Northland, New Zealand

Tourists driving on 90 Mile Beach, New Zealand

Tourists exploring 90 Mile Beach, Northland.

What is Northland?

Northland is New Zealand’s farthest north region, stretching from Auckland to Cape Reinga’s lighthouse. The area is a sporting person’s paradise, unspoilt, dramatic, beautiful and washed by reasonably warm Pacific waters on the east side and the Tasman Sea on the west. The Bay of Islands is a 16 km (10 miles) inlet on the east coast that offers excellent protection against storms and high seas, making it one of New Zealand’s prime marine sports centres, well, apart from surfing.

90 Mile Beach, Northland

Ninety Mile Beach access road from Hukatere, Northland, New Zealand

Ninety Mile Beach access road from Hukatere, north of Ahipara.

On the west coast of Northland’s Aupouri Peninsula is 90 Mile Beach (which is actually 55 miles/88 kms long), popular for driving, biking, land-yachting, fishing, horse riding, surfing and sand surfing on the monster dunes. The regular access point is little Ahipara town which offers a range of low-end accommodation options from B & Bs to camping. Ahipara is at the south end of the beach and 14 kms west of Kaitaia.

A giant sand dune and sand surfers, 90 Mile Beach, New Zealand

90 Mile Beach, dune surfing.

Nearly trapped by the tide, 90 Mile Beach, New Zealand

But don’t leave 90 Mile Beach too late or the tide will sink your wheels, a frequent occurrence for unwary tourists. Two hours either side of high tide is the most dangerous time.

Van trapped by sand and tide, 90 Mile Beach, New Zealand


Spirits Bay, Northland

Spirits Bay, Northland, New Zealand

Spirits Bay.

At the north end of the Aupouri Peninsula, north of 90 Mile Beach and near Cape Reinga is Spirits Bay, so named because the Maori believe that the spirits of the dead take off from this region en route to the afterlife.

Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand

Cape Maria van Dieman, taken from Cape Reinga. Adjacent to Spirits Bay, Cape Reinga is the most northerly point of New Zealand.

Bay of Islands, Northland

a Tall Ship in the Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand

Tourists on a ‘Tall Ship’ eco-cruise around New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.

Kiting on a Bay of Islands beach, New Zealand

Getting used to a kite on a Bay of Islands beach.

Popular sporting activities in Northland range from kayaking (very protected waters and lots of interesting coves), kite surfing (steady winds and soft sand to cushion mistakes), walking, chartered sailing on yachts, motor cruisers and dinghies, scuba diving and snorkelling (no dangerous predators), sports fishing and in summertime just plain old swimming (with dolphins if you’re lucky).

Dolphin cruising, Northland, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Dolphin cruising in the Bay of Islands.

Russell, Northland, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Russell, one of the Bay of Islands’ leading tourist destinations.

Combining a calm charm with a safe harbour, Russell also sports a colourful history ranging from from fighting with Maori residents in the 19thC, European convicts and a downhill period during which it became known as the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific.
But not any more. Now it’s a tranquil, sub-tropical base for yachties, walkers, beach bums and gourmets, with a surprising array of old sights and new restaurants.
Other port towns in the Bay of Islands are Paihia (the biggest and busiest), Waitangi and Opua.

Whangarei harbour, New Zealand

Whangarei harbour, the largest Northland city, just south of the Bay of Islands.

Coromandel Peninsula

Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

The Coromandel Peninsula, east side of the North Island, Northland, New Zealand.

Billed as ‘the place where Kiwis take their holidays’ the Coromandel Peninsula‘s 400kms of shore supplies a great number of attractions including superb white beaches – one with hot and cold running water! – rainforests and masses of activity possibilities. Some of the more popular activities are kayaking, sailing, boating, fishing, horse riding, Harley riding, cycling, golf and eco-tourism rainforest walks. There are also plenty of events and festivals to enjoy.

Cathedral Cove, Waikato, Coromandel, New Zealand

A view over Mare’s Leg Cove and Cathedral Cove, Waikato, Coromandel.

Getting to Coromandel from Auckland depends on where in the Coromandel you aim to go. e. g. the nearest major point is Thames at 115 kms (72 miles) while Coromandel town is 170 kms (106 miles) and Witianga/Hahei Hot Springs beach is about 200 kms (125 miles). But. . . some of the roads on the peninsula are not in great shape.

Coromandel Peninsula, Cathedral Cove, New Zealand Pictures

Cathedral Cove, as seen in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Cathedral Cove can only be reached on foot or by boat. The Cove car park is at the north end of Hahei and the Cathedral Cove Walk will take about 1. 5 hours for 2. 5 kms.

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, Northland, New Zealand

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel. Photo by Steve Copley.

The Japanese would love this place if they could find it, hot springs on the beach courtesy of underground volcanic activity. The downside is, of course, that the pool you’re sitting in could ejaculate a ton of 1, 000C magma at any second. And you have to dig a bit to reach the hot stuff. And you have to dig the hole within two hours either side of low tide. And the adjacent sea is a killer, with strong rip currents, large waves and occasionally unpleasant but not deadly Lion’s Mane Jellyfish.
If you still fancy a toasty dip Hot Water Beach is on Coromandel’s east coast just south-east of Whitianga and 200 kms from Auckland, but check Whitianga tide table first!

A flower-shrouded Coromandel café, Northland, New Zealand

An embedded Coromandel café to reward a hard day’s walking/digging.

Coromandel vineyard, Northland, New Zealand

A Coromandel vineyard. The two biggest wineries on the peninsula are Purangi in Whitianga and Totara in Thames.