The often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!

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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

Cape Reinga

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.

Kerikeri

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

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.

Dargaville

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!
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Vast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!

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Have you checked off destinations like Italy, France, perhaps a safari, and others from your list and itching for a bit more adventure?  Namibia located in southern Africa remains largely unexplored by most travelers and by man.  So before the rest of the tourism world discovers this gem, add it to your shortlist.

Expect to be wowed by large desert dunes, stunning national parks, friendly locals dressed in tribal clothing (English is the official language), and wildlife scenes that look like they came straight from the pages of National Geographic.

Aerial view of the Namib Desert

Namib translates to a vast place and the Namib Desert fits that description to a T.  Sand dunes stretch for miles with the tallest dune, referred to as Dune 7, holding the world record at 1,256 feet, just 6 feet taller than the Empire State Building! In addition to vastness and size, light and color creates an ever changing picture just waiting to be taken.  Near Sossusvlei, the white ground of the salt pan, along with the changing colors of the sand from orange to red and the dark contrast of the dead camelthorn trees create a surreal landscape just begging to be photographed.

Giraffe in Namibia

Wildlife like cheetah, leopard, elephants, and zebra exist here through their unique adaption to the desert that stretches across a good portion of the country.  Also, over 700 species of birds, from colorful European bee-eaters to giant ostriches, wait for bird lovers.  While there is considerable wildlife and most see some particularly further north, wildlife should take second place to the scenery when planning a trip.

The coastline of Namibia extends over 1,000 miles.  Along the northern portion of the country lies the Skeleton Coast because of the whale and bones once found here. Now, shipwreck remains are the skeletons of the area numbering in the thousands due to the rough seas from the currents and strong winds.

One wreck, the Eduard Bohlen wreck, stranded in 1909, now lies several hundred yards inland as a result of shifting sands.  With this area being so remote, the scenic flights from Swakopgmund provide the best means for seeing the beauty of the most untouched and uninhabited area.  For a more intimate close-up view, several camps allow you to experience the area and the incredible night sky.  For more dark skies, visit the Namib Rand Dark Sky Reserve near Sossusvlei.

Shipwreck of Zeila on Skelton Coast, Namibia

From the Skeleton Coast head northwest to Etosha National Park home to lions, rhinos, antelope, hyenas, lizards, zebras, and birds. One of the best ways to see them is at a waterhole as they come to drink. Okaukuejo Camp is a luxury accommodation with a flood-lit waterhole so you can view the animals after dark, including the rare black rhino.   Etosha also boasts the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world.

Wildlife around waterhole in Etosha National Park

Damaraland, also located in the northern area of the country between Sossusvlei and Etosha, a semi-desert region yields yet another very different landscape with hundreds of years of erosion forming mountains of granite and boulders the size of trees. Here you will find Twyfelfontein, home to more rock engravings than anywhere else in the world.  From 1,000-10,000 years old, the area became a national monument in 1952 and a World Heritage site in 2007.

When traveling around Namibia to exotic locations like the Namib Desert, Damaraland and Etosha National Park, you will find the whole country is environmentally aware. Most places are eco-friendly and sustainability a key objective of many businesses. Protecting the local culture, wildlife and natural environment is very important to the people of Namibia, and you will be encouraged to recycle and reuse items during your adventure. Over 40% of the country is under conservation management, and it was the first African country to introduce environmental protection into its constitution.

Ready to get off the beaten path and feel like an explorer?  Namibian tourism increased from 1 million to 1.6 million visitors over the last decade, compared to neighboring South Africa’s 16.7 million in 2019.  Today you can still feel like an explorer.  Who knows for how long.  Let’s make sure you get there before everyone else finds out about this land of striking landscapes.  Call me to talk more about this amazing very different destination!

Namibian night sky

Pat Ogle-CollinsVast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!
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