Northland is a key part of many of our small group tours and is home to unique New Zealand experiences. Here, there are miles of uninterrupted coastline as well as beautiful forests and waterfalls. But, time after time, we find it’s the people that make this place so special – relaxed, down-to-earth and passionate about the lifestyle they live. This magical combination of stunning natural features, early history and friendly locals makes Northland a uniquely kiwi place to include in a New Zealand vacation.
Here are a few of our favourite things about Northland.
Giant Kauri forests
Northland is home to forests full of giant Kauri trees with limbs that tower over the canopy. Strolling the walking tracks through lush native plants, the only sounds you’ll hear are that of the birds and the insects. Many of the trees are over 30-metres high with girths of more than 10 metres – true forest giants. Tane Mahuta, the Lord of the Forest, is breathtaking – the largest Kauri Tree in the world at over 2,000 years old, it’s a pretty special experience to get close to something that began growing during Roman times. The best place to learn more about these trees and how integral they were to pioneering history is the Kauri Museum in Matakohe – full of fascinating artefacts, information and information about life in the early 1900’s.
Sand boarding down the dunes at Hokianga
There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as taking a sand buggy ride to the top of a huge dune before hurtling down on a sand board. The blue ocean of the Pacific laid out before you; you’ll feel like you’re almost flying as you hurtle down dunes as high as 180m. If you like, you can take things a bit slower by digging your feet into the sand as a brake on your way down. Or, for something a little more relaxing, skip the sand boarding and take a short walk instead to admire the dramatic coastal scenery.
Fascinating early history
Known as the ‘Birthplace of New Zealand’, the history of Northland is incredible. The treaty that laid out the terms for New Zealand to become a colony of the British Crown was signed here at Waitangi, and New Zealand’s first capital was the quaint seaside town of Russell. Here, local churches still show the scars of musket holes from the land wars, and beautiful old villas and houses from the 1800’s can be spotted close to the waterfront. The remains of old Maori Pa’s – or fortified villages – dot the islands off Paihia, remnants of when tribes lived on the islands, making the most of the natural resources of the sea.
The abundance of natural life
Northland’s huge coastline is teeming with fish, as well as orca’s, whales, dolphins, seals and sea birds. The Bay of Islands, off the coast of Paihia, is a dolphin and whale spotting mecca. Here, playful pods thrive in the sheltered, subtropical waters. Back on land, you’re never far away from pretty birdsong echoing through the trees – the call of the tui and the bellbird is instantly recognisable. Parts of Northland are also home to the endangered Brown Kiwi, found in protected forested areas.
Quaint seaside towns
Tiny settlements dot Northland’s coast and make for the perfect place to stop for an ice cream or a meal of fish and chips (we reckon the best are found at the Maunganui Fish Shop – delicious!) In these towns you’ll find interesting galleries and gift shops as well as small cafes, museums and heritage buildings. These types of places offer an opportunity to stop and yarn to the locals – chances are, they’ll be only too happy to have a chat about the Northland way of life.
Many of our small group tours incorporate a few days in Northland. You’ll swim with dolphins, learn about the myths and legends surrounding Tane Mahuta and have the chance to explore Hokianga’s huge sand dunes. We’d love to chat to you about how awesome we think Northland is – enquire now or find out more about our tours here.