Planning on visiting Northland? This ten-day road trip itinerary will help you make the most of your visit to the beautiful north, and includes some of the best walks and hikes New Zealand has to offer.
This itinerary is just a guide featuring some of our favourite spots in Northland. There are plenty of other places and activities to include in your own itinerary.
Day 1: Mangawhai
Start your day in our largest city, Auckland. Head north until you reach the charming beach town of Mangawhai.
Once there you can cool off in the waves or enjoy a peaceful swim in the harbour. If you love fishing, the beach is a great place to surf cast. Mangawhai is also home to some our most endangered shore birds, such as fairy terns and dotterels, so keep an eye out for them.
Experience the rugged beauty of New Zealand’s coast along the nearby Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway. This walk provides breathtaking coastal views and is fringed with pōhutukawa and nikau palms that are often visited by kererū and kākā from the offshore islands.
Day 2: Whangarei Heads
Enjoy beautiful beaches, ancient volcanic peaks and enchanting native forest at Whangarei Heads. Your first stop is Ocean Beach, it’s a winding road out there, but the views overlooking the Pacific Ocean make up for it.
If you’re feeling energetic or adventurous one of New Zealand’s best day hikes is nearby. Te Whara Track is a 5-6 hour walk through coastal forest to a spectacular 360° panorama. If you prefer a shorter walk try the Mount Manaia Track. While it’s a bit of a climb, the views are epic and the walk should only take between 2-3 hours.
The Whangarei Heads community have been working hard to protect their local kiwi population, so keep an ear out at dusk and you may be able to hear the call of our national icon!
Day 3: Tutukaka/Poor Knights Islands
It’s only a short drive to Tutakaka, which is great because it means more time out on the water. Head out on a boat to the stunning Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. Jacques Cousteau rated the area as one of the top ten dives in the world!
Underwater caves, arches, tunnels and sheer cliffs provide the perfect habitat for a variety of marine species. The clear deep waters allow you to see plenty of fish and coral species while common and bottlenose dolphins also visit the area.
Day 4: Waitangi
Visit New Zealand’s most important historic site, The Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is where New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840.
Enjoy soaking in the history while strolling through one of Northland’s prettiest spots and enjoying the panoramic views out to the Bay of Islands.
Day 5: Kerikeri
In Kerikeri you can learn more about our history, browse art galleries and enjoy fresh local produce. This town is full of character, charm and flavour.
You can explore both Māori and European history at Kororipo Heritage Park. Here you can visit New Zealand’s oldest stone building, the Stone Store, and walk in the footsteps of chief Hongi Hika and early missionaries to Kororipo Pā. This is where Māori and early Europeans came to trade, talk and learn.
If you time it for the weekend make sure you check out Kerikeri’s famous weekend garden markets.
Day 6: Matauri Bay
Matauri Bay is a picturesque beach settlement north of the Bay of Islands. Home to beautiful blue waters, soft golden sand, sunshine, excellent diving and superb surfing. It’s our very own tropical getaway!
Matauri Bay is also home to the remains of the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace vessel sunk in 1985 in the wake of anti-nuclear protests. Enjoy the short walk to the memorial on the cliffs above Matauri Bay which looks towards the final resting spot of the ship.
Day 7: Cape Reinga
See the Tasman Sea collide with the Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga and discover the place where Maori spirits begin their final journey to their ancestral homeland, Hawaiki.
Cape Reinga’s lighthouse and international signpost are iconic – make sure you take your camera. There is also plenty of other sites to visit including the famous 90 Mile Beach and the massive sand dunes at Te Paki Reserve.
Spend the night at Tapotupotu Campsite, New Zealand’s most northern campsite surrounded by lush forest and a lagoon that’s perfect for swimming and kayaking.
Day 8: Ngawha Springs
Head down and just out of Kaikohe and book yourself in for a relaxing spa treatment at one of the Ngawha hot springs. Right in the heart of Northland’s geothermal region, here you can bathe in the hot mud thermal pools and rejuvenate your skin. Once you’re feeling refreshed a visit to Monument Hill offers excellent views and is the top spot for a picnic.
Day 9: Waipoua Forest
Of all New Zealand’s kauri forests, none is more famous than Waipoua Forest. As the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland, Waipoua is an ancient green world of towering trees and rare birds.
This forest is the home to Tāne Mahuta, the country’s largest kauri tree, which is approximately 2,000 years old and still growing. A five minute walk from the roadside will bring you to the foot of Tāne Mahuta, probably the largest tree you’ll ever lay eyes upon. Nearly 18 metres to the first branch and 4.4 metres in diameter, Tāne Mahuta is rightly called ‘The Lord of the Forest’.
Keep Kauri Standing
Kauri dieback disease is killing our native kauri. It spreads by soil movement, but you can help prevent it:
• Stay away from kauri tree roots.
• Clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forest.
Day 10: Kai Iwi Lakes
Kai Iwi Lakes are a place of sheer beauty. These lakes were created more than 1.8 million years ago and now are family favourite for Kiwi campers. You’ll fall in love with the crystal-clear waters and pure white sandy beaches. These freshwater lakes rival the tropical beaches of the Pacific. They are great for swimming, fishing and kayaking.
Enjoy lunch at Kaiwaka before heading back to Auckland 🚗 1 hr 43 minutes
We hope you enjoy your visit to Northland. Before you head off please check out these top tips to protect our taonga to help us keep Northland’s amazing places and unique wildlife safe.
Short Walks and Day Hikes
From native bush, to glaciers, urban volcanoes, lakes and coastlines, no matter where you are, or how long you’ve got, there’s a walk for everyone: www.doc.govt.nz/walks