When you travel all the way to the Land of the Long White Cloud, you should also go all the way to the tip of the North Island. New Zealand’s Northland, also referred to as the Far North by New Zealanders, is a place of cultural significance, boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country with a subtropical climate and lots of sunshine.
Let’s look at some of the places in Northland that should be on your list of must-see Kiwi destinations. Get ready for wild beaches, quaint towns, enchanting Maori legends, endless lush forests filled with Kauri trees and waterfalls, and probably more sheep than people. You might even see an endangered Kiwi in these parts!
Cape Reinga Lighthouse
Start at the top of the North Island in Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea join, and the Maori believe that deceased spirits of their people jump from an 800-year-old pohutukawa tree (a tree covered in red blossoms referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree or bush) into the sea to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral home. This spiritual place is as far north as you can travel and is an inspiring place to be.
Visit the lighthouse where the ocean views are spectacular and if you catch the sunrise or sunset, you might crown Cape Reinga your favorite place on earth.
Ninety Mile Beach
Ninety Mile Beach
Technically the beach is less than 90 miles long, but who is counting when the sandy shores are so gorgeous? You can see waves and sand for as far as the eye can see and perhaps a lone farmer walking his dog or brave surfer with seagulls for company. If you want to explore this remote beach on the western coast, the town of Kaitaia makes a charming base. Fresh mussels and fish from the Kaitaia Fish Shop should not be missed because you’ll be hungry after all that sea air and walking around the beach and its dunes.
Known for its farmer’s market, Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and a vibrant little place to visit. Rainbow Falls, where you can take a dip in the water hole, is blissfully photogenic. You will find many gorgeous walking tracks through forested areas lined by quaint streams and rivers here and all around Northland.
Step back into the fairly young colonial history of the country by visiting The Kerikeri Mission Station, also called Kemp House. Under the protection of a scary Maori chief, this house built in 1821 for missionaries, to whom he was kind, stands as the oldest surviving European building in the country.
Hokianga Harbour is where the first war canoe landed when Kupe, a Polynesian leader, arrived in New Zealand by using the stars and ocean to guide the waka hourua (large double-hulles oceangoing canoes) from Hawaiki (the original home of Polynesians) to Hokianga. Many people believe taniwha (sea monsters) protect the entrance to the harbor.
Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri
Hokianga is a beautiful spot with little settlements like Omapere and Opononi to explore. Enjoy a lunch of fish and chips at a cafe in Rawene, then catch a ferry to the seaside town of Kohukohu where you can see historical buildings from the kauri gum (fossilized resin of the kauri tree used in crafts and jewelry) mining days.
Walk through the scenic Waipoua Forest and see Tane Mahuta, called the God of the Forest, the biggest kauri tree in NZ, with an estimated age of 2,000 years old. Stop to see rare rock formations at Wairere Boulders, a geologic phenomenon created by acidic erosion. The trails are easy to walk and you can kayak the Waipoua River that cuts thru the park.
Heading south, you will discover the town of Dargaville, where you can take a rail and river tour which is run by locals who give you the real low down on farm life in rural NZ. It’s an adventure through farmland and tunnels, over old railway tracks and bridges. Hot cheese scones and tea are part of the package.
Ngātokimatawhaorua, Maori war canoe, Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Bay of Islands
In 1840 over 500 Maori leaders and British Crown representatives gathered to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. When you visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds’ sacred site, you can see a Maori meeting house, war canoes, carvings, and a traditional haka performance (traditional Maori war dance). You can also view a replica of the treaty (the real one is archived in Wellington). As the most important historical site in New Zealand, understanding the importance of the treaty and the events leading to the treaty reveal so much about the culture of the country.
By spending time in Northland, you gain a perspective on the entire country, while enjoying its warm temperatures, sunshine-filled days, and uniquely quaint small towns. Kiwis enjoy life at a much slower pace. Visiting the Northlands provides time to adjust to this slower pace while learning about the culture and history surrounded by beautiful scenery!
Pat Ogle-CollinsThe often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!
Submerged in a bright blue sea of water is a world unlike any other. Spots of greens, reds, purples, yellows, pinks, and oranges shine vibrantly against the simple blue of the ocean. A school of fish whoosh by, glug glugging, glugging as they go. A sea turtle floats about, basking in his surroundings as he chomps on some sea algae. This is the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders; a bucket list destination for many travelers. With so much to do and see on the Great Barrier Reef, making the selection of accommodation for your reef stay important to your overall Australian trip planning. Options abound, but key to any planning is where: on the reef itself, on the mainland, or on an island.
On the Reef
Staying on the Reef with Reefsuites provides a truly unique experience. Anchored at sea, the pontoon Reefsuites pontoon rooms sit below the waterline with underwater views. Factors to consider:
Cost- Staying on the reef is luxurious but costly. This isn’t just a hotel– it’s an experience. With any truly unique experience, your stay will rank as perhaps the most expensive of your stay.
Reefsuites, Hardy Reef, off Queensland, Australia
Activities- There are a variety of activities available with Reefsuites. Snorkeling, scuba diving, dinner under the stars, and helicopter rides make the time in the blue waters go fast.
Time- Your time while on the reef will be completely focused on this natural wonder. There are no excursions elsewhere, so most stay only a night with a few staying two nights – less than you may have originally planned. Also factor in travel time to the hotel and back to the mainland.
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
On the Mainland
When people visit Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, stays on the mainland and particularly in Cairns. This is certainly an option for people wanting to make a day trip of the Great Barrier Reef so they can engage in mainland activities, great nightlife, and many accommodation options. Consider the following:
Cost- Staying on the mainland is going to be your least expensive option. This exact cost, however, depending on the resort and room type selected. However, this may allow additional funds to be allowed for activities.
Activities: Being on the mainland means you’ll have many activities to choose from. You could go sailing, golfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, lounge at the spa, and so much more. Plus, you’ll have a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops at your disposal.
Time: Generally allow 70 minutes up to two hours to reach your destination on the reef. This time can vary based on where you are traveling from and which part of the reef you are visiting. Should you want to spend considerable time exploring the reef, consider the travel time when selecting the location for your accommodations.
On an Island
An island stay can offer the best of both reef and mainland accommodation locations. Of the hundreds of islands on the Great Barrier Reef, a number of resorts call an island their home offering special benefits: they are surrounded by water, and each sports its own unique atmosphere and amenities. Aspects of an island stay include:
Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia
Cost: Island stays can be affordable. Islands that actually on the reef will cost more, but to save some money, those further away may be a good option.
Activities: Island resorts still offer guests a wide variety of activities. Guests can go scuba diving, snorkeling, take a boat trip, lounge at the beach, and attend island resort events. There’s so much to do!
Time: Travelers should factor in the time it will take to get to the island, as well as how long it will take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from the island. The journey to the Great Barrier Reef takes 30 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the island.
The bountiful marine life, the tranquil blue waters, and the feel of the saltwater on your skin are never too far away regardless of your decision. Where the Great Barrier Reef lies on your list of priorities for your trip Downunder will help drive the decision. Let me help you design your trip Downunder so it fits you perfectly. I’m only an email away!
Pat Ogle-CollinsNear, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!