Driving home, you’ll love the drive along scenic SH 10. Stop at one of the stunning beaches along Doubtless Bay and enjoy fish and chips at the Mangonui Fish Shop. Further on, make time for a visit to Kerikeri, home to the Stone Store and the Mission House, the oldest European buildings in New Zealand.