The country of New Zealand is split into two main islands: the North Island and the South Island. Despite being the smaller of the two, the North is the most densely populated but is also home to vast areas of natural beauty and breathtaking scenery. Its Māori name is Te Ika-a-Māui or The Fish of Māui.
North Island is a fascinating place to explore but particularly the Northland region right at its tip, called Te Tai Tokerau or The Northern Tide in the Māori language. Here is home to the Bay of Islands, Ngawha Springs and the world’s biggest kauri tree. If you’re looking for adventure, magnificent natural sights and a tropical climate then the Northland is the place to visit. Read on to find out more about this magical, surprising place and beyond.
Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach
Cape Reinga is located along the absolute most northern point of the Northland and it is from here that you can see where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. Its name comes from the Māori word for ‘underworld’ and it is easy to see why this is so when you look out upon the roiling meeting of the seas just off the coast. This impressive and somewhat violent clash results in crashing white surf and dangerous currents. Not a recommended place for a swim but definitely an intriguing spectacle to stand and watch from the safety of the shore. There’s even a chance that you’ll spot dolphins and whales whilst you’re there!
Heading back down the West Coast, you’ll find one of my favourite places: the Ninety Mile Beach. Stretching for what seems like forever into the distance (although it’s actually only 55 miles), this beach is officially a public highway and I can tell you that it’s great fun to drive along. I’d recommend it as the perfect place to stop off and relax with an e-book, take a few spins or plan the next part of your trip, all whilst taking in the unbelievable scenery. I’ve seen some of the best sunsets of my life driving along this beach!
Further down the west coast, you will find the amazing Waipoua Forest. Home to the biggest kauri tree in the world, this is a truly magical place to visit. Along with two neighbouring forests, Mataraua and Waima, these trees comprise the largest area of native forest still existent in New Zealand today. There are a variety of different walks and hikes crisscrossing the area, with the chance to get up close and personal with Tāne Mahuta, the largest kauri tree of them all. The trees are now protected as they are victim to a disease which is capable of rapidly reducing their numbers. Due to this risk, visitors must take caution when visiting the ancient giants and not disturb the soil around their roots or bring contaminants into the area. However, the extra care is worth it in order to see these towering giants.
Bay of Islands
A fantastic place to visit on the east coast of the Northland is the Bay of Islands. This subtropical collection of over 140 islands is home to unspoilt beaches and beautiful wildlife. You can take a cruise around the area or even hire a sea kayak to get up close and personal with the water. Again, there’s the chance to see dolphins here, as well as penguins and whales. There is also a fascinating array of Māori cultural history to delve into as it is the first place that the Māori people originally landed and made their home. Check out the well preserved and cared for historic landmarks or take a trip to one of the local museums to learn more about Māori custom.
Further down the North Island is the Coromandel Peninsula, a large outcrop of land that is home to hot water beaches, miles of white sand and a sunny, temperate climate. It is also largely covered by rainforest and provides a welcome opportunity for isolation in nature within reasonable distance of New Zealand’s big cities. One of the must-visit places on the Peninsula is the aptly named Hot Water Beach. Here you will find thermal water located just below the sand, so if you take the time to dig down you can create your very own natural thermal spa! Understandably, this area is very popular with visitors but catch it at low tide and you’ll find a relaxing, companionable atmosphere of people unwinding in the sand.
As you can see, the north of New Zealand has a wealth of different experiences to sample during your visit and it’s well worth journeying to both the east and west coasts. If you’re looking for an enchanting land of otherworldly natural beauty, then look no further than the Northland. Here you’ll find yourself enthralled by an extraordinary landscape that is full of surprises.